John Martyn (1971 – 1975) So Far So Good (LP) Island Records 9484 (1977)

John Martyn

So Far So Good 

Island Records 9484

**** recommended

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Coming out of the innovative folk from the British Isles in the late 60s, this Scottish musician was perhaps the first white artist to sign with independent label Island Records.  This 1977 anthology houses cuts from the previous Island albums (1971 – 1975) and concludes with a rocking live cut from Martyn’s self-released classic Live at Leeds (1975).  Other than the instrumental “Glistening Glyndebourne,” the album features vocal cuts by Martyn.  Likely bassist Danny Thompson (Pentangle) plays on all the dates, two from 1975 also featuring guitarist Paul Kossoff.

This collection provides an excellent overview of the Island years and showcases Martyn’s skills as a songwriter and a guitarist. The cuts are all teasers, informing the listeners of the quality of this artist’s work, and likely causing most to seek out each and every one of these Martyn albums from Island Records.

— winch (author of

LINK TO SELLERS

so far so good LP

Marc Benno (1971) Minnows (LP) A&M 4303

Marc Benno

Minnows 

1971

A&M 4303

Produced by David Anderle

Engineered by Bruce Botnick

*** noteworthy


This was likely the most successful outing  from this Texas musician, likely for several reasons, including the people who helped make this record, including four crackerjack guitarists–Clarence White, Jesse Ed Davis, Bobby Womack, and Jerry McGee.

Of course, Benno himself deserves most of the credit, as he writes all the selections and plays several instruments–guitar, piano, organ and marxophone.  Perhaps most importantly, (fresh from playing on the Doors’ L.A. Woman album) Benno exhibits a fraility on Minnows that doesn’t show on his other outings.

While this recording (and several like it by southern musicians from the early 70s) were overshadowed by the overhyped and more bombastic material by unions of British and American southern musicians, these often forgotten and more low-key recordings by southern musicians alone were often more honest, original, and enjoyable.  While Benno’s Ambush LP, the follow up to Minnows, was likely his most successful outing commercially speaking, this 1971 offering was the closest Benno came to creating a timeless classic.

— winch

author of

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ELP

ELP: Another reason punk had to happen.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Atlantic (9040)
1970
Producer: Greg Lake
Rating: ** (Mediocre)
Released November 1970, reached #18 (#4 in UK)


Formed out of progressive-rock pioneers The Nice and King Crimson, this band had no problem finding an audience, especially in their own country.  At this point, the sound comes out of those innovative groups, but unfortunately, this also reeks of what would come, with Lake’s contributions stinking of pomp.  The same can be said of Emerson and his keyboard wizardry.  Still, it’s a worthwhile listen for fans.

— winch

Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Tarkus
Atlantic (9900)
1971
Producer: Greg Lake
Rating: *** (Noteworthy)
Released June 1971, reached #9 (#1 in UK)

Apparently the seven-part side-long title track is the story of a battle between the mythical creature Manticore and a tank/armadillo named Tarkus, but side two gets even more absurd when it becomes an excuse for Lake to deliver a heavy-handed sermon.  His lyrics and vocals ruin some of the cuts, but at least this set doesn’t include a Lake-penned ballad, and “Tarkus” has some of this group’s best moments, especially when they hint back to King Crimson and get the thing rolling along like a rock-and-roll song on cuts such as “Manticore.”

While this is another varied set from this outfit, it’s clearly their best.

— winch

Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Trilogy
Atlantic (9186)
1972
Producer: Greg Lake
Rating: ** (mediocre)
Fourth album, released July 1972, reached #5 (#2 in UK)


While this patchy set was a considerable improvement over the third album (Pictures at an Exhibition), that’s not really saying much.  ELP: another reason punk had to happen. 

— winch

Badfinger (1971) Straight Up (LP) Apple 3387

Badfinger
Straight Up
Apple 3387
1971
Produced by Todd Rundgren
(two cuts produced by George Harrison)
Released December 1971 (US & UK) reached #31 in US.  

 

Noteworthy ***

Badfinger’s third album, containing two more top 10 hits, “Day After Day” and “Baby Blue,” both melancholy pop gems that suggested this band was perhaps a bit more than just a Beatles copycat.  The hits helped the band get plenty of airplay and leave behind a legacy that lasted long after they were gone. 


While the rest of the album resonates with the mood of the hits, it also strives to lift out of the gloom without ever really shaking that melancholy that permeates the sound.  The setis fairly consistent, but many cuts sound a bit lacking alongside the stronger ones.  With some clearly coming out of the fab four, this should interest fans of the Beatles.  For fans of this group, this is essential listening.

This was the last outing that sold well in the States.  (For some reason, they never caught on at home.) All of the songs are written by band members, both of the hits penned by Pete Ham.  While they’d continue releasing albums, few took interest.  Ham would hang himself in 1975.

— winch

Catharisis: Volume II Les Chevrons (LP) circa 1971

 

Catharisis
Volume II: Les Chevrons
Festival FLD 651
circa 1971  

Recommended ****

 

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Second set by this French progressive-rock outfit, coming out of the early works of Floyd, Purple, and the Nice, horror-movie soundtracks and classical music, Black Sabbath’s more moody material, all instrumental except chants and yelps and such, the heavy focus on the organ (rather than guitars) giving it the feeling of a mass or a soundtrack for a seance, the rock rhythms running through the dimly lit corridors, the bass slightly understated, the percussion quite pronounced, the music rising out of the sludge for a more airy sound, the instrumentations an integral part of the compositions rather than a reason to show off.

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Recommended set for fans of progressive rock.

— Winch

http://www.eight-track.com

 

Gabor Szabo: High Contrast (1971) LP

Gabor Szabo
High Contrast
Blue Thumb (BTS 28)
1971

Rating: **** (Recommended)

Recorded March 1971, produced by Tommy LiPuma, engineered by Bruce Botnick.

For this instrumental outing, two great guitarists join forces, Szabo on various guitars, Bobby Womack on rhythm.  At first, the arrangements of the opening cut seemed overwhelming, and some of the material was too jazzy and stretched out for my tastes, but once I got to that last cut, “I Remember When,” I was hooked for life.  After that, I returned to the beginning of side two and completely dug the groove, Womack on rhythm guitar, Phillip Upchurch or Wolfgang Melz on bass, Falco and Carmelo Garcia on percussion, Jim Keltner on drums.  The side features three cuts by Womack, including a version of “If You Don’t Want My Love” from the score for Across 110th Street Economy wasn’t part of the vocabulary of 1971, and that works when you’ve got a band like this, a rhythm section from heaven, Szabo snaking his licks into the conversation, filling in the groove with improvization.  Just give a listen to the appropriately titled “Just A Little Communication” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. 

  After grooving with side two for a few days, I flipped her back over and dug that side too.  The set opens with “Breezin’,” a cut Womack wrote for Gzabo (later copped by George Benson for a hit in 1976). The rest of the side is filled with Szabo compositions, really getting into the groove as the side progresses, especially once they get deep into “Amazon” and on to “Fingers.”  Szabo dominates the writing on the first side and Womack provides the score for the flip side, but they both play a big part in the entire set, and the sides have a lot in common, both providing the contrast suggested by the title, getting into the groove and concluding with a reflective number.  While “I Remember When” might not be the best example of the deep groove this band dug out for this set, it still remains my favorite selection on the album.  The entire set is quite killer. 
 
— winch
(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)