Monday, July 31, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1731 (starts 8/2/17)

This one is a bit hard to describe. It starts with Genesis and ends with Spirit, so I guess that makes it some sort of religious statement, right? Nah...

Artist:    Genesis
Title:    Dance On A Volcano
Source:    LP: A Trick Of The Tail
Writer(s):    Rutherford/Banks/Hackett/Collins
Label:    Atco
Year:    1976
    Following Peter Gabriel's announcement that he would be leaving Genesis following the completion of their 1974 Lamb Lies Down On Broadway tour, the remaining members of the band decided to show that they could still write and produce quality music even without their charismatic frontman. They immediately began working up new material for their next album, A Trick Of The Tail, starting with a song called Dance On A Volcano. Meanwhile, they took out an anonymous ad in the British music newspaper Melody Maker for a "Genesis type" vocalist and got over 400 responses. Phil Collins had already done a handful of lead vocals on previous Genesis albums, and reportedly would have preferred to remain the band's full time drummer, but after recording one song, Squonk, for the new album, was chosen by the rest of the band to be the new Genesis frontman, and ended up doing the lead vocals on the entire album. Although Collins remained the drummer on all the group's recordings, he did personally pick former Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford to appear on stage while Collins was singing (although Collins himself continued to play on the instrumental passages).

Artist:    Starcastle
Title:    Forces
Source:    LP: Starcastle (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Tassler/Luttrell/Strater/Schildt/Stewart/Hagler
Label:    Epic
Year:    1976
    Formed in Champaign, Illinois in 1969, Starcastle was a fixture on the St. Louis music scene (including local radio stations) throughout the 1970s. They were hampered in their bid for national stardom, however, by a percieved similarity to the British band Yes. Lead vocalist Terry Luttrell in particular (who had been the original lead vocalist of REO Speedwagon) was criticized for trying to sound too much like Jon Anderson. I'll leave it to you to decide how much of this criticism is valid as you listen to Forces, from Starcastle's self-titled 1976 debut for the Epic label.

Artist:    Flash
Title:    Black And White
Source:    LP: Flash In The Can
Writer(s):    Banks/Bennett
Label:    Sovereign/Capitol
Year:    1972
    Once upon a time there was a band called Yes. This band had already released a pair of commercially unsuccessful albums and were on the verge of being dropped by their record label (Atlantic). The guitarist for Yes, one Peter Banks, saw what he took to be the writing on the wall and left to form his own band, Flash, in 1971, with vocalist Colin Carter. The lineup was soon filled out by bassist Ray Bennett and drummer Mike Hough. The group soon signed to Capitol Records' Sovereign sub-label and, along with guest keyboardist (and former Yes member) Tony Kaye, released their first LP in 1972. Although Kaye was invited to join Flash as a permanent member, he declined, and the group recorded their second LP, Flash In The Can, as a four-piece group (with Carter providing occasional keyboard parts) later the same year. Among the stronger tracks on that album is the Banks/Bennett collaboration Black And White, which opens side two of the original LP. The following year Capitol, without the band's knowledge or approval, released the group's third LP as "Flash featuring Peter Banks". This understandably caused a bit of friction within the band itself, culminating in the band breaking up rather abruptly in November of 1973 following a performance in Albuquerque, NM. As for Yes, they found another guitarist (Steve Howe) and keyboardist (Rick Wakeman) and didn't get their contract with Atlantic cancelled after all.

Artist:    Spencer Davis Group
Title:    Morning Sun
Source:    Mono British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution (originally released on LP: With Their New Faces On)
Writer(s):    Davis/Hardin/Duncan/James
Label:    Grapefruit (original label: United Artists)
Year:    1968
    Following the departure of brothers Steve and Muff Winwood, the Spencer Davis Group attempted to carry on with new members, releasing an album, With Their New Faces On, in mid-1968. The album, however, failed to chart, despite the presence of hard-rocking tunes such as Morning Sun.

Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    The Fool And Me
Source:    LP Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Trower/Dewar
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1974
    Guitarist Robin Trower's breakthrough album, Bridge Of Sighs, featured vocals by bassist James Dewar, who also co-wrote a couple of the songs on the LP. The better of these was The Fool And Me, which closes out side one of the original LP. Drummer Reg Isidore completed the trio.

Artist:    Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Title:    Roll On Down The Highway
Source:    LP: Not Fragile
Writer(s):    Bachman/Turner
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1974
    Not Fragile was the most successful album from the Canadian band Bachman-Turner Overdrive, being their only LP to hit the #1 spot of the Billboard album chart. It was also the debut of second lead guitarist Blair Thornton, who replaced Tim Bachman in the band originally founded by his brother Randy, former lead guitarist of the Guess Who. A third Bachman brother, Rob, co-wrote (with bassist Fred Turner) the second top 20 single from the album, Roll On Down The Highway. The album title itself, according to Randy Bachman, was actually a parody of Yes's Fragile album title, which Bachman thought was "strange." He said he figured that BTO's music, on the other hand, could be dropped and kicked without breaking; thus the title Not Fragile.

Artist:     Grand Funk
Title:     We're An American Band
Source:     45 RPM single
Writer:     Don Brewer
Label:     Capitol
Year:     1973
     In 1972 I was the bass player/vocalist in a power trio that played a lot of Grand Funk Railroad, Black Sabbath and the like. Shortly after that band split up I started taking broadcasting classes from Tim Daniels, an Air Force Sergeant who had previously worked for the Armed Forces Vietnam Network (the same station that Adrian Cronauer worked at, although at that time nobody outside the military had ever heard of him). That led to my first regular airshift on the "Voice of Holloman" a closed-circuit station that was piped into the gym and bowling alley and some of the barracks at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. One of the hot new records that the station got promo copies of was We're An American Band, pressed on bright yellow translucent vinyl with the stereo version on one side and the mono mix on the other. I snagged one of the extra copies Capitol sent and have somehow managed to hang onto it over the years.

Artist:     Argent
Title:     Closer To Heaven
Source:     45 RPM single B side
Writer:     Russ Ballard
Label:     Epic
Year:     1972
     After the Zombies split up in 1968 keyboardist Rod Argent set out to form a new band to be known simply as Argent. The new group scored its biggest hit in 1972 with the song Hold Your Head Up. The original single was released on April 11, 1972 and ran 2 minutes and 52 seconds. It was backed with a song called Keep On Rollin', written by Argent and fellow former Zombie Chris White. On May 1st the single was reissued with a longer version of Hold Your Head Up (3:15). For the reissue the B side was replaced with Closer To Heaven, a tune written by guitarist/keyboardist Russ Ballard.

Artist:    Gong
Title:    Tried So Hard
Source:    British import CD: Camembert Electrique (originally released in France)
Writer(s):    Christian Tritsch
Label:    Charly (original label BYG Actuel)
Year:    1971
    It's almost impossible to describe Gong. They had their roots in British psychedelia, founder Daevid Allen having been a member of Soft Machine, but are also known as pioneers of space-rock. The Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, from 1973-74, is considered a landmark of the genre, telling the story of such characters as Zero the Hero and the Pot Head Pixies from Planet Gong. The groundwork for the trilogy was actually laid in 1971, when the album Camembert Electrique was recorded (and released) in France on the BYG Actuel label. The album itself ranges from the experimental (and even somewhat humorous) Radio Gnome tracks to the spacier cuts like Tropical Fish: Selene, and on occasion even rocks out hard on tracks like Tried So Hard, written by the group's bassist, Christian Tritsch.

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Space Child/When I Touch You
Source:    CD: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
Writer(s):    Locke/Ferguson
Label:    Epic/Legacy
Year:    1970
    Spirit keyboardist John Locke used a combination of piano, organ and synthesizers (then a still-new technology) to set the mood for the entire Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus recording sessions with his instrumental piece Space Child. The tune starts with a rolling piano riff that gives bassist Mark Andes a rare opportunity to carry the melody line before switching to a jazzier tempo that manages to seamlessly transition from a waltz tempo to straight time without anyone noticing. After a short reprise of the tune's opening riff the track segues into Jay Ferguson's When I Touch You, a song that manages to be light and heavy at the same time.

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