Monday, December 3, 2018
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1849 (starts 12/3/18)
This week the emphasis is on tracks that were overlooked even when they were still new, such as Steely Dan's first B side and a Kinks tune only available in the UK on an obscure movie soundtrack album. The last third of the show is all about the blues, with laid back tracks from Eric Burdon and War and the Allman Brothers Band. Tasty stuff, that.
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Van Morrison
Year: Recorded 1969, released 1983
Following the release of Oliver Stone's Vietnam War film, Apocalypse Now, in 1983, with its notable use of The End from the first Doors album, there was a renewed interest in the band itself, along with a corresonding demand for "new" Doors recordings. Elektra/Asylum responded by putting out an album called Alive, She Cried. Included on that album was the band's sound check recording from late 1969 of Van Morrison's Gloria, a tune that the band covered often in concert throughout their existence. The recording itself had already attained legendary status by the early 1980s. Recorded at the Aquarius Theater in Los Angeles, the tape had been lost for several years, and only found after months of painstaking research by producer Paul Rothchild and his staff. The recording was made on the first day of a series of live concert recordings, many of which had been included on the 1971 album Absolutely Live. The enthusiam that the band itself had for the project was evidenced by the fact that singer Jim Morrison, who usually blew off sound checks, was not only present for this one, but, without a live audience to play to, was completely focused on the music itself. The resulting recording was not only used as the opening track for the album, it was also issued as a single.Of course by 1983 Corporate Rock so dominated the airwaves that a genuine rock recording didn't stand a chance of getting top 40 airplay. Nonetheless, Gloria stands as an appropriate final single for L.A.'s most successful underground club band from the 60s.
Artist: Mighty Baby
Title: Trials Of A City
Source: British import CD: Mighty Baby
Label: Big Beat (original label: Head)
Mighty Baby is one of the many bands that were better known in the UK than in the US. In fact, they were probably even better known under their previous name, The Action, than as Mighty Baby. Formed in 1964 as the Boys, the changed their name to the Action in 1965 when they signed with the Parlophone label. They released several singles for the label, but were unable to score a major hit, and were dropped from the EMI roster in late 1967. After a couple of personnel changes, the re-emerged as Mighty Baby, releasing their first album on the Head label in 1969. The album itself is one of the better examples of the progressive rock movement that was picking up steam in the UK at the time, as can be heard on tracks like Trials Of A City. As is the case with all the tracks on the album, Trials Of A City was written primarily by keyboardist Ian Whiteman (who had joined the group after they had lost their EMI contract) but credited to the entire band.
Source: LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: First Step)
Label: Warner Brothers
Although credited to the Small Faces in North America, First Step was actually the debut album of Faces, a group combining the talents of Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood (from the Jeff Beck group) with what was left of the Small Faces (Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan) following the departure of bandleader Steve Marriott, who left to form Humble Pie. Unlike later Faces albums, First Step featured songwriting contributions from all five band members, including Stewart, Wood and Lane collaborating on the album's centerpiece, Flying.
Source: French import 33 1/3 RPM 7" EP from the soundtrack of the film Percy
Writer(s): Ray Davies
Although their record sales were a bit down in the early 1970s the Kinks were still able to stay gainfully employed by providing soundtracks for various British movies, including a comedy called Percy that came out in 1971. Songs from that film were released in the UK and Europe as a 7" Extended Play record, a format that was not commonly used in the US at that time. Recently a French import version of that EP appeared as part of the annual Record Store Day promotion. The last track on the EP, Dreams, has never been issued on an album in the US, although the UK pressing of Percy was widely available in the US as an import throughout the 1970s.
Artist: Steely Dan
Title: Fire In The Hole
Source: CD: Can't Buy A Thrill
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
Donald Fagen's unique piano style is on display on Fire In The Hole, a track from the first Steely Dan album, Can't Buy A Thrill. The tune also appeared as the B side of Steely Dan's second single (and first hit), Do It Again.
Artist: Black Sabbath
Title: Who Are You?/Looking For Today
Source: LP: Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath
Label: Warner Brothers
Vocalist Ozzy Osbourne has called Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath the "last great Black Sabbath album", yet the album itself almost didn't get made at all. By 1973 the band was exhausted from three years of constant touring (and constand drug use as well); in fact guitarist Tony Iommi had actually walked off stage and collapsed in the middle of a performance, prompting the band to cancel the remainer of their tour while he recovered (it was actually in question at the time whether he would even survive). After taking a month off, the band reconvened at New York's Record Plant, but were unable to come up with any new material. Up to that point the band's normal way of writing songs was for Iommi to come up with a basic riff, while Osborne provided a melody that bassist Geezer Butler would write lyrics to. Drummer Bill Ward would then fill in the empty spaces. Iommi, however, perhaps still not fully recovered, was suffering from writer's block, and the rest of the band was not prepared to generate musical ideas without him. After about a month of frustration the band relocated to a (supposedly haunted) castle in the English countryside, where, inspired in part by the setting itself, they eventually started coming up with new material. Some songs, such as Who Are You?, were actually the creation of individual band members (in this case Osbourne, who came up with the song while experimenting with a synthesizer than he had just bought), while others, such as Looking For Today, were more in line with the "traditional" way of doing things. Osborne later said that the album struck just the right balance between the established Black Sabbath style and their new, experimental material.
Artist: Frank Zappa
Source: CD: Apostrophe (')
Writer(s): Frank Zappa
Label: Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Recorded at the same time as the Mothers' Over-Nite Sensation, Apostrophe (') is one of the most popular albums in the Frank Zappa catalog. Much of this popularity is attributable to a combination of Zappa's prodigious guitar work, along with his unique sense of humor, both of which are in abundance on the final track of the album, Stink-Foot.
Artist: Eric Burdon And War
Title: Blues For Memphis Slim
Source: LP: Eric Burdon Declares "War"
Writer(s): War/Peter Chapman
"When the acid trip is over, you got to come back to Mother Blues." Eric Burdon's ad-libbed line from the track Blues From Memphis Slim, pretty much sums up the state of the former Animals lead vocalist's career as of 1970. The original Animals had been founded with the blues in mind, with the band members, including Burdon, preferring the cover tunes of artists like John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed featured on their albums to the hit singles provided to the band by their producer, Mickey Most. Finally, in 1966, the group officially disbanded, just as Burdon was discovering the mind-expanding qualities of hallucinogenic substances (he had been a hard drinker up to that point). In early 1967 Burdon formed a "New Animals" that would soon come to be called Eric Burdon And The Animals. This band had little in common with the original Animals (other than Burdon's distinctive vocals), and was, by any measure, pure acid rock. But after a couple of albums, even that group started to change, taking on more of an R&B sound with tracks like their extended version of River Deep, Mountain High. Finally, in 1969, this group disbanded as well, leaving Burdon and his producer, Jerry Goldstein, looking for a new band and a new sound for the singer. They found it in a Los Angeles nightclub, where a band called Nightshift was backing up former football star Deacon Jones. Burdon and Goldstein persuaded the multi-racial band to change their name to War, and got to work on an album called Eric Burdon Declares "War". The album featured mostly suites such as Blues For Memphis Slim, which was built around the bluesman's classic Mother Earth, with several added instrumental sections composed by the band. At thirteen and a half minutes, it is the longest track on the album. After a second album with the group (The double-LP The Black Man's Burdon), Eric Burdon left the group, leaving War to become one of the more popular bands of the 1970s.
Artist: Allman Brothers Band
Title: Stormy Monday
Source: LP: At Fillmore East
Writer(s): T-Bone Walker
Label: Mercury (original label: Capricorn)
After two decent but mostly under the radar studio albums, the Allman Brothers Band hit it big with their double live album At Fillmore East. Much of the album was made up of the band's take on blues standards such as T-Bone Walker's Stormy Monday, which features dueling guitar solos from Dicky Betts and Duane Allman as well as strong keyboard work and vocals from Duane's brother Gregg. This was my first exposure to the song itself, and is still my favorite version.