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Rainbow Dome Musick > Hillage, Steve

April, 1979
United Kingdom
Virgin
5
In Spring 1978, Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy assembled a new lineup to tour, this time with drummer Andy Anderson and ex-Man bassist John McKenzie, and Frenchman Christian Boulé returning as second guitarist. A double-album, Live Herald, was released in early 1979, and was culled from recordings of all three lineups of the Steve Hillage Band. The album's fourth side, later known as Studio Herald, offered four new recordings. "Talking to the Sun" drives over a swift sequence, but it's the funky bass and tight drumming of the rhythm section that give it a wholly contemporary feel. "1988 Aktivator" cops a "punk" vibe, while "New Age Synthesis (Unzipping the Zype)" is one of the guitarist's most arresting compositions. In addition, Hillage's lead guitar soars on the slow-tempo "Healing Feeling." (The tracks, along with half of the previous Green album, were compiled as Aura for release in the US). Continuing in the same direction, a complete studio album, Open, appeared in October. Its highlights are the fusion of "The Fire Inside" and "Earthrise," the latter an adaptation of a piece by Egyptian artist Umm Kulthum. However, after the promotional tour for the record, Hillage would opt out of future solo work (even though all of his albums charted in the UK). But of all their activities in the year, the most significant was Rainbow Dome Musick (sic): an album of "ambient" music that Hillage and Giraudy recorded for the Festival of Mind-Body-Spirit at London's Olympia exhibition center in April. Furthering their interest of electronic music, it stands as one of the earliest albums of so-called new age music and presages techno's "chill out" music of the 90s. In the 1980s, Hillage recorded a final studio record in 1983 before diving into a significant career as a Virgin Records house-producer, including work with It Bites and Tony Banks. He and Giraudy eventually resurrected themselves as techno outfit System 7 in the early 90s.

Sky > Sky

May, 1979
UK
Ariola
3.5
Depending on how you look at it, Sky was either a potentially powerful supergroup of classically-trained musicians, or a recipe for musical disaster of the more pretentious kind. Bassist Herbie Flowers was a seasoned session musician, but also well known for his work with David Bowie, T. Rex and Blue Mink; while keyboardist Francis Monkman was a founding member of Curved Air, and more recently in Phil Manzanera's 801. The pair guested on renowned classical guitarist John Williams's 1978 album, Travelling, which offered a precursor to what the duo would accomplish with Sky. Rounding out the lineup for the new band was Australian-born session guitarist Kevin Peek and drummer Tristan Fry, the latter previously with the London Symphony Orchestra. Tied together by a couple of Abbey Road engineers, Haydn Bendall and Tony Clark, the band's debut album, Sky, appeared in May 1979. "Westway" opens with promise, as the dueling guitars and undulating synth bass suggest a progressive edge. Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie No. 1" is served well by Williams's arrangement, though the light classical music of "Carillon" and "Danza" are ultimately pap. The album's second side, encompassed by the five sections of Monkman's "Where Opposites Meet," is another story. Despite drawing comparisons to Mike Oldfield's large compositions, or even Tangerine Dream's contemporaneous foray into progressive rock, Monkman's contribution suits Sky's virtuosity perfectly: interesting music played with precision. The album was a success in the UK, reaching the Top 10. Their next record—confusingly self-titled in the US, but know as Sky 2 elsewhere—was a double-album, highlighted by Monkman's side-long track "Fifo" and a spirited (if over-the-top) cover of Curved Air's "Vivaldi." However, it was the predictably rocked-up arrangement of J.S. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor "Toccata" b/w "Vivaldi" that reached No. 5 on the UK singles charts and helped propel the album straight to No. 1. Monkman however took his leave after the album. Sky would carry on with continued commercial success well into the 80s, though their repertoire would firmly move into the realm of light classical music.

Spectral Mornings > Hackett, Steve

May, 1979
United States
Chrysalis
4.833335
Following the release of his last album, Steve Hackett assembled a touring band that included his brother John on flute and guitar, John Shearer on drums and Pete Hicks on vocals. He rounded out the lineup with Nick Magnus on keyboards and Dik Cadbury on bass. The band then shipped off to Holland to record Hackett's third album, Spectral Mornings, which was again co-produced with John Acock. With its bright chorus, "Every Day" kicks things off (and includes a musical quote from Beethoven's 9th Symphony, "Ode to Joy"), finding the band's performance lively and Hackett soloing away on guitar. The album is more instrumental than vocal, again offering a great deal of musical diversity. Hicks's voice is certainly up to task, though often soaked in thick harmony. "The Virgin and the Gypsy" is gentle and acoustic, while the following "The Red Flowers of Tachai Blooms Everywhere" is (not surprisingly) oriental-inspired. "Clocks - The Angel of Mons" ticks away with abandon before erupting into a drum-led frenzy, while "Lost Time in Cordoba" is the nylon-string retread to which Hackett would often return. The first half of "Tigermoth" offers some downright heavy dynamics (with Hackett using a Roland guitar synthesizer), while the second half is acoustic. Another instrumental, the title track "Spectral Mornings" wraps things up; it's plain evidence of Hackett's lyrical melodies and guitar playing, and straight out of the book of Genesis. Not that that's a problem; Hackett was, after all, their guitarist for many years. The album was a genuine success, reaching No. 22 on the UK charts and affording Hackett a headlining spot at that year's Reading Festival. The record also featured cover art by Hackett's partner, Brazilian artist Kim Poor.

One Of A Kind > Bruford

June, 1979
United States
E'G Records
4.25
Drummer Bill Bruford assembled the core group of Allan Holdsworth, Dave Stewart (then on loan from National Health) and American bass player Jeff Berlin for his first solo album, 1978's Feels Good To Me. Recorded in 1977 at Trident Studios, the album was produced by Robin Lumley and had a vague affinity towards what Brand X was attempting at the same time (instrumental jazz fusion). Compared to Kenny Wheeler's flugelhorn, Annette Peacock's vocals were a very odd addition to the album-yet, to each his own, as they say. In September 1978, following the departures of he and Holdsworth from U.K., and Stewart from National Health, Bruford assembled the same team as a band, conveniently named Bruford. Their subsequent album, One Of A Kind was recorded in early 1979, and thankfully he kept his jazz-rock purely instrumental. Written by Stewart and Alan Gowen, "Hell's Bells" offers a supple and well-arranged fusion, but really takes off when Holdsworth lets loose on his guitar. Both parts of the title track follow suit, though the harder edge and huge theme of "Fainting in Coils" is most satisfying. Both "Five G" and "The Abingdon Chasp" are again atypical, though the latter features Berlin's nimble bass playing. Bruford's drumming is of course exemplary, his distinctive snare always a welcome sound. "Forever until Sunday" features an uncredited Eddie Jobson on violin and carries over from the U.K. repertoire, as does "The Snow of Sahara Part Two" (co-written with Jobson). Throughout the album, the musicianship is of the highest order; the music however is perhaps a bit too precise; unless of course this type of perfectly-perfect fusion is your cup of tea. Holdsworth abruptly left the band following the album's release to pursue his own music. His replacement was the hitherto (and henceforth) "unknown" John Clark, whose debut was documented on The Bruford Tapes: a live album released later in the year. Bruford's next album, 1980's Gradually Going Tornado, would see a return to vocals (courtesy of Berlin). He then put his solo career on hold to join a resurrected King Crimson in 1981, where he would also start to explore the technology of electronic drums.

Jardin Au Fou > Roedelius, Hans Joachim

June, 1979
Germany
Egg
0
Born in 1936, Hans-Joachim Roedelius's life story before he arrived in Berlin in the late 60s is as interesting as his musical career. From his unwilling membership in the Hitlerjugend to forced conscription in the DDR's Volkspolizei to Stasi imprisonment to eventual refugee status in West Berlin, Roedelius had endured the worst of WWII Germany by the age of 25. But by the late 60s, Germany, like most of Continental Europe, was going through sweeping cultural changes; and in Berlin, Roedelius helped found the influential Zodiak Free Arts Lab with Conrad Schnitzler. The bulk of the 70s was taken up with projects like Cluster and Harmonia; though toward the end of the decade Roedelius ventured beyond his collaborations with musical partner Dieter Moebius to tackle solo projects. First up was Durch Die Wüste in 1978, a collection of pieces recorded with Conny Plank over the prior two years. For 1979's Jardin au Fou ("Garden of Fools"), Roedelius signed with the French label Egg and enlisted Peter Baumann as producer. Much like a music box, the gentle "Fou Fou" opens the album; yet the keyboard-based compositions reveal Roedelius's talent on the instrument. "Toujours" is similar: a playful solo piano piece, punctuated by a descending piano line. "Balsam" puts the studio to great use, with Roedelius's piano augmented by an effective backward effect. From simple compositions, such as the circus-like "Rue Fortune" and brief "Final," to more involved tracks, like the bonus track "Tempera," the album's ten vignettes are at once wistful, serious and calming; they venture toward a light, classical music nature, yet without ever sounding "lite." Roedelius would release further albums on the Sky label, including his Selbsportrait series and the excellent Lustwandel, before signing with EG Records in the early 80s.

P.X.R.5 > Hawkwind

June, 1979
United States
Charisma
3
Early 1978 saw Hawkwind now consisting of Dave Brock and Robert Calvert, with Simon King, Simon House and Adrian Shaw also entering Rockfield studios to record a follow-up to the 1977 release Quark, Strangeness And Charm. Using live recordings from their previous UK tour as a starting point, the band recorded a handful of tracks before heading off to America in March for their first tour of the country since 1975. But all was not well. Sapped by Simon House's departure to David Bowie's band (and with Paul Hayles filling in) Brock, despondent and weary, famously sold his guitar to Mark Sperhauk at tour's end, effectively ending Hawkwind's near-decade journey. The ensuing time, however, was spent with the Hawklords; and in 1979, Charisma patched together one final Hawkwind album comprised of the tracks recorded in early 1978. "Death Trap" is a caustic rocker, threading the link between the band and punk rock, and driven, of course, by King's straight-on rhythm. Calvert's "Jack of Shadows" and "Uncle Sam's on Mars" are two of his finest songs, and neither would have been out of place on any of the other Hawkwind albums of the Charisma Records era. Two tracks originally intended for a Brock solo record, "Infinity" and "Life Form" were pulled in, too. The second side offers the sci-fi of "Robot," while "High Rise" drew inspiration from the J.G Ballard book of the same name. The Brock-penned title track dealt with the band's split in 1976, when Nik Turner, Paul Rudolph and Alan Powell all took their leave. P.X.R.5, released in June 1979, rose to No. 59 on the UK charts. But now without both a label and Calvert, Hawkwind was again at a turning point.

Fairy Tales > Mother Gong

June, 1979
United Kingdom
Charly Records Ltd.
3
Gilli Smyth, aka Shakti Yoni, first met Daevid Allen in 1964 by which time she had already earned her degrees from King's College London, taught in Paris and had her first child. When Allen was barred from England in 1967 for visa irregularities, the pair returned to Paris and founded Gong. Following their stint with Planet Gong in the mid-70s, Smyth's first album, Mother, was assembled (mostly) with various Gong recordings, some dating back to the early 70s. With her non-singing space whisper, Allen's tape loops and loose backing music to her half-sung spoken word musings on all things motherhood (she had recently given birth to two sons with Allen), the blueprint for her Mother Gong works was set. In 1979, with her relationship with Allen behind her, she partnered with Harry Williamson, and lived in Devon until 1982. Williamson had previously worked with ex-Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips on a soundtrack to his father's renowned Tarka The Otter (also released as Battle Of The Birds: A Celtic Tale, with Smyth narrating), and cut a single "Nuclear Waste" b/w "Digital Love" as The Radio Actors: Sting, Mike Howlett, Steve Hillage, Steve Broughton and Nik Turner. Recorded at Dave Anderson's Foel Studio, Fairy Tales stands as the first Mother Gong album. The album sets three classic fairy tales—Wassilissa, The Three Tongues (Languages) and The Pied Piper, all recited by Smyth—to Williamson's musical backing with a host of guests, Gong-related and otherwise. Keyboardist Mo Vicarage and drummer Dino Ferari (from Nik Turner's Inner City Unit), and Automatic Fine Tuning's bassist Trevor Darks make up the core band, with guitarist Eduardo Niebla on guitar (from the Spanish band Atila). Mother Gong toured extensively, performing at Glastonbury festival in both 1979 and 1981. Smyth and Williamson would next record the Robot Women trilogy of albums, based on Ira Levin's Stepford Wives and recorded with Guy Evans, Didier Malherbe, Yan Emeric Vagh and a revolving cast of other musicians. In 1982, Smyth and Williamson would immigrate to Australia, continuing Mother Gong down under, and eventually recording again with Allen.

Exposure > Fripp, Robert

June, 1979
US
Polydor
3
Robert Fripp's post-King Crimson activities included guitar lessons with Robin Trower, studying the philosophy of J.G. Bennett and a trip to Berlin to record guitar on David Bowie's Heroes. He eventually switched base to New York, where he began producing a wide variety of artists, including Daryl Hall (of Hall & Oates), The Roches and Peter Gabriel. It's no wonder that his debut solo album Exposure was recorded with a host of musicians, including Narada Michael Walden and Phil Collins, Tony Levin, Jerry Marotta and Sid McGinnis (on loan from Peter Gabriel's band), along with Barry Andrews from XTC and the ever-present Brian Eno. After a snippet of his voice, Darryl Hall adds an edge to the punky "You Burn Me Up I'm A Cigarette," while the guitars of "Breathless" blasts away with the power of King Crimson's Red. In fact, it's so musically current, it's a testament to how forward-looking that band was. Peter Hammill's distinctive growl gives "Disengage" and "Chicago" a suitable edge, while Hall's smooth, blue-eyed soul graces "North Star." Terre Roche's voice floats alongside Fripp's guitar on the beautiful "Mary." The raucous "Exposure," first appearing on Gabriel's second album, opens the second side; and over its white-funk beat, Fripp uses samples and Frippertronics to alienate the soundscape. This approach is furthered on what Fripp called the "incredibly dismal, pathetic chord sequence" of "Häaden Two," while the remainder of the album alternates between a few more rockers (the amazing "I May Not Have Had Enough of Me But I've Had Enough of You"), pure Frippertronics ("Water Music I & II") and a stark, haunting re-recording of "Here Comes the Flood" by Gabriel. The album is extremely contemporary, and stacks up alongside any then-current "new wave" releases. It was intended to be released as a part of a trilogy of albums Fripp produced, with Gabriel's second album and Hall's 1977 Sacred Songs rounding out the trio; however, the associated record companies completely nixed the concept. They were right: commercial the album was not-it failed to chart in any territories; but it was a complete artistic success. Caveat emptor: Fripp has released several different mixes of the album since its debut release.

Überfällig > Schickert, Günter

September, 1979
Germany
Sky Records
0
Another musician who cut his teeth in Berlin's Zodiak Free Arts Lab in the late 60s, guitarist Günter Schickert was a fixture in the city during the 1970s. Armed with a Dynacord Echo machine, he was also a pioneer of echo guitar, in the vein of his contemporary Achim Reichel. In 1974, he recorded his first album, Samtvogel ("Velvet Bird"). Although initially a private pressing, it was picked up and reissued by the Brain label in 1976. A purely analog effect, the looping of guitar parts through both echo-effect and a series of tape recorders produced an entrancing sound; but Schickert's subject matter was rather dark and decidedly noncommercial. Around the same time, he was working with Klaus Schulze as a guitarist and tour-hand, and also assisting with the Far East Family Band recordings; the pair even recorded an (unreleased) album. Schickert then formed GAM in 1976, with guitarist Axel Struck and bassist Michael Leske—musicians he had known for many years. The band recorded an album, Eiszeit, in 1978, but it too went unreleased; and eventually, the group collapsed. By the late 70s, Schickert met drummer Manfred Heuer, which led to the aptly titled Überfällig ("Overdue") record, released by Sky Records in 1979. "Puls" opens the album, with its guitar and percussion locked into a hypnotic groove; nothing sounds quite like this, nor is anything as seductive or timeless. The simple "In der Zeit" offers a vocal, the track's melody as haunting as its sparse arrangement. Clocking in at almost 12 minutes, "Apricot Brandy II" reprises a track from Schickert's previous record, but here with significantly more mass. The clicking rhythm keeps things from going sideways, as Schickert piles on vocals and effects through the echo machine—all rising in a glorious cacophony of sound. "Wanderer" closes the album; and it's a beguiling journey, drifting down a dark, untraveled road. Indeed, Überfällig is both a timeless treat and sonic marvel. Schickert would remain active in the Berlin music and theater scene; but recordings would, as always, remain few and far between.

Stormwatch > Jethro Tull

September, 1979
United States
Chrysalis
3.666665
Among Jethro Tull's activities during the previous year, they managed to back Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior on her debut solo album, Woman In The Wings. David Palmer lent his considerable arrangement skills, while Martin Barre contributed a blistering solo to "Cold Flame." The album is worth seeking out. Judging by the Stormwatch album cover, Ian Anderson seemed to have had enough with country life, looking now to the North Sea for inspiration on this, the band's 12th studio album, and the final installment of their so-called folk trilogy. To wit, the album presents a harder edge than its two predecessors, if only slightly. Gone are songs about country estates, and in are the songs concerning oil and the environment. "Orion" isn't particularly inspired, but it has a good hook. "Dark Ages" and "Something's on the Move" are the big rocking tracks, while "Flying Dutchman" sports the large orchestration. It isn't that the album is bad, in fact it's the folksiest of the trilogy; but ultimately, it just sounds like more of the same ole Jethro Tull. However, David Palmer did manage to do something quite rare in Tull-dom: he received a songwriting credit. A tribute to his late father, his self-penned "Elegy" closes the record. Sadly, bassist John Glascock would succumb to a heart condition before the sessions were completed, with Anderson filling in on bass to finish the album. The band would then go through some major personnel changes, beginning with Fairport Convention's Dave Pegg subbing in on the subsequent tour. The album reached No. 27 in the UK, and fared slightly better in the US at No. 22.

A Curious Feeling > Banks, Tony

October, 1979
United States
Charisma
4.5
With Phil Collins in Canada sorting out his personal life, Genesis entered 1979 on hiatus. Both Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford turned their attention to solo projects, with Banks's being the first out of the gate. A Curious Feeling was produced with David Hentschel at Abba's Polar Studios, with Banks handling all instrumentation—only Chester Thompson assisted on drums and percussion. Based loosely on the novelette Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, the album is a relatively uniform set of songs. Since Banks was always one of Genesis' main songwriters, it should come as no surprise that A Curious Feeling gives a good approximation of his contribution to that band; and conversely, the album also sheds light on the other members' contribution to Genesis by what it isn't. Banks is a lyrical songwriter; his compositions are flowing, with an emphasis on beauty and romanticism. Both "The Lie" and "After the Lie" are typically expressive, while the second side's "You" and "Somebody Else's Dream" contain a harder edge. Throughout, the production is flawless, though perhaps a little too contrived. Banks's instrumental "The Waters of Lethe" (also the working title of the album) is flush with that trademark Yamaha CP70 piano tone; it's also no wonder that the album sounds a lot like the previous Genesis record, And Then There Were Three. The opening "From the Undertow" and another instrumental "Forever Morning" are obviously from the same well. Kim Beacon from Charisma labelmate String Driven Thing provides the vocals for the album—a quite controversial choice, in retrospect. His smoky tenor is by no means a distraction, but it might be too familiar a match for the music: It's typical of the kind of voice that Genesis (and ex-Genesis) members would select for their solo albums. Regardless, the album was a success, rising to No. 21 on the UK charts.

Adonis > Anyone's Daughter

November, 1979
Germany
Brain
0
Founded in Stuttgart in the early 70s by guitarist Uwe Karpa and keyboardist Matthias Ulmer, the band took its name from the Deep Purple song of the same name. Just teenagers, they spent the next few years playing covers of English groups in youth centers, with original drummer Sascha Pavlovic and others. But by the time their 1979 album Adonis was released on the Brain/Metronome label, both lead vocalist and bassist Harald Bareth and drummer Kono Konopik were in place. The starting point is British progressive rock, with a healthy dose of post-Gabriel Genesis. Both Karpa and Ulmer are virtuosos, and there’s no shortage of their talent within. “Adonis” covers the album’s first side, with the opening section “Come Away” opening with authority. When the track breaks down, pinned by Bareth’s heavy bass, it’s as good as neo-progressive rock would get. The remainder of the side powers forward, though fidgety at times. The second side’s instrumental “Blue House” goes for a big, sweeping widescreen presentation, while the title track features more of Ulmer and Karpa’s histrionics. For their second album, Anyone’s Daughter, the band switched labels to Spiegelei. They had a regional hit single in “Moria” b/w “Superman,” but not unexpectedly: like the album, it moves to the more commercial side of prog rock. All would be rectified on their third album, 1981’s Piktors Verwandlungen (Pictor’s Metamorphoses). Based on the fairy tale by Hermann Hesse, with German text recited by Bareth, it’s an instrumental powerhouse of neo-progressive sounds. The album, recorded live in concert, would become the band’s bestselling. From here, Anyone’s Daughter sang exclusively in German, but after a further two albums, the band called it quits, with Ulmer and Karpa leaving to complete their military conscription.

Platinum > Oldfield, Mike

November, 1979
United States
Virgin
3
Mike Oldfield's follow-up albums to Tubular Bells were similar in style, and none the worse for it: Hergest Ridge also managed to top the British charts upon release, while 1975's Ommadawn would settle for No. 4. After a few years' break, Oldfield released the ambitious (for the time) double-album Incantations in 1978; the album was successful, reaching No. 26 on the UK charts. The reclusive musician then assembled a large band and orchestra in the spring of 1979, mounting a tour as a solo artist for the first time. Notables in the band included Benoît and Pierre Moerlen from Gong, Wigwam's Pekka Pohjola and Steeleye Span's Maddy Prior, amongst many others. A double-album from the tour, Exposed, saw release in the fall and rose to No. 16 in the UK; while a single, "Blue Peter" b/w "Woodhenge," hit the UK Top 20 (it was also the theme music for the well-known British children's television program Blue Peter). Oldfield's next studio album, Platinum, saw a shift in his musical direction in that it presented a more concise, song-based approach, with the music mostly performed by a band-as opposed to everything by Oldfield. The album's side-long title track kicks off with "Airborne;" Oldfield's signature-toned guitar playfully intertwines with the arrangement before the band takes full-flight on the second section, "Platinum." "Charleston" sounds just as one would assume-something lively to dance to, while the closing "North Star" borrows its choir part from Philip Glass's composition of the same name. The second side's "Woodhenge" is placid and atmospheric, if uncharacteristically so, especially compared to the rest of the album-side: "Into Wonderland" (switched from "Sally" on all but the earliest pressings) is a venture into pop while "Punkadiddle" is certainly tongue-in-cheek. Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm," featuring Wendy Roberts, features an original enough arrangement. Throughout the album, the group-effort and keyboard technology-both of which Oldfield would continue to explore further on his next record-lend a contemporary edge to the work. The album rose to No. 24 in the UK; while in the US, it was repackaged with live material as Airborn in late 1980.

The Steve Howe Album > Howe, Steve

November, 1979
United States
Atlantic
4
Yes guitarist Steve Howe released his first solo album Beginnings in 1975 when all the members of Yes were on sabbatical recording solo albums. Perhaps the most disappointing from the lot, the album was oddly produced and lacked the epic songwriting of Yes; and then there was the issue with Howe’s singing... But his bass playing aside, it did feature his exemplary guitar playing; after all he was close to the start of a five year run of being voted Guitar Player magazine’s Best Overall Guitarist. That said, the album charted on both sides of the Atlantic, even nearing the Top 20 in the UK. Released in 1979 while Yes was in limbo following the Tormato album, The Steve Howe Album furthered the concept of “Howe the guitarist” with not only a picture of each guitar he played, but also a chart marking the instruments he used on each track, all housed in another Roger Dean cover. Some of it is predictable: The instrumentals “Cactus Boogie,” “Diary Of A Man Who Vanished,” “Meadow Rag,” and “Surface Tension” all feature solo guitar, while the two symphonic numbers, Howe’s “Double Rondo” and Vivaldi’s well-known “Concerto in D (Second Movement)” are tastefully performed. But Howe’s redemption is in “Look Over Your Shoulder.” Featuring Alan White on drums and Ronnie Leahy on keyboards, it’s the strongest of Howe’s songs on the record. Coupled with Clair Hamill’s voice, it’s every bit as good as the best of Yes. However, the guitarist would put his solo career on hold for almost a decade as he returned to Yes and later, Asia.

Grosses Wasser > Cluster

December, 1979
Germany
Sky Records
0
Following their collaboration with Brian Eno, yet another collaboration beckoned the duo of Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius, this time with long-time associate Conny Plank, electronic artist Asmus Tietchens, Dutch sitarist Okko Bekker, and Kraan's Hellmut Hattler and (ex-Kraan) Johannes Pappert for the mise-en-scène of the Liliental album in 1978. They reunited as Cluster in 1979, now at Peter Baumann's Paragon Studios in Berlin. Opening their seventh album, "Avanti" ambles forward over a percolating sequence and a simple motif played on synth. "Prothese" adds electronic drums and some tribal voices, or whatever you want to call them. "Isodea" turns more to chamber music, played on a clavinet-like keyboard, while "Breitengrad 20" continues with sequencer and piano added, but with some guitar added for effect. Rising from a gentle piano, the album's title track encompasses the second side of the record. Throughout its course, it travels a range of moods and sounds, from darker, more pre-industrial passages that harken back to the earliest days of Kluster, to more forward-looking tribal rhythms. It's a weird pastiche of electronic sounds, but a veritable one at that. Throughout, the album is ripe with Baumann's typical style of production (here with William Roper assisting); clean, stark, yet never sterile, it's very much a "rock" production, but, of course, without the rock music! Recorded for the Sky label, the duo's Grosses Wasser would be the penultimate Cluster album. Both Roedelius and Moebius would put their partnership on hold as the former continued his solo work, while the latter began an inventive collaboration with Plank, starting with 1980's Rastakraut Pasta. A final (for the next decade, anyway) Cluster album, Curiosum, would see release in 1981.

The Wall > Pink Floyd

December, 1979
United States
Columbia
4.5
Pink Floyd has the honor of offering the last serving of excess for the decade, spread out over the double-album The Wall. Just listen to the opening bars of "In the Flesh?" Roger Waters's voice is the first to be heard, and it's no surprise. Since their last record, the other members of the Floyd had cut solo albums to little commercial or artistic success. When the band entered sessions for this album, it was Waters that offered two "song cycles;" the band chose the first, and the second would appear some years later as Waters's first solo effort, The Pros And Cons Of Hitchhiking. The recording of The Wall was tumultuous at best; Rick Wright was ejected from the band by the end of the sessions, and producer Bob Ezrin completed the album in Los Angeles with studio musicians. Fortunately, David Gilmour leaves some evidence of his participation, especially on the excellent "Young Lust," "Comfortably Numb" and "Run Like Hell," all co-written with Waters. The remainder, on the other hand, are strictly Waters. All of the songs constitute a perfectly choreographed script, though offering none of the psychedelic instrumentals that had defined Pink Floyd throughout the decade. That said, there are undoubtedly some classic tracks within, including "Mother," "Hey You" and "Nobody Home." But by the fourth side, it's the album's own weight that brings down the wall. Still, there's no denying that the double-album was an artistic achievement and a phenomenal success. "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)" b/w "One of My Turns" topped the single charts on both sides of the Atlantic, while the album would reach No. 1 in the US and peak at No. 3 in the UK. Over the next two years, the band would stage live renditions of the album in a series of concerts held in Los Angeles, New York, London and Dortmund, Germany. A movie of the same name, starring Bob Geldof as the central character Pink, would appear in 1982, directed by Alan Parker. Over a decade after its first release, Waters would perform The Wall in an all-star extravaganza in Berlin to celebrate the fall of die Mauer, while Waters would eventually reprise the original production-updated with stunning technology-on a series of tours from 2010-2013.

Short Stories > Jon & Vangelis

January, 1980
United States
Polydor
3
Evidently, Jon Anderson spent little time mourning his divorce from Yes, as he quickly started up both a solo career and a highly successful collaboration with Vangelis. The pair initially recorded together for the Greek musician's 1975 album, Heaven & Hell; and from there, their relationship grew, first with Anderson adding harp and vocals to a couple of records in Vangelis's prolific catalog of albums. Short Stories is the debut album by the duo, now billed as Jon & Vangelis. The reason for the album's success is simple: Mix Vangelis's easy-on-the-ears music with the ethereal voice of Anderson, and you have new age goodness all around. That's not to say everything here is total fluff. Vangelis is a master of electronic texture, and the album is a veritable palette for his style of composition and brand of sound: Just check out the opening bars of "Curious Electric" or "Far Away in Baagad." When the synthesizers are percolating and the energy is high, it's top shelf music. Of course, when Anderson's featured, as on "Each and Everyday," "Love Is" and "One More Time," his syrupy earnestness remains an acquired taste, but a potent one at that. Nevertheless, the album thrived upon release, reaching No. 4 on the UK charts. A single, the curiously lilting "I Hear You Now" b/w "Thunder," also reached the UK Top 10, and later entered the US Top 100. Meanwhile, 1981 would see Vangelis reach his commercial zenith with the soundtrack to the film Chariots of Fire. A second collaboration with Anderson, The Friends of Mr Cairo, was released in July 1981 and found similar commercial and artistic success; but their third album, Private Collection, stalled, both musically and on the charts, effectively ending their partnership.

God Save The Queen / Under Heavy Manners > Fripp, Robert

January, 1980
US
Polydor
0
Armed with a guitar and two Revox tape recorders, Robert Fripp embarked on a self-proclaimed "small, mobile and intelligent" tour of record stores, canteens and other small venues across Europe and North America, from April to August 1979. God Save The Queen/Under Heavy Manners was the first release made from recordings of that tour. The album's first side presents three tracks of pure Frippertronics: a method of performing with tape-loops that Fripp conceived with Brian Eno on their (No Pussyfooting) album for Island Records in 1973. The term was coined by lyricist Joanna Walton, Fripp's girlfriend in the late 70s. There's a certain beauty in the otherworldliness of the slow-building, somewhat hypnotic loops of delayed guitar. One might argue, "heard one, heard them all," but that would miss the point; Frippertronics were meant to be experienced in real time, as in active listening. Anyway, the second side presents Discotronics, or Frippertronics augmented with a disco beat! Here, drummer Paul Duskin and bassist Busta Jones provide the rhythm, while Talking Head David Byrne (credited as Absalm el Habib) adds voice, including the memorable pronouncement "I am resplendent in divergence." The album also first outlines his Drive to 1981; Fripp used this stage of his career to challenge nearly every preconception, real or otherwise, of the music industry-from touring to business practices to audience interaction. Fripp next assembled a band with Barry Andrews on organ, Johnny Toobad on drums (eventually replaced by Kevin Wilkinson), and Sara Lee on bass. The "team" played a total of 77 gigs and recorded an album, 1981's The League of Gentlemen—a reference to Fripp's first band in Bournemouth in the 1960s. The self-proclaimed "new wave instrumental dance band" furthers his foray into dance music, and provides a crucial link to what would come later. Fripp then released a second album of Frippertronics, entitled Let The Power Fall. However, this burst of solo work would ultimately grind to a halt; with the Drive to 1981 complete, he transitioned to the Incline to 1984. By 1981, Fripp had returned to the UK to start his next venture, capping a brief but interesting period of activity.

Permanent Waves > Rush

January, 1980
United States
Mercury
5
For Permanent Waves, Rush was back in Canada with producer Terry Brown. They assembled at Le Studio in Quebec where the band would continue to record for the next 15 years. The album was written and recorded over the summer of 1979, and the band was back on the road before the album was even released. The record contains six tracks, marking a return to shorter, less epic pieces. "The Spirit of the Radio" opens with a killer guitar riff; and somewhat controversially, drops into a reggae beat for a few bars before Alex Lifeson's guitar solo kicks in. Released as a single, it reached No. 13 in the UK—Rush's highest placement to date. Featuring another of Lifeson's blistering solos, "Freewill" earned substantial radio airplay. Neil Peart's lyrics are perhaps the key to the band's new success: Gone are didacts, constellations, etc. and present instead are Peart's deep expositions on life. It's a significant change, as important to Rush's radio-friendliness as the shortened length of their songs: Fans could relate to Peart's words. As "Jacob's Ladder" ticks away, there's a little nod to the Rush of the previous two albums; it's a multi-part suite, with Geddy Lee's keyboards prominently featured. The second side opens with the rocking "Entre Nous." Lifeson's rhythm guitar during the verses portents a slight change in his style that would be explored on later albums in the 1980s. "Different Strings" is an acoustic number, with a piano part from artist Hugh Syme, who also was responsible for much of Rush's album art. It's an evocative number, and one that ends too quickly. The three-part "Natural Science" closes the album; it's another nod to the epic that traffics in your typical Rush-isms, including some fantastic drum rolls from Peart. Again, Rush defy all odds by combining expert musicianship, with complex and progressive writing and egg-headed lyrics into music that is somehow accessible and commercial. Their everyman approach to work through constant touring also earned them an absolutely loyal fan base who, in turn, rewarded the band with well-deserved success. Released on January 1st, 1980, the album reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 4 in the US.

Smallcreep's Day > Rutherford, Mike

February, 1980
US
Passport Records
4.8
With Phil Collins in Vancouver attempting to resolve marital problems with his first wife, Tony Banks was the first to release a solo album. Guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford was next, with an incredibly strong record in 1980's Smallcreep's Day. The album was produced by David Hentschel and featured former Genesis guitarist Anthony Phillips on keyboards—ostensibly returning the favor for Rutherford's appearance on his first solo album. The band was rounded out with Simon Phillips on drums and Morris Pert on percussion. And as the leadoff track suggests, the music is as close to Genesis as it can get-without being Genesis! The big difference is Noel McCalla's high tenor, which provides a different feel for the music; the listener can decide whether that's a good thing or not. "Time and Time Again" is the typical lush, sentimental ballad you'd expect from Rutherford, while "Romani" and "Overnight Job" contain both the notes and sounds that made Genesis' music from the era so good. Hentschel's production clearly has a lot to do with it; but then again, Rutherford too was responsible for much of Genesis' repertoire. The second side is encompassed by "Smallcreep's Day," the title of which comes from a novel by Peter Currell Brown. It's a dark, epic suite that evokes the book's post-industrial surrealism, yet it's full of hooks, bridges and instrumental passages that also compare to Rutherford's best work with Genesis. His fans took note: The album was successful, reaching No. 13 in the UK. In 1982, Rutherford would record a second solo album: the more conventional Acting Very Strange, perhaps most notable for its awful album cover. Rutherford would eventually achieve massive commercial success with Mike + The Mechanics in the mid-80s, alongside vocalists Paul Young (Sad Cafe) and Paul Carrack (Ace, Squeeze).