I usually don’t mention live albums, but Yessongs is an important exception due to its effectiveness in capturing the live side of Yes while in their prime. Better sonically than most live albums of the early seventies, Yessongs permanently documents, for existing and future music lovers, the band’s interplay and improvisation and how they made their music come to life on stage.
George Harrison: Living in the Material World
Released at the end of May 1973, over two and a half years after the impressive All Things Must Pass, it is evident that quality was much more important to George Harrison then quantity of releases. Each track is perfect, with not a weak moment in the entire album, making this one of Harrison’s best albums as well as one of the finest solo albums ever released by any of the Beatles.
Paul Simon: There Goes Rhymin’ Simon
Paul Simon balances commercially attractive material with some real solid compositions on this critically acclaimed album. Though I may skip the very first track or stop the album before I get to the very last track, there is no way I will ever skip hearing Simon’s timeless classic, “American Tune”, which surprisingly gained traction on AM, as the third single of the album — and now listening fifty years later, I do find that I am more accepting of those first two singles, and more appreciative of the other songs on the album, such as “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor” and “Learn How to Fall”, particularly as I include consideration of lyrics rather than just engaging with the music. I may still prefer Mr. Simon’s work from the Simon and Garfunkel days, but even a finicky musical curmudgeon like myself has to acknowledge the high quality of this album.
Gong: Flying Teapot
Released on May 25, 1973, Gong’s Flying Teapot is one of those rare rock albums that masterfully blends humor, whimsy, and an apparently casual irreverence with disciplined, artful, musical craft — incorporating a range of musical styles in doing so. This is the first of a set of three concept albums about Zero the Hero, the Good Witch Yoni, and the Pot Head Pixies from the Planet Gong, as indicated on the cover with the alternative title of “Radio Gnome Invisible Part 1.”
Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells
Released on May 25, 1971, this was nineteen-year old Mike Oldfield’s first album, and the reason behind Richard Branford creation of Virgin Music, and the very first album released by that label.
If ever there was a labor of love primarily by one person, this album has to qualify. Oldfield spent countless hours on recording, instrument selection, adjusting musical material, and overdubbing to deliver an album that initially no record company was interested in, ultimately becoming one of the most commercially successful albums in the UK in 1974. Part of the reason for the record’s success was the catchy 15/4 opening minimalistic theme/ostinato which then became inextricably associated with 1973’s highly successful movie the Exorcist after that material was used both in the movie and as part of the closing credits. It’s association with that movie aside, the album is a musical treat from beginning to end, covering a variety and range of sonic territory and musical mood, yet effectively coming together as a single artistic expression and experience.
Earth, Wind & Fire: Head to the Sky
Though Earth, Wind & Fire on Head to Sky, released around May 1973, move away from jazz to a more commercial sound, that sound is solid, keeping elements of jazz, and more heavily incorporating soul, funk, and other R & B elements as well as sitar and Latin elements. The standout track for me, maybe predictably, is their mostly jazz-based take on Brazilian composer, Edu Lobo’s Zanzibar.
Tower of Power: Tower of Power; Carpenters: Now and Then
Additional albums released in May of 1973 include Tower of Power tastefully arranged, self-titled third album, which include the reflective analysis of “What is Hip”, candidly pointing out the ironic pitfalls of being hip for the sake of being hip and the Carpenters’ fifth studio album, with Karen Carpenter’s seemingly effortless, velvety voice, the distinctly recognizable Carpenters’ signature harmonies, and an eighteen-minute, early sixties medley on side two.
For those of us that were wearing out our vinyl copy of Ziggy Stardust, the next David Bowie album couldn’t come soon enough, yet who could have anticipated how different it would be, even taking into account the extreme differences between Hunky Dory and Ziggy? While not surpassing the excellence, quality, or musical appeal of Ziggy, it further supported Melody Makers 1971 characterization of him as “the ultimate pop chameleon.”
Museo Rosenbach: Zarathustra
I wish I could say I obtained this incredible album in 1973. Or even, in 1978, when I scoured the record stores in Italy for progressive rock LPs. Fortunately for all of us, Zarathustra was rescued from relative obscurity in the 1990’s by Italian record collector Giorgio Mangora, who came across a copy of the album and recognized both its quality and historical importance. He began a quest to track down the band members and eventually located lead vocalist Stefano Galifi and drummer, vocalist Giancarlo Golzi. There were two pleasant outcomes that came about from this original search: This talented, creatively-gifted band reunited and began performing again, and Mangora, after several dead-ends, finally succeeded in getting the album reissued in 1999 on the Italian Electromantic Music label. The success of the reissue and interest in the live performances caught the attention of Sony BMG, which reissued a remastered version with additional previously unreleased material around 2006.
Zarathustra is a a concept album with lyrics based on writings of German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Such formidable intellectual material really requires seriously impressive music to be effective, and this is what makes Zarathustra, the album, a memorable work of art, musically as imaginative and as enjoyable as the best of Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, Van Der Graaf Generator and King Crimson. The use of keyboards, particularly the mellotron, recall early King Crimson and there are stylistic similarities to both King Crimson and VDGG — even similarities to King Crimson and VDGG material not yet released when this Zarathustra was recorded in 1972.
This level of excellence, which seamlessly blends the Italian language, the dramatic vocal delivery and vocal harmonies, the keyboard work and the broad epic essence of the congruently harmonious musical components, make this an album that I unhesitatingly on my Must Listen To Music page and recommend to any music lover with a wide range of musical preferences. The album is available either through various online retail outlets or even on youtube.
Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973)
The greatest visual artist of the twentieth century wrapped up a lifetime of impressive contributions o April 8, 1973 at the age of 91. Throughout his lifetime, Picasso made an indelible impact on the art world with his innovative techniques, bold use of color, and unparalleled creativity. He was a true pioneer who constantly pushed the boundaries of traditional art forms, and his influence can still be seen in the work of contemporary artists today.
The Picasso Museums in Paris and Barcelona are both have celebratory events this year (see links below.) These two museums offer a comprehensive look at Picasso’s life and work, showcasing his paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and other works, and providing a meaningful glimpse into Mr. Picasso’s personal life with exhibits featuring photographs, letters, and various artifacts that give visitors a deeper understanding of the individual behind the art.
A visit to the Picasso Museums is a unique opportunity to witness the evolution of Picasso’s art over the course of his lifetime. From his early, more traditional works to his later, more abstract pieces, the museums showcase the breadth and depth of Picasso’s creativity. Visitors will also gain insight into the artistic movements that inspired Picasso, such as cubism and surrealism, and see how he incorporated these styles into his own work.
If you’re a fan of art or simply interested in learning more about one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, a visit to the Picasso Museums is a must. It’s an opportunity to see some of the world’s most celebrated art up close and personal, and to gain a deeper appreciation for the creative genius that was Pablo Picasso. So make sure to add the museums to your travel itinerary this year and experience the wonder of Picasso’s art for yourself.
Few progressive rock albums have had such great appeal across a wide section of the music loving public as Dark Side of the Moon, released March 1, 1973. Casual Listeners, Hard Rockers, Stoners, Prog heads, Music Majors, and just about anyone with more than 10 rock albums in their collection, had a decent chance of owning this timeless classic, an album as likely as any other album to be in the collection of anyone from age 17 to 25 during the mid 1970.
Despite a collection of diverse material with varying levels of contribution from each band member, Dark Side of the Moon has a cohesiveness, largely due to Alan Parson’s proficiency and creativity as an engineer. Just as Parsons significantly contributed to the Beatles’ Abbey Road sense of musical unity despite an understandable lack of shared thematic material between tracks, with one exception, the same result is achieved here: an album that holds up nicely as a single work as opposed to a collection of unrelated tracks. If it has been sometime since you have last heard it, get it out, put it on the best equipment possible (don’t just stream it a suboptimal bitrate or listen to it through low quality headphones or speakers) and enjoy one of the great musical works of our time.
King Crimson: Lark’s Tongue in Aspic
Released on March 23, 1973, King Crimson’s fourth album is less accessible than their previous three studio albums, but the level of musicianship and improvisation are better, with the two parts of Lark’s Tongue in Aspic that open and close the album being particularly impressive.
Roxy Music: For Your Pleasure
Before the release of Queen’s first album, or Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, we had this Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure, released on March 23,1973, adventurously combining art rock, glam rock, and a range of experimental sound techniques into a cohesive, very enjoyable and very well executed work of art. Throughout the entirety of the album, Roxy Music’s musicianship is highly focused and expertly executed, serving as an essential component of the band’s overall artistic vision. Phil Manzanera is amazing on guitar, and Andy Mackay sax provide richness and additional depth, with strong compositions, foundational keyboard work and distinct, nuanced and expressive vocals from Bryan Ferry.
Alice Cooper: Billion Dollar Babies
Released on Feb. 25, 1973, Alice Cooper’s sixth studio album is also his finest with an effective mix of hard rock, glam, and non-traditional topics, some of which were competently exploited for Alice Cooper’s live theatrics. Including four singles, the two standout tracks on the album are “Elected” which was released in September of 1972 prior to the Nixon-McGovern election contest and “Billion Dollar Babies”, released several months after the album’s debut and features Donovan providing effective glam-style vocals including Donovan’s falsetto reaching his upper limit.
Tangerine Dream: Atem
Atem, released their fourth album, Atem, in March of 1973, one of the most impressive works of electronic music, providing a more interesting and substantial listening experience than most of the works by the academic-based classical composers who had been creating electronic sound compositions since the publishing of Luigi Russolo‘s “Art of the Noises” in 1913. The opening title track takes up the first side with three tracks on the second side, each compelling, each a story with the sound caringly shaped and crafted to provide a self-contained complete musical journey.
Todd Rundgren: A Wizard, A True Star
With 1973 being one of the most innovative periods in music, Todd Rundgren’s fourth album, A Wizard, A True Star, is about as ingenious, original and imaginative as any album of the 1970s. The first side is the musical equivalent of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride”, apparently madly reckless, yet never careening off the rails. “International Feel” starts and ends that first side, with a myriad of sparkling, brilliantly shimmering musical excursions thrown in between. The second side is mellower, allowing the listener to finally relax with a reflective, sympathetic re-creation of four 1960s R&B classic singles, and a memorable anthem, “Just One Victory”, bringing this one of a kind album to a close.
Rundgren’s engineering and production is historically impressive, taking advantage of various vocal and instrumental layering and effective editing. Additional richness is added by both the array of and the arrangement of instrumental timbre. And as an extra bonus to all this, the album is over twenty-six minutes on the first side, and almost thirty minutes on the second side — something matched by some of the classical records I had at the time, but not even approached by any of the single LP rock records in my collection.
One of my music teachers and I were talking about progressive rock around 1977 or 1978 and he was emphasizing how hard it was to predict what music would be canonized in the distant future. Much to my surprise he referenced Todd Rundgren, indicating his familiarity with contemporary, non-“academic” music, by casually remarking that “for all we know Todd Rundgren may be just a footnote in musical history fifty to hundred years from now.” Well, fifty years have passed, and I think it’s safe to say that Todd Rundgren will be encountered by those exploring the music of the 1970s, not as a footnote, but as a musical and engineering wizard, if not a true star.
Electric Light Orchestra: ELO 2
Though not as ambitious or consistently appealing as the first album, or with anything that equals “10538 Overture“, ELO 2, released March 2, 1973, has many fine moments with generally more emphasis on smoother, more conventional orchestration. Particularly good is the opening track, “In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2)” and its second-side counterpart, “From the Sun to the World (Boogie No. 1)”, the latter incorporating true boogie-woogie components. Also worthy of note, is the seven-minute (or eight-minute arrangement in the U.S.) of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” A four and a half minute single version of it got substantial airplay in the UK, charting as high as number six, while in the states, a slightly shorter version, got some AM airplay starting in late April of 1973, climbing as high as 42 on the Billboard singles chart. In Southern California several FM stations regularly played the full-length album cut during the spring and summer of 1973, providing greater exposure in terms of airplay, even if not in terms of audience reached. Besides being a fairly spirited and compelling cover of the original tune, the work incorporates the famous motif of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, perhaps unintentionally inspiring (though no evidence to support such an assertion) Walter Murray’s 1976 disco-hit, “A Fifth of Beethoven.”
Led Zeppelin: Houses of the Holy
Once again, Led Zeppelin eschews just copying what made their previous album successful, creatively exploring new musical techniques and pathways, but as often the case not shy to incorporate notable musical elements of contemporaries and past predecessors. The overall result is an excellent hard-rock album that nicely balances acoustic and electric components and that successfully incorporates reggae, R&B, funk and even some classical and progressive influences.
Tom Waits: Closing Time
Tom Waits’ debut album, Closing Time, was released on March 6, 1973, receiving limited attention. Though largely folk-based music with some country, jazz and blues influences, what is most notable is how the music supports the lyrics and how each work, independent and finished, come together into a quasi-concept album of isolation, loneliness and dependency. Whereas an artist like Randy Newman comments on the darker side of life with a isolated, somewhat remote detachment, Waits incorporates a very distinctive viewpoint not only within each song but makes it as a necessary component of the content, the character often representing someone not really getting the implication of the commentary, making the song’s meaning even more apparent. Each song works nicely, there is not a bad song on the album — the opening track received some minor airplay as a single, well deserved and eventually covered by the Eagles, but, curiously, there are better candidates to have captured greater airplay if that had been the Asylum label’s focus. However, this is an album best heard from start to finish, enjoying such the varying emotional shading and of each song with “Martha”, “Rosie”, and the evocative ballad, “Grapefruit Moon” being three of my favorites pieces of the whole experience.
John Cale: Paris 1919
Released around March 1973, Paris 1919 is a remarkable work, consistent and enjoyable throughout with generally strong lyrics including Cale’s freewheeling imagery in the first track, “Child’s Christmas in Wales” and his historical references in various songs. The most impressive work is the title track, but the other tracks are all praiseworthy, particularly the last track with its memorable fragile opening of whispered vocals and electric piano building up with energy for what promises to be a strong dramatic ending, but even more appropriately tapers off into another moment of delicacy to provide a fine closing to the entire album.
Herbie Hancock: Sextant
The first track, the stunningly pointillistic “Rain Dance” is like nothing ever recorded previously, either in jazz, rock, fusion or academic electronic music. Furthermore, it makes full use of the stereo sound-field materializing packets of sounds in various, hovering points of space in the listening room, some of the pinpoint sounds coming within the expected stereo field, but others unexplainably occurring well out of the usual and expected speaker-range territory. This wonderful first track, is then followed by the two remaining tracks that, though closer to traditional fare that melds jazz, rock and funk elements, still are pretty far out there, effectively incorporating synthesizers and other electronics with trumpet, trombone, sax, bass and drums. Sextant was not a commercial success, and I never remember seeing this in anyone’s record collection — and wasn’t even in my own collection until recently.
Mahavishnu Orchestra: Birds of Fire
Though Herbie Hancock’s Sextant sold relatively few copies, the opposite was true of Mahavishnu’s Orchestra’s Birds of Fire: it was in several of my friends collections and soon I would buy my own copy. This is one of the finest albums of 1973, appealing to jazz and progressive rock fans alike — and beyond — for anyone in love with electric guitar virtuosity this was a must have. Besides McLaughlin’s guitar, there is unfaltering, propulsive percussion work from Billy Cobham, keyboards from Jan Hammer, and violin work that provides a perfect compliment to McLaughlin contributions. A classic album of unerringly invigorating and captivating instrumental music.
Argent: In Deep
Argent releases their fourth studio album on March 5, 1973, and though there is nothing to match the organ solo in Altogether Now, there are still some good piano and organ work from Rod Argent. The first side is mostly written by Russ Ballard and includes a semi-hit rock anthem, “God Gave Rock and Roll to You”, which was later picked up and modified by Kiss for the soundtrack to Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and “It’s Only Money” part one and two. The second side is mostly written by Rod Argent and Chris White and is substantially closer to a progressive rock than the first side, with “Be Glad” and “Candles on the River” being the most adventurous.
Procol Harum: Grand Hotel; Steeleye Span: Parcel of Rogues; Faces: Oh La La
Other notable albums released in March include Procol Harum’s elegant and grandly orchestrated Grand Hotel, overall their most consistent and cohesive album, Steeleye Span’s spirited and well-produced, prog-tinged folk album, Parcel of Roques, and the Faces earthy, energetic Oh La La.
As progressive rock continued to gain traction and garner more and more fans in the UK , The U.S and throughout Europe, Camel released their very first effort, a fine self-titled album, at the end of February 1973.
The album starts relatively conventional with the vocal section of “Slow Yourself Down”, which shifts into a less conventional instrumental section including some notably strong guitar. The second track, “Mystic Queen” is a good representation of the mellow, more reflective nature of Camel’s recognizable style with a pleasant balance of the electric and the acoustic and with some pleasant acoustic guitar and flute. This album continues with the instrumental, “Six Ate”, a bit uneven in places, and the upbeat “Separation”, with nicely mixers vocals with instrumentals including the final stand out instrumental passage, possibly influenced by Genesis’s “The Return of the Giant Hogweed”. “Never Let Go” is Camel at what they do best, mellow, flute-infused instrumentation — music that is spaced, properly paced, and slightly spacey. The same can be said of the next track, “Curiosity”, which nicely blends the delicate and expressive. The final instrumental, “Arubaluba” ends the album containing some strong drumming by Andy Ward. All in all a strong first album.
Blue Öyster Cult: Tyranny and Mutation
Blue Öyster Cult first album cover was an unique black and white cover, and they followed this up with another mostly black and white cover but adding a tasteful amount of red, as shown above, to further enhance this memorable album cover. Similarly, with Tyranny and Mutation, released on February 11, 1973, Blue Öyster Cult further enhanced their musical style from that first album, becoming more innovative, distinctive, and even exotic, broadening their sound and extending their range of expressiveness. And in spite of the interesting, one-of-a-kind approach, perhaps one could correctly claim that it is this group as captured in this album, and not the even more idiosyncratic Black Sabbath or the more foundational Led Zeppelin, that truly provides the template of the unashamedly, and unrelentingly aggressive heavy metal sound for the rest of the 1970s and the 1980s.
Fifty years ago, 1972 was coming to a close with the usual releases of albums in November and December coinciding with the holidays. One of the best out of the very best of those albums, was Gentle Giant’s fourth album, Octopus, named for the eight “opuses” included in the album. Appropriate, for sure, as all eight tracks are worthy of bearing that often historically and musically important designation. The instrumentation is richly diverse with Gary Green providing his usual impressive electric guitar work, Welsh drummer John Weathers replacing the injured Malcom Mortimore, on drums, and providing bongos, varispeed cymbals, and some enduringly memorable xylophone, Kerry Minnear on acoustic piano, electric piano, the renaissance-era regal (organ), electric organ, moog, mellotron, clavinet, vibraphone, other percussion, cello and, of course, lead and backing vocals, Ray Shulman on bass guitar, acoustic violin and viola, electric violin, acoustic guitar, percussion, and vocals, Derek Shulman on sax and lead vocals, and Phil Shulman. in his last studio appearance with his brothers, on tenor and baritone sax, trumpet, mellophone and lead and backing vocals.
The album opens up softly and intimately with Kerry Minnear’s “The Advent of Panurge” with interlaced vocals (I believe Minnear and Phil Shulman) followed by a hard-rock interlude that includes the classical technique (Haydn, Beethoven) of compacting a repeated motif to create heightened tension and energy leading into a temporary vocal handoff to the more dramatic Derek Shulman, then vocals becoming intimate again with Phil, then a short mystical section, returning to the opening melody with the stretto-like compressive technique followed with a strong ending with Derek again on vocals.
The second track, Minnear’s “Raconteur Troubadour” takes us back to the Middle Ages and Renaissance, before exploring an Elgar-like melody, that moves into a more twentieth century feel with trumpet before another verse and chorus of the main melody ending with a repeated motif slowly unwinding the work to a stop.
Ray Shulman’s “A Cry for Everyone”, takes us into harder progressive rock mode, with Derek on vocals, and some brief flamboyant moog garnishes followed by some more instrumental including that unique Gentle Giant “stride” style (see Fifty Year Friday: July 1971), interrupted with some more moog flourishes, returning to a third verse of the main melody, and concluding with a brief coda.
The first side ends with Minnear’s contrapuntally clever “Knots”, which sets excerpts from R.D. Laing’s psychological-themed poetry of the same name. Besides a mix of Renaissance and prog imitative counterpoint, hocketing, and some additional madrigal-like Renaissance handling of the words and musical material there is a contrasting, more contemporary, prog-rock, second theme, Weathers mirthful xylophone interlude, an instrumental transformation of the earlier material prepping for and then interlaced with the return of the original material followed by a repeat of the secondary theme ending the piece. Whew! What an exciting four minutes of music seemingly covering as much ground as covered by some lesser prog-rocks groups on much lengthier tracks!
Side two is equally strong, opening with Ray Shulman’s instrumental “The Boys in the Band” reminiscent of Frank Zappa’s best material of the early seventies. The next track is Minnear’s Renaissance-like “Dog’s Life, “a backhanded tribute” to the band’s roadies with the regal providing a shawm-sounding whine, complemented nicely by Ray’s and Kerry’s string playing. The third track on the album is Minnear’s beautifully sensitive and reflective “Think of Me with Kindness” as good as any ballad ever penned in the 1970s. The second side ends strongly with Ray Shulman’s epic “River”. which while under six minutes, is much like “Knots” in that it seems to cover enough musical ground for take up the better part of a single side of an LP.
The production, for 1972, is good enough to differentiate the various parts and provide a crisp, relatively undistorted listening experience, the performances are energetic and expressive, and the music itself is unusually distinctive with compelling melodies and motives that have a level of adventurousness, playfulness, and durability that creates a substantial listening experience the very first time or even after a dozen. Impressively, this was a group that could deliver this material live very effectively, with all the studio wizardry translating without any loss of intensity into live performances. Though most rock critics at the time couldn’t or wouldn’t even try to appreciate the singular music on this album, the music still lives on, embraced generation after generation by music lovers the world over.
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso: Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso
Influenced by the emergence of a multitude of English Progressive rock groups, a number of talented musicians came together in various locations throughout Italy to provide their own contributions to the ever increasing riches of the progressive rock canon. In Rome, classical trained pianist Vittorio Nocenzio, having studied composition, organ performance, and ethnomusicology, and written songs for Italian folk singer Gabriella Ferri, formed Banco Del Mutuo Soccorse (Bank of Mutual Assistance) in 1969 with his brother, Gianni, also skilled on keyboards, and former members of two other rock bands, Fiori Di Campo and Le Esperienze including the vocally captivating tenor, Francesco Di Giacomo, who would provide a Puccini-like drama and intensity to the band’s recordings and concerts. The talented group played festivals before recording their first album, a particularly strong debut that incorporates stylistic elements from both progressive rock and early twentieth century classical music.
Despite the multitude if influences, the material is identifiably Italian, especially in some of the melodic phrases and in the character of their exuberant playing. Particularly impressive are the second track, “R.I.P. (Requiescant in Pace)”, and the fourth track “Metamorfosi.” Side two includes the 18 minute “Il Giardino del Mago” and ends with an animated tarantella-like piece simply titled “Traccia” (track.)
Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso: Darwin
Banco’s second album, released near the end of 1972, builds on the excellence exhibited in their first album, improving on it with a cohesiveness and establishment of a consistency of style. The album starts off with the magnificent opening of L’Evoluzione, a dramatic 14 minute work rich, beautiful, and epic in impact that effectively sets the tone for this concept album. The second track, “La Conquista Della Posizione Eretta” (‘The Attainment Of The Standing Position”) begins with a extended and compelling instrumental section that brings to mind the survival struggles of prehistoric life including growls that settles into a reflective lyrical section narrating the advantages of standing upright.
The second side opens up with the casual, jazzy “Danza Dei Grandi Rettili”. The next track, “Cento Mani E Cento Occhi” opens up in frenzied contrast to the cooler preceding track, not only making use of some of the musical language elements of Ginastera and Bartok, but covering a wide range of progressive rock musical expressiveness in unremittent 4/4 time with the appropriate use of accents for inescapable forward momentum. The third track, “750,000 Anni Fa … L’Amore?” seemingly channels Puccini for its amorous expressiveness achieved with a expressive piano accompaniment to Giacomo passionate vocals and as well utilizing the moog synthesizer for a dramatic middle section. “Misere Alla Historia” (badly translated as “History’s Lament”) provides musical reflection on the lost/dead civilizations with the warning/observation of “Ma… Quanta vita ha ancora il tuo intelletto se dietro a te scompare la tua razza” “But… How much life does your intellect still have if your people disappear behind you.” The album ends with additional reflection, ironically set in 3/4 time, “Ed ora io domando tempo al tempo ed egli mi risponde…non ne ho!” (“And Now I Ask Time for More Time and He Answers Me…I Don’t Have Any!”) bringing the album to an indisputable close, fully covering the saga of human evolution from early, undeveloped life to its apparent, overwrought and unavoidable finish.
Released in November of 1972, this is the first of Donald Fagen’s and Walter Becker’s string of excellent albums. The music ranges from pop to rock to folk-rock to jazz-based rock with engaging and intelligent chord progressions and a healthy use of minor seventh and ninth chords.
THE EDGAR WINTER GROUP: THEY ONLY COME OUT AT NIGHT
Skillfully produced by Rick Derringer, this is Edgar Winter’s most solid album with a number of songs that for the rest of 1972 and early into 1973 found a prominent place on AM radio, FM radio, at high school parties, or in the repertoire of high school dance bands. “Hangin’ Around”, “Free Ride”, “We All Had a Real Good Time” and the instrumental “Frankenstein” are hard rock classics that have effectively captured and preserved the spirit of early seventies hard rock, providing, today, an effortless means for us to travel back in time fifty years ago.
LOU REED: TRANSFORMER
Released on November 8, 1972, Lou Reed’s Transformer excels at creating a level of nonchalance and casualness that was more reminiscent of the beat movement of the 1950s than typical of an early 70’s rock album. Aided by David Bowie, Mick Ronson and Trever Bolder and elegantly produced by Bowie and Ronson, this album, along with the success of its glam, transexual and sometimes banned single, “Walk on the Wild Side”, brought Lou Reed out of the shadows of the Underground and into the commercial spotlight. The album is considered a classic by many and has had substantial influence on many Indie Rock artists that came later.
WAR: THE WORLD IS A GHETTO
War’s fifth studio album, released around November of 1972, opens with the once relentlessly-played AM single, “Cisco Kid”, which though annoying for those of us that heard it in spring of 1973 played through third-rate speakers of a school bus for multiple weeks almost every morning on our ride to school, was a welcome relief from the equally often-played, but far less bearable “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ol’ Oak Tree.” That said, now hearing “Cisco Kid” on a first-class audio set up almost fifty years later, the quality of performance and the arrangement almost make up for the melodic and harmonic mediocrity of the track. More importantly though, the rest of the album is quite good, starting with the infectious, funky “Where was You At” and the effervescent jazz-infused 13 1/2 minute “City Country City” instrumental on side one and the three tracks on side two including the soulfully reflective “Four Cornered Room”, and the beautifully funk-infused, “The World is a Ghetto.” This was not only War’s most commercially successful album, but the best selling album for the year 1973 holding the number one position for two weeks in February 1973 and staying on the Billboard 200 for a total of 68 weeks.
JONI MITCHELL: FOR THE ROSES
Released in November of 1972 between two of her most artistically and commercially successful albums, 1971’s Blue and 1974’s Spark and Court, the excellent For the Roses brims over with wonderful melodic phrases, remarkable piano lines, and beautiful acoustic guitar and an appropriate amount of harmonica, bass, percussion, winds and strings — always at the right places!
CAN: EGE BAMYASI
Can’s highly influential album, Ege Bamyasi, with the name apparently inspired from the label of a container of canned okra of Turkish origin also meant for German consumption of these “okra pods”, takes a detour from the previous no-holds-barred and even more influential Tago Mago, with an often more structured (via editing in some cases) and relatively more contained set of compositions. Not readily available in the US, I purchased this album in a German record store in 1978, and listened to it once before shelving it for several decades. It’s great to come back and revisit it and find there is much more here than I thought — and to discover the influence it has had on music since my original purchase, with Stephen Malkmus of Pavement, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and the band Spoon all having been much more serious fans of the album and reaping music influences from it. Truly fortunate to revisit the album and able to enjoy it on a much better audio set up than I had in 1978.
Uriah Heep, Moody Blues, Carly Simon, Hawkwind, and Barclay James Harvest
Other notable albums from November 1972 include Uriah Heep’s semi-progressive Magician’s Birthday with a memorable Moog synthesizer solo from Ken Hensley on “Sweet Loraine” (reaching the 91st spot on the Billboard Hot 100) and a more expansive title track concluding the album, Hawkwind’s third studio album, Doremi Fasol Latido, stylistic different than their previous albums but still quality, engaging space-rock, Carly Simon’s No Secrets with two well-known tracks, the number one hit “You’re So Vain”, and less commercially successful but equally appealing “The Right Thing to Do”, the richly arranged, orchestrated Barclay James Harvest, Baby James Harvest, a mix of straight rock (“Thank You”) and more progressive tracks (“Summer Soldier”, “Moonwater”), and Moody Blues’ eighth album (last of the highly regarded string of seven classic album) which had two commercially successful singles, “Isn’t Life Strange” and “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)”, which spurred increased interest in their previous work resulting in the re-release of the beautifully haunting single version of the “The Night”, titled “Nights in White Satin”, which did much better the second time around, getting more attention and airplay than any of the music on the Seventh Sojourn album.
From the opening set of the choral-like, other-worldly, mellotron-intro of carefully constructed chords — initially over a “pedal-point” (a sustained bass note), followed by a short set of chromatic modulations, the tone of this epic classic album is established and sustained through out the next magnificent fifty minutes of one of the most appealing rock albums of the last sixty years.
The music is epic, dramatically supporting some pretty impressive lyrics, with the first track, “Watcher of The Skies”, a sci-fi narrative from an alien visitor’s somber, almost jaded, perspective regarding the remnants of a vanished earth civilization, followed by the more lyrically but equally potent and allegorical “Time Table”. “Get “Him Em Out By Friday” also time travels, from 1972 to 2012, and effectively mixes upbeat rhythms and shifting meters into moments of Dickensian commentary, starting with shifts between 6/4 and 4/4, with a heavily triplet-based 4/4 section into a more reflective, slower 6/4 section with some the return of a modified original A section with some 7/4 bars and an appropriately reflective coda. This is followed by another epic track, the amazing “Can-Utility and the Coastliners” with an acoustic guitar and flute opening section and its sense of substantial narrative, proportion, and consequence far exceeding its limited five minute and forty-five seconds of actually clock time. Of particularly musical note is Tony Bank’s mixed-meter keyboard solo, perhaps either celebrating the use of the name he had initially suggested for the band (Can-Utility and the Coastliners, a name Peter Gabriel reportedly summarily rejected, understandably), or letting off a little steam for the band, instead, being ultimately named “Genesis.” Seriously, though, this composition a true work of art, anticipating both Banks’ “Firth of Fifth” on Selling Englandby the Pound and his “One for the Vine” on Wind and Wuthering.
Side two opens with Steve Hackett’s elegantly simple guitar solo, followed by the masterpiece of the Genesis catalogue, the twenty-three minute “Supper’s Ready.” Though its seven-section make-up indicates a piecing together of individual songs into a common thematical framework, the overall effect is that of a single cohesive work, much in the way that the second side of the Beatles Abbey Road works together, except that “Supper’s Ready” is more integrated and reuses material to create an effective sonata-like form. Though too difficult, and hopefully totally unnecessary, to pick one single composition to make the case that classical music was an unbroken continuum to the present that included the best works of the best rock bands, this work has to be considered as deserving top consideration for making that case.
Miles Davis: On the Corner
Eschewing and yet incorporating contemporaneous offerings in jazz, jazz fusion, rock, progressive rock, minimalism, and funk, Miles creates yet another landmark album with On The Corners as representative of the spiritual-industrial meld of the early 1970s as anything yet released or yet to come. Few critics even began to know what to make of the work, and the record-buying public, which had sent Miles’ previous album up to the 7th spot, were mostly absent at the cash registers, with On the Corner peaking at 156.
The album, though foundationally based on the familiar musical components of its time, was yet so alien to many when it came out on October 11, 1972, primarily due to the resulting originality of the approach. Overall, Miles and team took on the same type of challenges that were tackled by such German progressive rock groups such as Can, but due to significantly better musicianship and a more focused vision, created a superior and eventually more influential product.
Henry Franklin: The Skipper
One of the lesser known albums of 1972 by one of the lesser known artists on one of the lesser known record labels, bassist Henry Franklin’s debut album, The Skipper, is well worth any effort to hunt down, with such ultimate acquisition being readily achievable due to the reissuing of the Black Jazz record catalog by Real Gone Music. Thank-you, Real Gone Music!
Franklin’s plays both acoustic and electric bass, writing most of the music on the album, with Bill Henderson on electric piano contributing one of his own compositions joined by Charles Owens on soprano and tenor sax and Oscar Brashear both of which provide the vital contributions that make this album a neglected classic.
Doug Carn: Spirit of the New Land
This is the second of four albums that Doug Carn released on the Black Jazz record label. Accessible and topical, this jazz concept album brims with amazing work from both keyboardist Doug Carn, Charles Tolliver on flugelhorn, reed player George Harper and Carn’s wife, Jean Carn, on vocals with notable contributions from Earl McIntrye on tuba and Garnett Brown on trombone.
The Awakening: Hear, Sense and Feel
The Awakening released their first album on the Black Jazz label, providing an excellent set of jazz-rock/jazz-fusion instrumentals bookended by a brief introductory recitation and final poetic coda. The music is slightly reminiscent of some of the Chicago’s instrumental passages from their first two albums with a hint of early 1970’s McCoy Tyner. Of particular note is the keyboardist, Ken Chaney, who composes the opening instrumental following his wife’s opening introduction. In general quite good, with “Jupiter” being a particularly strong track. For those that like no-nonsense early 70s jazz and jazz-rock, this is worth the effort of tracking down. Available from Real Gone Music as are all the Black Jazz late sixties and early seventies catalog.
Keith Jarrett: Expectations
Taking his core quartet that included Dewey Redman (now known as the “American Quartet”) (Jarrett, saxophonist Dewey Redman, bassist Charlie Haden, and drummer Paul Motian), Jarret adds Sam Brown on guitar and Airto Moreira on percussion and drums, along with some strings and brass arrangements to create a ambitious, relatively eclectic two record set that unfortunately for Columbia records, was the last one under that label, simply due to Columbia suddenly dropping Jarrett during the its sweeping commercially-driven jazz purge, something that appears to be one of those historic money-driven record label decisions that ended up being a fiscal mistake.
The album is a bit uneven with Jarrett basically redefining “free jazz” to mean “freedom in playing a range of styles” but the overall final result is a strong album with side four being the best.
Released on October 11, 1972, Caravanserai was quickly embraced by the same audience inescapably attracted to progressive rock as well as enthusiastically embraced by a substantial number of fusion fans. Though nowhere as commercially successful as the previous two albums (the president of Columbia Records after hearing the tapes for Caravanserai, told Santana he was committing “career suicide”), the album is an artistic gem, a work that can be listened to repeatedly with various spectra of pleasure.
Stevie Wonder: Talking Book
Released on October 27, 1972, Mr. Wonder exceeds the level of professionalism, artistry, creativity on the previous album, displaying flawless judgement and execution as composer, musician and producer. Artistically, the albums opens strong with the timeless love song, “You are the Sunshine of My Life” followed by a strong first side and then an even stronger second side made up of five classic tracks that starts with “Superstition”, followed by “Big Brother”, the subtly impressionistic “Blame It on the Sun”, the Latin-jazz-influenced “Lookin’ for Another Pure Love”, and then perfectly concluded with my favorite work on the album, “I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)”.
The distinction between dance music and listening music goes back before recorded history, and by recorded history, I don’t mean music recorded on tape, records or cylinders, but history captured through a preservable or lasting medium such as clay tablets, papyrus, paper or blog posts on the internet. The boundaries often merge between dance music and listening music and a great deal of dance music provides listening pleasure while much listening music encourages one to further experience the music through motion, even if only a slight swaying of the head or tapping of the foot.
In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, dance music and ceremonial music were incredibly important, and there we few cases where composers wrote music that was intended of audiences that would critically listen to music as a stand alone listening experience. By the end of the Renaissance, opera was introduced in Europe (some 14 centuries after Chinese opera had entertained the general public during the Three Kingdoms era), providing a visual spectacle, narrative and supporting music. Music was also played for gatherings and other ceremonies, often competing with dining and conversation, but over time attention was focused on crafting music that was the primary focus for the audience — music to listen to without dancing or in conjunction with some accompanying activity, ceremony or theatrical work. Over time more and more people got in the habit of attending concerts where one was seated with no other visual then the performers playing their instruments. Yes, attending such functions was an experience and social function, but by the nineteenth century, no one was supposed to talk or even cough and anything but the music itself was considered a distraction.
Player piano rolls, the radio, and the phonograph played important roles in providing both dancing and listening music, and made music so readily available that using music as background or as part of an environmental ambience became more and more common, with the art of listening rapidly declining in the general public. Yes, dancing music and listening music continued to thrive side by side, with big bands in the thirties and forties providing both functions; Duke Ellington and Stan Kenton bands provided particularly interesting and compelling listening music at the same time they provided very effective dance music.
At the beginning of the Beatles’ popularity, their primary focus was on dance music, but they also introduced more serious songs starting in 1965 — ballads not particular suitable for dancing such as “Yesterday” and “Norwegian Wood.” (“Norwegian Wood” was theoretically suitable for dancing to in its steady 12/8 tempo, but few rock and roll fans were particularly keen on waltz-like dancing.) “Nowhere Man” and “Michelle” followed these two, both in a 4/4 time signature that theoretically supported slow dancing, but one’s first reaction was to listen to these works not to dance to them.
The elements of listening music consisted of two parts, lyrics to which one listened to in order to understand the author’s message, and the music itself, which either supported lyrics, provided relief or interludes in relationship to the lyrics, or stood on its own as in the case of extended passages between lyrics or in purely instrumental music. The Beatles had a go at a single blues-based, relatively unimaginative instrumental, “Flying”, but on that same album, Magical Mystery Tour, there were several songs where the lyrics were considerably secondary to the impact and character of the music itself. When one first heard the Sgt. Peppers album and then, later, tracks on the Magical Mystery Tour album like “I Am the Walrus” or “Strawberry Fields Forever”, one didn’t exclaim “Wow!” as a reaction to the lyrics, but was primarily impressed by the bold, progressive qualities of the music. (Yes, their was a slight fixation with some around the initials of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, but it was at best a footnote to the reaction of the “new sounds” provided by the music.)
It was this emphasis on listening to music, by a band that had abandoned playing playing live due to screaming, fawning, and fainting fans effectively eliminating the listening aspect of live performances, that contributed significantly to other groups focusing on providing an LP-based listening experience, something not foreign to those musicians that had grown up in households where classical and jazz LPs were listened to attentively and often in reverence.
For my part, during my pre-teen years, I was exposed to Ravel’s Bolero, which I listened to intently from start to finish to sort out what changed with each repetition of the material, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue — and so it was natural to listen intently to Sgt. Peppers, then Abbey Road and then ultimately Yes’s Fragile and Close to the Edge.
By the time Close to the Edge was to be released, I was the proud owner of a budget LP set of six of Mozart’s later symphonies, and had listened to several works of Beethoven, Ravel and Debussy. Yes’s earlier album, Fragile, had impressed me for its balanced, classical-like attributes and musical preciseness supporting highly appealing and handsomely crafted material. Close to the Edge seemed to have embraced a more impressionistic, romantic ethos; it was a music that embraced elements of enchantment and imagery over precision and order.
About the middle of September 1972, right after Close to the Edge was released, my next door neighbor brought over the album, and upon listening, I was impressed more by the differences between it and the earlier Fragile, than any stylistic similarities, of which there were many. That first side to the title song was very much in the realm of classical music, recalling those wonderful orchestral tone poems of the late nineteenth century — yet brought up to date with lyrics and electronic instruments. “Close to the Edge” had a sense of thematic development, coherence and overall direction that, in my mind at that time, made this equal, and in the same category, of those fifteen to twenty-five minutes great classical works I so loved. Side two was a slight step down with neither of the two tracks on side two equaling the impact of the first side (or matching the best of the four main works on Fragile) but each was still musically impressive and compelling. To the credit of U.S. listeners, the album did quite well commercially, climbing up to the number three spot on the Billboard albums chart. In addition, all three works from the album had been captured in live performance for posterity from Yes’s 1972 tour and released in 1973, on the “Yessongs” album, providing another version for the serious rock-music listeners of that time.
Additional September 1972 Releases
Of the remaining rock-album releases in September, the most notable is Black Sabbath’s fourth album, simple titled Vol. 4, released September 1972. Guitarist and keyboardist, as well as primary composer, Tony Iommi pushes the band into new musical territory, sometimes exploring a harder, heavier sound and sometimes extending their previously established ostinato-based style. The first and lengthiest track, “Wheels of Confusion” is the most musically ambitious and varied, packed with a number of ingeniously layered and interlocking components. Also of note is the instrumental, “Laguna Sunrise”, a simple but effective composition with Iommi on both acoustic and mellotron.
With the band prepared to break up, the course of history changed completely for Mott the Hoople when after they had turned down David Bowie’s offer to allow them to record the newly composed, “Suffragette City”, Bowie quickly dashed off another song as an alternative potential single, furtively recording it with the Mott the Hoople band members in a couple of secretive sessions on May 14 and May 15, 1972. This would be the stand out track on the album named from that song, All the Young Dudes, and, importantly for the continuation of Mott The Hoople, a successful single peaking at number 3 in the UK and getting solid airplay on both AM and FM radio in the states. A version with Bowie as the vocalist for a guide track he had recorded during that May 15 session is now also available as a bonus track on later versions of the album.
Additional September 1972 releases included Seals and Croft’ Summer Breeze, an album filled with a variety of acoustic instruments and some electric guitar, released on September 9, 1972 with the initial track, “Hummingbird”, and its title track being played heavily on middle-of-the-road, easy listening and adult contemporary AM stations, Family’s sixth studio album, Bandstand, with its die-cut gatefold cover representing an old-style British television, the LP containing straightforward, relatively conventional rock songs (and the last Family album with John Wetton), Steeleye Span’s strong acoustic folk album, “Below the Salt”, and Sandy Denny’s second solo album, Sandy, with a varied assortment of arrangements highlighted by strong musicianship.
Missed mentioning this earlier this year, but better late than never! Released around January 1972, this incredible album combines jazz, pop and rock elements in an invigorating blend with effective use of synthesizers. Annette’s vocals may have influenced David Bowie’s vocal approach starting with Ziggy Stardust. This is one of the great albums of 1972!
McCoy Tyner: Sahara
Also missed this fine album last month! Recorded in January 1972, and released around July 1972, the album covers fusion-like territory but with all acoustic instruments. Tyner is a tsunami on piano and the first track is one of the finest of 1972. This first track then is followed by a mesmerizing, technically incredible piano solo and an adventurous, sometimes sizzling, sometimes reflective Japanese-flavored work where Tyner exchanges keyboards for koto, Sonny Fortune exchanges saxophone for flute, and bassist Calvin Hill appears to play an eastern flute-like instrument. The next track, “Rebirth”, explodes with a drum solo and then Tyner’s steamrolling piano taking no prisoners, with Fortune unleashing a blistering, often high-register alto sax solo — incredible execution nearly beyond belief. Side Two is taken up with the title track, Sahara, not my favorite of the album, perhaps because of some shrillness from the eastern reed instruments, yet it attempts to encompass epic scope and has some incredible passages.
Julius Hemphill: Dogon A.D.
Named after the Dogon in West Africa, recorded in St. Louis in February 1972 and released in limited quantities on Julian Hemphill’s own Mbari label and later made more widely available, this was Hemphill’s first commercial recording. Though labelled as “three lengthy avant-garde explorations” the music is structured and accessible with musical influences from the African continent.
The Kinks: Everybody’s in Show-biz
This two LP set includes studio material from spring of 1972 on the first two sides and live material from Carnegie Hall recorded on March 2nd and 3rd. Ray Davies continues his deviation from standard rock with strong influence from the Neo-music-hall material of twentieth-century London. The first LP loosely addresses the concept of show-biz fame and touring with the upbeat “Here Comes Yet Another Day” energetically opening up side one. The album closes with “Celluloid Heroes” (which got significant airplay on FM radio) with Ray Davies’ thoughtful and well-crafted lyrics providing a wistful close to that first LP.
Gil Scott-Heron: Free Will
Though not as strong as Gil Scott Heron’s previous (second) album, this album has more historical importance. His first album (recorded in a studio with a live audience) is sometimes referred to as proto-rap, but more accurately it is emotive, fairly well-written poetry read to sparse musical accompaniment, not so different than beat-era poetry readings, with some differences in rhythmic elements as well as subject matter and vocabulary. It is the second side of this third album, Free Will, that more clearly anticipates rap music with Heron providing better rehearsed and more effective, more rhythmically-enhanced delivery of his poetry. For stronger music, refer to his second album, Pieces of a Man, but if the object of exploring is to hunt for what may be the first traces of rap on LP, start here.
I think it was the weekend after july 4th, 1972, that this long-anticipated (by me) ELP album hit the records stores. I unhesitatingly purchased it, and though I was hoping for something as musically revolutionary as Tarkus, I soon accepted this more commercially friendly effort from ELP as a fine album, getting lots of turntable time from me during that summer.
For classical and progressive music fans, there are several tracks of great interest, including the particularly well-arranged and well-executed, “Abaddon’s Bolero”, Emerson’s version of Ravel’s Bolero, at a little over half the length and in a non-bolero 4/4 time-signature, but very much tracking the intent and impact of Ravel’s 3/4 bolero, starting out quiet and gradually building to a thunderous climax. Also notable is the imitative counterpart in the middle section of the three-part Endless Enigma, and the well-executed moog-rich arrangement of Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown”, with Emerson cleverly inserting references to American folk tunes not referenced in the original. Also notable is the guitar arrangement in “From The Beginning” and the seamless coalescing of pop, jass and prog in three-part “Trilogy.”
Chicago: Chicago V
While I was absorbed in my new ELP album, my next door neighbor acquired the newest Chicago album that very next Friday evening or Saturday morning — at any rate it was at his house on Saturday, and I soon brought it over to my house to let me record it while we listened to it on my parent’s better stereo system at my place. I intently followed the lyrics, trying to immediately size up the value — determining it was an improvement over the third album, not as good as the second, and, with “Dialogue” and “Saturday in the Park” seemed more commercially-oriented than the previous studio albums. If I could see into the future, I would have realized that this was the start of Chicago’s previously unimaginable move towards a more adult-contemporary.
T. Rex: The Slider, Frank Zappa: Waka/Jawaka
T. Rex released the commercially successful slider was included their previously released single, “Telegram Sam” and Frank Zappa releases Waka/Jawaka, sometimes referred to as Hot Rats 2, due to the reference on the cover and the similarities in general seriousness and musical style. And though nothing on the album approaches the classic “Peaches en Regalia” from the original Hot Rats, the title track is really a better example of jazz rock than anything on the Chicago V album; and the multi-meter “Big Swifty”, though perhaps a bit long, provides a different aspect of jazz-fusion than found on the several more successful (musically and commercially) jazz-fusion albums released those first seven months of 1972, with Zappa’s originality, creativity and inventiveness continuing to be an essential element to his music’s appeal.