Sunday, August 25, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1935 (starts 8/26/19)

    The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 had shaken many people's faith in the modern world , and left them searching for...well, for a lot of things. Among them were the Moody Blues, who took their inspiration from Arthur Sullivan's 1877 song about finding inner peace through music and recorded their third LP, In Search Of The Lost Chord. As August of 2019 comes to a close, we showcase the entire first side of that Moody Blues classic LP. On a lighter note, we also have a trio of tunes about various women and, to close out the show, a 1970 set.

Artist:    Moody Blues
Title:    In Search Of The Lost Chord (side one)
Source:    CD: In Search Of The Lost Chord
Writer(s):    Edge/Lodge/Thomas
Label:    Deram
Year:    1968
    The Moody Blues followed up their groundbreaking album Days Of Future Past with another concept album, this time tackling the subjects of search and discovery from various perspectives. In Search Of The Lost Chord opens with Departure, a poem by percussionist Graeme Edge. Normally Edge's poems were recited by Mike Pinder on the band's albums, but here Edge recites his own work, ending in maniacal laughter as the next track, Ride My See-Saw, fades in. Ride My See-Saw, written by bassist John Lodge, is one of the Moody Blues' most popular songs, and is often used as an encore when the band performs in concert. Dr. Livingstone I Presume is a bit of a change in pace from flautist Ray Thomas, about the famous African explorer. Oddly enough, there is no flute on the track. From there the album proceeds to Lodge's House Of Four Doors, one of the most complex pieces ever recorded by the group. Each verse of the song ends with the opening of a door (the sound effect having been created on a cello), followed by an interlude from a different era of Western music, including Minstrel, Baroque and Classical. The fourth door opens into an entirely different song altogether, Ray Thomas's Legend Of A Mind, with its signature lines: "Timothy Leary's dead. No, no, he's outside looking in." Although never released as a single, the track got a fair amount of airplay on college and progressive FM radio stations, and has long been considered a cult hit. The album's first side concludes with the final section of House Of Four Doors.

Artist:     Cream
Title:        White Room
Source:    CD: Wheels Of Fire
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:        1968
        Musically almost a rewriting of Eric Clapton's Tales of Brave Ulysses (from Cream's Disraeli Gears album), White Room, a Jack Bruce/Pete Brown composition from the Wheels Of Fire album, is arguably the most popular song ever to feature the use of a wah-wah pedal prominently.

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Parachute Woman
Source:    CD: Beggar's Banquet
Writer:    Jagger/Richards
Label:    Abkco (original label: London)
Year:    1968
    The last Rolling Stones album with the original lineup was Beggar's Banquet, released in 1968. The album itself was a conscious effort on the part of the band to get back to their roots after the psychedelic excesses of Their Satanic Majesties Request. Sadly, Brian Jones was fast deteriorating at the time and his contributions to the album are minimal compared to the band's earlier efforts. As a result, Keith Richards was responsible for most of the guitar work on Beggar's Banquet, including both lead and rhythm parts on Parachute Woman.

Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    Spider Woman
Source:    British import CD: The Magician's Birthday
Writer(s):    Box/Byron/Kerslake/Thain
Label:    Sanctuary (original US label: Mercury)
Year:    1972
    Although Uriah Heep was known as an album-oriented band in the US and their native UK, they did have some top 40 success in Scandanavia and Northern Europe, especially in Germany, where they scored three top 20 hits from 1970-72. The last of these was Spider Woman, from the Magician's Birthday album, which went to the #14 spot on the German charts.

Artist:    Neil Young/Crazy Horse
Title:    Cinnamon Girl
Source:    CD: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Writer(s):    Neil Young
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1969
    My favorite Neil Young song has always been Cinnamon Girl. I suspect this is because the band I was in the summer after I graduated from high school used an amped-up version of the song as our show opener (imagine Cinnamon Girl played like I Can See For Miles and you get a general idea of how it sounded). If we had ever recorded an album, we probably would have used that arrangement as our first single. I finally got to see Neil Young perform the song live (from the 16th row even) with Booker T. and the MGs as his stage band in the mid-1990s. It was worth the wait.

Artist:    Gypsy
Title:    Dead And Gone
Source:    LP: Gypsy
Writer(s):    Enrico Rosenbaum
Label:    Metromedia
Year:    1970
    Originally formed as the Underbeats in 1962, Gypsy had its greatest success after changing their name and moving to L.A. in 1969. They became the house band at the legendary Whisky-A-Go-Go for about eight months, starting in September of 1969, and during that time signed with Metromedia Records, a company owned by what would eventually become the Fox Television Network. The band made their recording debut with a double LP that included the single Gypsy Queen. Most of the band's material was written by guitarist/vocalist Enrico Rosenbaum, including the longest track on the album, Dead And Gone. After one more LP for Metromedia, the band started going through a series of personnel changes, eventually (after Rosenbaum's departure) changing their name to the James Walsh Gypsy Band (Walsh being the keyboardist of the group). Drummer Bill Lordan, after a short stint with Sly and the Family Stone, joined up with Robin Trower, an association that lasted many years.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    There I Go Again
Source:    CD: James Gang Rides Again
Writer(s):    Joe Walsh
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1970
    The two sides of James Gang Rides Again sound like two entirely different albums. As it turns out, this was somewhat intentional. According to bassist Dale Peters, guitarist Joe Walsh had written a set of acoustic tunes while the band was recording what would become side one of the album. Rather than try to hastily come up with another side's worth of tunes, the band decided just to let Walsh record the songs he had already written with a minimum of accompaniment. Among those tunes on side two of James Gang Rides Again is There I Go Again, a catchy number that features Walsh on both acoustic and (overdubbed) steel guitar.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix
Title:    Night Bird Flying
Source:    CD: First Rays Of The New Rising Sun (originally released on LP: The Cry Of Love)
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1971
    Night Bird Flying was one of a handful of fully completed tracks that were slated for the next Jimi Hendrix album when the guitarist unexpectedly passed away in late1970. Naturally, the song was selected for inclusion of the first posthumous Hendrix LP, The Cry Of Love, as well as various CDs over the years, including Voodoo Soup and First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, both of which were attempts to assemble what would have been the fourth Jimi Hendrix studio album. In all cases, however, I think the compilers missed the obvious: Night Bird Flying should have been the second track on the album, following Freedom (which indeed does start off all three of the above cited collections). Don't ask me how I know this. I just do. Call it a gut feeling if you will, but Night Bird Flying belongs in that #2 slot. Period.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Saviour Machine
Source:    CD: The Man Who Sold The World
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Mercury)
Year:    1970
    David Bowie's third album, The Man Who Sold The World, was the first one in which his band played a major role in the development of the songs themselves. Indeed, producer/bassist Tony Visconti later said  "the songs were written by all four of us. We'd jam in a basement, and Bowie would just say whether he liked them or not." According to Bowie's biographer, Peter Doggett, "The band (sometimes with Bowie contributing guitar, sometimes not) would record an instrumental track, which might or might not be based upon an original Bowie idea. Then, at the last possible moment, Bowie would reluctantly uncurl himself from the sofa on which he was lounging with his wife, and dash off a set of lyrics." Bowie himself, however, later said that he was indeed the sole songwriter on the album, as evidenced by the chord changes in the songs themselves. As Bowie put it, "No one writes chord changes like that". Regardless of who actually wrote what, there is no question that The Man Who Sold The World rocked out harder than anything else Bowie had done up to that point (and perhaps never would again), and songs like Saviour Machine, about the pitfalls of turning to a higher power (in this case a omnipotent computer) for solutions to problems, are on a par with what Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin were doing around the same time.

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