Eight Track Publishing
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While apparently like their other albums, this is somewhat of a mixed bag, it tends to grow on you and is reportedly their most essential outing. It’s certainly a notch above many albums by other progressive-rock outfits that found larger audiences. Likely, these cats weren’t looking for a mainstream audience but rather were working for what they got--a cult following. Fans of progressive rock might want to give this one a spin.
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While not essential, this 1972 offering from this English outfit is a pleasant surprise, 70s progressive rock with elements of 60s fusion and acid rock, falling somewhere between King Crimson and the Groundhogs, Wishbone Ash and Van Der Graaf Generator, with hints of Sabbath, Zeppelin, Morricone, Yes, and Deep Purple, and minor hints of the more basic sounds of artists like the Doors, the Stones, the Beatles, Elton John, and David Bowie. To contrast the down-to-earth basic sounds, this also clearly owes something to jazz and classical music.
While this obviously comes out of past traditions, it likely also had an influence on future albums by other artists. For example, Dudgeon likely took some of the lessons learned here to his work with Elton John. At some points and in some ways, this album foreshadows some of the progressive metal of decades later.
The House on the Hill
Produced by Gus Dudgeon
Sleeve by Hipgnosis
Eight Track Publishing
While the 7+ minute title track that closes the set is perhaps supposed to be the centerpiece and certainly serves as a noteworthy conclusion, some of the other cuts offer even more, namely the ones that close the first side, especially the 7+ minute “Jackdaw” and Werth’s classical guitar instrumental “Raviole” (which at one point sounds like it may have inspired Peter Gabriel’s debut solo single “Salisbury Hill”). This album also features a moody and mildly progressive version of Screamin’ Jay’s “I Put a Spell On You.”
While synthesizers and organs were so much a part of progressive rock in the 1970s, this album refreshingly offers their fairly complex sounds with just four players offering a balance of proficiency and spontaneity, just horn (sax, flute or clarinet), vocals, guitars, bass and drum. This helps provide more of an earthy sound that comes out of old rock, jazz, Memphis rhythm & blues, and much older traditions, all this without sounding the least bit stale. This is clearly a band from England, and doesn’t sound like another English band doing American black music.
Some themes seem to run through the set (and the sleeve design is credited as being based on screenplay by Werth and Hipgnosis), other than perhaps “Nancy,” the lyrics don’t offer much, but Werth brings as much as he can to the vocals, and his guitar is an integral part of the sound, providing electric fuzz and classical stylings. Keith Gemmell also plays a big part on the album, occasionally going back to the roots of rock for inspiration, but mostly coming of out late 60s jazz and fusion, and even foreshadowing the use of sax in the more adventurous underground rock of the late 70s.