Sunday, December 15, 2019
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1952 (starts 12/16/19)
This week's it's 1969 all over again...and you're Rockin' with a hermit in the Days of Confusion. 'Nuff said.
Artist: King Crimson
Title: The Court Of The Crimson King
Source: CD: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Label: Discipline Global Mobile (original label: Atlantic)
Perhaps the most influential progressive rock album of all time was King Crimson's debut LP, In The Court Of The Crimson King. The band, in its original incarnation, included Robert Fripp on guitar, Ian MacDonald on keyboards and woodwinds, Greg Lake on vocals and bass, Michael Giles on drums and Peter Sinfield as a dedicated lyricist. The title track, which takes up the second half of side two of the LP, features music composed by MacDonald, who would leave the group after their second album, later resurfacing as a founding member of Foreigner. The album's distinctive cover art came from a painting by computer programmer Barry Godber, who died of a heart attack less than a year after the album was released. According to Fripp, the artwork on the inside is a portrait of the Crimson King, whose manic smile is in direct contrast to his sad eyes. The album, song and artwork were the inspiration for Stephen King's own Crimson King, the insane antagonist of his Dark Tower saga who is out to destroy all of reality, including our own.
Artist: David Bowie
Title: Space Oddity
Source: CD: David Bowie (original US title: Man Of Words/Man of Music, later retitled Space Oddity)
Writer: David Bowie
Label: Parlophone (original label: Mercury)
When David Jones first started his recording career he was a fairly conventional folk singer. With his second self-titled album (later retitled Space Oddity) he truly became the David Bowie we all know, and the rock world was never quite the same.
Artist: Blind Faith
Title: Can't Find My Way Home
Source: CD: Blind Faith
Writer: Steve Winwood
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Blind Faith was the result of some 1969 jam sessions in guitarist Eric Clapton's basement with keyboardist/guitarist Steve Winwood, whose own band, Traffic, had disbanded earlier in the year. Drummer Ginger Baker, who had been Clapton's bandmate in Cream for the previous three years, showed up one day, and Winwood eventually convinced Clapton to form a band with the three of them and bassist Rick Grech. Clapton, however, did not want another Cream, and even before Blind Faith's only album was released was ready to move on to something that felt less like a supergroup. As a result, Winwood took more of a dominant role in Blind Faith, even to the point of including one track, Can't Find My Way Home, that was practically a Winwood solo piece. Blind Faith disbanded shortly after the album was released, with the various band members moving on to other projects. Winwood, who soon reformed Traffic, is still active as one of rock's elder statesmen, and still performs Can't Find My Way Home in his concert appearances.
Artist: Fairport Convention
Title: Matty Groves
Source: LP: Liege And Lief
Writer(s): Trad., arr. Fairport Convention
Britain's Fairport Convention was quite prolific in 1969, releasing no less than three LPs that year. The last of these was Liege And Lief, considered by some to be the greatest British folk-rock album ever made. The album is notable for several reasons, including the fact that it was the group's first album to consist entirely of rocked out adaptations of traditional British folk tunes such as Matty Grove, along with a handful of original compositions done in a similar style. It was also the first Fairport Convention album to feature guitarist Martin Carthy (who had made a guest appearance on the band's previous album, Unhalfbricking) and drummer Dave Mattacks as full-time members. Finally, Liege And Lief was the last Fairport album to feature vocalist Sandy Denny and bassist Ashley Hutchings, both of whom left to form their own British folk-rock bands (Fotheringay and Steeleye Span, respectively). Like many British folk songs, Matty Grove tells the somewhat morally ambiguous tale of a low-born rascal who beds the wife of his Duke, only to have said Duke catch them in the act, killing them both. Trust me, it sounds better coming from Fairport Convention that it does me.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: For A Thousand Mothers
Source: CD: Stand Up
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis/Capitol (original label: Reprise)
For years, the only copy I had of Jethro Tull's second album, Stand Up, was a homemade cassette tape. As a result I was under the impression that For A Thousand Mothers was actually two separate songs. Long silences will do that. Long silences will also trip automatic sensors on automated radio station equipment, which partially explains why such a great track has always gotten far less airplay than it deserves.
Artist: Neil Young/Crazy Horse
Title: Cowgirl In The Sand
Source: LP: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Writer: Neil Young
It has been said that adverse conditions are conducive to good art. Certainly that truism applies to Neil Young's Cowgirl In The Sand, written while Young was running a 102 degree fever. The song, from Young's second LP, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, almost makes you wish you could be that sick sometime.
Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Title: In Need
Source: CD: Grand Funk
Writer(s): Mark Farner
Anyone who wants to know just what made Grand Funk Railroad the most popular arena rock band of the early 1970s needs only listen to GFR's second album, Grand Funk (usually just referred to as the Red Album). The 1969 album is pure...well, pure Grand Funk Railroad. It's loud, it's messy and, most importantly, it rocks. Hard. Case in point: In Need, which features a Mark Farner guitar solo, recorded in a single take, that needs to be played at maximum volume.
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: Led Zeppelin
Title: Ramble On
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin II
Some songs grab you the first time you hear them, but soon wear out their welcome. Others take a while to catch on, but tend to stay with you for a lifetime. Then there are those rare classics that manage to hook you from the start and yet never get old. One such song is Led Zeppelin's Ramble On, from their second LP. The song starts with a Jimmy Page acoustic guitar riff played high up on the neck with what sounds almost like footsteps keeping time (but turns out to be John Bonham playing bongo style on a guitar case). John Paul Jones soon adds one of the most melodic bass lines ever to appear in a rock song, followed closely by Robert Plant's Tolkien-influenced lyrics. For the chorus the band gets into electric mode, with guitar, bass and drums each contributing to a unique staggered rhythmic pattern. The song also contains one of Page's most memorable solos, that shares tonal qualities with Eric Clapton's work on Cream's Disraeli Gears album. Although I usually don't pay much attention to lyrics, one set of lines from Ramble On has stuck with me for a good many years:
"'Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her."
Fun stuff, that!