Monday, June 18, 2018
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1825 (starts 6/20/18)
Are you ready for a seven course feast of rock classics? We start with an appetizer from Yes, and follow it up with delicacies from Jethro Tull, Traffic, CSN and Led Zeppelin. Then Supper's Ready, courtesy of Genesis. For dessert we head Down By The River for a little Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Bon Appetit!
Title: I've Seen All Good People
Source: CD: The Yes Album
Label: Elektra/Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
I seem to vaguely recall once having a copy of Your Move on 45 RPM vinyl. It always seemed incomplete to me. Of course, that might be because Your Move is actually the first half of I've Seen All Good People, from The Yes Album. Strangely enough, the single actually made the top 40 back in 1971, although I don't recall ever hearing it on AM radio. The long album version, however, has long been a staple of classic rock radio. Hey, I gotta play a hit song once in a while, right?
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Locomotive Breath
Source: CD: Aqualung
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
I occasionally get asked why I don't do commercial radio anymore. Here's a clue. In 1989 I was working for a station serving the Elmira, NY market. The station had recently undergone a change of ownership, and was slowly transitioning from a kind of hybrid adult contemporary format developed by Johnny, the original owner, to an album rock format favored by Dom, the music and program director. Dom, in addition to his management duties, hosted the midday shift and one day, while on the air, got a call from Guy, the new owner, telling him "get that song off the air right now and don't ever play it on my station again!" So Dom had to cut the song off midway, because Guy objected to the line "got him by the balls". The song in question, of course, was Jethro Tull's Locomotive Breath, from the Aqualung album, which was, at that point in time, eighteen years old, and had been getting played on rock radio pretty steadily for most of those eighteen years. Who needs that kind of grief?
Title: John Barleycorn
Source: CD: Smiling Phases (originally released on LP: John Barleycorn Must Die)
Label: Island (original label: United Artists)
Following the breakup of Blind Faith in late 1969, Steve Winwood began work on what was to be his first solo LP. After completing one track on which he played all the instruments himself, Winwood decided to ask former Traffic drummer Jim Capaldi to help him out with the project. After the second track was completed, Winwood invited yet another former Traffic member, Chris Wood, to add woodwinds. It soon became obvious that what they were working on was, in fact, a new Traffic album, which came to be called John Barleycorn Must Die. In addition to the blues/R&B tinged rock that the group was already well known for, the new album incorporated elements from traditional British folk music, which was enjoying a renaissance thanks to groups such as Fairport Convention and the Pentangle. The best example of this new direction was the title track of the album itself, which traces its origins back to the days when England was more agrarian in nature.
Artist: Crosby, Stills And Nash
Title: Helplessly Hoping
Source: CD: Crosby, Stills and Nash
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
By 1969 there was a significant portion of the record-buying public that was more interested in buying albums than in picking up the latest hit single. This in turn was leading to the emergence of album-oriented FM radio stations as a player in the music industry. Crosby, Stills and Nash took full advantage of this trend. Although they did release a pair of singles from the debut LP (Marrakesh Express and Suite: Judy Blue Eyes), it was their album tracks like Helplessly Hoping that got major airplay on FM radio and helped usher in the age of the singer/songwriter, making the trio superstars in the process.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Ramble On
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin II
Some songs grab you the first time you hear them, but soon wear out their welcome. Others take a while to catch on, but tend to stay with you for a lifetime. Then there are those rare classics that manage to hook you from the start and yet never get old. One such song is Led Zeppelin's Ramble On, from their second LP. The song starts with a Jimmy Page acoustic guitar riff played high up on the neck with what sounds almost like footsteps keeping time (but turns out to be John Bonham playing bongo style on a guitar case). John Paul Jones soon adds one of the most melodic bass lines ever to appear in a rock song, followed closely by Robert Plant's Tolkien-influenced lyrics. For the chorus the band gets into electric mode, with guitar, bass and drums each contributing to a unique staggered rhythmic pattern. The song also contains one of Page's most memorable solos, that shares tonal qualities with Eric Clapton's work on Cream's Disraeli Gears album. Although I usually don't pay much attention to lyrics, one set of lines from Ramble On has stuck with me for a good many years:
'Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up
And slipped away with her.
Fun stuff, that!
Title: Supper's Ready
Source: CD: Foxtrot
Label: Rhino/Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
The longest track Genesis ever recorded is also one of their most celebrated. Supper's Ready, from the Foxtrot album, is almost 23 minutes long and takes up most of the second side of the original LP. At least one critic has proclaimed Supper's Ready to be the band's masterpiece. The song (or more accurately, song cycle) was originally released in October of 1972. The piece, with its supernatural imagery and overall theme of good vs. evil, was inspired by an incident at a British castle in which vocalist Peter Gabriel's wife Jill went into a trance state just as the windows of the room they were in suddenly blew open. Supper's Ready is divided into seven sections: Lover's Leap, The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man, Ikhnaton and Itsacon and Their Band of Merry Men, How Dare I Be So Beautiful, Willow Farm, Apocalypse in 9/8 (Co-Starring the Delicious Talents of Gabble Ratchet), and the final section, As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet), which combines elements of some of the earlier parts. From 1972 on Supper's Ready was the centerpiece of the band's stage show throughout Gabriel's tenure as frontman for Genesis.
Title: Down By The River
Source: CD: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Writer(s): Neil Young
Down By The River is one of four songs on the album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere that Neil Young wrote while running a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 39.5 degrees for people in civilized nations that use the Celsius, aka centrigrade, scale). By some strange coincidence, they are the four best songs on the album. I wish I could have been that sick in my days as a wannabe rock star.