Progressive rock became maligned in the late ‘70s and went underground. Roger Dean and Hipgnosis cover-designed vinyl went the way of the loft, if not disposed of completely. Or so the London-based music scene of the time would patronisingly inform us. In truth ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ saved Pink Floyd because it had the same playground-come-football chant Slade made hits to, not because of its politics siding with the just imploded punk scene, Genesis switched to the smoother side of things and Yes got savvy too, but, poor old ELP were left out in the cold for a while, and with a changing of the guard at universities the Canterbury scene of prog had few live outlets. Thus, it was until the likes of Marillion came along, but a few years previous, such acts were tearing up the album charts and winning Melody Maker awards.
Compiled, conceived and coordinated by Mark Powell, with additional coordination by Vicky Powell, Wind Of Change – Underground & Progressive Sounds of 1973, is a four CD box set labour of love, and exhaustingly so – not because of the music, because that’s quite obviously a mixture of treasure trove, lost nuggets and amusing old curiosities, with nearly five hours listening availablem– but because of the dedicated research that’s gone into it, with an abundance of information on the various acts featured across the records, that’s likely to have you searching for full recordings by the individual artists and their various offshoot bands mentioned, while hoping some obscure question appears down at the pub’s local quiz night or some TV show about one or other of these acts that only you can meekly claim answer too, all the while your heart is beating ten to the dozen in quiet excitement. That, or maybe it’s an age thing.
That stated, turn your state-of-the-art music device up to 11 and play some good old-fashioned prog that’ll take up most of your day. Progressive rock originally meant music that went beyond the Tin Pan Alley hit single variety, The Who’s albums used to have that terminology typed on the back. It encompassed heavy rock as much as orchestrated rock, jazz-rock, space and folk rock, and more-or-less began when Cream started extending solos during their blues-rock workouts.
Generally, we tend to view progressive sounds as an extension of sixties psychedelia, and that’s a fair enough point of view too, but it’s important to note this album is about both progressive and underground music – that latter was more about a growing awareness towards social consciousness, alternative or counterculture lifestyles and politics, and as much about the distribution of such via its origins in underground films and comic via head shops and the like, as such the music can be viewed as different to what came to be formularised as progressive. Fortunately, listeners get to hear, both across these records, finding contrasts and similarities accordingly.
More ambitious, longer, if not conceptual records took hold and labels like Island, Harvest, Chrysalis, Charisma, Vertigo and Virgin began to offer homes for this kind of music. To this end, 1973 proved a pivotal year, because it’s the one when albums came to dominate were once the single had reigned supreme… Oddly, many of the acts of this genre would also release singles that charted, or had tracks that became familiar TV theme tunes, proving that old chestnut: it’s not about how long it is but what you do with it that counts.
In terms of longevity, Camel is still going strong, with a summer tour scheduled for 2023, and Wind Of Change – Underground & Progressive Sounds of 1973 offers two early tracks by the band. Track one, CD 1, opens with ‘Slow Yourself Down’ from their debut album and an odd little beast it is. That they’re able-bodied musicians isn’t in question, and they’re certainly experimenting, but just where they want to go, they’re not quite clear on here. It’s USA West Coast proto-psychedelia with a little bit of Fleetwood Mac in there (Keyboard player Peter Bardens having previously played with Mac-founder Peter Green) by way of Santana with Ferguson’s bumping bass and Latimer’s guitar dancing about before it becomes more like Wishbone Ash’s take on ‘Quo Vadis’. In other words, it’s the blues but it’s looking to be something more. It’s not until halfway through CD3 we hear them again, and from the same debut album, but from the first few bars they’re already ringing the changes: a soft arpeggio melody shifts into a briskly upbeat tune, vocals in harmony, keyboards (and flute, me thinks) later extending semi-classical themes, a fuller head of steam as it all comes to a head, with Latimer’s fluid guitar cutting through very nicely thank you. There’s a sound here they would continue to plough with success. Comparing the trial and experimentation between these two tracks, it makes you consider listening to the whole original album to see just how near they were in achieving their aims back then.
Similarly, we find two tracks from Kevin Ayers on this collection. With previous form in Soft Machine, it could be said he’d already defined his sound, and if not, then certainly his public personae. Bohemian laid back lounge lizard and observer of life, his dry-plumbed voice affecting with resonance, while both feet paddled barefoot in psychedelia. ‘Decadence’ was penned about Nico, of Velvet Underground fame, and lyrically it suits, musically there is the pitter-patter of many repeated or similar but different little guitar motifs, hypnotic if not quite Asiatic in manner – it sounds incredibly like Steve Hillage’s work, but the Bananamour album’s credits state it’s Ayers himself. Whereas ‘Shouting In A Bucket Blues’ on CD4 does feature the future Gong guitarist, and some seasoned soling is much in evidence, albeit the song’s primarily an acoustic ditty that’s the perfect accompaniment to a glass or two of win, while bathing in the south of France. Many have become familiar with this song in recent times, from a live rendition on the Old Grey Whistle Test that’s regularly repeated on terrestrial TV.
Already a major act by 1973, Emerson, Lake & Palmer weigh in next on CD1 with ‘Jerusalem’. It’s one of the few choices I’m curious about, not only the track, but where it sits as compared to the acts either side. Love the hymn, but the maestros tend to play it too over-dramatically in the studio, though all’s almost forgiven when Emerson starts soloing.
The funky R ‘n B groove of Family that follows is a complete change of pace. Progressive in its original sense, here was a Midlands band with both fluctuating line-ups and instrument choices who created their own identity early on. That by ’73 they had put out their last album, demonstrates not everyone was finding success, despite several chart singles along the way. ‘Check Out’ moves into a harder freak out with organ blazing, followed by riffed-up guitar and piano. Reunited in recent times, and front man Roger Chapman still going strong, the It’s Only A Movie album could do with reappraising.
‘Evening Blue’ from Traffic’s Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory is mellow, with mainly acoustic guitar and brushed drums, evoking carefree countryside riverside picnics but drifting for the most part until Chris Wood’s sax lifts the mood, the other musicians taking note, but ends before it really goes places. The very epitome of English bands, who ironically became more favoured in the USA.
In recent times, progressive rock has tended to be viewed in highbrow terms whereby assorted university classical music students got into rock and roll. To some degree, possibly, and certainly more traditional European music forms subsequently became dominant influences rather than the Mississippi blues. Among those on the continent who themselves rose towards the top is Premiata Forneria Marconi, (or PFM for those of us who can’t get our mouth around the Italian bakery from which they took their name). Still with us to this day, though as can be expected with differing line-ups having been established along the way. Their earliest work is ‘60s beat-influenced while sharing a primitive electronics experimentation to those in Germany’s krautrock scene, but their nation’s more studied leanings proved more attractive. PFM merged classical, folk and opera to perform jolly rocking jigs like Photos Of Ghosts’ ‘Celebration’ and more long form suites such as its title track (featured on CD3) and ‘River Of Life’ (from CD1). On the former, we are presented to the band fully formed. Classical guitar and flute are to the forefront initially, slowly picking up tempo as a medieval dance evolves, other instruments add gravitas; violins, electric guitars and whole lot more crash, bang and wallop ensuing, only for a lead voice, with supporting harmonies to take hold. Reminiscent to Lizards-era King Crimson and early Genesis as the musical structures ascend and develop in scope, flute and keyboards taking precedence over a shifting pattern until the flute returns us to the main song, with what appears to be the first Mellotron (prog’s defining instrument) seemingly making its first appearance on this collection. Tranquil, and positively so, with a little bit of an adventure running musically in between; I really like this one. ‘Photos Of Ghosts’ is no less attractive to the ear. As its title suggests, there is an air of mystery and suspense musically, the use of violin adding much to its eerie yet attractive feel.
Electric Light Orchestra put in an appearance with ‘In Old England Town’, Roy Wood having left the band by ELO 2 from which this appears, but still very much in a heavy Move meets Beatles frame of mind, Jeff Lynne’s voice appropriately coming across more harshly than he would on their later singles hit phase. Edging towards the epic, the track’s also not unlike a Midlands version of Procul Harum.
Caravan would sit neatly across any of the CDs on this collection. Bumped into second place, as most popular offshoot of the so-called Canterbury Scene, I’d argue while the critical acclaim has gone to Soft Machine, Caravan is far more universally accepted as being in keeping with the English scene as a whole. A band who knew a good tune when they wrote it, but might extend that for some considerable time, with assorted offshoot little bits adding to make it a suite. From the classic For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night we receive the nine minutes plus ‘Memory Lane Hugh/Headloss’ followed on the third CD by ‘L’Auberge du Sanglier/A Hunting We Shall Go’Pengola/Backwards/A Hunting We Shall Go (Reprise)’ clocking in at just under 10 minutes.
‘Memory Lane High’ begins with some languid blues rock that given a little tinkering might be considered as by Man, who also feature but a few tracks later. As soon as Pye Hastings’ neat and sweet voice utters its first words we’re reassured who we’re listening to. From near-pop tunesmith to partial film score keyboard elaborated journey we’re taken on a narrative journey some place a little weird. As new member Geoffrey Richardson’s violin becomes more profound, keyboards similarly strike out further with joyfully assured sense of purpose while being caught up in the adventure of it all, with the playful addition of flute, only for it become bombastic and seemingly come crashing to an end, only to take off in another lively skipping beat directing, Hastings breezily singing away as violin and guitar solo perform gaily in an upbeat bluesy breeze, before it all rides off side-saddle into a country & western distance.
CD3’s longer suite opens with some beautiful classical guitar and violin, disturbed by the sound of thunder then a tensely exciting band instrumental of tumbling progressive sound, assorted instruments moving to the forefront. Halfway through it quietens to piano and orchestration, other elements stirring themselves in gently as romantic drama and just as you’re about to rush out and buy your beloved flowers a tense pace ensues at it all ends with yet another crashing explosion. If anyone’s got the time to explain these two mini-epics to me, I’m all ears, for now I’ll simply express my delight about the whole album.
Save for attention-grabbing explosions, and what sounds like a plane crashing on the single-edited version of ‘Ejection’ by Robert Calvert that follows Caravan on CD1 there’s virtually no middle ground between the two acts. With MC5 style guitars rattling alongside raging saxes this is proto-punk half-inched by The Stranglers for ‘London Lady’. Manically brilliant in its musical simplicity, the fuller version can be found on space-cadet poet Calvert’s debut solo album, Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters.
To express the differences between progressive and underground music on this collection, Calvert’s offering is where the nuances are more profoundly felt. More primitive, tribally political, but yet still newly seeking new fields of expression. It’s on CD2 that we get to evaluate the bulk of this more abrasively applied rock.
Calvert having been a member of Hawkwind, you’ll not be surprised to find ‘Orgone Accumulator’ from their classic double album Space Ritual present here. At its most basic, the song’s nothing more than one of those standard beatnik grooves you’ll hear on some late 60s or early 70s film where the lead characters have to pass through a discotheque on their way to further the plot, save it’s highly over driven motorik rhythms are akin to being thrown into a churning concrete mixer while skronking synthesisers attack your brain… All in a tune about Wilhelm Reich’s magical little box that supposedly cured everything but was favoured as a sex toy. That you can still pop along to some rock club or other and suddenly see aged folk hit the dance floor to this one will astound the uninitiated.
Often associated with Hawkwind back in the day were The Pink Fairies, though similarities beyond playing free concerts seem less apparent these days. From Kings Of Oblivion, we get ‘Street Urchin’ a kind of proto-punk New York boogie groove by way of Notting Hill before Richard Curtis gave it a makeover. The song swings with a rough but surprisingly commercial edge before young new guitarist Larry Wallis and the rhythm section of Duncan Sanderson and Russell Hunter take it away in an acid-rocked Cream manner.
CD2’s also big on power trios, and many a music fan back in the day might be fan of both Pink Fairies and Welsh act Budgie. The latter were more specifically pioneers of heavy rock though, albeit their frontman/bassist the late Burke Shelley had a more convincing lyrical beatnik patter than most dudes these shores. Here, however, we’re offered more earnestly felt words and a slow song that by virtue of its extended piercing and emotional guitar soloing might be felt to slot into a more progressive nature as we term the scene these days. Despite which, ‘Parents’ remains a classic by the band.
We also get the Edgar Broughton Band, fitting both power trio and underground act categories. From rare previous chance hearings of the band, I’d expected to briefly compare them to a rawer-vocalised version of The Pink Fairies. Instead, with ‘Hurricane Man/Rock ‘N Roller’ we get a kind of folk rock with a bit of jazz as concept suite if Medicine Head, Mungo Jerry and The Byrds were playing in your back parlour. Reappraisal of their work might just be appropriate.
Rounding out the rockier sounds, back on CD1 is another Welsh band in Man with ‘Back Into The Future’. Still in existence to this day, this is a classic band number, though if its typical of their oeuvre I couldn’t truly say. Supposedly influenced by West Coast US ‘60s bands, and possibly, this features a kind of musical box melody; the in-thing for so many UK bands alongside pseudo-Lewis Carroll lyrics but here we get a more existential sci-fi scenario. Essentially a bolero with wah-wah guitar and harpsichord, weird sounds and pleasant vibes, though if these were to go into extensive jamming live it probably wouldn’t be my cup of tea.
The last four numbers on CD1 are certified prog rock tracks. Greenslade make an appearance from their self-titled debut with ‘Drowning Man’. In the context of this collection, the appropriation of The Lord’s Prayer lyrically makes more sense of where they were coming from at the time. Musically, it’s still invested in blues and jazz while, as with Camel, looking to extend elsewhere, and they would apply certain chord sequences to latter numbers. The Bedside Manners Are Extra album followed later in the same year, and for me remains a progressive rock highlight, both album and the title track which is featured as last-but-one track on CD4 – it’s a succinct and compelling musical journey with seemingly innocent lyrics offering rather more suspect meaning.
Keyboard player Dave Greenslade and bass player Tony Reeves had previously played in the original line-up of Colosseum, and that band’s drummer, Jon Hiseman, and bassist, Mark Clarke, had by 1973 formed Tempest with Alan Holdsworth originally on guitar and violin. They produced some really original work, but never took off. CD4 offers ‘Upon Tomorrow’ a free-flowing jazz rock piece that strikes out with harder riff as it shifts into a more Jack Bruce-styled number (it’s co-written by former Colosseum and future Bruce associate Clem Clempson).
John Etheridge, a guitarist I admire, replaced Holdsworth in Soft Machine, and it’s a very pleasant discovery to have enjoyed Darryl Way’s Wolf with ‘The Void’, then latterly read the sleeve notes verifying it’s him playing here. With a minor TV thriller suspense feel to the number, Etheridge’s echoed guitar dancing like some mischievous sprite through the number, and to be frank reminds me of latter-day Argent. While. ‘Back Street Luv’ remains sensually compelling. I’ve never really felt satisfied with Curved Air, the band violinist Wolf’s most famous for, save the album many of their fans tend to frown upon, Air Cut – Two youngsters had come on board then; Kirby (later guitarist with one-hit wonders Stretch) and keyboard player and violinist Eddie Jobson (later with Roxy Music, UK etc) and it’s the latter who really shines on two tracks featured across CDs 2 and 3, with ‘Armin’ and ‘Metamorphis’ respectively; The first moves from feedback drone to wild gypsy violin soling over a hard-jazz rock riff workout, slowing down a tad for blues wailing guitar, violin joining, then bass superseding before a merry chase is led all the way to conclusion. By comparison, ‘Metamorphis’ is a stately piano suite prior to a mix of military rhythm and prog rock excursions, over which Sonja Kristina’s voice eventually arrives telling us “We are the children of the midnight, marching high in an icy mercury sky” and similarly worded tones delivered prettily, Jobson taking things to one side again to extemporise exquisitely on piano before Kristina joins again before sturdy prog rock chords surge forward with Kirby soling, before returning to its earlier themes but wilder heading towards climax.
With the changing of the guard over at Yes, as they came to challenge ELP as prog rock superstars, former members split off into the bands Flash and Badger. Original Yes keyboard player Tony Kaye played on Flash’s debut but ultimately didn’t join, opting to go with bass player David Foster (who’d previously played and co-written with Jon Anderson), the drummer on ‘Resurrection Shuffle’ hit Roy Dyke, and original guitarist Brian Parrish. The sleeve notes states with line-up changes they shifted from “progressive rock to a more soul/rhythm and Blues based direction,” but I reckon they were pretty soulful back when they began, though it’s true they were never together long anyway.
Debuting with One Live Badger, recorded while actually supporting Yes at London’s Rainbow Theatre. It was quite unusual to have a live record out first, though it probably saved on recording costs. CD1 offers ‘Wind Of Change’ from which this collection takes its name – it’s a Brit-funk almost disco-lite number with a touch of Traffic, Caravan and obviously Yes, more notably by dipping lyrically towards a fantasy narrative. Kaye’s organ solo cruising then arcing majorly. The major applause at the end of this live track is either amplified or shows there was an audience, and they should have been bigger. ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ on CD2 is a gruffer Rhythm ‘n Blues number, not too far removed from the work of Rare Earth, and to a lesser degree Blood, Sweat & Tears and early Chicago. If they’d got themselves over to the States who knows how their career might’ve panned out. Me, I’ve always had a soft spot for them. More so than a lot of the surplus Yes material we’ve heard over the years; that stated CD3 concludes with Anderson, Squire, Wakeman, Howe and new boy White, and does so majestically with them at the top of their game with an all-conquering rendition of ‘Starship Troopers’ from Yessongs. Playing this, you are so obviously aware what separates the men from the boys, what it takes to make it to the top, and when you’re witnessing major talents. It wouldn’t last, it couldn’t, but good God, when they delivered, they did it so bloody majestically!
But, to try and conclude what remain but brief thoughts on the final track from CD1, this is a great arrangement of Mason Willams’ instrumental ‘Classical Gas’ by Scottish band Beggars Opera. A hit single back in the late sixties, not only in the States, but in the UK and elsewhere, and featured in assorted films and the like. You may not think you know it, but you probably have, and this version will not disappoint. Whereas I noted ELP’s studio version of ‘Jerusalem’ too much, here the Glaswegians capture it perfectly, largely replacing acoustic guitar with harpsichord played by Alan Park, ad some really nice Shaft-style wah-wah guitar from Ricky Gardiner later in the number, it moves to a gently locking blues beat and also features cool whizzing synth work. If you like this; you’ll no doubt like the version of ‘McArthur’s Park’ they also did, but their songs extend beyond just covers and varies in style, so I do advise checking out their other tunes, they’re much underappreciated and too little known.
This rather epic review finds me jumping between the various CDs with bands and their extended family tree. Crossing here and there, it’s both part off the fun and the discovery of these acts, sorting out what one likes and making checklists of which acts to check out further or wanting to recommend. CD2 opens with Barclay James Harvest guitarist’s John Lees’ ‘Untitled’ from his A Major Fancy solo record. A bluesy Latino rock rhythm that veers into other areas, with a touch of Beatles and Moody Blues on the side. I’m not a big BJH fan, but this is interesting enough and quite mainstream in places. Next up, Manfred Mann’s Earthband who were no strangers to the charts back in the day, and the man himself had a penchant for adapting Bob Dylan, thus the cathedral choral mantra of ‘Father Of Day, Father Of Night’ is represented here, a classic among fans.
Tasmanian guitarist John Evan-Jones came to England, ended up session musician before forming Jonesy. The band went through various changes, but a burglary resulting in equipment being stolen saw them call it a day after three albums. Again, this we know from the sleeve notes so for those of us who’ve never head the band before the unimaginatively titled ‘Song’ proves a pleasant and thoughtful enough peace and love orchestrated ballad, only for it to turn on its head as Evan-Jones solos and make us take greater notice. Again, for us novices, dual keyboard act, Rare Bird’s appearance isn’t the scale-chasing synthesiser challenge expected but a truly nice number called ‘Hard Time’ that’s both reminiscent of both early Free ballads and the Americana numbers guitarist Mick Ralphs sang on Mott’s Wildlife album, and it occurs to me that in some other reality this is what Bad Company could’ve ended up sounding like. Big in Germany and the USA, with two versions of the band in existence today, Nextar moved from blued-out psychedelia to mainstream prog through their career, anyone enjoying this collection is likely to find one album or another of theirs of interest; Down To Earth and Recycled are particular favourites of mine, both different, and both came recommended by friends’ decades apart. ‘Good Day’ opens with a brief blaze of guitar over organ akin to ‘Joe Cocker’s With A Little Help From My Friends’ developing into a Hair-styled gospel prog number amid more scorched earth work and slower blues melodies from guitarist/vocalist Roye Albrighton.
Some might consider John Martyn’s inclusion a bit odd, but that’s if they simply consider him part of the folk scene. If so, I consider that outrageous, as once he found what an echoplex could do there was no stopping him for a good decade and a half, bringing in fellow Island stable mates, jazz fusioners, progsters and reggae dealers alike to embroider his creative visions. If you’d asked to include a track from his classic Solid Air album, I’d have not opted for ‘Dreams By The Sea’, and there’s the old school magic of choosing and sequencing tracks for an album and where Mark Powell, proves he’s the right man for the job. ‘Dreams By The Sea’ is a more subtly nuanced track, Martyn’s voice smooth and crooning over a ringing guitar, while bass works counterpoint and pulse-like, various keyboards noodling jazzily with pretty inventiveness from Rabbit Bundrick, becoming bulkier with saxes at one point, but ultimately all in tow with Martyn’s sleepy narrative.
Another singer/songwriter and guitarist, from the ’60s Brit folk pack (and who similarly moved down from Scotland to London Town), is Al Stewart, presented on CD3 by ‘Terminal Eyes’ where Donovan/Beatles influences are in evidence and this single rendition wouldn’t have been out of place in the lower rungs of the pop charts. CD4 offers the more epic ‘Nostradamus’ a largely acoustic guitar driven tale about the famous French astrologer – moving from third person to first in the form of Nostradamus himself prophetising future events that would come to pass, other musical elements entering, oddly the most effective being hand claps, then the last half being gently devilish acoustic playing before returning to the main song in conclusion. All this well before the world and its wife fell in love with mainstream prog hit ‘Year Of The Cat’.
Peter Sinfield’s initial claim to fame was as lyricist for King Crimson, latterly a producer, before moving onto mainstream writing songs for the likes of Buck Fizz, Cher and Celine Dione. Somewhere in between was released Still, credited as a Sinfield solo album. CD3 offers the title track, as sung by Greg Lake, and CD4 ‘The Night People’. For the first picture Marlene Dietrich’s ‘Falling In Love Again’ with lyrics more apt for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream yet sung by the clear-voiced Greg Lake. The sultry, mysterious, and creepily jazz-slouching second number benefits greatly from its horn section. On the whole the album’s for Crimson completists, but there’s some inspired madness too.
At one time, Sinfield was living in ELP property, and his neighbour was Gary Brooker, for whom he wrote lyrics for a solo album. CD3 gives us Brooker’s main band, Procul Harum and the title track to their Grand Hotel album. An orchestrated epic, taking in waltzes, wilder gypsy jigs, and much melodrama, it could be the theme music to accompany a montage of old German expressionism films, and quite likely inspired 10CC’s ‘Un Nuit A Paris’.
Another singular old war-horse whose work so many of us would be hard-pressed to name a tune to other than his wild man hit single ‘Fire’, and despite him still going strong, the god of Hellfire has two tracks featured under band name Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come. CD3 offers ‘Time Captives’ and CD4 ‘Spirit Of Joy’, the first begins with a lengthy intro of dulled percussive thuds (possibly from dampened bass and shakers), with pace quickening eerier noises integrate go out of phase, and generally make out like Dr Who’s TARDIS, then along comes Arthur himself with treated voice, synths purring like cats about him, relating a tale sci-fi New Worlds mag readers and Hawkwind fans alike would likely get off on’ the latter’s more generalised prog, allowing listener’s to better appreciate his voice as a singer, the kind of thing Fish-era Marillion might’ve had a go at if they’d been writing a rock opera back when their dads were young.
Similar such weird-cats are Gong with ‘Flying Teapot’ on CD3, initially French free-jazz freaks fronted by Australian singer/guitarist Daevid Allen, formerly of Soft Machine. Slow moody synthesisers, creaky guitars and whimsically warped horns blow in and out, then an oddball funky bass line takes precedence, and those horns get more excited in a jazzy free fall and those unaware of what to expect will be completely dumbfounded by the sparse, self-mythologising phrases of lyrics repeating themselves through this piece. Inspired or drug-fuelled madness? Decades later some of us are still wondering, while still listening.
How about Spirogyra? That they take their name from a form of algae and not the almost similar geometric drawing devices kids of the time would have played with proves the internet can be educational, but either way they sound like they should be offering us magic mushroom-munching music too. CD4 gives us ‘The Furthest Point’, a folk-rock acoustic instrumental ensues with violins and trumpets entering the frame, then garbled distanced voicing from guitarist Martin Cockerham strain the listener’s ear prior to Barbara Gaskin offering a more profound and indeed graceful vocal narrative. Distanced vocals, male and female, alongside violin, flow in and out with Celtic resonance making us question how much this influenced Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love, prior to more mockney-inspired male singing over rolling piano into fade out. Gaskin scored a hit single with a cover of ‘It’s My Party’, among other prog-associated activities, and Cockerham’s now passed on, but it could prove interesting discovering just how influential they’ve been on other acts that have come since the 70s.
Born not-quite phoenix like from the ashes of The Yardbirds, Renaissance would eventually find greater acclaim over in the States, but such resemblances to Led Zeppelin end there. Success came with an overhauling of the band’s line-up, notably vocalist Annie Haslam who still leads the reformed band today. Female singer, with folk and proto-symphonic rock boxes ticked, and a surprise hit single with ‘Northern Lights’, they might be considered to share similarities with Spirogyra, but to a much greater level of success. Of those album tracks I’ve heard, they wander overlong for my tastes, but the title track from Ashes Are Burning featured as CD4’s final number works, predominantly keyboard led it also features a guest appearance from Wishbone Ash guitarist Andy Powell who takes the song to an epic six string conclusion.
Guitarist/singer Miller Anderson, having played Woodstock with the Keef Harley Band, set out on a solo career only to decide to form a band with the session guys, and thus was formed Hemlock. I’d expected a blues rock sound, but the ‘Fool’s Gold’ track we’re offered on CD3 is practically a solo performance by Anderson, singing and playing acoustic guitar beautifully – On the one hand you can hear a cross between Crosby, Stills & Nash and Jim Croce, but more so as if it were a co-write between Cat Stevens and Leo Sayer. This proves one of the collections hidden gems.
Over the years, I’ve come across many a cheap prog rock collection, with 10th generation copies of tracks listed in differing orders, and the first time I saw Stray’s ‘All In Your Mind’ I was a little bewildered, but eventually sussed it’s a bit psychedelic at the beginning then kind of goes underground in a Pink Fairies/Hawkwind manner but with guitar heroics. Anyone who’s heard the oeuvre will tell you they played all kinds of music, and that lack of direction might not have always helped them. Well, expect the unexpected with their rendition of Cliff Richard hit ‘Move It’ – they totally deconstruct it, primal with soundscapes, many might frown over its inclusion, not me.
Early Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips sounds a much safer bet for inclusion and appears midway through CD4 with ‘Silver Song’ an unissued single. It features Phil Collins on vocals (and possibly percussion) and is a pleasant enough tune, primarily acoustic with that looser laidback melodic intonation Collins used to have, alongside Manfred Mann styled synth playing near the end. Following that we’ve got ‘It Has To Be’ by the only other act I’ve not commented on if you’ve waded through this lengthy discourse, and that’s by Help Yourself. I’d never heard of them, but they’ve got connections with both Man and the pub rock scene that got superseded over by punk. Keyboards dominate initially, taking us down melodies reminiscent of Allman Brothers offshoot Sea Level before spaced out wah-wah guitars have us hearing those Welsh Man Connections and likewise West Coast America jamming bands as assorted instruments noodle in sympathetic accord, seemingly drift off into space like Tangerine Dream, try to reconnect with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop only to conclude with some classical piano. Did I really write they had pub rock connections? Wow!
To say the musical landscape was changing in 1973 is a complete understatement, and that’s just nailing it down to an incredible broad palette of British music. There’s a good part of your day could be heard just listening to these tracks, and let’s face it unless you like progressive rock you’re not going to even bother trying; that you’ll play many a track again and preparing to purchase more of certain acts is also a pretty safe bet.
The very diversity is interesting among these cuts. Some have a step in the past, maybe only a year or so but already the music scene is ready to evolve, and you can feel, or actually know, those that are going to succeed. Perhaps within but two years more progressive rock had formularised itself and became staid a few years later having to go underground and reinvent itself. Either way, this is an aural history lesson where listeners are going to be pleased with the results.
- Reviewed by Paul H Birch.
- Wind Of Change – Underground & Progressive Sounds of 1973 is released via Cherry Red/Esoteric Recordings and is available on 9th December 2022 and is available here.
- Slow Yourself Down – Camel
- Decadence – Kevin Ayers
- Jerusalem – Emerson, Lake & Palmer
- Check Out – Family
- Evening Blue – Traffic
- River Of Life – PFM
- In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2) – Electric Light Orchestra
- Memory Laine Hugh / Headloss – Caravan
- Ejection (Single Version) – Robert Calvert
- Back Into The Future – Man
- Drowning Man – Greenslade
- The Void – Darryl Way’s Wolf
- Wind Of Change – Badger
- Classical Gas – Beggars Opera
- Untitled No. 1 – John Lees
- Father Of Day, Father Of Night – Manfred Mann’s Earthband
- Song – Jonesy
- Hurricane Man/Rock N’ Roller – Edgar Broughton Band
- Hard Time – Rare Bird
- Good Day – Nektar
- Parents – Budgie
- Orgone Accumulator – Hawkwind
- Street Urchin – Pink Fairies
- Wheel Of Fortune – Badger
- Dreams By The Sea – Jon Martyn
- Armin – Curved Air
- Time Captives – Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come
- Terminal Eyes (single version) – Al Stewart
- L’Auberge Du Sanglier/A Hunting We Shall Go/Pengola/Backwards/A Hunting We Shall Go (Reprise) – Caravan
- Flying Teapot – Gong
- Fool’s Gold – Hemlock
- Metamorphosis – Curved Air
- Photos Of Ghosts – PFM
- Never Let Go – Camel
- Grand Hotel – Procul Harum
- Still – Pete Sinfield
- Never Let Go – Camel
- Starship Trooper (Live) – Yes
- Move It (single version) – Stray
- The Furthest Point – Spirogyra
- Spirit Of Joy – Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come
- Nostradamus – Al Stewart
- Silver Song (1973 Single Version) – Anthony Phillips
- It Has To Be – Help Yourself
- The Night People – Pete Sinfield
- Upon Tomorrow – Tempest
- Shouting In A Bucket Blues – Kevin Ayers
- Bedside Manners Are Extra – Greenslade
- Ashes Are Burning – Renaissance