Monday, April 2, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1814 (starts 4/3/18)

    This week's show comes in three categories: Where You Belong, Ballads and Mellowing Out. As to which is which, just listen.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Love Or Confusion
Source:    LP: Are You Experienced?
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1967
    A little-known fact is that the original European version of Are You Experienced, in addition to having a different song lineup, consisted entirely of mono recordings. When Reprise got the rights to release the album in North America, its own engineers created new stereo mixes from the 4-track master tapes. As most of the instrumental tracks had already been mixed down to single tracks, the engineers found themselves doing things like putting the vocals all the way on one side of the mix, with reverb effects and guitar solos occupying the other side and the rhythm section dead center. Such is the case with Love Or Confusion, with some really bizarre stereo panning thrown in at the end of the track. It's actually kind of fun to listen to with headphones on, as I did when I bought my first copy of the album on reel-to-reel tape (the tape deck was in the same room as the TV).

Artist:    Janis Joplin
Title:    One Good Man
Source:    LP: I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama
Writer(s):    Janis Joplin
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1969
    Janis Joplin's first solo album, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama, got a lukewarm reception, both from the rock press and from fans of the singer who had been listening to her since her days with Big Brother And The Holding Company. The main problem seems to be that, while musically more proficient than the members of Big Brother, Joplin's new group (sometimes called the Kozmic Blues Band) never seemed to gel as a group. The fact that all but two of the tracks on the LP were cover songs didn't help matters, either. The two Joplin originals, however, are among the album's best tracks. I suspect that a few more tracks like One Good Man (featuring some nice guitar work by Big Brother's Sam Andrew) would have helped the album immensely.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    The Lemon Song
Source:    German import LP: Led Zeppelin II
Writer(s):    Page/Plant/Bonham/Jones/Burnett
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    If I had to choose just one Led Zeppelin song as representative of the band's early work it would have to be The Lemon Song, from their second album. The track has all the elements that made the Zep's reputation: Jimmy Page's distinctive guitar work, John Bonham's stuttered (but always timely) drum fills, John Paul Jones's funky bass line and Robert Plant's gutsy vocals (with lyrics famously derived from classic blues tunes). Squeeze my lemon, baby indeed!

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    South California Purples
Source:    CD: Chicago Transit Authority
Writer(s):    Robert Lamm
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    Chicago never considered themselves a jazz-rock band, despite all the hype from the rock press and the publicity people at Columbia Records. Rather, the defined themselves as a rock band with a horn section. Songs like Robert Lamm's South California Purples, which is basically a blues progression, lend credence to this view. The track, which showcases the guitar work of Terry Kath, was one of the most popular songs on the band's debut album and continued to be a concert staple until Kath's death in 1978.

Artist:    Mountain
Title:    Boys In The Band
Source:    LP: Climbing!
Writer(s):    Pappalardi/Collins
Label:    Windfall
Year:    1970
    After the breakup of Cream in early 1969, producer Felix Pappalardi and his wife Janet Collins relocated to New York and began working with guitarist Leslie West, who was beginning a solo career following the breakup of his own band, the Vagrants. After producing the first West solo LP, Mountain, Pappalardi decided to form a new band with himself on bass, piano and vocals, West on guitar and vocals, Steve Knight on organ, and Corky Laing on drums. To preserve a sense of continuity they decided to call the new band Mountain, releasing their debut LP, Mountain Climbing! in 1970. As a songwriting team, Pappalardi and Collins provided songs like Boys In The Band, which closed out the original LP.

Artist:    Black Sheep
Title:    A Little Or A Lot
Source:    LP: Black Sheep
Writer(s):    Grammatico/Mancuso/Turgon
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1975
    Rochester, NY, has produced its share of stars over the years, including Steve Alaimo (the original host of Dick Clark's weekday series Where The Action Is), alternative garage rockers The Chesterfield Kings and flugelhornist Chuck Mangione, one of the principal architects of the smooth jazz movement of the 1980s. Possibly the biggest name to emerge from the Rochester scene, however, is Louis Grammatico, known better as Lou Gramm, vocalist for 80s supergroup Foreigner. Before Foreigner, Grammatico fronted a band called Black Sheep, with guitarist Don Mancuso, keyboardist Larry Crozier, bassist Bruce Turgon, and drummer Ron Rocco. After recording a one-off single for the Chrysalis label, Black Sheep signed with Capitol in 1975, releasing two LPs on the label. Fairly typical of the band's sound is A Little Or A Lot, a track from Black Sheep's debut LP. Gramm still occasionally performs with the former Black Sheep members.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Heartbreaker
Source:    CD: Heavy Hitters (originally released on LP: On Time)
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1969
    The second single released from the first Grand Funk Railroad album, Heartbreaker was a concert staple for the band. Unlike most of Grand Funk's early material, Heartbreaker is a slow ballad that speeds up toward the end, building to a typical Spinal Tap, er, Grand Funk, finish.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Quicksand
Source:    CD: Hunky Dory
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Parlophone (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1971
    After rocking out pretty hard with his third studio LP, The Man Who Sold The World, David Bowie mellowed out a bit with his first album for his new label, RCA. Hunky Dory, released in 1971 was actually  recorded at a time when Bowie had no record contract, and features the same lineup that would be heard on his classic Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars album the following year. Unlike the albums that precede and follow it, Hunky Dory puts the emphasis more on Bowie's lyrics on tunes like Quicksand, which reflects Bowie's interest in the occult, as well as the work of Franz Nietzsche.

Artist:    America
Title:    Head And Heart
Source:    LP: Homecoming
Writer(s):    John Martin
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1972
    Although not a household name by any means, singer-songwriter/guitarist John Martin nonetheless had a long and prolific career, releasing 22 albums over a 40-year period, starting in the late 1960s. By 1972 he was well-established enough to get the attention of the band America, who recorded a cover of his Head And Heart for their second LP, Homecoming.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Only A Fool Would Say That
Source:    CD: Can't Buy A Thrill
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagan
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1972
    Steely Dan's first album, Can't Buy A Thrill, is best known for its two hit singles, Do It Again and Reeling In The Years. The album, however, has plenty more good tracks, including Only A Fool Would Say That, which also appeared as a B side.

Artist:    Crosby, Stills And Nash
Title:    Dark Star
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Stephen Stills
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1977
    It may come as a surprise that the second Crosby, Stills And Nash LP, CSN, came out eight years after the first one, even if you consider that the deja vu and Four-Way Street albums, released in 1970-71, were only one band member (Neil Young) away from being by the same group. Then again, if you were around at the time, and had heard about the horrendous backstage fights in dressing rooms around the country, it might not all that much surprising. Whatever the reason, the album CSN did not appear until 1977. CSN did include a few songs that got airplay on several radio formats, however. Stephen Stills's Dark Star, which also appeared as the B side of the album's first single, got heard quite a bit on FM rock radio (which by 1977 was already morphing into the more commercial album-oriented rock format), while the A side of the single, Just A Song Before I Go, became a Contemporary Hit Radio staple.

Artist:    Earth Disciples
Title:    Getaway Train
Source:    LP: Getaway Train
Writer(s):    Jimmy Holloway
Label:    Solid State
Year:    1970
    There is no question that 1970 was a year of experimentation in music. The surface implication of such a statement might lead you to think of bands like Tangerine Dream, who were trying out all kinds of new electronic effects, or Renaissance, who were taking a classical approach to rock. But there were other types of experiments going on as well. New radio formats were developing. Artists were looking at new hybrid genres to explore, such as jazz-rock and soul-funk. One band that went that route was Earth Disciples from the Chicago area. co-led by guitarist Jimmy Holloway (who also did some keyboard work), Earth Disciples were fond of jazz experimentation, yet included elements of rock and soul that sometimes actually overpowered the band's jazz elements on tracks such as Getaway Train (also the title of their album). As to what happened to the band, your guess is as good as mine.

Artist:    John Lennon
Title:    Bless You
Source:    CD: Lennon (box set) (originally released on LP: Walls And Bridges)
Writer(s):    John Lennon
Label:    Capitol (original label: Apple)
Year:    1974
    In June of 1973, as John Lennon was getting started on his third LP, Mind Games, his wife Yoko Ono decided that the two of them should separate. This led to Lennon relocating from New York to California and getting into a relationship with Ono's personal assistant May Pang. This relationship (reportedly instigated by Yoko herself) lasted eighteen months, a period that Lennon would later refer to as his "lost weekend". During this time Lennon began hanging out (i.e. getting drunk) with fellow songwriter Harry Nilsson and making his first attempt at recording an album of cover songs with producer Phil Spector. For obvious reasons (see above) those sessions didn't work out, and Lennon returned to New York the following year. In July of 1974 Lennon began working on what would be his last album of original material for nearly five years: Walls And Bridges. The album yielded two top 10 singles (including his only #1 solo hit during his lifetime, Whatever Gets You Through The Night), as well as several noteworthy album tracks. One of the most overlooked tracks on the LP is Bless You, a tune that Lennon himself described as "best piece of work on the album". 

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