Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1733 (starts 8/16/17)

This week we are into geography, with visits to the Land of the Midnight Sun, Raging River of Fear, and Land of 1000 Nights (among other things). We end up Asleep in the Desert.

Artist:    Butterfield Blues Band
Title:    Everything's Gonna Be Alright
Source:    CD: Woodstock 2
Writer(s):    Walter Jacobs
Label:    Atlantic (original label: Cotillion)
Year:    1969
    The Butterfield Blues Band had already gone through several personnel changes by the time they played the Woodstock festival in August of 1969. They had also evolved stylistically, adding a horn section and, for the most part, moving away from the long improvisational jams that had characterized their landmark 1966 LP East-West. Those elements were not entirely gone, however, as their nearly nine minute long performance of Walter Jacobs' Everything's Gonna Be Alright amply demontrates. In addition to a Butterfield harmonica solo to start things off, the piece showcases the talents of new guitarist Buzzy Feiten.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Why Didn't Rosemary
Source:    LP: Deep Purple
Writer(s):    Lord/Blackmore/Evans/Paice/Simper
Label:    Tetragrammaton
Year:    1969
    Deep Purple's self-titled third LP was plagued with problems not of the band's own making. Most of these can be traced to the fact that their American label, Tetragrammaton, was in deep (no pun intended) financial trouble. This meant virtually no promotion budget for the album, and problems with distribution as well. Actually, the company went bankrupt not long after the album was released, making Deep Purple (the album) almost impossible to find on the record racks. Their were internal problems brewing as well; this would be the last Deep Purple album to feature original lead vocalist Rod Evans and bassist Nicky Simper, who were dismissed to make room for Ian Gillan and and Roger Glover. The shame of it all is that Deep Purple was actually a pretty good album, covering a lot of musical ground. One of the tracks, Why Didn't Rosemary, is about as good as British blues-rock gets. Apparently the band's new label thought so as well, as Why Didn't Rosemary, as well as most of the rest of the tracks from Deep Purple, was included on a double-LP anthology album called Purple Passages that collected the best of the band's Tetragrammaton material.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Love Her Madly
Source:    LP: L.A. Woman
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1971   
    The first single released from L.A. Woman, the final Doors album to feature vocalist Jim Morrison, Love Her Madly was a major success, peaking just outside the top 10 in the US, and going all the way to the #3 spot in Canada. The album itself was a return to a more blues-based sound by the Doors, a change that did not sit well with producer Paul Rothchild, who left the project early on, leaving engineer Bruce Botnik to assume production duties. Rothchild's opinion aside, it was exactly what the Doors needed to end their run (in their original four man incarnation) on a positive note.

Artist:     Flower Travellin' Band
Title:     Satori (part 1)
Source:     CD: Satori
Writer:     Flower Travellin' Band
Label:     Phoenix (original label: GRT)
Year:     1971
     The Flower Travellin' Band was arguably the first Japanese heavy metal band. Their first album, released in 1968, consisted entirely of cover songs of the hardest rocking US and UK bands. It wasn't until 1971 that the group finally cut an album of original material. The album was called Satori and consisted of five tracks (called Satori parts one through five). Satori is now hailed as one of the earliest (and best) examples of Japanese heavy metal.

Artist:    Al DiMeola
Title:    Land Of The Midnight Sun
Source:    LP: Land Of The Midnight Sun
Writer(s):    Al DiMeola
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1976
    One of the finest guitarists to emerge from the jazz-rock fusion movement of the early 1970s was Al DiMeola, who came to prominence as a member of Chick Corea's band, Return To Forever. For his first album released under his own name, DiMeola called upon fellow jazzmen Barry Miles (electric piano, Mini-Moog synthesizer) Anthony Jackson (bass),  Lenny White (drums) and  Mingo Lewis (percussion) to record Land Of The Midnight Sun. The album, released in 1976, shows DiMeola's talents as both a composer and instrumentalist, as can be plainly (and effectively) heard on the album's title track.

Artist:    Mahogany Rush
Title:    Land Of 1000 Nights
Source:    Canadian import CD: Strange Universe
Writer(s):    Frank Marino
Label:    Just A Minute (original label: 20th Century)
Year:    1975
    Formed in Montreal in 1970, Mahogany Rush was, in its early days, a power trio led by guitarist Frank Marino, along with bassist Paul Harwood and drummer Jimmy Ayoub. Marino's style has often been compared to that of Jimi Hendrix, whom Marino cites as a major influence. Perhaps their most successful album was Strange Universe, recorded in Montreal and released on the 20th Century label in 1975. Later in the decade the trio was joined by Marino's brother Vince on rhythm guitar and began touring as Frank Marino And Mahogany Rush.

Artist:    Captain Beyond
Title:    Raging River Of Fear
Source:    LP: Captain Beyond
Writer(s):    Caldwell/Evans
Label:    Capricorn
Year:    1972
    No band has ever impressed me during a live performance more than Captain Beyond did in 1972. Some friends and I had made the trip from Alamogordo to El Paso to catch a concert. Back in those days a typical rock concert featured three bands: one headliner, a middle band that had an album or two under their belt but had not yet achieved headliner status, and an opening act that was generally either a new band promoting their debut LP or a popular local band. I honestly don't remember who the headliner was on this particular night, but they were obviously enough of a draw to get the bunch of us to drive the 85 miles of two-lane blacktop across the Texas-New Mexico line to come see them. As it turns out, it didn't matter, because the opening act (whom none of us had ever heard of) totally blew both the other bands off the stage. The thing I was most impressed by was how big of a sound they had on songs like Raging River Of Fear, considering they had only one guitar, along with bass, drums and vocals. Later that week I discovered the second most impressive thing about Captain Beyond: their concert performance sounded exactly like their album, which I bought as soon as I found a copy on the racks. Once I had a copy of the album I realized that I was already familiar with the work of some of the band members, including Lee Dorman and Rhino (both from Iron Butterfly) and Rod Evans (the original Deep Purple vocalist). Drummer Bobby Caldwell's name was unfamiliar, but he certainly left an impression with his power and precision, a combination that fit the band quite well.

Artist:    Emerson, Lake And Palmer
Title:    Take A Pebble
Source:    CD: Emerson, Lake And Palmer
Writer(s):    Greg Lake
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:    1970   
    From the flamboyant piano of Jerry Lee Lewis to the cheesy Farfisa sound of ? and the Mysterians, keyboards were an integral part of rock music right from the start. Nonetheless, the electric guitar was still the instrument of choice for most rock musicians. A new development in the late 1960s, however, would forever change the balance between guitar and keyboards: the invention of the Moog synthesizer (and subsequent electronic keyboard instruments). One of the first rock musicians to experiment with the new technology was Keith Emerson, keyboardist for the Nice. In 1970 Emerson teamed up with bassist Greg Lake and drummer Carl Palmer to form a new band that, shockingly, had no electric guitars at all (although Lake did occassionally play an acoustic guitar). The new band's self-titled debut album was a surprise hit, thanks in large part to the tune Lucky Man, which managed to get airplay on both AM and FM radio. The Lake composition Take A Pebble, at twelve and a half minutes, was way too long for AM airplay, but did get considerable exposure on the album-oriented rock stations that were starting to show up on the FM band. Emerson, Lake and Palmer would continue to have success throughout the 70s, particularly in Italy, where they were the number one band in the country for several years.

Artist:    ZZ Top
Title:    Asleep In The Desert
Source:    LP: Tejas
Writer(s):    Billy Gibbons
Label:    London
Year:    1976
    Guitarist Billy Gibbons takes center stage for the final track on ZZ Top's 1976 LP Tejas, a low-key instrumental called Asleep In The Desert. Warning: this one will stick in your head.

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