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1969 Albums

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Caravan > Caravan

January, 1969
United States
Verve Forecast
3.833335
Caravan's history begins as half of The Wilde Flowers, the original hotbed of musical proclivity that originated in Canterbury, Kent in 1965. Soft Machine, of course, was the other half. With its members drifting both in and out of the band, The Wilde Flowers ranks were constantly revolving. At some point, the reins were left to guitarist/singer Pye Hastings, drummer Richard Coughlan and organist Dave Sinclair. Adding Dave's cousin Richard Sinclair on bass, they became Caravan in early 1968. Caravan's music contained an uncompromisingly British character—and a penchant for whimsy—that is best exemplified by their lightheartedness and exquisite song-form. In comparison to the Soft Machine, Caravan was far more psychedelic than jazzy; though they did have some similarities: Much like Robert Wyatt, Hastings's vocals are undeniably accented and English, and like Mike Ratledge, Dave Sinclair was a first-rate organist. A particularly strong appearance at Middle Earth Club led to a recording contract with the Verve Forecast label. Together with producer Tony Cox, they headed to Advision Studios to record their debut album. The opener "Place of My Own" is classic Caravan; highly indicative of the band's songwriting, it intertwines deft instrumentality with a keen melodic sense into their unique brand of psychedelia. Tracks like "Ride" and "Love Song with Flute" (featuring Pye's brother Jimmy Hastings) are of the era, while "Cecil Rons" is surely Pink Floyd-inspired. Dave Sinclair's organ solo is a standout on Brian Hopper's trippy "Where but for Caravan Would I." Unfortunately, the album's echoey production is unfitting for the material. The album saw release in both the UK and US, and in both stereo and mono formats. But in what would become another unfortunate Canterbury tradition, it failed to chart in either country.

Revelation > Man

January, 1969
United States
Philips
0
The rock group Man were Wales' finest sons. Originally formed in 1962 in Swansea, Wales, The Bystanders were a singles band with a heavy touring schedule for the time. A minor hit broke the UK Top 50 in 1966; but with the exit of Vic Oakley, guitarist Micky Jones, keyboardist Clive John and the rhythm section of Ray "Taff" Williams and Jeffrey Jones reemerged as Man in 1968, with a musical switch to psychedelia and the addition of guitarist Roger "Deke" Leonard. Their debut album Revelation was issued on the Pye label in early 1969, and saw release on the Philips label in the US under the group name Manpower. Ostensibly a concept record about the course of human life, Man's debut is chock-full of late-60s psychedelia. "And in the Beginning" offers a heavy intro and spoken word interlude between some great guitar from Jones. "Sudden Life" adds a little blues to the mix, while the acoustic "Love" scales back a bit. The faux-orgasm vocals of "Erotica" was shocking for its time-banned in the UK, yet a hit in France! The second side's "Blind Man" is another good-time rocking number, but "And Castles Rise in Children's Eyes," with John's organ at the fore, highlights Man at their most psychedelic and progressive. "Don't Just Stand There (Come in Out of the Rain)" follows up with more keyboard acrobatics from John, while "The Future Hides Its Face" closes, reprising the opening theme. An excellent second album, 2 Ozs Of Plastic With A Hole In The Middle (including the rockin' "Spunk Rock"), saw release in September and built on their debut; and further touring earned them success in Germany, which they subsequently made their home base.

Family Entertainment > Family

March, 1969
United States
Reprise Records
3.666665
After ending 1968 with the rockin' single "Second Generation Woman" b/w "Home Town" (again without chart success), Family enlisted IBC producer Glyn Johns for their next album, Family Entertainment. Best known for his work with The Rolling Stones, Johns stripped back the psychedelia, bringing both the rhythm section and Charlie Whitney's guitar to the forefront. The record is still a primarily acoustic affair, but with a more potent rock ‘n' roll feel. Ric Grech provided the classic "How-Hi-the-Li" and "Face in the Cloud," with the Chapman/Whitney team adding the strong "The Weaver's Answer" and "Observations from a Hill." "Summer ‘67" reprises a raga-esque arrangement, while "Dim" is strictly hillbilly. Although the album contained no singles, it still reached the UK's No. 6 position. With Peter Grant (of Led Zeppelin fame) as tour manager, Family set off to tour the US in April. Grech, however, abruptly quit to join Blind Faith. Adding ex-New Animal John Weider on bass, Family resumed the tour in Detroit, but a reputed fist fight between Roger Chapman and promoter Bill Graham (of Fillmore legend) didn't further the band's prospects. Family would never enjoy chart success in the US. Back in the UK, the band performed at The Rolling Stone's Hyde Park gig in July and the Isle of Wight festival in August. In October, they released their next single, "No Mule's Fool" b/w "Good Friend of Mine," which reached the UK No. 29. Jim King was next to leave, due to personal issues. Following brief spells in Blossom Toes and Eclection, John "Poli" Palmer would next augment Family on keyboards and vibes, prompting a quick rearrangement of King's parts on their 1970 self-produced album.

From Genesis To Revelation > Genesis

March, 1969
United States
London Records
2.625
Genesis' story begins at the Charterhouse public school in Godalming, Surrey. Tony Banks, Peter Gabriel and guitarists Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips were all classmates in two competing bands. Adding drummer Chris Stewart, they joined forces in 1967 with the hopes of becoming a songwriting collective. The band's earliest efforts were proffered through the old-school tie, when pop producer and fellow Carthusian Jonathan King agreed to produce some demos. The contact eventually led to a recording contract from Decca Records. The boys were obviously from the upper-crust, and that upbringing unquestioningly influenced their music; their progressive aesthetic was never lowbrow nor pedestrian. Over the course of the next year, the band would record a pair of singles, as well as their debut album, From Genesis To Revelation, at London's Regent Studios. They recorded whenever they were on holiday, with John Silver eventually replacing Stewart on drums. It is of course an early effort from the group, a pre-history full of the naiveté of both the era and their ages. Chipping through the syrupy string arrangements, the album does reveal the talent of the budding artists. "Where the Sour Turns to Sweet" contains a strong melodic sense, while "Am I Very Wrong" benefits from some heavy phasing. Gabriel's vocals are particularly expressive, yet in pop tradition, up front and center in the mix. There are also snippets of originality that would later evolve into Genesis' signature 12-string guitar sound; witness the brief appearance of "Twilight Alehouse" between "Fireside Song" and "The Serpent." Although the album and the associated singles sold poorly (perhaps due to being filed in the "Religious" music section), the inauspicious debut did not go unnoticed, as it earned a fine review in London's underground newspaper, the International Times.

Ad Gloriam > Orme, Le

March, 1969
Italy
Car Juke Box
2.5
Le Orme ("The Footprint") had typical enough roots for any band from the 60s. Formed by guitarist Aldo Tagliapietra in Venice, the four-piece band, originally named Le Ombre after the Italian word for The Shadows, was a beat era group that recorded singles for the CAR Juke Box label. Guitarist Nino Smeraldi Claudio and bass guitarist Claudio Galieti rounded out the lineup, with drummer Michi Dei Rossi joining in 1968 after their first single, "Senti L'Estate Che Torna" b/w "Mita Mita." Prior to recording their first album, the band expanded to a five-piece when keyboardist Antonio "Tony" Pagliuca hopped on board. Ad Gloriam, released in 1969, follows on the heels of the New Trolls debut as one of the first rock records to come from Italy. The album is more than a curiosity however, and illustrates the band's shift from beat era into psychedelia. After the brief "Introduzione," the gentle, playful pop of "Ad Gloriam" kicks off, revealing the harmonious vocals of the band. "Oggi Verrà" bounces with a punchy bass, while "Milano 1968" goes for psychedelic fuzz. Tagliapietra's voice is distinct; a high tenor with a soothing tone, it would define the band's sound for the ensuing decade. The mellow "Flori Di Giglio" sports a child's voice, while the lengthy "Non So Restare Solo" offers some interesting instrumental work. Following the album's release, Galieti and Rossi left for military service (the latter only temporarily) while musical differences forced Smeraldi from the band; Tagliapietra then switched to bass. Le Orme's singles from the era were compiled on the album L'Aurora Delle Orme by CAR Juke Box in 1970. However, recordings of Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo à la Turk" and J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 would remain unreleased.

Volume Two > Soft Machine, The

April, 1969
United States
Probe
4.5
Following their second 1968 US tour supporting the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Soft Machine effectively broke up. Robert Wyatt stayed in the US, while Mike Ratledge returned to London and Kevin Ayers sold his bass and departed for Ibiza, where he would eventually launch a moderately successful solo career. But a recording commitment to Probe Records prompted new sessions for the band, this time at London's Olympic Studios. Wyatt and Ratledge invited roadie Hugh Hopper to join up. Not only was Hopper an accomplished bassist, but along with his brother Brian Hopper (who added saxophone to the album), he also came from the same Canterbury breeding ground of The Wilde Flowers. Several of Hopper's compositions had already found their way into the Softs repertoire, including the classic "Memories." Hopper's songs also comprised the bulk of the album's first side, the somewhat lighter "Rivmic Melodies" set, including Wyatt's classic reading of "A Concise British Alphabet." The quasi-instrumental "Hibou, Anemone and Bear" is particularly strong, and the different sections flow together seamlessly, underscoring an impressive continuity of sound. Apart from Hopper's uncharacteristic (but welcome) acoustic guitar on "Dedicated to You but You Weren't Listening," side two, subtitled "Esther's Nose Job," contains more of Ratledge's discrete compositions. Again, the Softs rely on their arranging skills to tie it all together. Hopper's accomplished bass playing is more fitting than Ayers psychedelic plodding; and combined with Ratledge's overdriven organ and Wyatt's busy but persistent drumming, this "music for your mind" is a sonic tour de force, and a classic album of any musical era. Volume Two was their first album to see release in the UK.

Emergency! > Tony Williams Lifetime, The

May, 1969
United States
Polydor
5
Just 17 years old when he joined Miles Davis's quintet in 1962, drummer Anthony "Tony" Williams had spent his earliest years playing in the clubs of Boston. His debut as a band leader was the 1964 release Life Time for the Blue Note label. By the end of the decade though, Williams was headed in a completely different direction. New York City was fertile ground at the time and seeds of jazz fusion were being sown. Williams (among many others) jammed with Jimi Hendrix, and there's little doubt of the guitarist's influence on what would follow. With guitarist John McLaughlin and organist Larry Young, The Tony Williams Lifetime set out in May 1969 to record what would become one of the landmark jazz-rock albums, Emergency!. Although the record suffers from a sub-standard recording, it's one of the heaviest records ever-Williams's post-bop beat doesn't swing, it rocks. And of course, jazz purists hated it. Like a soloist, what's most striking about Williams's playing is that he's all over the drum kit, playing lead with it. His take at "singing" however is a love-hate affair. For my taste, it's as experimental as the rest of the album, and full of black soul; just listen to his ramblings on McLaughlin's spacey "Where." The pace slows for "Via the Spectrum Road" before McLaughlin previews the direction of his next group on the ensuing "Spectrum." Both McLaughlin's and Young's performances are exemplary; the guitarist's rock-toned guitar and the swirling chords of the organist's Hammond B3 on "Sangria for Three" are full of overdrive. McLaughlin's mate (and ex-Cream bassist) Jack Bruce joined for the group's next album Turn It Over in 1970. However, creative tensions tore the band apart, and Williams and Young went on to record two comparably disappointing albums with others. In the mid-70s, Williams would form The New Tony Williams Lifetime and release another two albums of more predictable jazz fusion. Others may have received more attention for their work contemporaneous to the original Lifetime, but make no doubt: fusion all starts here.

Tommy > Who, The

May, 1969
United States
Decca
4.4
By the time of their 1969 release, The Who had established themselves as one of England's premier live attractions. But on vinyl, they remained largely a singles band, save the ten-minute "A Quick One While He's Away" from A Quick One (Happy Jack in the US). At the prodding of manager Kit Lambert (and under the influence of both Arthur Brown and The Pretty Things), Pete Townshend penned his mammoth "rock opera." Over its four sides of vinyl, Tommy traces a war child's tortured adolescence to messiah-like rise and fall via the spiritual vehicle of pinball-a far cry from moonbeams or crimson kings-but equally audacious! Regardless, the album is ripe with Townshend's genius; from ready-made singles, to major chord anthems, the album retains a genuine charm that carries the work from start to finish. The Who's spirited performance is within, but never foremost. The songs come first, which sets The Who apart from most progressive bands of the era; though musically, the instrumental "Sparks" is a technical highlight. Of course, the album was a huge commercial success, landing in the Top 5 on both sides of the Atlantic, along with a massive hit single in "Pinball Wizard" b/w "Dogs Part Two." Live presentations by The Who were mainly truncated versions, although Townshend did re-record the work with the London Symphony Orchestra and some of London's rock elite (Sandy Denny, Steve Winwood, Maggie Bell and Ringo Starr) in 1972. All would be eclipsed by the release of Ken Russell's star-studded film and soundtrack in 1975. Unfortunately, this would become what most people would remember of Tommy: an arrant extravaganza. Townshend would attempt two follow-ups to the rock opera, the abandoned "Lighthouse" session that resulted in the Who's Next album and, in 1973, and a true successor in the mod epic, Quadrophenia.

Phallus Dei > Amon Düül II

July, 1969
Germany
Liberty
4.5
The original Amon Düül saw its beginning in 1967 as an art commune in Munich, albeit one of a more socio-political nature than that of a musical group. Most of their recordings stem from two jam sessions recorded in 1968-69 and were mainly released posthumously, after 1969's Psychedelic Underground. Led by Chris Karrer, Amon Düül II formed in 1968 as a live band, featuring the more "musically proficient members" of the commune: Karrer, John Weinzierl, Falk-Ulrich Rogner, Renate Knaup, Peter Leopold and Dieter Serfas comprised the original lineup. However, stability would not be one of the band's strong suits, as personnel changes as well as numerous guest musicians, would plague the band's existence. Here, both Christian "Shrat" Thierfeld on bongos and Brit Dave Anderson on bass drifted in. Jazz saxophonist Olaf Kübler was another key player; as the band's manager, he signed them to the United Artists/Liberty label and produced the band's first several albums. They released their debut album, Phallus Dei, in 1969. Though sharing a chronology with the acid rock of the Grateful Dead or psychedelia of Pink Floyd, what's inside is much more bizarre. Knaup's voice is immediately recognizable. It's the antithesis of her British counterparts; in fact, so is Amon Düül II. Their compositions are based on improvisations, with an emphasis on the raw freak out of psychedelia, yet with a hint of (perhaps deliberate?) amateurism. The opener "Kanaan," however, remains the archetype, brooding under a near-tribal beat. As much of a groundbreaking example of German "krautrock" as the album would become, it's also known for its rather controversial title, which translates from Latin to "God's Penis."

If Only For A Moment > Blossom Toes

July, 1969
UK
Marmalade, Marmalade
3.666665
Compared to their first record, the Blossom Toes sound like a completely different band on If Only For A Moment, offering a much heavier sound. While firmly planted in the underground sound of London's late 60s, there's obviously some influence from California's acid rock, especially with their lyrical themes. The opening track, "Peace Loving zMan," is a bit of a lark, sounding more like what Gong (another Giorgio Gomelsky-managed band) would later record than anything previously known as Blossom Toes. On "Kiss Of Confusion," guitarists Jim Cregan and Brian Godding offer the "dual lead" approach later popularized by Wishbone Ash. Featuring precise guitar interplay, the duo is all about dynamics. One moment light and airy, the next bursting with emotion, Blossom Toes know how to work a riff inside and out. "Listen to the Silence" and "Love Bomb" follow suit. Musically, "Bill Boo the Gunman" isn't far from Family's oeuvre. The deft drum work of Barry Reeves and the melodic bass of Brian Belshaw underpin Cregan's and Godding's guitars. "Indian Summer" features a lovely chorus, while Richie Havens's "Just above My Hobby Horse's Head" swings over sitar and Belshaw's deep tenor. In late 1969, the band was involved in a car crash following a gig at Bristol University, bringing the group to an abrupt end. Godding and Belshaw would reunite in 1971 with Kevin Westlake for an album under the odd name of B.B. Blunder (Brian and Brian's Blunder tape). Worker's Playground carries on the Blossom Toes tradition, and features Julie Driscoll on guest vocals. Godding would later guest with Magma, but eventually turn to a career in session work. Cregan joined Family after brief spell with John Weider in Stud, and later became Rod Stewart's musical director, co-penning many of the star's hits.

Those Who Are About To Die Salute You > Colosseum

July, 1969
United States
Dunhill
3.8
The core members of Colosseum first appeared together (according to rock cartographer Pete Frame) as Bluesbreakers #89, on John Mayall's Bare Wires album. After Mayall broke up that short-lived lineup, drummer Jon Hiseman reunited with bassist Tony Reeves and saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith, adding childhood friend and organist Dave Greenslade, while guitarist/singer James Litherland was recruited after an extensive search. Reconstituted as Colosseum, Hiseman assembled one of London's first (and finest) jazz-rock hybrids. Their loud and powerful debut is an absolute stunner. Acknowledging their R&B roots, both "Walking in the Park" and the heavy "The Kettle" swing with ballsy precision. The title track is the jazziest, with excellent soloing from everyone. The album's gem, however, is the decidedly progressive "Valentyne Suite" (not to be confused with the album of the same name) that covers most of the second side; the dialogue between the band members is electric as they blow through each section. The classics also come into play: that same J.S. Bach chord sequence in Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" pops up here on "Beware the Ides of March." Released in March, the album was well received in the UK, reaching No. 15; The US release on ABC Dunhill in July 1969 had the above track list. Litherland then left the band for the similarly sounding Mogul Thrash, but not before recording further sessions for Colosseum's second album. The first release on the seminal Vertigo Records label, Valentyne Suite was released in November and found similar success, reaching the UK No. 15. [Refers to US pressing]

Unhalfbricking > Fairport Convention

July, 1969
United States
A&M Records
0
Prior to their second album, vocalist Sandy Denny-a regular at London’s Troubadour and Les Cousins folk clubs-joined Fairport Convention. She had already recorded two low-key albums, along with a third (unreleased) with the Strawbs, All Our Own Work. Spurred on by Denny’s arrival, Fairport now took cues from traditional British music-in a move similar to progressive rock’s relation with classical music-ready to set a new standard for electric folk rock. Released in January 1969, What We Did On Our Holidays was a significant step forward for the band, containing two compositions that would be famous in the Fairport catalog: Denny’s “Fortheringay” and Richard Thompson’s “Meet on the Ledge.” But their next album, Unhalfbricking, would further cement their path as folk rock pioneers. It was again recorded at Sound Techniques with producer Joe Boyd and engineer John Wood. A curious mix of covers (Bob Dylan’s “Million Dollar Bash,” “Percy’s Song” and a French rendition of “If You Gotta Go, Go Now”), originals include Denny’s most famous composition, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” and two from Thompson. But the album’s highlight is undoubtedly the epic eleven-minute reading of the folk standard “A Sailor’s Life.” A slow-building raga, Denny’s captivating voice eventually yields to the ever-rising rock tempo, ultimately punctuated by Thompson’s guitar and guest Dave Swarbrick’s fiddle. Truly epic and above all, British. The album was a success, rising to No. 12 in the UK Charts, while the single, “Si Tu Dois Partir” b/w “Genesis Hall” rose to No. 21.

Stand Up > Jethro Tull

July, 1969
United States
Reprise Records
4.76923
By the time Jethro Tull got around to releasing their strong second effort, Martin Barre had joined on guitar. His addition was integral to the evolution of the band as his guitar playing would prove sympathetic to their burgeoning progressive style. Written by Ian Anderson to appease management's desire for a single, "Living in the Past" b/w "Driving Song" saw release in May. It soared up the UK charts, reaching No. 3. The album followed with even greater results. Stand Up features all original compositions from Anderson, except for a spirited interpretation of J.S. Bach's "Bourrée in E minor," here titled "Bourée." Although the blues influence is still apparent on tracks like "Nothing Is Easy" and "A New Day Yesterday," Anderson's original songwriting style was becoming more prominent; "Look into The Sun" and "Reasons for Waiting" adopt an acoustic, though certainly not folk approach, that would become one of his signatures. "Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square" and "Fat Man" follow suit. The band is particularly strong throughout, with Clive Bunker's drumming an overlooked asset. "For A Thousand Mothers" succinctly closes. The album rose to No. 1 in the UK, and made a Top 20 appearance in the US on the heels of their first tour of America, where they would support Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac. The first unqualified mainstream success of progressive rock, the album remains one of the finest of any era.

Yes > Yes

July, 1969
United States
Atlantic
3.125
The Yes story begins in 1966 with a band called The Syn. Bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Peter Banks spent two years with that band, progressing along the way from R&B covers to psychedelia, establishing a residency at the Marquee Club and cutting two singles for Deram. Ultimately, success wasn't in the cards for The Syn, but Squire and Banks reunited later in Mabel Greer's Toyshop. Vocalist Jon Anderson was persuaded to join; but upon recruiting drummer Bill Bruford and organist Tony Kaye (born Anthony John Selvidge), they changed their name to Yes. Now talk about being in the right place at the right time: Yes secured one of their first engagements as the opening act for Cream's farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Thus, expectations were high when the band signed to Atlantic Records. Their debut record is brimming with what would define their trademark sound: Anderson's distinctive voice, along with the band's tight harmonies, and Squire's trebly bass lines that soar right along with the melody. Not to be overlooked are some of the subtleties of Yes, in particular Kaye's organ: never overpowering, but always in the right place. Banks's fluid guitar work and Bruford's drumming have a strong jazz element: just experience the cover of "I See You." For a non-musician, the exceptionally strong melodies of "Looking Around" and "Survival" prove Anderson was already an accomplished songwriter. But overall, Yes' greatest strength was in arrangement. Whether a Beatles cover or an original tune such as "Harold Land," clever appropriation turns anything into lively, highly melodic Yes music. Yet despite the hyped-up liner notes, the album did not chart.

Ahead Rings Out > Blodwyn Pig

August, 1969
US
A&M Records
4
Upon his departure from Jethro Tull after their debut album This Was, guitarist Mick Abrahams formed Blodwyn Pig with saxophonist Jack Lancaster, drummer Rob Berg and bassist Andy Pyle. Their debut album Ahead Rings Out saw release on Island Records. It's very much in the vein of the then-current Jethro Tull, leaving one to wonder about the circumstances surrounding Abrahams's split from the band. "It's Only Love" opens with a big brass sound, courtesy of Lancaster's multiple saxes. A performer of note, he was known to play more than one sax at a time. "Dear Jill," also the single from the album, pulls back a bit, offering a laidback slice of British blues. Abrahams's vocals are reminiscent of Ian Anderson's. "Walk on the Water" continues in fine style with Abrahams's guitar front and center, while Lancaster's "The Modern Alchemist" offers him a chance to exhibit the jazzier side of the band. "See My Way" and "Summer Day" feature more rocking blues, while "Change Song" opts for acoustic guitar and violin. It's a capable album of the era, offering another progressive take on blues rock. Given Jethro Tull's popularity, it's no surprise that Blodwyn Pig also found similar success; Ahead Rings Out flew into the UK charts, cresting at No 9. The following April saw another release from the band, Getting To This. It reached No. 8 in the UK and breached the Top 100 in the US. However, Abrahams subsequently left the band and cut a solo album for Chrysalis before forming yet another band, the Mick Abrahams Band. Blodwyn Pig would soldier on, first with ex-Yes Peter Banks on guitar and later with ex-Pink Fairy Larry Wallis.

Monster Movie > Can

August, 1969
United Kingdom
United Artists Records
4.5
One look at the backgrounds of the members of Can (jazz pedigrees, students of Karlheinz Stockhausen, WDR Studio etc.) and the last thing you'd think is that they were a rock band. Similarly, listening to their music, you'd also probably have to stretch the concept of rock ‘n' roll to fit them in. Krautrock was Germany's answer to the psychedelic and progressive music of the late 1960s, and certainly a unique idiom in and of itself. But Can's post-psychedelic groove had much more to do with the avant-garde, even by krautrock's standards. The core musicians of bassist Holger Czukay, guitarist Michael Karoli, drummer Jaki Liebezeit and keyboardist Irmin Schmidt founded The Can in 1968 in Cologne. Their debut album, Monster Movie, featured American Malcolm Mooney on vocals (if you can call them that). Can doesn't necessarily prescribe to the "freak out" or "space rock" traditions of their pioneering krautrock brethren. Instead, the band treated each song as groove, but in the most non-ethnic sense. The incessant metronomic beat of "Yoo Doo Right" is epic, while "Father Cannot Yell" is classic; the band lock onto the groove and ride it straight through some freaky inner space, with Karoli's guitar acting the screeching electric counterpoint to Mooney's breathy vocal "rap." The proto-punk of "Outside My Door" demonstrates the influence of the Velvet Underground; but with its symphonic refrain, "Mary, Mary, So Contrary" reveals a slightly psychedelic edge. Following Mooney's abrupt departure (for health reasons), the band enlisted the similarly unique talent of Damo Suzuki for their next four albums.

Songs For A Tailor > Bruce, Jack

August, 1969
US
Atco Records
0
Prior to the breakup of Cream, bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce recorded an album with guitarist John McLaughlin and Colosseum members Jon Hiseman and Dick Heckstall-Smith. Not surprisingly, it was primarily instrumental jazz and wouldn’t see release for a couple of years. Bruce had started out in 1963 with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, before joining the Graham Bond Organisation, with brief stints in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Manfred Mann. By the time Songs For A Tailor was recorded, both Cream and all of that was behind him. Teaming up once again with lyricist Pete Brown and producer Felix Pappalardi, the album offers some of his best songwriting, including the somber yet soulful “Theme From an Imaginary Western” and the well-covered “Rope Ladder to the Moon.” Hiseman and Heckstall-Smith again guest, along with guitarist Chris Spedding, Henry Lowther and Art Themen. Two tracks, “Weird of Hermiston” and “The Clearout” were earmarked for Cream but didn’t make the cut. Here, they’re perfectly set, rounding out an album that’s well suited for the time, a storming rock album with the jazz and classical influences Bruce is so well known for. Unsurprisingly, the album was a giant success, reaching No. 6 in the UK, while almost breaking the Top 50 in the US. Bruce belatedly put together a band with guitarist Larry Coryell and drummer Mitch Mitchell to tour the US in 1970, but later joined McLaughlin in The Tony Williams Lifetime for a spell. However, after a third solo album, the again excellent Harmony Row in 1971, he put his solo career on hold to join Mountain guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing in the eponymously named power trio. Bruce would enjoy a long yet (unfortunately) only moderately successful career.

Circus > Circus

September, 1969
UK
Transatlantic Records
5
The Surrey-based Stormsville Shakers had their start in 1961. Like The Yardbirds, also from Surrey, they gigged relentlessly, playing R&B and often backing American musicians visiting the UK. Prior to recording a couple of singles in the late 60s, the Shakers changed their name to the more contemporary sounding Circus. Released in 1967, their first single "Gone Are the Songs of Yesterday" b/w "Sink or Swim" was written by the Shakers' founder, Phillip Goodhand-Tait. Yet following one more single, Goodhand-Tait left the band to concentrate on a career as a songwriter, following his success with Love Affair's cover of "Gone are the Songs of Yesterday" and a contract from Dick James Music. Now, Circus consisted of original bassist Kirk Riddle, guitarist and vocalist Ian Jelfs, and most famously to progressive fans, sax player and flautist Mel Collins. Prior to recording their debut album for Transatlantic Records, Chris Burrows joined on drums. A cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" opens the album. Clocking in at over seven minutes, the dirty rhythm of Riddle and Burrows propels the spirited interpretation, aided by Jelfs's thick-toned guitar. Collins's "Pleasures of a Lifetime" features a gentler tone and chords from Jelfs's guitar, and transitions to a swinging break with Collins's sax solo; it's a mature number, with sympathetic lyrics. Sonny Rollins's "St. Thomas" and the brief "Goodnight John Morgan" come across as jazz-by-numbers. "Father of My Daughter," also a Collins composition, is another gentle affair, benefited by tabla; while the Charles Mingus cover "II B.S." again shows the band's fiery blues side. But further covers, of John Phillips's "Monday Monday" and Tim Hardin's "Don't Make Promises," are mediocre at best. The band scored a residency at the Marquee Club in the spring of 1969, and a second album was reportedly in the can; but Collins received an offer to join King Crimson, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Nice > Nice, The

September, 1969
United States
Immediate
4
Upon review, The Nice's self-titled third record is certainly not their strongest effort, as it fails to offer any progress on the band's prior two releases. The album opens with "Azrael Revisited," though Keith Emerson's piano is an inferior substitute to David O'List's guitar on the original single. Evidently short on material, The Nice then add two covers: A particularly languid reading of Tim Hardin's "Hang On to a Dream" did little but break into an extended solo from Emerson, while Bob Dylan's "She Belongs to Me" is laborious at best. With its jazzy horn arrangements, "For Example" fares better, offering a solid bite of the band's formula. The second side of the record was recorded during the band's first tour of the US, at the Fillmore East in New York. The Nice were in their element on stage, and the live rendition of "Rondo (69)" gives a good estimation of what the fuss was all about. Oddly, the album was the first for The Nice to chart, rising to No. 3 in the UK. And yet, disappointed by their stagnant success (and perhaps also their lack of material), Emerson would barely make it through the year with the band. Still, two posthumous albums were released, again mainly taken from live recordings. The first, Five Bridges Suite, released in June 1970, would be the most successful Nice album, reaching No. 2 in the UK. Its attraction was the suite of the same name, recorded live with an orchestra at Fairfield Halls. Released in April 1971, Elegy also would make the UK Top 5. Lee Jackson subsequently formed Jackson Heights, releasing four nondescript albums over the next three years, before teaming up again with Brian Davison in 1973 in The Nice-clone Refugee. Emerson was immediately off to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, where formula first proposed with The Nice would reach its natural conclusion.

The Aerosol Grey Machine > Van Der Graaf Generator

September, 1969
United States
Fontana
3.4
Here begins the musical quest of Van der Graaf Generator. Led by the indefatigable Peter Hammill, he would divide his time between leading VdGG and a prolific solo career over the next decade; though where those lines separate could at times prove difficult to identify. The band had already been through a couple of iterations by the time it got around to recording The Aerosol Grey Machine. Hammill and Chris Judge Smith first formed the band with organist Nick Pearne in 1968 while still at Manchester University. Moving to London, the duo spent the next year attempting to record, having already secured a recording contract with Mercury Records. More fruitful was the assembly of a full band, with Hugh Banton on organ, Guy Evans on drums and Keith Ellis on bass, as well as a relationship with Charisma impresario Tony Stratton-Smith. However, Judge left the band after they recorded their first single "People You Were Going To" b/w "Firebrand;" and after a few gigs, their equipment was stolen and the band split up. Though he'd originally planned to record a solo album, Hammill rounded up the others in July 1969 to record what was eventually released as the first VdGG album. "Afterwards" opens and immediately reveals the album's promise: a gentle, indeed, beautiful song that introduces Hammill's highly emotional voice, which is as distinct as his songwriting. The following the two parts of "Orthenthian St." and "Into a Game" provide further insight into what the band could offer. Evans's delicate drumming and Banton's monstrous organ would remain hallmarks of VdGG, while Ellis's thick, rhythmic bass would only propel this album. Both "Necromancer" and "Octopus" continue to demonstrate the band's virtuosity; and in true VdGG fashion, the album closes in a chaotic finale. Oddly, the album was only released in the US.