Monday, October 17, 2016

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1642 (starts 10/19/16)

Artist:    Joni Mitchell
Title:    Shadows And Light
Source:    LP: The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
Writer(s):    Joni Mitchell
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1975
    Following up on the success of her 1974 album Court And Spark, Joni Mitchell released The Hissing Of Summer Lawns in 1975. Although the album initially got mixed reviews from the rock press, it has since come to be regarded as a masterpiece. The final track on the album, Shadows And Light, features Mitchell's multi-tracked vocals accompanied only by an ARP String Machine.

Artist:    Mountain
Title:    Mississippi Queen
Source:    CD: The Best Of Mountain (originally released on LP: Mountain Climbing)
Writer(s):    West/Laing/Pappalardi/Rea
Label:    Columbia/Windfall
Year:    1970
    One of the most overlooked bands of the mid-1960s was the Vagrants. Based on Long Island, the group made a specialty of covering popular R&B and rock songs, often slowing them down and featuring extended solos by guitarist Leslie Weinstein, inspiring fellow Long Islanders Vanilla Fudge to do the same. Although the Vagrants never were able to gain much national attention, Weinstein himself had established quite a reputation by the time the group disbanded. Meanwhile, keyboardist/producer/songwriter Felix Pappalardi had been working with the members of Cream as a producer, but with the demise of that band was looking for a new project to sink his teeth into. That new project turned out to be a solo album by Weinstein, who by then had shortened his last name to West. The album was called Mountain, and soon after its release West and Pappalardi decided to form a band of the same name. The group first got national attention performing at Woodstock, and in 1970 released the album Mountain Climbing, featuring the hit single Mississippi Queen.

Artist:    Fleetwood Mac
Title:    Homeward Bound
Source:    CD: Bare Trees
Writer(s):    Christine McVie
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1972
    By 1972 Christine Perfect was now Christine McVie, and was a full-fledged member of Fleetwood Mac (not to mention the wife of bassist John McVie. The group was still considered a second-tier band at this point, with enough commercial appeal to stay together, yet nowhere near the superstar status they would achieve by the end of the decade. The album Bare Trees is a snapshot of the early 70s version of Fleetwood Mac, with the songwriting duties shared by Danny Kirwan, Bob Welch and McVie herself. One of her two contributions to Bare Trees was Homeward Bound, which bears absolutely no resemblance to the Simon And Garfunkel tune with the same name. It does, however, indicate the direction Christine McVie's songwriting would take over the next decade.

Artist:    David Bromberg
Title:    Danger Man II
Source:    LP: How Late'll Ya Play 'Til
Writer(s):    David Bromberg
Label:    Fantasy
Year:    1976
    One of the most respected names in the music world is David Bromberg, a multi-instrumentalist who is also known for his handcrafted string instruments. After appearing mostly in supporting roles in the early 1970s (although he did get some attention for his version of Mr. Bojangles), Bromberg let loose with a double-LP in 1976 called How Late'll Ya Play 'Til. Following the pattern set by Cream with their Wheels Of Fire album, the first side of How Late'll Ya Play 'Til is made up entirely of studio tracks, while the second is all live material. The album covers perhaps the widest variety of styles ever attempted on one album, including rock, blues, bluegrass, traditional folk, country and even R&B on the album's opening track, a punchy number called Danger Man II.

Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    Little Bit Of Sympathy
Source:    CD: Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Robin Trower
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:    1974
    Released in 1974, Bridge Of Sighs was the second solo LP by former Procol Harum guitarist Robin Trower. The album was Trower's commercial breakthrough, staying on the Billboard album charts for 31 weeks, peaking at #7. In addition to Trower, the album features James Dewar on lead vocals and bass, along with Reg Isidore on drums. The album was a staple of mid-1970s progressive rock radio, with several tunes, including album closer Little Bit Of Sympathy, becoming concert favorites.

Artist:    Crack The Sky
Title:    She's A Dancer
Source:    LP: Crack The Sky
Writer(s):    John Palumbo
Label:    Lifesong
Year:    1975
    The first LP released on Terry Cashman and Joe West's Lifesong label was a group that is still active in the Baltimore area called Crack The Sky. Originally called Words, the band had been formed in Weirton, West Virginia by members of two local bands, Sugar and Uncle Louie. The 10-member band successfully auditioned for CashWest Productions, the company that also produced singer/songwriter Jim Croce, and, after paring down to five members, released their self-titled debut LP in 1975. Although never a major national success (due mostly to distribution problems on the part of Lifesong), the group did manage to place three albums on the Billboard charts, the two of which have since been reissued as a single CD. The band itself is hard to classify, incorporating elements of progressive rock, jazz and even soft-rock, as can be heard on tracks like She's A Dancer.

Artist:    Johnny Winter
Title:    Rock And Roll Hoochie Coo
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Johnny Winter And)
Writer(s):    Rick Derringer
Label:    Sony Music (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1970
    Athough best known as a solo Rick Derringer hit, Rock And Roll Hoochie Coo was originally recorded in 1970 by Johnny Winter for the album Johnny Winter And when Derringer was a member of Winter's band (also known as Johnny Winter And at that time). As can be heard here the arrangement on the earlier version is nearly identical to the hit version, the main differences being Winter's lead vocals and the presence of two lead guitarists in the band.

Artist:     Cream
Title:     Sitting On Top Of The World
Source:     LP: Wheels Of Fire
Writer:     Vinson/Chatmon (original) Chester Burnett (modern version)
Label:     RSO (original label: Atco)
Year:     1968
     Throughout their existence British blues supergroup Cream recorded covers of blues classics. One of the best of these is Sitting On Top Of The World from the album Wheels Of Fire, which in its earliest form was written by Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon and recorded by the Mississippi Shieks in 1930. Cream's cover uses the lyrics from the 1957 rewrite of the song by Chester Burnett, better know as Howlin' Wolf.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Cat's Squirrel
Source:    CD: This Was
Writer(s):    Trad., arr. Abrahams
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    Probably the Jethro Tull recording with the least Ian Anderson influence, Cat's Squirrel was recorded at the insistence of record company people, who felt the song was most representative of the band's live sound. The traditional tune was arranged by guitarist Mick Abrahams, who left the band due to creative differences with Anderson shortly thereafter. Cat's Squirrel became a live staple of Abrahams's next band, Blodwyn Pig.

Artist:    Alice Cooper
Title:    Eighteen
Source:    CD: Electric Seventies (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Love It To Death
Writer(s):    Cooper/Bruce/Buxton/Dunaway/Smith
Label:    JCI/Warner Special Products (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:    1970
    Alice Cooper's ultimate teenage anthem Eighteen was kind of a do or die release for the group, who had up to that point been a part of Frank Zappa's Straight Records' stable of oddball artists with little or no commercial potential. In 1970, however, Zappa sold Straight to Warner Brothers, who agreed to release Eighteen that same year, with the stipulation that if the record sold well the group could record an album for the label. The single did indeed do well, propelling Alice Cooper to stardom and allowing them to record Love It To Death, the first in a series of best-selling albums for the label. The song came at a perfect time, as most states were in the process of raising the drinking age to 21 but had not yet lowered the voting age to 18. Furthermore, the military draft was still in effect in 1970, making many 18-year-olds quite nervous, especially those with low lottery numbers.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:     Rock 'N' Roll Soul
Source:     Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer:     Mark Farner
Label:     Capitol
Year:     1972
     By 1972 Grand Funk Railroad's live performances, which just two years before were setting box office records, were no longer all sellouts, and the band began to shift emphasis to their recorded work. Problems with Terry Knight's management practices were also becoming an issue, and their sixth studio LP, Phoenix, would be the last to be produced by Knight. Rock 'N' Roll Soul, a somewhat typical Mark Farner song, was the first and only single released from the album, and would have only minor success on the charts. The next record, We're An American Band, would signal a major change of direction for the band, with other members besides Farner taking a role in the songwriting and a much greater emphasis on hit singles than ever before.

Artist:    Santana
Title:    Soul Sacrifice
Source:    CD:Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Writer(s):    Brown/Malone/Rolie/Santana
Label:    Rhino (original label: Cotillion)
Year:    1969
    Although this is the original recording of Santana performing Soul Sacrifice at Woodstock, it does not sound quite the same as what you may have heard on the Woodstock original movie soundtrack album. That's because they doctored the recording a bit for the original soundtrack album, adding in audience sounds, including the crowd rain chant that seques into the piece on the original LP. More recent copies of the movie itself sound even more different because the people doing the remastering of the film decided to record new versions of some of the percussion tracks.

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