Category Archives: The Early 70’s Masterpieces

Shouldn’t throw stones!

In my series of early 70’s masterpieces, I have come to Gentle Giant.

As with most of the 70’s masters, I could easily have picked another album, especially Octopus would fulfil the masterpiece requirement perfectly, in fact most Gentle Giant albums would.

The reason I pick In a Glass House is that this was where I first heard them.

The first few times I thought it was Genesis, can still remember saying “play some Genesis” – “which one” – “the one with the glasses”. I was of course corrected, but everyone knew what I was talking about.

Gentle Giant originated from a series of different named pop band formed in 1966-1969 by the Shulman brothers, Phil, Derek and Ray.

In 1970 they teamed with Gary Green and classically trained Kerry Minnear to form Gentle Giant, one of the less famous but highly talented, complex and sophisticated progressive rock band, a band that I have personally listened to uncountable times, every time surprised just how great they really are.

Looking through the window can you tell me what you see

You’re sure you’re really seeing what is meant to be a Glass

A mirror to reflect what I conspire a vision, image I desire  

 

Older brother Phil quite the band before they started creating In a Glass House, the remaining four members was multi instrumentalists, but even so it meant a slight change towards a more rock orientated sound compared to their older material.

But even if In a Glass House is a bit friendlier to the Rock orientated ear, there is no lack of unfamiliar time signature, tempo changes or mysterious ancient moods. Gentle Giant did not change much they just evolved a little.

You’ll try to question her, 

Does she believe in the choice of Your life.

So you have to try to ask her, when you are away, left 

Behind, out of mind; away.

 

 

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I can’t get out !

In my series off ”Classic” 70’s masterpieces I could not, and wouldn’t dream of forgetting the mighty Tull, the main creator and dominating factor in the world of (Progressive) Folk Rock. It would be obvious to pick “Thick as a Brick” or “Aqualung” which is undeniably brilliant albums, but personally my favorite has always been “Minstrel in the Gallery” may not be that “early” 70’s but….

The opener functions as a great sum-up of what is to come later, with the mix of an acoustic opening and the harder rock finish, great melodic song parts and long instrumentals sections.

The next two tracks on side one includes a very evident and gracefully use of strings conducted by David Palmer, “Cold Wind to Valhalla” has already been covered here, on “Black Satin Dancer” the combo of Rock and Classic instrument is even more evident and brilliantly used to its full potential.

The first side of the album is perfectly rounded off with a completely low down acoustic. In my opinion one of the best quiet Jethro songs “Requiem”

All that was just amazing, but what lifts “Minstrel in the Gallery” sky high is the 16+ minutes “Baker St. Muse” epic, taking up most of side 2, a long track like that will make or break an album, and this one just makes my day every time I listen to it, and after more than 40 year that still happens very frequently.

The combination of Hard Rock, melodic song writing, acoustic passages and the strings is beautifully woven together into perfection.

 

 

An Italian Masterpiece

Not only is Italian Band “Il Balletto Di Bronzo” second album “Ys” from 1972, one of the forgotten rarities of Italian 70’s Rock, but it is also of a musically quality and skill , right up there with the very best progressive band of the period, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Yes and Genesis ect. ect.
“Ys”, however is a demanding album, and definitely not the easiest album, out of the Italian Progressive Scene, it is somewhat dissonant here and there, and it’s musically equilibrium forces you to follow closely.

Il Balletto di Bronzo was formed in Naples in the late sixties, by vocalist/guitarist Marco Cecioni, bassist Miky Cupaiolo, drummer Gianchi Stinga, and guitarist Lino Aiello. In 1971 Cecioni and Cupaiolo left the band and was replaced by bassist Vito Manzari and classically trained keyboardist/Vocalist Gianni Leone, formerly of Citta Frontale. On Ys spiced with female vocalist Daina Dini.

Ys is a very special album, complex, dark and scary, but also very beautiful at times, an Italian classic masterpiece of 70’s Progressive Rock, filled with stunning keyboards and mellotron parts and haunting guitar, on a solid rhythm section. The vocal language is Italian, just adding to its weirdness (unless of course you understand Italian)

Nursery Cryme

At their second album Trespass, Genesis found their style, the album was a lot better than their debut, but sort of inconsistent. On their 3.rd album “Nursery Cryme”, they made their first genuine masterpiece, the first in a series of great Genesis albums to come.

Up to the recording of Nursery Cryme, The band grew creatively, hiring Phil Collins who was looking for an active band, and Genesis definitely could use this supreme drummer who also was a great backup singer for Peter Gabriel. They was also hiring the imaginative and talented, very classic inspires guitarist Steve Hackett. Together with founding members Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford, this lineup was to become the legendary Genesis progressive flagship up to the departure of Peter Gabriel in 1975.

Genesis bought King Crimsons Mellotron prior to the recording of Nursery Cryme, which would come to full use on the album. Creating a fully “symphonic” sound, combined with the surreal lyrics.
Delicate and beautiful in the details, but also heavy and even scary at moments, Nursery Cryme was a brilliant album, and with this album Genesis marks their position as one of the top Progressive Rock band of the early 70’s.

King Crimson – The Lizard Suite

If you did not read “Lizard” part one and two, start here.

Just as unexpected as side A of the album may have sounded, to anyone hoping to get another “In the Court of The Crimson King”, just as unexpected come Jon Andersons vocals, at the beginning of the 23 minute “Lizard”, a beautiful symphonic Rock classic, subtitled “Prince Rupert Awakes” (4.36).

Lizard : Prince Rupert Awakes & The Peacock’s Tale

Andersons vocals sends thoughts in the direction of early Yes albums, but the music definitely Crimson, not unlike The Crimson we know from the two previous albums. The 2nd Part of the Suite “Bolero – The Peacock’s Tale”, is yet another sharp turn in style, first a soft melodic piece, moving into a jazzy jam, but this time not frantic as the side A jams, much more polite, with great piano and horn sections, in the end returning to the soft melodic style.

Lizard : The Battle Of The Glass Tears – Big Top

The third part of the suite “The Battle Of The Glass Tears (10:58)”, opens with a soft vocal section from Haskell, from there moves into a wild section, of almost chaotic (symphonic?) Jazz Rock, most likely illustrating the battle itself, and from there into a calm section where Fripp’s guitar solo tops a bass rhythm. The album ends with a short piece “Big Top” a circus like piece, pointing back to the track opener. Just like if the record wants you to start again.
According to Eric Tamm, Fripp should have stated about Lizard : “We’ve made it so that the 24th time things’ll really begin to go Zap. Im not sure he was right about that, think it depends on the listener, but yes, Lizard is hard to get into music, and you should definitely give it more than a few runs, to make it “Zap”. But I guess with most albums, you should, except those made specifically for mass consumption.

Happy family, one hand clap !

Lizard (part 2).
If you did not check out part 1 start here.

Happy Family is the last of the upbeat tracks from side 1 of the original vinyl.
A surreal reflection on the Beatles split. The track features distorted vocals, that may seem a bit over the top, in today’s ears. The true brilliance on this track is the piano (Keith Tippet), and the numbers of solo’s going in and out, often many at the same time, on a lot of instruments, a total trip attacking our ears, very experimental , Jazz Rock Fussion +.

Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree/No-man) liner notes for his remix of Lizard 40th Anniversary Edition.:
“I’ve always felt that if presented in the right way, I could make a case for this being the most experimental rock record ever made. It’s extraordinary what they’re doing on this album. In terms of fusing free-jazz with progressive rock for me there’s almost no parallel and yet it seems to an album that is overlooked by jazz fans and progressive rock fans alike.”

After those complex tracks, it would be time for a softer piece, and that is what we get. The first half of the album concludes with a ballad of pure beauty. LADY OF THE DANCING WATERS

The Original Version.

Alternative take, bonus track from the 40th Anniversary Edition.

To be continued.

Crimson – Playing Indoor Games

Friday is Fripp day.

After opening the doors of Symphonic Rock wide open, with the milestone album, In the Court of the Crimson King: An Observation by King Crimson in 1969, and paving the way for what was to become the super groups of Progressive Symphonic Rock, “Emerson, Lake & Palmer” , “Yes” and “Genesis”. Fripp and with him King Crimson already in 1970, left Symphonic Progressive Rock, for good, with Lizard. So what did we get instead? In my opinion something even better, Lizard is a combination of inspirations, from so many sources in music, and performed to excellence.

Now let us start from the beginning : Circus.

The insane amounts of layers, the combination of Rock Drums , Symphonic layers of mellotron, the extremely odd-beat acoustic guitar (Fripp), the saxophone (Mel Collins) and the absurd song itself.
A massive opener as close to avant-garde jazz as it is to Rock. Lizard may almost be seen as a genre of its own. Critics may with good reason say; this is way too complicated for Rock music, I would answer, yes but is it Rock music. ? Or rather I have no idea what the hell it is. I just want more!


Indoor Games, a bit lighter in texture than Circus, due to the more structured melody in the vocals.
But we are not listening to your everyday car radio rock, things are still very complex, odd tempo, and the instruments seem often to play up against each other, as much as together.
“Indoor fireworks amuse your kitchen staff” quite a sing along by the bonfire, just that I don’t know anyone who could play this. This time Fripp plays wonder on both electric and acoustic guitar.

To be continued.