80s Albums New Wave P-R-O-G spells Prog

John Wetton – Caught In the Crossfire (EGLP 107) (1980)

SAM_0744Archetypal prog journeyman and go-to bassist (Roxy, Crimson, Asia, etc.), Wetton sings in an engaging tenor croon, which he puts to good, if inconsequential, use here. As its title and treated monochromatic Hipgnosis sleeve* suggests, Crossfire trades in the taut guitar-led ‘energy’ of the late 70s/early 80s, which means it’s often fast with little conspicuous virtuosity, trots out vaguely edgy anti-romantic lyrics and features slightly menacing keyboard four-beat crochets and angry barre chord riffs muffled by the player’s right hand. It’s funny, for a musician so steeped in the British progressive rock movement, Crossfire could be the product of Donnie Iris, Sniff ‘n’ the Tears or any number of enjoyable pop bands riding the coattails of the New Wave. Indeed, this very commecial sounding record might have been a hit, but, without one absolute killer, like say ‘Heat of the Moment’, it’s merely likable proficiency, though ‘Cold Is the Night’ possesses some genuine grandeur. One pound yesterday from a Hythe charity shop. SAM_0745*So what is up with that cover? In keeping with the misogyny of the times, it looks like our forlorn hero is ‘caught in the crossfire’ of some sort of bitch-fest between his icy wife and spoilt daughter. Women, eh?

"Sixeventies" Rock Folk P-R-O-G spells Prog

Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die (UAS 5504) (1970)

SAM_0737STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN!                                                   Music Fans Warned to Beware of Bad Traffic-Related Pun Headlines

(London) – Popular music aficianados were today advised to avoid all contact with cheap, ill-conceived puns in headlines relating to the “Sixeventies” rock group, Traffic. Public health officials say that articles with titles like, ‘Green Light for Traffic’ or ‘Traffic Stops In [Local Town]’ should remain unread, their authors publicly shamed. According to experts, the fact the band itself called one of its live albums Traffic On the Road is no excuse. SAM_0739Nice gatefold on this US edition, an inexpensive souvenir of the Family Asbo’s recent US jaunt. Famously beginning life as a Steve Winwod solo album, John Barleycorn sets up the template for future Traffic Lps, more folky, proggy and jazzy.

"Sixeventies" Rock Albums Classic Rock Jazz P-R-O-G spells Prog

Carlos Santana/Mahavishnu John McLaughlin – Love Devotion Surrender (69037) (1973)

SAM_0634It takes some cojones to tackle John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”, but that’s exactly how Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin kick off their mega-spiritual Love Devotion Surrender. The pair goes on to bookend side one with a likewise heavy spiritual jazz response to JC’s anthem called “The Life Divine”. What must Santana fans have made of this?

Santana is, of course, no stranger to overplaying, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is, given its jazz-rock impetus, an all out note-fest at times, with none of the pop flavour of his titular band. And yet, in the context of a prayer offering to both the Divine and John Coltrane, such indulgence makes perfect sense. Something of a transmutation to the guitar of Coltrane’s “sheets of sound”, Love Devotion Surrender is held together harmonically by organist Larry Young, who allows Devadip and Mahavishnu to launch into note torrents, particularly on side two’s joyful “Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord”. And there is time for respite in the form of “Meditation” and another Coltrane cover, “Naima”; with what comes previously, both have the feel of post-coital cigarettes. A challenging and rewarding listen.

An original UK issue, with a gatefold cover, fantastic condish, only a pound.SAM_0633

"Sixeventies" Rock Albums P-R-O-G spells Prog

Pink Floyd – Relics (SRS 5071) (1971)

SAM_0632EMI’s compilation originally came out after Atom Heart Mother but before Meddle as a kind of stopgap. That this was an accountants’ move is borne out by the track list, which should have been a comprehensive round-up of singles, Bs and outtakes (eg where are “Apples and Oranges”, “Candy and a Current Bun”, “Point Me At the Sky”, “Scream Thy Last Scream”, “It Would Be So Nice”, “Vegetable Man”?). Excising album cuts “Interstellar Overdrive”, “Cirrus Minor”, “The Nile Song”, “Bike” and “Remember a Day” would have made space for the above (though the latter track was released as a single).*

Which is not to say Relics isn’t a good listen, it is; and, with the inclusion of “Interstellar Overdrive” (along with the similarly lengthy “Careful With That Axe, Eugene”, presented here in it’s b-side/studio version), it’s probably more representative of their psychedelic-era sound than a strictly 45s anthology would have been.

Sharp-eyed types will note that this is the original Starline issue of Relics, replete with textured cover and uncolored unlike later re-releases. And this VG+ gem was only a pound at the chazza this afternoon.

*It took 21 years for the album I’m proposing to come out and then it was a “bonus cd” on the Shine On box set called, somewhat prosaically if perfectly accurately, The Early Singles; note that there were no rarities on that disc, eg “Biding My Time” which featured on Relics.

Albums Jazz P-R-O-G spells Prog

Jean-Luc Ponty – Enigmatic Ocean (1977)

SAM_0392Violin virtuoso Jean-Luc Ponty, touring behind Enigmatic Ocean in 1977 or ’78, at the Kenyon Sports Hall was my first “rock” concert. It certainly had the trappings of a rock show of the time: gurning long-hairs playing loud, flashy instruments, all witnessed by a bunch of blissed-out college students…and me. My father bought this record shortly after (helping it on its way to #1 in the US jazz charts).

Though he started in classical music and moved on to jazz (mentored by Jef Gilson, among others), this is as much a prog-rock affair (mile-a-minute solos on a phase shifted electric violin; ’round-the-houses key changes; funky fretless bass ostinati; not to mention provocative, if ultimately meaningless, song titles), without the vote-chasing unctuousness of that most reviled of hybrids, jazz-fusion; its familiarity no doubt paving the way to enjoyment in chez Asbo.

SAM_0391Though I listened to Enigmatic Ocean many times back in the day, I hadn’t given it or Ponty much though in the intervening years until recently when his  name cropped up several times in the liner notes to Jazzman’s latter-day Jef Gilson compilations. My interest renewed, I even considered eBaying a copy, but decided to bide my time. My thrifty patience was rewarded this a.m. at the Great Chart boot fair just south of Ashford when I found this VG++ copy for only 20p.


"Sixeventies" Rock Albums Americana Blues Classic Rock Folk Jazz P-R-O-G spells Prog

The Grateful Dead – Live/Dead (WS.1830) (1969)


(Heaven) — You would have thought, that having named his band The Grateful Dead, deceased guitarist Jerry Garcia would have been pleased as punch shuffling off this mortal coil.

But nothing could be further from the truth, and nearly two decades on from his demise the dead head Deadhead proclaimed himself, “bored to tears of the Afterlife” in a celestial interview yesterday.

“Frankly, I miss playing music with my friends,” he sighed. “And it’s just not the same in Heaven since all of the other dead Grateful Deads here only play keyboards.”

The self-styled Captain Trips added that he’s “very much” looking forward to the deaths of ex-bandmates Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann to “jazz things up a bit up here.”

“At least I don’t have to see Pigpen since he’s in Hell,” Garcia smiled.

SAM_0379Editor’s Note: Having been force fed Dead in my youth, I’ve been relatively slow coming round. I still think their singing is mediocre at best, but I’ve picked up a few GD pieces over the years, all of which I enjoy. I got Live/Dead a few weeks ago in trade at a second record store in Canterbury. Unfortunately, the second disc turned out to be warped beyond playability. When I returned the album, the shopkeeper just said, ‘Keep it’ and gave me store credit.SAM_0380I’m keeping it for the first record, which has a lovely version of ‘Dark Star’, and the cover.SAM_0381

Albums P-R-O-G spells Prog

Quiet Sun – Mainstream (HELP 19) (1975)

IMG_0193It’s the New Year and I’m still banging on about Island records I bought in 2013. Mainstream is anything but, a somewhat jazzy counterweight to the aggressive stylings of EG stablemates King Crimson, Quiet Sun shares the obscurantism and woozy time signatures shifts characteristic of things proggy. And if there enough tranquility about to suggest the band was not mis-named, there are still enough heavy passages to remind one that this is Prog Rock. 

Charles Haywood, Dave Jarrett, Phil Manzanera and Bill MacCormack with Eno and Ian MacCormack.
Charles Haywood, Dave Jarrett, Phil Manzanera and Bill MacCormack with Eno and Ian MacCormack.

A one-off “re-union” album of sorts, Quiet Sun were Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera’s band before he was in Roxy. Subsequent to the Ferry vehicle’s taking off, Quiet Sun re-grouped along with gadfly noise-nik Brian Eno in tow to record this confident début.

Quiet Sun heavy card inner sleeve
Quiet Sun heavy card inner sleeve
Albums Folk Jazz P-R-O-G spells Prog

Syd Arthur – On an On (DCRC007) (2012)

SAM_1709Hirsuiteness, conspicuously able musicianmanship, tortuous, ever-changing time signatures, long instrumental passages and a name which alludes simultaneously to the Pink Floyd’s founder, a Kinks rock opera and Hermann Hesse’s 1951 enlightenment-attaining icon.

And yet, sometimes when a band looks like prog, walks like prog and quacks like prog it’s not necessarily prog. The amiable On an On‘s nimbleness and folk-jazz (but not blues) colouration suggest a latter-day Pentangle, albeit one whose churning, interlocking world rhythms also recall post-punks fIREHOSE. For me, the only thing missing is more vocal harmonies/counterparts to match the music’s intricacy.

Poster included with the On an On vinyl. The Lp was purchased using guilt-free birthday money.
Poster included with the On an On vinyl. The Lp was purchased using guilt-free birthday money on the recommendation of a friend who also played me the first few songs as we drove along Normandy backroads on our way to buy a mountain of spirits while on holiday there this summer.

Syd Arthur are, at this point, a local Canterbury band*. Nevertheless, they do seem to tour around the country (and even on the continent) quite a bit. Their confident production and arrangement decisions mark them out as future festival headliners. Thrifty Vinyl readers may wish to check Syd Arthur out here.

*Despite this proximity, I have yet to see them live, but plan to.

Albums Classical Folk P-R-O-G spells Prog Wimpy Ass 70s Folk Rock

Gryphon (TRA 262) (1973)

GryphonProggressive Rock with a difference. For while Gryphon emphasised the tricky time signatures and flashy ensemble polyphony so common amongst its proggy brethren, the band favoured a folky medieval flavour, both in instrumentation and repertoire. The overall effect is cute, maybe too cute, but would perfectly suit a children’s documentary about the Middle Ages. Gonna hafta be in a peculiar mood to listen to it.Inner GryphonQuality textured gatefold cover and stunning full-colour label highlight this VG+ first edition of Gryphon’s début found in the same batch of bootfair Lps as most of the recent posts.


Albums Classic Rock P-R-O-G spells Prog

Rush – Permanent Wave (1980)


(Rome, Italy) — With a mare’s tail of white marijuana smoke issuing from under his bedroom door, Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan let it be known that he and the other cardinals at WVAT’s Album of the Week Conclave have finally chosen the record that the Papal radio station (“Vatican City’s Classic Rock Heaven”) will feature on heavy rotation for the next seven days. Approximately 50 minutes later a phalanx of senior Cardinals emerged from the bedroom with reddened, heavy-lidded eyes and goofy smiles to announce that, “Rush is totally awesome” and “Permanent Wave rocks like a bastard.”

“Dude,” added a slurring Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. “Did you know [Rush] totally ripped off Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Sound of Silence’ for that bit in the middle of ‘Spirit of Radio’?”

While Vatican historian Ambrogio Piazzoni was pleased the Conclave selected an Lp from the new world, he one of many who expressed disappointment that such an old Rush album was chosen. “Even [1981’s] Moving Pictures would have been a better pick,” he said in a comically thick Italian accent.