Glenn Cornick (1947-2014) – Postscript

Author: Dale Nickey

Jethro Tull w/Glenn Cornick played The Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970 to an audience of between 600 and 700 hundred thousand people (Guinness book estimate). It was Britain’s answer to Woodstock only bigger; however, feel good vibes were definitely in short supply. A large mob who had not paid for admittance to the event took exception to being fenced out. They set about tearing the large corrugated steel fence down. Police and fans squared off. It was the music that calmed nerves and avoided a riot.

Tull played the fifth and last day of a very long festival. And similar to Woodstock, they faced a large, cranky and sleep deprived throng. Tough crowd. Woodstock looked like the beginning of something. Unfortunately it was the beginning of the end. The bitter end was Altamont and finally the Isle of Wight Festival. The Isle of Wight was the last festival of its kind for decades.

Tull took the stage with a tough brief and blew the doors out of the place with an electrifying performance. Glenn Cornick was throwing flames in particular. He gets some bass/face time in the second half of this performance. It’s worth the wait.

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Missed By ‘That’ Much…..Progressive Rock’s Greatest B-Listers

Authored by Dale Nickey:

The Beatles (among many other things) are the Godfathers of Prog. They dragged Rock and Roll kicking and screaming into its adulthood. They introduced all the basic components of the genre we would later call Progressive Rock: the mellotron, odd time signatures, the symphony orchestra, synthesizers, sampling and looping, cut and paste methodology, new-age philosophizing……..A whole new generation of musicians were watching, listening, and incorporating. Then they took it all a step further. Some took it too far. But they all aimed high. For a brief time in the 1970’s, Progressive Rock scaled the mountaintop and ruled the world.

You got your A-list Prog Bands…..Yes, ELP, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd. They made an impact on pop culture and headlined stadiums. You also have the Moody Blues, a Progressive Rock group in ‘hit-makers’ clothing. However, go past that honor roll, and you’ll find a rogues gallery of musically ambitious bands who never quite grabbed the brass ring of mega-stardom. Here is my Top 10 underachievers in the Progressive Rock genre. A genre where you really ‘had to be there’……

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UK 

From the ashes of King Crimson and Roxy Music rose UK. Bassist/Vocalist John Wetton made his acquaintance with keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson in Roxy Music. Likewise, Wetton and (ex-Yes drummer) Bill Bruford shook the earth together in Crimson. Guitar virtuoso Alan Holdsworth rounded out the lineup.  UK was at the right place at the wrong time. In the mid-70’s Punk was in the process of scorching the earth, and mid-life Proggers were definitely not invited to the party.

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Flash

Original Yes guitarist Peter Banks built this group from the ground up after his brusque dismissal. Ex-Yesser Tony Kaye signed on for the first album and insured the band was 40% Yes alumni. Comparisons were inevitable. Banks, Kaye and Co. couldn’t hope to match the musical or commercial heights of their former band, but they gave it a decent college try. Their first single “Small Beginnings” actually crawled to number 28 on the Billboard chart in America. They toured incessantly and made three idiosyncratic albums. However, an oddball lead singer, Kaye’s departure and Banks’ alcohol fueled megalomania put paid to any further commercial inroads.

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801

Great players, good material and art-rock cache’ (courtesy of Brian Eno). This band should have been bigger than they were. Their  live album “801-Live” is one of the great buried treasures of the 70’s. It contains their monumental version of The Fab’s, “Tomorrow Never Knows”; a track that stands as one of the greatest Beatles covers in history. Moreover, it (arguably) holds the distinction of being the only cover version that betters the original.

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Camel

Keyboard wizard Peter Barden’s baby after his tenure with Them and Van Morrison. Camel was a fine ensemble made up of capable (albeit unknown) musicians. Their greatest shortfall was a scarcity of hooks and vocals. Prog’s popularity was on the wane, and Camel’s protracted instrumentals never really stood a chance in the mainstream.

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PFM

Of all the bands on this list, the Italian Prog group seemed most likely to achieve breakout success. Their electrifying single “Celebration” (from their first American album) made significant inroads on FM radio during Prog’s early 70’s heyday. They were a monster live act. Their musicianship was top tier. However, the absence of a proper lead singer blunted their crossover potential. And, for the all important American audience, an Italian Rock band was perhaps a bridge too far.

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Gentle Giant

Insanely syncopated arrangements, conservatory trained members, and eclecticism run riot. Gentle Giant was the archetype for all that was good and excessive about Progressive Rock. A crossover hit was never in the cards. The band was (ultimately) too adventurous for it’s own good. However, their work ethic and creativity were beyond reproach.

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Focus

Big in Europe. In America, not so much. They did join the ranks of memorable “one hit wonders” with their manic instrumental “Hocus Pocus”. However, guitarist Jan Akkerman’s commitment to Rock was tenuous at best, and their yodeling leader Thijs Van Leer was a bug-eyed Rock flautist in a world already occupied by Jethro Tull. Holland’s greatest musical export will forever remain on the B-list in Prog-Rock history. Perhaps unjustly.

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Ambrosia

Kansas and Styx notwithstanding, Ambrosia started out in the early 70’s as a credible American riposte to English Prog kings Yes. And, they could write tunes. Ultimately, the call of the Billboard charts was impossible to resist. they abandoned their Progressive mission and became AOR hit makers until Punk and New Wave herded them to the margins.

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Barclay James Harvest 

Far too effete and lightweight to break big in America; the band put out a slew of mellotron rich records in the 70’s that charted respectably in Britain. They were persistent and aimed high. However, in a genre where virtuosity was the standard and not the exception, BJH was never quite ready for prime time.

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Procol Harum 

A borderline call. Procol Harum was a great band who had their moments in the sun. Specifically, the summer of love evergreen, “Whiter Shade of Pale” and the (1972) single “Conquistador”. However, without a proper bum wiggling front man, their mass appeal was limited. They also occupy a permanent footnote in Rock history as the band who gave the world Robin Trower. They became an “album band” and now tread the nostalgia circuit. Their (1973) album, “Grand Hotel” is a masterpiece ripe for rediscovery.

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Before And After Vol. 4 (YES) – Music Makeovers That Made Sense AND Dollars

Authored by Dale Nickey

More YES? click >>>Live OaklandLive Vegas/Live LA/Lost Years/ HOF

YES

Before (1968-1981)

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Yes is one of the music industry’s longest running soap operas. Yes started out as a covers band with an edge, they offered the world their off-the-wall versions of songs by The Beatles, The Byrds, Richie Havens, and Paul Simon. These, along with their own musically athletic compositions helped design the template for what we now consider the Progressive Rock genre. Steve Howe replaced free-radical guitarist Peter Banks and Rick Wakeman also signed on in 1971. These upgrades resulted in world stardom and classic rock hits that will live on in perpetuity.

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Yes could have consolidated their gains and joined mega-bands (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd) into the Hall of Fame. However, at their 70’s commercial peak they went experimental and released two of their most difficult and adventurous albums. “Tales Of Topographic Oceans” and “Relayer” (respectively). Marquee member Rick Wakeman left in disgust and the franchise started to lose momentum. They remained a reliable concert draw but record sales declined significantly. Though their core audience remained, Yes were now unfashionable underdogs slugging it out in a Punk/New Wave world. 1977 saw Wakeman’s return and the LP “Going For The One” revived the band’s fortunes temporarily; but the crucial follow-up “Tormato” was a stinker that found the band tired, the formula tired and their fans frustrated. Founder and visionary Jon Anderson bailed and took super-star keyboardist Wakeman with him. All that remained was the Yes rhythm section and a sold out tour with the money already spent. Remaining members Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White hastily assembled a line up by merging with the pop duo The Buggles and limped through one album and tour that met the band’s contractual obligations, but alienated half of their remaining fan base. Steve Howe and Geoff Downes left to form super-group ASIA and that, (apparently) was that.

AFTER (1982-20??)

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Chris Squire and Alan White crawled from the smoking wreckage of Yes and tried forming a  supergroup with Jimmy Page. That project (XYZ) never saw the light of day and things were looking bleak. Squire then stumbled upon some demos by South African rock star Trevor Rabin. Rabin was a young, guitar slinging hotshot with leading man looks and the ability to sing, write, play keyboards, produce and arrange. The band Cinema was born and when original Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye was drafted into the group, corporate wheels started turning. Soon Upon hearing the Cinema demos, Jon Anderson gave his seal of approval and signed on. With Anderson onboard, the band was now 80 percent Yes alumni and there was no turning back. Rabin’s protests be damned, there was now a New Yes for the 1980’s with corporate juice fueling the vehicle.

In brief, the remodeled Yes released the (1983) album “90125” and went stratospheric. A number one single, “Owner Of a Lonely Heart” ruled radio and the song’s video was ubiquitous on MTV for most of the year. Likewise the album “90125” went Top Five on Billboard charts and went triple platinum in the US.  The 80’s Yes had eclipsed the previous incarnation’s commercial achievements and caused a rift in the fan base that remains to this day.

What happened next?

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In 1987, the new Yes  followed up “90125” with “Big Generator”.  It spawned two Top 40 singles but the album was clearly a commercial step back after the break out success of “90125”. Jon Anderson saw the vessel taking on water and  began to split his time between the band and the newly formed Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe. Now we had another band of Yes alumni with a viable claim to the brand. Moreover, the new ensemble’s modest commercial success saw record company CEO’s and lawyers scrambling.  Chris Squire and record label ATCO now owned the Yes name, but without enough legit band members to field a team, the Yes name was a frozen asset. From this legal quagmire, the next Yes album was born, “UNION”. All eight yes alumni participated on the album and support tour. The album was a cut-and-paste mess that sold barely half a million copies. The tour was a commercial success but disillusioned band members left before the tour’s completion and the whole enterprise unraveled at the speed of light. Yes would reform in various configurations culminating in their reunion of the classic lineup in 2002. However, since that time, Yes has chosen to dilute its brand with a cavalcade of tribute-band singers; and in the process, soiled the band’s legacy for all except the most die-hard, Johnny-come-lately fans.

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Top 10 “Story Songs” # 5 Peter Gabriel (Family Snapshot)

(Click here for Parts 

NUMBER  5

FAMILY SNAPSHOT – (Peter Gabriel) – 1980

Click for other story songs>>>>>> 10  9  8 7 6  4 3 2 1 

Peter  Gabriel  is an artist who grew up in public. His early work with Genesis could have been racked in the Children’s Music section of your local Tower Records.  His lyrics mostly resided in the fantasy world of knights, giant hogweeds, and wolf kings; culminating with his  urban fairy tale, “Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”.  He then left Genesis to find himself as a person and artist. However, his predilection for storytelling remained.  “Family Snapshot” is his most chilling piece of work. Also, one of his finest. He probes the mind of a political assassin and the mechanics of  the killing in dispassionate methodical detail. Parallels to the Kennedy assassination are easy to draw and impossible to ignore. This epic “story song” is a glimpse into what might have been going on behind the “grassy knoll” oh so many years ago in 1963. A YouTube video of this tune matched to the “Magruder” film exists, but it’s a tough view.  More palatable is his “Amnesty International” performance.

R&R Hall Of Shame (Spotlight) – The Moody Blues

Author: Dale Nickey

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame carries a stink. Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner is also co-founder of the R&R Hall. And it is common knowledge that his personal musical taste dictates the nomination list. The list fails to include some of the more accomplished British Bands or any artist he ‘don’t cotton to’.  He seems to have a particular distaste for British artists in the progressive wing of rock music.

The Moody Blues:

70 million albums sold

Hits,  sell-out tours, zillions of records sold, classic rock evergreens (Nights In White Satin, Ride My See-Saw, Tuesday Afternoon, Question). Not enough to elbow aside The Dells I guess.  Another band that was body slammed by Punk and New Wave in the late 70’s, only to pick themselves up in 1981 and answer with more hits and an updated sound “Gemini Dream”  and  “The Voice”. Early purveyors of stoner rock, who issued very prescient and preemptive musical warnings about corporate rape and environmental disaster as early as 1970 “A Question Of Balance”. Traffic beats them in because Stevie Winwood had a slew of solo hits and swings a big dick in the American record industry.

Early on The Moody’s displayed a rebel spirit that should endear any Hall Of Fame voter to their cause. Their greatest album “Days Of Future Past” was a bold and defiant work. Deram Records gave The Moody Blues the task of recording Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” in a rock context for the purpose of demonstrating their new ‘Deramic’ Sound innovation. The Moody Blues had other ideas and surreptitiously recorded the epic song cycle “Days Of Future Past” instead. The corporate listening session was the first time Deram executives became aware of the bait and switch concept album. They grudgingly put it out anyway and it went mega. The single from that record “Night’s In White Satin” became a classic rock standard.

Debut Albums That Shook My World (Spotlight) Kate Bush “The Kick Inside”

By Dale Nickey:

Kate Bush (The Kick Inside)

Until Kate came along, you had to make do with archetypical female Rock artists. Janis Joplin was the unapologetically loud, horny, stoned, soul mama. Joni Mitchell and Laura Nyro gave us our liberated, erudite, (Dylan with a vagina) fix. However, if a woman was too smokin’ hot, they were automatically relegated to the vacuous show-biz preserve where the Olivia Newton Johns and Juice Newtons reigned supreme.  Kate took a mortar and pestle and mashed up all the stereotypes.  She had a music geek’s appreciation for prog and an ethnomusicologist’s ear for British Folk.  On ‘Kick’ she took her Minnie Mouse soprano, formidable piano chops and applied them to subjects as diverse as menstrual cycles, suicide, incest, Lolita complexes and ghosts. She sang, wrote, played, danced and had an entire nation salivating at her teen feet.  After one jaw dropping European Tour,  she walked out of the machinery and opted for quiet domesticity and the occasional block buster album.  “The Kick Inside” is her first and best.  Kate denies it because it was the album she had least control of.  But, it will always remain her masterpiece. Every song is eye-watering, and wrapped in a package that launched a million masturbatory fantasies.

Kateophiles admire Bush’s alpha-fem independant streak as much as they do her music. EMI’s good old boys thought they knew better when it came time to select a single off her first album.  Kate would not be bullied and held out for “Wuthering Heights.”  It went number one and and stayed there for six weeks. On this performance from her only live tour, she inhabits the spirit of Cathy Earnshaw to a degree that is chilling and thrilling.

Rare Birds – Top Five Pioneers of “Rock Violin”….# 1

Eddie Jobson

(Jethro Tull, Roxy Music, Frank Zappa, YES, UK, King Crimson, Curved Air)

Click here for #’s   2 3 4 5

If  Mozart were reincarnated as a rock musician he would most likely come back as Eddie Jobson. Like Mozart, Jobson was precociously talented on both keyboards and violin from an early age. He was the featured soloist at the age of seventeen for B-list proggers Curved Air before Roxy Music snapped him up and made him a star member ( at age eighteen) of their studio and touring band for the next three albums. Due in part to Jobson, Roxy became one of the biggest bands in Europe.  His trademarks were a decidedly androgynous sex appeal and a custom made see-through Plexiglas violin.  Onstage, Jobson brought a glammy, confident swagger that enhanced the appeal of the electric violin as a Rock instrument.  After Roxy Music, Jobson said thanks (but no thanks) to an offer from Procol Harum  and joined the finishing school that was Frank Zappa’s road band in 1976.  After Zappa, he then established his own brand as both electric violinist and world class multi-keyboardist in the progressive all star unit UK.  After three albums, UK folded.  Jobson remained in the Prog elite-league as a member of Jethro Tull and was breifly a member of the 1983 platinum version of YES; going as far as to appear in the video for “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” before ultimately turning down the gig. King Crimson fans can also enjoy his work on the live album “USA”, where he surrepetitiously replaced much of the violin work of previous bowsman David Cross.

Jobson’s first legendary burst of genius was his epic electric violin solo on Roxy’s “Out Of The Blue”. After all that had gone on before, this 1975 electric violin solo finally demonstrated -once and for all- the boner inducing potential of the instrument in a Rock context. Eddie’s solo comes at the end of this video and is worth the wait.