Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Syd Barrett in 1970
How 1970 Became The Year Of Syd Barrett
50 years after 'The Madcap Laughs' and 'Barrett,' GRAMMY.com looks back at the former Pink Floyd frontman's debut solo efforts
After 1969 symbolically brought the decade to a frightful close, with the escalation of war in Vietnam, the Manson murders and Brian Jones's death kicking off a series of untimely losses for Pop, 1970 arrived as a slap in the face, designed to wake counterculture up from its fantasist dream for good. As the Beatles made their separation official and irrevocable through the uncomfortable psychodrama that was Let It Be, a whole generation either grew discouraged by the inexplicable resilience of the establishment, or simply escaped altogether.
Syd Barrett had been escaping for a long time, though. After having been sacked by his own band colleagues two years prior amidst the predictable personal and societal confusion the Spring of 1968 had precipitated, a block seemed to emerge between his stubborn, ever-flowing geniality and a saddening inability to pour it out in a comprehensible way—a dichotomy embodied by the backwards solo in Barrett's "Dominoes," which remains a striking testimony of the way he was perceiving and performing his psyche. But Syd was probably "bored, as well as ill," according to biographer Tim Willis, and definitely not as insane as most media would later portray him. Although he was painfully aware of his deteriorating mental condition, some of his public antics were likely more a product of his eternal provocateur persona than of an irreversibly mentally disturbed individual—a behavior whose inadequacy psychiatrist R.D. Laing would often defend as deriving from society's normalized notion of "sanity" and not from a sick mind itself. Rumor has it Laing even paid a visit to Barrett in 1970, although the circumstances and eventual results remain fuzzy.
Nevertheless, and however harsh Syd's own personal reality might have been at the time, 1970 was ironically his year. Aided by former Pink Floyd colleagues (albeit some critics find their work on Syd's solo material to be little more than patronization fueled by a sentiment of profound guilt for having fired their band's founder), Syd put out two albums that would prove fundamental not only for his enduring legacy but also as unquestionable references for many artists that followed: The Madcap Laughs was released in January, three days before his 24th birthday; Barrett came out in November.
While a somewhat more cohesive, Madcap may conceal a process filled with false starts that included several changes in approach and personnel (following Peter Jenner's departure, producer Malcolm Jones would too be replaced by Gilmour and Waters), Barrett is unapologetically more scattered, portraying Syd's frustration with a certain dead end he was encountering in both his career and personal life: "I made sure they were closed sessions," EMI engineer Pete Bown later recalled of the recording process. "Because if anyone had seen Syd, that would have been it." His erratic behavior is perhaps best illustrated by the often evoked anecdote of housemate Duggie Fields once arriving home to find Syd lying on the floor, static, stating that this stillness granted him every option in the world, while a decision would make all but one disappear. The problem is, of course, that no option is real unless action is taken towards it, and both Madcap and Barrett often seem like abstract attempts of an action whose results didn't quite satisfy Syd the way he expected them to.
Yet it is perhaps fairer to say that, by then, Syd bore little to no expectations at all. Barrett is a profound reflection on loneliness and sadness, and Syd's mental engagement with it seems much more fickle when compared to a relative vivacity present in its predecessor. This is, of course, something he was very much aware of: "[The songs of the album] are very pure, you know; [but sometimes] I feel I'm jabbering," he confessed during a conversation with music journalist Michael Watts at the time of the album's release. Containing few tracks that actually feel finished and an aura of despair coronating the ensemble, Barrett augured a premature ending to Syd's offerings.
But the album also represented an announced return to his Cambridge hometown, be it in its themes, its compositions ("Wined and Dined," for example, had been written there), and even the cover art, which was based on one of the many drawings Syd had made some years earlier. Darker and arguably heavier than Madcap, Barrett showcased how Syd had become increasingly desperate for a reencounter with the simple life and with himself: "I've always thought of going back to a place where you can drink tea and sit on the carpet," he would later say. Having grown disenchanted with the life the swingingest capital of the swinging world had provided him with, Syd mutely acknowledged the end of a volatile excitement that had only revealed to be shallow and deprived of the creative richness it had once remotely promised.
Barrett is Syd's very own Pastoral. His return to the country as a respite, a celebration, or even a ritual, might have come about not in the fairest of circumstances, and even a tad too late if we consider his mental state at the time; but the universes he had been bringing about since the early Floyd days kept inhabiting (haunting?) him until he was left with no other choice but letting himself be absorbed by them, both inside and out. After going back and forth for another decade, in 1982 he walked all the way from London to Cambridge never to return. The peregrination suited him as his own Via Dolorosa, towards freedom and distance from earthly sins; but as Syd turned his back on a mess he didn't ask for or even related to, he remained oblivious to the fact that he would carry a part of it with him forever.
Photo: ZIK Images/United Archives via Getty Images
15 Reissues And Archival Releases For Your Holiday Shopping List
2023 was a banner year for reissues and boxed sets; everyone from the Beatles to Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones got inspired expansions and repackagings. Here are 15 more to scoop up before 2023 gives way to 2024.
Across 2023, we've been treated to a shower of fantastic reissues, remixes and/or expansions. From the Beatles' Red and Blue albums, to Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon, to the Who's Who's Next, the list is far too massive to fit into a single article.
And, happily, it's not over yet: from now until Christmas, there are plenty more reissues to savor — whether they be mere vinyl represses, or lavish plumbings of the source material replete with outtakes.
As you prepare your holiday shopping list, don't sleep on these 15 reissues for the fellow music fanatic in your life — or pick up a bundle for yourself!
X-Ray Spex - Conscious Consumer (Vinyl Reissue)
Whether you view them through the lens of Black woman power or simply their unforgettable, snarling anthems, English punks X-Ray Spex made an indelible mark with their debut 1978 album, Germfree Adolescents.
Seventeen years later, they made a less-discussed reunion album, 1995's Conscious Consumer — which has been unavailable over the next 27 years. After you (re)visit Germfree Adolescents, pick up this special vinyl reissue, remastered from the original tape.
That's out Dec. 15; pre-order it here.
Fall Out Boy - Take This to Your Grave (20th Anniversary Edition)
Released the year before their breakthrough 2005 album From Under the Cork Tree — the one with "Dance, Dance" and "Sugar, We're Goin Down" on it — Fall Out Boy's Take This to Your Grave remains notable and earwormy. The 2004 album aged rather well, and contains fan favorites like "Dead on Arrival."
Revisit the two-time GRAMMY nominees' Myspace-era gem with its 20th anniversary edition, which features a 36-page coffee table book and two unreleased demos: "Colorado Song" and "Jakus Song." It's available Dec. 15.
Coheed and Cambria - Live at the Starland Ballroom
Coheed and Cambria is more than a long-running rock band; they're a sci-fi multimedia universe, as well as a preternaturally tight live band.
Proof positive of the latter is Live at the Starland Ballroom, a document of a performance at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey, in 2004 — that hasn't been on vinyl until now. Grab it here; it dropped Nov. 24, for Record Store Day Black Friday.
Joni Mitchell - Court and Spark Demos
Joni Mitchell Archives – Vol. 3: The Asylum Years (1972–1975), from last October, is a terrific way to do just that; its unvarnished alternate versions strip away the '70s gloss to spellbinding effect.
Which is no exception regarding the Court and Spark demos, which got a standalone release for RSD Black Friday.
P!NK - TRUSTFALL (Deluxe Edition)
The dependable Pink returned in 2023 with the well-regarded TRUSTFALL, and it's already getting an expanded presentation.
Its Deluxe Edition is filled with six previously unheard live recordings from her 2023 Summer Carnival Stadium Tour. Therein, you can find two new singles, including "Dreaming," a collaboration with Marshmello and Sting. Pre-order it today.
Snoop Dogg - Doggystyle (30th Anniversary Edition)
After his star-making turn on Dr. Dre's The Chronic, 16-time GRAMMY nominee Snoop Dogg stepped out with his revolutionary, Dre-assisted debut album, Doggystyle.
Permeated with hedonistic, debaucherous fun, the 1993 classic only furthered G-funk's momentum as a force within hip-hop.
Revisit — or discover — the album via this 30-year anniversary reissue, available now on streaming and vinyl.
As per the latter, the record is available special color variants, including a gold foil cover and clear/cloudy blue vinyl via Walmart, a clear and black smoke vinyl via Amazon and a green and black smoke vinyl via indie retailers.
Alicia Keys - The Diary of Alicia Keys 20
Alicia Keys has scored an incredible 15 GRAMMYs and 31 nominations — and if that run didn't exactly begin with 2003's The Diary of Alicia Keys, that album certainly cemented her royalty.
Her heralded second album, which features classics like "Karma," "If I Was Your Woman"/"Walk On By" and "Diary," is being reissued on Dec. 1 — expanded to 24 tracks, and featuring an unreleased song, "Golden Child."
The Sound of Music (Super Deluxe Edition Boxed Set)
Fifty-seven years has done nothing to dim the appeal of 1965's The Sound of Music — both the flick and its indelible soundtrack.
Re-immerse yourself in classics like "My Favorite Things" via The Sound of Music (Super Deluxe Edition Boxed Set), which arrives Dec. 1.
The box contains more than 40 previously unreleased tracks, collecting every musical element from the film for the first time, along with instrumentals for every song, demos and rare outtakes from the cast.
Furthermore, an audio Blu-ray features the full score in hi-res plus a new Dolby Atmos mix of the original soundtrack. And the whole shebang is housed in a 64-page hardbound book with liner notes from film preservationist Mike Matessino.
ABBA - The Visitors (Deluxe Edition)
With their eighth album, 1981's The Visitors, the Swedish masterminds — and five-time GRAMMY nominees — stepped away from lighter fare and examined themselves more deeply than ever.
The result was heralded as their most mature album to date — and has been repackaged before, with a Deluxe Edition in 2012.
This (quite belated) 40th anniversary edition continues its evolution in the marketplace. And better late than never: The Visitors was their final album until their 2021 farewell, Voyage, and on those terms alone, deserves reexamination.
Aretha Franklin - A Portrait of the Queen 1970-1974
A Portrait of the Queen 1970-1974 compiles her first five albums of the 1970s: This Girl's In Love With You, Spirit in the Dark, Young Gifted and Black, Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky), and Let Me In Your Life.
Each has been remastered from the analog master tapes. The vinyl version has a bonus disc of session alternates, outtakes & demos. Both CD and vinyl versions are packaged with booklets featuring sleeve notes by Gail Mitchell and David Nathan. Grab it on Dec. 1.
Fela Kuti - Box Set #6
From the great beyond, Fela Kuti has done music journalists a solid in simply numbering his boxes. But this isn't just any Kuti box: it's curated by the one and only Idris Elba, who turned in a monumental performance as Stringer Bell on "The Wire."
The fifth go-round contains the Afrobeat giant's albums Open & Close, Music of Many Colors, Stalemate, I Go Shout Plenty!!!, Live In Amsterdam (2xLP), and Opposite People. It includes a 24 page booklet featuring lyrics, commentaries by Afrobeat historian Chris May, and never-before-seen photos.
The box is only available in a limited edition of 5,000 worldwide, so act fast: it's also available on Dec. 1.
Kate Bush - Hounds of Love (The Baskerville Edition) / Hounds of Love (The Boxes of Lost Sea)
Kate Bush rocketed back into the public consciousness in 2022, via "Stranger Things." The lovefest continues unabated with these two editions of Hounds of Love, which features that signature song: "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God.)
The Rolling Stones - December's Children (And Everybody's), Got Live If You Want It! And The Rolling Stones No. 2 (Vinyl Reissues)
These three '60s Stones albums have slipped between the cracks over the years — but if you love the world-renowned rock legends in its infancy, they're essential listens.
No. 2 is their second album from 1965; the same year's December's Children is the last of their early songs to lean heavily on covers; Got Live If You Want It! is an early live document capturing the early hysteria swarming around the band.
On Dec. 1, they're reissued on 180g vinyl; for more information and to order, visit here.
Pink Floyd - Atom Heart Mother (Special Edition)
No, it's not half as famous as The Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall — but 1970's lumpy Atom Heart Mother certainly has its partisans.
Rediscover a hidden corner of the Floyd catalog — the one between Ummagumma and Meddle — via this special edition, which features newly discovered live footage from more than half a century ago.
The Black Crowes - The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
After endless fraternal infighting, the Black Crowes are back — can they keep it together?
In the meantime, their second album, 1992's The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, remains a stellar slice of roots rock — as a sprawling, three-disc Super Deluxe Edition bears out. If you're a bird of this feather, don't miss it when it arrives on Dec. 15.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
What Was 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' Almost Called? 5 Facts About Pink Floyd's Masterpiece Ahead Of The 50th Anniversary Boxed Set
Pink Floyd's 'The Dark Side Of The Moon' has maintained its philosophical, psychological and exploratory power for 50 years. Here are five off-the-beaten-path things to know about it.
Rarely do a mere prism and spectrum of light signify so much.
The cover of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon is recognizable by all denizens of the Western world, rock fan or not. For so many, it also opens a treasure box of associations: The themes of irth and death, greed and madness, and the relentless tick-tock of time. An ecstatic vocal aria. The specter of a departed Syd Barrett. The lunatic on the grass. Money: it's a gas.
After half a century of headphone-clad zone-outs and The Wizard of Oz re-rewatches, The Dark Side of the Moon transcends mere codification and ubiquity; it remains a work of uncommon perceptiveness, concision and ingenuity. And the arrival of a new boxed set invites listeners back through the gates of its mind-expanding, incisive, philosophical universe.
The Dark Side of the Moon — 50th Anniversary Boxed Set, out Mar. 24, encompasses a lavish array of ways to re-experience this classic rock staple. The set includes CD and gatefold vinyl of the newly remastered studio album, as well as Blu-Ray/DVD audio featuring the original 5.1 mix and remastered stereo versions, as well as a diamond-sharp Atmos mix.
Just as enticing is a CD and LP of The Dark Side Of The Moon - Live At Wembley Empire Pool, London, 1974, which illuminates how an album that stretched the boundaries of the studio took on new dimensions on stage. When you see Roger Waters continue to stage ambitious, polemic productions across the globe, trace a line backward to Floyd's culture-shaking live show 50 years ago.
Roger Waters Sought Unprecedented Lyrical Clarity
The Dark Side of the Moon wasn't just a leap forward aurally, or conceptually: the band had never been so vivid and specific with their words.
"I think we all thought — and Roger definitely thought — that a lot of the lyrics that we had been using were a little too indirect," Gilmour told Rolling Stone in 2003, referring to past albums like Obscured by Clouds and Meddle. "There was definitely a feeling that the words were going to be very clear and specific. That was a big leap forward."
Thus, the band produced a work of thematic depth and concision, full of unforgettable one-liners like "All you touch and all you see/ Is all your life will ever be" and "There's someone in my head/ But it's not me."
Clare Torry Was Paid Just £30 For Her Vocal Performance
Despite the singer's lack of name recognition, millions and millions have heard Clare Torry's voice. Her cyclonic, wordless aria on "The Great Gig in the Sky" — they nixed a first attempt, partly on account of the word "baby" — is one of the most memorable parts of The Dark Side of the Moon.
So it might be surprising to hear that Torry was paid a standard rate of £30 for her work — and ended up suing the band in 2004 for a songwriting credit and lost wages. (The case was settled out of court.)
It Could Have Been Called Eclipse, With The Silver Surfer On The Cover
When a now-obscure band called Medicine Head released an album called Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd's desired title seemed under threat.
"We weren't annoyed at Medicine Head," Gilmour later said. "We were annoyed because we had already thought of the title before the Medicine Head album came out." But when Medicine Head's album failed commercially, the door was open to proceed as planned.
And, accordingly, while Pink Floyd desired the prismatic cover as soon as they saw it, the band had previously kicked around the idea of a Marvel superhero on the album sleeve.
"We were all into Marvel Comics, and the Silver Surfer seemed to be another fantastic singular image," Aubrey Power of art design group Hipgnosis remembered. "We never would have got permission to use it. But we liked the image of a silver man, on a silver surfboard, scooting across the universe. It had mystical, mythical properties. Very cosmic, man!"
The Band Performed The Album In Its Entirety A Year Prior To Release
Throughout 1972, the band performed a proto version of The Dark Side of the Moon: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics (its addendum at the time) in sequence. They also refined the song cycle as one continuous piece, with transitions at all, eventually landing on the continuum of music we know and love today.
That being said, there were significant differences in these nascent live versions — for example, "On the Run" was a guitar and keyboard jam, and "The Great Gig in the Sky" was hung on an organ solo, not a vocal solo.
There's A Beatles-Related Easter Egg Near The End
Paul McCartney, then finishing Wings' Red Rose Speedway, was among the various interview subjects interspliced into the finished project — but as his appearance was a comedic put-on against the band's wishes, they scrapped his appearance. But that doesn't mean there's no Fabs on The Dark Side of the Moon.
Near the end of "Eclipse," during the famous "Matter of fact, it's all dark" quip an orchestral version of "Ticket to Ride" can be faintly heard. This detail among so many others is more audible than ever in the new remaster — where the light shines through clearer than ever.
How 1973 Shaped Classic Rock: 10 Essential Albums From British Artists
Fifty years ago, there was a creative apex in what we now call classic rock. However, the sounds of '73 were wildly progressive and diverse, with influences that ranged from blues and baroque, to free jazz and acid-folk.
Fifty years ago, a young generation of British rock 'n' rollers were ready to show the world that the lessons learned from the Beatles were not lost on them. If the kaleidoscopic Sgt. Pepper’s had proven that pop music could be anything you wanted it to be, the artists that followed took those radical ideas to a new level.
United by the vague, umbrella-like term of progressive rock, bands like Genesis, Pink Floyd, Queen and King Crimson expanded the lexicon of rock with influences that ranged from classical and baroque to free jazz and acid-folk; blues to reggae and music hall. Today, these records define the sound of classic rock.
1973 signified an absolute apex — the sweetest moment in time when everything seemed possible and each new album gleamed with the joy of innovation. Here are 10 records from British artists that marked a before and after for classic rock.
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon
Years of psychedelic wanderings and space-rock exploration — not to mention the trauma of losing a beloved bandmate to drugs — crystallized into Pink Floyd’s unequivocal masterpiece. An album so sublime, it makes the seven LPs that preceded it sound like rough sketches in comparison.
The lyrics are wicked in their cynicism and existential malaise, and the band finally sounds tight and economical. But Dark Side's greatest virtue here is the sheer beauty of the melodies, one gauzy song leading into the other with effortless grace. "Money" was the hit single and "Time" redrew the boundaries of rock through immersive sound effects. But "The Great Gig in the Sky," with its wordless female vocals and achingly nostalgic chords, showed that the Floydian mystique was as soulful as the blues.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery
Trilogy, the dreamy 1972 album by mad keyboardist Keith Emerson, bassist/vocalist Greg Lake and drummer Carl Palmer, had been constructed in the studio with layers and layers of overdubs. As a natural reaction, the trio decided their next effort should be the kind of record they could play in a live setting.
Sporting an ominous cover by Alien visual artist H. R. Giger, Brain Salad Surgery is, strangely enough, the antithesis of prog-rock pomp. Behind the epic length of multi-part symphony "Karn Evil 9" lurk visceral touches of dissonance and noise, nocturnal piano harmonics and a goofy sense of humor. At the time, ELP was vilified for its pretension to merge rock with classical. Half a century later, they deserve praise for letting their collective imagination run wild.
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic
Led with unspoken dictatorial fire by acerbic guitar mastermind Robert Fripp, the mid-‘70s incarnation of the ever-evolving King Crimson played abstract heavy metal for the soul. All hell breaks loose when the freeform improvisation of "The Talking Drum" gives way to the demonic groove of "Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Part II)," enhanced by the pristine clang-clang finesse of Bill Bruford, the most intellectual drummer of his generation.
All Crimson albums drown their sorrows in an unexpected moment of pastoral bliss, and "Book of Saturday" doesn’t disappoint, the lament of vocalist John Wetton framed by Fripp’s avant-pop guitar — a song so quiet and beautiful, it almost hurts.
Camel – Camel
There was a pervasive sweetness of spirit, a caramel tint to Camel’s nimble instrumental workouts and monotone vocals. Their soundscapes were a tad too delicate and whimsical to match the imposing scale of ‘70s heavyweights like Genesis and Floyd.
In retrospect, Camel stands as the most criminally underrated band of the classic prog movement. This full-bodied debut is jazzy and psychedelic, showcasing the wide-eyed melodic sense of guitarist Andy Latimer and keyboardist Pete Bardens. Camel proved that you don’t need a powerful vocalist to make the music soar.
Genesis – Selling England by the Pound
A doorway into an enchanted world of sumptuous keyboard solos, 12-string guitars and rambunctious drum fills (hello, Phil Collins), Genesis’ fifth studio album has mystified and enthralled generations of art-rock lovers. The sonic manifesto of five young musicians at the top of their game (all of whom would eventually enjoy success as solo artists), Selling combines a wacky, quintessential British eccentricity with sweeping melodies, social satire and the surreal imagery of singer/lyricist Peter Gabriel.
Keyboardist Tony Banks found inspiration in Rachmaninoff for the majestic intro to "Firth of Fifth," while "The Cinema Show" namedrops T.S. Eliot. "The Battle of Epping Forest" turns a gang massacre over urban boundaries into a delirious mini-opera. An album of limitless imagination, it has aged remarkably well.
Queen – Queen I
Many fans prefer Queen’s early, heavier glam-rock albums over the polished commercial blockbusters that followed — and they have a point. An exhilarating debut, Queen I is deliciously rough around the edges, but at the same time brims with the grandeur and melodic genius that characterized the London quartet from its inception. "Liar" boasts the singalong melodrama that would explode in A Night at the Opera, while guitarist Brian May’s "The Night Comes Down" hums with folk-rock longing. Funky and defiant, opening cut "Keep Yourself Alive" unlocks the hit-making blueprint of a band poised to conquer the world.
Yes – Tales from Topographic Oceans
At the time of its release, Yes’ sprawling double album based on four separate volumes of ancient Hindu scriptures appeared to encapsulate the excesses of ‘70s rock — and why the punk movement would aim to counteract and destroy rock. Tales even motivated keyboardist Rick Wakeman to leave the band, claiming that he couldn’t play music that he didn’t comprehend (no worries, he would return to the fold several times.)
Five decades later, it can be appreciated for what it really is: An ambitious sonic adventure that is in no rush whatsoever to take you to the bridge. Its four, 20 minute-long "songs" are cohesive, ethereal and filled with lovely moments, from the gentle meditation of "The Remembering" to the percussion freakout that brings "Ritual" to a feverish climax. Not for everyone’s taste, sure enough, but as dense and rewarding as a Gustav Mahler symphony.
Roxy Music – Street Life
"Here as I sit at this empty café, thinking of you," croons a mournful Bryan Ferry on "A Song for Europe." As the six-minute track meanders on – torrid sax lines, grandiloquent piano, lyrics in Latin and French — the Roxy Music aesthetic blooms, fully formed.
The third of eight exquisite albums that make up the Roxy canon, Street Life betrays Ferry’s fine arts studies at Newcastle with its combination of garish pop spectacle, avant-garde esoterics and a perverse obsession with the beauty of everything — from the group’s legendary LP covers to the ornate hooks and the aural architecture of it all. And the bridge, it sighs.
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
Wunderkind Mike Oldfield was only 19 when he recorded the majority of this remarkable debut, performing every instrument himself. Inspired by the mystical sweep of English folk and drawn to minimalism and multi-tracking, the guitarist was in tune with the progressive trends of the time, but his long form pieces are stubbornly idiosyncratic.
Tubular’s opening theme was used in the horror movie hit The Exorcist and Oldfield became an instant rock star. Still, this album is only an intriguing opening statement for the many masterpieces that followed – most notably, Ommadawn (1975) and Incantations (1978.)
Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy
Having cemented the bulldozer-like propulsion of its hard-rock creed, Led Zeppelin spent most of 1972 making an album that reflected the current times: expansive, stylistically omnivorous, preoccupied with grander themes. Seeped in haunting Mellotron textures, "The Rain Song" is the quartet’s proggiest moment, and "D’yer Mak’er" goes reggae-rock with impeccable taste. Conservative Zep fans found solace in the rollicking opener "The Song Remains the Same," proving that hardrock still enjoyed a creative peak in 1973. They had a dream, oh yeah, a crazy dream, and we’re still grooving along.