Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1149 (starts 12/8/11)

This week we continue to go deep, with the emphasis on album tracks, especially in the first and last segments of the show.

Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: She Smiled Sweetly
Source: LP: Between The Buttons
Writer: Jagger/Richards
Label: London
Year: 1967
The first Rolling Stones album of 1967, Between The Buttons, found the group moving away from their Rhythm and Blues roots and into a more psychedelic vein. The band had always recorded its share of slower tunes, such as Play With Fire and As Tears Go By, and continued to do so with tunes like She Smiled Sweetly. Although the song did not receive a lot of airplay, it was an indication of the maturation of the songwriting skills of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Artist: Ten Years After
Title: Summertime/Shantung Cabbage
Source: LP: Undead
Writer: Gershwin/R. Lee
Label: Deram
Year: 1968
Although Ten Years After is not often compared to the Grateful Dead, the two groups actually have a lot in common. Both bands had a debut album that failed to capture the essence of their live performances, and both decided to try to rectify the situation with their sophomore effort. Whereas the Dead chose to create a hybrid album that integrated studio overdubs with live recordings (Anthem Of The Sun), Ten Years After took a more direct approach. The album Undead was made up of unedited live tracks recorded at a small London jazz club called Klooks Kleek. One of these tracks starts off as a Wes Montgomery styled approach to George Gershwin's Summertime, but quickly turns into a drum solo by Ric Lee called, for no obvious reason, Shantung Cabbage.

Artist: Blues Image
Title: Leaving My Troubles Behind
Source: LP: Blues Image
Writer: Blues Image
Label: Atco
Year: 1969
Miami's Blues Image was highly regarded by critics and musicians alike. Unfortunately, they were never able to translate that acclaim into album sales, despite recording a pair of fine albums for Atco. Following the release of the band's second LP guitarist Mike Pinera left Blues Image to replace Eric Brann in Iron Butterfly, and after one more unsuccessful album the group disbanded.

Artist: Seeds
Title: Fallin' In Love
Source: LP: The Seeds
Writer: Sky Saxon
Label: GNP Crescendo
Year: 1966
The first Seeds album is made up mostly of tracks that sound like variations on their biggest hit, Pushin' Too Hard. One notable exception is the bluesy Fallin' In Love, which actually sounds like an early Doors song. The Doors, however, were still in their embryonic stage when the debut Seeds LP hit the stands in the spring of 1966.

Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: How Suite It Is
Source: CD: After Bathing At Baxters
Writer: Kantner/Cassidy/Dryden/Kaukonen
Label: RCA/BMG Heritage
Year: 1967
After the phenominal success of Jefferson Airplane's second LP, Surrealistic Pillow, the group went into the studio with a deliberate disregard for commercial concerns. The result was After Bathing At Baxter's, an album that left a lot of people scratching their heads when it was released, but has since come to be regarded as one of the creative high points of the psychedelic era. The album is divided into a group of five suites, each containing two or three songs. How Suite It Is, which opens side two of the LP, consists of two pieces. The first, Watch Her Ride, is a Paul Kantner song that was considered strong enough to be released as the second single from the album. Watch Her Ride segues into Spare Chaynge, a nine-minute studio jam by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, drummer Spencer Dryden and bassist Jack Cassidy. It's Cassidy's bass solo that is the real highlight of the piece, a testament to the then-21-year-old's prowess and creativity on an instrument that had previously been relegated to a purely support role.

Artist: Gants
Title: I Wonder
Source: CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Sid Herring
Label: Rhino (original label: Liberty)
Year: 1967
The Gants hailed from Greenwood, Mississippi, and had a string of regional hits that led to their signing with Liberty Records in 1965. The group, however, was handicapped by having half the members still in high school and the other half in college (and unwilling to drop out due to their being of draftable age during the height of the Viet Nam war). The band's most successful single for the label was I Wonder, which, like all of the Gants' recordings, shows a strong Beatle influence.

Artist: Things To Come
Title: Come Alive
Source: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Russ Ward
Label: Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year: 1968
Long Beach, California was home to a band known as Things To Come, which featured drummer Russ Ward, who, as Russ Kunkel, would go on to become one of L.A.'s hottest studio drummers. Come Alive is a solid piece of garage rock written by Ward/Kunkel.

Artist: Bubble Puppy
Title: Hot Smoke and Sassafras
Source: Best of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Bubble Puppy
Label: Priority (original label: International Artists
Year: 1969
Bubble Puppy was a band from San Antonio, Texas that relocated to nearby Austin and signed a contract with International Artists, a label already known as the home of legendary Texas psychedelic bands 13th Floor Elevators and Red Crayola. The group hit the national top 20 with Hot Smoke and Sassafras in 1969 but soon relocated to California and changed their name to Demian, at least in part to disassociate themselves with the then-popular "bubble gum" style (but also because of problems with International Artists).

Artist: Santana
Title: Waiting
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer: Santana
Label: Columbia
Year: 1970
Possibly the most successful (in the long term) of the musicians to emerge from late 60s San Francisco was Carlos Santana, a Mexican-born guitarist who still plays to sellout crowds worldwide. Santana's band originally got lukewarm reviews from the rock press, but after their legendary performance at Woodstock found themselves among rock's royalty. Waiting, from the group's first LP, is an instrumental that was also released as the B side of the band's first single, Evil Ways.

Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Some Day The Sun Won't Shine For You
Source: LP: This Was
Writer: Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
Year: 1968
Ian Anderson has often said that he disagreed with record company executives who characterized Jethro Tull as a blues band when the band's first LP, This Was, was released. Yet one of the most traditional sounding blues tunes on that LP was written by Anderson himself. Some Day The Sun Won't Shine For You sounds like it could easily have come from the pen of Jimmy Reed. Speaking of record labels, This Was, like all the early Tull albums, was originally released in the US on the Reprise label. Reprise had a policy (instituted by its founder and original owner, Frank Sinatra) of allowing its artists to retain ownership of the recordings released on the label, which is why most of the material released on Reprise in the late 60s has been reissued on other labels.

Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Castles Made Of Sand
Source: LP: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year: 1967
Although born in Seattle, Washington, James Marshall Hendrix was never associated with the local music scene that produced some of the loudest and raunchiest punk-rock of the mid 60s. Instead, he paid his professional dues backing R&B artists on the "chitlin circuit" of clubs playing to a mostly-black clientele, mainly in the south. After a short stint leading his own soul band Hendrix, at the behest of one Chas Chandler (more on him in a minute), moved to London, where he recuited a pair of local musicians, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Although known for his innovative use of feedback, Hendrix was quite capable of knocking out some of the most complex "clean" riffs ever to be committed to vinyl. A prime example of this is Castles Made Of Sand. Hendrix's highly melodic guitar work combined with unusual tempo changes and haunting lyrics makes Castles Made Of Sand a classic that sounds as fresh today as it did when Axis: Bold As Love was released in 1967.

Artist: Cream
Title: White Room
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released on LP: Wheels Of Fire; edited version originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Bruce/Brown
Label: United Artists (original label: Atco)
Year: 1968
In order to get songs played on top 40 radio, record companies made it a practice to shorten album cuts by cutting out extended instrumental breaks and extra verses. This version of White Room, clocking in at just over three minutes, is a typical example.

Artist: Beatles
Title: Octopus's Garden
Source: CD: Abbey Road
Writer: Richard Starkey
Label: Parlophone (original label: Apple)
Year: 1969
In the Beatles's early years, guitarist George Harrison was generally allotted one song per album as a songwriter. Around 1966 this began to change, as Harrison's songwriting began to be featured more prominently. In 1968 drummer Ringo Starr stepped into the role of one song per album songwriter, with his first recorded song, Don't Pass Me By, being included on the so-called White Album. The band's finally LP, Abbey Road, included another Starr song, Octopus's Garden, which, unlike the former tune, actually got occassional airplay on both AM and FM stations.

Artist: Impressions
Title: We're A Winner
Source: CD: Curtis Mayfield And The Impressions-The Anthology 1961-1977 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Curtis Mayfield
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
Year: 1968
When Jerry Butler left the Impressions in the early 1960s, it would have been easy to assume that the group would not last very long without its dynamic lead vocalist. That is not what happened, however. Instead, guitarist Curtis Mayfield stepped up to the microphone, becoming the group's sole songwriter in the process. Although the Impressions had a few crossover hits on the mainstream charts, such as It's All Right and People Get Ready, their real stronghold was the R&B charts, where they scored hit after hit over a period of nearly ten years. Most of these hits were on the ABC Paramount label, which shortened its name to ABC Records in 1966. One of the last hits on ABC was We're A Winner, released in 1968. In 1969 Mayfield formed his own label, Curtom, and the Impressions were the first group to record for the new label. Mayfield would have his greatest success as a solo artist in the early 70s with a pair of singles from the soundtrack of the movie Superfly, including the title cut and the song Freddy's Dead.

Artist: Bob Seger System
Title: 2+2=?
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer: Bob Seger
Label: Capitol
Year: 1968
Bob Seger had a series of regional hits in his native Detroit in the mid-1960s, leading to a deal with Capitol Records in 1968. The first single for Capitol was 2+2=?, a powerful anti-Vietnam War tune that was later included on his first LP for the label. The mono single version of the song heard here has a guitar chord near the end of the track that was not on the original recording (on which the song simply stops cold for a second). It was inserted because, according to Seger, radio stations were "afraid of dead air".

Artist: Procol Harum
Title: In Held Twas I
Source: LP: Shine On Brightly
Writer: Brooker/Fisher/Reid
Label: A&M
Year: 1968
Although the idea of grouping songs together as "suites" was first tried by Jefferson Airplane on their 1967 album After Bathing At Baxter's, Procol Harum's 17-minute long In Held Twas I, from their 1968 album Shine On Brightly, is usually cited as the first progressive rock suite. The title comes from the first word of each section of the piece that contains vocals (several sections are purely instrumental). The work contains some of the best early work from guitarist Robin Trower, who would leave the group a few years later for a solo career. Shine On Brightly was the last Procol Harum album to include organist Matthew Fisher, who came up with the famous opening riff for the group's first hit, A Whiter Shade Of Pale.

Artist: Dino Valenti
Title: Let's Get Together
Source: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70
Writer: Chet Powers
Label: Rhino
Year: 1964
At first glance this may look like a cover tune. In reality, though, Dino Valenti was one of several aliases used by the guy who was born Chester Powers. Perhaps this was brought on by his several encounters with the law, most of which led to jail time. By all accounts, Valenti was one of the more bombastic characters on the San Francisco scene. The song was first commercially recorded by Jefferson Airplane in 1966, but it wasn't until 1969, when the Youngbloods shortened the title to Get Together, that the song became a major hit.

Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: The Times They Are A-Changin'
Source: CD: The Best Of The Original Mono Recordings (originally released on LP: The Times They Are A-Changin')
Writer: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia/Legacy
Year: 1964
I vaguely remember seeing a movie back in the 80s (I think it may have been called The Wanderers) about a late-50s gang from an Italian-American neighborhood somewhere in New York City. I really don't remember much about the plot of the film, but I do remember a bit near the end, where the main character walks down a street in Greenwich Village and hears the sound of Bob Dylan coming from a coffee house singing The Times They Are A-Changin'. I've often thought of that scene and how it symbolized the shift from the conformist culture of the late 50s (represented by the peer pressure-driven gang life) giving way to the turbulence that would characterize the 1960s.

Artist: Five Americans
Title: I See The Light
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Durrill/Ezell/Rabon
Label: Rhino (original label: Abnak)
Year: 1965
For years I was under the impression that the Five Americans were a Texas band, mainly due to Abnak Records having a Texas address. It turns out, though, that the band was actually from Durant, Oklahoma, although by the time they had their biggest hit, Western Union, they were playing most of their gigs in the Lone Star state. I See The Light is an earlier single built around a repeating Farfisa organ riff that leads into a song that can only be described as in your face.

Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
Title: A Hazy Shade Of Winter
Source: CD: Collected Works (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Bookends)
Writer: Paul Simon
Label: Columbia
Year: 1966
Originally released as a single in 1966, A Hazy Shade Of Winter was one of several songs written for the film The Graduate. The only one of these actually used in the film was Mrs. Robinson. The remaining songs eventually made up side two of the 1968 album Bookends, although several of them were also released as singles throughout 1967. A Hazy Shade Of Winter, being the first of these singles (and the only one released in 1966), was also the highest charting, peaking at # 13 just as the weather was turning cold. This is the only song this week that will also be included on our cool yule show, "Stuck With The Hermit At Yuletide", coming up in just a couple of weeks.

Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Title: Time Machine
Source: CD: Heavy Hitters (originally released on LP: On Time)
Writer: Mark Farner
Label: Capitol
Year: 1969
Universally panned by the rock press, the first Grand Funk Railroad album, On Time, was at best a moderate success when it was first released. Thanks to the band's extensive touring, however, GFR had built up a sizable following by the time their self-titled follow up LP (aka the Red Album) was released in 1970. That year, Grand Funk Railroad became the first rock band to chalk up four gold albums in the same year, with Closer To Home and their double-LP live album joining the first two studio albums. One of the most popular tracks from On Time was Time Machine, which captures the essence of the band's early years.

Artist: James Gang
Title: Tend My Garden/Garden Gate
Source: James Gang Rides Again
Writer: Joe Walsh
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
Year: 1970
Cleveland, Ohio's James Gang spent so much time on the road promoting their first album, Takes Off, that they didn't have much material ready when it came time to record a follow-up LP. The group found itself actually writing songs in the studio and recording them practically as they were being written. Guitarist/lead vocalist Joe Walsh, meanwhile, had some acoustic songs he had been working on, and it was decided that the new album would have one side of electric hard rock songs while the other would be an acoustic side. The opening tracks for the second side of the album were Tend My Garden, which features Walsh on both organ and guitar, followed by Garden Gate, a Walsh solo piece.

Artist: Mother Earth
Title: Tonight The Sky's About To Cry
Source: LP: Bring Me Home
Writer: Kaz/Andreolli
Label: Reprise
Year: 1971
Mother Earth was one of those bands that was highly respected among the musicians' community, but was never able to achieve major commercial success. The band was formed by Tracy Nelson, who had migrated to the San Francisco area from her native Wisconson in the early 1960s and had moderate success locally as an acoustic artist. Although Mother Earth disbanded in the early 70s, Nelson has continued to record over the years for various labels and has appeared on such TV shows as Austin City Limits. Although Nelson wrote the bulk of Mother Earth's material, the band occassionally recorded songs from outside songwriters such as Tonight The Sky's About To Cry from the album Bring Me Home, the band's only LP on the Reprise label.

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