There Goes Rhymin Simon by Paul Simon

There Goes Rhymin’ Simon by Paul Simon

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There Goes Rhymin Simon by Paul SimonFor his second post-Garfunkel effort, Paul Simon found a nice sonic balance with There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. This album is bookmarked by two of his top pop hits with a sandwich of soft-rock songs in between, covering such diverse styles as R&B, gospel, reggae, folk, and jazz. The album was both a commercial and critical success and firmly established Simon as a top-notch solo artist. After the deep, introspective, and often depressing tone of Simon’s 1972 debut album, this sophomore effort takes a decidedly positive approach with optimistic songs about faith, romance, family, and commitment, making it both enjoyable and uplifting.

For this album, the native New Yorker went south. Most of the album was recorded between Jackson, Mississippi and the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, with Simon employing the prolific “Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section” on several of the tracks. The compositions by Simon are contemporary narratives (something he would establish as his signature) yet there is enough variety that these songs were ripe pickings for other artists.

Simon co-produced the album with the legendary Phil Ramone, who was near the beginning of his brilliant career. Also helping out with production duties were former Yardbirds bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, Simon and Garfunkel producer Roy Halee, and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.


There Goes Rhymin’ Simon by Paul Simon
Released: May 5, 1973 (Warner)
Produced by: Paul Simon and Phil Ramone
Recorded: Muscle Shoals Studios, Alabama, & Malaco Studios, Jackson, MS, 1972
Side One Side Two
Kodachrome
Tenderness
Take Me to the Mardi Gras
Something So Right
One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor
American Song
Learn How to Fall
Was a Sunny Day
St. Judy’s Comet
Loves Me Like a Rock
Primary Musicians
Paul Simon – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Pete Carr – Guitars
Barry Beckett – Piano, Keyboards
David Hood – Bass
Roger Hawkins – Drums, Percussion

“Kodachrome” plays like a commercial thematically, but is absolutely masterful sonically. The song is named after a Kodak product, causing it to be banned by the BBC because that name is trademarked. However the song was a major hit in the United States, peaking at #2. The image of color photography is a metaphor for imaginative vitality, setting the positive theme for the album. The song’s original working title was “Going Home” but Simon thought that title was too conventional. “Tenderness” follows as a totally retro ballad that is really the only throwaway on the album, once you get past the brief curiosity of a late-Fifties-styled doo-wop ballad.

“Take Me to the Mardi Gras” starts as an acoustic ballad with interesting deadened electric notes before ending with some legitimate Dixieland instrumentation. Reverend Claude Jeter contributed unique falsetto vocals to the mix. “Something So Right” contains a nice potpourri of instruments including an electric and acoustic piano, and a bass and double bass. These all provide the surface for Simon’s signature acoustic guitar and melodic vocals on this early classic. “One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor” is a showcase for Barry Beckett, whose unique piano run bookends the song, an otherwise upbeat rocker with great background vocals.

Paul Simon in 1973

The second side begins with “American Tune”, which is right out of the Simon & Garfunkel playbook. It is a folk-based motif on on the American experience with references to struggle, weariness, and hard work. The song was released as a single but failed to make any ripples on the charts. “Was a Sunny Day” is a hybrid of folk and reggae with a bouncy, McCartney-esque bass line by David Hood. “Learn How to Fall” is an upbeat acoustic jazz tune with some great instrumental sections packed into its brief two minutes and 44 seconds.

“St. Judy’s Comet” is the best song on the album, a lullaby of pure musical beauty. Beckett’s electric piano and vibraphone along with subtle electric guitar overtones by Pete Carr, accent the perfect, calm melody and hypnotizing acoustic riff by Simon. The album concludes with “Loves Me Like a Rock”, a pop song with heavy Gospel influence, especially with the background vocals of The Dixie Hummingbirds. This was the second song on the album to peak at #2 and remains one of Simon’s most famous songs.

There Goes Rhymin’ Simon proved to be a bigger hit than its predecessor (ironically peaking at #2 on the album charts and gave Paul Simon the latitude to continue his mix of pop and experimentation with future albums.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

Aerosmith 1973 debut album

Aerosmith

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Aerosmith 1973 debut albumAerosmith emerged as a blues rock alternative in a music sea of glam rock and prog rock of the early 1970s. Their impressive 1973 debut album doesn’t contain anything particularly innovative musically, but still manages to forge some unforgettable moments. The album is also the band’s most authentically bluesy release (something they’d try to replicate three decades later with the 2004 cover album Honkin’ On Bobo) and some of these extended blues numbers were the longest songs the band would ever release. Band leader and lead vocalist Steven Tyler wrote the bulk of the original material and uses a bit of an exaggerated “blues” voice, something he would soon abandon.

Tyler began performing as a drummer in his native New Hampshire as early as 1964. In nearby Massachusetts, guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton formed a free-form and blues group called the Jam Band (commonly known as “Joe Perry’s Jam Band”). Eventually the performers were united in 1970 in Boston by drummer Joey Kramer, a Berkley student who had gotten to know all the above musicians. With Kramer on drums, Tyler moved to “frontman” and the new band chose a name inspired by Harry Nilsson’s album Aerial Ballet. Another Berkley student, Brad Whitford joined as rhythm guitarist in 1971, completing the classic quartet which makes up the band to this day.

By the time their debut album was released, the band had been playing constantly for nearly three years, helping to forge a confident boogie-blues and riff-based hard rock sound. Producer Adrian Barber captured this sound in a raw yet professional manner, avoiding the typical stumbles and haziness that normally comes with a debut.


Aerosmith by Aerosmith
Released: January 5, 1973 (Columbia)
Produced by: Adrian Barber
Recorded: Intermedia Studios, 1972
Side One Side Two
Make It
Somebody
Dream On
One Way Street
Mama Kin
Write Me a Letter
Movin’ Out
Walkin’ the Dog
Group Musicians
Steven Tyler – Lead Vocals, Piano, Harmonica
Joe Perry – Guitars
Brad Whitford – Guitars
Tom Hamilton – Bass
Joey Kramer – Drums

Aerosmith’s recording career begins with an excellent example of their early sound. “Make It” is a mixture of fuzzy but clean riffs and some distant whining guitars above a solid rhythm with about medium quality recording. “Somebody” a pure, riff-driven rocker follows. It appears the band was going for the accessible radio hit (which probably would have worked for the later, more polished Aerosmith) but it never did quite catch on and just lays there for the enjoyment of us future music lovers. This song has an interesting middle section, which slowly develops but works towards a whiny, bluesy guitar mimicked in sync by Tyler’s ad-libbed voice.

The original recording of “Dream On” is unique, surreal, and timeless song, which can often be overlooked as the classic signature song that it is. This may be due to the fact that it has been way overplayed on rock radio and, let’s face it, the band kind of butchers it live. The song is unique on this album, driven by piano, mellotron, and high pitched vocals by Tyler, and ringing guitar notes by Perry. It was the band’s first single, but only reached #59 in 1973. It did much better during a second release in 1976, reaching the Top Ten after Aerosmith had broken through to the main stream.

The first side closes with “One Way Street”, the perfect fusion of blues and rock which represents the heart of the album. Whitford takes over lead guitar on this one, which is a multi-part jam with some finer details touched up by Hamilton’s bass and Tyler’s harmonica. “Mama Kin” is the second song on the album which remained a signature throughout their career. It starts with a long intro section of Perry’s steady but strong riff and works in much stop/start action by the rest of the musicians. Guest David Woodford provides saxophone to the mix and Perry adds some backing vocals.

Aerosmith, 1973

The rest of side two contains solid yet relatively unknown tracks. “Write Me a Letter” was recorded with a real live feel to it, sounding like it was done in a club. The guitars are crisp and Kramer’s drumming is especially sharp and dynamic, rising above the rest of the band. “Movin’ Out” was co-written by Perry and is another strong blues with a real Celtic undertone to it. The album completes with “Walkin’ the Dog”, the only cover song on the album, written by Rufus Thomas. It may also be the most Zeppelin-esque of any song on the album, very upbeat and entertaining and a strong way to finish the album.

By all commercial metrics, Aerosmith was a flop upon its release and, like its top single, was issued new life only after the band broke through with success on their mid 70s albums. However, musically this album stood the test of time and decades later sounds fresh and entertaining.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John

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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John We’ve been down this road before of critiquing double albums which would have worked better as a single album. See our recent review of Exile On Main Street by The Rolling Stones or stayed tuned for our look at The Beatles’ White Album later this year. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, the 1973 double-length album by Elton John may also fit this mold. The album starts extremely strong, with deeply produced and thoughtful compositions through the first side and a half, but then the bottom falls out with a barrage of trite filler before a slight recovery towards the end of side four. The album comes at the end of an incredibly prolific, four and a half year span for John and lyricist Bernie Taupin. In that span which began in mid-1969, the pair had composed and recorded a live album, a film soundtrack, and six studio albums before this double seventh album.

After a failed attempt to record in Jamaica, the album was recorded in a 18th century castle outside Paris, France called the Château d’Hérouville, where Elton John had recorded his previous two albums, Honky Château in 1972 and Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player earlier in 1973. Taupin reportedly wrote all the lyrics to the album’s 17 songs in two and a half weeks while John composed most of the music in three days while in Jamaica.

The album was produced by Gus Dudgeon, who was not initially expecting to produce a two-record collection. However, John and Taupin had composed 22 tracks for the album and ended up recording 18 of these (two of which were fused together for the opening medley). This diverse double album recapped many of the styles (for good and bad) which John explored through his first four years in the spotlight and even added a bit of prog rock with the epic opener “Funeral for a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding)”. This eleven minute epic starts with a long, multi-part instrumental with doomy organs accented by synths performed by engineer David Hentschel, and of course plenty of piano, all meant to replicate the type of music John envisioned played at his own funeral. When the song proper finally kicks in, it is riff-driven and melodic with a backing vocal chorus and a very active guitar by Davey Johnstone.


Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
Released: October 5, 1973 (MCA)
Produced by: Gus Dudgeon
Recorded: Château d’Hérouville, Hérouville, France, May 1973
Side One Side Two
Funeral For a Friend
Love Lies Bleeding
Candle In the Wind
Bennie and the Jets
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
This Song Has No Title
Grey Seal
Jamaica Jerk-Off
I’ve Seen That Movie Too
Side Three Side Four
Sweet Painted Lady
The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909–34)
Dirty Little Girl
All the Girls Love Alice
Your Sister Can’t Twist
Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
Roy Rogers
Social Disease
Harmony
Primary Musicians
Elton John – Lead Vocals, Piano, Organ, Mellotron
Davey Johnstone – Acoustic, Electric, & Slide Guitars, Banjo, Vocals
Dee Murray – Bass, Vocals
Nigel Olsson – Drums, Vocals

The ballad “Candle In the Wind” was a recurring theme throughout Elton John’s career, with three separate versions released as singles and reaching the pop charts in 1974, 1988, and 1997. This original version has the most rock “decor” with a strongly distorted guitar above the piano melody and more great harmonies, fitting the epic theme of this album. It’s lyrics pay homage to Marilyn Monroe, with the actual phrase “candle in the wind” first used in tribute to Janis Joplin.

“Bennie and the Jets” is a choppy piano song with glam overtones about a fictional band (much like David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars). It would go on to become one of John’s most popular songs, but the artist was against releasing it as a single in the first place because original version in its first carnation was too “dry”. Some live effects were added by Dudgeon to give the song some atmosphere, which livened it up enough for John to capitulate.

The title song “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is the finest composition on the album. It was written by Taupin, playing homage to the first movie he even saw as a child, The Wizard of Oz, and facing the realities of life as he had now grown up. John performs a signature vocal part in an extraordinarily high register, which Dudgeon claims is totally natural and completely improvised by John in the studio. The slowly-building arrangement reaches a full orchestral climax that leaves the listener wanting for more.

Side two has a couple of more fine tunes, the piano folk “This Song Has No Title” with light flute and soaring vocal melodies, and the upbeat “Grey Seal”, with a driving bass by Dee Murray to complement John’s boogie piano, with a definite 70s pre-disco sound. Then the album reaches its first song to not feel cohesive nor epic, like a bad joke in a serious drama, called “Jamaica Jerk Off”, a dreadful mock-reggae. “I’ve Seen That Movie Too” finishes the side in an attempt at another mellow classic that doesn’t quite measure up to the brilliance of “Rocket Man” or “Tiny Dancer”.

Elton John band

The album’s third side is, by far, the most forgettable, “Sweet Painted Lady” is a “shock” song about a prostitute where Taupin uses explicit and cheap lyrics (“getting paid for being laid, I guess that’s the name of the game”) in a lame attempt to add some sleaze to the act. “The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909–34)” has a slight “The Night Chicago Died” or “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” quality, but is otherwise very forgettable. “Dirty Little Girl” is essentially “Bennie and the Jets” reformed in both music and melody to present a screed against a promiscuous woman. The only somewhat interesting song on the side is “All the Girls Love Alice”, about a young groupie with lesbian appeal, that musically returns to the higher quality.

The final side starts with “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n’ Roll)”, a totally retro tune right down to the bad Sha-Na-Na-style harmonies, with the only really interesting element being John’s Fafsa organ lead during the bridge. A much more convincing rocker is “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”, a straight-up hard rock song with drummer Nigel Olsson shining brightest along with the driving, riff-driven electric guitar of Johnstone. The song was a surprise hit single, reaching the top 10 in the UK and the top 20 in the US, despite being banned on many radio stations fearing that the title would incite violence.

The final three songs on the album gains back some of the credibility built up earlier. “Roy Rogers” is a lazy country waltz with guitar pedal effects meant to replicate a steel guitar. “Social Disease” is also country-tinged with barking dogs and inclusion of banjo and twangy guitars by Johnstone above the choppy piano of John. “Harmony” closes the record finely with acoustic guitar, thoughtful, melodic progressions, and (of course) fine vocal harmonies. The song was considered as a fourth single, but by then it was too close to Elton John’s eighth album, 1974’s Caribou.

In all, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was a very good album (filler and all) and was the climax of Elton John’s early, artistically lucrative, peak years. His output is terms of quality and quantity began to thin out through the late 1970s, but he would come back strong in the 1980s with another successful phase in his career.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

 

Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin

Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin

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Houses of the Holy by Led ZeppelinLed Zeppelin took stock of their phenomenal fame with Houses of the Holy, with deep contributions from each member of the rock quartet. This fifth album was released in 1973, nearly a full year after it was recorded in the Spring of 1972 at Stargroves, an English country estate owned by Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. The major reason for the album’s delay was trouble with designing and printing the unique album cover by the artistic company Hipgnosis, with the band completely rejecting the initial artwork and the first prints of the final artwork accidentally coming out with a strong purple tint. When they finally got the artwork correct, the album was banned from sale in many locations because of the naked children on the cover who pay homage to the Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood’s End.

Produced by guitarist Jimmy Page (like all Zeppelin albums), the album featured sophisticated layered guitars, the addition of obscure instrumentation, and other rich production techniques. Beyond the Stargroves recordings, the album contains recordings from Headley Grange (site of recordings of their previous album Led Zeppelin IV) with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, along with Olympic Studios in London and Electric Lady Studios in New York. There were also several recorded songs not included on Houses of the Holy but released on later albums such as Physical Graffiti and Coda.

The album featured styles and sub-genres not heard on previous Led Zeppelin albums, such as funk, reggae, and doo-wop. The album is an indirect tribute to their fan base, who were showing up in record numbers to their live shows.  It perfectly straddles the band’s early, more blues-based period from their later work, which consisted of more richly produced studio albums that tilted more towards pop and modern rock. Bass player and keyboardist  John Paul Jones temporarily left the band for a few days during this album’s recording but soon returned and stayed with the band until the end.


Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin
Released: March 28, 1973 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Jimmy Page
Recorded: Various Locations, January-August 1972
Side One Side Two
The Song Remains the Same
The Rain Song
Over the Hills and Far Away
The Crunge
Dancing Days
D’Yer Ma’ker
No Quarter
The Ocean
Band Musicians
Robert Plant – Lead Vocals
Jimmy Page – Guitars, Theramin
John Paul Jones – Bass, Keyboards
John Bonham – Drums, Percussion

The fact that this album features different sounds is evident right from the top with “The Song Remains the Same”. This song is odd on several fronts, from the pitch-effect vocals of Robert Plant to the extremely bright multi-tracked guitars of Page. Still, the song is great and is set up as a sort of journey, not a rotation. The song is a jam that feels loose yet does not get lost for one second, due mainly to the steady and strong drumming of John Bonham. The song was originally an instrumental which was given the working title “The Overture”, before Plant added lyrics and the title to it. It was originally going to be an intro for “The Rain Song”, and these songs were often coupled together in concert. “The Rain Song” Is an extended piece with eloquent acoustic and electric guitars weaved together. The song also features a long mellotron section (some would say too long) played by Jones, adding a surreal orchestral effect above Page’s guitar before returned to the climatic final verses and soft and excellent guitar outtro.

Parts of “Over the Hills and Far Away” written by Page and Plant during the 1970 sessions at the Welsh cottage Bron-Yr-Aur for the album Led Zeppelin III. The song is mostly acoustic throughout but works into a harder rock section during the middle, making it one of the most dynamic Led Zeppelin songs ever. Jones and Bonham add a tight rhythm to Page and Plant’s etheral dynamics. The song was released as a US single, but failed to reach the “Top 40”, faring much better on classic rock radio through the decades. Over the Hills and Far Away single“The Crunge” is a funk tribute to Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and James Brown and evolved out of a jam session built around Bonham’s off-beat drums and a bass riff by Jones. This song features an overdubbed VCS3 synthesizer to replicated the funk “horn” section, which gives it a totally unique sound of its own. During the jam Plant calls for a “bridge” (imitating Brown’s habit of shouting instructions to his band during live recordings). When no such section materializes, the song (and first side) uniquely ends with the spoken “Where’s that Confounded Bridge?”

The closest Led Zeppelin ever came to writing a pure pop song, “Dancing Days” was actually inspired by an Indian tune that Page and Plant heard while traveling in Mumbai. The guitar overdubs are simply masterful in this upbeat song about summer nights and young love. It was played live as early as November 1971 and, although not officially released as a single, it received heavy radio play in the UK. “D’Yer Ma’ker” was released as a single and became the band’s final Top 40 hit (although they didn’t have many of those). The song has a unique sound with Bonham’s exaggerated drum pounding backing a reggae-inspired riff by Page and Jones and Plant’s bubblegum pop vocals. The distinctive drum sound was created by placing three microphones a good distance away from Bonham’s drums, giving him much natural reverb to make the banging sound more majestic. The name of the song is derived from an old joke about Jamaica, and was often mispronounced as “Dire Maker” by those not privvy to the joke.

Led Zeppelin in 1973

John Paul Jones centerpiece “No Quarter” provides a great contrast with a much darker piece about viking conquest, with the title derived from the military practice of showing no mercy to a vanquished opponent. The song features a distinct, heavily treated electric piano throughout with an acoustic piano solo by Jones in the long mid-section. Page doubles up with electric guitars and a theremin for effect, while Plant’s voice is deep and distorted. The album concludes with the upbeat rocker “The Ocean”, which refers to the “sea of fans” at the band’s concerts. Launching from a voice intro by Bonham, the song returns to the heavy riff-driven anthems that were popular on their earlier albums. But this song does contain its own unique parts, including an overdubbed vocal chorus, performed a Capella, by Plant in the middle and a doo-wop outro section that contains a boogie bass with strong guitar overdubs, bringing the album to a climatic end.

Houses of the Holy has been certified eleven times platinum and is often included on “greatest albums” lists. It is an odd but brilliant album by Led Zeppelin which finds a balance uncommon by hard rock bands of any era.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

 

Album Of the Year, 1972

Machine Head by Deep Purple

Album Of the Year, 1972

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Machine Head by Deep PurpleDeep Purple is often overlooked as one of the truly great classic rock acts. This may be because they reigned during the prime of so many other great British rock groups who crowded out this band’s accomplishments. Or, perhaps it is because of the dizzying amount of lineup changes and their various “Mark XX” phases. In any case, this was a top-notch act and they were never better than they were on their 1972 classic Machine Head. This was the sixth overall studio album by the band and the third by their classic “Mark II” lineup, which consisted of Ian Gillan, Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Roger Glover, and Ian Paice.

The album is famous on several fronts, but mostly due to circumstances surrounding its planned recording at Montreux Casino in Switzerland, a large arena built in a complex of casinos, restaurants and entertainment facilities. The Casino was slated to be closed for the winter after a final concert by Frank Zappa and the Mothers on December 4, 1971, after which Deep Purple would begin recording. However, an audience fired a flare into the roof, sparking a fire which left the Casino in ashes. After an aborted attempt to record in another theatre, the band ended up recording the album in a couple of adjacent hallways and a bathroom at The Grand Hotel, outside Montreux, with the mobile recording unit owned by the Rolling Stones. The whole experience was memorialized in the hit song “Smoke On the Water”.

Musically, the album seems to strike the perfect balance between accessible hard rock and instrumental jams. Just about every track contains multiple leads showcasing the musical talents of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and keyboard virtuoso Jon Lord, while remaining relatively short. upbeat, and melodic. This proved to be a potent formula for 1972 hard rock.


Machine Head by Deep Purple
Released: March 1972 (EMI)
Produced by: Deep Purple
Recorded: Grand Hotel, Montreux, Switzerland, December 1971
Side One Side Two
Highway Star
Maybe I’m a Leo
Pictures of Home
Never Before
Smoke On the Water
Lazy
Space Truckin’
Band Musicians
Ian Gillan – Lead Vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitars
Jon Lord – Keyboards
Roger Glover – Bass
Ian Paice – Drums

The ultimate car song. “Highway Star” kicks off the album, taking the traditional Beach Boys’ subject matter of cars and girls to a whole new sonic level. The song was born when a curious reporter asked Blackmore to demonstrate how he composed a song. Both Blackmore and Lord have extended lead sections, with Lord’s borrowing heavily from Bach, all above a pulsating rhythm which would influence hard rock and heavy metal for decades to come. Vocalist Ian Gillan shoes off his dynamic singing, which rivaled anyone from the day save Zeppelin’sRobert Plant.

Speaking of Zeppelin, that band’s influence is definitely present in “Maybe I’m a Leo”, a riff-driven tune with deliberately slow but powerful drumming by Ian Paice. The curious thing here is why Gillan was so reserved on this palette which was custom made for high-pitched vocals to soar. Although all songs on Machine Head are officially credited to all five band members, this one was written mostly by bassist Roger Glover. “Pictures of Home” is Deep Purple at their most poignant, a driving rhythm topped by sweeping vocals pushing out deep lyrical motifs, all accented by the distinct, distorted Hammond organ of John Lord. Glover even gets a short bass solo in the middle section before Blackmore warms for lift-off before a surprising false stop and comeback makes the song all the more interesting. Side one concludes with “Never Before”, which has a funky intro that breaks into a pure riff-driven rock verse and a pretty standard hard rock song.

Deep Purple, early 1970s

One of the most popular songs by the band, “Smoke On the Water” also contains one of the most famous riffs in rock history. In fact, the band would play this up in concert by going through a short showcase of the “most famous riffs” before landing on this one as an intro to “Smoke On the Water”. The song intro builds with each member coming in at separate times before breaking into the verse with its literal story telling of the recording of this album. The title of the song was coined by Glover after he dreamed of smoke from casino fire spreading over Lake Geneva. The lyrics pay homage to “Funky Claude”, who is director of the Montreux Jazz Festival, Claude Nobs, who helped some of the audience escape the fire. A sculpture along the lake shore has been erected in Montreaux with the band’s name, song title, and the famous riff in musical notes.

“Lazy” is the most jam-oriented song on the album, with a long four and a half minute instrumental before finally reaching an upbeat blues arrangement during verses and choruses. The very start of the intro organ sounds a lot like the psychedelic Deep Purple of the late 1960s, but breaks into a very bluesy riff complete with boogie-bass by Glover. Naturally, Lord and Blackmore have their own lead sections during the jam and Gillan even adds a harmonica solo between the verses.

The album concludes with the fantastic “Space Truckin'”. The theme and lyrics sound like they describes a Saturday morning cartoon for cool kids and the music has contains choreographed parts during the verses and some frantic riffing during the chorus. But it is Paice who outshines everyone else with his top-notch drumming throughout this song. There is a very slight guitar lead during the bridge which quickly gives way to the percussive potpourri, as if Blackmore knew to step out the way of an oncoming train. The song leaves the listener begging for more as it fades out to finish the album.

Machine Head reached number 1 in the UK and number 7 in the US, remaining on the charts for over two years. More importantly was its influence on several rock bands spanning many genres and years. Deep Purple was at the top of their game but followed up with a weak 1973 effort, Who Do We Think We Are before Gillan left the band (for the first time) later that year.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1972 albums.

Thick As a Brick by Jethro Tull

Thick As a Brick by Jethro Tull

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Thick As a Brick by Jethro TullThick as a Brick may be the album that brought progressive rock to its ultimate end, being one long song that covered both sides of this fifth studio album by Jethro Tull. It was deliberately crafted as an “over the top” concept album, to the point where all the lyrics were credited to a fictional child prodigy named “Gerald Bostick”. These lyrics and music were actually written by the band’s front man, Ian Anderson, and it may have actually been intended as a parody on the direction that prog-rock was headed in 1972 as well as a response to the rock critics who incorrectly labeled the group’s preceding album Aqualung as a “concept” album.

Whether or not this was a parody, Thick As a Brick was Jethro Tull’s first legitimate offering of deep progressive rock, notable for its many musical themes, time signature changes and use of vast instrumentation such as harpsichord, xylophone, saxophone, violin, and a string section. Anderson performed most of these exotic instruments himself including his  signature flute. He was backed by a solid rock outfit led by guitarist Martin Barre, which gave the band a potent contrast and unique and interesting sound. The band performed most of the album on tour for nearly a year.

The original album contained a fictional multiple-paged small-town English newspaper called The St. Cleve Chronicle. Dated 7 January 1972, this “newspaper” includes the entire lyrics to “Thick as a Brick”, which is presented as a poem written by an 8-year-old literary prodigy, Gerald “Little Milton” Bostock, whose disqualification from a poetry contest is the focus of the front page story.


Thick As a Brick by Jethro Tull
Released: March 10, 1972 (Chrysalis)
Produced by: Ian Anderson
Recorded: Morgan Studios, London, December, 1971
Side One Side Two
Thick As a Brick (Part I) Thick As a Brick (Part II)
Band Musicians
Ian Anderson – Lead Vocals, Flute, Guitars, Violin, Saxophone
Martin Barre – Guitars
John Evan – Piano, Organ
Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond – Bass, Vocals
Barriemore Barlow – Drums, Percussion

This past year with the release of the 40th anniversary edition, the supporting website broke the album (and song) into sections or digital parts. The opening “Really Don’t Mind” (listed as “Thick As a Brick (Edit 1)” on some compilations) is the most popular portion of the album. A mainly acoustic folk song with a complimenting flute part, this opening portion contains the most brilliant lyrics on the album and the three minute edited version is considered one of the all-time classic by the band, having been played on many classic rock radio stations in several nations.

“See There a Son Is Born” has one vocal chant part before breaking into the first real jam of the song, led by the organ lead of John Evan. “The Poet and the Painter” begins with a dramatic march held together drummer Barriemore Barlow before breaking into a more traditional prog-rock song. This also features the first real flourishes of flute by Anderson and an extended funk jam section over the animated bass of Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond. Evan returns in full force with the section labeled “From the Upper Class” (listed as “Thick As a Brick (Edit 4)” on some compilations), which seems to start off unsure but later falls in line to form an upbeat and catchy riff that sticks out as one of the more accessible sections of this extended piece. All players get in tightly on this jam with the main riff seeming to ascend infinitely.

Jethro Tull onstage 1972

The next sequence may be the finest sequence of the album. “You Curl Your Toes in Fun” returns to the same opening acoustic riff under a different melody before nicely passing into the piano progression and driving bass of “Childhood Heroes”, which also contains the finest vocals on the album by Anderson, closing out the first side and first half of the album.

Side two breaks into “See There a Man Is Born”, a sequel to the second progression of the first side, complete with a couple short yet wild drum solos by Barlow and a couple of false endings with weird reprises. “Clear White Circles” is the third section to use the main acoustic riff offset by some prog-oriented rudimentary sections. The dark folk of “Legends and Believe in the Day” leads into the theatrical slow rock riffs by Barre and elongated vocal patterns by Anderson. Towards the end of this section, the musicians again seem a bit unsure where they will go next before finally catching fire with the certainty of “Tales of Your Life” which contains a flight-of-the-bumblebee type solo with flute, harpsichord and guitar all joining in on the fun. The album gets a little repetitive during this final sequence before finally reaching the concluding verse which returns to the chorus of the very first “Thick As a Brick” theme, bring the album full circle.

In April of this year, Ian Anderson released a sequel album called Thick As a Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock?, which focuses on the fictional boy genius author of the original album forty years later. This follow-up album presents five divergent, hypothetical life stories for Bostock and follows the style of the mock-newspaper (The St Cleve Chronicle) of the original Thick As a Brick album, which now is online at StCleve.com.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1972 albums.

Honky Chateau by Elton John

Honky Château by Elton John

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Honky Chateau by Elton JohnAlthough barely three years into his international career, Elton John was already on his fifth major label album by mid 1972 with Honky Château. It featured John’s regular touring band, including new guitarist and background vocalist Davey Johnstone . The album was a transitional one for John as it bridged the singer/songwriter formula of his early career with the more pop/rock oriented music he would produce later. There is also much diversity and depth on this album; spanning from songs with deep, introspective or even cynical tones to those which are light, upbeat, and follow the pattern of “good time” rock and roll.

In 1967, John had established a songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin, when they both answered the same ad. During the late 1960s, the two worked primarily as staff songwriters at various English studios before Elton John’s debut album, Empty Sky in 1969, followed by three more studio albums and a movie soundtrack through 1970 and 1971.

Honky Château is a bit lighter than its immediate predecessor Madman Across the Water and features an eclectic mix of ballads, rockers, blues, and country-rock. It comes at the dawning of Elton John’s creative apex with song-craft skill and dynamic performance.


Honky Chateau by Elton John
Released: May 19, 1972 (Uni)
Produced by: Gus Dudgeon
Recorded: Château d’Hérouville, Hérouville, France, January 1972
Side One Side Two
Honky Cat
Mellow
I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself
Susie (Dramas)
Rocket Man
Salvation
Slave
Amy
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Hercules
Band Musicians
Elton John – Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards
Davey Johnstone – Guitars, Banjo, Mandolin, Vocals
Dee Murray – Bass, Vocals
Nigel Olsson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The fast and spirited “Honky Cat” kicks off the album with a choppy piano tune that contains a touch of banjo by Johnstone playing banjo. This Top Ten pop song is accented by a horn section and is mirrored by the closing “cat” song “Hercules”. “Mellow” is a slow tempo piano ballad which gains a bit of funk during the chorus and contains a very odd yet melodic organ solo by John. The tongue-in-cheek parody “I Think I’m Going to Kill Myself” maintains the New Orleans-style atmosphere while dealing with the serious subject of suicide. “Susie (Dramas)” once again returns to the choppy, upbeat piano template but with a cool guitar riff during choruses.

“Rocket Man” is the most famous song from this album, reaching the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic and inspired by a shooting star sighting by Taupin. The lyrics describe an astronaut’s mixed feelings at leaving his family in order to complete his mission. The song really stands out sonically with atmospheric textures, showcasing the talents of producer Gus Dudgeon. The production also features the layered vocal harmonies provided by Johnstone along with bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson.

Side two of the album is filled with mainly pleasant yet unremarkable songs. “Salvation” fits the early 1970s singer/songwriter mold with an almost-Gospel backing choir. “Slave” is driven by a melodic acoustic rhythm with a great topical electric guitar with excellent chorus effect and a definite country feel with some pedal steel and banjo by Johnstone. “Amy” returns to the “honky piano” but with a rhythm that at times seems unsure. But the one song that shines on the second side is “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”, a simply beautiful and elegant ballad that looks at New York City from the street-level view. This emotionally charged song best illustrates the songwriting skills of John/Taupin, using minimal instrumentation but achieving so much melody and movement with just piano, mandolin, and very melodic vocals.

Honky Château became Elton John’s first number one album in the United States and was eventually certified platinum. It also set this artist up for the most successful year of his career in 1973.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1972 albums.

Blue Oyster Cult

Blue Öyster Cult

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Blue Oyster CultThe eponymous debut album by Blue Öyster Cult kicked off the year 1972 as well as the recording career of this Long Island, New York based rock group. Often referred to as “the thinking man’s heavy metal group” or “heavy metal for those who hate heavy metal”, the band drew lyrical influence from a series of literary figures, often in the fields of mystery, science fiction, or horror. Musically, the album drew influence from a variety of artists ranging from Black Sabbath to The Who and a quick listen to the CD bonus tracks of omitted tracks reflects that the band spent significant time exploring a range of styles before settling on their own specific niche.

Blue Öyster Cult was formed as “Soft White Underbelly” in 1967 on the campus of Stony Brook College by students Sandy Pearlman and Richard Meltzer, who both moved on to become professional rock critics by the time of the band’s debut (although, while not official members, both wrote lyrics and Pearlman was a co-producer of this album). Two band members who persisted from the earliest days were guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and drummer Albert Bouchard. The band was briefly signed to Elektra Records under the names “Oaxaca” and “Stalk-Forrest” and recorded many tracks that were never released and the band was soon dropped from that label. Reformed with vocalist Eric Bloom and bassist Joe Bouchard (Albert’s brother), the group settle and the name Blue Öyster Cult and were signed to Columbia Records in late 1971.

The resulting debut is a kind of dark psychedelia with layered guitar riffs and thick and muddy vocals with mysterious meanings. Songs that are tough to decipher adds to the whole mystery surrounding the band which is accented by album art, symbolism, imagery, and their very name.


Blue Oyster Cult by Blue Oyster Cult
Released: January, 1972 (Columbia)
Produced by: Murray Krugman, Sandy Pearlman, & David Lucas
Recorded: The Warehouse, New York City, October 1971
Side One Side Two
Transmaniacon MC
I’m on the Lamb But I Ain’t No Sheep
Then Came the Last Days of May
Stairway To the Stars
Before the Kiss, a Redcap
Screams
She’s As Beautiful As a Foot
Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll
Workshop of the Telescopes
Redeemed
Group Musicians
Eric Bloom – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Donald Roeser – Guitars, Vocals
Joe Bouchard – Bass, Vocals
Allen Lanier – Guitars, Keyboards
Albert Bouchard – Drums, Vocals

The riff-driven “Transmaniacon MC” starts things off and alerts the listener that a very different was being brewed here. Three perfectly synced guitars are contrasted by keyboardist Allen Lanier‘s traditional rock piano. The lyrics explored the infamous murder at the Altamont festival in 1969, although not quite as eloquently as Don McClean had in “American Pie” the previous year. The follow-up, “I’m on the Lamb But I Ain’t No Sheep” is far more cryptic lyrically and less entertaining musically.

Roeser’s “Then Came the Last Days of May” speaks of a drug deal gone wrong with the country-soft melody and musical arrangement adding great contrast to the dark lyric, adding a chilling layer to the narrative. “Buck Dharma” also adds some great stinging guitar lines, making this one of the finest tracks on the album. The first side concludes with the cosmic “Stairway to the Stars” followed by the boogie rave “Before the Kiss, a Redcap”.

Blue Oyster Cult in 1972

The most famous song on side two (as well as the entire album) is “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll”, with an intense and powerful that even outdoes Black Sabbath (and that’s saying something for 1972). This punchy song was the band’s first single, and although it made few ripples commercially it became a cult classic (no pun intended) for fans beyond the band’s dedicated followers. Lyrically, it paints a vivid picture of “three thousand guitars” setting a city alight, an anthem on the power of rock and roll which would be watered down and regurgitated by fellow Long Islanders Kiss in the years to follow. The remainder of the side has short and interesting tunes, such as Joe Bouchard’s psychedelic track “Screams” and the eastern-flavored gem “She’s As Beautiful As a Foot”. “Workshop of the Telescopes” and “Redeemed” finish off the album with more lyrics of deep quizzicality accented by layered guitar riffs and strong rhythms.

Although Blue Öyster Cult would put out more popular albums with more radio-friendly songs in the decade that followed, they never again quite captured the hard rock density or originality of their 1972 debut.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1972 albums.

Eat a Peach by The Allman Brothers Band

Eat a Peach by The Allman Brothers Band

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Eat a Peach by The Allman Brothers BandA unique hybrid album that bridges two eras of The Allman Brothers Band, the 1972 double album Eat a Peach was recorded prior to and in the wake of the tragedy which took the life of lead guitarist Duanne Allman. Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident in October 1971 and the album is a tribute to him and his fantastic guitar work. The album consists of live performances recorded at Filmore East in New York City in early 1971 (and not included in that year’s Live From Filmore east along with studio tracks recorded before and after Allman’s death. The original 4-sided vinyl version of Eat a Peach was uniquely laid out with the three tracks recorded post-Duane Allman on side one, live and studio songs featuring Allman on side three and the colossal, 34-minute live “Mountain Jam” split to occupy the entirety of sides two and four (on CD versions of the album this is one complete track #4).

There has been a long-standing rumour that the album’s title (and cover art) referred to the truck involved in Duane’s fatal motorcycle accident. But that was not a peach truck, but a flatbed lumber truck. The album name actually came from a quote by Duane Allman who, when asked what he was doing to help the “revolution” replied;

“There ain’t no revolution, it’s evolution, but every time I’m in Georgia I eat a peach for peace.”

This album showcases the band at their peak. It was originally intended to be light and free form but this mission soon tilted towards best showcasing Duane’s talent and paying tribute to him in his absence. In all it makes for one of the most interesting, diverse, and entertaining albums ever.


Eat a Peach by The Allman Brothers Band
Released: February 12, 1972 (Capricorn)
Produced by: Tom Dowd
Recorded: Filmore East, New York & Criteria Studios, Miami, March-December 1971
Record One Record Two
Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
Les Bres in A Minor
Melissa
Mountain Jam (Part 1)
One Way Out
Trouble No More
Stand Back
Blue Sky
Little Martha
Mountain Jam (Part 2)
Band Musicians
Gregg Allman – Lead Vocals, Piano, Keyboards
Duane Allman – Guitars
Dickey Betts – Guitars, Vocals
Berry Oakley – Bass
Jai Johnny Johnason & Butch Trucks – Drums, Percussion

“Mountain Jam” may be the longest song ever attempted on a mainstream rock album and (understandably) may be a little hard to sit through for typical rock fans. Still, there is remarkably little repetition is this tune which is credited to all band members. Anchored in solid rock, the tune explores jazz-like improvisation, with guitarist Dicky Betts adding sharp but in-sync accompaniment to Duane Allman’s soaring leads. This track is really where the album should begin as it is chronologically the oldest and its opening notes can actually be heard in the fadeout of At Fillmore East‘s closer “Whipping Post”.

Other songs recorded at the Fillmore include two blues covers. Sonny Boy Williamson’s “One Way Out”, one of the most famous recordings ever by the band. Duane plays call and response licks to his brother Gregg Allman‘s vocals, which is later topped off by a more blazing slide guitar solo by Betts. It may demonstrate the Allmans at their absolute peak as they perform their core blues-rock roadhouse style. Muddy Water’s “Trouble No More” follows with more slide guitar by Duane on slide again in an updated version of a song the band originally recorded for their 1969 debut album.

Greg Allman’s “Stand Back” is the first of the three studio tracks with Duane. More funk-oriented and harder rocking than anything else on the album, with a more typical lyrical theme of scorned love. Dicky Betts “Blue Sky” was a minor radio hit written for his wife (whose Native American name translated to “Blue Sky”). There are some excellent harmonized guitar riffs between the verses and a long lead section of traded riffs between Betts and Duanne Allman during the middle section, all above a pleasant acoustic diddy. “Little Martha” was Duane Allman’s instrumental coda, an acoustic duet piece which ends the modern version of the album. It was the only Allman Brothers track written solely by Duane and was the most recent recorded prior to his death, making it a fitting tribute.

Allman Brothers Band in 1972

After Duane’s death, the shocked band members immediately went separate ways, assuming the group was over. However within a month, they got back together and began planning the format for this album, which included recorded three more tracks to generate enough material for a double album. “Ain’t Wasting Time No More,” was the first track by this “new” band, with Gregg Allman vocalizing both sadness and defiance with the wistful and melancholy lines. This simple but powerful and bluesy pop/rock song Makes a great contrast to the more extended tracks to follow. “Les Brers in A Minor” is a long instrumental composed by Betts, starting with very improvised, Miles Davis-like jam for the first three minutes or so before breaking into a much tighter rock/funk groove led by the bass of Berry Oakley and highlighted by the newer guitar/organ harmonies between Betts and Allman and some wild percussion parts by dual drummers Jai Johnny Johnason & Butch Trucks.

The most haunting and beautiful song on the album is “Melissa”, a sweet and melodic love song featuring somber vocals and acoustic guitar by Gregg Allman and weeping, decayed guitar notes by Betts. The song was actually originally written by Gregg Allman in 1967 and first recorded by his then-group called The 31st of February. A favorite of Duane Allman’s, The Allman Brothers had planned to record it on their debut album but it was never completed. Although Duane does not play on this track it all, it is clear his spirit echoes through every floating note on the beautiful ballad.

With three sides of “old” and one side of “new”, Eat a Peach was both a sad ending and hopeful beginning, and showed the band had great perseverance to carry on. Although the group would not be quite the same without Duane, they did put out some respectable albums in the years after his life was cut tragically short.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1972 albums.

Fragile by Yes

Fragile by Yes

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Fragile by YesFragile, the fourth album by Yes is really a bridge between its rock-influenced predecessor, The Yes Album, and the nearly pure prog albums which would follow. The album features four tracks of full band performances, three of which were of eight minutes length or longer interspersed by five short tracks each showcasing an individual member of the band. This approach makes for a very interesting and dynamic mix as some laid back and introspective, individual tracks give way to a much bolder, harder, and more aggressive style of playing by the band as a whole during the full-lineup extended tracks.

The album was recorded in September 1971 and co-produced by Eddy Offord, who worked on most of the band’s earliest material. During the recordings there was a major lineup change, reportedly due to keyboardist Tony Kaye’s refusal to embrace the Moog synthesizer and stick exclusively to the Hammond organ. Kaye was replaced by Rick Wakeman. Often using as many as a dozen keyboards on stage, Wakeman added a bit flair to the band’s performance and completed the picture of their classic lineup.

More than any other album, Fragile is an absolute showcase for bassist Chris Squire, who also happens to be the only person to appear on every Yes album (a band known for constant lineup shifting). Squire may have been the first to truly bring this instrument, which is normally buried in the low end of the mix, to the forefront and in unique and inventive ways. Although the album was released in November 1971 in the UK, it was held over until January 1972 across the Atlantic, because there was still chart momentum for The Yes Album in the states.


Fragile by Yes
Released: January, 1972 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Yes and Eddie Offord
Recorded: Advision Studios, London, September 1971
Side One Side Two
Roundabout
Cans and Brahms
We Have Heaven
South Side of the Sky
Five Per Cent for Nothing
Long Distance Runaround
The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
Mood For a Day
Heart Of the Sunrise
Band Musicians
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals
Steve Howe – Guitars, Vocals
Rick Wakeman – Organ, Synths
Chris Squire – Bass, Vocals
Bill Bruford – Drums, Percussion

The opener “Roundabout” is the ultimate journey song, a musical odyssey which moves from Steve Howe‘s signature, classical guitar intro to a frantic bass-driven riff by Squire to an even more frantic organ solo by Wakeman. The song’s lyrics were written by lead vocalist Jon Anderson and inspired by a long tour ride through Scotland, which alternated between stretches with mountain and lake scenery and traffic-clogged roundabouts.

The middle of side one contains the first two “individual” pieces. “Cans and Brahms” extracts from Brahms’ 4th Symphony in E Minor as arranged and performed by Wakeman. Although a complete left turn from the dynamic opener, it fits in with the larger context of the album. Anderson’s “We Have Heaven” is a much more interesting vocal sound scape by Anderson. Multi-tracked melodies are accompanied only by a simple guitar and drum beat. “South Side of the Sky” closes the side and seems to predate some of the syncopated music of future bands like Devo. The eight minute song contains many musical forays and sound effects, including fine piano by Wakeman and wordless vocal harmonies by Anderson, Howe, and Squire during a unique middle section.

Drummer Bill Bruford launches side two with the frantic, 35 second “Five Per Cent for Nothing”, a wild intro to “Long Distance Runaround”, the most pop-oriented song on the album. The song way be the best example of the band’s tightness as Howe’s bright and economical guitar cutting is counteracted by Squire and Bruford’s simultaneous complex rhythms, without a single moment of confusion. It is like holding three individual thoughts concurrently and not having any get muddled in the slightest. Contrarily, the verse and chorus sections contain Anderson’s simple and melodic vocals over the slow rock rhythm of Wakeman’s choppy keyboard. The song segues into “The Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)”, Squire’s official individual showcase, although there is certainly a case that he shines on several other tracks.

“Mood For a Day” is a solo guitar piece by Howe, a Spanish-flavored flamenco centerpiece, which sounds at times like a cross between a warm-up exercise and a heartfelt recital. It is still entertaining enough to keep listeners on their toes and showcases Howe’s many styles. “Heart of the Sunrise” starts with Squire and Bruford offering one last, intense riff sequence to launch the closer. The longest track on the album, the song is yet another musical journey with lyrics about being lost in a city. This final track gives the album an overall sense of symmetry by closing in the same general neighborhood where it opened.

Fragile propelled Yes in popularity from a small but dedicated following to international stardom. The album reached number 4 in the U.S. and stayed on the charts for nearly a year, the band’s biggest ever commercial success. Yes would take a sharp turn towards pure progressive rock on their next three albums through the mid 1970s.

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1972 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1972 albums.