Monday, September 17, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1838 (starts 9/17/18)

    This week's show could be called "how to get from David Bowie to Spirit in ten simple steps when the stpes themselves come in all shapes and sizes." That may not make a whole lot of sense, but it's a pretty accurate assessment nonetheless.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Changes
Source:    CD: Sound + Vision Sampler (originally released on LP: Hunky Dory)
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Ryko (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1971
    Sometimes a seemingly innocous little song will turn out to be something far more than it started out to be. Such is the case with Changes, one of the most recognizable songs of the 20th century. Originally appearing on the 1971 album Hunky Dory and released as a single in 1972, Changes, according to Bowie, started off as a parody of a nightclub song, "a kind of throwaway", that featured Bowie himself on saxophone, with strings provided by Mick Ronson. Rick Wakeman's keyboards also feature prominently in the recording. The song was Bowie's first North American release on the RCA Victor label (although Mercury had released The Man Who Sold The World two years previously, the record had gone nowhere at the time). Changes is often taken as a statement of artistic intent, as Bowie was constantly reinventing himself throughout his career. Oddly enough, the song did not make the British charts until its re-release following Bowie's death in 2016.

Artist:    Gong
Title:    Tried So Hard
Source:    British import CD: Camembert Electrique (originally released in France)
Writer(s):    Christian Tritsch
Label:    Charly (original label BYG Actuel)
Year:    1971
    It's almost impossible to describe Gong. They had their roots in British psychedelia, founder Daevid Allen having been a member of Soft Machine, but are also known as pioneers of space-rock. The Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, from 1973-74, is considered a landmark of the genre, telling the story of such characters as Zero the Hero and the Pot Head Pixies from Planet Gong. The groundwork for the trilogy was actually laid in 1971, when the album Camembert Electrique was recorded (and released) in France on the BYG Actuel label. The album itself ranges from the experimental (and even somewhat humorous) Radio Gnome tracks to the spacier cuts like Tropical Fish: Selene, and on occasion even rocks out hard on tracks like Tried So Hard, written by the group's bassist, Christian Tritsch.

Artist:    Savoy Brown
Title:    Love Me Please
Source:    LP: Lion's Share
Writer(s):    Kim Simmonds
Label:    Parrot
Year:    1972
    Despite being released on the heels of their highest charting LP Hellbound Train, Savoy Borwn's 1972 LP Lion's Share did surprisingly poorly on the charts, never climbing above the # 151 spot. Perhaps the band's frequent lineup changes were finally taking their toll, as Savoy Brown is a contender for the all-time record for having the most former members of any band in rock history. Regardless, Lion's Share, in a ddition to having pretty cool cover art, contains some tasty tunes, such as the low-key Love Me Please, written and sung by the band's founder (and only permanent member) Kim Simmonds.

Artist:    Ten Years After
Title:    The Band With No Name
Source:    CD: Watt
Writer(s):    Alvin Lee
Label:    Chrysalis (original label: Deram)
Year:    1970
    A deliberate play on words by guitarist Alvin Lee, The Band With No Name opens side two of the 1970 Ten Years After LP Watt. The term "band" was used in the early days of LP records to refer to the individual songs on an album, which, looked at from above, looked like a series of circular bands separated by the spaces between the songs. The term had largely fallen out of usage by 1970 (giving way to the more popular "track" or sometimes "cut"), which makes sense, given that self-contained groups (like Ten Years After) were generally referred to as bands by that point in time. The "band" itself is a short instrumental piece done in the style of 1960s Spaghetti Western themes.

Artist:    Renaissance
Title:    Running Hard
Source:    LP: Turn Of The Cards
Writer(s):    Dunford/Thatcher
Label:    Sire
Year:    1974
    Formed in 1969 by former Yardbirds Jim McCarty and Keith Relf, Renaissance was one of the first bands to merge rock, classical and jazz into a coherent whole. The group went through several lineup changes in its early years. In fact none of the original members were still in the band as of the third Renaissance album Prologue. By 1974 the band was incorporating excerpts from classical pieces (mostly from the Romantic period) into what was otherwise progressive rock, with very few jazz elements remaining. The focus of the group had also changed, with a greater emphasis being placed on the vocals of Annie Haslam, who had joined Renaissance after the departure of Jane Relf in the early 1970s. Running Hard, which opens the band's fifth LP, Turn Of The Cards, is one of the group's better known tunes, as it also was featured on their 1976 album Live At Carnegie Hall.

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    John Barleycorn
Source:    LP: John Barleycorn Must Die
Writer(s):    Traditional
Label:    Island (original label: United Artists)
Year:    1970
    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:    Who
Title:    Naked Eye
Source:    British import CD (Spirit Of Joy) (originally released on LP: Odds And Sods)
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    Polydor (original US label: Decca)
Year:    1974
    While touring to promote the Tommy album, the Who began developing several new songs as part of their live act. Many of these appeared, at least in part, on the Live At Leeds album in 1970. One of those songs, Naked Eye, was partially recorded in the studio around the same time, but remained unfinished when the 1971 album Who's Next was released. Over the next couple of years several bootlegs of the Who's live performances were in circulation, prompting bassist John Entwhistle to compile a new album of outtakes and unreleased tracks in 1974. The album Odds And Sods, included the completed version of Naked Eye.

Artist:    Blues Project
Title:    Little Rain
Source:    CD: Anthology (originally released on LP: Blues Project)
Writer(s):    Reed/Abner
Label:    Polydor (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1972
    In 1971 former Blues Project guitarist Danny Kalb and Roy Blumenfeld, along with bassist Don Kretmar recorded an album called Lazarus, credited to the Blues Project. The following year the three added David Cohen (of Country Joe and the Fish) on piano and Bill Lussenden on second guitar to record a self-titled final Blues Project LP. Original lead vocalist Tommy Flanders was also a member of this version of the band, although Danny Kalb handled the lead vocals on a couple of tracks, including the old Jimmy Reed tune Little Rain.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Time/The Great Gig In The Sky
Source:    The Dark Side Of The Moon
Writer(s):    Mason/Waters/Gilmour/Wright/Torry
Label:    Capitol (original label: Harvest)
Year:    1973
    There are very few albums in rock history that have achieved the iconic status of Pink Floyd's Dark side Of The Moon. Listening to the last two tracks on side one, it's easy to see why this album makes the grade. In case you're wondering, the "Torry" in the songwriting credits is Clare Torry, who does all that wordless vocalizing throughout The Great Gig In The Sky. Her name did not originally appear in the credits, but then lawyers got involved...
Artist:    Spirit
Title:    So Little Time To Fly
Source:    LP: Spirit (double LP re-release of Spirit and Clear)
Writer(s):    California/Locke
Label:    Epic (original label: Ode)
Year:    1969
    I've always felt that Spirit should have achieved greater success than they actually did. That belief is based on my familiarity with their first and fourth albums, both of which are excellent. Unfortunately, having recently listened to their third LP, Clear, I now understand why greater fame escaped such a talented band. The LP itself isn't really bad; it just lacks the magic of their 1968 debut or the classic Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus. So Little Time To Fly is one of the better tracks from Clear. Judge for yourself.

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