Monday, March 5, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1810 (starts 3/7/18)

    This time around we forsake the long tracks (for the most part) in favor of shorter tunes that actually cover a lot of ground musically. And I do mean a lot.

Artist:    Brewer And Shipley
Title:    One Toke Over The Line
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Brewer/Shipley
Label:    Kama Sutra
Year:    1971
    Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley might be considered the link between the folk-rock of the late 1960s and the singer-songwriter movement of the early 1970s. The two of them had met on more than one occasion in the mid 1960s, doing coffeehouse gigs across the midwest, until both decided to settle down in Los Angeles and start writing songs together in 1968. After recording two albums together, the duo relocated to Kansas City in 1969, spending much of the next two years on the road, playing small towns such as Tarkio, Missouri, which in turn inspired the title for their third album, Tarkio. That album, released in 1971, included what was to be their biggest hit. One Toke Over The Line went to the #10 spot on the charts (#5 in Canada) and prompted the Vice President of the United States, Spiro Agnew, to denounce the song as "blatant drug-culture propaganda". Concerning the origin of the song itself, Mike Brewer had this to say: "One day we were pretty much stoned and all and Tom says, “Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.” I liked the way that sounded and so I wrote a song around it." He said it was written as a joke as the duo was setting up for a gig.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Love Street
Source:    CD: Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mine (originally released on LP: Waiting For The Sun)
Writer(s):    Jim Morrison
Label:    Elektra/Rhino
Year:    1968
    Like many of Jim Morrison's songs, Love Street started off as a poem. "Love Street" was actually the nickname given to Rothdale Trail, the street he and Pamela Courson lived on in L.A.'s Laurel Canyon. Morrison and Courson spent a lot of time sitting on their balcony, watching the local hippies going to and from the Canyon Country Store, which was across the street from their house. Morrison turned the poem into a song in time to get it recorded for the third Doors album, Waiting For The Sun. The track was also released as the B side of the Doors' second #1 single, Hello I Love You.

Artist:    Bubble Puppy
Title:    Hurry Sundown
Source:    CD: A Gathering Of Promises
Writer(s):    Prince/Cox
Label:    Charly (original label: International Artists)
Year:    1969
    The Bubble Puppy came into existence in 1967, when two former members of the legendary Corpus Christie,Texas garage band the Bad Seeds, guitarist Rod Prince and keyboardist/bassist Roy Cox, relocated to San Antonio, recruiting guitarist Todd Potter and drummer Craig Root to form the new band. Success came quickly in the form of the band's very first gig, opening for the Who at the San Antonio Colosseum. After David Fore replaced Root in the band, the group relocated to Austin, where they got a steady gig at the Vulcan Gas Company. By 1968 the Bubble Puppy was traveling all over Texas for gigs, and late in the year got a contract with Houston-based International Artists, a label that had already gained notoriety by signing the 13th Floor Elevators and Red Crayola. After releasing a surprise top 40 hit, Hot Smoke And Sassafras in December of 1968, the band got to work on a full album, A Gathering Of Promises. International Artists failed to get the album, which was full of fine tunes like Hurry Sundown, out quickly enough to capitilize of the popularity of Hot Smoke And Sassafras, and further hurt the band's chance of success by refusing to grant licensing rights on the single to Apple Records for European release. By 1970 the band and the label had parted company, with the Bubble Puppy relocating to Los Angeles and changing their name to Demian.

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    Stranger To Himself
Source:    LP: John Barleycorn Must Die
Writer(s):    Winwood/Capaldi
Label:    Island (original label: United Artists)
Year:    1970
    Stranger To Himself is one of two songs that Steve Winwood had completed for his first solo album when he decided to instead make a new Traffic album. Rather than recut the song, Winwood included the recording, on which he plays all the instruments himself, as the first track of side two of the fourth Traffic LP, John Barleycorn Must Die.

Artist:    David Crosby
Title:    Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)
Source:    CD: If Only I Could Remember My Name
Writer(s):    David Crosby
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    In 1971, following the success of the deja vu album, all four members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released solo albums. The most successful of these at the time was Neil Young's After The Gold Rush, followed by the album Stephen Stills. David Crosby's album, while somewhat overshadowed by Stills and Young's efforts, was nonetheless a commercial success, selling more than half a million copies and peaking at #12 on the album charts. Having listened to all four albums recently, I would actually rank If Only I Could Remember My Name as the best of the four, as the songs have aged amazingly well. Among the truly timeless tracks on the album is a piece called Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves), which is basically an instrumental with wordless vocals. Thanks to Crosby's gift for writing compelling melody and harmony lines, it works.

Artist:    Siegel-Schwall Band
Title:    You Don't Love Me Like That
Source:    LP: Sleepy Hollow
Writer(s):    Jim Schwall
Label:    Wooden Nickel
Year:    1972
    Corky Siegel and Jim Schwall first met in 1964, when both were attending Roosevelt University in the Chicago area. Siegel, a saxophonist who would later switch to keyboards and harmonica, had an interest in the blues, while guitarist Schwall was more into country music. The two combined their interests, creating a sound that was as unique as it was purely American. As the house band at Pepper's Lounge on Chicago's sout side, the Siegel-Schwall band often invited local blues artists to join them on stage, including some of the biggest stars in blues history. They soon signed to Vanguard Records, releasing their first album in 1966. After four albums with Vanguard they switched to the Chicago-based Wooden Nickel label, which had a national distribution deal with RCA. Their second LP for the label included the track You Don't Love Me Like That, a Schwall composition that encapsulates the band's sound as well as any other song.

Artist:    Mahavishnu Orchestra
Title:    Open Country Joy
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    John McLaughlin
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1973
    John McLaughlin. Billy Cobham. Rick Laird. Jan Hammer. Jerry Goodman. All were destined to become jazz-rock fusion stars by the end of the decade, but in 1971 the term fusion, as applied to music, was not yet in use. Yet fusion was indeed the most appropriate word for the Mahavishnu Orchestra, whose five members came from five different countries: England, Ireland, Panama, Czechoslovakia (as it was then known) and the US, respectively. The members came from a variety of music backgrounds as well. McLaughlin (who wrote all the group's material) and Cobham had met while working on Miles Davis' Bitches Brew album, while Goodman had recorded two albums with the Chicago-based Flock. The Mahavishnu Orchestra was known for its ability to quickly shift between music styles on such tracks as Open Country Joy, which appeared on the group's second LP, Birds of Fire, as well as being released as a single.The original group disbanded after only two albums, but McLaughlin would later revive the band with a different lineup in the 1980s.

Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    About To Begin
Source:    CD: Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Robin Trower
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:    1974
    Many of the artists featured on FM rock radio in the 1970s had already established themselves in the latter part of the previous decade, getting airplay on underground stations as well as the occasional top 40 hit. Others were newcomers that would go on to become stars in the 1980s. Then there are those few who seem to be exclusively associated with the 1970s. Among this group is Robin Trower, former guitarist of the art-rock oriented Procol Harum. Trower seldom got a chance to shine in the keyboard-dominated Harum, however, and left the group in 1972 to form his own band, Jude. Jude did not last long enough to record an album, but it did provide Trower with the core of his new trio, consisting of Trower himself on guitar, James Dewar on bass and vocals and Reg Isidore on drums. Trower's first album, Twice Removed From Yesterday, was fairly well-received by the rock press, but it actually was only setting the stage for what is now considered one of the greatest rock guitar albums ever recorded: 1974's Bridge Of Sighs. Even the lesser-known tracks like About To Begin got at least some airplay, and deservedly so.

Artist:    Joni Mitchell
Title:    The Boho Dance/Harry's House/Centerpiece
Source:    LP: The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
Writer(s):    Mitchell/Mandell/Hendricks
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1975
    Although it initially got bad reviews from the rock press (particularly Rolling Stone magazine) Joni Mitchell's seventh LP, The Hissing Of Summer Lawns, has since come to be regarded as a masterpiece. The "centerpiece" (pun intended) of the album is the montage on side two that starts with The Boho Dance (a wry commentary on critics who accuse artists of "selling out") followed by Harry's House, a look at a failing marraige that is highlighted by the use of the jazz standard Centerpiece before returning to Harry's House for the inevitable conclusion of the story.

Artist:    Rush
Title:    Something For Nothing
Source:    LP: 2112
Writer(s):    Lee/Peart
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1976
    Inspired by graffitti seen on a wall in Los Angeles, Something For Nothing is the last track on the 1976 Rush album 2112. According to lyricist Neil Peart, "All those paeans to American restlessness and the American road carried a tinge of wistfulness, an acknowledgement of the hardships of the vagrant life, the notion that wanderlust could be involuntary, exile as much as freedom, and indeed, the understanding that freedom wasn't free."
2112 was Rush's fourth LP, and, for a time looked like it might be their last one. In fact, they were in danger of being dropped by Mercury Records (which had rights to the band's music everywhere but in their native Canada), following disappointing sales of their previous LP, Caress Of Steel and declining concert attendance. The band's manager, Ray Danniels, flew to Chicago in a last-ditch effort to convince the label to give Rush one more chance. Oddly enough, Danniels had not actually heard any of the music for the new album and in fact had been deliberately kept out of the loop by the band itself until they could present him a finished product. Danniels was nonetheless successful in convincing Mercury to release one more Rush album. In February of 1976 the band got to work on the new album. After spending some time debating over whether to remain true to their artistic vision or try to be more commercial, they decided it would be better to "go down in flames" than compromise their musical integrity. The result was their first truly successful album. 2112 ended up peaking at #5 on the Canadian LP charts and #61 in the US.

Artist:    Wishbone Ash
Title:    Queen Of Torture
Source:    45 RPM single B side (originally released on LP: Wishbone Ash)
Writer:    Upton/Turner/Turner/Powell
Label:    Decca
Year:    1970
    One of the first bands to use dual lead guitars was Wishbone Ash. When the band's original guitarist had to leave, auditions were held, but the remaining members couldn't come to a consensus between the two finalists so they kept both of them, or so the story goes. Queen Of Torture, from their 1969 debut album, shows just how well the two guitars meshed.

Artist:    Rare Earth
Title:    Nice Place To Visit
Source:    LP: Ecology
Writer(s):    John Persh
Label:    Motown (original label: Rare Earth)
Year:    1970
    There are a lot of unique things that can be said of the band Rare Earth. For one thing, they were the first successful rock act to record for Motown Records, scoring huge crossover hits with covers of Temptations songs like Get Ready and (I Know) I'm Losing You. They were also one of the first bands to get a record label named after them (the rechristened Soul label). Finally, they were one of the only groups to gain credibility with the FM rock crowd without sacrificing their commercial appeal on top 40 radio. This last trend came to its peak with the 1970 album Ecology, which managed to be relevant and commercial at the same time. Althought the best known tracks on the album were provided to them by their producer, they did manage to sneak in an original or two like John Persh's Nice Place To Visit, which is fully consistent with the band's overall sound. Unfortunately for the band, Persh ended up leaving Rare Earth when they (following Motown's lead) relocated to Los Angeles in the early 70s from their native Detroit.

Artist:    Mountain
Title:    Mississippi Queen
Source:    CD: The Best Of Mountain (originally released on LP: Mountain Climbing)
Writer(s):    West/Laing/Pappalardi/Rea
Label:    Columbia/Windfall
Year:    1970
    One of the most overlooked bands of the mid-1960s was the Vagrants. Based on Long Island, the group made a specialty of covering popular R&B and rock songs, often slowing them down and featuring extended solos by guitarist Leslie Weinstein, inspiring fellow Long Islanders Vanilla Fudge to do the same. Although the Vagrants never were able to gain much national attention, Weinstein himself had established quite a reputation by the time the group disbanded. Meanwhile, keyboardist/producer/songwriter Felix Pappalardi had been working with the members of Cream as a producer, but with the demise of that band was looking for a new project to sink his teeth into. That new project turned out to be a solo album by Weinstein, who by then had shortened his last name to West. The album was called Mountain, and soon after its release West and Pappalardi decided to form a band of the same name. The group first got national attention performing at Woodstock, and in 1970 released the album Mountain Climbing, featuring the hit single Mississippi Queen.

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