Even if Edgar Froese and Chris Franke weren't particularly happy with the previous year's Cyclone, they still remained resolved to finding a new direction for Tangerine Dream. Klaus Krieger hung around on drums albeit as a guest musician though Steve Jolliffe was unceremoniously dumped. Force Majeure again contains three tracks, opening with the title track, which encompasses all of side one. "Force Majeure" is cinematic in nature, with each section promoting a different mood or color. The opening section rises (quite gracefully) into the next, offering one of the most straightforward pieces of rock music the band would ever play: drums, piano, and guitar dominate. A sequencer rolls in to save the day and the track remains predominately electronic through to the end, including the overly hokey finale. "Cloudburst Flight" offers more of the prog rock of the previous album, albeit without the vocals. Again, it's a relatively linear trip. The final track "Through Metamorphic Rock" is the real sleeper. The first half is unspectacular, but then all hell breaks loose as the sequencers descend into the brooding landscapes of their prior work. Relish it as Tangerine Dream would never return. The album did well in the UK, cresting at No. 26, their best showing in many years, and would eventually become a favorite among Tangerine Dream fans, topping numerous fan polls. Froese spent the summer again doing research and development with another solo album, Stuntman. When Tangerine Dream next appeared in January 1980, it was at a concert in East Germany, one of the first Western bands to do so. The addition of keyboardist Johannes Schmoelling would provide even further distance from their '70s style as they forged ahead into the 1980s.
With nearly a decade of work behind him, guitarist Manuel Göttsching was one of the pillars of the so-called Berlin school of electronic rock. He founded Ash Ra Tempel in the early '70s with bassist Hartmut Enke and the intermittent Klaus Schulze on drums. They released four albums of exemplary krautrock and collaborated with on-the-lamb acid-guru Timothy Leary for another album before breaking up. In 1974, Göttsching recorded Inventions For Electric Guitar, his first true solo album (recorded all on guitar), at his new Studio Roma in Berlin. His guitar technique is similar to Achim Reichel or Robert Fripp: using layers of echo-effect guitar, Göttsching created hypnotic washes of sound - early trance in modern terms. After a few years of collaborations (most notably Michael Hoenig), he returned as Ashra and signed with Virgin, releasing the excellent New Age Of Earth in 1977. Göttsching favored keyboards this time, but the results were similar. He then assembled a band with guitarist Lutz Ulbrich from Agitation Free and drummer Harald Großkopf from Wallenstein and began to tour, including gigs in the UK and France. Blackouts followed shortly after, again with Göttsching again playing all of the instruments on the record. It's heavily sequenced rock not that unlike Steve Hillage's work of the same time. Correlations offers the first listen to the band. Needless to say, the compositions gain significant mass with the extra musicians. "Ice Train" is lively rock that featured layers and layers of guitar, while "Pas De Trois" emphasizes rhythm. The album is most certainly a product of the technology of the day, but also gives a nod to the emerging "new wave". In 1981, Göttsching recorded the landmark E2-E4 (released on Klaus Schulze's label), which presaged most techno music in the '90s.
Following their debut album's release, Neil Murray left for (can you believe it) Whitesnake. This coincided with the demise of Henry Cow, providing bassist John Greaves as replacement. The band returned to the road in 1978, including a support slot for old friend Steve Hillage, before entering the studio in July to record Of Queues And Cures. Dave Stewart kicks things off with two compositions: "The Bryden 2 Step" has a considerably lighter melody than anything on the previous album, but is by no means lightweight. "The Collapso" pokes fun under a very sideways steel drum, but for the most part it's tried and true. "Squarer For Maud" is Greaves' contribution and contains some exciting guitar work from Phil Miller. Ex-Henry Cow cellist Georgie Born and vocalist Peter Blegvad make appearances as well. Miller's "Dreams Wide Awake" starts side two, leaning more on the heavy jazz quotient. Pip Pyle's "Binoculars" is a surprising and welcome vocal diversion, with Greaves tackling the crooning. Citing "musical anarchy", Stewart left before the album's release, causing the band to abort an upcoming Italian tour. Alan Gowen eventually stepped back in, rejoining Pyle, Greaves and Miller. The quartet spent the next year touring, including a jaunt to America in November. Momentum however was not on their side and in early 1980 the band folded before committing any music to tape. Sadly Gowen would succumb to leukemia in 1982, prompting the Health to reform the band the following year for one last album of Gowen's compositions in his tribute.
Following the prior year's tour commitments, U.K. would split under the weight of compromise. Bill Bruford and Allan Holdsworth would follow their jazz leanings in the drummer's band, leaving Eddie Jobson and John Wetton to pursue a more commercial path. Holdsworth's position would remain unfilled, while American drummer Terry Bozzio was recruited from Frank Zappa's band, where Jobson spent a year following his departure from Roxy Music. "Danger Money" kicks things off, and along with "Nothing to Lose", is typical of the straightforward rock that would make Asia what Asia would become. Wetton's distinct voice is high in the mix and the melodies are easily digested. "The Only Thing She Needs" turns up the rock lever, while "Caesar's Palace Blues" features Jobson's violin work. On the second side, "Rendezvous 6:02" and the longer "Carrying No Cross" are certainly the album's highlights. More intricate and intense, Jobson dominates throughout, providing one of the last great keyboard performances of the decade. It was 1979 after all, and the temperament for prog rock was thin, even with the band. U.K. would then tour the United States supporting Jethro Tull and release one final live album (recorded in Japan) before breaking up. From there, Jobson did a short stint with Jethro Tull before immigrating to the US. Wetton released a forgettable solo album in 1980, but would eventually find his mega-success a few years later alongside Carl Palmer, Steve Howe and Geoff Downes in Asia.
As the title suggests, Anthony Phillips' Sides splits itself between the commercial orientation of the first side and the progressive rock of the second. Most of the musicians from his preceding album were back, including the potent rhythm section of Mike Giles and John G. Perry. Hardly pensive, the opening track "Um & Argh" wastes no time making use of them. Lyrically it gives a perfect account of Phillips' trials as a recording artist. But the following "I Want Your Love" goes one-hundred-and-eighty degrees in the opposite direction, while "Holy Deadlock" seems to borrow its guitar riff from Genesis' "Follow You Follow Me". Never comfortable with his own voice, Phillips enlisted both Dale Newman and Genesis roadie Dan Owen for vocal duties. "Side Door" sports incredibly slick production, while "Bleak House" wears a more familiar veneer. The second side's "Sister's of Remindum" is a volatile instrumental that features Phillips on piano, while the excellent "Magdalen" harks back to best of his last album; it's easily one of his best compositions. The closing "Nightmare" is the highlight: completely uncharacteristic, it's an electric tour de force. This would be Phillips' last attempt at pop music, as his career would concentrate on the instrumental vignettes of the Private Parts & Pieces series. The first saw release later in the year, while others would follow with some regularity over the next several years. Curiously, Phillips released an album of electronic keyboard music in 1981, under the title of 1984.
Following the release of his last album, Steve Hackett assembled a touring band, including his brother John on flute and guitar, John Shearer on drums and vocalist Pete Hicks. He rounded out the lineup with Nick Magnus on keyboards and Dik Cadbury on bass. They then shipped off to Holland to record Hackett's third album, Spectral Mornings, again co-produced with John Acock. With its bright chorus, "Every Day" kicks things off, finding the band's performance lively, and Hackett soloing away on guitar. The album is more instrumental than vocal, again offering a great deal of musical diversity. Hicks' vocal is certainly up to task, though often soaked in thick harmony. "The Virgin And The Gypsy" is gentle and acoustic, while the following "The Red Flowers of Tachai Blooms Everywhere" is (not surprisingly) oriental flavored. "Clocks" ticks away with abandon before erupting into a drum-led frenzy, while "Lost Time In Cordoba" is the nylon string retread that Hackett would often return to. The first half of "Tigermoth" offers some downright heavy dynamics, while the second half is acoustic. Another instrumental, the title track "Spectral Mornings" wraps things up. It's plain evidence of Hackett's lyrical melodies and guitar playing, and straight out of the book of Genesis. Not that that's a problem; he was after all their guitarist for many years. The album was a genuine success, reaching No. 22 in the UK charts and affording Hackett a headlining spot at that year's Reading Festival. His follow-up album, the stylistically similar Defector, would prove his most successful, reaching No. 9 in the UK. Hackett offered more of the post-Gabriel Genesis sound than his former bandmates did, even in Genesis. Accordingly it was easy to see why his solo albums were so readily accepted.
In 1978, Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy gathered together another line-up to tour, this time with drummer Andy Anderson and bassist John McKenzie, and Frenchman Christian Boule returning as second guitarist. A double-album, Live Herald, was released in early 1979, culling recordings of three different line-ups of the Steve Hillage Band. The album's fourth side, later known as Studio Herald, offered four new recordings. “Talking To The Sun” drives over a swift sequence, but it's the funky bass and tight drumming of the American rhythm section that give it a wholly modern feel. “1988 Aktivator” cops a “punk” feel, while “New Age Synthesis (Unzipping The Zype)” is one of the guitarist's finest compositions. Hillage's lead guitar soars on the slow-tempo “Healing Feeling”. The tracks, along with half of the previous Green album were released in America as Aura. Furthering the same direction, a complete studio album, open, appeared in September. Its highlights were the fusion of “The Fire Inside” and “Earthrise”, an adaptation of a piece by Oum Kalsoum. However, after the promotional tour for the record, Hillage would opt out of future solo work (even though all of his albums charted in the UK). But of all of their activities in the year, the most significant was Rainbow Dome Musick, an album of “ambient” music that he and Giraudy recorded for the Festival of Mind-Body-Spirit at London's Olympia exhibition center in April. In the 1980s, Hillage would lead a significant career as a Virgin house producer before he and Giraudy resurrected their recording careers as techno artist System 7 in the early '90s.
Arthur Brown and Vincent Crane first performed together in the former's Crazy World, somewhere towards the beginning of the timeline. However, during the sessions for one of the Richard Wahnfried albums, the pair offered the album to Klaus Schulze. Judging the duo weren't "boring old farts" Schulze coalesced, releasing Faster Than The Speed Of Light on his Innovative Communications label, one better known for new and electronic music. With music from Crane and words from Brown, the album is a concept record, again roughly having something to do with sanity. Crane handles piano and keyboards, while one Clifford Venner was enlisted as drummer and percussionist. Brown's voice is forceful and to the fore in the mix. Bold and rich, it's a thoroughly modern album. The album's sonic icing however is Crane's brilliant orchestration, performed by the Frankfurt Symphony Orchestra. The opening track, "Nothing We Can Do" is full of majestic drama, including one helluva hook - you'll know it when you hear it. "Timeship" follows, both contemplative and driving, and the playful "Come and Join The Fun" wraps up. The second side highlights the duo's soulful side, in particular on "Tightrope". The album's title track closes the album, reprising the grand arrangements of the first side. The album saw limited release in Germany and predictably sold very little. It was re-released on Voiceprint in 1993, but ceteris paribus: the original tapes were lost and the CD was mastered from - if you can believe it - a scratchy vinyl record! In the early '80s, Crane reformed Atomic Rooster for a few years, while Brown immigrated to the US and began a career house painting in Austin, Texas.
On his first solo album, 1977's Feels Good To Me, drummer Bill Bruford assembled the core of Allan Holdsworth, Dave Stewart (on loan from National Health), and American bass player Jeff Berlin. Recorded prior to his joining U.K. and produced by Robin Lumely, it had a vague affinity towards what Brand X was attempting at the same time (progsters moving to fusion). And although it was a solid effort, Annette Peacock's vocals were a very strange addition. For One Of A Kind, Bruford (thankfully) kept his jazz-rock purely instrumental. The nimble and well-arranged execution of "Hell's Bell's" presents the stage. Both parts of the title track follow suit, though the harder edge of "Fainting In Coils" is welcomer. Both "Five G" and "The Abingdon Clasp" are again atypical; the latter however featuring Berlin's nimble bass playing. Bruford's drumming is exemplary as always, his distinctive snare always a welcome sound. "Forever Until Sunday", featuring an un-credited Eddie Jobson on violin, carries over from the U.K. repertoire, as does "The Snow of Sahara Part Two" (co-written with Jobson). Throughout the album, the musicianship is of the highest order; though perhaps a bit nondescript, the context is more akin to Weather Report than anything prog rock. Holdsworth would leave the band after the album's release. His replacement was the hitherto (and henceforth) "unknown" John Clark, whose debut was documented on The Bruford Tapes, a live album released later in the year. Bruford's next and final album, Gradually Going Tornado, would see a return to vocals. He then put his sticks down (so to speak) and joined a resurrected King Crimson in 1981, where he would explore the technology of electronic drums.
Early 1978 saw Hawkwind, consisting of Dave Brock, Robert Calvert, plus Simon King, Simon House and Adrian Shaw enter Rockfield studios to record a follow up to the 1977 release Quark, Strangeness and Charm. Using live recordings from their previous UK tour as a starting point, the band recorded a handful of tracks before heading off to America in March for their first tour there since 1975. But all was not well. Scuppered by Simon House’s departure to David Bowie’s band (and with Paul Hayles filling in) Brock, despondent and weary famously sold his guitar to Mark Sperhauk at tour’s end, effectively ending Hawkwind’s near-decade journey. The ensuing time however was spent with the Hawklords, and in 1979, Charisma patched together one final Hawkwind album consisting the tracks recorded in early 1978. “Death Trap” is a caustic rocker, providing the link between the band and punk rock, driven of course by King’s straight-on rhythm. Calvert’s “Jack Of Shadows” and “Uncle Sam’s On Mars” are two of his finest, neither out of place on any of the other Hawkwind albums of the Charisma era. Two tracks originally intended for a Brock solo record were pulled in, “Infinity” and “Life Form”. The second side offered the sci-fi of “Robot”, while “High Rise” drew inspiration from the J.G Ballard book of the same name. The Brock-penned title track dealt with the band’s split in 1976, when Nik Turner, Paul Rudolph and Andy Powell took their leave. P.X.R.5, released in June 1979, rose to No. 59 in the UK charts. But now without a label and Calvert, Hawkwind was again at a turning about. Was it the end, or just another beginning for Brock and his cohorts?
Judging by the album cover, Ian Anderson seemed to have had enough with country life, and now looked to the Arctic North for inspiration. To wit, Stormwatch presents a harder edge than its two predecessors, if ever so slightly. "Orion" isn't particularly inspired, but has a good hook. "Dark Ages" and "Something's On The Move" are the big rocking tracks, while "Flying Dutchman" sports big orchestration. It isn't that the album is bad; it's just that it all sounds like more of the same Jethro Tull we've all heard over the last several albums. David Palmer did however manage to do something quite rare in Tull-dom: His self-penned "Elegy" closes the album. Sadly, bassist John Glascock would succumb to a heart condition before the sessions, with Anderson filling in on bass. The album reached No. 27 in the UK while it fared slightly better in the US at No. 22. With Glascock's passing, the band went through some massive personnel changes. Anderson and Barre recruited Fairport Convention bassist Dave Pegg and keyboard wiz Eddie Jobson, fresh from a defunct U.K., along with drummer Mark Craney for 1980's A. As Anderson moved into the '80s, he first would record a rare solo album, and then (successfully) test the old Tull formula on 1984's controversial Under Wraps. However with their fans on their side, Anderson, Barre and Pegg would persevere and strike gold again toward the latter half of the '80s.
With Phil Collins in Canada sorting out his personal life, Genesis entered 1979 in hiatus. Both Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford turned their attention to solo projects, with Banks' the first out of the gate. A Curious Feeling was produced with David Hentschel at Abba's Polar Studios, with Banks handling all instrumentation; only Chester Thompson assisted on drums and percussion. Based loosely on the novelette Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes, the album is definitely a very uniform set of songs from one songwriter. Always one of Genesis' main songwriters, it should come as no surprise that the album gives a fairly good approximation of Banks' contribution to that band; and conversely the album also sheds light on the other members' contribution to Genesis by what it isn't. Banks is a very lyrical songwriter; his songs are very fluid, with emphasis on beauty and romanticism. Both The Lie and After The Lie are typically expressive, while the second side's You and Somebody Else's Dream contain more of his harder edge. Throughout, the production is flawless, if not a little too flawless. Bank's instrumental The Waters of Lethe (the working title of the album) is flush with his trademark Yamaha CP70 piano tone; it should also come as no surprise then that the album sounds a lot like Genesis' previous album, And Then There Were Three. The opening From the Undertow and the instrumental Forever Morning are obviously all from the same well. Kim Beacon from Charisma labelmate String Driven Thing provided the vocals for the album, a quite controversial choice in retrospect. His smoky tenor is by no means a distraction, but perhaps it's too perfect a match for the music (and quite typical of the voice that Genesis members would select for their solo albums). Regardless, the album was a success, rising to No. 21 in the UK charts. Early in 1980, Mike Rutherford's Smallcreep's Day would see release to similar fortunes, musical and otherwise. However, solo projects out of their system and presumably less material pre-written, Genesis would regroup for their next album, Duke. A pivotal record, it would mark the beginning of their impressive rise in popularity as one of the most successful pop bands of the '80s.
Mike Oldfield's follow-up albums to Tubular Bells were similar in style but none the worse for it; Hergest Ridge also managed to top the British charts upon release, while 1975's Ommadawn would settle for No. 4. After a few years' break, Oldfield released the ambitious (for the times) double-album Incantations in 1978. Spread over four sides of vinyl, Oldfield permutates the piece's main theme, with orchestral arrangements, lots of tuned percussion and even some African drums, but ultimately it's a continuation of his previous works. Still the album was successful, reaching No. 26 in the UK charts. The reclusive musician then assembled a large band and orchestra to tour Europe in early 1979, performing live as a solo artist for the very first time. Notables in the band included Benoit and Pierre Moerlen from Gong, Wigwam's Pekka Pohjola, and Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior, amongst many others. A double-album from the tour, exposed, saw release in the fall, rising to No. 16 in the UK, while a single, "Blue Peter" b/w "Woodhenge", also hit the UK Top 20; it was theme music for the well-known children's program. Oldfield's next studio album Platinum saw a shift in his musical direction, presenting a more concise song-based approach with (more or less) band instrumentation. The album-side long title track kicks off with "Airborne"; his signature-toned guitar playfully intertwines with the arrangement before the band takes full-flight on the second section "Platinum". "Charleston" sounds just as one would assume, while the closing "North Star" borrows its theme from Philip Glass' composition of the same name; it's no minor coincidence, as they share more in common than just their record label. The second side's "Woodhenge" is placid and atmospheric, if uncharacteristic. "Sally" however is a venture into pop, while "Punkadiddle" is certainly tongue-in-cheek. Throughout the album the "band" focus and in particular the keyboard technology manage to introduce some modernity to the album; both something he'd further explore on his next record. The album rose to No. 24 in the UK, while in the US it was repackaged with live material as airborn. As the decade turned, Oldfield would work with producer David Hentschel on the excellent Qe2 and enjoy continued commercial success (including a few more hit singles) throughout the 1980s.
Pink Floyd takes the honor of offering the last serving of excess of the decade, spread out over the double-album The Wall. Just listen to the opening bars of "In The Flesh": Roger Waters voice is the first heard and it's no surprise. Since their last album, the other members of the Floyd had cut solo albums to little commercial (or artistic) success. When the band went to record, it was Waters that offered two "song cycles"; the band chose the first, and the second would appear some years later as his The Pros and Cons of hitchhiking. The recording of the album was tumultuous at best; Rick Wright was ejected from the band by the end of the sessions, and producer Bob Ezrin completed the album in Los Angeles with studio musicians. Fortunately, Dave Gilmour leaves some evidence of his participation, especially on the excellent "Comfortably Numb" and "Run Like Hell", both co-written with Waters. The songs, on the other hand, are strictly Waters. It's a perfectly choreographed script, offering almost none of the psychedelic instrumentals that had defined Pink Floyd throughout the decade. That said there are undoubtedly some classic tracks within, including the singles, and "Mother", "Hey You" and "Nobody's Home". But by the fourth side, it's the album's own weight that brings down the wall. Yet there is no denying the double-album was a phenomenal success. "Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)" topped the single charts on both sides of the Atlantic, while the album would reach No. 1 in the US, and peak at No. 3 in the UK. Over the next two years the band would stage live renditions of the album in a series of concerts held in Los Angeles, New York, London and Dortmund. A movie of the same name, starring Bob Geldof as Pink, would appear in 1982, directed by Alan Parker. Finally, over a decade after its first release, Waters would perform The Wall in an all-star extravaganza in Berlin to celebrate the fall of die Mauer. If you didn't think it was a load of bollocks in the first place, be sure then to watch that video.