Sunday, June 2, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1923 (starts 6/3/19)

    This week it's one long strange trip on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion, as we journey from 1967 to 1974, one year at a time. But before we get into that, a little Black Sabbath...

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Paranoid
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits 1970-1978 (originally released on LP: Paranoid)
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Rhino/Warner Brothers
Year:    1971
    Although it was the last track recorded for Black Sabbath's second album, Paranoid was actually the first song released from the sessions, appearing as a single about six months after the first LP hit the racks. The song, according to bassist Geezer Butler, was recorded as an afterthought, when the band realized they needed a three minute filler piece for the LP. Tony Iommi came up with the basic riff, which Butler quickly wrote lyrics for. Singer Ozzie Osbourne reportedly sang the lyrics directly from the handwritten lyric sheet. Paranoid turned out to be one of Black Sabbath's most popular tunes, and has shown up on several "best of" lists, including VH1's "40 Greatest Metal Songs", where it holds the # 1 spot. In Finland, the song has attained near-legendary status, and the phase "Soittakaa Paranoid!" can often be heard being yelled out from a member of the audience at a rock concert there, regardless of what band is actually on stage (much as "Free Bird" was heard at various concerts in the US throughout the 70s and 80s).

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    Dear Mr. Fantasy
Source:    CD: Smiling Phases (originally released on LP: Heaven Is In Your Mind, aka Mr. Fantasy)
Writer(s):    Winwood/Capaldi/Wood
Label:    Island (original label: United Artists)
Year:    1967
            Steve Winwood is one of those artists that has multiple signature songs, having a career that has spanned decades (so far). Still, if there is any one song that is most  closely associated with the guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist, it's Dear Mr. Fantasy from Traffic's 1967 debut LP Mr. Fantasy. The album was originally released in a modified version in the US in early 1968 under the title Heaven Is In Your Mind, but later editions of the LP, while retaining the US track order and running time, were renamed to match the original British title.

Artist:    Creedence Clearwater Revival
Title:    Walk On The Water
Source:    LP: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Writer(s):    John and Tom Fogerty
Label:    Fantasy
Year:    1968
    Having money and power doesn't necessarily mean you are qualified to make wise decisions. Case in point: since 1959, brothers Tom and John Fogerty, along with Doug Clifford and Stu Cook, had been making music together as the Blue Velvets, releasing a handful of singles on the Oakland, California based Orchestra Records. In 1964 they made their first recordings for Fantasy Records, which had recently had national success with Vince Guaraldi's Cast Your Fate To The Wind. This success had given the labels owners, including one Max Weiss, the kind of money and power it takes to change the name of a band signed to your record label without consulting the band itself. Thus, when the Blue Velvets' first single came out on the Fantasy label in late 1964, the band's name was now the Golliwogs, which pretty much proves my point about money and power. The group ended up releasing several singles on both Fantasy and its subsidiary label Scorpio, including a song called Walking On The Water, over the next three years. In 1967 Fantasy found itself with a new owner, Saul Zaentz, who gave the band the opportunity to pick a new name for themselves. The band soon came up with Creedence Clearwater Revival, and released their first LP in 1968. One of the songs on that album was a newly recorded (and slightly retitled) Walk On The Water, which would end up being the only CCR song to be credited to both John and Tom Fogerty (John having taken over as the band's sole songwriter sometime in 1966).

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    Introduction
Source:    German import LP: Underground '70 (originally released in US on LP: Chicago Transit Authority)
Writer(s):    Terry Kath
Label:    CBS (original US label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    When living in Germany in 1969 I bought a copy of an album called Underground '70 in a local record store. The album itself was on purple vinyl that glowed under a black light and featured a variety of artists that had recently released albums in the US on the Columbia label (since the name Columbia was trademarked by EMI in Europe and the UK, US albums from the American Columbia label were released on the CBS label instead). The opening track of the album was appropriately called Introduction and was also the opening track of the first Chicago (Transit Authority) album. Written by guitarist Terry Kath, the piece effectively showcases the strengths of the band, both as an extremely tight ensemble and as individual soloists, with no one member dominating the song. Finally, in 2018, I couldn't resist the urge to track down a copy of Underground '70, purple vinyl and all. Thank you Internet.

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Nature's Way/Animal Zoo/Love Has Found A Way/Why Can't I Be Free
Source:    CD: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
Writer(s):    California/Ferguson/Locke
Label:    Epic/Legacy
Year:    1970
    Spirit was one of those bands that consistently scored well with the critics, yet was never truly able to connect with a large segment of the record buying audience at any given time. Perhaps their best album was Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, released in 1970 to glowing reviews. Despite this, the album actually charted lower than any of their three previous efforts, and would be the last to feature the band's original lineup. In the long haul, however, Twelve Dreams has become the group's top selling album, thanks to steady catalog sales over a period of years. Unlike many more popular records of the time, Twelve Dreams sounds as fresh and original today as when it first appeared, as can be easily heard on the four-song medley that makes up the bulk of the LP's first side. Indeed, despite never having charted as a single, Nature's Way, a Randy California tune which starts the sequence, is one of the best-known songs in the entire Spirit catalog. Additionally, its ecological theme segues naturally into Animal Zoo, a Jay Ferguson tune with a more satirical point of view. Love Has Found A Way, written by vocalist Ferguson and keyboardist John Locke, can best described as psychedelic space jazz, while Why Can't I Be Free is a simple, yet lovely, short coda from guitarist California. Although Spirit, in various incarnations, would continue to record for many years, they would never put out another album as listenable as Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus.

Artist:    Santana
Title:    Guajira
Source:    LP: Santana (III)
Writer(s):    Areas/Brown/Reyes
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1971
    Santana's third album, released in 1971, was an immediate success, going all the way to the top of the Billboard album charts. Like its predecessor, Abraxas, Santana (also known as Santana III to distinguish it from the band's 1969 debut LP) contains a mix of Anglo and Hispanic rock, with Guarija serving as an example of the latter. The song was co-written by Jose Areas, who also wrote Se A Cabo and El Nicoya on the Abraxas album. The original label, however, credits "Jose Reyes" instead. Another co-writer of the song, Rico Reyes, although not an actual band member, provides the lead vocals on the track.

Artist:    Pink Fairies
Title:    Right On, Fight On
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: What A Bunch Of Sweeties)
Writer(s):    Pink Fairies
Label:    Polydor (UK import)
Year:    1972
    While most rock musicians in the early 1970s were dreaming of becoming rich and famous, there were a few notable exceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. Among those were Detroit's MC5, whose radical politics were at the forefront of everything they did, and the New York City street band David Peel and the Lower East Side, who were more a musical guerrilla theater group than an actual rock band. In the UK, it was the Pink Fairies bucking the establishment, performing such anarchic acts as giving free concerts outside the gates of places where other bands were playing for pay, such as the 1970 Isle Of Wight music festival. Formed from the ashes of another anarchic band, the Social Deviants, the Pink Fairies recorded three albums from 1971-73, finally cutting a single for Stiff Records in 1976 before splitting up. The group has reformed several times since.

Artist:    Genesis
Title:    Firth Of Fifth
Source:    CD: Selling England By The Pound
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Rhino/Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1973
    Firth Of Fifth, from the Genesis album Selling England By The Pound, was originally written by keyboardist Tony Banks for inclusion of the band's fourth LP, Foxtrot, but was rejected by the rest of the band's members. After reworking the tune, Banks again presented it to the band in time for it to be included on their next LP, Selling England By The Pound. The title is a parody of the name of a Scottish body of water called the Firth of Forth, an estuary of the River Forth. The lyrics were worked out by Banks and Genesis bassist Mike Rutherford. The song, considered by many to be a classic example of the progressive rock genre, remained part of the band's stage repertoire for many years.

Artist:    Firesign Theatre
Title:    The Giant Toad
Source:    LP: Dear Friends
Writer(s):    Procter/Bergman/Austin/Ossman
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1972
    And now a word from our sponsor. The four man (Phillip Proctor, Peter Bergman, Phil Austin, David Ossman) aural comedy group known as the Firesign Theatre had their own radio show on Pacifica's KPFK (Los Angeles) from September of 1970 through February of 1971. In 1972 they collected several bits from the show on a double LP called Dear Friends. The Giant Toad was probably the work of Bergman, although, like all the Firesign Theatre works, it is credited to the entire group.

Artist:    Wet Willie
Title:    Keep On Smilin'
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Hall/Hall/Hirsch/Anthony/Ross
Label:    Capricorn
Year:    1974
    Formed as Fox in Mobile, Alabama in 1969, Wet Willie was one of the first Southern Rock bands to score a top 10 single with Keep On Smilin' in 1974. The band, consisting of the Hall brothers Jimmy (vocals, saxophone, harmonica) and Jack (bass), John David Anthony (keyboards), Ricky Hirsch (guitar) and Lewis Ross (drums), relocated from Mobile to Macon, Georgia in 1971 where they signed with Phil Walden's Capricorn label, releasing several singles and albums over the next few years. The group still performs occasionally as either Wet Willie or the Wet Willie Band, depending on whether Jimmy Hall is onstage.

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