Monday, July 10, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1728 (starts 7/12/17)

Got all kinds of variety this week, from BTO to Crosby, Stills & Nash.  In fact, we have a total of 13 tracks this time around, a bit more than the usual number.

Artist:    Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Title:    Blue Moanin'
Source:    LP: Not Fragile
Writer(s):    C.F. Turner
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1974
    After leaving the Guess Who following the release of their most successful album, American Woman, guitarist Randy Bachman returned to his native Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he hooked up with former Guess Who lead vocalist Chad Allen to form a band called Brave Belt. Bachman had a reputation at the time of being somewhat of a lunatic (in his own words), making it difficult to find musicians willing to work with him. He did manage to recruit his brother Robbie as drummer for the group, which was managed by yet another Bachman sibling, Gary. Randy Bachman played both guitar and bass on the Brave Belt LP, which was not exactly a commercial success. Nonetheless, the band's label, Reprise, wanted the group to tour, so they recruited Winnipegian C.F. "Fred" Turner to play bass on the road. Not long after work began on a second Brave Belt album, Allen left the group, and Turner took over as lead vocalist. Allen's material, which the band continued to play even after his departure, was strongly influenced by American country artists like Buck Owens and Chet Atkins. A strange set of circumstances, however, found them doing hard rock cover songs at a university gig in Thunder Bay, Ontario. It seems the promoter was not particularly impressed with the generally tepid response to Brave Belt's material and decided to replace them with a rock band from Toronto. When the other band cancelled out on him, however, the promoter rehired Brave Belt on the condition that they play covers of songs likje Brown Sugar, All Right Now and even Proud Mary. The band itself was energized by the audience reaction to the performance and decided to start writing their own rock-oriented material.  A new demo tape of what was to be called Brave Belt III found its way to the desk of Mercury Records head Charlie Fach, who liked the new material so much he offered the band a contract under the condition that they come up with a new name. After a bit of brainstorming, the group came up with Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and the band's official first album was released on the Mercury label in 1973. Their most successful album, Not Fragile, was released the following year, and featured the talents of "second lead guitarist" Blair Thornton, who had replaced rhythm guitarist Tim Bachman (yet another sibling). Although Randy Bachman was by far the most well-known member of the band (due to his long association with the Guess Who), Fred Turner's contributions were an important element of the band's success, as can be heard on tracks like Blue Moanin', from Not Fragile. This lineup of the band lasted until 1977, although there was a BTO in existence (in one form or another) until 2005.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Bodhisattva
Source:    LP: Countdown To Ecstacy
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    ABC
Year:    1973
    Steely Dan's second album, Countdown To Ecstacy, is the only one made up entirely of songs designed to be performed by a live band. This came about after the band's label, ABC, asked the band to go on the road to promote album sales. The band's two core members, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, set about putting together a stage band, and composed tunes specifically with that group of musicians in mind. Among those tunes in Bodhisattva, a fast-paced tune taking a satirical look at America's obsession with Capitalism as a path to spiritual enlightenment. Fagen summarized the song's message as "Lure of East. Hubris of hippies. Quick fix". The song features, jazz-style, a series of instrumental verses highlighting the talents of various band members, particularly guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.

Artist:     Flash
Title:     Small Beginnings
Source:     45 RPM single
Writer:     Peter Banks
Label:     Capitol
Year:     1972
     Before Steve Howe joined Yes, the group featured Peter Banks on lead guitar. After the first Yes album, Banks left the group to form a new band, Flash. Despite having a similar sound to Yes at a time when such bands were in vogue, Flash failed to achieve more than a small fraction of the original band's success, despite moderate airplay for songs like Small Beginnings, released as a single from their second LP. 

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Seamus
Source:    CD: Meddle
Writer:    Waters/Wright/Mason/Gilmour
Label:    Pink Floyd Records (original label: Harvest)
Year:    1971
    After spending several months on the concept album Atom Heart Mother, Pink Floyd decided to lighten things up a bit for their next album, Meddle. Stylistically, Meddle probably has the most variety of any Pink Floyd album, ranging from the driving rocker One Of These Days, to the acoustic blues tune Seamus. The latter song is best played loud, preferably with at least one dog in the room with you.

Artist:     Jerry Garcia
Title:     Sugaree
Source:     45 RPM single (promo)
Writer:     Garcia/Hunter/Kreutzmann
Label:     Warner Brothers
Year:     1972
     In 1972 Warner Brothers gave the individual members of the Grateful Dead the opportunity to record solo albums. Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and drummer Micket Hart took them up on the offer. Garcia's effort was unique in that he played virtually all the instruments on the album himself (except for the drum parts, which were played by Bill Kreutzmann). One of the best known songs from that album is Sugaree, which was soon added pretty much permanently to the Dead's concert repertoire.

Artist:    Van Morrison
Title:    Caravan
Source:    LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: Moondance)
Writer(s):    Van Morrison
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    Following the lukewarm commercial reception of his Astral Weeks album, Van Morrison set out to deliberately make a more accessible album. The result was Moondance, the album that established him as a major force in modern music. Among the many tracks on the album to get airplay on FM rock radio was Caravan, a song that was based on Morrison's memories of living on a country road in Woodstock, NY, where the nearest house was a fair distance away. In the song, which is basically about the gypsy lifestyle, he mentions the radio prominently in the song. As he later explained: "I could hear the radio like it was in the same room. I don't know how to explain it. There was some story about an underground passage under the house I was living in, rumours from kids and stuff and I was beginning to think it was true. How can you hear someone's radio from a mile away, as if it was playing in your own house? So I had to put that into the song, It was a must."

Artist:    Savoy Brown
Title:    Time Does Tell
Source:    LP: Street Corner Talking
Writer(s):    Kim Simmonds
Label:    Parrott
Year:    1971
    Sounds Of Blue was a British R&B band formed in 1964 by David 'Rowdy' Yeats and Andy Silvester. After a series of lineup changes the group renamed itself Chicken Shack in 1965. The group continued to undergo lineup changes over the next few years, even as they had a residency at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany. The group signed to the Blue Horizon label in 1968, releasing three albums that year alone. So what does all this have to do with Savoy Brown, you ask? Well, in 1971, after being cut from the Blue Horizon roster, three of the band members, including founding member Silvester, left Chicken Shack to replace the three departing members of Savoy Brown, who in turn formed a new band, Foghat. The first Savoy Brown album with the new lineup was Street Corner Talking, featuring a mix of tracks from various band members, including the remaining original member of Savoy Brown, Kim Simmonds, who wrote Time Does Tell.

Artist:    T2
Title:    Careful Sam
Source:    Mono British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution
Writer(s):    Peter Dunton
Label:    Grapefruit
Year:    Recorded 1970, released 2013
    T2, consisting of drummer Peter Dunton, bassist Bernie Jinks and guitarist Keith Cross, released only one album, It'll All Work Out In Boomland, in 1970. The album did not get much support from their label (British Decca) and plans for a second LP were scrapped before any new material got beyond the demo stage. One of those demo tapes, however, finally surfaced on a CD set called Love, Poetry And Revolution on the Grapefruit label in 2013. Written by Dunton, the track has some outstanding guitar work from Cross.

Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    Traveler In Time
Source:    LP: Demons And Wizards
Writer(s):    Box/Byron/Kerslake
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1972
    Sandwiched on the LP between the two best-known tracks on Uriah Heep's Demons And Wizards album, Traveler In Time is a hard-rockin' tune in the tradition of the band's first three albums. The song was co-written by vocalist David Byron, guitarist Mick Box, and the band's newest member, drummer Lee Kerslake.

Artist:    Queen
Title:    Jesus/Seven Seas Of Rhye...
Source:    LP: Queen
Writer(s):    Freddie Mercury
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1973
    One of the most powerful songs on Queen's 1973 debut album, Jesus tells part of the story of Jesus of Nazareth. The song was written by Freddie Mercury, who was a devout Parsi Zoroastrian. Guitarist Brian May provided effects toward the end of the song that are reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix at his most creative. The track is followed by a short instrumental version of Seven Seas Of Rhye, a song that would be a top 10 single in the UK the following year and a highlight of the group's second LP, Queen II.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Please Don't Worry
Source:    CD: Grand Funk
Writer(s):    Farner/Brewer
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1969
    Grand Funk Railroad bridged the gap from garage rock to heavy metal, almost single-handedly creating arena rock in the process. Their sound was as raw and unpolished as any garage band (at least at first) and the rock press universally detested them. Nonetheless, Mark Farner, Mel Schacher and Don Brewer struck a (power) chord with the concertgoing/record-buying public and was the first band to consistently play to sellout crowds at large-scale venues such as sports arenas. Grand Funk played loud; so loud, in fact, that it was impossible to hear anything but the band itself when they were playing (even your own screaming). Please Don't Worry, from Grand Funk Railroad's self-title second album (often referred to as the red album), is as typical an early Grand Funk song as you're going to find, with its driving power chords and screaming lead guitar solo and Mark Farner's distinctive barely-on-key vocals.

Artist:    Faces
Title:    Cindy Incidentally
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (promo)
Writer(s):    McLagen/Steward/Wood
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    By 1973, vocalist Rod Stewart had achieved superstar status, creating a rift between himself and the rest of his band, Faces. In practical terms this meant that Stewart's participation in the making of the band's fourth and final album, Ohh La La, was minimal at best. As a result, in the words of Ian McLagen, Ooh La La was "Ronnie Lane's album". To make matters worse, Stewart publicly expressed his disdain for the album to the rock press, calling Ooh La La a "stinking rotten album". Lane took the comments personally, and soon left the band that he himself had co-founded in 1965 (as the Outcasts). The group found a replacement bass player and cut a couple more singles, but by 1975 Stewart was showing no interest at all in the band, while guitarist Ronnie Wood was already well on his way to becoming a member of the Rolling Stones, thus ending the saga of one of England's most popular bands. Ironically, Cindy Incidentally, from Ooh La La, ended up being the Faces' biggest British hit single.

Artist:    Crosby, Stills and Nash
Title:    Guinnevere
Source:    CD: Crosby, Stills and Nash
Writer(s):    David Crosby
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    By 1969 David Crosby had developed into a first-class songwriter. Nowhere is that more evident than on Guinnevere, from the first Crosby, Still and Nash album. Instrumentally the song is essentially a solo guitar piece. It is the layered harmonies from Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash that make the song truly stand out as one of the best releases of 1969.

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