Monday, September 11, 2017
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1737 (starts 9/13/17)
A lot of symmetry this week. 10 artists. 10 tracks, five of which have never been played on either Rockin' in the Days of Confusion or Stuck in the Psychedelic Era. Five songs from 1970, with the other five covering each year from 1972 to 1976. See?
Artist: Guess Who
Title: American Woman
Source: CD: American Woman
Label: Buddha/BMG (original label: RCA Victor)
From 1968-1970 I was living on Ramstein AFB, which was and is a huge base in Germany with enough Canadian personnel stationed there to justify their own on-base school. For much of the time I lived there I found myself hanging out with a bunch of Canadian kids and I gotta tell you, they absolutely loved everything by the Guess Who, who were, after all, the most successful Canadian rock band in history. In particular, they all loved the band's most political (and controversial) hit, the 1970 tune American Woman. I rather liked it myself, and immediately went out and bought a copy of the album, one of the first to be pressed on RCA's Dynaflex vinyl.
Artist: Grateful Dead
Source: CD: Skeletons From the Closet (originally released on LP: American Beauty)
Label: Warner Brothers
After two performance-oriented albums that mixed live and studio material and one double live LP, the Grateful Dead decided to shift their focus in the studio to their songwriting skills. The result was Workingman's Dead, the band's most commercially successful album up to that point. Five months later the followup album, American Beauty defined the Grateful Dead's sound for all but the most dedicated of concertgoers (the legendary Deadheads), thanks to songs like Truckin', which would be the band's most popular single until the mid-1980s.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix/Band Of Gypsys
Title: We Gotta Live Together
Source: LP: Band Of Gypsys
Writer(s): Buddy Miles
In October of 1969, guitarist Jimi Hendrix and bassist Billy Cox (who had been performing with Hendrix since the original Experience disbanded in June of 1969) began working with drummer Buddy Miles in a group that would come to be known as Band Of Gypsys. For various reasons, Hendrix had not come up with any marketable studio recordings that year, and, thanks to a lawsuit, was under pressure to record an album for the Capitol label, even though he was still under contract to Reprise. The solution was for the trio to record a series of concerts at Madison Square Gardens over the New Year's holiday, compiling the best of these into a live album called Band Of Gypsys. Not all of the material came from Hendrix, however. The final track on the album, We Gotta Live Together, is credited to Miles, although Hendrix does quite a bit of improvisation throughout the piece.
Artist: Johnny Winter
Title: On The Limb
Source: European import CD: Johnny Winter And
Writer(s): Rick Derringer
After three albums' worth of what Johnny Winter called "progressive blues", the Texas guitarist used an entirely different lineup for his 1970 album Johnny Winter And. The new band included guitarist Rick Derringer, bassist Randy Hobbs and drummer Randy Z, all of who had all been members of the McCoys, known for the 1965 hit single Hang On Sloopy (even though only Derringer had actually played and sung on the record). The music of Johnny Winter And reflected a subtle shift in emphasis from rock-flavored blues to blues-favored rock. This shift was particularly noticable on the handful of songs written by Derringer, such as On The Limb.
Artist: Steve Miller Band
Title: Space Intro/Fly Like An Eagle/Wild Mountain Honey
Source: LP: Fly Like An Eagle
Perhaps more than any other rock group, the Steve Miller Band exemplifies the changes in album rock from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. Their first couple of albums were firmly rooted in the San Francisco music scene, and had a strong psychedelic element. Their early 70s albums showed a maturing style, yet retained an experimental edge as well. By the middle of the decade the Miller band had taken a decidedly more commercial turn with the hit single The Joker in 1975. They followed it up with their most commercial album to date, Fly Like An Eagle, in 1976. The first three tracks on the album, Space Intro/Fly Like An Eagle/Wild Mountain Honey, play as one continuous piece, and were usually presented that way on FM rock stations at the time. These days, of course, classic rock stations only play the middle part of the song cycle.
Artist: Pavlov's Dog
Source: LP: Pampered Menial
Writer(s): Davic Surkamp
During my first couple of years living in Albuquerque, NM, I met quite an assortment of strange and unusual people. Among them were a guy who would eventually come to be known as Carlos the Ragman and his roommate, Clint. Clint was, as near as I can tell, possessed of a genius IQ, enhanced by far too many acid trips. He seemed to be in possession of some sort of telepathic powers as well, as was made apparent on more than one occasion. In addition to (or maybe because of) all these things, Clint had somewhat unusual tastes in music. I remember him showing up one evening with an album he had just bought called Pampered Menial, by a band from St. Louis, Mo. called Pavlov's Dog. The opening track, Julia, was truly like nothing I had ever heard before, probably due to the unique vocals of David Surkamp, the writer of Julia. In addition to Surkamp, the band included Steve Scorfina, Mike Safron, Rick Stockton, David Hamilton, Doug Rayburn and Siegfried Carver.
Artist: Premiati Forneria Marconi
Title: The World Became The World
Source: Italian import CD: The World Became The World
Label: Sony Music/RCA
Although the genre known as progressive rock (sometimes called art-rock) enjoyed a measure of popularity in the early 1970s, it was never THE most popular genre in rock....except for in one country. Maybe because of a classical music tradition that generally acknowledges it as the birthplace of opera, Italy took to prog rock in a big way. In fact, for a time the most popular band in the country was Emerson, Lake & Palmer, followed closely by Premiati Forneria Marconi, an Italian band whose name translates as the Award Winning Marconi Bakery. PFM (as they were usually known) were the first Italian rock band to have success outside of Italy, releasing five albums with English lyrics from 1973-77. Most of these lyrics were provided by Peter Sinfield, who was also providing lyrics for Emerson, Lake & Palmer on their Brain Salad Surgery album. One of the most popular of these was The World Became The World, released in 1974.
Artist: Procol Harum
Title: Bringing Home The Bacon
Source: LP: Grand Hotel
After the departure of original lead guitarist Robin Trower, the remaining members of Procol Harum continued to record quality albums such as Grand Hotel, although their airplay was limited to sporadic appearances on the more progressive FM stations. One song that probably should have gotten more attention than it did was Bringing Home The Bacon, from the aforementioned Grand Hotel album. The group would experience a brief return to top 40 radio the following year with the release of their live version of Conquistador, a track that originally appeared on the band's 1967 debut LP.
Artist: Wishbone Ash
Title: Sometime World
Source: CD: Argus
Guitarist Andy Powell shines on Sometime World from the third Wishbone Ash album, Argus. The song, about missed opportunities and second chances, starts quietly, building slowly to become a powerful rocker over the course of nearly seven minutes. Although the song was seldom performed live, Powell has since stated that Sometime World is his favorite track on Argus.
Title: Samba Pa Ti
Source: LP: Abraxas
Writer(s): Carlos Santana
One of the most enduring tracks from Santana's second LP, Abraxas, Samba Pa Ti starts off as a slow instrumental, slowly picking up the pace and adding percussion to give it a decidedly latin flavor. As far as I know, Carlos Santana still includes Samba Pa Ti in his concert repertoire.