Monday, May 7, 2018
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1819 [B19] (starts 5/9/18)
This week we have the most recent of five "contingency" shows, recorded in December of 2017, but not aired until now. It's a good one, too.
Artist: Blue Oyster Cult
Title: (Don't Fear) The Reaper
Source: European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Agents Of Fortune)
Writer(s): Donald Roeser
Label: Sony Music
Guitarist/vocalist Buck Dharma wrote (Don't Fear) The Reaper in his late 20s. At the time, he said, he was expecting to die at a young age. Dharma (real name Donald Roeser), is now 71 years old.
Artist: Mahogany Rush
Title: Land Of 1000 Nights
Source: Canadian import CD: Strange Universe
Writer(s): Frank Marino
Label: Just A Minute (original label: 20th Century)
Formed in Montreal in 1970, Mahogany Rush was, in its early days, a power trio led by guitarist Frank Marino, along with bassist Paul Harwood and drummer Jimmy Ayoub. Marino's style has often been compared to that of Jimi Hendrix, whom Marino cites as a major influence. Perhaps their most successful album was Strange Universe, recorded in Montreal and released on the 20th Century label in 1975. Later in the decade the trio was joined by Marino's brother Vince on rhythm guitar and began touring as Frank Marino And Mahogany Rush.
Title: Yellow Cab Man
Source: British import CD: Gun
Label: Repertoire (original label: CBS)
Sometimes your timing is just right. Such was the case with Gun, whose powerful three-piece sound came along just as iconic bands like Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience were on the verge of breaking up. Released in 1968. Gun's self-titled debut LP featured the hit single Race With The Devil, a tune that made the top 10 in England and Germany. Other strong tracks on the album included Yellow Cab Man, which incorporated car horns mixed with the loud fuzz guitar of Adrian Gurvitz (then calling himself Adrian Curtis), backed by his brother Paul on bass and Louis Farrell on drums. Gun was unable to sustain their popularity after Race With The Devil had fallen off the charts, and the Gurvitz brothers soon disbanded the group and formed first Three Man Army and then the Baker-Gurvitz (with legendary Cream drummer Ginger Baker) in the 1970s.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Prelude: Happiness/I'm So Glad
Source: LP: Shades Of Deep Purple
Deep Purple was originally the brainchild of vocalist Chris Curtis, whose idea was to have a band called Roundabout that utilized a rotating cast of musicians onstage, with only Curtis himself being up there for the entire gig. The first two musicians recruited were organist Jon Lord and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, both of whom came aboard in late 1967. Curtis soon lost interest in the project, and Lord and Blackmore decided to stay together and form what would become Deep Purple. After a few false starts the lineup stabilized with the addition of bassist Nicky Simper, drummer Ian Paice and vocalist Rod Evans. The group worked up a songlist and used their various connections to get a record deal with a new American record label, Tetragrammaton, which was partially owned by actor/comedian Bill Cosby. This in turn led to a deal to release the band's recordings in England on EMI's Parlophone label as well, although Tetragrammaton had first rights to all the band's material, including the classically-influenced Prelude: Happiness, which leads directly into a cover of the Skip James classic I'm So Glad. The band's first LP, Shades Of Deep Purple, was released in the US in July of 1968 and in the UK in September of the same year. The album was a major success in the US, where the single Hush made it into the top five. In the UK, however, it was panned by the rock press and failed to make the charts. This would prove to be the pattern the band would follow throughout its early years; it was only after Evans and Simper were replaced by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover that the band would find success in their native land. (Check out this week's edition of Rockin' in the Days of Confusion for a classic track from the revised Deep Purple lineup).
Artist: Fairport Convention
Title: Tam Lin
Source: LP: Leige and Leaf
Writer(s): Trad. arr. Swarbuck
Fairport Convention was hailed as England's answer to Jefferson Airplane when they first appeared. As Tam Lin, from their 1969 album Leige And Lief shows, they soon established a sound all their own. Sandy Denny, heard here on lead vocals, is probably best known to US audiences for her backup vocals on Led Zeppelin's The Battle of Evermore from their fourth LP.
Title: No Matter What
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Pete Ham
Aside from the Beatles, the band most closely associated with Apple Records was Badfinger. Originally known as the Iveys, Badfinger was the first band signed to Apple and remained with the label throughout its existence. Led by Pete Ham, Badfinger had a string of successful singles for the label, including No Matter What, a Ham composition from the band's second LP, No Dice. The song, released in 1970, is considered by many to be the earliest example of what would come to be known as power pop later in the decade.
Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Title: Rock 'N' Roll Soul
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer: Mark Farner
By 1972 Grand Funk Railroad's performances were no longer all sellouts, and the band began to shift emphasis to their recorded work. Problems with Terry Knight's management practices were also becoming an issue, and their sixth studio LP, Phoenix, would be the last to be produced by Knight. Rock 'N' Roll Soul, a somewhat typical Mark Farner song, was the first and only single released from the album, and would have only minor success on the charts. The next record, We're An American Band, would signal a major change of direction for the band, with other members besides Farner taking a role in the songwriting and a much greater emphasis on hit singles than ever before.
Title: Everybody's Everything
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single (promo)
Santana's third album, released in 1971, was called simply Santana. The problem is, their first album was also called Santana. The guitar solo on Everybody's Everything, by the way, is not by Carlos Santana. Rather it was performed by the then 17-year-old Neal Schon, who, along with keyboardist Greg Rolie would leave the band the following year to form Journey.
Artist: Allman Brothers Band
Title: Black Hearted Woman
Source: CD: Beginnings (originally released on LP: The Allman Brothers Band)
Writer(s): Gregg Allman
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
It's almost a cliche that a rock and roll songwriter will get at least one good song out of a relationship that ends badly. If this is indeed the case, Gregg Allman's relationship with a woman in Los Angeles named Stacy must have been particularly rocky, as it served as the inspiration for no less than three songs on the Allman Brothers Band's debut LP. Perhaps the most "to the point" of these was Black Hearted Woman, which pulls no punches whatsoever.
Title: We Are Heaven/South Side Of The Sky
Source: CD: Fragile
The fourth Yes album, Fragile, introduced the "classic" Yes lineup of John Anderson (vocals), Bill Bruford (drums), Steve Howe (guitar), Chris Squire (bass) and Rick Wakemen (keyboards), and features some of the band's best known songs. Four of the album's songs, including South Side Of The Sky, feature the entire band, while the remaining five tracks were contributed by the individual members. We Have Heaven, a multi-tracked Anderson solo piece, leads directly into South Side Of The Sky, and has a lyrical connection to the longer piece, as both songs address matters of mortality. South Side, according to new liner notes, is about a polar expedition that ends with the death of the entire party, with somewhat metaphorical references to mountain climbing as well. Anderson says the inspiration for the song's lyrics came from an article he read in which sleep was referred to as Death's little sister. Although the song is credited to Anderson and Squire, the basic guitar riff actually came from a composition played by Howe's previous band, Bodast, while the repeating piano arpeggio in the middle of the piece was provided by Wakeman.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Wond'ring Aloud
Source: CD: Aqualung
Writer: Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis (original US label: Reprise)
If the first three Jethro Tull albums can be considered steps on a path, then Aqualung would have to be the destination. The first Tull album to achieve massive commercial success, Aqualung shows the band finally divorced from its beginnings as a blues band and firmly in the control of vocalist/flautist/acoustic guitarist/songwriter Ian Anderson. An expanded version of Wond'ring Aloud called Wond'ring Again was recorded around the same time and was included on the 1973 album Living In The Past.