Monday, July 17, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1729 (starts 7/19/17)

This week: A whole lotta '69, featuring Cream, Butterfield Blues Band, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Jethro Tull, the Beatles, Fairport Convention and lots more.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Politician (live version)
Source:    LP: Goodbye
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    Atco
Year:    1969
    Usually the bluesier numbers performed by Cream were covers of classic works by guys like Willie Dixon (Spoonful), Muddy Waters (Rollin' and Tumblin') or Albert King (Sitting On Top Of The World). One notable exception is Politician, which was written by Cream's bassist Jack Bruce, with his songwriting partner Pete Brown. Usually the team came up with the band's more psychedelic stuff, but in this case proved that they could crank out a blues tune with the best of 'em when they wanted to. Originally released on the 1968 album Wheels Of Fire, the live version of Politician (which runs in excess of six minutes) was featured on the band's final LP, Goodbye Cream, which came out the following year.

Artist:     Butterfield Blues Band
Title:     No Amount Of Loving
Source:     CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Writer(s):    Paul Butterfield
Label:     Rhino
Year:     Recorded 1969, released 2009
     The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was one of a handful of groups to play at both Monterey and Woodstock, albeit with a considerably different lineup by 1969. Gone were both Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, yet new guitarist Buzzy Feiten was more than capable of holding his own in the legendary band. Unfortunately, technical problems prevented the audience from hearing Bloomfield's vocals, which is probably why the recording remained unreleased for forty years.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    The Nile Song
Source:    British import simulated stereo LP: Soundtrack From The Film More
Writer(s):    Roger Waters
Label:    Columbia (UK)
Year:    1969
    After the replacement of Syd Barrett by his childhood friend David Gilmore midway through the making of the second Pink Floyd album, A Saucerful Of Secrets, the new lineup got to work on a new project: a soundtrack for a film by Luxembourg director Barbet Schroeder called More. The soundtrack album contains more acoustic numbers than any other Pink Floyd LP, but is better known for a pair of tunes that are among the hardest rocking tracks the band ever recorded. One of those, the Nile Song, was released as a single, but only in France, Japan and New Zealand. The Roger Waters tune is probably as close to heavy metal as Pink Floyd ever got.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Bird Has Flown
Source:    LP: Deep Purple
Writer(s):    Evans/Blackmore/Lord
Label:    Tetragrammaton
Year:    1969
    Much of the music on the first two Deep Purple albums (including the singles Hush and Kentucky Woman) was made up of extensively rearranged cover songs, leading some critics to consider the band England's answer to Vanilla Fudge. Although the band was doing well enough in the US, they were virtually ignored at home, and in early 1969 set out to do something about the latter. The most important change was to focus on original material. Their next single was a pair of songs composed by the band, with the more experimental of the two, a song called The Bird Has Flown, appearing as the B side of the US release of the record (a song from their second LP was chosen for the British B side). Feeling that the song was deserving of greater exposure, the band recorded a new version (retitled Bird Has Flown) for their self-titled third LP. Unfortunately, the band's US label, Tetragrammaton, was having serious financial problems, resulting in a delayed release of the album with virtually no promotion from the label itself. Tetragrammaton went bankrupt not long after the LP hit the stands, making it by far the most obscure Deep Purple album ever released.

Artist:     Jethro Tull
Title:     Bouree
Source:     CD: Stand Up
Writer:     Ian Anderson
Label:     Chrysalis
Year:     1969
     The second Jethro Tull album, Stand Up, saw the band moving a considerable distance from its blues-rock roots, as flautist Ian Anderson asserted himself as leader and sole songwriter for the group. Nowhere is that more evident than on the last track of the first side of Stand Up, the instrumental Bouree, which successfully melds jazz and classical influences into the Jethro Tull sound.

Artist:     Beatles
Title:     Here Comes The Sun
Source:     CD: Abbey Road
Writer:     George Harrison
Label:     Parlophone (original label: Apple)
Year:     1969
     In a way, George Harrison's development as a songwriter parallels the Beatles' "second career" as a studio band. His first song to get any attention was If I Needed Someone on the Rubber Soul album, the LP that marked the beginning of the group's transition from performers to studio artists. As the Beatles' skills in the studio increased, so did Harrison's writing skills, reaching a peak with the Abbey Road album. As usual, Harrison wrote two songs for the LP, but this time one of them (Something) became the first single released from the album and the first Harrison song to hit the #1 spot on the charts. The other Harrison composition on Abbey Road was Here Comes The Sun. Although never released as a single, the song has gone on to become Harrison's most enduring masterpiece.

Artist:    Fairport Convention
Title:    Come All Ye
Source:    LP: Liege And Lief
Writer(s):    Denny/Hutchings
Label:    A&M
Year:    1969
    Fairport Convention completed their transition from "Britain's answer to Jefferson Airplane" to the world's premier British folk-rock band with their fourth album, Liege And Lief. Gone were the cover songs of American artists such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, replaced by electric adaptations of traditional English folk songs, many of which were brought to the band by vocalist Sandy Denny, who had replaced the original Fairport Vocalist, Judy Dyble, following the release of the band's first LP. Ashley Hutchings was also instrumental in finding material for the group, much of which came from a collection maintained by the English Folk Dance and Song Society. Even the original songs written by band members were in a more traditional folk style, especially tracks like Come All Ye, which opens the album. Not surprisingly, the tune was written by Denny and Hutchings.

Artist:    Johnny Winter
Title:    I'll Drown In My Own Tears
Source:    British import CD: Johnny Winter
Writer(s):    Henry Glover
Label:    Repertoire (original US label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    Originally recorded by Lula Reed in 1951 under the title I'll Drown In My Tears, Drown In My Own Tears was one of Ray Charles's legendary hits for the Atlantic label. Released in 1956, it was Charles's fourth song to top the R&B charts, and inspired him to hire a permanent group of backup singers that would come to be known as the Raelettes. In 1969 Johnny Winter combined the two titles for the version included on his first album for the Columbia label. Although most of the tracks on that album showcase Winter's prowess on guitar, I'll Drown In My Own Tears shifts the emphasis to his vocals, with an arrangement that closely parallels of the Ray Charles version. Keyboards on the track are provided by Johnny's brother Edgar, who would become a full-fledged member of Johnny's band for the album Second Winter.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix/Band Of Gypsys
Title:    Power Of Soul
Source:    LP: Band Of Gypsys
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1970
    1969 was a strange year for Jimi Hendrix. For one thing, he did not release any new recordings that year, yet he remained the top money maker in rock music. One reason for the lack of new material was an ongoing dispute with Capitol Records over a contract he had signed in 1965. By the end of the year an agreement was reached for Hendrix to provide Capitol with one album's worth of new material. At this point Hendrix had not released any live albums, so it was decided to tape his New Year's performances at the Fillmore East with his new Band Of Gypsys (with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox), playing songs that had never been released in studio form. One of those songs is Power Of Soul, which includes an impromptu vocal ad-lib from drummer Buddy Miles toward the end of the track.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Changes
Source:    CD: Sound + Vision Sampler (originally released on LP: Hunky Dory)
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Ryko
Year:    1971
    Sometimes a seemingly innocous little song will turn out to be something far more than it started out to be. Such is the case with Changes, one of the most recognizable songs of the 20th century. Originally appearing on the 1971 album Hunky Dory and released as a single in 1972, Changes, according to Bowie, started off as a parody of a nightclub song, "a kind of throwaway", that featured Bowie himself on saxophone, with strings provided by Mick Ronson. Rick Wakeman's keyboards also feature prominently in the recording. The song was Bowie's first North American release on the RCA Victor label (although Mercury had released The Man Who Sold The World two years previously, the record had gone nowhere at the time). Changes is often taken as a statement of artistic intent, as Bowie was constantly reinventing himself throughout his career. Oddly enough, the song did not make the British charts until its re-release following Bowie's death in 2016.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    Dialogue (part 1&2)
Source:    45 RPM single edit reissue (original version on LP: Chicago V)
Writer(s):    Robert Lamm
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1972
    In their early days Chicago was one of the more politically-oriented rock bands around. One of the more notable tracks on their first album (Someday) was built around the crowds in Lincoln Park chanting outside the 1968 Democratic convention. The group continued to make political statements for the next few years, although by the time they released their landmark four-disc live album they were firmly in the camp of advocating working within the system as opposed to overthrowing everything and starting over (sort of an evolution over revolution approach). One of the more interesting songs of this type is Dialogue, a condemnation of socio-political apathy that originally appeared on the album Chicago V. The structure of the first half of the record is based on Plato's philosophical dialogues, with one vocalist, Robert Lamm, asking disturbing questions and the other, Peter Cetera, giving answers that are on the surface reassuring but in reality bespeak an attitude of burying one's head in the sand and hoping everything will turn out OK. This shifts into a call for everyone to work together to effect needed changes in the world, with the repeated line "We can make it happen" dominating the second half of the record.

Artist:    Brownsville Station
Title:    Smokin' In The Boys' Room
Source:    CD: Electric Seventies
Writer(s):    Koda/Lutz
Label:    JCI/Warner Special Products
Year:    1973
    No list of one-hit wonders would be complete without including Brownsville Station, whose Smokin' In The Boys Room became a sort of unofficial high school anthem in 1973. I didn't have very high expectations when I went to see them as the opening act for Joe Cocker and Foghat a couple of years later, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at their overall performance (basically blowing both headliners off the stage). I had assumed from their name that they were a Texas band, but it turns out they were actually from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Artist:    Jade Warrior
Title:    Waves (excerpt)
Source:    LP: Waves
Writer(s):    Field/Duhig
Label:    Island
Year:    1975
    Jade Warrior was a British progressive/experimental rock band that released several albums throughout the 1970s. The fifth Jade Warrior album, Waves, is actually one long piece that covers both sides of the original LP. Much of Waves is quite relaxing to listen to, as this short excerpt taken from side one of the album shows. Jade Warrior is often cited as an influence on the "New Age" music of the 1980s and beyond.

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