The 1970's were a great time for rock musicians to truly explore their art form and leave behind the structuring of traditional pop songs. Bands were no longer afraid to go off into long musical odysseys that would show people how much of an art form rock could truly be. Unfortunately over the years many of these artists and their albums have fallen into obscurity and can only be found if one digs around for them. I'm here to help save you a bit of work in that regard today with three great prog-rock albums from the 1970's.
1. Illusions on a Double Dimple, by Triumvirat
Triumvirat was a prog-rock band from Germany. They were considered Germany's answer to Emerson Lake and Palmer as their primary focus as a prog band were also keyboards and synthesizer, rather than guitar. Their 1974 release Illusions on a Double Dimple was their major breakthrough in the US and even acquired them an opening spot on tour for Fleetwood Mac. This album shows just how rich pianos and keyboards can be when utilized the right way. Most of the music is long instrumental sections with keys taking the focus rather than vocals, though there are vocals on the album. The drumming is also quite superb because multiple odd time signatures are used to keep rhythm behind the seemingly free form keyboard odyssey. Overall, Illusions on a Double Dimple is worth at least one listen. It is a rich tapestry of piano, organ, synthesizer, and many other unexpected elements.
2. Spectrum, by Billy Cobham
Drummer Billy Cobham had risen to notoriety by touring with world renowned jazz performer Miles Davis. In 1973 however, Cobham wanted to do something on his own. The result was an album called Spectrum. Though it is more jazz fusion based rather than rock, it still has many prog-rock elements to it where it is free form and features a variety of instruments and elements used in rock. Cobham ended up recruiting a variety of skilled musicians, most notably guitarist Tommy Bolin and keyboardist Jan Hammer. The gathered musicians essentially just jammed while at the studio, but these jams were recorded and became the album itself in order to keep everything sounding natural and organic. This album is where young Bolin really got to strut his stuff and really sound like he was on fire. This appearance would later be noticed and recruited by Deep Purple. Overall, Spectrum is a very unique jazzy experience. Every last player sounds like they are really enjoying themselves by finally getting to show off their technical prowess while still putting in some soul.
3. Captain Beyond, by Captain Beyond
In 1972, ex-members of Iron Butterfly, Johnny Winter Band, and Deep Purple came together to form a new band called Captain Beyond and recorded an album of the same name. Though some of the elements of what they did were more straight traditional rock than the previous two albums mentioned, they were still very exploratory in that many of their time signatures were different from that of the norm and some parts of the album were also suites. Also, many songs featured a wide range of dynamics within the same song leaving the listener anticipating what could possibly happen next. The album also flows very well because the songs all flow into one another leaving no gaps of space whatsoever. This would be a good album for someone who would like to give prog-rock a try but would like to dip their toes in the pool first before going all in.