1971 was a really good year and there are several albums that didn't make this top 5 but still got into my top 50. It was also the year when, for me at least, things started to go really Prog.
I was 3 in 1971. It was the year the UK went decimal, I know this as I had a big tin of old coins that I used to play with. Just to be clear, in the early 70s a tin of old coins was considered an exciting new toy! Though I think Mum & Dad really kept it for card games, I had an early fascination with putting things in order. In other news the Aswan Dam was opened, Jim Morrison died and Evel Knievel set a world record by jumping 19 cars in Ontario, California.
1. Jethro Tull "Aqualung" - Tull are one of my all time favourite bands. I've seen them live ... a lot. Aqualung is undoubtedly their best known album and for good reason. It's their first really Proggy effort but has a lot of variety from riff heavy tunes like Aqualung & Locomotive Breath to acoustic gems like Wond'ring Aloud & Cheap Day Return. Ian Anderson would argue it's not a concept album, and I'd agree, but it hangs together well and provides some recurring themes that help the songs work well as a complete piece of music.
2. Genesis "Nursery Cryme" - I'm a big fan of early Genesis (when Gabriel was still with them) and Nursery Cryme is really the first album where everything fell into place for them. This was the band's third LP but their first with Collins on drums and Hackett on guitar. The side one triplet of The Musical Box, For Absent Friends and The Return of the Giant Hogweed is a magnificent run of tunes that side two cannot quite match, though album closer The Fountain of Salmacis comes close.
3. Yes "The Yes Album" - I still have some significant gaps in my Yes collection but I've had The Yes Album for a long time and don't think they ever bettered it. It's got all my favourite Yes songs on, including Yours Is No Disgrace and Starship Trooper, and sees the band find a nice balance between catchy pop tunes and virtuoso musical ability.
4. David Bowie "Hunky Dory" - I have to confess I'm only just getting to grips with the Bowie back catalogue, having resolutely ignored him since my METAL years. I've been gradually dipping into his classic albums but it was Boy George, of all people, who really convinced me to give this album a spin having eloquently sung it's praises in a Danny Baker LP discussion on the telly last year.
5. Caravan "In the Land of Grey and Pink" - Prime movers in the Canterbury scene which is a little like Prog but with a Jazz inflection, this was the first Caravan album I heard and is still my favourite. Opening with the wonderfully English whimsey of Golf Girl and ending with the epic Nine Feet Underground, it's magnificently unhinged.
Outside the top 5; Sly & The Family Stone "There's A Riot Going On", Black Sabbath "Master of Reality", Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin IV", Pink Floyd "Meddle", Status Quo "Dog of Two Head", The Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers" and The Who "Who's Next".
Albums I need to try; Roy Harper "Stormcock", Can "Tago Mago", Leonard Cohen "Songs of Love and Hate", Joni Mitchell "Blue", John Martyn "Bless The Weather", Mountain "Nantucket Sleighride", Van Der Graaf Generator "Pawn Hearts", The Beach Boys "Surf's Up" and Karen Dalton "In My Own Time".