In the article series reviewing 1970 albums, I dedicated an article to albums released on Vertigo Records. That was the first full year the label was in operation, yielding an impressive output of 30 albums. 1971 was no less productive and rich in quality for that unique label, so a second article is due. We will now summarize the fantastic crop of 1971 at Vertigo. I picked ten albums, and apologies in advance for not including your favorite album from that year.
Gentle Giant – Acquiring the Taste
We start with a bang and one of the best bands to come out of late 1960s British progressive music. It did not enjoy the same level of success as some of the bands I covered in articles 1 and 2 in this series, but certainly not for lack of quality and musical prowess.
Acquiring the Taste was Gentle Giant’s second album, a great follow-up to their self-titled debut a year earlier. Both albums were produced by Tony Visconti. The band wrote on the back of the album cover: “Acquiring the taste is the second phase of sensory pleasure. If you’ve gorged yourself on our first album, then relish the finer flavors of this, our second offering. It is our goal to expand the frontiers of contemporary popular music at the risk of being very unpopular.” Mission accomplished.
The band had a soft spot to the literary creations of Renaissance French writer François Rabelais. They named themselves Gentle Giant after his 16th-century pentalogy of novels Gargantua and Pantagruel, a telling of the adventures of two giants. The track featured here, Pantagruel’s Nativity, is based on the second and third chapters, “Of the Nativity of the Most Redoubted Pantagruel” and “Of the Mourning Gargantua Made for His Wife Badabec.” The song has a number of almost direct quotes from these chapters:
How can I laugh or cry
When my mind is sorely torn?
Badabec had to die
Fair Pantagruel is born
Shall I weep, yes, for why?
Then laugh and show my scorn
Phil Shulman remembers: “François Rabelais, author of the Gargantua and Pantagruel series of novels, the giant bit, I read that before it was popular because it’s filthy! I looked for anything coarse! The warm goose neck, a wonderful way of wiping your arse. I tried to turn that into a song.”
Various folks involved with the album talked highly about it over the years. Tony Visconti recalls in his autobiography: “In August ‘71 the second Gentle Giant album came out; for me it’s even better than the first. Once again there were few sales, but it’s this record that established Gentle Giant’s cult status. Gentle Giant never had a hit but ever since I have been amazed by just how many people have brought them up in the course of a musical conversation, as they still have some hard-core fans.”
Ray Shulman stated in 1998: ”I think Acquiring The Taste, our second record, was probably the purest in terms of making music. We just made music and it was never for any other reason. There were no business concerns because we weren’t even known. I think that is when you make the purest music because you don’t even have an audience.”
If you were thinking filthy thoughts about that suggestive cover art, the mystery unfolds when you unfold the gatefold. Shame on you.
Gary Green – 6 string guitar, 12 string guitar, 12 string wah-wah guitar, donkey’s jawbone, cat calls, voice
Kerry Minnear – electric piano, organ, mellotron, vibraphone, Moog, piano, celeste, clavichord, harpsichord, tympani, maracas, lead vocals
Derek Shulman – alto sax, clavichord, cowbell, lead vocals
Phil Shulman – alto & tenor sax, clarinet, trumpet, piano, claves, maracas, lead vocals
Ray Shulman – bass, violin, viola, electric violin, Spanish guitar, tambourine, 12 string guitar, organ bass pedals, skulls, vocals
Martin Smith – drums, tambourine, gongs, side drum
Here is the excellent opening track, Pantagruel’s Nativity:
Cressida – Asylum
Another band to release a second album on Vertigo in 1971 is Cressida. Unfortunately this was also their last. The album was recorded at IBC Studios during the summer of 1970 and released a few months after the band had already split up.
As opposed to the short songs on their debut, the band started experimenting with song structures and lengthier compositions. Also new on this album is the incorporation of a full orchestra on several of the album tracks. Graeme Hall scored the arrangements and conducted the orchestra at Wessex Studios.
Olav Wyper, founder of Vertigo Records, said this about the band: “Those guys were entitled to the crown of ultimate ‘progressive’ band as much as King Crimson, but unless you are into Vertigo or deeply into progressive music from the era, my bet is you never heard of the band.”
Angus Cullen – Vocals
John Culley – Guitar
Peter Jennings – Keyboards
Kevin McCarthy – Bass
Iain Clark – Drums
Guest: Harold McNair – Flute
Munich is a great track from this album, rich with an orchestral arrangement. The track’s full name is Munich 1938: Appeasement was the cry; Munich 1970: Mine to do or die.
Affinity – 1971-72
From a second and final album we move to a second album that did not even materialize at the time.
Affinity went through a major lineup change in 1971 when singer Linda Hoyle and keyboardist Lynton Naiff left the band. The band then recruited one of my favorite singers of that period, Vivienne McAuliffe, then with the unique and wonderfully weird music/dance/theatre troupe Principal Edwards Magic Theatre. Ex-Tornados keyboardist Dave Watt also joined and the new lineup recorded and started touring again. Sadly, the band disintegrated shortly after. In 2003 the recorded materials were released on the album 1971-72.
Vivienne McAuliffe went on to guest on albums by Patrick Moraz, Michael Chapman, Anthony Phillips (the beautiful duet with Phil Collins on God If I Saw Her Now), Gerry Rafferty and Camel.
Mike Jopp – guitar
Mo Foster – bass guitar
Grant Serpell – drums, percussion
Vivienne McAuliffe – vocals
Dave Watt – organ, piano
Moira’s Hand was written by B. A. Robertson, many years later co-writer of the hit single The Living Years with Mike Rutherford.
Linda Hoyle – Pieces of Me
From Affinity we move to their former lead singer Linda Hoyle, who in 1971 released her debut album Pieces of Me. Her manager Ronnie Scott (of the famous London jazz club) teamed her up with Karl Jenkins who brought with him fellow members of the group Nucleus. The album consists mostly of songs Hoyle and Jenkins wrote together, plus a few covers.
This is one of Vertigo’s rarest albums. Only 300 copies of the album were pressed at the time.
Linda Hoyle – Vocals
Chris Spedding – Guitars
Karl Jenkins – Piano/Oboe, orchestral arrangements
Jeff Clyne – Bass
John Marshall – Drums/percussion
The album includes a beautiful cover of Laura Nyro’s song Lonely Women. The song first appeared on Nyro’s 1968 album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. Hoyle: “I was fascinated with Laura Nyro; I thought her work was very strange and nothing like anyone else.”
Uriah Heep – Salisbury
In February of 1971 Uriah Heep released their second album Salisbury, only eight months after their debut. The crown achievement of the album is undoubtedly its title track, a 16-minute epic full of orchestral grandiosity courtesy of arranger John Fiddy also worked with Aphrodite’s Child and Colin Blunstone.
Keyboard player Ken Hensley talked about that piece of music: “This was our first trip into large scale composing. Complimented excellently and unusually by John Fiddy’s arrangement for brass and woodwind. There are floods of spaced-out sound and then almost baroque movement by cor-anglais and flutes around David’s vocal. Organ and orchestra begin together to get into the basic context of the piece. The opening vocals leads into the organ solo driven hard by Paul’s bass and the orchestra grooving incredibly! The whole thing comes together finally before an abrupt mood change lays it down for more vocal and Mick’s beautifully constructed guitar solo. There are so many different sounds going on its easy to pick up something new each time around! The opening comes back briefly before the climax and gentle bass clarinets which puts us all slowly back on the ground. This track was a gas to record, it really was!”
The track was written in appreciation of the folks of Salisbury. When the band played a venue called Alex Disco in that town, they had to clear the stage in a hurry after the show ran late. Hensley remembers: “All the people who’s been at the gig came onstage and helped to carry everything outside. The whole evening could have been spoilt, but the crowd helped us out so we decided to dedicate the track to them.”
David Byron – lead vocals
Ken Hensley – slide and acoustic guitars, organ, piano, harpsichord, vibraphone, mellotron, vocals, lead vocals
Mick Box – lead and acoustic guitar, vocals
Paul Newton – bass guitar, vocals
Keith Baker – drums
John Fiddy – brass and woodwind arrangement
Jade Warrior – Jade Warrior
One of my favorite bands on the Vertigo roster released a wonderful album in 1971 and that is Jade Warrior and their self-titled debut. The label reluctantly signed them up when they came as a package deal with Assagai, an afro-rock band whom the label was eying. Uninterested in Jade Warrior, they gave them little support and even less in the way of promotion. Still, the debut album is an excellent mix of calm acoustic tunes like the one here and more aggressive songs. The trio lineup expanded a year later to a quintet, adding reeds and drums. Flute player Jon Field participated a couple of years later in the recording of Mike Oldfield’s classic debut Tubular Bells.
Guitar player Tony Duhig talked about innovations during the recording sessions: “We recorded our first Vertigo album on eight-track at Philips in London. We wanted the sound of a choir on one particular song, but obviously we didn’t have the access to one, so we recorded our own voices on tape and then looped them so that they would sound continuously. As far as I know, that was the first time that had been done on record: the next time I heard it was on 10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’, at least four years later!”
Jon Field – flutes, percussion
Tony Duhig – guitars
Glyn Havard – bass, vocals
Beggars Opera – Waters of Change
After their fine debut Act One, Beggars Opera expanded their lineup, adding Virginia Scott who co-composed two tracks on their debut album. Her contribution on mellotron added a significant texture to their sound, as you can hear in the track featured here. The album was recorded at Command Studios and produced by Martin Birch, known for his work with Deep Purple and its individual members.
The Scottish band took its name from a 1728 play by the English poet John Gay. The name was chosen when they were hard pressed to come up with one for their first gig, when they landed the entry in a crossword puzzle dictionary at random.
Guitar player Ricky Gardiner went on to play on David Bowie’s Low and Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life.
Ricky Gardiner – lead guitar, vocals, acoustic guitar
Martin Griffiths – lead vocal, cow bell
Alan Park – organ, piano
Gordon Sellar – bass and acoustic guitar, vocals
Virginia Scott – Mellotron, vocals
Raymond Wilson – percussion
Marshall Erskine – bass, flute on “Festival”
The opening track Time Machine is a good showcase for the mellotron, and it became a favorite live number of the band.
Catapilla – Catapilla
Last album for this review and a lesser known favorite for me that year. Another band to release a very fine album in 1971 was Catapilla, utilizing three horn players to create a rich sound with intricate arrangements. The seven-member lineup came together from a wide spectrum of music styles, as saxophone Robert Calvert recalls: “Graham thought Hendrix was God, both he and Thierry were Pink Floyd fans. Anna, as well as being a singer, was a painter and poet, I think her words stand up as pure poetry. Malcolm spent a lot of time intently listening to Leonard Cohen. Dave introduced us to Captain Beefheart via ‘Trout Mask Replica’. Hugh liked American R. & B. and Soul music whereas I was exploring the New Wave of Jazz coming out of America as well as attending gigs in London featuring all the contemporary jazz/ improvisation bands that were around at the time. I think we all loved Tim Buckley.”
The album was recorded quickly at De Lane Lee studio in London, with most of the instrumental tracks done in a single day of recording. Side two features the epic track Embryonic Fusion. Calvert remembers: “(Producer) Patrick’s Meehan’s desire to simply get the job done as quickly as possible could be described as cavalier, he was happy to overlook some pretty serious cock ups we in the horn section made on the twenty four minute suite ‘Embryonic Fusion’. It is a very tricky piece, with a series of time signature changes, plus tempo changes between sections. I had to argue with him in order for him to agree to us coming in early on the second day to redo some of our section parts and for me to add an alto sax part that linked the final two sections.”
Anna Meek – vocals
Dave Taylor – bass guitar
Graham Wilson – guitar
Hugh Eaglestone – tenor saxophone
Robert Calvert – alto & tenor saxophones
Thierry Rheinhardt – tenor & alto flute, clarinet
Malcolm Frith – drums
Looking for more progressive music released on Vertigo Records? Go back one additional year in time:
Categories: A Year in Music