Monday, August 15, 2016

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion #1633 (starts 8/17/16)

You may have noticed there is no link to the PRX audio this time around. The reason is actually pretty simple. This show is also included as a third hour of this week's edition of Stuck in the Psychedelic Era. This will be the case up through Labor Day weekend. From that point on the link will be back and the two will be treated as separate shows.

Artist:    Quicksilver Messenger Service
Title:    Wolf Run (Part 2)
Source:    British import CD: Just For Love
Writer(s):    Dino Valenti
Label:    BGO (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1970
    Fans of Quicksilver Messenger Service's first three LPs were somewhat shocked when the band's fourth LP, Just For Love, was released in 1970. Gone were the improvisational jams that had become the band's trademark, replaced by a set of shorter tunes written by founding member Dino Valenti, who had been absent from the band's lineup literally from the day the group was formed (he was busted for Marijuana and spent the years 1968-69 in prison). Not all of these songs were bursting with commercial potential, however. Wolf Run, an experimental piece that resembles some of Pink Floyd's recordings from around the same time, was split into two parts and served as bookends for the entire album. The second part, which is actually the longer of the two, runs just barely over two minutes.

Artist:    Marshall Tucker Band
Title:    Heard It In A Love Song
Source:    LP: Greatest Hits (originally released on LP: Carolina Dreams)
Writer(s):    Toy Caldwell
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1977
    Country-rock was one of the new hybrid genres that rose to prominence in the 1970s. Building on foundations established by the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield, bands like Pure Prarie League and Poco rose in popularity as the decade wore on. One of the most successful country-rock groups was the Marshall Tucker Band, who managed to place Heard It In A Love Song on the Top 40, Country and Adult Contemporary charts simultaneously in 1977.

Artist:    Starcastle
Title:    Forces
Source:    LP: Starcastle (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Tassler/Luttrell/Strater/Schildt/Stewart/Hagler
Label:    Epic
Year:    1976
    Formed in Champaign, Illinois in 1969, Starcastle was a fixture on the St. Louis music scene (including local radio stations) throughout the 1970s. They were hampered in their bid for national stardom, however, by a percieved similarity to the British band Yes. Lead vocalist Terry Luttrell in particular (who had been the original lead vocalist of REO Speedwagon) was criticized for trying to sound too much like Jon Anderson. I'll leave it to you to decide how much of this criticism is valid as you listen to Forces, from Starcastle's self-titled 1976 debut for the Epic label.

Artist:    Mahogany Rush
Title:    Dancing Lady
Source:    Canadian import CD: Strange Universe
Writer(s):    Frank Marino
Label:    Just A Minute (original label: 20th Century)
Year:    1975
    When it comes to Canadian musicians, the first names that come to mind are Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot, with the Guess Who immediately following. Often overlooked, however, is Mahogany Rush, a band that features the talented singer/songwriter Frank Marino on lead guitar. Marino has been accused of trying to rip off Jimi Hendrix, but I see it more as channeling the master guitarist rather than stealing from him. And let's face it: very few people have been able to do it better than Marino, as can be heard on Dancing Lady, from the third Mahogany Rush album Strange Universe.

    Trivia time: even though our sister show Stuck in the Psychedelic Era (which has been in syndication for over six years now) regularly features tunes from 1970, including tracks from all six of the upcoming artists, none of the following songs have been played on that show. Yeah, it kinda surprised me too.

Artist:    Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young
Title:    déjà vu
Source:    LP: déjà vu
Writer(s):    David Crosby
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    One of the biggest selling albums in the history of rock music, Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young's déjà vu was also one of the most difficult and time-consuming albums ever made. It is estimated that the album, which to date has sold over 8 million copies, took around 800 hours of studio time to record. Most of the tracks were recorded as solo tracks by their respective songwriters, with the other members making whatever contributions were called for. The album also features several guest musicians (including John Sebastian, who plays harmonica on the title track), as well as drummer Dallas Taylor and bassist Greg Reeves, whose names appear in slightly smaller font on the front cover of the album.

Artist:    Ten Years After
Title:    Think About The Times
Source:    CD: Watt
Writer(s):    Alvin Lee
Label:    Chrysalis (original label: Deram)
Year:    1970
    The first Ten Years After I ever bought was Stonedhenge, which I picked up because a) I liked the cover, and b) it was the featured album of the month at the BX, costing a buck and a half instead of the usual $2.50. Not long after that my dad got transferred back to the States, and I somehow missed the release of the next TYA album, Cricklewood Green. A friend of mine had a copy, though, that we spent a lot of time listening to, so when I saw their next album, Watt, on the racks I immediately picked it up. I wore that copy out, and only later learned that the album had gotten mostly negative reviews from the rock press. I think that's when I started to suspect that most rock critics were self-righteous individuals with no talent of their own, because I thought Watt was a good album then and I still think it's a good album. Take a listen to Think About The Times and tell me I'm wrong.

Artist:    Blues Image
Title:    Love Is The Answer
Source:    CD: Open
Writer(s):    Blues Image
Label:    Sundazed (original label: Atco)
Year:    1970
    Blues Image was a band that started off in Tampa, Florida, as the house band for the legendary club Thee Image. They moved out to Los Angeles in 1969, where they developed a following that included several prominent musicians, including guitarist Jimi Hendrix. It was Hendrix that pointed out to the band that they did great arrangements on other people's material but that their own tunes were lacking a certain flair. The solution, it turned out, was to set their own compositions aside for a time, then revist them, treating them the same way they would someone else's songs. Apparently it worked, as can be heard on songs like Love Is The Answer, the powerful opening track for their second LP, Open.

Artist:    Stephen Stills
Title:    Cherokee/We Are Not Helpless
Source:    LP: Stephen Stills
Writer(s):    Stephen Stills
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    Following the released of déjà vu, the members of Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young each went to work on solo projects, with all four albums coming out later the same year. Of the four, Neil Young's After The Gold Rush is the only one considered a classic in its own right, but Stephen Stills' self-titled album comes pretty close. The final two tracks on the album, Cherokee and We Are Not Helpless, overlap enough that it's impossible to play one without including the other. According to Stills himself, We Are Not Helpless is not a response to Neil Young's Helpless (from déjà vu), despite the fact that many rock critics assumed that they knew more about it than the guy who actually wrote the song.

Artist:    Flock
Title:    Truth
Source:    LP: The Flock
Writer(s):    The Flock
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1969
    The city of Chicago is known for spawning rock bands that include a horn section, but the Flock took it a step further by adding electric violin. Jerry Goodman had originally been a roadie for the group, but soon became the focus of the band's performances, combining virtuosity with a willingness to experiment with various electronic effect. Check out the use of a wah-wah pedal, for instance, on Truth, the closing track from the Flock's self-titled 1969 debut LP. After an interesting, but commercially unsuccesful second LP, Dinosaur Swamps, the band started work on a third album, but got derailed when Columbia Records honcho Clive Davis yanked Goodman from the lineup to join John McLaughlin's new project, the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Artist:    Emerson, Lake And Palmer
Title:    The Barbarian
Source:    CD: Emerson, Lake And Palmer
Writer(s):    Bartok, arr. Emerson/Lake/Palmer
Label:    Rhino (original label: Cotillion)
Year:    1970
    Originally credited to the three band members, The Barbarian, from the first Emerson, Lake And Palmer album, is actually a rock arrangement of composer Bela Bartok's 1911 piano piece Allegro Barbaro. The band did not include Bartok's name, assuming that the record label people were handling it. Bartok's family then sued the band for copyright infringement, leading to the band adding the composer's name to the credits on reissues of the album. The recording itself in a way defines the band, as it was used as the opening track on their first LP.

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