Monday, March 19, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1812 (starts 3/21/18)

After the various oddities of the last few weeks (record high and low numbers of tracks played, for instance), I thought it was time for a "normal" show. Well, as close to normal as Rockin' in the Days of Confusion gets, at any rate. So, we have a total of 10 tracks, five of which are making their HermitRadio debut.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Time Machine
Source:    CD: On Time
Writer:    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1969
    Universally panned by the rock press, the first Grand Funk Railroad album, On Time, was at best a moderate success when it was first released. Thanks to the band's extensive touring, however, GFR had built up a sizable following by the time their self-titled follow up LP (aka the Red Album) was released in 1970. That year, Grand Funk Railroad became the first rock band to chalk up four gold albums in the same year, with Closer To Home and their double-LP live album joining the first two studio albums. One of the most popular tracks from On Time was Time Machine, which captures the essence of the band's early years.

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    Combination Of The Two
Source:    CD: Cheap Thrills
Writer(s):    Sam Andrew
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1968
     Everything about Big Brother And The Holding Company can be summed up by the title of the opening track for their Cheap Thrills album (and their usual show opener as well): Combination Of The Two. A classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, Big Brother, with Janis Joplin on lead vocals, had an energy that neither Joplin or the band itself was able to duplicate once they parted company. On the song itself, the actual lead vocals for the verses are the work of Combination Of The Two's writer, bassist Sam Houston Andrew III, but those vocals are eclipsed by the layered non-verbal chorus that starts with Joplin then repeats itself with Andrew providing a harmony line which leads to Joplin's promise to "rock you, sock you, gonna give it to you now". It was a promise that the group seldom failed to deliver on.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Bird Has Flown
Source:    LP: Purple Passages (originally released on LP: Deep Purple)
Writer(s):    Evans/Blackmore/Lord
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Tetragrammaton)
Year:    1969
    Much of the music on the first two Deep Purple albums (including the singles Hush and Kentucky Woman) was made up of extensively rearranged cover songs, leading some critics to consider the band England's answer to Vanilla Fudge. Although the band was doing well enough in the US, they were virtually ignored at home, and in early 1969 set out to do something about the latter. The most important change was to focus on original material. Their next single was a pair of songs composed by the band, with the more experimental of the two, a song called The Bird Has Flown, appearing as the B side of the US release of the record (a song from their second LP was chosen for the British B side). Feeling that the song was deserving of greater exposure, the band recorded a new version (retitled Bird Has Flown) for their self-titled third LP. Unfortunately, the band's US label, Tetragrammaton, was having serious financial problems, resulting in a delayed release of the album with virtually no promotion from the label itself. Tetragrammaton went bankrupt not long after the LP hit the stands, making it by far the most obscure Deep Purple album ever released. After the band signed with Warner Brothers and achieved phenomenal success with new lead vocalist Ian Gillan, WB put together a double-LP collection of material from the band's first three albums, including Bird Has Flown, which, for some unknown reason, is listed on the label as The Bird Has Flown, despite being the later album version of the song.

Artist:     Ten Years After
Title:     Circles
Source:     CD: Cricklewood Green
Writer:     Alvin Lee
Label:     Chrysalis (original label: Deram)
Year:     1970
     Cricklewood Green continued the development of Ten Years After away from its blues roots and toward a more progressive rock sound that would ultimately lead them to their only top 40 hit, I'd Love To Change The World. That song, however, was still a couple albums in the future when Cricklewood Green was released in 1970. The seldom-heard Circles is basically an acoustic solo number from Alvin Lee.

Artist:    Humble Pie
Title:    I Don't Need No Doctor
Source:    CD: Performance-Rockin' The Fillmore
Writer(s):    Ashford/Simpson/Armstead
Label:    A&M
Year:    1971
    Humble Pie, one of the first rock supergroups, was already beginning to fall apart when their double-LP live album Performance-Rockin' The Fillmore was recorded. In fact, guitarist Peter Frampton had already left the group by the time the album was released in 1971, mainly due to clashes with lead vocalist/guitarist Steve Marriott. Regardless, the album was a hit, going to #21 on the US album chart and hitting the top 40 in Britain as well. An edited version of the band's cover of the Ray Charles hit I Don't Need No Doctor was released as a single, becoming the album's best-known track.

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Can You Hear The Music
Source:    LP: Goat's Head Soup
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    Rolling Stones
Year:    1973
    By 1973 the Rolling Stones had gone from being a simple rock band to being international celebrities, and subtle differences were starting to show in their music. The album Goat's Head Soup, is often considered the end of the Stones' "golden age". The album was recorded in Jamaica, because, as Kieth Richards put it: "Jamaica was one of the few places that would let us all in! " While some of the songs on Goat's Head Soup, particularly the single Angie that preceeded the album's release, are genuine classics, other tunes, such as Can You Hear The Music, seem self-indulgent by comparison.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    The Devil Is Singing Our Song
Source:    LP: Bang
Writer(s):    Bolin/Tesar
Label:    Atco
Year:    1973
    The James Gang, following the departure of guitarist/vocalist Joe Walsh, could have just called it quits right then and there. Instead, however, bassist Dale Peters and drummer Jim Fox chose to instead add two new members, Canadians Roy Kenner (vocals) and Dominic Troiano (guitar), and carry on in the same vein as they had been. After a pair of albums that failed to catch on, however, Troiano accepted an offer to replace Randy Bachman in the Guess Who. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the James Gang, however, as the addition of former Zephyr guitarist Tommy Bolin revitalized the band for a time. Bolin had a hand in writing much of the material on the band's next LP, James Gang Bang, including The Devil Is Singing Our Song. With a strong signature riff and a gritty guitar solo, the song has a feel to it that presages Bolin's later solo work on his albums Private Eyes and Teaser.

Artist:    Jean-Luc Ponty
Title:    The Gardens Of Babylon
Source:    LP: Imaginary Voyage
Writer(s):    Jean-Luc Ponty
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1976
    Touted by jazz critics as being "the first jazz violinist to be as exciting as a saxophonist', Jean-Luc Ponty released his first solo album in 1964 at the age of 22. He remained virtually unknown outside of his native France, however, until the early 1970s, when he emigrated to the United States to become a member of Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention. This in turn led to Ponty gaining a crossover audience just as the jazz-rock fusion movement was gaining ground in the US. His 1976 LP, Imaginary Voyage, is considered one of the defining works of the genre, thanks to tracks like The Gardens Of Babylon, the second track on the album. Ponty's style of playing came about almost as an accident. While performing as a member of a classical orchestra in Paris, he joined a local college jazz band as a clarinetist, playing parties. One night after a concert he found himself at a local club with only his violin, and decided to play it in the same style he had been playing his clarinet. His playing has often been compared to saxophonist John Coltrane. He was also among the first violinists to adapt various electronic effects usually associated with electric guitar.

Artist:    Mothers
Title:    Fifty-Fifty
Source:    CD: Over-Nite Sensation
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1973
    Frank Zappa was already well-established by the time he recorded Over-Nite Sensation and Apostrophe(') in 1973. The two albums, recorded at the same time but released months apart, were his commercial breakthrough, thanks to radio-friendly tunes like Montana and Don't Eat Yellow Snow. Both albums use the same pool of talented musicians, including keyboardist George Duke and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, both of which would go on to establish themselves as first-tier jazz stars. Fifty-Fifty, from Over-Nite Sensation, features solos from Duke, Ponty and Zappa himself, with lead vocals from Ricky Lancelotti. Powerful stuff.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Trampled Under Foot
Source:    LP: Physical Graffitti
Writer(s):    Jones/Page/Plant
Label:    Swan Song
Year:    1975
    I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a bet that the majority of people that have heard this track know that it is by Led Zeppelin (that much is pretty obvious), but have no idea that it is called Trampled Under Foot. After all, classic rock radio plays the hell out of it without EVER back-announcing the song. So, I figured I'd do everyone a favor and play it, back-announcing not only the song title, but also the name of the album (Physical Graffitti). Consider it a public service.

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