Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music
In 1977, French jazz fusion violinist par excellence Jean Luc Ponty released his outstanding ENIGMATIC OCEAN. With some ten or eleven albums already behind him, and having lent his bowed magic to influential innovators like Frank Zappa, John Mclaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, and others, Ponty was a seasoned veteran — a true musician’s musician.
Unbeknown to most fans, So Far was a stopgap release, undertaken by Atlantic Records in the absence of a new Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album to accompany the reunited quartet’s summer 1974 tour.
The second disc of Bill Laswell and Buckethead's project Praxis is much less of a band effort and much heavier in tone. Laswell calls in some of his associates for various tracks, which makes this more a revolving-door project. Many tracks are speed/thrash metal at their noisiest; most notable of these is "Rivet," which combines Buckethead's ultra-heavy guitar riffs and shredding solos with sounds of shattered glass for an unbelievably aggressive experience. There's also a short dub interlude ("Iron Dub") and a hip-hop freakout with lots of scratching and high-pitched shrieks ("The Hook"). P-Funkers Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell (both also featured on the first disc, Transmutation) each contribute one lengthy track: "Deathstar," with Bootsy's free-form bass explorations, and "Crossing," featuring Bernie's psychedelic improvisation on a distorted Hammond organ.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had come out of Woodstock as the hottest new music act on the planet, and followed it up with Deja Vu, recorded across almost six months in the second half of 1969 and released in March of 1970, supported by a tour in the summer of that year. As it happened, despite some phenomenal music-making on-stage that summer, the tour was fraught with personal conflicts, and the quartet split up upon its completion. And as it happened, even Deja Vu was something of an illusion created by the foursome — Neil Young was only on five of the album’s ten tracks — which meant that an actual, tangible legacy for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was as elusive and ephemeral to listeners as Ahab’s Moby Dick.
THE BYRDS “BYRDS” (’73 REUNION)
The announcement of the reunion album featuring all five original Byrds raised expectations to the point where whatever emerged was almost bound to be an anticlimax. (Imagine the effect of the Beatles reforming around the same time, if you will.) Despite a general thumbs-down from the critics, fan loyalty and eager anticipation made the new long-player highly successful at the record store: in the States, the biggest-selling new-material Byrds album since Turn, Turn, Turn. Subsequent reviews expressed varying degrees of disappointment, but recent re-evaluation with almost forty years of hindsight portrays the project as fascinating historically and not without merit artistically. Interest in it has never waned and it’s been re-released on CD no fewer than four times. The Wikipedia article on it is almost a book.
On Yes' first two albums, Yes (1969) and Time and a Word (1970), the quintet was mostly searching for a sound on which they could build, losing one of their original members – guitarist Peter Banks – in the process. Their third time out proved the charm – The Yes Album constituted a de facto second debut, introducing the sound that would carry them forward across the next decade or more…
Excellent addition to any prog-rock music collection
ELP returned from an extended hiatus in 1977, sweetly oblivious to the fact that progressive rock was on the decline. Many bought the double-elpee set just the same (temporarily forgetting the substantial investment that Welcome Back was) to find that “Works Volume 1” was in fact three sides of solo music fused together with a token “band” side at the end. No doubt it’s this sort of tinkering with the affection of fans that resulted in the backlash against the band in later years.
Jackson Browne faced the nearly insurmountable task of following a masterpiece in making his second album. Having cherry-picked years of songwriting the first time around, he turned to some of his secondary older material, which was still better than most people’s best and, ironically, more accessible — notably such songs as “These Days,” which had been covered six times already, dating back to Nico’s Chelsea Girl album in 1967, and “Take It Easy,” a co-composition with the Eagles’ Glenn Frey that had been a Top 40 hit for the group in 1972.
Cream was a band born to the stage, a fact that the band and their record label realized the public fully understood by the number one U.S. chart placement for Wheels of Fire, with its entire live disc, and the number two chart peak for Goodbye, the posthumous release that was dominated by concert recordings. And in response to those success, we got Live Cream, Vol. 1 (originally known simply as Live Cream) in the spring of 1970, nearly 18 months after the trio’s breakup.
After the multi-platinum success of Music from the Original Soundtrack and More: Woodstock that accompanied Michael Wadleigh’s documentary film Woodstock (two million copies sold and it spent four consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard charts, and even a Top 20 spot on its R&B chart!), Woodstock Two was inevitable as a sequel. Released as a double LP in 1971 with more stills from the film — though none of the music here was included — this set featured many of the same artists who’d appeared on the first volume, with two additions: Mountain, and Melanie. If anything, this set, more concise and more focused, is a better bet than its predecessor. Disc one is a stunner on more than one level. First, there are three tracks by Jimi Hendrix and his expanded lineup after breaking up the Experience (adding guitarist Larry Lee), and a trio of percussionists along with Mitch Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox. There’s the killer “Jam Back at the House,” which rolls in riffs and an instrumental array of tunes from his catalog including “Rainy Day Dream Away”; there’s a killer take on “Izabella” that’s raggedy but full of killer improvisation — check the interaction between Cox and Mitchell — and “Get My Heart Back Together,” also known as “Hear My Train A’Comin’.” These 20 minutes of music make it worth the purchase of this collection if you don’t already possess the Jimi Hendrix Live at Woodstock disc.