Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1210 (starts 3/8/12)

Artist: Vagrants
Title: Respect
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Otis Redding
Label: Rhino (original label: Atco)
Year: 1967
Sounding a lot like the Rascals, the Vagrants were a popular Long Island band led by singer Peter Sabatino and best remembered for being the group that had guitarist Leslie Weinstein in it. Weinstein would change his last name to West and record a solo album called Mountain before forming the band of the same name. This version of Respect is fairly faithful to the original Otis Redding version. Unfortunately for the Vagrants, Aretha Franklin would release her rearranged version of the song just a few weeks after the Vagrants, relegating their version of the tune (and the Vagrants themselves) to footnote status.

Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: You Keep Me Hangin' On
Source: CD: Psychedelic Pop (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Holland/Dozier/Holland
Label: BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Atco)
Year: 1967
The Vanilla Fudge version of You Keep Me Hangin' On was originally recorded and released in 1967, not too long after the Supremes version of the song finished its own run on the charts. It wasn't until the following year, however, the the Vanilla Fudge recording caught on with radio listeners, turning it into the band's only top 40 hit. Although progressive FM stations often played the longer LP version, it was the mono single edit heard here that was most familiar to listeners of top 40 radio.

Artist: Country Joe And The Fish
Title: Death Sound Blues
Source: LP: The Life And Times Of Country Joe And The Fish (originally released on LP: Electric Music For The Mind And Body)
Writer(s): Joe McDonald
Label: Vanguard
Year: 1967
I generally use the term "psychedelic" to describe a musical attitude that existed during a particular period of time rather than a specific style of music. On the other hand, the term "acid rock" is better suited for describing music that was composed and/or performed under the influence of certain mind-expanding substances. That said, the first album by Country Joe and the Fish is a classic example of acid rock. I mean, really, is there any other way to describe Death Sound Blues than "the blues on acid"?

Artist: Mystery Trend
Title: Johnny Was A Good Boy
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Nagle/Cuff
Label: Rhino (original label: Verve)
Year: 1967
The Mystery Trend was a bit of an anomaly. Contemporaries of bands such as the Great! Society and the Charlatans, the Trend always stood a bit apart from the rest of the crowd, playing to an audience that was both a bit more affluent and a bit more "adult" (they were reportedly the house band at a Sausalito strip club). Although they played in the city itself as early as 1965, they did not release their first record until early 1967. The song, Johnny Was A Good Boy, tells the story of a seemingly normal middle-class kid who turns out to be a monster, surprising friends, family and neighbors. The same theme would be used by XTC in the early 1980s in the song No Thugs In Our House, one of the standout tracks from their landmark English Settlement album.

Artist: Eric Burdon and the Animals
Title: Sky Pilot
Source: CD: Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Burdon/Briggs/Weider/McCulloch/Jenkins
Label: Priority (original label: M-G-M)
Year: 1968
The original album version of Eric Burdon And The Animals anti-war anthem Sky Pilot runs about seven minutes; way too long to fit on one side of a 45 RPM single. The solution was to follow in the footsteps of the various jazz recordings that had run into the same problem over the years (starting with Cozy Cole's Topsy): spread the recording out over both sides of the record, fading the song down at the end of side one and back up at the beginning of side two (with enough overlap that an ambitious person with a tape recorder could splice the two back together if he or she so desired). The version of Sky Pilot heard here is side one of the single, which was generally what got played on top 40 radio in 1968.

Artist: Lovin' Spoonful
Title: Words
Source: LP: Till I Run With You (aka Revelation: Revolution '69)
Writer(s): Dino/Sembello
Label: Kama Sutra
Year: 1969
When John Sebastian left the Lovin' Spoonful to embark on a solo career, the remaining members of the band (probably under pressure from their label, Kama Sutra, which was pretty much a one-artist label), attempted to continue on without him, with drummer Joe Butler taking over the lead vocals. They released an album in 1969 that was supposed to be called Till I Run With You. The album cover featured three nude figures (two human, male and female, with a strategically placed lion) running across a verdant field (I always wanted to use "verdant" in a sentence). The record company, however, decided to instead call the album Revelation: Revolution '69, which was the title of the album's only single release, and displayed that title in large letters at the top of the album cover. The label on the record itself, however, still had the original title on it. As it turns out, the single failed to chart and the LP didn't sell enough copies to warrant a second pressing, so (as far as I can tell), all the copies in existence still carry the title Till I Run With You on the label. You'll notice that I don't say anything about the song Words, which in my opinion is as unremarkable as the album itself. But you listen to it and tell me what you think.

Artist: Sugarloaf
Title: Things Gonna Change Some
Source: LP: Sugarloaf
Writer(s): Corbetta/Van Dorn/Raymond/Webber
Label: Liberty
Year: 1970
Most 70s rock bands are known more for their albums than for individual songs. One exception to this is Sugarloaf, one of the most successful bands to come from Denver, Colorado. Their debut single, Green-Eyed Lady, was a huge hit, yet all but a handful of hardcore Sugarloaf fans would be hard-pressed to name any other song on the group's first LP. In an effort to give some exposure to the rest of the album we have Things Gonna Change Some, the six and a half minute closing track on the LP. Enjoy!

Artist: Janis Joplin
Title: My Baby
Source: LP: Pearl
Writer(s): Ragovoy/Schuman
Label: Columbia
Year: 1971
By far the most polished of Janis Joplin's albums was Pearl, recorded in 1970 and released in January of 1971. Much of the credit for the album's sound has to go to Paul Rothchild, who had already made his reputation producing the Doors. Another factor was the choice of material to record. In addition to some of Joplin's originals such as Mercedes Benz and Move Over, the LP featured several songs from songwriter Jerry Ragovoy, who had co-written Joplin's first big hit with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Piece Of My Heart. Working with another legendary songwriter, Doc Schuman, Ragovoy provided some of Joplin's most memorable songs on the album, including My Baby, a song that suited Joplin's vocal style perfectly.

Artist: Byrds
Title: Turn! Turn! Turn!
Source: LP: Turn! Turn! Turn!
Writer(s): Pete Seeger
Label: Columbia
Year: 1965
After their success covering Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man, the band turned to an even more revered songwriter: the legendary Pete Seeger. Turn! Turn! Turn!, with lyrics taken directly from the book of Ecclesiastes, was first recorded by Seeger in the early 60s, nearly three years after he wrote the song.

Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
Title: 59th Street Bridge Song
Source: CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme)
Writer(s): Paul Simon
Label: Columbia
Year: 1966
Simon And Garfunkel's 59th Street Bridge Song features two members of the Dave Brubeck Quartet: bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello. The song first appeared as an album track on Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme in 1966 and was then released as the B side of the 1967 single At The Zoo. Finally in 1970 the song was re-released, this time as an A side of a single after Simon And Garfunkel had split up.

Artist: Otis Redding
Title: Shake
Source: LP: Historic Performances Recorded At The Monterey International Pop Festival
Writer(s): Sam Cooke
Label: Reprise
Year: 1967
One of the most electrifying performances at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival was given by Otis Redding, ably supported by Booker T. and the MGs with the Bar-Kays horn section. Redding's set was scheduled to close out the second night of the festival (Saturday), and due to delays caused by persistent rain, his performance was cut short. The opening song of Redding's set was an energetic version of Sam Cooke's Shake, an ironic choice considering that Redding, at the beginning of his recording career two years earlier, hold told friends that his primary goal was to fill the gap left by his idol, Cooke, who had been shot in his hotel room in late 1964. Redding's appearance at Monterey is generally considered a turning point in a career that, if it had not been cut short by a fatal plane crash less than a year later, could well have surpassed that of his idol (some say it did anyway).

Artist: Procol Harum
Title: Shine On Brightly
Source: LP: Shine On Brightly
Writer(s): Brooker/Reid
Label: A&M
Year: 1968
The original Procol Harum lineup hit their artistic peak with the Shine On Brightly album, considered one of the first progressive rock albums. The title track was released as a single, but only charted in their native UK.

Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Love Story
Source: CD: This Was (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis/Capitol
Year: 1968
Love Story was the last studio recording by the original Jethro Tull lineup of Ian Anderson, Mick Abrahams, Clive Bunker and Glenn Cornish. The song was released as a single following the band's debut LP, This Was. Shortly after it's release Abrahams left the group, citing differences with Anderson over the band's musical direction. The song spent eight weeks on the UK singles chart, reaching the #29 spot. In the U.S., "Love Story" was released in March 1969, with A Song for Jeffrey (an album track from This Was) on the B-side, but did not chart. Like most songs released as singles in the UK, Love Story did not appear on an album until several years later; in this case on the 1973 anthology album Living In The Past. It has most recently been included as a bonus track on the expanded CD version of Jethro Tull's debut album, This Was.

Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Crosstown Traffic
Source: CD: Electric Ladyland
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Legacy (original label: Reprise)
Year: 1968
By 1968 it didn't matter one bit whether the Jimi Hendrix Experience had any hit singles; their albums were guaranteed to be successful. Nonetheless the Electric Ladyland album had no less that three singles on it (although one was a new stereo mix of a 1967 single). The first single to be released concurrently with Electric Ladyland was Crosstown Traffic, a song that has been included on several anthologies over the years.

Artist: Seeds
Title: Excuse, Excuse
Source: LP: The Seeds
Writer(s): Sky Saxon
Label: GNP Crescendo
Year: 1966
Although they branded themselves as the original flower power band, the Seeds have a legitimate claim to being one of the first punk-rock bands as well. A prime example is Excuse, Excuse, from their 1966 debut LP, The Seeds. Whereas a more conventional song of the time might have been an angst-ridden tale of worry that perhaps the girl in question did not return the singer's feelings, Sky Saxon's lyrics (delivered with a sneer that would do Johnny Rotten proud) are instead a scathing condemnation of said girl for not being straight up honest about the whole thing.

Artist: Cyrkle
Title: Money To Burn
Source: LP: Red Rubber Ball
Writer(s): Don Dannemann
Label: Columbia
Year: 1966
By late 1966 surf music was pretty much gone from the top 40 charts. The Beach Boys, however, had managed to adapt to changing audience tastes without abandoning the distinctive vocal harmonies that had made them stand out from their early 60s contemporaries. In fact, several other bands had sprung up with similar vocal styles. One of the most successful of these (at least in the short term) was the Cyrkle. Led by vocalist/guitarist Don Dannemann, the group hit the scene with two consecutive top 10 singles, both of which were included on the band's debut LP, Red Rubber Ball. Although manager Brian Epstein had the group recording mostly songs from outside sources, there were a handful of Cyrkle originals on the album, including Danneman's Money To Burn, which was also issued as the B side to the band's third single.

Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: Hideaway
Source: CD: Underground
Writer(s): Lowe/Tulin
Label: Collector's Choice (original label: Reprise)
Year: 1967
After the moderately successful first Electric Prunes album, producer David Hassinger loosened the reigns a bit for the followup, Underground. Among the original tunes on Underground was Hideaway, a song that probably would have been a better choice as a single than what actually got released: a novelty tune called Dr. Feelgood written by Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz, who had also written the band's first hit, I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night).

Artist: Beatles
Title: Julia
Source: CD: The Beatles
Writer(s): Lennon/McCartney
Label: Parlophone (original label: Apple)
Year: 1968
John Lennon's songwriting continued to take a more personal turn with the 1968 release of The Beatles, also known as the White Album. Perhaps the best example of this is the song Julia. The song was written for Lennon's mother, who had been killed by a drunk driver in 1958, although it also has references to Lennon's future wife Yoko Ono (Yoko translates into English as Ocean Child). Julia is the only 100% solo John Lennon recording to appear on a Beatle album.

Artist: Iron Butterfly
Title: It Must Be Love
Source: LP: Ball
Writer(s): Doug Ingle
Label: Atco
Year: 1969
Although it did not contain anything like the monster hit In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, the third Iron Butterfly LP, Ball, was probably a better album overall. The first single released from the album was In The Time Of Our Lives, backed with It Must Be Love, a tune that features some nice guitar work from Eric Brann, who would soon be leaving the band for an unsuccessful solo career.

Artist: Black Sabbath
Title: Hand Of Doom
Source: CD: Paranoid
Writer(s): Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward
Label: Warner Brothers
Year: 1970
Given the reputation and history of Black Sabbath, it may come as a surprise that Hand Of Doom, from the band's second LP, Paranoid, is actually an anti-drug song. It's also seven minutes of some of the heaviest rock recorded up to that point.

Artist: Blue Cheer
Title: Second Time Around
Source: LP: Vincebus Eruptum
Writer(s): Dick Peterson
Label: Philips
Year: 1968
Blue Cheer was the loudest, heaviest band on the San Francisco scene, and maybe the whole world in 1968, and Second Time Around was the most feedback-drenched track on their debut album, Vincebus Eruptum. Appropriately, it was also the closing track on the LP.

Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: The Last Time
Source: LP: Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass)
Writer(s): Jagger/Richards
Label: London
Year: 1965
Released in late winter of 1965, The Last Time was the first single to hit the top 10 in both the US and the UK (being their third consecutive #1 hit in England) and the first one written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Despite that, it would be overshadowed by their next release: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, which went to the top of the charts everywhere and ended up being the #1 song of 1965.

Artist: Blues Project
Title: I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes
Source: CD: Anthology (originally released on LP: Projections)
Writer(s): Al Kooper
Label: Polydor (original label: Verve Forecast)
Year: 1966
One lasting legacy of the British Invasion was the re-introduction to the US record-buying public to the songs of early Rhythm and Blues artists such as Blind Willie Johnson. This emphasis on classic blues in particular would lead to the formation of electric blues-based US bands such as the Butterfield Blues Band and the Blues Project. Unlike the Butterfields, who made a conscious effort to remain true to their Chicago-style blues roots, the Blues Project was always looking for new ground to cover, which ultimately led to them developing an improvisational style that would be emulated by west coast bands such as the Grateful Dead, and by Project member Al Kooper, who conceived and produced the first rock jam LP ever, Super Session, in 1968. As the opening track to their second (and generally considered best) LP Projections, I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes served notice that this was a new kind of blues, louder and brasher than what had come before, yet tempered with Kooper's melodic vocal style. An added twist was the use during the song's instrumental bridge of an experimental synthesizer known among band members as the "Kooperphone", probably the first use of any type of synthesizer in a blues record.

Artist: Kinks
Title: Big Black Smoke
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Ray Davies
Label: Reprise
Year: 1967
The Kinks had some of the best B sides of the 60s. Case in point: Big Black Smoke, which appeared as the flip of Dead End Street in early 1967. The song deals with a familiar phenomenon of the 20th century: the small town girl that gets a rude awakening after moving to the big city. In this case the city was London, known colloquially as "the Smoke".

Artist: Uriah Heep
Title: Echoes In The Dark
Source: LP: The Magician's Birthday
Writer(s): Ken Hensley
Label: Mercury
Year: 1972
Uriah Heep followed up their breakthrough LP, Demons And Wizards, with the similarly-styled The Magician's Birthday. Both albums were released in 1972 and featured strong lead vocals by David Byron. Echoes In The Dark is a somewhat typical song of the period for the band.

Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Title: I Want Freedom
Source: LP: Survival
Writer(s): Mark Farner
Label: Capitol
Year: 1971
After being savaged by the rock press for their first three studio albums, Grand Funk Railroad mellowed their hard rocking sound a bit with their 1971 LP Survival. It was the first Grand Funk album to feature keyboards (played by lead guitarist Mark Farner) extensively, as a listen to I Want Freedom, which opens side two of the album, demonstrates.

Artist: Monkees
Title: Porpoise Song
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released on LP: Head)
Writer(s): Goffin/King
Label: Rhino (original label: Colgems)
Year: 1968
In 1968 the Monkees, trying desperately to shed a teeny-bopper image, enlisted Jack Nicholson to co-write a feature film that was a 180-degree departure from their recently-cancelled TV show. This made sense, since the original fans of the show were by then already outgrowing the group. Unfortunately, by 1968 the Monkees brand was irrevocably tainted by the fact that the Monkees had not been allowed to play their own instruments on their first two albums. The movie Head itself was the type of film that was best suited to being shown in theaters that specialized in "art" films, but that audience was among the most hostile to the Monkees and the movie bombed. It is now considered a cult classic.

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