Sunday, August 5, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1832 (starts 8/8/18)

    This week we have another free-form excursion into the world of early 70s FM rock radio. Highlights include a couple tracks with dual lead guitars from Wishbone Ash and the Allman Brothers, a couple bands known for their horn section (Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears), and a pair of tunes with unusual (but seriously cool) drum patterns from Deep Purple and Spirit. Framing it all we have album tracks from the Beatles and Jethro Tull.

Artist:     Beatles
Title:     Here Comes The Sun
Source:     CD: Abbey Road
Writer:     George Harrison
Label:     Apple/Parlophone
Year:     1969
     In a way, George Harrison's development as a songwriter parallels the Beatles' "second career" as a studio band. His first song to get any attention was If I Needed Someone on the Rubber Soul album, the LP that marked the beginning of the group's transition from performers to studio artists. As the Beatles' skills in the studio increased, so did Harrison's writing skills, reaching a peak with the Abbey Road album. As usual, Harrison wrote two songs for the LP, but this time one of them (Something) became the first single released from the album and the first Harrison song to hit the #1 spot on the charts. The other Harrison composition on Abbey Road was Here Comes The Sun. Although never released as a single, the song has gone on to become Harrison's most enduring masterpiece.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    The Shield
Source:    LP: Purple Passages (originally released on LP: The Book Of Taliesyn
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Evans/Lord
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Tetragrammaton)
Year:    1968
    The story of the original Deep Purple lineup is, in a way, two entirely different stories. At home the band was virtually ignored by audiences and press alike, and struggled to even get their records released. In the US, however, they were overnight sensations, thanks in large part to the success of the single Hush in the spring of 1968. A North American tour was set up, scheduled to begin in October of that year, but their American label, Tetragrammaton, wanted a second album from the band to be on the racks before the tour opened. This meant that the group was in the studio only two months after releasing Shades of Deep Purple, working on what would become The Book Of Taleisyn, despite the fact that Shades of Deep Purple had not even been released yet in the UK. The first song recorded for the new LP was The Shield, an imaginative piece incorporating unusual drum patterns from Ian Paice and appropriately mystical lyrics from Rod Evans, along with some nice guitar and organ work from Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord. Although The Book Of Taleisyn was not as big a seller in the US as Shades Of Deep Purple, the tour itself was a huge success. Still, the band still was not getting any respect at home. In fact, The Book Of Taleisyn did not even come out in the UK until mid-1969, by which time Evans and bassist Nicky Simper were no longer members of Deep Purple.

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Uncle Jack
Source:    CD: Spirit
Writer(s):    Jay Ferguson
Label:    Ode/Epic/Legacy
Year:    1968
    Despite nearly universal positive reviews by the rock press, the first Spirit album never really caught the imagination of the record buying public. Why this is the case is still a bit of a mystery, as the album is full of outstanding tracks such as Uncle Jack. Perhaps the album, and indeed the band itself, was just a bit ahead of its time.

Artist:    Wishbone Ash
Title:    Time Was
Source:    LP: Argus
Writer(s):    Turner/Turner/Upton/Powell
Label:    Decca
Year:    1972
    The most popular of Wishbone Ash's albums, Argus was the band's third effort, released in 1972. The album is full of medieval references on songs such as Time Was, the nine-minute opus that opens the LP. The album has proved so popular with the band's fans that Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash released a new studio re-recording of it in 2008, accompanied by a live Argus tour. Another former band member, Andy Powell, has since followed suit, with both groups performing Argus in its entirety as part of their stage repertoire.

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:    Blood, Sweat & Tears
Title:    Blues-Part II/Variations On A Theme By Erik Satie
Source:    CD: Blood, Sweat & Tears
Writer(s):    Blood, Sweat & Tears
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    1969
    Although it was the brainchild of keyboardist/vocalist Al Kooper, the band known as Blood, Sweat & Tears had its greatest success after Kooper left the band following the release of their debut LP, Child Is Father To The Man. The group's self-titled second LP, featuring new lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas, yielded no less than three top 5 singles: You Made Me So Very Happy, And When I Die and Spinning Wheel. For me, however, the outstanding track on the album was the thirteen and a half minute Blues-Part II, which takes up most of side two of the original LP. I first heard this track on a show that ran late at night on AFN in Germany. I had already heard the band's first two hit singles and was not particularly impressed with them, but after hearing Blues-Part II I went out and bought a copy of the LP. Luckily, it was not the only track on the album that I found more appealing than the singles (God Bless The Child in particular stands out), but after all these years, Blues-Part II is still my favorite BS&T recording.

Artist:    Allman Brothers Band
Title:    In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
Source:    LP: At Fillmore East
Writer(s):    Dicky Betts
Label:    Mercury (original label: Capricorn)
Year:    1971
    One of the greatest instrumentals in rock history, In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed was written by Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dicky Betts. The song got it's name from a headstone that Betts saw at the Rose Hill Cemetary in Macon, Georgia. That same cemetary is where band members Duane Allman and Berry Oakley are now buried. The version of the song heard on the 1971 album At Fillmore East was recorded live on March 13, 1971 and contains no edits or overdubs. Yes, they were that good.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Sea Lion
Source:    LP: War Child
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1974
    Jethro Tull's 1974 album War Child was a return to shorter songs following back-to-back albums made up of one continous piece each (Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play). The album was not, however, a critical success (although it did well enough on the charts to make the reviews somewhat irrelevant). I usually don't give much credence to the rock press, but I had to chuckle at a quote from the Rolling Stone review, which reminded us that "Tull rhymes with dull". In the case of side one of the War Child LP, I have to agree. In fact, the only track on that side of the album that even comes close to the quality of material on 1971's Aqualung album is the final track on the side, Sea Lion, which actually sounds like it could have been a Passion Play outtake. Side two of the original LP, by the way, is much better, with several strong tracks. Why Ian Anderson and the gang chose to put their weakest material up front is anyone's guess, but the band never did regain its earlier popularity, despite an occasional strong tune here and there over the next several years.

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