Monday, September 26, 2016

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1639 (starts 9/28/16)

Artist:    Steeleye Span
Title:    London
Source:    LP: Rocket Cottage
Writer(s):    Trad. lyrics, music by Steeleye Span
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1976
    The term "folk-rock" meant something entirely different in the UK in the 1970s than it had in the US in the 1960s. Whereas American folk-rock was basically the electrification of the folk music boom that had swept the country in the late 50s and early 60s (instigated by Bob Dylan in 1965), the British folk-rock was based on an English folk music tradition that dated back centuries. Most of the British folk-rock bands drew heavily on material they had learned as schoolchildren and that had long been in the public domain. One of the most popular of these British folk-rock bands was Steeleye Span. The group released nine albums over a five-year period starting in 1971. Unfortunately for the band their ninth album, Rocket Cottage, came out just as punk-rock was taking over the British music scene; bands like Steeleye Span, along with progressive rock bands such as Yes, were soon being referred to as "dinosaurs" by the British rock press. As it turned out, Rocket Cottage would be the last Steeleye Span album to feature founding members Peter Knight and Bob Johnson, although Maddy Prior would continue with the band into the 1980s. Like most of Steeleye Span's material, London, the opening track of Rocket Cottage, combines the lyrics from an old English folk tune and new music from the band members themselves.

Artist:    Love Sculpture
Title:    Blues Helping
Source:    British import CD: Blues Helping
Writer(s):    Williams/Edmunds/Jones
Label:    EMI (original label: Parlophone)
Year:    1968
    When the name Dave Edmunds comes up, it is usually in association with an early 70s remake of the classic Fats Domino tune I Hear You Knockin'. What many people are not aware of, however, is that Edmunds was a major force on the late 60s British blues scene with his band Love Sculpture. The title track of that band's debut LP, Blues Helping, showcases Edmunds's prowess as a guitarist (as does the rest of the album).

Artist:    Blues Image
Title:    Lazy Day Blues
Source:    LP: Blues Image
Writer(s):    Blues Image
Label:    Atco
Year:    1969
    Formed in Tampa, Florida in 1966, Blues Image made a name from themselves in 1968 after they moved to Miami, becoming the house band for the legendary club Thee Image. The band moved to Los Angeles in 1969 and signed with Atco Records, releasing their first LP that same year. Although the album did not produce any hit singles, it managed to achieve a respectable peak in the #122 spot on the Billboard album charts, thanks to solid musicianship, as can be heard on the acoustic ballad Lazy Day Blues.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Ashes The Rain And I
Source:    CD: James Gang Rides Again
Writer(s):    Joe Walsh
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1970
    For their second LP, James Gang Rides Again, the band decided to devote the entire second of the LP to some new acoustic tunes that guitarist Joe Walsh had been working on. The grand finale of the album was Ashes The Rain And I, a tune that embellishes Walsh's guitar and vocals with strings tastefully arranged by Jack Nitzsche.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Going To California
Source:    LP: Led Zeppelin IV
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    The fourth Led Zeppelin album is known for the band's return to a harder rock sound after the acoustic leanings of Led Zeppelin III. There were, however, a couple of acoustic songs on LZ IV, including Going To California, a song that vocalist Robert Plant has since said was about Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. The tune features Plant on vocals, Jimmy Page on acoustic guitar and John Paul Jones on Mandolin.

Artist:    Emerson, Lake And Palmer
Title:    From The Beginning
Source:    CD: Trilogy
Writer(s):    Greg Lake
Label:    Atlantic (original label: Cotillion)
Year:    1972
    Although his primary function in Emerson, Lake And Palmer was to provide lead vocals and play bass lines supporting Keith Emerson's keyboard work, Greg Lake generally got to include one of his own ballads on each ELP album. Usually Lake played acoustic guitar on these tracks, with synthesizer backup from Emerson and little or no drumwork from Carl Palmer. For the band's third LP, Trilogy, Lake provided From The Beginning, one of most melodic tunes in the group's catalog. The song ended up being the band's highest charting single, peaking at # 39.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Pretzel Logic
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagan
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1974
    Steely Dan's third album, Pretzel Logic, was almost universally praised by the rock press, including NME magazine, which named it the 1974 album of the year, and Village Voice critic Robert Christgau, who ranked it at the top of his own annual list. The title track, according to co-writer Donald Fagan, is actually about time travel, and includes references to Napoleon Bonaparte and travelling minstrel shows.

Artist:     Jerry Garcia
Title:     Sugaree
Source:     45 RPM promo single
Writer:     Garcia/Hunter/Kreutzmann
Label:     Warner Brothers
Year:     1972
     In 1972 Warner Brothers gave the individual members of the Grateful Dead to record solo albums. Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and drummer Micket Hart took them up on the offer. Garcia's effort was unique in that he played virtually all the instruments on the album himself (except for the drum parts, which were played by Bill Kreutzmann). One of the best known songs from that album is Sugaree, which was soon added pretty much permanently to the Dead's concert repertoire.

Artist:    Starcastle
Title:    Lady Of The Lake
Source:    LP: Starcastle
Writer(s):    Tassler/Luttrell/Strater/Schildt/Stewart/Hagler
Label:    Epic
Year:    1976
    The first track of the first Starcastle album established beyond any question that the Champagne, Illinois band was firmly rooted in the progressive rock movement that had produced bands such as Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Unfortunately for Starcastle, that whole genre was already starting to wane in popularity when their album came out. Nonetheless, Lady Of The Lake, with it's complex musical arrangement and Arthurian lyrical theme, is a fine example of the progressive rock genre that sounds as good now as it did in 1976.

Artist:    Premiati Forneria Marconi
Title:    Celebration
Source:    Italian import CD: Photos Of Ghosts
Writer(s):    Mussida/Pagani/Sinfield
Label:    RCA
Year:    1973
    The most popular song in the PFM catalogue, Celebration is a re-recording of a song called E Festa from the band's 1971 debut album, Storia di un minuto. The 1973 Photos Of Ghosts recording of Celebration features all new lyrics by Peter Sinfield, who was also working with Emerson, Lake And Palmer, who had signed PFM to their Manticore label for their US releases. Photos Of Ghosts was the first of those releases, and became the first album by an Italian band to crack the Billboard 200 album chart.

Artist:    Frank Zappa
Title:    Zoot Allures
Source:    LP: Zoot Allures
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1976
    When Frank Zappa went to work on his 22nd album he originally intended it to be a two LP set. Disputes between Zappa and his manager, Herb Cohen, however, led not only to the album being reduced to a single disc, but to it being released on the Warner Brothers label rather than Zappa's own Discreet label. Furthermore, two tracks, including the instrumental Zoot Allures, were not even on the original tracklist for the album. Naturally, the album ended up being named for that instrumental.

Artist:      Grand Funk Railroad
Title:     Feelin' Alright
Source:      CD: Survival
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:     Capitol
Year:     1971
     The first three Grand Funk Railroad albums had a total of one cover song between them (the Animals' Inside Looking Out on Grand Funk). The band's fourth studio effort, Survival, had two.  One of those was Feelin' Alright, a Dave Mason song that had appeared on the second Traffic album. Grand Funk Railroad's version ended up being released as a single in late 1971. Mason himself released his own solo version of the tune later in the decade.

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