Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Manic Progression! Great Albums from the Progressive Rock Era, Part I

The 'Progressive Rock Era' lasted between 1967 and 1977, plus or minus a year or two, with the greatest concentration of exceptional albums between 1969 and 1974. The phenomenal output in those five years marks the creative crest of rock as a musical form, and it certainly could be said with justification that the greatest rock albums of all time were released in that period, or at least within the wider 1967-77 time frame.

If one seeks a definition of "progressive rock", there are certainly several online avenues explaining in exhaustive detail the bewildering amount of definers and delineators that make the genre more digressive than progressive, research-wise (and this article from Wiki is a good place to start). But the very definition of what is "progressive" is enough to cause endless rows and vehement forum debates as zealots and generalists battle amongst each other over what performers, albums, and even songs should or should not be listed as progressive, as my black-eyed and bloody-lipped friends over at Prog Archives can well attest. But for simplicity's sake, and for my own listening pleasure, I prefer to take a more expansive view of the genre, spending less time splitting hairs and more on enjoying a sublime aural experience -- which is the point, is it not?

However, it is germane to point out that the progressive movement arose in equal parts from the burgeoning psychedelic rock scene of the late 60s, particularly the groundbreaking releases of The Beatles, Frank Zappa and the Mothers, and Pink Floyd (to name a few), and the seminal jazz fusion work of Miles Davis, Gary Burton, and Larry Coryell. Mix in a goodly amount of experimentation in the classical form from such bands as Procol Harum, Jeff Beck, and The Moody Blues, as well as the electrification of folk and traditional music by Bob Dylan, Martin Carthy, The Byrds, and Fairport Convention, and then stir this eccentric brew into a savory stew of disparate parts that coalesced into what is now known as progressive rock.

By the end of the 60s, progressive rock performers were abandoning the basic four-chord mundanity of rock-and-roll and the limitations of twelve-bar blues for more complicated arrangements than one can derive from the standard two-minute and thirty-second pop tune. Taking their cue from classical and jazz forms, the emphasis for lengthier compositions, intricate and changing time signatures, literary allusions, multi-layered instrumentation, improvisation, and musical virtuosity, forever changed how rock music was viewed as an art from. In the 21st century, many newer classical composers now list progressive rock performers as influences right along with Stravinsky, Stockhausen and Bartók.

In this three-part presentation of the sixty greatest rock albums of the Progressive Era (and various prog-related accoutrements and variations), I am not necessarily seeking to put releases in regimented order, placing a numerical designation on greatness, which I think is impossible and wholly subjective in the extreme, and merely a method to generate debate (although these first 20, give or take one or two, would by my choices for the "best of the best").

Honestly, is it not enough to say that Close to the Edge and Thick as a Brick are truly great and important albums? Is it even necessary to stamp #1 on Dark Side of the Moon or Court of the Crimson King for them to receive validation as landmarks of their genre? I love all these albums in their own, eccentric manner, and each has been influential in my personal musical experience. As for omissions based on obscure personal preferences, critics' marginalia, and unrepresented sub-genres, make your own damned list. I am sure you will like it better.

I am uninterested in presenting albums that are so discordant, minimalist, and/or droning as to be inaccessible for most listeners. There is a point at which being "progressive for progressive's sake" is merely abstracted noise and more trying and tedious than a thought-provoking or pleasant aural experience. There is much to be said for melody, harmony and lyricism in music. The albums I have chosen run the gamut from brutally hard and dark rock to pastoral mellifluousness, but each reach a point of musical splendor, a staggering apex of musical and compositional skill, that will reward those who give a listen. In the end, a good pair of headphones is all that is required to prove my point here.

By the way, here are parts two and three of the series for your progressive perusal...

More Manic Progressions, Part II
Manic Digressions, Part III

And so, without further dissembling, digression, deviation or diabolical hyperbole, here are the first twenty albums, the best of the best:

In the Court of the Crimson King -- King Crimson
The musical structure, the lyrical content, even the album cover was shocking and awesome for 1969. There was really nothing to compare it with at the time -- and it is still incomparable. From the acid rock-jazz of "21st Century Schizoid Man" to the towering mellotron-infused fantasy "The Court of the Crimson King", King Crimson put the nail in the coffin of 60s flower-power and psychedelia. There is also the tone poem "I Talk to the Wind", the minimalism of "Moonchild", and the apocalyptic "Epitaph". This was the presage of all things to come in the progressive movement (it is amusing to note that Robert Christgau rated this album a D+, which just goes to show you what pretentious twats New York rock critics are).

Wish You Were Here -- Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd took all their angst and the immense emotional drain that accompanied the phenomenally successful Dark Side of the Moon album, and wound a tale of despair and regret around a core attack against the greedy and anti-artistic music industry. The result, Wish You Were Here, not only succeeds as a follow-up to DSotM, it exceeds it as far as a progressive rock composition, particularly in regards to expanded musical passages and innovative use of the EMS VCS 3 synth. The synthesizer work is most evident on "Welcome to the Machine", and on "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", a reverie for Syd Barrett, Floyd offers their greatest extended jam since "Echoes" on Meddle. Top that of with the satiric jab at record labels "Have a Cigar", and the utterly sad and beautiful "Wish You Were Here", and you'll never take your headphones off.

Thick as a Brick -- Jethro Tull
Thick as a Brick should rate highly simply on the strength of having one of the best album covers ever designed: a fold-out newspaper complete with articles, comics, ads, crossword puzzle, and a bawdy connect-the-dots game! Furthermore, one cannot underestimate the effect Thick as a Brick had on folks growing up in the 70s. It was irreverent! It was rebellious! It mentioned both blackheads and peeing oneself in the night! Only in the early 70's could this album be released. It had no single! It was 42 minutes of one continuous song! How can we market the goddamned thing? But the entire package succeeds magnificently. Many critics didn't get it, and took the album at face value, which is even more ironic. Or Thick as a Brick, as it were.

Close to the Edge -- Yes
In my estimation, "And You and I" is the single greatest composition Yes ever released. During the "Eclipse" section of the suite, Yes reaches a crescendo so stunning that few bands have ever come close to reaching such heights. Add to that, the pounding bass line of the Stravinsky-influenced "Siberian Khatru" (which actually has more musical diversity within one song than both suites on the album), and the rousing "Close to the Edge" (with its beautiful harmonies during the "I Get Up I Get Down" movement), and you have the last truly great Yes album before they descended into the excess noodling about and pomposity reminiscent of ELP during their Works period.

Foxtrot -- Genesis
Foxtrot is heralded as a quintessential progressive album based on the 23 minute magnum opus "Supper's Ready", an extended sonata variation based in part on the Book of Revelation, BBC Children's programming, vaudeville, and allusions to Greek mythology and William Blake, whose "Jerusalem" is invoked in the absolutely breathtaking climax of the song. But the rest of the album is superb as well (and more consistent than Selling England by the Pound), with "Can-Utility and the Coastliners", the Bach prelude "Horizons", and the eviction theme "Get 'Em Out by Friday" as other notable tunes.

Dark Side of the Moon -- Pink Floyd
A de rigueur album for the "headphones only" set, Dark Side of the Moon is certainly one of the ten greatest rock albums of all time (from any genre). Besides being a masterwork of studio recording, the working title of the album Dark Side of the Moon: A Piece for Assorted Lunatics mirrors insanity in "Brain Damage", the lunacy of war in Us and Them, and the rueful pangs of regret in "Time". And "Great Gig in the Sky" is simply a wonderfully conceived and moving song (progressive or otherwise).

Days of Future Passed -- The Moody Blues
"Progressive" before that was even a term (1967), the Moody Blues limited the amount of psychedelia on Days of Future Passed (most likely due to the structured discipline required working with a symphony), and created one of the most beautiful albums ever recorded. Overall, DoFP exhibits a calm and inviting splendor, but the second half of the album is absolutely extraordinary, with "Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)", "Evening: Time to get Away/The Sunset/Twilight Time", and the culminating crescendo when orchestra and band (who had previously been recorded in a series of separate movements) come together on "Nights in White Satin/Late Lament". Remarkable.

The Yes Album -- Yes
Isn't it amazing how the change of a guitarist can either damn a band or bring it to unparalleled greatness? The addition of Steve Howe brought just such a wondrous change to Yes. This is the departure point for Yes's golden age. More accessible than the stubbornly obscurantist King Crimson, less eccentric than the flighty Gabrielesque Genesis, on this album Yes presented compositions that one could hear on FM stations that were in essence too damn good to be heard on radio. "Yours is no Disgrace", "Starship Trooper" and "I've Seen All Good People" are all classics of the genre, and "The Clap" is a damned good acoustic guitar jam (I know, I learned to play it over a couple decades, but still haven't got all the nuances down).

Aqualung -- Jethro Tull
A series of interrelated conceptual pieces that Ian Anderson proclaims is not a concept album, Aqualung is incredibly balanced, with hard rock and acoustic balladry seamlessly interposed, one tempering the other; in fact, this is one Tull album where acoustic guitar is more prominent than flute. Of course, the album is noted for rock radio staples "Locomotive Breath" (with its haunting piano intro), "Cross-eyed Mary" and the mini-epic "Aqualung", but the compositional content of the whole album is staggering, from the lighthearted "Mother Goose" to the intense "My God" to several short acoustic reveries like "Cheap Day Return".

Larks' Tongue in Aspic -- King Crimson
The title song "Larks' Tongue in Aspic" is an inspired piece, based in part on a Ralph Vaughan Williams' orientally-inspired composition "Lark Ascending", but with black, diabolical Frippian malice thrown in. "Book of Saturday" represents the first of many notable vocal contributions by bassist John Wetton thoughout his Crimson career. The manic march of greed "Easy Money", and the Eastern-tinged "The Talking Drum" are also notable tracks from an immensely varied, dissonant and innovative album. Makes you wish the music of 1973 was more fashionable in these decadent days of compositional squalor.

Brain Salad Surgery -- Emerson, Lake & Palmer
It is very rare for a drummer to receive accolades for a rock album, but this is the highlight of Carl Palmer's storied career. Palmer's work with synthesized drums (not drum machines, mind you, he's actually playing) mark this album as innovative and not merely ELP churning out classical reproductions. "Toccata" is the best adaptation of a classical piece ELP ever attempted (the composer, Ginastera, complimented this eccentric version). Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression ranks as a progressive favorite, "Karn Evil: 2nd Impression" features brilliant drumming and bright piano, and who can't deny the balls it took to bring Wm. Blake's poetry to rock in "Jerusalem". Is it pretentious? God yes! But ELP was so ungodly talented, they couldn't help their pomposity.

A Trick of the Tail -- Genesis
It may be blasphemous to say, but this is a Genesis masterpiece, a statement the remaining members of Genesis felt they needed to make after Peter Gabriel left. For this album, Genesis did not need Gabriel, gaining a new sound and voice. The musicianship is especially tight, and more reflective compositions like "Entangled, 'Ripples' and 'Mad Man Moon' offer Phil Collins a chance to really showcase his voice. But jams like "Dance on a Volcano", "Squonk", and "Los Endos" are progressive rock at its best. Peter Gabriel cast a huge shadow over Genesis, but the album is extremely well done, and doesn't have the Gabrielesque excess in long, rambling compositions that mar some earlier albums. There is no silly "Battle of Epping Forest" here.

Car (1st solo album) -- Peter Gabriel
Departing from Genesis also gave Gabriel the opportunity to focus his considerable compositional skills. Gone are the excesses that made the second half of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway an existential mess; in its place are wonderfully eccentric tunes like "Moribund the Burgermeister" and the quirky "Excuse Me" (complete with barbershop quartet and tuba solo). But there is also the exquisite personal manifesto "Solsbury Hill", the symphonic exhiliration of "Down the Dolce Vita", and the brilliant apocalyptic opus "Here Comes the Flood". From the standpoint of compositional excellence, Gabriel's recording career eclipsed Genesis, particularly in the 1980s.

Queen II -- Queen
A Night at the Opera may be more polished, with several hit tunes, but it will never have "Ogre Battles". Put simply, Queen II is progressive madness, from an impression of a painting in the Tate Gallery "The Fairy Feller's Masterstroke" to the pre-Bohemian Rhapsody jewel in Queen's crown "March of the Black Queen", the album is overrun with manic time changes, soaring vocals, biting guitar, and arppegiated piano runs. No band can duplicate that sound -- not with a roomful of synths and a choir. On the quieter side, there's the haunting "White Queen", and the moving "Father to Son". What the hell, I'll also mention "The Seven Seas of Rhye".

Octopus -- Gentle Giant
Gentle Giant made inaccessibility an art form. And if driving off possible fans was their objective, they did so quite admirably. Immensely talented but purposely abstruse, Gentle Giant has their zealous loyalists, but their work is summed up in "Knots", which is as complex as the Gordian Knot. The medieval vibe throughout the album is most evident on "Raconteur Troubadour" and "The Advent of Panurge", but "River" and "The Boys in the Band" represent the bands jazzier, more improvisational side. Gentle Giant is Prog-rock for AD/HD listeners: if you want to hear something different, just wait ten seconds and you'll be tripping down a different creative path. They do get extra credit for a witty album title (Octopus = octo opus, or eight songs).

Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra -- Procol Harum
The only live album listed here because it represents the culmination of Procol Harum's prodigious ambitions as a classically-influenced progressive band, and simply because many of their songs are better here than on the original albums, particularly the Spanish-influenced "Conquistador" and the titanic "Whaling Stories". They are superb. Additionally, "A Salty Dog" is one of the greatest tales ever recorded by a rock band, and the 19 minute opus "In Held 'Twas I" is a fascinating journey through progressively psychedelic movements wonderfully augmented by symphony and choir.

Low Spark of High Heeled Boys -- Traffic
Simply one of the best albums for headphone use ever created. There is a tranquilly pastoral nature to compositions such as "Hidden Treasure" and "Rainmaker" that relieve stress almost as well as a Korean masseuse (except for maybe 'the finish'). The mesmeric and jazz-tinged "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" is a grand progressive journey, while more up-tempo songs like "Rock & Roll Stew" and "Light Up or Leave Me Alone" are infinitely satisfying tracks. Putting the record and sleeve back into ingenious album cover was a true test of whether you were really stoned or not.

Santana III -- Santana
Latin-progressive-rock-jazz (how's that for a title). Featuring lengthier instrumental passages than the more commercially accessible Abraxas, Santana III is the last Santana release of the early 70s to maintain a semblance of rock form before Carlos ventured off fulltime into jazz-fusion. The mind-melting mamba of "Toussaint L'Overture", the Allman Brothers-tinged "Jungle Strut", the fiery "Batuka", the rousing horns of "Everybody's Everything", and the Latin boogie "Guajira", present Santana as one of the most innovative and devilishly seductive bands of all time.

Liege and Lief -- Fairport Convention
Liege and Lief has a timeless sound that transcends both traditional and new material to a point where it is difficult to ascertain which songs were first sang in the 16th century and those composed in 1969. Nigel Williamson, critic of The Times, put it succinctly: "Not only did Fairport Convention invent English folk-rock but they effectively destroyed it, too. Nobody could top the electrified versions of trad ballads such as "Tam Lin" and "Matty Groves" on their classic, genre-defining Liege & Lief – after that there was nowhere left to go." Such songs as "Reynardine", "Come All Ye", and "Medley" brought a whole new element to electrified folk.

Pawn Hearts -- Van der Graaf Generator
Like Gentle Giant, Van der Graaf Generator is an acquired taste; in fact, you either love them or hate them (like liver). Vocalist Peter Hammill obviously loves the sound of his own voice (often to the detriment of many VdGG albums). But for all that, Pawnhearts is a sprawling, amazing journey with songs like "Lemmings" which evokes the synths and saxes on Tull's A Passion Play, and Robert Fripp adds some ferocious and timely guitar on "Man-Erg", and "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers". Not for the faint of heart.


There came a point in the early-to-mid 70s when the line drawn between progressive rock and jazz-fusion was so blurred as to become nearly indistinguishable. For all intents and purposes, the primary difference in the two musical forms was the use of vocals in rock performances. From a pioneering standpoint, the work of Miles Davis on Bitches Brew borrowed the drum backbeat from rock and emphasized a heavier bass line than previous jazz offerings; thus fusion offers jazz improvisation and lengthier compositions with the blistering guitar leads and amplified mayhem we rockers all know and love. Here are the five best examples of jazz-fusion/rock-fusion/whatever-fusion from that period:

Romantic Warrior -- Return to Forever
Blessed with perhaps the best group of players ever assembled for a jazz-fusion ensemble (or any band in any genre, for that matter), keyboardist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke, guitarist Al DiMeola and drummer Lenny White got downright medieval on the jazz form with Romantic Warrior.
Songs of Note: Majestic Dance, Medieval Overture, Romantic Warrior

Hot Rats -- Frank Zappa
More than Uncle Frank merely offering one of his twisted but ingenious parody albums, Hot Rats is an entirely new venture into jazz and symphonic orchestrations. Zappa, always a decade or two beyond his peers, blurs the line of jazz, rock, blues and classical forms to such a degree, that we are not entirely sure where Frank was going. But we're glad he went there!
Songs of Note: Peaches en Regalia, The Gumbo Variations (Part I), Son of Mr. Green Genes

The Inner Mounting Flame -- The Mahavishnu Orchestra
Fresh from jamming with Miles Davis, John McLaughlin teamed up with the likes of Billy Cobham and Jan Hammer to record a blistering bit of metallic jazz that puts to shame most rock bands. Imagine if you will, Robert Fripp and Frank Zappa deciding to put out a jazz album.
Songs of Note: Meeting of the Spirits, Noonward Race, The Dance of Maya

Blow by Blow -- Jeff Beck
A jazz-rock-hybrid instrumental album with Jeff Beck on guitar and Sir George Martin producing and arranging? The results are aurally amazing. Perhaps the most consistent album Beck ever recorded, Blow by Blow had to be a humbling experience for supposed hard-core jazz aficionados to hear, as the rock effects master Beck offers one of the best jazz-fusion albums of the 70s.
Songs of Note: Thelonius, Air Blower, Freeway Jam

Caravanserai -- Santana
Carlos Santana all but abandoned the rock genre for this mystical and shimmering trip into the desert. Primarily instrumental and jazz infused, Caravanserai marks the departure point for Santana from the bounds of radio-friendly music. Evidently, later in his career he decided to return to popland and have duets with anyone and the kitchen sink.
Songs of Note: La Fuente Del Ritmo, Song of the Wind, Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation


Randy said...

*sigh* The memories!

Thank you muchly for links to some old favorites of mine.

AtomicCrimsonRush said...

had a look at the zine and it was well written. Have you seen my blog on greatest prog albums through each year?
I am interested in the psychedelic movement myself and have many psych music.

That blog is kind of researched from the most popular albums here and on other websites, or at least those albums that have made an impact in some way on prog.


I am a researcher and a writer, in my spare time from teaching College English, so I am always interested in new info on the prog albums.

AtomicCrimsonRush said...

Reading the Prog Rock list there were no surprises as to most of those choices though it was interesting you chose Gabriel's debut, Gentle Giant's Octopus is a strange choice - perhaps their worst album IMHO, and I thought i had heard all the quintessential albums but then you added Procol Harum Live with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Santana III is one of the only Santanas I dont have, so I will try to get hold of that,
anyway, thanks for the list and the way you justify each inclusion is admirable.
But you are totally right in your disclaimer:

"Honestly, is it not enough to say that Close to the Edge and Thick as a Brick are truly great and important albums? Is it even necessary to stamp #1 on Dark Side of the Moon or Court of the Crimson King for them to receive validation as landmarks of their genre? I love all these albums in their own, eccentric manner, and each has been influential in my personal musical experience. As for omissions based on obscure personal preferences, critics' marginalia, and unrepresented sub-genres, make your own damned list. I am sure you will like it better."

haha, nice one! I know from my blogs the contentious issues that arise when compiling a list. Some of the choices do not seem to make sense but that's Prog!

Ivan Melgar Morey said...

Do you really believe Progressive Rock only existed between 1967 and 1977?

There are thousands of fantastic bands that were born after 1977, good examples are Anglagard (1992) or Par Lindh Project (1994), or Magenta in 2000 with the double album with 4 epics called "Revolutions" or the excellent Shadow Circus and Life Line Project from the XXI Century.

There are bands from the 70's that reached their peak in this century, a good example is Magma with the fantastic K.A. (Köhntarkösz Anteria), by far their best album.

This legend of Prog vanishing in 1977 is a creation of Punk fans, who claimed to had killed Prog, when as a fact Prog exists today, but Punk in the original sense not.

It's true that the 80's were a weak decade for Prog, but even then you could find some excellent bands as Marillion.


BTW: Good album selection

Morthoron the Dark Elf said...

"Do you really believe Progressive Rock only existed between 1967 and 1977?"

Ummm...Ivan, the "progressive rock era", that period when prog-rock was predominant on the airwaves and in record sales, ended in the late 70's with the rise of punk. I never stated that the making of progressive music ended in 1977, but the era when it was at its height did, and the albums I selected come from that era. Later articles will refer to newer prog-rock albums.

Ivan Melgar Morey said...

Morthoron, I don't know how old are you, buy seems you were not there in the 70's.

Prog was never predominant on the airwaves and in record sales, that's an urban myth, I was there (In Perú and USA) and always was part of the minority.

In the mid 70's Captain & Tennille won all the prices and was considered the best band ever, then came punk, then Disco, forget it, Prog was always music for a minority.

You can check year by year the lists, awards, etc and you will discover the awful truth......Prog was always small in comparison with POP and mainstream Rock.

As a fact I believe Prog is almost as popular as in the 70's thanks to the INTERNET.

Due to my collaboration in Prog Archives, and some time ago in Progressive Ears, I receive a lot of excellent, good, average, bad and terrible albums every month, we admit a high number of bands in the site, Prog is growing.

In the 70's you only had Canterbury, Symphonic, Folk Space Rock and Fusion, today, one site have 120 sub-genres (exactly the number I counted this site sub-genres), which is absurd.

But a healthy average is around 20 wub-genres, 16 of which didn't existed in the 70's, this is a proof that Prog is growing, and will grow more if we don't kill it opening the Prog sites to AOR, POP, ROCK or Funk bands that don't have relation with the genre, just because somebody loved them when young and having middle age nostalgia.

If Prog has survived is because it always kept a safe distance from mainstream.



Morthoron the Dark Elf said...

"Morthoron, I don't know how old are you, buy seems you were not there in the 70's.

Prog was never predominant on the airwaves and in record sales, that's an urban myth, I was there (In Perú and USA) and always was part of the minority."

Igor, I hate to be disagreeable, but you are utterly wrong. So wrong, in fact, that I am wondering if you spent any time in the U.S. at all.

I started my first band in high school in the mid-70's, and I can tell you without question that progressive rock, along with hard rock, were the major staples of AOR (album-oriented rock) radio stations throughout the U.S. From personal experience I can tell you that Chicago had several AOR stations and even Detroit had three (WABX, WWWW and WRIF). Progressive rock was played morning, noon and night (and often in whole album format).

As far as record sales in the U.S. in the early to mid 70s, again, you are completely off base. Allow me to prove it to you:

Jethro Tull had six consecutive Top Ten albums between 71-75, and two of these went to Number One: 'Thick as a Brick' and 'A Passion Play' -- two of the most eccentric prog albums ever released.

Pink Floyd's 'DSotM', 'Wish You Were Here' and 'The Wall' all went to #1 and Animals was #3

Yes had six consecutive albums in the Top Ten from 71-78.

Santana's 'Abraxas' and 'III' went to #1.

Traffic had four top ten albums between 70-74.

The Moody Blues had three albums in the top ten between 70-72 ('Seventh Sojourn' went to #1).

ELP had four albums in the top ten between 71-74.

Kansas's 'Leftoverture' and 'Point of Know Return' were top ten, as well as having two top singles.

ELO, Allan Parsons Project, Supertramp, Queen -- all were progressive rock bands with top ten albums in the time frame I mentioned.

In addition, if you go on sold-out concerts in major arenas and stadiums, at no other time have progressive rock bands ruled the venue ratings as they did then. I know, I was at several sold out Floyd, Tull, Yes, ELP, Genesis, Moody Blues, King Crimson and Supertramp shows.

Finally, at no other time has there been such a preponderance of great and landmark progressive rock albums. Ever. Your relating success to sub-genres is rather meaningless.

But thanks for the dialogue!

Ivan Melgar Morey said...

In first place Iván, not Igor (LOL)

No Prog band except Pink Floyd an Alan Parsons (Eye in the Sky), had an album of the year EVER , .

Just in case, in 1973, Dark Side of the Moon was not even in the top 5 in USA (ANUAL CHART)

1.- The World is a Ghetto - War
2.- Summer Breeze - Seals & Crofts
3.- Talking Book - Stevie Wonder
4.- No Secrets - Carly Simon
5.- Lady Sings the Blues - Diana Ross

I lived two years in Birmingham Alabama), now back to the issue, Yes, Jethro Tull, etc, had a top album in some weeks, but hardly the most popular album of the year, read the Allmusic information of awards for each album and you will find the word PEAK at the end, this means this albums were N° 1 at least one week.

Now some eviodence, in USA no Prog album was N° 1 in the 70's;l

The best-selling album of 1970 was Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel.[15]

The best-selling album of 1971 was Jesus Christ Superstar Soundtrack.[16]

The best-selling album of 1972 was Harvest by Neil Young.[17]

The best-selling album of 1973 was The World Is a Ghetto by War.[18]

The best-selling album of 1974 was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John.[19]

The best-selling album of 1975 was Elton John's Greatest Hits by Elton John.[20]

The best-selling album of 1976 was Frampton Comes Alive by Peter Frampton.[21]

The best-selling album of 1977 was Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.[22]

The best-selling album of 1978 was Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack.[23]

The best-selling album of 1979 was 52nd Street by Billy Joel.[24]

Source: Billboard Top 200


Ivan Melgar Morey said...


As a fact, the top 5 albums of the year in 1972 when you claim Thick as a Brick was N° 1 are:

1.- Harvest by Neal Young
2.- Tapestry by Carole King
3.- American Pie by Bob Mc'Lean
4.- Teaser and the Firecat by Cat Stevens
5.- Hot Rocks by The Rolling Stones

Source: Billboard Top 200

Being N° 1 for a week or two after their release means nothing, and Jethro Tull is not near N° 1 of the year, (They peaked for 2 weeks after it's release).

Anyway, we all know that the top albums is not significant, the charts are song based, and for example there's 1974, the top year of Prog:

1. No Woman, No Cry - Bob Marley and the Wailers
2. Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
3. You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet - Bachman-Turner Overdrive
4. Rock Your Baby - George McCrae
5. Lady Marmalade - LaBelle
6. Autobahn - Kraftwerk
7. Help Me - Joni Mitchell
8. Waterloo - Abba
9. Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe - Barry White
10. Tell Me Something Good - Rufus
11. Black Water - Doobie Brothers
12. Rebel Rebel - David Bowie
13. Killer Queen - Queen
14. Pick Up the Pieces - Average White Band
15. Can't Get Enough - Bad Company
16. Rikki Don't Lose That Number - Steely Dan
17. I Shot the Sheriff - Eric Clapton
18. My Everything - Barry White
19. You're No Good - Linda Ronstadt
20. It's Only Rock 'n' Roll - Rolling Stones
21. You Haven't Done Nothin' - Stevie Wonder
22. Boogie On Reggae Woman - Stevie Wonder
23. Rock the Boat - Hues Corporation
24. Cat's In the Cradle - Harry Chapin
25. Be Thankful For What You Got - William DeVaughn
26. Fire - Ohio Players
27. Shame, Shame, Shame - Shirley & Company
28. Lovin' You - Minnie Riperton
29. Sideshow - Blue Magic
30. Some Kind Of Wonderful - Grand Funk
31. Love Hurts - Nazareth
32. Already Gone - Eagles
33. The Air That I Breathe - Hollies
34. Then Came You - Dionne Warwicke and the Spinners
35 . Sundown - Gordon Lightfoot
36. Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me - Elton John
37. Bad Company - Bad Company
38. TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) - MFSB featuring the Three Degrees
39. Everlasting Love - Carl Carlton
40. Never Can Say Goodbye - Gloria Gaynor
41. My Eyes Adored You - Frankie Valli
42. How Long - Ace
43. September Gurls - Big Star
44. Do It ('Til You're Satisfied) - B.T. Express
45. Best of My Love - Eagles
46. I Can Help - Billy Swan
47. School - Supertramp
48. Tonight Is the Night - Betty Wright
49. Fox On the Run - Sweet
50. The Loco-Motion - Grand Funk

As a fact there's 1 single pure Prog track (not talking about Queen or Supertramp)and it's Jethro Tull's Bungle in the Jungle in N° 92

So please, don't live in a dream, Prog was more popular in the 70's, but always a minority genre.

I would love Prog being popular, but it wasn't massive ever, that's a myth.


Ivan Melgar Morey said...


Just found this info:

When Thick as a Brick was released in 1972 it caused something of a sensation. The reaction among fans was overwhelmingly positive; the album spent 20 weeks on the Billboard Top 40 Album chart, two weeks at number one.



So,it's evident we are talking about an album that was N° 1 in UK for 2 weeks.

As far as I remember,. few bands reached N° 1 in other countries, like Nursery Cryme (Genesis) in Italy or a couple more


Morthoron the Dark Elf said...

Igor, I would suggest that "Thick as a Brick" and "Passion Play" both reaching #1 (for however many amount of weeks is irrelevant) is a testament to how the tastes of music listeners has changed over the years. What are the chances of an album like "Thick as a Brick", a single song, 42 minutes in length, would ever reach #1 today? You yourself admitted that "albums of the year" are singles-driven in nature, but we're talking about albums that did not even have a single!

By the way, according to Amazon, "Aqualung" is one of the top 100 albums in album sales of the 70s and Floyd has 4 albums in that listing, as well as Santana, Queen and Supertramp, all of whom are considered progressive.

And thanks for reminding me about Kraftwerk's "Autobahn". It reached #6 for the year of 1974? How do you explain such an eccentric album reaching that high?

Certainly pop albums will be the biggest sellers in total in any given year; hell, even Zeppelin's Volume IV (ZoSo) only made to #2 on Billboard, and "Dark Side of the Moon" wasn't even the best selling album for 1973, and each are considered to be two of the greatest albums ever recorded (and eventually sold 20 million albums).

Do you you really think more people were listening to "Jesus Christ Superstar" in '71 than "Led Zeppelin IV"? Or were more folks listening to War's The World is a Ghetto" in '73 than Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon"? Maybe on AM mono stations, but on FM stereo it was Zeppelin and Floyd. And rock bands at high school dances and bars weren't playing "I Don't Know How to Love Him" from JC Superstar. If you could play a Floyd tune, you were in!

Also, I'll guarantee you one thing, Pink Floyd had more sold-out shows for the DSotM tour than War did with their album. War was a back-up band to other acts at many venues.

Your methods of equating total album sales with what was actually happening is like minimizing the effect of punk rock by saying since no punk band had an album of the year, therefore, they had no effect on music. And that simply isn't true at all.

In fact, if you look at the top selling album for 1980 -- Floyd's The Wall, 1981 -- "Hi-Infidelity by REO Speedwagon, and 1982 -- "Asia" by Asia, one would think that there was no such thing as punk or new wave. If you went just on your fallacious idea, then it seems evident that middle-of-the-road rock was the most popular, but that wasn't even close to what the case was.

Sorry, the only myths here are the ones in your head. Maybe you were listening to crap in Alabama (and having been to that backward state, I am surprised they even played rock on the radio in the 70s), but up north in places like Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Detroit there were sell-out shows for every great progressive rock band that came to town.

But I suppose if we're really honest with ourselves, all these bands we're referring to were simply "rock bands" back then. I don't recall calling Tull or Floyd "prog-bands" back when I first listened to them, or refer to Zeppelin's music as "hard rock" or Deep Purple and Sabbath as "heavy metal". Either it was good rock or bad rock. The genre-splitting came later -- an effort by the music industry to segmentalize bands for their ad campaigns.


Ivan Melgar Morey said...

WWell Morothoron, lets get back to the point, you are changing the issue, so I'll go point by point

1.- You said Prog was the most popular music in the 70's, and I disagreed, because I Prog was never as massive as other genres and no Prog album was N° 1 except one by Pink Floyd and another by Alan Parson's Project, contrary to what you said.

I proved that not even Dark Side of the Moon reached N° 1 in USA, and I supported all my claims with evidence, as I always do.

And that's logical, POP albums are designed to gain popularity in a short lapse of time and then vanish, while Prog takes time to be understood but sells consistently for years.

2.- About Jesus Christ Superstar, it was massive around the world, and numbers don't lie, in a determined year, they sold more than Deep Purple.

3.- Now don't mention Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple or Black Sabbath, because I don't believe they are Prog bands, IMO we are talking about mainstream Hard Rock bands and nothing more.

4.- About Punk: Lets be honest, the pure genre only survived 1977 and 1978, what came after was a blend of Punk, Pop and whatever, but pure Punk was never as massive as their fans pretend, neither the killed Prog. So in 1980 and 1982, Punk didn't existed, the remain was a hybrid called New Wave, with artists as The Go Go's and Blondie.

And the numbers don't lie, Punk was not as remotely popular as people beileve.

5.- Please, don't be so arrogant about Alabama, I saw great concerts there and bought almost 300 LP's that would had never found in my country, but that was not enough, I used to travel to Florida and New York to see concerts.

BTW: Genesis made the Lamb Tour with half sold concerts, they even had to cancel some dates.

I don't say this to take merit from Prog, because I eat, breathe and sweat Prog, and it's amazing that a non commercial and massive genre has survived and buried other genres.

Thanks for the dialogue


Morthoron the Dark Elf said...

"Well Morothoron, lets get back to the point, you are changing the issue, so I'll go point by point.

"1.- You said Prog was the most popular music in the 70's..."

But nowhere in the article does it say Prog was the most popular music in the 70's, nor does it mention album sales or other genres of music with any specificity. The article dealt with the exceptional progressive albums of that time, and made the point that at no other period were there greater prog albums.

The sidebar discussion started with you making the fallacious comment: "Do you really believe Progressive Rock only existed between 1967 and 1977?"

That was not my assertion. the "best" progressive rock was from that era. But the discussion snowballed from there.

Thanks for stopping by. The second round of 20 albums from that era will be out by the end of the week.

Ivan Melgar Morey said...


The Dark Elf said: But nowhere in the article does it say Prog was the most popular music in the 70's, nor does it mention album sales or other genres.

Seems you have bad memory, is true you never said it in the article, but you said it in the replies
The Dark Elf said: Ummm...Ivan, the "progressive rock era", that period when prog-rock was predominant on the airwaves and in record sales,

Predominant means that they dominated the rest.

I wish it would had been like this, but people has to know the truth, Prog was never extremely popular, it was always a minority genre.


Morthoron the Dark Elf said...

All I can say, Igor, is that the three major rock radio stations in Detroit in the early-to-mid 70s

WWWW (known as "Quadzilla")

WABX (with a "freeform progressive rock format")


WRIF ("The Rif")

All were album-oriented rock stations at one time, and all played progressive rock extensively. WABX and WWWW were particularly cutting edge. You could hear albums and album sides from any prog-rock bands, and it is where I learned to love progressive music.

Unfortunately, none of the three play anything like that anymore. Two haven't been rock stations for decades.

Perhaps I was blessed by location at a time when Detroit was known as "Rock City".