I’ve finished my history of the London Musicians’ Collective, which is now being proof read in draft form, and am thus now casting about for possible themes for my next project.
I have previously considered making a pitch for a contribution to Bloomsbury’s ‘33 I/3′ line of ‘classic albums’ tributes,which is now well over 100 in number - I wanted to write about AMM’s first album, AMMusic, but was informed that they were not currently (2018) seeking submissions, which I’m sure was true, but got me paranoid about having chosen perhaps too abstruse a subject (their mainstay appears to be mostly rock/pop recordings (Bitches Brew being their only jazz-related disc on offer). Maybe I’ll alert them to the plethora of great ‘crossover’ (in its best sense) product that begs for reappraisal? There does indeed seem to be a lack of avant material in general in this series.
Whilst debating all this, I have been thinking about some pivotal albums from my final year at school (1972/3) and the possibility of pitching one of these to 33 1/3. - Miles Davis’s Live at Fillmore, Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma and Soft Machine Three. Frank Zappa was the other obvious contender from this period of my musical education (Uncle Meat, We’re Only In It for the Money and Hot Rats in particular), but the earlier three have perhaps been less celebrated, although this is gradually changing? All three were doubles, and were released circa 1970, yet none have yet been featured by 33 1/3 (nor have the Zappa/Mothers discs, amazingly).
All three of these double albums mostly consisted of very long tracks, a feature that was then very much in favour, as a mark of serious ‘heaviosity’! I listened to them so much that, despite their complexity and sheer length, I know every note and beat by heart. Fifty years on, there has been some acknowledgement of the status of Fillmore, Ummagumma and Three: the first, for example, has been exhaustively put under the microscope by jazz historian Bob Gluck, in his 2016 study (University of Chicago) The Miles Davis Lost Quintet and Other Revolutionary Ensembles, which comes very highly recommended for those interested in the 1967-1973 timeline of avant-jazz. I’ve also now just discovered that there is a book devoted to Ummagumma, by a Scott Meze, called Something Else: Why Ummagumma by Pink Floyd is the Greatest Album Ever Made, the hubristic nature of which I can’t honestly endorse, but which immediately made me order it on Amazon (to my shame, as Waterstones don’t appear to stock it, unfortunately, so it represents just one more contribution to Jeff ‘Croesus’ Bezos.)
Which leaves Soft Machine Three, which has been significantly bigged-up over the past decade or so, to be sure (see the Wiki bibliography under the album’s entry), but has yet to receive the ultimate endorsement, in book form, that Fillmore and Ummagumma have been given. The Softs history is as messy and convoluted as that of the Floyd and Miles, and I’d certainly like to be given the chance to further embed their third album in the history books of genre-challenging bands.