Monday, January 30, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1705 (starts 2/1/17)

This week, following a progression from 1968 to 1972, we put the spotlight on Deep Purple for a nearly 20-minute long set, followed by a couple of classic tracks from 1970.

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Uncle Jack
Source:    CD: Spirit
Writer(s):    Jay Ferguson
Label:    Ode/Epic/Legacy
Year:    1968
    Despite nearly universal positive reviews by the rock press, the first Spirit album never really caught the imagination of the record buying public. Why this is the case is still a bit of a mystery, as the album is full of outstanding tracks such as Uncle Jack. Perhaps the album, and indeed the band itself, was just a bit ahead of its time.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Ramble On
Source:    German import LP: Led Zeppelin II
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    Some songs grab you the first time you hear them, but soon wear out their welcome. Others take a while to catch on, but tend to stay with you for a lifetime. Then there are those rare classics that manage to hook you from the start and yet never get old. One such song is Led Zeppelin's Ramble On, from their second LP. The song starts with a Jimmy Page acoustic guitar riff played high up on the neck with what sounds almost like footsteps keeping time (but turns out to be John Bonham playing bongo style on a guitar case). John Paul Jones soon adds one of the most melodic bass lines ever to appear in a rock song, followed closely by Robert Plant's Tolkien-influenced lyrics. For the chorus the band gets into electric mode, with guitar, bass and drums each contributing to a unique staggered rhythmic pattern. The song also contains one of Page's most memorable solos, that shares tonal qualities with Eric Clapton's work on Cream's Disraeli Gears album. Although I usually don't pay much attention to lyrics, one set of lines from Ramble On has stuck with me for a good many years:
'Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up
And slipped away with her.
Good stuff, that!

Artist:    Stephen Stills
Title:    Old Times Good Times
Source:    LP: Stephen Stills
Writer(s):    Stephen Stills
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    Following the release of the Déjà Vu album, the individual members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young each got to work on a solo LP. Of the four, it was Stephen Stills's album that was the most commercially successful, thanks in large part to the inclusion of the song Love The One You're With, which was a top 20 hit. Stills brought in several notable guest musicians for the album, including Jimi Hendrix, who provided the guitar part on Old Times Good Times (Stills played keyboards on the piece). The album was released only one month after Hendrix's death, making Old Times Good Times technically the first post-humous Hendrix release. In addition, Stills dedicated the entire album to his friend Jimi.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    L.A. Woman
Source:    LP: L.A. Woman
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1971
    Ray Manzarek became justifiably famous as the keyboard player for the Doors. Before joining up with Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger and John Densmore, however, Manzarek was already making a name for himself as an up-and-coming student filmmaker at UCLA. Although he didn't have much of a need to pursue a career in films once the Doors hit it big, he did end up producing and directing an outstanding video for the title track of the 1971 album L.A. Woman years after the band had split up. I only mention this because, really, what else can I say about a song that you've probably heard a million times or so?

Artist:     Jo Jo Gunne
Title:     Run Run Run
Source:     LP: Jo Jo Gunne
Writer:     Ferguson/Andes
Label:     Asylum
Year:     1972
     After Spirit called it quits following the disappointing sales of the Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, lead vocalist Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes hooked up with Andes's brother Matt and William "Curly" Smith to form Jo Jo Gunne. Their best known song was Run Run Run, which hit the British top 10 and the US top 30 in 1972, receiving considerable amount of airplay on progressive rock stations as well.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    No No No
Source:    LP: Fireball
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1971
    Although not the band members' favorite album by any means, Deep Purple's fifth LP, Fireball, was their first album to hit #1 in their native UK. Richie Blackmore has said that the band was being rushed by the record company throughout the making of the album, and that he just "threw ideas to the group that I thought up on the spur of the moment" in order to get the album finished in time. One of those ideas was the basic rift for No No No, a song that became part of the band's permanent rotating repertoire.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Mandrake Root
Source:    LP: Shades Of Deep Purple
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Evans/Lord
Label:    Tetragrammaton
Year:    1968
    Deep Purple was formed in early 1968 by former Searchers drummer Chris Curtis, who recruited organist Jon Lord and guitarist Richie Blackmore, then left to go do something else. Blackmore and Lord added bassist Nick Simper and drummer Ian Paice, as well as frontman Rod Evans, to complete the band's first lineup. The group's debut LP, Shades Of Deep Purple, was recorded in three days in May of 1968. One of the four original compositions on the album was a song called Mandrake Root, which was also the name of the band that Blackmore had been trying to put together in Germany before hooking up with Deep Purple. The song started off as an instrumental, but Evans added lyrics to the tune during rehearsals just prior to the band going into the studio to record.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    No One Came
Source:    LP: Fireball
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1971
    The second album by the popular Deep Purple "Mk II" lineup (Richie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice), Fireball was an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic, going to the top of the British charts and garnering significant airplay on FM rock radio stations in the US. One of the highlights of the album is the closing track, No One Came. Vocalist Gillan has said of Fireball that "The reason I liked that so much was because I thought, from a writing point of view, it was really the beginning of tremendous possibilities of expression. And some of the tracks on that album are really, really inventive." Deep Purple would release two more albums before once again undergoing a lineup change.

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    Glad/Freedom Rider
Source:    European import LP: John Barleycorn Must Die
Writer(s):    Winwood/Capaldi
Label:    Island (original US label: United Artists)
Year:    1970
    Following the breakup of Blind Faith in early 1970, Steve Winwood got to work on his first solo LP, to be called Mad Shadows. After completing a couple of tracks Winwood found that he preferred to work within the band format and invited Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi to join him on the project, which became the fourth Traffic album, John Barleycorn Must Die. Unlike earlier Traffic studio recordings, John Barleycorn Must Die contained longer, improvisational pieces incorporating jazz elements, as can be heard on the album's opening tracks, Glad (an instrumental) and Freedom Rider. The new approach worked, as John Barleycorn Must Die became Traffic's first album to go gold.

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.

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