Upon their return from their second stint at The Star Club in Hamburg, Ossie Byrne took the band into Wessex Studios in Highbury to begin work on their first album.
Most of the first album, titled “Cressida”, was recorded live. It was widely rumoured that the band had a Mellotron and featured it on the record
During this period the band began gigging at the Marquee Club and other top London nightspots such as The Speakeasy, Revolution and Blaises. The Speakeasy and the Revolution were members-only, late-night drinking clubs--regular haunts for musicians and bands. Cressida, along with groups such as Mott the Hoople, East of Eden, Man, Ashton Gardner & Dyke, and Barclay James Harvest appeared regularly at these venues, playing for fellow musicians and record executives who would drop by.
Cressida played the Marquee on several occasions in 1969, and during their appearance in August a young couple came backstage after the gig and asked the band if they would consider playing in Czechoslovakia. Cressida received the couple's suggestion with some skepticism because Czechoslovakia, part of the Soviet Bloc at the time, was mostly closed to the West. To the band's amazement, a letter arrived a month or so later inviting them to play at a festival in Bratislava that November. On November 12th the band with Ossie Byrne and their road manager Mel Baister flew to Bratislava to top the bill, which also featured groups from several East European countries. Sponsored by the State Authorities, Cressida was the only band performing from outside the Soviet Bloc, and Kevin once again found himself playing music behind the Iron Curtain.
The Bratislava festival was held in a huge modern concert hall, and a remarkable incident transpired while the band was standing around the large concourse at the front of the building. The group recalls Kevin sitting down on the floor for a rest. Suddenly, a heavily-armed policeman appeared and ordered him to stand up--which Kevin refused to do. Before the confrontation had a chance to escalate, young people who were watching from nearby sat down as well. Within seconds there were about fifty people participating in a spur-of-the-moment “sit-down” protest. This daring and unusual development took the policeman by surprise; he left the scene and everyone stood up and carried on as before.
After Bratislava, Cressida continued playing clubs and colleges through January, 1970 while finishing work on their record.
For the non-superstitious, Friday 13th February was an auspicious date for the release of the group's first album. “Cressida” was one of three albums released by Vertigo that day: Rod Stewart's “An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down” and Black Sabbath's first LP entitled “Black Sabbath”. Cressida's album was well-reviewed by the critics, and received good radio airplay during the first few weeks after its release.
Initial sales were also promising, so the band went back into the studio before the end of February to record a single. The song was titled "Situation" but for some unknown reason it was never released.
In March1970, Cressida went to France to play in Rouen at the Open Circus, a four day event featuring bands and circus acts, who performed on three stages in a massive circus tent with a 360-degree psychedelic light show. East of Eden and Brian Auger's Trinity, among others, were also on the bill, and it was one of the most unusual and extraordinary shows the band ever played.
After a brief return to the UK, Cressida was off again to Germany for a two-week booking at the Blow-Up Club in Munich.
Unfortunately, during their stay in Munich tensions and personality clashes within the band began to surface. Despite efforts to contain and resolve these, everyone realized that Cressida's line-up would have to change.
John joined Cressida in early May 1970, and after one week of intensive rehearsal it was back to Germany for a return stint in Munich. Cressida now had a new guitarist, and a rekindled sense of optimism.
When they returned to London John Heyworth left the band.
Auditions were quickly held for a new guitarist. They needed a versatile musician who could move easily between Cressida's tightly-arranged rock and jazz styles and the extended improvisational playing which had become their hallmark.
At the time, Wessex was one of only a handful of major recording facilities offering 16-track recording, a large room and state-of-the-art equipment. This was very exciting for the group, whose prior sessions had taken place in small demo studios. Cressida were well-prepared to make the record, having performed the material many times, but they made good use of the new technology offered at Wessex, spending many nights laying down multiple tracks and overdubs to capture the character and spirit of the band.
The Cressida Story