Monday, August 7, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1732 (starts 8/9/17)

This time around we revisit a couple of old favorites from Stuck in the Psychedelic Era before breaking into some classic progressive rock with Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Genesis. From there it's more old favorites from some pretty familiar names.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Are You Experienced?
Source:    LP: Are You Experienced?
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1967
    Before the release of Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience the emphasis in rock music (then generally known as pop music) was on the 45 RPM single, with albums seen as a luxury item that supplemented an artist's career rather than defined it. Are You Experience helped change all that. The album was not only highly influential, it was also a major seller, despite getting virtually no airplay on US top 40 radio. The grand finale of the LP was the title track, which features an array of studio effects, including backwards masked guitar and tape loops. Interestingly enough, the album was originally issued only in a mono version in the UK, with European pressings using a simulated stereo mix. After Reprise bought the rights to release the LP in the US the label hired its own engineers to create stereo mixes of the songs from the four-track master tapes.

Artist:    Blue Cheer
Title:    Rock Me Baby
Source:    Dutch import LP: Vincebus Eruptum
Writer(s):    King/Josea
Label:    Philips
Year:    1968
    The first Blue Cheer LP, Vincebus Eruptum, is cited by some as the first heavy metal album, while others refer to it as proto metal. However you want to look at it, the album is dominated by the feedback-laden guitar of Leigh Stephens, as can be plainly heard on their version of B.B. King's classic Rock Me Baby. Although there seem to be very few people still around who actually heard Blue Cheer perform live, the power trio has the reputation of being one of the loudest bands in the history of rock music. 

Artist:    Emerson, Lake And Palmer
Title:    Aquatarkus
Source:    LP: Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies And Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake And Palmer
Writer(s):    Keith Emerson
Label:    Manticore
Year:    1974
    We don't often think of a keyboardist as a front man, but there have been a few notable examples throughout the history of rock and roll, starting with Jerry Lee Lewis, who was as much a showman as any of his contemporaries. Another example is Keith Emerson, whose presence dominated his first successful band, the Nice. This sense of showmanship developed further with his next group, Emerson, Lake And Palmer. What makes Emerson's case unusual is the fact that he did not sing. But somehow he managed to stay in the spotlight with his boundless energy resembling nothing more than a modern Mozart or Liszt. Usually energy like this does not translate well into recorded media, but in the case of Aquatarkus, from the 1974 live album Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends-Ladies And Gentlemen, Emerson, Lake And Palmer, that energy comes through loud and clear. The piece itself is the grand finale of Tarkus, a multi-part masterpiece that took up an entire side of an album when recorded in the studio.

Artist:    Genesis
Title:    The Musical Box
Source:    CD: Nursery Cryme
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1971
    In a sense, the story of the rock band known as Genesis gets underway with the release of the 1971 album Nursery Cryme. Technically it was the third Genesis album. However, the first two albums, From Genesis To Revelation and Trespass, were not really rock albums at all. It was only after the departure of original guitarist Anthony Phillips and his replacement by Steve Hackett, along with the addition of drummer Phil Collins, that Genesis became a true electric rock band, albeit one with a heavy element of British folk music. Although Genesis sounded nothing like harder British progressive rock bands like Yes or Emerson, Lake and Palmer, their music was every bit as innovative and complex, as plainly can be heard on the ten minute long opening track from Nursery Cryme, The Musical Box. The lyrics of the song are based on a fairy tale by Peter Gabriel about two children in a country house, one of which (a girl) kills the other by beheading him with a croquet mallet. From there, it only gets weirder (and more adult). The Musical Box is still considered one of Genesis' most influential works, and has even inspired a group of young musicians to call themselves The Musical Box.

Artist:     Grand Funk Railroad
Title:     I Can Feel Him In The Morning
Source:     CD: Survival
Writer:     Farner/Brewer
Label:     Capitol
Year:     1971
     In the late 1980s I met a woman from L.A who had been in high school the year Grand Funk Railroad's fourth studio LP came out. When she discovered that I still had my original copy of Survival she told me how an 8-track copy of that album got her through the summer of '71 when she was living with her mother in an apartment overlooking one of the hookers' corners on Hollywood Blvd. She said that whenever she was feeling overwhelmed by life she would draw inspiration from the song I Can Feel Him In The Morning. The tune, with its flowing beat and spiritual lyrics, was a departure from the loud, raw sound the band from Flint was known for.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Living In The Past
Source:    LP: Living In The Past (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1969
    By the end of the 1960s most UK labels had abandoned the British tradition of not including singles on LPs. One notable exception was Island Records, who continued to issue mutually exclusive Jethro Tull albums, singles and EPs into the early 1970s. Among those non-LP tracks was the 1969 single Living In The Past, which would not be included on an LP until 1972, when the song became the title track of a double LP Jethro Tull retrospective. The song then became a hit all over again, including in the US, where the original single had failed to chart.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Changes
Source:    CD: Hunky Dory
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Parlophone (original label: RCA Victor)
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:    Patti Smith Group
Title:    Ask The Angels
Source:    LP: Radio Ethiopia
Writer(s):    Smith/Kral
Label:    Arista
Year:    1976
    Patti Smith's second LP, Radio Ethiopia, was, in some ways, a deliberate attempt at commercial success. As such, it received mixed reviews from the rock press for songs such as Ask The Angels, the LP's opening track. The song, which was released as the album's third single, was co-written by bassist Ivan Kral, who was the band member pushing the hardest for commercial success.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    The Song Remains The Same
Source:    CD: Houses Of The Holy
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1973
    The Song Remains The Same was originally meant to be an instrumental overture to open the band's fifth album, Houses Of The Holy. Vocalist Robert Plant, however, had different ideas, and added what has been called his tribute to world music, expressing a belief in music as a universal language. A couple of the track's original elements survived, however. The song still serves as the opening track for the album, and is still followed immediately by The Rain Song. The two were often performed in sequence at the band's concerts as well. The Song Remains The Same is also the name of Led Zeppelin's legendary concert film as well.

Artist:    Blues Image
Title:    Leaving My Troubles Behind
Source:    LP: Blues Image
Writer:    Blues Image
Label:    Atco
Year:    1969
    Miami's Blues Image was highly regarded by critics and musicians alike. Unfortunately, they were never able to translate that acclaim into album sales, despite recording a pair of fine albums for Atco. One of the highlights of their self-titled debut LP was a track called Leaving My Troubles Behind. By all rights the song should have become a rock standard, but for some reason never truly caught on. Following the release of the band's second LP, guitarist Mike Pinera left Blues Image to replace Eric Brann in Iron Butterfly, and after one more unsuccessful album the group disbanded.

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