Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1722 (starts 5/31/17)

Going deep this time, although from the first track you wouldn't think so. Then again, Smoke On The Water had never been played on either Rockin' in the Days of Confusion or Stuck in the Psychedelic Era before this week, so I guess it kinda qualifies.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Smoke On The Water
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1972
    Based on what is quite possibly the most recognizable riff in the history of rock, Smoke On The Water was released in December of 1972 on Deep Purple's Machine Head album. The song became a huge hit the following year when a live version of the tune appeared on the album Made In Japan. For the single release, Warner Brothers chose to pair up edited versions of both the live and studio renditions of the tune on either side of a 45 RPM record. 

Artist:    Taste
Title:    Sinner Boy   
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Live At The Isle Of Wight)
Writer(s):    Rory Gallagher
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1971
    Taste was basically Rory Gallagher's band. First formed in Cork, Ireland, in1966, the group's most popular lineup came together in 1968, when Gallagher was joined by bassist Charlie McCraken and drummer John Wilson. The band soon signed to Polydor, releasing their debut album that same year. A sign of their popularity was when they played the Isle of Wight festival in 1970 and earned no less than five(!) encores. Creative differences took their toll, however, and Taste disbanded on New Year's Eve, 1970. Their appearance at Isle of Wight had been recorded, though, and the album Live At The Isle Of Wight appeared on the racks in 1971. A listen to Sinner Boy from that album demonstrates just why they managed to get five encores. Gallagher would go on to a successful solo career.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    The Width Of A Circle
Source:    CD: The Man Who Sold The World
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Mercury)
Year:    1970
    David Bowie had a gift for reinventing himself pretty much right from the start. His earliest albums were largely acoustic in nature, with Space Oddity being about as close to rock as he got. Then came The Man Who Sold The World, which included songs like The Width Of A Circle, a progressive rock piece that borders on heavy metal. The piece had actually been part of Bowie's stage repertoire for several months before recording sessions for the album began, but in a shorter form. For the LP, the piece was expanded to eight minutes in length, with Mick Ronson's lead guitar taking a prominent place in the music. The second half of the piece had somewhat controversial lyrics, describing a sexual encounter with a supernatural being in the depths of Hell. For reasons that are not entirely clear, The Man Who Sold The World was released five months earlier in the US than in the UK.

Artist:    Peter Gabriel
Title:    Moribund The Burgermeister
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single B side (taken from LP: Peter Gabriel)
Writer(s):    Peter Gabriel
Label:    Atco
Year:    1977
    After leaving Genesis, vocalist Peter Gabriel enlisted producer Bob Ezrin, who had previously worked with Alice Cooper, to co-produce his self-titled debut. Ezrin assembled a talented group of musicians for the LP, including guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson, bass player Tony Levin (who would eventually be a member of the 1980s version of King Crimson), drummer Allan Schwartzberg, percussionist Jimmy Maelen, guitarist Steve Hunter, keyboardist Jozef Chirowski and Larry Fast on synthesizers and programming. Gabriel relied heavily on Ezrin to handle the harder rocking aspects of the music (in Gabriel's words "the American" parts), while Gabriel handled the softer passages, much as he had done as a member of Genesis. Both aspects can be heard on Moribund The Burgermeister, the song that was chosen to be the B side of the album's lead single, Solisbury Hill.

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Mechanical World
Source:    CD: Spirit
Writer(s):    Andes/Ferguson
Label:    Ode/Epic/Legacy
Year:    1968
    In 1967 the members of Spirit all lived in a large house in Topanga Canyon outside of Los Angeles. During their stay there, bassist Mark Andes came down with a bad case of the flu and was confined to his room for several weeks. During this time Andes was, according to guitarist Randy California, feeling "very depressed and mechanical". Toward the end of Andes's forced isolation, vocalist Jay Ferguson visited him often, and the two of them collaborated on what would become Mechanical World, one of the most sophisticated and complex tracks on Spirit's 1968 debut LP. The song was also included on the band's first "best of" collection a few years later.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Can You Do It
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM promo single
Writer(s):    Street/Gordy
Label:    MCA
Year:    1976
    By 1976 Grand Funk Railroad had pretty much been derailed. In the early 1970s they made a deliberate move away from their almost garage-rock sound in favor of tightly produced singles, but by the middle of the decade the singles market had moved toward a sound that was too light for a band like Grand Funk. In fact, the band had already broken up when they got a call from Frank Zappa expressing his desire to produce the band. The band reassembled for their 11th LP, Good Singin', Good Playin', which was released in 1976. The lead single from the album was an obscure Motown cover called Can You Do It that failed to chart. The album itself was, compared to the band's earlier albums, a commercial failure that peaked outside of the top 50 on the Billboard 200. Discouraged, the group once again disbanded, this time permanently.

Artist:    Roy Buchanon
Title:    Roy's Bluz
Source:    CD: The Best Of Roy Buchanon (originally released on LP: That's What I Am Here For)
Writer(s):    Roy Buchanon
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1973
    Some musicians are highly respected among their peers, but are relatively unknown by the public at large. A perfect example of this is "the guitarist's guitarist" Roy Buchanon. Born in 1939 in Ozark, Alabama and raised in California's San Joaquin Valley, Buchanon was discovered by Dale Hawkins (Suzie Q), while he was still in his teens. Three years later, in 1961, Buchanon joined up with Hawkins' cousin Ronnie "The Hawk" Hawkins, working with a young Robbie Robertson, who later cited Buchanon as one of his biggest influences. Buchanon soon left the Hawks to get married and live in the Washington, DC area for the remainder of the 1960s, playing various local clubs. By the early 70s his fame had spread among the musicians' crowd, with Eric Clapton calling him the best he'd ever heard. In 1972 Buchanon signed with Polydor Records, releasing five albums on the label from 1972-75. Among the best tracks he recorded during this time was Roy's Bluz, using his trademark 1953 Fender Telecaster on a song he composed himself.

Artist:    Little Feat
Title:    Roll Um Easy
Source:    CD: Dixie Chicken
Writer(s):    Lowell George
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    One of the most critically-acclaimed albums in rock history was Little Feat's breakthrough LP, Dixie Chicken. Released in 1973, the album established the band's sound, combining Southern California rock with New Orleans style Rhythm and Blues. The driving force behind the band was singer/songwriter/guitarist Lowell George, who had already established himself with the legendary L.A. underground band the Factory in the mid-60s, and as a member of the Mothers Of Invention, as well as serving as producer for the GTO's Permanent Damage album on Frank Zappa's Straight Records label. George continued to do session work for John Cale, Jackson Browne, Harry Nilsson, and John Sebastian, among others, while maintaining his career with Little Feat until his death in 1979.

Artist:    Bonnie Raitt
Title:    I Thought I Was A Child
Source:    LP: Takin' My Time
Writer(s):    Jackson Browne
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    Generally considered to be one of her strongest efforts, Bonnie Raitt's 1973 LP, Takin' My Time, is one of Raitt's personal favorites as well. Raitt, who plays acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals, background vocals, handclapping, and bottleneck guitar, is joined by a wide array of talented musicians, including Lowell George, Taj Mahal and Jim Keltner on the album. Among the strongest tracks on the album is Raitt's version of  I Thought I Was A Child, a tune written by Jackson Browne, whose own career was just starting to take off at around that time.

Artist:    Matthews' Southern Comfort
Title:    Woodstock
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Joni Mitchell
Label:    Decca
Year:    1971
    Some people prefer the original Joni Mitchell version of Woodstock, while others favor Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's harder rocking version. My own favorite is the one released by Matthews' Southern Comfort in March of 1970. The record almost didn't get released as a single at all. The band's British label, MCA, only agreed to do so when it became apparent that the CSN&Y version was going nowhere on the British charts. The Matthews's Southern Comfort version of Woodstock went to the top of the British charts, despite a lack of promotional support from the label. In November the song was released in the US, eventually making it to the #23 spot in early 1971. By that time, however, the band itself had split up, mainly due to bandleader Ian Matthews' inability to cope with the trappings of having a #1 hit single. Matthews had been a founding member of Fairport Convention, but had left the group in 1969 to concentrate on his songwriting and establishing himself as a solo artist. His first solo album was named Matthews' Southern Comfort, a name he used for the band he formed to record two more albums, Second Spring and Later That Same Year. Woodstock was originally slated to appear on Later That Same Year, but was instead issued separately as a single, a common practice in the UK.

Artist:    Seatrain
Title:    Despair Tire
Source:    British import CD: The Marblehead Messenger
Writer(s):    Greene/Kulberg/Roberts
Label:    BGO (original US label: Capitol)
Year:    1971
    Al Kooper, then Steve Katz and Danny Kalb all left the Blues Project in 1967. By all rights that should have been the end of the story, but the remaining original members Roy Blumenfeld and Andy Kulberg decided to stay together and form a new band, Seatrain. After one album for A&M (entitled Sea Train), the group underwent personnel changes that left only Kulberg (on bass and flute) from the original Blues Project lineup, along with violinist Richard Greene, guitarist/vocalist Peter Rowan, keyboardist/vocalist Lloyd Baskin and drummer Larry Atamanuik. Additionally, dedicated lyricist Jim Roberts provided background vocals for the band's next two albums, Seatrain and The Marblehead Messenger. The band's sound was unique. Perhaps it was too unique. Take a listen to Despair Tire, the final track from The Marblehead Messenger. Now try to describe the track. See what I mean?

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