Monday, February 27, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1709 (starts 3/1/17)

From Outa-Space to The Magician's Birthday, the emphasis this week seems to be on fantasies of one type or another. And on that note I'll just shut up and let you read before I dig myself a hole I can't escape from.

Artist:    Queen
Title:    Tie Your Mother Down
Source:    LP: A Day At The Races
Writer(s):    Brian May
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1976
    Following the commercial success of their fourth studio album, A Night At The Opera, with its hit single Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen got to work on a followup LP. Following the pattern set by the Marx Brothers, they decided to call the new album A Day At The Races. The LP, released in 1976, starts with a Brian May rocker calledTie Your Mother Down that became the album's second single. The song actually dates back to May's college days, when he was working on his Astronomy PhD. Vocalist Freddie Mercury said of the song: "Well this one in fact is a track written by Brian actually, I dunno why. Maybe he was in one of his vicious moods. I think he’s trying to out do me after Death On Two Legs actually." Death On Two Legs, of course, was Mercury's scathing indictment of Queen's former manager that had appeared on A Night At The Opera. Tie Your Mother Down was part of Queen's stage repertoire for several years, and got considerable airplay on FM rock radio in the US in the late 1970s. On the album the track is preceded by a slowly fading-in guitar intro that uses something called a Shepard tone. The same solo guitar piece appears at the end of the album as well, only this time fading out.

Artist:    Pavlov's Dog
Title:    Fast Gun
Source:    LP: Pampered Menial
Writer(s):    David Surkamp
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1975
    Pavlov's Dog, from St. Louis, Mo., was somewhat unusual in that they had not one, but two keyboardists in the band. In addition to keyboardists David Hamilton and Doug Rayburn, the group included vocalist David Surkamp, guitarist Steve Scorfina, bassist Rick Stockton, drummer Mike Safron, and violinist Siegfried Carver (born Richard Nadler) at the time they recorded their first album, Pampered Menial. The 1975 album was released briefly on the ABC label, then almost immediately on Columbia. Most of the songs on the album were written by either Surkamp or Scorfina, including Fast Gun, a Surkamp original. The band, despite numerous personnel changes, managed to record two more albums before disbanding in 1977. However, Columbia, citing poor sales on the first two LPs, chose not to release the third one.

Artist:    Golden Earring
Title:    Radar Love
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Kooymans/Hay
Label:    Track/MCA
Year:    1973
    Formed in The Hague in 1961, the Golden Earrings (they dropped the plural in 1969) released 25 studio albums and took nearly 30 songs into the top 10 over a period of nearly 30 their native Holland. They were completely unknown in the US, however, until 1973, when Radar Love became an international hit. They returned to the US charts in 1982 with Twilight Zone, and had a final international hit in 1984 with When The Lady Smiles, although that song did not do as well in the US.

Artist:    Billy Preston
Title:    Outa-Space
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Preston/Greene
Label:    A&M
Year:    1972
    As soon as he was finished recording his instrumental piece he called Outa-Space, keyboardist Billy Preston knew he had a hit single on his hands. His label, however, thought differently, and issued the song as the B side of I Wrote A Simple Song in early 1972. It wasn't long before DJs began flipping the record over and playing Outa-Space instead. As a result, Outa-Space became a huge hit, going all the way to the #2 spot on the US charts, while I Wrote A Simple Song only made it to the #77 spot, once again proving that local disc jockeys often know more about audience tastes than record company executives. Too bad there aren't any local disc jockeys in commercial radio anymore, their duties having been taken over by computer algorithms and professional consulting firms.

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Monkey Man
Source:    LP: Let It Bleed
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    London
Year:    1969
    I've had the Rolling Stones' Monkey Man, from the Let It Bleed album, stuck in my head for days. Truly the mark of greatness (the song, not my head).

Artist:    Ten Years After
Title:    Love Like A Man
Source:    CD: Cricklewood Green
Writer(s):    Alvin Lee
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1970
    Cricklewood Green was Ten Years After's fourth studio effort and fifth album overall. Released in 1970, the album is considered by critics to be the apex of Ten Years After's studio work. The best known track from the album is Love Like A Man, which became the group's only single to chart in the UK (in an edited version), peaking at the #10 spot. The band was still considered an "underground" act in the US, despite a successful appearance at Woodstock the year before. However, Love Like A Man was a favorite among disc jockeys on FM rock radio stations, who almost universally preferred the longer album version of the song heard here.

Artist:    America
Title:    Sandman
Source:    LP: America's Greatest Hits (originally released on LP: America)
Writer(s):    Dewey Bunnell
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1971
    I have to admit I was never a huge America fan, although I liked A Horse With No Name well enough when it came out (it got old pretty quick, though), and appreciated the L. Frank Baum references in Tin Man as much as anyone. The one America song that really did grab me, though, was Sandman, an album track that I only heard on one FM station out of El Paso (I was living in Alamogordo, NM at the time). Apparently there was a rumor going around at the time to the effect that the song was  about the United States Navy VQ-2 air squadron formerly based in Rota, Spain, but I didn't know about that until many years later. Still, I thought it was a cool song then (and still do), and was happily surprised to hear it performed live at the New York State Fair in the early 2000s.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Smooth Dancer
Source:    Japanese import CD: Who Do We Think We Are
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    Deep Purple's most iconic lineup (Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice) only recorded four studio albums together before internal tensions and conflict with their own management led to the departure of Gillan and Glover. The last of these was Who Do We Think We Are, released in 1973. By this point some of the band members were not on speaking terms, and their individual parts had to be recorded at separate times. Nonetheless, the album is full of strong tracks such as Smooth Dancer, which closes out side one of the original LP. Despite all the problems getting Who Do We Think We Are recorded and the band's subsequent disintegration, Deep Purple sold more albums in the US than any other recording artist in the year 1973 (including continued strong sales of the 1972 album Machine Head and their live album Made In Japan).

Artist:     Uriah Heep
Title:     The Magician's Birthday
Source:     LP: The Magician's Birthday
Writer:     Hensley/Box/Kerslake
Label:     Mercury
Year:     1972
     If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what exactly does it mean when you imitate yourself? Uriah Heep did just that in 1972 when they followed up their breakthrough Demons And Wizards album with another one in virtually the same format, even down to the 10-minute plus title track to close out side two. What was missing, however, was a single to rival Easy Livin', which had been the engine that propelled Demons and Wizards into the realm of hit albums. Still, The Magician's Birthday was a solid and commercial successfully LP, and this week we are presenting the aforementioned title track in its entirety. Enjoy!

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Tend My Garden/Garden Gate
Source:    CD: James Gang Rides Again
Writer:    Joe Walsh
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1970
    Cleveland, Ohio's James Gang spent so much time on the road promoting their first LP, 'Yer Album, that they didn't have much material ready when it came time to record a follow-up LP. The group found itself actually writing songs in the studio and recording them practically as they were being written. Guitarist/lead vocalist Joe Walsh, meanwhile, had some acoustic songs he had been working on, and it was decided that the new album would have one side of electric hard rock songs while the other would be an acoustic side. The opening tracks for the second side of the album were Tend My Garden, which features Walsh on both organ and guitar, followed by Garden Gate, a Walsh solo piece.

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