Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1638 (starts 9/21/16)
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Hymn 43
Source: LP: Aqualung
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
The 1971 Jethro Tull album Aqualung saw Ian Anderson taking on the religious establishment with tunes like Hymn 43. He had already fired the first shot a couple years before with Christmas Song, but this time he had an entire album side to work with, and he did not pull any punches with his scathing criticism of what he perceived as rampant hypocrisy within the Anglican church.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: A Passion Play- Edit #8
Source: LP: "M.U." The Best Of Jethro Tull (originally released on LP: A Passion Play
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
On the 1971 album Aqualung, Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson took on the religious establishment. The following year the band broke new ground by releasing Thick As A Brick, a single track that took up both sides of a conventional LP record. Both were commercial successes with generally favorable reviews from the rock press. The band's next studio LP, A Passion Play, was another story. Like Thick As A Brick, A Passion Play was one long piece stretched out over an entire album. The problem was that Thick As A Brick was actually a satirical piece that worked on more than one level, while A Passion Play took itself far more seriously. Although commercially successful at first, the album got mostly negative reviews from the rock press, and is generally considered to be the beginning of the band's decline in popularity. As a way of making the album more radio-friendly, a special pressing was sent to stations dividing the piece into 10 numbered edits, with #8 also issued as a single. When it came time for the band to issue a greatest hits album, A Passion Play edit #8 was selected for inclusion. Personally I would have gone with #9, which was issued as the B side of the single. Shows what I know.
Artist: Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM)
Title: Out Of The Roundabout
Source: LP: Chocolate Kings
Premiata Forneria Marconi (English translation: The Award Winning Marconi Bakery) was the first Italian rock band to place albums on the British and American charts. Part of the reason for this is the fact that, beginning in 1973, they began to reissue their original albums with new English lyrics overdubbed over the original Italian. This made their material more accessible to English-speaking audiences, although their appeal was mainly due to their complex progressive rock arrangements (and the fact that they were proficient enough on their instrumentst to play those arrangements). In 1975 they attempted to take it a step further by adding a new lead vocalist, Bernardo Lanzetti, and actually writing the original lyrics for their album Chocolate Kings in English (as opposed to using translations of the original Italian lyrics). In some cases, such as Out Of The Roundabout, the change was for the better, although overall the group was still perceived as being weak in the vocals department.
Artist: Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso
Title: Nothing's The Same/Traccia II
Source: LP: Banco
Progressive rock was a bigger deal in Europe than in the US in the 1970s. I'm not sure exactly why that is, but it's a fact that bands like Nektar (from Germany) and Gentle Giant (UK) really had no American counterparts. One hotspot of popularity for the genre was Italy, where, for a couple of years, the most popular band in the country was Emerson, Lake And Palmer. In fact, it was ELP's label, Manticore, that brought two of Italy's most popular local bands, PFM and Banco, to the attention of the English-speaking world. In Banco's case, their first US release contained several songs that had been issued on their three Italian albums, but newly-recorded with English lyrics. The climax of the self-titled Banco album was a ten minute long piece called Nothing Is The Same, which leads directly into a short reprise of Traccia, the album's opening theme. The piece showcases the band's strengths, not the least of which are the operatic vocals of Francesco Di Giacomo.
Title: Astral Traveller
Source: CD: Yesterdays (originally released on LP: Time And A Word)
Writer(s): Jon Anderson
The original lineup of Yes (Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Bill Bruford, Peter Banks and Tony Kaye) only recorded two albums. The second of these was Time And A Word, released in 1970. Most of the tracks on the album included orchestral backing; this was done at the insistence of vocalist Jon Anderson, who wrote much of the band's material. Guitarist Peter Banks was against the idea of using strings, and ended up leaving the band not long after the release of Time And A Word. One of the few tracks without any orchestral backup is a song called Astral Traveller, which was included on the 1975 compilation album Yesterdays. It's also pretty much the best early Yes track I've heard, which leads me to believe that Anderson may have been using the orchestra on the other songs as an attempt to salvage relatively weak material.
Artist: James Gang
Title: Walk Away
Source: LP: The Best Of Joe Walsh (originally released on LP: Thirds)
Writer: Joe Walsh
The third James Gang album was the last for Joe Walsh, who left the band to pursue a solo career for a few years before hooking up with the Eagles. One of his best known songs, Walk Away, leads off the album. The recording uses multi-tracking extensively toward the end of the song, with multiple guitar parts cascading into what Walsh himself called a "train wreck".
Artist: Mott The Hoople
Title: Sweet Jane
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Lou Reed
After four only moderately successful albums, England's Mott The Hoople was on the verge of disbanding when David Bowie stepped in to help the struggling band, first by giving them All The Young Dudes to record, then by producing the album of the same name. The LP itself only contained one other cover song besides the title track: Lou Reed's Sweet Jane, which had come out on the Velvet Underground's Loaded album in 1970. Sweet Jane ended up being the third single from All The Young Dudes, but, oddly enough, the single was not released in the band's home country.
Artist: Doobie Brothers
Title: Ukiah/The Captain And Me
Source: CD The Captain And Me
Writer(s): Tom Johnston
Label: Warner Brothers
Following up on the success of their second LP, Toulouse Street, the Doobie Brothers quickly went to work on their third LP, releasing The Captain And Me in March of 1973. The longest track on the album was the title track itself, which closes out the second side of the LP. The track is made even longer by the fact that Ukiah, the song that precedes it, crossfades into The Captain And Me for a combined running time of nearly eight minutes. Although neither song was released as a single, Ukiah received a fair amount of airplay on progressive rock radio stations in the 1970s and was a concert favorite.
Artist: Beach Boys
Title: Sail On, Sailor
Source: CD: Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys (originally released on LP: Holland)
Label: Capitol (original label: Brother/Reprise)
By late 1972 the Beach Boys had all but abandoned their surf roots, with their name itself being the main link with the past. At the same time they were starting to regain favor with the rock press, which had been highly critical of the band's early 1970s material. For their 19th studio album they sent an entire recording studio to the Netherlands from Californian and reconstructed it there in the village of Baambrugge. The album was submitted to Reprise Records in October of 1972, but was rejected by the label for lacking a potential hit single. Lyricist Van Dyke Parks, who had been working with Brian Wilson since the aborted Smile project of 1966-67, hastily conferred with executives at Warner Brothers Records (owners of Reprise), and came up with a plan. He and Wilson had recently completed a demo of a song called Sail On, Sailor, which he then played for the label. The shirts liked the tune, and convinced the band to record the song in the studio as a replacement for what the label saw as the weakest track on the original version of Holland, a song called We Got Love. By the time the track was completed, several other people, including the band's manager, had claimed co-writing credits on the song, and Sail On, Sailor was added to Holland. The album was released and Sail On, Sailor became the most successful Beach Boys single of the decade. Surprisingly, the song did even better on progressive rock radio, becoming a staple of the format.
Artist: Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come
Title: Spirit Of Joy
Source: British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Journey)
Writer(s): Kingdom Come
One of the great innovators in British rock history, Arthur Brown is best known for his 1968 hit Fire, which topped the charts in several countries. After his original band, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown disbanded in 1969, Brown formed a new group, Kingdom Come, which released three albums in the early 1970s. The third of these, Journey, is notable for being the first rock album to use a drum machine exclusively for its percussion parts. In fact, the entire album is now considered to be an early classic of the electronic rock genre, as can be plainly heard on the track Spirit Of Joy.