Sunday, May 17, 2020

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2021 (starts 5/18/20)

    This week's show certainly has its ups and downs. It opens with Melissa Manchester singing the words "You are a fluke of the Universe" and ends with Flight of the Phoenix. In between we have songs about places, metaphorical animals and even a couple of food references.

Artist:    National Lampoon
Title:    Deteriorata
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits Of The National Lampoon (originally released on LP: Radio Dinner)
Writer(s):    Hendra/Guest
Label:    Uproar (original label: Blue Thumb)
Year:    1972
    National Lampoon was a product of its time. Originally a magazine, NatLamp (as it was often referred to) grew to include a weekly radio show, a series of albums, and eventually, a series of movies. Some of the best bits from the radio show were assembled in 1972 on an album called National Lampoon's Radio Dinner. The opening track of this album was a piece written by Tony Hendra (with music by Christopher Guest) that parodied a 1971 spoken word recording by Les Crane of an early 20th century poem by Max Ehrmann called Desirata. The Lampoon piece, Deteriorata, was narrated by Norman Rose, with Melissa Manchester singing.

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Fresh Garbage
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Spirit)
Writer(s):    Jay Ferguson
Label:    Sony Music (original label: Ode)
Year:    1968
    Much of the material on the first Spirit album was composed by vocalist Jay Ferguson while the band was living in a big house in California's Topanga Canyon outside of Los Angeles. During their stay there was a garbage strike, which became the inspiration for the album's opening track, Fresh Garbage. The song starts off as a fairly hard rocker and suddenly breaks into a section that is pure jazz, showcasing the group's instrumental talents, before returning to the main theme to finish out the track.The group used a similar formula on about half the tracks on the LP, giving the album and the band a distinctive sound right out of the box.

Artist:    Mighty Baby
Title:    I've Been Down So Long
Source:    British import CD: Mighty Baby
Writer(s):    Powell/Whiteman/Stone/Evans/King
Label:    Big Beat (original label: Head)
Year:    1969
    After the departure of frontman Reggie King, the Action, which had been in existence since 1965, decided to change not only its name, but its entire sound as well. Originally a Merseybeat band doing Motown covers, the band had slowly been incorporating elements of California bands such as the Byrds and the Association. With the addition of Ian Whiteman, they began to delve into improvisational rock as well, and by the time they officially became Mighty Baby in 1969 they were being hailed as England's answer to the Grateful Dead. As can be heard on tracks like I've Been Down So Long, they certainly had the talent to pull it off, but even the Dead themselves were generally received with indifference by the British, and Mighty Baby fared no better there than the band that inspired them.

Artist:     Jimi Hendrix Experience (MkII)
Title:     Freedom
Source:     CD: First Rays of the New Rising Sun (originally released on LP: Rainbow Bridge)
Writer:     Jimi Hendrix
Label:     MCA/Experience Hendrix (original label: Reprise)
Year:     1970
     Jimi Hendrix was working on a new double album when he died, but nobody else seemed to be sure where he was going with it. As there were several tracks that were unfinished at the time, Reprise Records gathered what they could and put them together on an album called The Cry Of Love. Freedom, a nearly finished piece (the unfinished part being a short "placesetter" guitar solo that Hendrix never got around to replacing with a final take), is the opening track from the album. Soon after that, a new Hendrix concert film called Rainbow Bridge was released along with a soundtrack album containing most of the remaining tracks from the intended double album. Finally, under the auspices of the Hendrix family in 1997, MCA (with the help of original engineer Eddie Kramer and drummer Mitch Mitchell) pieced together what was essentially an educated guess about what would have been that album and released it under the name First Rays of the New Rising Sun.
Artist:    Todd Rundgren's Utopia
Title:    (Intro) Mister Triscuits/Something's Coming
Source:    LP: Another Live
Writer(s):    Powell/Bernstein/Sondheim
Label:    Bearsville
Year:    1975
    Although he is primarily known for his pop songs such as Hello It's Me and We Gotta Get You a Woman, Todd Rundgren did, for a time in the  1970s experiment with prog-rock, forming the band Utopia in 1973. The band released the album Todd Rundgren's Utopia in 1974, following it up with Another Live the following year. The opening track of side two begins with keyboardist Roger Powell's composition Mister Triscuits, which was originally titled The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus before his publisher mistranscribed it. The instrumental track flows directly into a cover version of Something's Coming from Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story. Utopia would continue as a band for several years, but steadily moving away from their prog-rock beginnings toward a more pop-oriented sound.
Artist:    Genesis
Title:    The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (opening sequence)
Source:    CD: The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Rhino/Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1974
    The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway was released in 1974, and features lyrics written exclusively by Peter Gabriel, who would leave Genesis, the band he co-founded, following the band's 1975 tour to promote the double LP. The album was originally met with mixed reviews, but has come to be considered by many the apex of the band's existence. More than on any other Genesis album, the songs tend to flow together without a break between them. For example, the album's opening sequence of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Fly On A Windshield, Broadway Melody Of 1974, Cuckoo Cocoon and In The Cage come across as one continuous piece that takes up nearly the entire first side of the original LP.
Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    The Caves Of Altamira
Source:    CD: The Royal Scam
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagan
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1976
    Steely Dan had a reputation for bringing in some of the finest guest musicians available to help them on their albums. The Caves Of Altamire, from their fifth LP, The Royal Scam, is a good example. The piece, based on a book by Hans Baumann, features a tenor saxophone solo from John Klemmer.

Artist:    George Harrison
Title:    Dark Horse
Source:    LP: Dark Horse
Writer(s):    George Harrison
Label:    Apple
Year:    1974
    Stung by the hostility of some reviewers to the spiritual quality of his 1973 LP Living In The Material World, as well as his deteriorating relationship with Patti Boyd, George Harrison stung back with the release of Dark Horse, the lead single from his 1974 album of the same name. While most American record buyers assumed the title referred to his status as the unexpected winner of the "which Beatle will have the most success as a solo artist" race (his My Sweet Lord was the first single by an ex-Beatle to top the charts), Harrison himself contradicted this interpretation, saying that he was actually unaware of that use of the term when he wrote the song. His intended meaning, he said, was actually Liverpudian slang for the kind of guy who was called a Back Door Man in an old Howlin' Wolf tune written by Willie Dixon.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Flight Of The Phoenix
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1972
    After five successful albums produced by Terry Knight, the members of Grand Funk Railroad decided to go it alone for their 1972 LP Phoenix. The album was the first to include Craig Frost, who would eventually become a full member of the band, on keyboards, as can be heard on the LP's opening track, the instrumental Flight Of The Phoenix. Famed fiddler Doug Kershaw can also be heard on the track.


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