Monday, December 4, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1749 (starts 12/6/17)

Got 10 good ones this time around, including my own favorite version of Lou Reed's Sweet Jane (from the Rock N Roll Animal album) and a Uriah Heep track from their second LP, Salisbury.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Do It Again
Source:    CD: Can't Buy A Thrill
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1972
    Although they first appeared to be a real band, Steely Dan was, in fact, two people: keyboardist/vocalist Donald Fagen and bassist (and later guitarist) Walter Becker. For their first album they recruited, from various places, guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, drummer Jim Hodder, guitarist Denny Dias, and finally (when they realized they would have to actually perform live, which terrified Fagen) vocalist David Palmer. The first single from the album, Do It Again, was a major hit, going to the #6 spot on the Billboard charts and, more importantly, introducing the world at large to the Steely Dan sound, combining jazz-influenced rock music with slyly cynical lyrics (often sung in the second person). Steely Dan would continue to be an influential force in popular music throughout the 1970s.

Artist:    Foghat
Title:    Trouble, Trouble
Source:    LP: Foghat
Writer(s):    Dave Peverett
Label:    Bearsville
Year:    1972
    Foghat was formed when three members of Savoy Brown (guitarist "Lonesome Dave" Peverett, bassist Tony Stevens and drummer Roger Earl) left the group to form their own band in 1970. They were joined in early 1971 by slide guitarist Rod Price, who had been with a band called Black Cat Bones. Their self-titled debut LP came out in 1972, with several songs, including Peverett's Trouble Trouble, getting airplay on FM rock radio in the US. Originally a blues-rock band, Foghat went through several personnel changes throughout the 1970s, gradually increasing their popularity as they went along.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Dancing Days
Source:    CD: Houses Of The Holy
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1973
    By 1973 Led Zeppelin was already established as the most influential band of the early 1970s. Their fourth album erased any doubts about their staying power, with Stairway To Heaven in particular dominating the FM airwaves. They followed that album up with Houses Of The Holy, releasing the opening track of side two, Dancing Days, as a single in the US. The song was performed often on the band's 1972 tour, but was dropped from their setlist at around the same time the album itself hit the racks.

Artist:    Stories
Title:    Brother Louie
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Brown/Wilson
Label:    Kama Sutra
Year:    1973
    There are many examples in rock history of bands actually hating their biggest hit. Sometimes it's because they just get tired of playing it the same way over and over to please audiences. In a few cases, however, the band actually hated the song even before it became a hit. The Strawberry Alarm Clock, for instance, were so disgusted by the lyrics of Incense And Peppermints provided by professional songwriters that they refused to record their own lead vocals for the tune (a member of another band entirely sang on the record). Even worse is the case of one-hit wonders who become forever associated with the song they hated (like Steam with Na-Na-Hey-Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye). Generally, it gives the artist a choice of selling out or quitting the music business altogether. There really is no middle ground. Take the case of a band called Stories. After a few failed singles they hit it big with a cover of Hot Chocolate's Brother Louie, taking it all the way to the top of the US charts. The success of the single actually led to the departure of the band's two founding members, Michael Brown (formerly of the Left Banke) and Ian Lloyd. Although the band did continue on with new members, and even had a minor hit with a song called Mammy Blue later the same year, Stories will be forever known as the band that had a hit with Brother Louie and not much else.

Artist:    Golden Earring
Title:    Are You Receiving Me
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Moontan)
Writer(s):    Kooymans/Hay/Fenton
Label:    MCA/Track
Year:    1973
    Even though they are only known for a couple of songs (Radar Love, Twilight Zone) in the US, Golden Earring is actually one of the world's most successful rock bands. Formed in 1961 in The Hague, The Golden Earrings (as they were then known) released their first single in 1965, going all the way to the #2 spot on the Dutch charts. Over the next few years they released four albums and several singles on the Polydor label before switching over to Kit Lambert's Track label in 1970. Their 1973 album Moontan gave the band their first international success, thanks to the inclusion of the single Radar Love. By then the band was known for their improvisational abilities, as can be heard on another track from Moontan, the nine and a half minute long Are You Receiving Me. With more than fifty years of recording and performing under their belt, Golden Earring continues to enjoy massive popularity in their native Netherlands.

Artist:    Lou Reed
Title:    Intro/Sweet Jane
Source:    CD: Rock N Roll Animal
Writer(s):    Hunter/Reed
Label:    RCA/BMG
Year:    1974
    Lou Reed's career did not exactly take off following his departure from Velvet Underground in 1970. According to Paul Nelson of Rolling Stone magazine, Reed's first live appearance as a solo artist (with a pickup band) was, "tragic in every sense of the word". As a result, it came as a bit of a surprise when his appearance on December 21, 1973, at Howard Stein's Academy of Music in New York City, was a major success, thanks in large part to his new, well-rehearsed band consisting of Pentti Glan (drums) and Prakash John (bass), Ray Colcord (keyboards), and Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter on guitars (all of which would eventually become the second incarnation of the Alice Cooper band). The performance was recorded and released on two albums, the first of which was Rock N Roll Animal, released in 1973. The opening track is a perfect example of how the band and Reed himself were equally responsible for the concert's success. The first half is an instrumental Intro written by Hunter that seques smoothly in one of Reed's most popular songs, Sweet Jane. This version has come to be considered the definitive version of Sweet Jane, despite its lack of similarity to the original Velvet Underground recording from the Loaded album.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Midnight Man
Source:    LP: Thirds
Writer(s):    Joe Walsh
Label:    ABC
Year:    1971
    Joe Walsh's final studio album with the James Gang, Thirds, was only moderately successful, leading Walsh to leave the band for a solo career and (eventually) a high-profile gig as a member of the Eagles. Thirds itself has some nice Walsh tunes, including Midnight Man, which opens the album's second side. In addition to Walsh (on guitar and lead vocals), the song features Dale Peters on bass and backup vocals, Jim Fox on drums, Bob Webb on backup vocals and special guest vocalist Mary Sterpka singing lead on the song's third verse.

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Nature's Way/Animal Zoo/Love Has Found A Way/Why Can't I Be Free
Source:    LP: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
Writer(s):    California/Ferguson/Locke
Label:    Epic
Year:    1970
    Spirit was one of those bands that consistently scored well with the critics, yet was never truly able to connect with a large segment of the record buying audience at any given time. Perhaps their best album was Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, released in 1970 to glowing reviews. Despite this, the album actually charted lower than any of their three previous efforts, and would be the last to feature the band's original lineup. In the long haul, however, Twelve Dreams has become the group's top selling album, thanks to steady catalog sales over a period of years. Unlike many more popular records of the time, Twelve Dreams sounds as fresh and original today as when it first appeared, as can be easily heard on the four-song medley that makes up the bulk of the LP's first side. Indeed, despite never having charted as a single, Nature's Way, a Randy California tune which starts the sequence, is one of the best-known songs in the entire Spirit catalog. Additionally, its ecological theme segues naturally into Animal Zoo, a Jay Ferguson tune with a more satirical point of view. Love Has Found A Way, written by vocalist Ferguson and keyboardist John Locke, can best described as psychedelic space jazz, while Why Can't I Be Free is a simple, yet lovely, short coda from guitarist California. Although Spirit, in various incarnations, would continue to record for many years, they would never put out another album as listenable as Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus.

Artist:     Uriah Heep
Title:     The Park
Source:     LP: Salisbury
Writer:     Ken Hensley
Label:     Mercury
Year:     1971
     Uriah Heep's second album, Salisbury, saw the band shifting in a more progressive direction, thanks in large part to the input of keyboardist Ken Hensley, who wrote half the songs on the album. As the band's career progressed, Hensley would become the group's primary songwriter. One of the early Hensley tunes was the Park, a relatively quiet piece that gives David Byron a chance to exercise the higher end of his vocal range.

Artist:    Bob Marley
Title:    No Woman, No Cry
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Vincent Ford
Label:    Island
Year:    1975
    No Woman, No Cry is one of Bob Marley's most famous songs. The live version of the song is ranked #37 on Rolling Stone's list of greatest songs of all time. What many people don't know, however, is who Vincent Ford, who is credited with writing No Woman, No Cry, actually was. He was not a member of the Wailers, nor was he involved with Marley's music in any significant way. How, then, did he manage to get writing credit on one of Marley's most successful songs? The most likely answer is that Marley himself wrote the song, first recording it (with a drum machine) on the 1974 album Natty Dread. He must have known he had a hit on his hands even before it was published, however. As to Vincent Ford, he was a friend of Marley's who ran a soup kitchen that was perpetually underfunded. Marley's idea, so the theory goes, was to give Ford songwriting credit on the potential hit so that he could collect royalties for years to come, allowing him the continue his work running the soup kitchen. Seeing that Ford outlived Marley, I'd have to say it was a sound strategy.

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