Sunday, July 28, 2019
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1931 (starts 7/29/19)
This week we start off feeling alright, get the blues, rock out a little, get progressive and finally go cosmic, all in one hour.
Artist: Joe Cocker
Title: Feelin' Alright
Source: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Writer: Dave Mason
I went into some detail in a previous blog entry about why I generally prefer to use studio tracks over live recordings. Sometimes, though, the studio track is really nothing more than an instance of a live performance. Such is the case with the Joe Cocker version of Feelin' Alright. Like Elvis Presley, Cocker was almost exclusively a performer, leaving such things as writing and producing (and playing an instrument, for that matter) to the professionals.
Artist: Al Kooper/Mike Bloomfield/Barry Goldberg/Harvey Brooks/Eddie Hoh
Title: Albert's Shuffle
Source: LP: Super Session
There is no doubt that one of the most important and influential albums of the late 1960s was the Super Session album. Released in 1968, the album was conceived in part because keyboardist/producer Al Kooper felt that Michael Bloomfield had never been recorded in the right context to truly showcase his prowess as a guitarist. Taking advantage of his position as staff producer for Columbia Records, Kooper enlisted keyboardist Barry Goldberg and bassist Harvey Brooks (both of which had been Bloomfield's bandmates in the Electric Flag), as well as ace studio drummer Eddie Hoh for a series of taped jam sessions. Although Bloomfield himself went AWOL midway through the sessions, the quintet managed to get several outstanding tracks recorded, including Albert's Shuffle, which opens the LP. Over the years Kooper was often asked about his decision to add overdubbed horns to several of the tracks on Super Session, including Albert's Shuffle. By way of reply he prepared a 2002 remix that restored the recordings to their original state and included them as bonus tracks on the remastered CD version of the album, allowing listeners to compare the different versions.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: The Lemon Song
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin II
If I had to choose just one Led Zeppelin song as representative of the band's early work it would have to be The Lemon Song, from their second album. The track has all the elements that made the Zep's reputation: Jimmy Page's distinctive guitar work, John Bonham's stuttered (but always timely) drum fills, John Paul Jones's funky bass line and Robert Plant's gutsy vocals (with lyrics famously derived from classic blues tunes). Squeeze my lemon, baby indeed!
Title: Roadhouse Blues
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Jim Morrison
Year: Recorded 1970, released 1978
Roadhouse Blues is one of the most instantly recognizable songs in the entire Doors catalog. Indeed, most people can identify it from the first guitar riff, long before Jim Morrison's vocals come in. The original studio version of the song was released on the album Morrison Hotel in 1970, and was also issued as the B side of one of the band's lesser-known singles. That same year the Doors undertook what became known as their Roadhouse Blues tour; many of the performances from that tour were recorded, but not released at the time. In 1978 the three remaining members of the band, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore, decided to put music to some recordings of Morrison reciting his own poetry made before his death in 1971. The resulting album, An American Prayer, also included a live version of Roadhouse Blues made from two separate concert tapes from their 1970 tour. An edited version of the album track was released as a 1978 single as well.
Artist: Black Sabbath
Title: Embryo/Children Of The Grave
Source: CD: Master Of Reality
Label: Warner Brothers
One of the spookiest experiences in my life was crashing at a stranger's house after having my mind blown at a Grand Funk Railroad concert in the fall of 1971. A bunch of us had ridden back to Weatherford, Oklahoma, from Norman (about an hour's drive) and somehow I ended up separated from my friends Mike and DeWayne, in whose college dorm room I had been crashing for a couple of days. So here I am, lying on the couch in this room with black walls, a black light, a few posters and a cheap stereo playing a brand new album I had never heard before: Black Sabbath's Master Of Reality. Suddenly I notice this weird little tapping sound going back and forth from speaker to speaker. Such was my state of mind at the time that I really couldn't tell if it was a hallucination or not. The stereo was one of those late 60s models that you could stack albums on, and whoever had put the album on had left the stereo in repeat mode before heading off to bed, with no more albums stacked after the Sabbath LP. This meant that every twenty minutes or so I would hear Children Of The Grave, with that weird little tapping sound going back and forth from speaker to speaker. Trust me, it was creepy, as was the whispering at the end of track. No wonder Ozzy Ozbourne called Children Of The Grave "the most kick-ass song we'd ever recorded."
Artist: J. Geils Band
Title: Whammer Jammer
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Juke Box Jimmie
First they were a Boston bar band called Snoopy and the Sopwith Camel. Then they became the J. Geils Blues Band. Finally they dropped the "blues" from the name and became famous. Whammer Jammer, an early B side showcasing "Magic Dick" Salwitz on lead harmonica, shows why the "blues" part was there in the first place.
Artist: Grand Funk
Title: The Railroad
Source: LP: We're An American Band
Writer(s): Mark Farner
After six albums working with producer Terry Knight, Grand Funk Railroad switched tracks in 1973, turning to Todd Rundgren, who had received critical acclaim for Something/Anything, a self-produced double LP solo effort from the previous year. The result was We're An American Band, which revitalized the band's career and spawned two hit singles, the title track and Walk Like A Man, both of which were sung by drummer Don Brewer. This was a major departure for the band, as guitarist Mark Farner had previously written and sung all of the band's singles. Farner still wrote and sang much of the material on the LP, however, including The Railroad (ironically the only use of the word "railroad" anywhere on the album, as the band had officially, albeit temporarily, shortened its name to Grand Funk prior to the album's release).
Artist: Gentle Giant
Title: The Face
Source: CD: The Power And The Glory
Label: Alucard (original label: Capitol)
The Power And The Glory is a 1974 album by Gentle Giant that focuses on an individual that chooses politics as a means to make the world a better place. Like his predecessors, however, he becomes corrupted by power and ultimately becomes that which he originally fought against. The piece called The Face is the climax of the album itself, in which the protagonist declares himself to be the ultimate authority and demands total loyalty and obedience from his subjects (kind of like certain current political leaders). As of 2014, The Power And The Glory is available on Blu-Ray, with each song fully animated with various abstract patterns and all the lyrics displayed prominently on the screen. The latter makes a huge difference in the ability to enjoy the album, as Gentle Giant's vocals are often hard to decipher.
Title: Song Of Scheherazade-part two
Source: LP: Scheherazade And Other Stories
Probably the most musically ambitious piece in the entire Renaissance catalog, Song Of Scheheraze takes up the entire second side of the 1975 LP Scheherazade And Other Stories. The nearly 25-minute long suite is made up of several sections, with a break about halfway through. This the second half of that suite. The album itself, the band's 6th studio LP, was the first to not include any compositions from the group's founding members, drummer Jim McCarty having severed ties with the band following the release of Turn Of The Cards.
Artist: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Title: Cosmic Cowboy
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Michael Martin Murphy
Label: United Artists
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has gone through several stylistic changes over the years. Formed in 1966 by Jeff Hanna and Bruce Kunkel (and soon expanded to six members, including a young Jackson Browne), the group started as a jug band, releasing a pair of albums on the Liberty label before switching to electric instruments in 1968. By that point the band had already gone through several personnel changes, including the departure of Kunkel and Browne, and the addition of Chris Darrow and John McEuen. The next pair of albums were not commercially successful, and the band went on hiatus for about six months in 1969. The emerged from this self-imposed exile with a new contract and more artistic freedom, releasing their most successful album to date, Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy, in 1970. The album included their hit cover version of Jerry Jeff Walker's Mr. Bojangles, which put the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at the forefront of the burgeoning country-rock movement of the early 1970s. In 1972 the band released Will The Circle Be Unbroken, a landmark collaboration with such country legends as Roy Acuff, Doc Watson and Mother Maybelle Carter, among others. The following year they released the live album Stars And Stripes Forever, which included the single Cosmic Cowboy. The band continued in a country-rock vein for the rest of the 1970s, including a stretch when they were known simply as the Dirt Band. By the 1980s, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (full name restored) was releasing records exclusively to country radio stations, and having great success with songs like Fishin' In The Dark.