Monday, August 29, 2016

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1635 (starts 8/31/16)

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Holy Holy
Source:    CD: Sound+Vision Catalogue Sampler #1 (originally released in the UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Ryko (original label: Mercury)
Year:    1970
    One of the most obscure David Bowie tracks ever recorded, Holy Holy was originally released as the A side of a 1970 single, but only in a handful of countries, none of which were in the Western Hemisphere. The song stayed out of print until 1990, when it was included as a bonus track on the CD version of The Man Who Sold The World.

Artist:    Alice Cooper
Title:    Dead Babies
Source:    LP: Killer
Writer(s):    Cooper/Smith/Buxon/Bruce/Dunaway
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1971
    Alice Cooper raised a lot of eyebrows when they released a song called Dead Babies on their 1971 Killer album. Because of the band's reputation for outrageousness, a lot of people assumed that the song must be about some sort of imaginary deviant behavior. Unfortunately, the truth is  far worse. Dead Babies, in fact, is about a very real form of behavior that is all too common in the modern world: child neglect, and its tragic consequences. Sadly, thanks to an economy that forces both parents to maintain full time jobs just to get by, the problem has only gotten worse in recent years.

Artist:    Stevie Wonder
Title:    Maybe Your Baby
Source:    LP: Talking Book
Writer(s):    Stevie Wonder
Label:    Tamla
Year:    1972
    By the early 1970s Stevie Wonder had dropped the "Little" that had prefixed his name early in his career and was fast becoming one of Motown's most respected artists. Although Wonder's so-called "classic period" is generally acknowledged to begin with his Music Of My Mind album, it was with his 1972 release, Talking Book, that he really hit his stride. The album featured two major hits, You Are The Sunshine Of My Life (which got him a Grammy award for Best Male Pop Vocal) and Superstition, one of the first songs by a black artist to be embraced by progressive rock radio. One of the most overlooked songs on the album was Maybe Your Baby, which may be because it's almost impossible to pigeonhole as one kind or song or another. Basically, it's just pure Stevie Wonder.

Artist:    Brownsville Station
Title:    Smokin' In The Boys' Room
Source:    CD: Electric Seventies
Writer(s):    Koda/Lutz
Label:    JCI/Warner Special Products
Year:    1973
    No list of one-hit wonders would be complete without including Brownsville Station, whose Smokin' In The Boys Room became a sort of unofficial high school anthem in 1973. I didn't have very high expectations when I went to see them as the opening act for Joe Cocker and Foghat a couple of years later, but I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at their overall performance (basically blowing both headliners off the stage). I had assumed from their name that they were a Texas band, but it turns out they were actually from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Artist:    Stray Dog
Title:    Worldwinds
Source:    LP: While You're Down There
Writer(s):    Snuffy Walden
Label:    Manticore
Year:    1974
    William Garrett "Snuffy" Walden is best known for the music he has composed over the past thirty years for various TV shows, including Thirtysomething, The Wonder Years, Roseanne, Friday Night Lights and The West Wing (for which he won an Emmy award). Before that, however, he was an accomplished guitarist, working with such notables as Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and Eric Burdon and filling in for an ailing Paul Kossoff on Free's final album, Heartbreaker. For me his most impressive work, however, was with Stray Dog, a Denver-based band that Walden had started in his native Texas. Stray Dog recorded two albums for Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Manticore label, the second of which was While You're Down There. Walden wrote the final track on While You're Down There, an instrumental called Worldwinds that showscases Walden's considerable talent, both as a guitarist and as a composer.

Artist:    Return To Forever
Title:    No Mystery
Source:    LP: No Mystery
Writer(s):    Chick Corea
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1975
    When it comes to jazz-rock fusion, generally the first name that comes to mind is Chick Corea, founder of Return To Forever. The band was formed out of Corea's desire to better "communicate" with an audience than was possible with the avant-garde jazz he had been performing with his previous band, Circle. Along with bassist Stanley Clarke, Corea oversaw the evolution of Return To Forever over the years from a Latin-based sound featuring Flora Purim and her husband Airto Moreira into one of the first true jazz-rock fusion bands. By 1975 Corea had become well-versed in the use of synthesizers, as can be heard on the album No Mystery. On the album Corea and Clarke were joined by guitarist Al DiMeola and drummer Lenny White for what is now considered the "classic" Return To Forever lineup. Corea himself wrote the title track, which is probably the best-known tune on the album.

Artist:    Rod Stewart
Title:    Handbags And Gladrags
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Mike D'Abo
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1969
    Although not released as a single until 1972, Rod Stewart's version of Handbags And Gladrags actually appeared on his debut LP, The Rod Stewart Album, in late 1969. That same album was released in the UK in early 1970 under the title An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down. The song itself was written by Mike D'Abo, the lead vocalist for Manfred Mann. D'Abo arranged the Stewart version of the song, and played piano on the track as well.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    To Cry You A Song
Source:    CD: Benefit
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Capitol/Chrysalis
Year:    1970
    Jethro Tull's third LP, Benefit, saw the band, er, benefiting from the success of their previous two albums, and being allowed more artistic freedom by their label, Chrysalis. The songs tended to be a bit longer than those on either This Was or Stand Up, and more closely represents Ian Anderson's musical vision, which had been turning increasingly darker over the previous year due to a growing disillusionment with the record industry itself. One of the best examples of these trends is the opening track of side two of the LP, To Cry You A Song. According to guitarist Martin Barre the song, which runs over six minutes in length, was a response to Blind Faith's Had To Cry Today. Unlike later Jethro Tull works, the song was basically recorded live in the studio, with only a couple of overdubs (including Barre's guitar solo) added later.

Artist:    Focus
Title:    Hocus Pocus
Source:    LP: Moving Waves
Writer(s):    van Leer/Akkerman
Label:    Sire
Year:    1971
    Although it was not a hit until 1973, Hocus Pocus by the Dutch progressive rock band Focus has the type of simple structure coupled with high energy that was characteristic of many of the garage bands of the mid to late 60s. The song was originally released on the band's second LP, known alternately as Focus II and Moving Waves, in 1971. Both guitarist Jan Akkerman and keyboardist/vocalist/flautist Thijs Van Leer have gone on to have successful careers, with Van Leer continuing to use to Focus name as recently as 2006.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    3rd Stone From The Sun
Source:    LP: Are You Experienced?
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1967
    Jimi Hendrix once stated that he was far more comfortable as a guitarist than as a vocalist, at least in the early days of the Experience. In that case, he was certainly in his element for this classic instrumental from the Are You Experienced album. Many of the sounds heard on 3rd Stone From The Sun were made by superimposing a slowed down recording of the following conversation between Hendrix and producer Chas Chandler over the music:
    Hendrix :   Star fleet to scout ship, please give your position. Over.
    Chandler : I am in orbit around the third planet of star known as sun. Over.
    Hendrix :   May this be Earth? Over.
    Chandler : Positive. It is known to have some form of intelligent species. Over.
    Hendrix :   I think we should take a look (Jimi then makes vocal spaceship noises).
    One of the more notable spoken lines that plays at normal speed on the recording, "To you I shall put an end, then you'll never hear surf music again", was Hendrix's reaction to the news that famed surf guitarist Dick Dale had been diagnosed with a possible terminal case of colon cancer and was meant to encourage his friend's recovery (apparently it worked, as Dick Dale is still going strong as of 2016).  As heard on the 2007 album The Jimi Hendrix Experience: 1966–1967, Hendrix's original overdub included two more sentences "That sounds like a lie to me. Come on, man; let's go home." that were not used on the final recording. The train sequence at the end of the track, incidentally, was done entirely on guitar.

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