Monday, August 22, 2016

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1634 (starts 8/24/16)

Artist:    Eagles
Title:    Life In The Fast Line
Source:    LP: Hotel California
Writer(s):    Walsh/Henley/Frey
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1976
    Built on a riff that Joe Walsh came up with during a warm up session, Life In The Fast Lane is one of the Eagles' most popular songs. The title of the song comes from an experience that Glen Frey had while riding on the freeway with a drug dealer known as the Count. The car was apparently going a bit too fast for Frey's tastes, but when he tried to tell the Count to slow down the only response he got was "It's life in the fast lane!" The lyrics for the song were written mostly by Frey and Don Henley.

Artist:    Queen
Title:    Seaside Rendezvous
Source:    LP: A Night At The Opera
Writer(s):    Freddie Mercury
Label:    Virgin (original label: Asylum)
Year:    1975
    Freddie Mercury's whimsical side is in full display on the song Seaside Rendezvous, from the fourth Queen album A Night At The Opera. The song is done in a vaudevillian style reminiscent of such Paul McCartney Beatles tracks as Honey Pie and When I'm 64. Seaside Rendezvous, however, benefits from mid-70s technology, particularly the availability of many more tracks to record on than the Beatles had in the late 60s, and Queen uses them to full advantage, with Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor performing a musical bridge entirely with their voices. The track uses several instruments not often found in rock music, including tubas, trumpets, clarinets and even a kazoo (Taylor handles the brass instruments, while Mercury provides the winds). The tap dance segment of the song is actually Mercury and Taylor wearing thimbles on their fingers and tapping on the mixing desk.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    The Third Hoorah
Source:    LP: War Child
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1974
    After two album length productions, Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play, Jethro Tull returned to shorter tracks for their next studio album, War Child. The band had to contend with several distractions while making the album, including a rumor (possibly started by their own manager) that the group was breaking up in response to bad critical reviews of A Passion Play. Although the album was a commercial success, it was not well-received by the rock press, with one critic using the phrase "Tull rhymes with dull". Part of the problem is that the band put their weakest material on side one of the LP, which of course is the one critics would listen to first. Side two, on the other hand, includes some of the band's best-known tunes, including their hit single, Bungle In The Jungle. Among the strong tracks on side two is The Third Hoorah, which shows the influence of the British folk-rock movement and of Steeleye Span (whose latest album at the time had been produced by Ian Anderson). I have to admit that when I first heard this song I thought it was called War Child, due to the use of the phase in the song's lyrics.

Artist:    Mothers
Title:    Zomby Woof
Source:    LP: Over-Nite Sensation
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Discreet
Year:    1973
    By 1973 Frank Zappa had established himself as one of the most creative (and non-conformist) figures in rock music, but had not yet had a real commercial breakthrough. This was due mostly to the fact that his music was not particularly accessible to the masses, incorporating such non-commercial elements as modern jazz and avant-garde classical, as well as out-of-fashion rock styles such as doo-wop. He was, in fact, a cult figure in the rock world, a position he seemed quite comfortable with at the time. In early 1973, however, Zappa began work on a pair of albums that would redefine him as an artist and set the direction the rest of his career would take. Those albums were Over-Nite Sensation (released in October of that year as a Mothers album), and Apostrophe('), released in early 1974 as a solo LP. Although not the best-known song on Over-Nite Sensation, Zomby Woof is perhaps the track that most accurately showcases Zappa as an artist, with somewhat humorous lyrics, quick tempo and key changes (and a bunch of truly talented support musicians able to pull off all these changes), and one more element that had, for the most part, been lacking in his earlier albums: a guitar solo. In fact, it was Over-Nite Sensation that first drew attention to Zappa's guitar work, which from that point on would be as important to his success as his composing skills (which were prodigious).

Artist:    McKendree Spring
Title:    Friends Die Easy II
Source:    LP: Tracks
Writer(s):    Fran McKendree
Label:    Decca
Year:    1972
    The music press is fond of creating hyphenated names to describe bands that combine sometimes disparate musical styles. In the mid-1960s there was folk-rock. The 70s brought country-rock, while in the 80s jazz-rock was all the rage. One hybrid you don't hear much about is progressive-folk, possibly because there was really only one band that fit the description. That group was McKendree Spring, from Glens Falls, NY. Led by Fran McKendree (vocals and guitar), the band also included Fred Holman, who had replaced Larry Tucker on bass by 1972, Dr. Michael Dreyfuss (electric violin, viola, Moog, Arp, Mellotron), and Martin Slutsky (electric guitar). The band had its greatest success in the early 1970s recording for the Decca label, although they are still active today. The highlight of their fourth LP, Tracks, is a song written by Fran McKendree called Friends Die Easy II. I have no idea what the story behind the song is, but I'm absolutely sure there is one, and I'd love to hear it.

Artist:    Yes
Title:    Perpetual Change
Source:    The Yes Album
Writer(s):    Anderson/Squire
Label:    Elektra/Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:    1971
    Although Yes had already recorded two albums by 1971, The Yes Album marks the beginning of the band's most successful period. Probably the biggest reason for this newfound success was the addition of Steve Howe on guitar to a lineup that already included vocalist Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squire and drummer Bill Bruford, as well as keyboardist Tony Kaye (who would soon be replaced by Rick Wakeman). Another factor in the album's success was the fact that all the tracks were written by members of the band, including Perpetual Change, which closes out side two of the LP.

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    Every Mother's Son
Source:    LP: John Barleycorn Must Die
Writer(s):    Winwood/Capaldi
Label:    Island (original label: United Artists)
Year:    1970
    Following the breakup of Blind Faith, Steve Winwood returned to the studio to work on his first solo LP, to be titled Mad Shadows. Winwood completed two tracks, including Every Mother's Son, before deciding to invite Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi to reform his old band, Traffic. The group recorded four more tracks for the LP, which was retitled John Barleycorn Must Die and released in 1970 as the fourth Traffic album. Winwood's already completed recording of Every Mother's Son was used as the final track on the LP.

Artist:    Taste
Title:    Leaving Blues
Source:    British import CD: Taste
Writer(s):    Huddie Ledbetter
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1969
    Taste was formed in Cork, Ireland, in 1966 by guitarist/vocalist Rory Gallegher. A move to the UK in 1968 resulted in all the members except Gallegher leaving the group, to be replaced by Richard McKraken on bass and John Wilson on drums. The band then moved to London, where they signed with Polydor Records, releasing their first LP in 1969. The album featured a mix of Gallegher originals and adapations of blues classics such as Leadbelly's Leaving Blues.

Artist:     Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:     Electric Church Red House
Source:     CD: Blues
Writer:     Jimi Hendrix
Label:     Legacy
Year:     1968
     The "Electric Church" version of Jimi Hendrix's signature blues tune Red House features all the members of the Experience plus guest organist Lee Michaels. Unlike the version of Red House included on the Are You Experienced album, this track features Noel Redding playing an actual bass guitar.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Alexis
Source:    LP: Bang
Writer(s):    Bolin/Cook
Label:    Atco
Year:    1973
    When Joe Walsh left the James Gang, many people thought it was all over for the Cleveland, Ohio band formed by drummer Jim Fox. The group recovered, though, adding two Canadians, guitarist Dominic Troiano and vocalist Roy Kenner. The group recorded two more albums for ABC before Troiano left to replace Randy Bachman in the Guess Who. With their ABC Records contract now expired, the group was once again expected to ride off into the sunset, but instead added guitarist Tommy Bolin, formerly of the Boulder, Colorado band Zephyr, and signed a new contract with Atlantic's Atco label. The first album from the new lineup was 1973's Bang, considered the strongest James Gang album since Walsh's departure. Bolin, in particular, strutted his stuff, both as a guitarist and a songwriter, on several of Bang's tracks. He even took the lead vocals on Alexis, a standout tune that foreshadows his work as a solo artist later in the decade.

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