Sunday, June 7, 2020

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2024 (starts 6/8/20)

    This time around we start off rockin' with bands like Black Sabbath, the James Gang and Sugarloaf and end up relaxing with some acoustic stuff from people like Johnny Winter, Steve Howe and even Led Zeppelin.

Artist:    Crosby, Stills & Nash
Title:    Long Time Gone
Source:    CD: Crosby, Stills & Nash
Writer(s):    David Crosby
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    There is no doubt that the group that benefited the most from performing at Woodstock was Crosby, Stills & Nash. The trio had just released their first LP, and, as they themselves admitted onstage, it was only their second time playing in front of people. Their performance was a huge success, turning them into superstars virtually overnight. The group played both acoustic and electric sets, an approach that has been adopted by many other performers over the years as well. Following their appearance at the festival, sales of their first LP rocketed, eventually topping four million copies sold. Among the many memorable tunes on the album is Long Time Gone, David Crosby's response to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. The song got favorable reviews from the rock press, as well as considerable airplay on progressive rock radio stations, and was used for the opening credits of the Woodstock movie.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Wicked World
Source:    LP: Black Sabbath
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1969
    The Secret Origin of Heavy Metal-Part One: After a short (one month) stint as Mick Abrahams's replacement in Jethro Tull, guitarist Tony Iommi rejoined his former bandmates Ozzy Osborne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward in the blues-rock band Earth in January of 1969. Later that year they realized that there was already another English band called Earth and decided to change their name. Taking inspiration from a playbill of a movie theater showing classic Boris Karloff horror films across the street from where they were rehearsing, they started calling themselves Black Sabbath in August of 1969 and began to forge a new sound for the band in keeping with their new name. Three months later Black Sabbath got their first record contract, releasing a cover of Crow's Evil Woman in November. They followed the (UK only) single up with their self-titled debut LP, recorded in just two days, on Friday, February 13th, 1970. The album was released three months later in the US, and spent over a year on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart. Although Evil Woman was included on the UK version of the LP, Warner Brothers chose to instead include the B side of the band's single, a song called Wicked World that was not on the UK version of the album. Most Black Sabbath fans, it turns out, consider Wicked World a stronger track, as it shows a trace of the band's original blues-rock sound, especially on its fast paced intro and closing sections.

Artist:    Steppenwolf
Title:    Who Needs Ya
Source:    45 RPM single (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Byrom/Kay
Label:    Dunhill
Year:    1970
    It's no secret that there are often clashes between members of talented bands. Sometimes these clashes turn pretty ugly, as was the case between Steppenwolf guitarist Michael Monarch and lead vocalist John Kay. On at least one occasion Monarch got so angry with Kay that he stopped playing in the middle of a performance. Finally it got to the point where one of them had to go. Since Steppenwolf was basically Kay's band, Monarch was the one to leave. He was replaced by Larry Byrom, who was a member of the Los Angeles band T.I.M.E. Byrom stayed with with the band for the next two years, co-writing the tune Who Needs Ya, which was released as a single in October of 1970 and appeared on the album Steppenwolf 7.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Standing In The Rain
Source:    CD: Bang
Writer(s):    Tommy Bolin
Label:    Atco
Year:    1973
    Tommy Bolin was already becoming well-known among his fellow musicians by the time he was asked to replace Dominic Troiano as the James Gang's lead guitarist. The band had pretty much disappeared from the radio after the departure of original lead guitarist Joe Walsh, and had been dropped by the ABC label following their fifth studio LP. Bolin's presence, however, helped secure the band a new contract with Atco Records, with their 6th LP, Bang, being released on the label in 1973. Although Roy Kenner provided most of the album's lead vocals, Bolin's presence dominated the album right from the first track, Standing In The Rain (a Bolin composition). Bolin would stick around for one more album, Miami, before departing for a solo career in 1975.

Artist:    Andromeda
Title:    When To Stop
Source:    British import CD: Definitive Collection (originally released on LP: Andromeda)
Writer(s):    John Du Cann
Label:    Angel Air (original UK label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1969
    It's a known fact that success in the music world is more a matter of being in the right place at the right time than actually having a lot of talent. John Du Cann was a guitarist/vocalist/songwriter who proved that statement by never being in the right place at the right time despite having a wealth of talent. Unlike a lot of guitarists of the 1960s, Du Cann (then known as John Cann), did not come from a folk music background. In fact, his first guitar was an electric one, which he purchased, along with a small amplifier, while still in his teens. Within a couple of years he was fronting his own band as vocalist and lead guitarist (he later claimed that had he learned to play lead before learning the play rhythm guitar), which eventually led to him forming the power trio Andromeda, which released its first LP in 1969. Despite Andromeda having a strong local following and sharing the bill with such bands as the New Yardbirds (who soon began calling themselves Led Zeppelin) and Black Sabbath (who actually served as Andromeda's opening band), and getting rave reviews from critics, the album was a commercial failure and has since become a highly sought after collectable (an original copy sold for over $1000 in 2017). A highlight from the album is When To Stop. The piece, written by Du Cann, consists of three parts: The Traveller, Turning Point and Journey's End, and has the musical sophistication of 70s prog-rock without sounding pretentious, leaving no doubt that Andromeda was first and foremost a hard rock band built around the immense (and obvious) talent of Du Cann himself. John Du Cann soon grew frustrated with the album's poor sales, however, and when offered a job as lead guitarist with Vincent Crane's band, Atomic Rooster, disbanded Andromeda in 1970. Du Cann's stint with Atomic Rooster did not last long, however, and he drifted from one band to another (including a reformed Atomic Rooster in the early 1980s), without achieving the success or recognition he deserved. John Du Cann died following a heart attack in 2011, leaving behind a collection of 75 guitars, 30 amplifiers and a large number of records, which were sold at auction in 2012.

Artist:    Sugarloaf
Title:    Bach Doors Man/Chest Fever
Source:    LP: Sugarloaf
Writer(s):    Corbetta/Webber/Raymond/Pollock/Robertson
Label:    Liberty
Year:    1970
    The Moonrakers were Denver, Colorado's most popular local band in the mid-1960s, releasing four singles on the Tower label from 1965 to 1966. In 1968 two of the band members, keyboardist/vocalist Jerry Corbetta (who had been playing drums with the Moonrakers) and guitarist Bob Webber, decided to form a new band called Chocolate Hair with bassist Bob Raymond and drummer Myron Pollock. They began recording demo tapes in 1969. The people at Liberty Records were so impressed with the demos, including an organ solo called Bach Doors Man that turned into a cover of Robbie Robertson's Chest Fever over the course of nine minutes, that they ended up using the demos themselves for the first Sugarloaf LP. As a result, even though Pollock had been replaced by Bob McVittie by the time the LP was released, Pollock was the actual drummer on all but one song on the album.

Artist:    Mike Stuart Span
Title:    Second Production
Source:    Mono British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution
Writer(s):    Murphy/Bennett
Label:    Grapefruit
Year:    Recorded 1967, released 2013
    Like many British psychedelic bands, the Mike Stuart Span started off as part of the Mod scene, cutting a couple of British R&B flavored singles before changing directions in 1967. In October of that year, they recorded a demo of a tune called Second Production for the British Decca label, but the song went unreleased until the next century, when it was included on a CD collection called Love, Poetry And Revolution. The group ended up releasing a couple more singles before changing their name to Leviathan.

Artist:    Cheech And Chong
Title:    Blind Melon Chitlin'
Source:    LP: Cheech & Chong
Writer(s):    Marin/Chong
Label:    Ode
Year:    1971
    Seriously, does anyone need to be told who Cheech and Chong are? Blind Melon Chitlin' is the first track from their first LP. It's also one of their most famous bits. 'Nuff said.

Artist:    Johnny Winter
Title:    Dallas
Source:    British import CD: Johnny Winter
Writer(s):    Johnny Winter
Label:    Repertoire (original US label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    To put it bluntly, Johnny Winter was one of the greatest bluesmen that ever lived. For those who try to dismiss him as just another electric blues-rock guitarist I present Dallas, from his self-titled 1969 album. Dallas is a solo acoustic piece written by Winters himself on which he plays slide on a steel-bodied resonator guitar, with accompanying vocals. It doesn't get any more authentic than this.

Artist:    Yes
Title:    Clap (studio version)
Source:    CD: The Yes Album (bonus track)
Writer(s):    Steve Howe
Label:    Elektra/Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:    1971
    In 1970 the fortunes of the British band Yes were at a critical juncture. Their guitarist, Peter Banks, had left to form his own band, Flash, and their label, Atlantic, was on the verge of dropping them from its roster due to poor sales of their first two LPs. But then things started to change. Banks's replacement was Steve Howe, who had been a member of the legendary psychedelic band Tomorrow and, more recently, the power trio Bodast. Along with his obvious abilities on electric guitar, Howe had a talent for acoustic guitar as well, and was heavily influenced by the Chet Atkins style of picking, as can be heard on the studio version of Clap, a Howe solo piece on The Yes Album, his first for the group. For some reason, rather than the longer studio version of Clap heard here, the band used a live acoustic performance of the song that leaves out a section that would later be included as part of Howe's Mood For A Day on Yes's next LP, Fragile.

Artist:     Joni Mitchell
Title:     You Turn Me On I'm A Radio
Source:     LP: For The Roses
Writer:     Joni Mitchell
Label:     Asylum
Year:     1972
     For The Roses was Joni Mitchell's fifth album, and the first to be released on Asylum, the label formed in 1971 by David Geffen and Mitchell's own manager, Elliot Roberts. The album included Mitchell's first top 40 hit, You Turn Me On I'm A Radio, a song she wrote sarcastically in response to a request for a "radio friendly" song from her record company. The song also made the top 10 in Mitchell's native Canada.

Artist:     Led Zeppelin
Title:     Bron Y-Aur Stomp
Source:     German import LP: Led Zeppelin III
Writer:     Page/Plant/Jones
Label:     Atlantic
Year:     1970
     Although often regarded as the fathers of Heavy Metal, Led Zeppelin was actually capable of playing in a variety of styles. Evolving out of the standard-bearing band of the London blues scene (the Yardbirds), Led Zeppelin soon moved into uncharted territory, recording music that incorporated elements of both American and British folk music as well as rock. Much of the group's third LP (Bron Y-Aur Stomp in particular) sounds like it could have been written and performed in the heart of Appalachia.

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