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Over The Edge 3rd Impression 1972 – 1974
1972 – 1973
01 YES / And You And I / Close To The Edge October 1972
02 ARGENT / Tragedy / All Together Now November 1972
03 GENTLE GIANT / Advent Of Panurge / Octopus December 1972
04 RICK WAKEMAN / Jane Seymour / Six Wives Of Henry VIII February 1973
05 KING CRIMSON / Lark Tongues In Aspic Pt 2 / Lark Tongues In Aspic March 1973
06 PINK FLOYD / Speak To Me-Breathe-On The Run / Dark Side Of The Moon March 1973
07 HAWKWIND / Sonic Attack-Time We Left This World Today / Space Ritual May 1973
08 GONG / The Pot Head Pixies / Flying Teapot May 1973
09 PETER HAMMILL / What Its Worth / Chameleon In The Shadow Of The Night May 1973
10 MIKE OLDFIELD / Tubular Bells (Excerpt) / Tubular Bells May 1973
11 MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA / Birds Of Fire / Birds Of Fire June 1973
12 LE ORME / Felona / Felona And Sorona July 1973
13 JETHRO TULL / A Passion Play (Excerpt) / A Passion Play July 1973
14 GREENSLADE / Bedside Manners Are Extra / Bedside Manners Are Extra September 1973
1973 – 1974
01 GENESIS / Dancing With The Moonlit Knight / Selling England By The Pound October 1973
02 CARAVAN / L’Auberge Du Sanglier / For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night October 1973
03 MANFRED MANNS EARTHBAND / Father Of Day Father Of Night / Solar Fire November 1973
04 FAUST / Giggy Smile / IV November 1973
05 MAGMA / Mekanik Kommandoh / Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh December 1973
06 CAMEL / Slow Yourself Down / Camel December 1973
07 EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER / Karn Evil 9 / Brain Salad Surgery December 1973
08 GONG / Other Side Of The Sky / Angels Egg / December 1973
09 KING CRIMSON / The Night Watch / Starless And Bible Black February 1974
10 TANGERINE DREAM / Movements Of Visionary / Phaedra March 1974
11 HATFIELD AND THE NORTH / Calix / Hatfield And The North March 1974
12 QUEEN / The Fairy Fellers Masterstroke-Nevermore / Queen II March 1974
13 SUPERTRAMP / School / Crime Of The Century September 1974
In 1972 progressive rock was still at its peak but the critical knives were already being sharpened. Progs biggest crime was that it failed to perpetuate the myth of rock as revolution or comment on youth culture and simply offered musical virtuosity and technical innovation. The artists had become increasingly aloof and detached from the audience and rock music that had once been the diary of western youth was now the equivalent of a calculated essay. And yet in the two years from October 1972 to September 1974, progressive rock generated a number of ground breaking albums recognised throughout modern music circles.
Close To The Edge was widely regarded as a Yes highpoint, from Roger Dean’s enigmatic gatefold sleeve to Jon Anderson’s delightfully obtuse lyrics. As ripe as it was for parody, it demonstrated an ensemble of stellar musicians, each stretching the very limits of the rock idiom. Discontented drummer Bill Bruford immediately jumped ship for King Crimson to record Lark Tongues In Aspic. Innovative, both rhythmically and sonically, it stands today as one of the pillars of progressive rock. Starless And Bible Black a year later was another strong statement.
For a record with such a burden of heritage Pink Floyds zeitgeisty opus, Dark Side Of The Moon had mundane beginnings. The Floyd gathered to compile a shortlist of things that bothered them before those pressures – time, money, madness and death – were wedded to vaguely funky rockers. After a sprinkling of studio fairy dust they became the Floyds’s career defining album which remained in the album charts until 1987. I first heard it when my Dad tested how stereo his stereo was. Another of his favourites was Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, though I doubt he understood how that record became the perfect definition of progressive rock as the music twisted and shifted between moments of bucolic contentment and eerie paranoia. Hawkwind’s live double Space Ritual was entirely different, detailing the urban guerrilla’s 1972 tour, the simple pile driving hypno metal songs linked by scary sound collages and spoken word pieces. Unlike any of the aforementioned, Genesis never produced that one definitive album but Selling England By The Pound was a quantum leap forward both creatively and commercially. The record represented a scathing commentary on seventies Britain and is still a much misunderstood masterpiece.
Over in Europe, Germany’s insular progressive scene was tagged ‘Krautrock’ by the British press though it rapidly became associated with acts sadly lacking the avant garde sense of rock established by one of the originators Faust on their evocative IV. Tangerine Dream were even more pioneering, Phaedra embracing moog’s and sequencers for the first time to build the vast ambient soundscapes. Sounding like nothing else on earth it is still essential. While the German’s took music to another sphere, a new, altogether different breed emerged in Britain, epitomised by Queen and Supertramp. Not strictly progressive but not entirely rock or pop either. Given these innovations, the prog aristocracy of Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake and Palmer were also expected to produce something extraordinary. A Passion Play proved to be that but for all the wrong reasons while the best thing about Brain Salad Surgery was its HR Giger sleeve.
The genre certainly created its own stereotypes, from concept albums to 20 minute songs, but one almost exclusively prog phenomenon was the dreaded solo album, often little more than a feeble version of the parent bands muse. Unfortunately Rick Wakeman’s often resembled a church service although conversely, ex Van Der Graaf Generator leader Peter Hammill managed to retain his considerable credibility. He also provided Italian’s Le Orme with suitable translations for the English version of their third album Felona And Sorona.
Today progressive rock is still overwhelmingly identified with the first wave giants of Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Genesis and Emerson, Lake and Palmer but as with any movement at its peak, there were a multitude of lesser bands, often recycling the same ideas with unwarranted pomp. However, the established underground, Gentle Giant, a reformed Gong, the persistent Caravan and Canterbury scene supergroup Hatfield And The North, still offered a dizzy array of differing styles whilst never exceeding their cult status. But there were a handful of relative latecomers, Argent, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Greenslade, Manfred Mann’s Earthband and Camel who did achieve some serious album or even single chart action without ever challenging the domination of the dinosaurs.
Worthy of a longer mention are Magma whose bizarre Gallic spirit fried my impressionable 13-year-old mind. Mekanik Destructiv Kommandoh was their masterwork, the finale of a trilogy based on a fantasy planet and sung in a fantasy language. Fucking mental but fucking great! Sadly, such ludicrous inventiveness would never be recognised. Indeed, it just substantiated the developing view that prog in any form was pompous, overblown and out of touch. Infact, by 1974 there was a visible anti progressive movement, which manifested itself in a back to basics approach that ultimately would cast down the genre from its mainstream plateau. Increasingly weighed down by its own pretensions, the scene was set for someone to point out that infact the emperor had no clothes on at all.