1976 Albums

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Stratosfear > Tangerine Dream

November, 1976
United States
Virgin Records America, Inc.
Following closely in the direction first offered on Phaedra, Tangerine Dream released Rubycon and the live Ricochet in 1975; the former rose to No. 12 on the UK charts, the band's highest position yet. Both were excellent releases that featured one single composition split over each of the album's sides, again with heavy accents on mood and atmosphere. Stratosfear, however, reflects a paradigm shift for the band: Augmented by acoustic instruments, including harmonica, guitar, piano and harpsichord, Tangerine Dream's constructions now move toward actual composition. The title track is exceptionally rich, sporting a memorable melody; once it gears up though, it moves steadily over the swift, sequenced rhythm. "The Big Sleep in Search of Hades" is unassuming, yet features a colorful interior. Still, it's the second side's "3 Am at the Border of the Marsh from Okefenokee" that is truly classic. After a cinematic introduction, we're treated to a hypnotically slow sequence over which the band conducts their magic. "Invisible Limits" reaches even further over its 11 minutes, recapping the new territory the band has invaded. Tangerine Dream is more musical than ever here, and set on a new sonic course that would continue to evolve. One major criticism, though, is that the album is a mere 35 minutes long. Despite being a disaster to record-tales of equipment failure plagued the sessions (and reportedly a Nick Mason mix left on the shelf)-Stratosfear was moderately successful on the charts, reaching the UK Top 40. The band toured the US for the first time in early 1977, releasing the excellent live double-album Encore as evidence. Yet even more fortuitous was the band's highly successful soundtrack to William Friedkin's film Sorcerer, which also was released that year.

Wind & Wuthering > Genesis

December, 1976
United States
ATCO Records
During the year since their last release, Genesis had not only transitioned to Phil Collins as vocalist, but they also found time to tour America and record their next album. Wind & Wuthering picks up where their previous album left off, though offering a little more empathy to their past spirit; and in particular the Selling England By The Pound album. The lively "Eleventh Earl of Mar" opens; it's a rocker, but the gentle break is stuffed with detail. "All in a Mouse's Night" is similar, again driven by Mike Rutherford's bass pedals. He also offers the single, "Your Own Special Way" b/w "It's Yourself." It's a simple song with the obvious hook in the chorus, and Phil Collins's multi-tracked vocals right up front in the mix; no wonder it broke into the Top 50 on the UK charts. Yet the album also is heavy on instrumentals as well: three by count, and four if you include the lengthy middle section in "One for the Vine." Steve Hackett, always undermixed on Genesis records, makes his mark here with both a largess of writing credits and his nylon-string guitar. "Blood on the Rooftops" and "Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers…" break the mold, and certainly as a result of the guitarist's contribution. "…In That Quiet Earth" offers more of the band's instrumental fire, segueing ever so effortlessly into Tony Banks's down-tempo "Afterglow." The album is painstakingly detailed both in arrangement and in instrumentation, particularly on the second side, that endears it as one of Genesis' most enduring and musical records. It was similarly successful on the charts, making a Top 10 appearance in the UK, but just missing the Top 30 in the US. The band again embarked on a massive world tour in support of the album, this time with American Chester Thompson assisting Collins on drums.

Inget Nytt Under Solen > Kaipa

December, 1976
One of Sweden's early symphonic rock bands, Ura Kaipa (after a Stone Age chieftain) was founded by keyboardist Hans Lundin, bassist Tomas Eriksson and drummer Thomas Sjöberg. In late 1974, with Ingemar Bergman replacing Sjöberg and Roine Stolt arriving on guitar, the band shortened their name to Kaipa and began performing live. In mid-75, the band recorded their first album at Marcus Music Studios in Stockholm. Released in December 1975 on Decca Records, their self-titled debut sold well, considering distribution was limited to Scandinavia. The music was progressive rock of the most symphonic nature, and Swedish-language lyrics. Inget nytt under solen ("Nothing New Under The Sun") saw release the following year. Its highlight is the epic length "Skenet Bedrar" ("It's Not What It Seems") that spans the record's first side. Again, the track reveals the influence that classical music had on the band, as well as the British progressives, such as Genesis and Yes. That said, the album is unique work, full of drama and expert musicianship, but again firmly in the realm of symphonic rock. A few tracks were recorded in English; however, they would remain in the vaults for future CD bonus tracks. The album made an appearance on the Swedish charts and the band spent 1977 touring, performing over 100 shows. Before Kaipa's next album, 1978's Solo, their last for Decca, the band suffered some personnel changes. Eriksson left, replaced by Mats Lindberg, while Mats Löfgren joined on lead vocals. With Stolt's departure in 1979 for his own group Fantasia, the band again went through "reconstruction." Two further albums appeared, but the progressive plot was mostly lost; and the band broke up in 1982.

Phos > Socrates (Drank the Conium)

December, 1976
United States
Phos was, in fact, the Greek band's fourth album, and represented a significant change in style from their earlier releases. Originally named Socrates Drank the Conium, the band centered their heavy, blues-based psychedelic rock on John Spathas's guitar work, influenced greatly by Jimi Hendrix. Not that much had changed by their third album, 1973's On The Wings, which was their first to see release outside of Greece. In the US, it was the first of two records from the band to see release on the Peters International Cosmos label. In 1975, the original trio of Spathas, drummer George Tourkogiorgis and bassist Anthony Trandalides, hooked up with Vangelis in London's Orange Studio (with future Nemo Studio manager Keith Spencer-Allen), just after the keyboardist moved shop to England (and prior to his big success as a solo artist). Vangelis provided significant contributions to the album, Phos, as both keyboardist and producer to the Tourkogiorgis/Spathas compositions. The opener "Starvation" is a remake from the band's first album. Spathas's multi-tracked guitars are still primary, but Vangelis's trademark keyboard tones provide additional color. "Queen of the Universe" and "The Bride" refreshingly hint at Greek folk music, while "Killer" goes for heavier rock. The complexities of "Time of Pain" and "Mountains," barring the latter's long fade are reminiscent of Gentle Giant—and, for that matter, good prog rock. Socrates only misses the mark when the tempo slows, as on "A Day in Heaven" and the group-written "Every Dream Comes to An End;" the former is pedestrian rock, and the latter is an uninspired blues-based instrumental. While it featured a unique combination of talent, this would be the only record from this lineup; though some years later, Spathas and Tourkogiorgis would reunite for another round of albums. In the meantime, Vangelis would, of course, continue being Vangelis.