Phil Manzanera, 1978

Records by Phil Manzanera, the lauded guitarist of Roxy Music, are svengali affairs: calling in favors and flighting in help from across his far flung career. On K-Scope vocal duties are handled by bassist Bill MacCormick, John Wetton (recently off King Crimson duty) and most interestingly by a young Tim and Neil Finn, who would later form the core of the 80s combo, Crowded House. K-Scope hails from that disorienting era when the bottom had finally fallen out on progressive rock's selling power, disco was in full swing and punk and new wave were already getting up to speed. The best moments here are when Phil tries to square this circle, pairing slick, pulsating rhythms with tricky patterns to make concise, self-contained songs.


Quiet Sun, 1975

Mainstream (despite its title) is a progressive rock record. Listen a little closer, though, squint at the liner notes, and you'll see it's a bridge between prog rock and post punk. Sure, it's led by Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera. Of course, Roxy—who were always leaning more towards pop—had been leaving prog further behind each successive year. The drummer on the set is a young chap named Charles Hayward. The same one who would go on to form the most experimental (and tellingly, progish) post punk bands around: This Heat.

Even the edgier side of Quiet Sun's music is a tad too ragged and ramshackle. This isn't the coiled beast of King Crimson nor the precise jazz-rock gymnastics Soft Machine. It's the last track, Rongwrong— the longest and only one with vocals—where  proto-punk elements become undeniable. Hayward is no singer, and his approach to that problem is pretty laissez faire.

In a sense, Mainstream, is outside of time: too late and too rambunctious for prog, too early and too virtuosic for punk.