Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rockin in the Days of Confusion # 1648 (starts 11/30/16)

Starting this week I'm adding a short introductory note to each playlist. I'm doing this thanks to a recent change at Facebook, where my weekly links to the blog page now include the first few lines of text from the blog itself. For the past couple weeks this has been the artist, song title and partial source of the first song on the playlist, which I find pretty annoying and not particularly useful. Not that what I'm typing right now is any more useful, but at least it consists of complete sentences. Anyway, on to the playlist...

Artist:    Cactus
Title:    You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover
Source:    CD: Cactus
Writer(s):    Willie Dixon
Label:    Wounded Bird (original label: Atco)
Year:    1970
    Cactus was kind of an accidental supergroup formed in 1969, when plans for a new band featuring bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice from Vanilla Fudge, along with former Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck, had to be scrapped due to Beck being injured in a car accident. Instead, Bogert and Appice recruited guitarist Jim McCarty, a veteran of Mitch Ryder's Detroit Wheels who had more recently been working with the Buddy Miles Express, and vocalist Rusty Day from the Amboy Dukes to form Cactus. The group released their self-titled debut LP in 1970. The album featured a mix of originals and high-energy covers of blues classics such as Willie Dixon's You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover, which had originally been recorded by Bo Diddley. The Cactus version of the tune runs six and a half minutes and includes some wailing guitar work from McCarty, who would eventually leave the band over creative differences with the other members.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    L.A. Woman
Source:    LP: L.A. Woman
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1971
    Ray Manzarek became justifiably famous as the keyboard player for the Doors. Before joining up with Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger and John Densmore, however, Manzarek was already making a name for himself as an up-and-coming student filmmaker at UCLA. Although he didn't have much of a need to pursue a career in films once the Doors hit it big, he did end up producing and directing an outstanding video for the title track of the 1971 album L.A. Woman years after the band had split up. I only mention this because, really, what else can I say about a song that you've probably heard a million times or so?

Artist:    Rory Gallagher
Title:    Can't Believe It's True
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Rory Gallagher)
Writer(s):    Rory Gallagher
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1971
    In addition to his obvious prowess on guitar, Rory Gallagher was an accomplished saxophonist, although he largely abandoned the instrument in the mid-1970s. This can be heard on Can't Believe It's True, the final and longest track on Gallagher's first solo album, recorded in 1971. Accompanying Gallagher on the album were drummer Wilgar Campbell and bass guitarist Gerry McAvoy. Gallagher had set up practice sessions with Campbell and McAvoy, as well as former Jimi Hendrix Experience members Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding following the breakup of his original band, Taste, but ultimately decided to form a power trio with the two Belfast natives for his solo debut.

Artist:    Premiati Forneria Marconi
Title:    Celebration
Source:    LP: Cook
Writer(s):    Mussida/Pagani/Sinfield
Label:    Manticore
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. The eight-minute long live version of the song was included on the 1973 album Live In USA, which was released in the US as Cook.

Artist:    Alice Cooper
Title:    School's Out (originally released on LP: School's Out and as 45 RPM single)
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits
Writer(s):    Cooper/Smith/Dunaway/Bruce/Buxton
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1972
    Alice Cooper scored their first top 10 hit with the title track of their 1972 album School's Out. According to vocalist Alice Cooper (yes, both the singer and the band were called Alice Cooper) the song was inspired by the question "What's the greatest three minutes of your life?" (although I've never actually heard anyone ask that question in any context). The song was remixed by producer Bob Ezrin for the band's first Greatest Hits compilation, much to the consternation of the band's fans.

Artist:    Paul Simon
Title:    Kodachrome
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia
    Paul Simon's Kodachrome was actually banned on some stations, but not for copyright infringement (Kodachrome being a registered trademark of Kodak). Rather, it was banned for the first line of the song: "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all." Apparently "crap" offended some programmers, to the point that one station (New York's WABC) even edited the offending line to "When I think back it's a wonder I can think at all" when they played the song. Not only does that line not make any sense, I can only imagine how that must have sounded with almost four measures edited out (but with one beat left in, just to totally throw off the rhythm of the song). Apparently, though, this kind of stuff is what used to make America great, if current political thought is to be believed.

Artist:    Mothers
Title:    Montana
Source:    CD: Over-Nite Sensation
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1973
    Montana is quite possibly the most recognizable song Frank Zappa ever wrote. The track first appeared on the Mothers album Over-Nite Sensation and quickly became a concert staple. On the original album version Zappa's guitar solo is followed by a series of vocal gymnastics performed by none other than Tina Turner and the Ikettes, who were recording with Turner's husband Ike in an adjacent studio. According to Zappa it took the singers two days to master the complex melody and timing of the section. Reportedly Turner was so pleased with the result that she invited her husband into the control room to hear the finished section, only to have Ike say "What is this shit?" and walk back out.

Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    Day Of The Eagle
Source:    CD: Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Robin Trower
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:    1974
    Although Robin Trower's first solo album following his departure from Procol Harum went largely under the radar, his second LP, Bridge Of Sighs, was a huge success, spending 31 weeks on the US charts and peaking at the #7 spot. The opening track, Day Of The Eagle, soon became a concert staple for the guitarist and has been covered by other guitarists, notably Steve Stevens on his album Memory Crash. Other artists who have covered Day Of The Eagle include Tesla and Armored Saint.

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.

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