Sunday, January 6, 2019
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1902 (starts 1/7/19)
This week we go to the show, sort of. We start off with a song that later became the title of a movie, followed by a song that, in its way, is a movie, and then catch a play. A little later we check out a tune from yet another movie before moving on to other things.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: The Song Remains The Same
Source: CD: Houses Of The Holy
The Song Remains The Same was originally meant to be an instrumental overture to open the band's fifth album, Houses Of The Holy. Vocalist Robert Plant, however, had different ideas, and added what has been called his tribute to world music, expressing a belief in music as a universal language. A couple of the track's original elements survived, however. The song still serves as the opening track for the album, and is still followed immediately by The Rain Song. The two were often performed in sequence at the band's concerts as well. The Song Remains The Same is also the name of Led Zeppelin's legendary concert film as well.
Artist: David Crosby
Title: Cowboy Movie
Source: CD: If Only I Could Remember My Name
Writer(s): David Crosby
Although the plot is probably more suited to an episode of a TV Western than a feature-length film, David Crosby's Cowboy Movie is nonetheless an entertaining story. The song, a first person accounting of a disastrous encounter between a gang of train robbers and a "young Indian girl", appeared on Crosby's first solo LP, If Only I Could Remember My Name, which was one of four solo albums released by the members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young following the success of the deja vu album.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: A Passion Play (side two)
Source: LP: A Passion Play
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Jethro Tull's fourth LP, Aqualung, was their commercial and critical breakthrough. Fans and critics alike hailed it as a concept album touching on the sensitive topic of religion. The problem was that none of the band members, particularly bandleader Ian Anderson, saw Aqualung as a concept album at all. Anderson's response was to pen Thick As A Brick, which he considered a parody of concept albums. Fans and critics, however, took the whole thing far more seriously than the band did. And that led to the 1973 album A Passion Play. This time Anderson and the band took the whole concept album thing seriously. In fact, they took the album (and themselves) too seriously for many people, and A Passion Play is now seen as the beginning of Jethro Tull's slow decline into the self-indulgent blandness that characterizes the band's later work. Still, listening to it over forty years later, there is a lot to be said in favor of side two of A Passion Play. It is no Thick As A Brick, but it's really not all that bad, either.
Artist: National Lampoon
Title: Mission: Improbable
Source: CD: Greatest Hits Of The National Lampoon (originally released on LP: The Missing White House Tapes)
Writer(s): Chevy Chase, possibly others as well
Label: Uproar (original label: Banana/Blue Thumb)
The missing White House Tapes was originally released as a single on the Blue Thumb label in 1973. It was then expanded into a full-length album, featuring an array of young talent that would soon be associated with a new TV show called NBC Saturday Night (later retitled Saturday Night Live). Among those new talents was a young man named Chevy Chase, who provided several comedy bits for the album, including Mission: Improbable.
Artist: James Gang
Title: Got No Time For Trouble
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single B side
In 1974 the James Gang hired their fourth lead guitarist since the band was formed in 1969. That guitarist was Tommy Bolin, who had first come to national attention as a member of the Boulder, Colorado band Zephyr. Bolin co-wrote several of the tracks on his first album with the James Gang, Bang, including Got No Time For Trouble, which also was issued as the B side of the only single taken from Bang. Lead vocals on the song are by Roy Kenner, who had joined the James Gang shortly after the departure of the band's original guitarist/vocalist, Joe Walsh.
Artist: Curtis Mayfield
Source: CD: Superfly
Writer(s): Curtis Mayfield
Label: Rhino (original label: Curtom)
Curtis Mayfield, who took over as lead vocalist of the Impressions following the departure of Jerry Butler in 1962, was also an accomplished guitarist with a style that influenced many other aspiring guitarists of the time, including a young Jimi Hendrix. Although Mayfield's 1972 soundtrack album for the film Superfly (an album that actually outperformed the film itself commercially) is mostly made up of the kind of hard funk heard on Freddie's Dead and the album's title track, Mayfield's guitar work is showcased on the slow instrumental Think, the next to last track on the LP.
Artist: Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina
Title: House At Pooh Corner
Source: LP: Sittin' In
Writer(s): Kenny Loggins
The most successful duo of the early 1970s was formed pretty much by accident. Jim Messina, following the breakup of Buffalo Springfield, was working as a staff producer for Columbia Records when he met singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins, then recording for the Dunhill label with little commercial success. Messina helped Loggins get signed to Columbia and was slated to produce his first LP for the label. A guitarist himself, Messina ended up contributing heavily to the album, to the point that Loggins decided to call the album Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin' In. Following the release of the album in 1971 Columbia president Clive Davis observed that the two had strong chemistry and advised them to take advantage of the situation and become an official duo. They did, and Loggins And Messina was born. One of the most enduring tracks on that first album was House At Pooh Corner, which was inspired by A.A. Milne's Winnie The Pooh. The tune was one of several Loggins compositions that had appeared the previous year on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's album Uncle Charlie And His Dog Teddy.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Gimme Shelter
Source: LP: Let It Bleed
Following a strong positive reaction, both critically and commercially, to their 1968 album Beggar's Banquet album, the Rolling Stones showed that they were around to stay with the follow up LP, Let It Bleed. The album starts off with Gimme Shelter, an anthemic song on a par with Jumpin' Jack Flash and Honky Tonk Woman. In addition to some of the band's most powerful lyrics (including the repeated line "Rape, murder! It's just a shot away! It's just a shot away!") the tune features prominent guest vocals from Merry Clayton, who reported was called in by producer Jack Nitzsche at around midnight to add her part during the mixdown phase. Gimme Shelter was the first Rolling Stone song to feature Keith Richards using open tuning rather than the standard EADGBE tuning.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Castles Made Of Sand
Source: LP: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Experience Hendrix/MCA
When I was a junior in high school I used to fall asleep on the living room couch with the headphones on, usually listening to pre-recorded tapes of either the Beatles' Revolver album or one of the first two albums by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. One song in particular from the second Hendrix album, Axis: Bold As Love, always gave me a chill when I heard it: Castles Made Of Sand. The song serves as a warning not to put too much faith in your dreams, either good or bad.
Artist: Blues Image
Title: Love Is The Answer
Source: CD: Open
Writer(s): Blues Image
Label: Sundazed (original label: Atco)
Blues Image started off in Tampa, Florida, but soon relocated to Miami, where they soon became the house band for the legendary club Thee Image. They moved out to Los Angeles in 1969, where they developed a following that included several prominent musicians, including guitarist Jimi Hendrix. It was Hendrix that pointed out to the band that they did great arrangements on other people's material but that their own tunes were lacking a certain flair. The solution, it turned out, was to set their own compositions aside for a time, then revist them, treating them the same way they would someone else's songs. Apparently it worked, as can be heard on songs like Love Is The Answer, the powerful opening track for their second LP, Open.