Sunday, September 2, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1836 (starts 9/5/18)

This week we have 15 songs for you, a new record for Rockin' in the Days of Confusion. Of course, they're all relatively short, with only one track exceding the five minute mark. I doubt you'll ever see that happen again!

Artist:    Neil Young
Title:    The Loner
Source:    LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: Neil Young)
Writer(s):    Neil Young
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    The Loner could easily have been passed off as a Buffalo Springfield song. In addition to singer/songwriter/guitarist Neil Young, the tune features Springfield members Jim Messina on bass and George Grantham on drums. Since Buffalo Springfield was functionally defunct by the time the song was ready for release, however, it instead became Young's first single as a solo artist. The song first appeared, in a longer form, on Young's first solo album in late 1968, with the single appearing three months later. The subject of The Loner has long been rumored to be Young's bandmate Stephen Stills, or possibly Young himself. As usual, Neil Young ain't sayin'.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Ramble On
Source:    CD: Led Zeppelin II
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    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!

Artist:    Steve Miller Band
Title:    Good Morning
Source:    LP: Number 5
Writer(s):    Bobby Winkleman
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1970
    In 1970 bassist Lonnie Turner, who had been with the Steve Miller Band since its founding in 1966 (and would return in 1973), left the band for reasons unknown. His replacement, Bobby Winkleman, immediately made his presence felt by penning the opening track of the band's next LP, a tune called Good Morning that was based on a children's song. Winkleman had been a member of the legendary San Francisco East Bay band Frumious Bandersnatch, and several of his former bandmates would appear on the following album, Rock Love. Winkleman himself has remained active in the music business, producing (among other things) a CD called Nuggets From The Golden State: The Berkeley EPs, A British anthology album on the Big Beat label that collected rare recordings from legendary Bay Area bands such as Country Joe and the Fish, Mad River and of course Frumious Bandersnatch.

Artist:    Yes
Title:    We Are Heaven/South Side Of The Sky
Source:    CD: Fragile
Writer(s):    Anderson/Squire
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    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:    Genesis
Title:    Horizons
Source:    CD: Foxtrot
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Rhino/Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1972
    Although credited to the entire band, Horizons is a short acoustic guitar instrumental written by Steve Hackett, who is the only member of Genesis to actually play on the track. The tune, based on a piece by J.S. Bach, opens side two of the 1972 LP Foxtrot.

Artist:    Arlo Guthrie
Title:    Week On The Rag
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single B side (promo)
Writer(s):    Arlo Guthrie
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1973
    One of the most popular films of 1973 (second only to The Exorcist) was The Sting, a caper flick set in the 1930s that used songs written earlier in the century by ragtime composer Scott Joplin. The film's popularity set off a ragtime craze that influenced artists such as Arlo Guthrie to write ragtime pieces of their own. Guthrie's Week On The Rag was included on his 1973 Last Of The Brooklyn Cowboys and released as the B side of the album's single, a reworking of Woody Guthrie's Gypsy Davy.

Artist:    Kinks
Title:    Preservation
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (promo)
Writer(s):    Ray Davies
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1974
    The Kinks' Preservation was a song that served as a summation of the band's 1974 concept album, Preservation-Act 1. Oddly enough, the song itself was not included on either that album or its followup, Preservation-Act 2, instead being released as a non-album single in 1974. There were two versions of the song, the longer of which is heard here. My copy is a bit on the scratchy side, but given the fact that the single failed to chart, I consider myself lucky to have a copy of it at all.

Artist:    Tommy Bolin
Title:    Lotus
Source:    Japanese import CD: Teaser
Writer(s):    Tesar/Bolin
Label:    Sony (original label: Nemperor)
Year:    1975
    Tommy Bolin's debut solo LP, Teaser, was released at around the same time as his first album as a member of Deep Purple, Come Taste The Band. Because of touring commitments with Deep Purple, Bolin was unable to effectively promote Teaser, and sales suffered. The album did get good reviews, with critics praising Bolin's versatility on tracks like Lotus, which closes out the LP.

Artist:    Jean-Luc Ponty
Title:    Tarantula
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 Tarantula, which closes out the first side of the original LP.

Artist:    Bill Murray & Christopher Guest
Title:    Mr. Roberts
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits Of The National Lampoon (originally released on LP: That's Not Funny, That's Sick)
Writer(s):    Murray/Guest
Label:    Uproar (original label: Label 21)
Year:    1977
    There are actually two Mr. Roberts tracks on the 1977 National Lampoon LP That's Not Funny, That's Sick. The more famous one depicts the children's show host (a parody of Mister Rogers) being accosted by the father of one of the neighborhood kids for spending too much time alone with his son. For my money, though, the far funnier one involves Mr. Roberts interviewing a jazz bassist, culminating in a trip to the "magic kingdom". Bill Murray and Christopher Guest (if you don't know who they are, look 'em up) provided the voices for the two characters as well as writing the piece.

Artist:     Pink Floyd
Title:     Julia Dream
Source:     CD: Relics (reissue of original album) (song orginally released in UK on 45 RPM vinyl)
Writer:     Roger Waters
Label:     Capitol (original label: Harvest)
Year:     1968
     With Sid Barrett becoming increasingly unreliable, the other members of Pink Floyd decided to invite Barrett's childhood friend, guitarist David Gilmour, into the band. One of the earliest recordings with Gilmour was Julia Dream, a B side released in 1968 and included on the Relics LP in the early 1970s.

Artist:    Moody Blues
Title:    In The Beginning/Lovely To See You
Source:    CD: On The Threshold Of A Dream
Writer(s):    Edge/Hayward
Label:    Deram
Year:    1969
    If there is any one band known for their concept albums, it's the Moody Blues. Starting with the 1967 LP Days Of Future Past, every Moody Blues album has been a concept album (except for their live albums, of course). 1969 saw two of these albums being released by the group. The first was On The Threshold Of A Dream, which explores dreams and the inner psyche. The opening track, In The Beginning, consists of a dialogue between Justin Hayward (as a man attempting to define himself as a human being), Graeham Edge (as the voice of technology attempting to usurp the role of humanity) and Michael Pinder (as the inner voice of the original speaker), set against a background of electronic effects created by Edge. Heady stuff, but that' pretty much what the Moody Blues were about in 1969.

Artist:    Stephen Stills
Title:    Church (Part Of Someone)
Source:    LP: Stephen Stills
Writer(s):    Stephen Stills
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    Not every song Stephen Stills wrote was hit single material. For example, Church (Part Of Someone), from Stills's 1970 solo debut, is one of those massive productions that seems to go on forever without really going anywhere.

Artist:    Doobie Brothers
Title:    Slippery St. Paul
Source:    LP: The Doobie Brothers
Writer(s):    Simmons/Johnston
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1971
    The first Doobie Brothers album failed to make the Billboard album charts when it was originally released in 1971, despite having a number of decent tunes, including Slippery St. Paul. The song itself is a rare collaboration between the band's two main songwriters, Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, who generally worked separately.

Artist:    Steeleye Span
Title:    Gaudete
Source:    LP: Below The Salt
Writer(s):    Trad., arr. Steeleye Span
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1972
    Once in a while a recording comes along that is totally outside of every popular genre, yet ends up being a hit single. You know the kind I mean. Songs like Winchester Cathedral, Don't Worry Be Happy or They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Ha! Gaudete, a very old Christmas carol from Steeleye Span's Below The Salt album, is one of these. It is also the first British top 20 hit to be sung entirely in Latin. Since nobody I know speaks Latin I figured I could get away with playing it in early September. Unlike the single, the LP version heard here starts off softly and slowly increases in volume until about half way through the piece before beginning a slow fade. The idea was to simulate the movement of carolers past the listener as they sang the tune.

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