Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 16. September 8th 1971
Its the Vertigo season again and "The Music Company" has seen fit to unleash upon us another selection of new long-players which can be only described as a mixed bag. The Vertigo label which has been associated mainly with Progressive heavy sounds now seems to be broadening I its base because the new selection has some surprises compared with what we normally associate with the label.
There are some old groups, there are some new groups and there are some soloists, the overall quality of whom is relatively high although some do let the side down somewhat.
LP's include Asylum by a new group, Cressida; the third LP from King Crimson, Lizard; a solo LP from Ian Matthews; a bit of Afro-rock from Assagia; We'll Talk about it Later which is the second nucleus record and finally the first Lp by a group called Gravy Train.
The above listed LP's will be the ones reviewed here but there are four others in the Current Vertigo bag. The new Uriah Heep LP called Salisbury which comes highly recommended, and an LP by a group called Still Life which if nothing else is notable for its cover. For those interested in black magic ( a thing which seems to be influencing the pop music scene today) the record Holy Magick by Graham Bond might be worth the purchase, but if you like a bit of piano playing then Keith Tippett's record might interest you more. He's a good keyboard man and is noted for his session work so how he stands up on his own LP has yet to be discovered.
Talk about regionalism! - not so very long ago we were inundated with psuedo-Latin American beat in the form of such groups as Santana, and more recently perhaps, Mandrill. Now it's Africa's turn as shown by the rise of the so-called Afro-rock groups notably, of course, Osibisa, and Assagai. Assagai which developed from many obscure groups, among them one (understandably) called Spear, strikes me as a very parochial bunch of guys and with names like Louis Moholo, Duda Pukwana, and Bizo Maggikana, who's surprised. On top of this a lot of the tracks sung in Yuruba (a Nigerian dialect), including a version of Hey Jude which has to be heard to be believed. The big thing I find about this LP is that it's all been heard before, only it was called Calypso. In fact you just have to add a steel band and it would be straight out of Trinidad.
There is a very distinct western jazz influence on the group especially in the use of saxaphones but a link with Africa is kept by use of 'Afro' type drumming. The record is very easy listening - it's not brilliant and doesn't provide us with any outstanding music, but it's still good. The instrumentals are the best and range from Akas a big band instrumental with reminders of Santana, to Ayeio, which has a very strong Calypso overtone.
Nucleus: We'll Talk about it later.
In an effort to categorise musical groups one writer has described the music of Nucleus as "jazz-blues with strong rock overtones" whatever that means. All I can say is that the group play a type of free-form yet specialised music which can be described to my satisfaction as "mature". Nucleus is an incredibly talented and tight knit instrumental group and their second LP amply shows this.
Their music however, suffers from much of a sameness, to such an extent that it is hard to distinguish between individual tracks by the time that you have heard it a few times. The musical construction is almost always the same with a free form mixture of drums, guitars and brass, producing music that sort of evolves along, so much so, that one can't quite anticipate what is going to happen on a particular track.
Their music is specialised and I would imagine that it would only attract a narrow band of listeners, (in spite of this statement - their first LP Elastic Rock sold out completely within weeks of its release) Nucleus on this LP consists of Ian Carr, Karl Jenkins, a New Zealander called Brian Smith, Jeff Clyne, John Marshall and Chris Spedding.
Ballad of Joe Pimp is one of the vocal tracks on the LP but I find that the dominating factors are the instruments which make this tune really much the same as all other tracks. Ian Carr says, "For me the test of any band is how much I enjoy listening to it when I'm not playing. With Nucleus I get into a state approaching ecstasy" - I wouldn't go that far but I do admit a partial liking of this LP and acknowledge that this record houses many very talented musicians.
King Crimson: Lizard
Cleaned my feel of mud, followed the empty
Zebra ride to the Crikus,
Past a painted eagle, spoke to the pay box
Glove which wrote on my tongue —
Pushed me down a slide to the arena
In his cloak of words strode the ringmaster
Bid me join the parade. . .
Burt with dream and taut with fear
Dawn's misty shawl upon them
Three Hills apart great armies stir
Spit oath and curse as dawn breaks.
Forming lines of horse and steel
By even yards march forward
I haven't heard such good music from them since their first LP and if it's a sign of things to come this may be a group to watch.
Ian Matthews: If you saw thro' my eyes.
Solo artists are 'in' at the moment considering the success of Cat Stevens, Elton John, James Taylor and others. A new offering in this category of music is Ian Matthews previously of Matthews Southern Comfort, who presents us with an LP of very pleasant predominately, self-penned tunes.
And the light I find reflected
Guides the way among the hearts left by the road
By the way you seem affected
I can almost taste the bitterness you show
Did you ever lead another life
when you knew no one could hear
Did you close your eyes and thought awhile
Only then to find we 're all still here
(You couldn't lose)
Hinge is a small piece of well-played orchestral music which comes at the end of the first sidy and provides a pleasant relief from the vocals a nice touch.
This is one of the LP's from which I think 'Vertigo' is broadening its base. Finding Ian M [unclear: tthews] on this label is a bit of a surprise, especially when Vertigo has traditionally been associated with heavy progressive 'group' sounds.
If you saw thro' my eyes is very pleasant and very well produced, and is one of the few LP's which I would openly reccommend people to buy. .
Norman Barratt, Les Williams, Barry Davenport and J.D. Hughes make up the new group. Gravy Train, and those who like really heavy music should go for this LP. Hughes plays a "Jethro Tull" type flute which is interspersed with a very heavy rock sound which approaches Led Zeppelin on some tracks, especially with Barratt emulating very much Jimmy Page's type of guitar work.
Coast Road is a terrific number done in a blues style. At first there is a slow pounding rhythm on which some superb instrumentals are launched, and later comes the vocals which are screamed out on the vein m the old 'blues' masters. The different tracks are variable enough to be distinctive and the only thing in common is the incredibly heavy rhythm.
The only track which I am not very keen on is Earl of Pocket Nook which unfortunately also happens to be the longest cut (16.11) but on the whole I find the LP mighty.
"This is the Gravy Train sound being captured to the extent where it contains all the excitement of a live gig and almost conjures up an idea of their visual impact" - so says the P.R. blurb, and for once I agree with it.
Cover photographs are by courtesy of Hipgnosis who are responsible for some really superb and colourful covers. (remember the cover of Elegy by the Nice.)
This LP in my opinion is the pick of the bunch and can only be described as magnificent. I would also like to say that the group has an anonymous quality about them, mainly due to the fact that no one knows anything about them, which really surprises me because this promises to be a big seller. Cressida consists of Angus Cullen, John Culley, Peter Jennings, Kevin McCarthy, Iain Clark and Harold McNair, and that's about where the information stops.
The group feature some very good keyboard work and also feature a vocalist who can actually sing (unlike many of Today's groups). The music of Cressida can be described as a very musical sort of "heavy" sound which is played with light fingers - which sounds contradictory I know, How about a quiet "heavy" type of music? - anyway it makes for very pleasant listening.
Munich features a very good [unclear: guita] break contrasting with the organ which on this tune plays a rhythmic role until later in the track when an incredible organ solo is presented. This track, like some of the others, uses an unobtrusive or hestral background and results in one of the best fusions [unclear: c.] pop group and orchestra I have heard anywhere.
So I've made this bomb for the G.P.O.
To blow them all to hell!
The cover of the record is as distinctive as the group itself, being a collection of model heads scattered upon and between two sea walls on a stony beach with two figures in the foreground aflame. The unusual photograph on the double cover seems to symbolise the fact that "Cressida" itself is unusual. Everything on this LP from instrumentals and vocals through to arrangements and production is of a consistently high quality, and I have come to the conclusion that this is the best LP of the six considered here.