Monday, August 21, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion #1734 (starts 8/23/17)

This week we start off in 1967 with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and work our way up to 1974, with a rather lengthy stayover in 1972 along the way.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Spanish Castle Magic
Source:    LP: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    When the second Jimi Hendrix Experience album, Axis: Bold As Love, came out it was hailed as a masterpiece of four-track engineering. Working closely with producer Chas Chandler and engineer Eddie Kramer, Hendrix used the recording studio itself as an instrument, making an art form out of the stereo mixing process. The unfortunate by-product of this is that most of the songs on the album could not be played live and still sound anything like the studio version. One notable exception is Spanish Castle Magic, which became a more or less permanent part of the band's performing repertoire.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Politician
Source:    LP: Wheels Of Fire
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    Atco
Year:    1968
    Although the songwriting team of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown are best known for providing Cream with its more psychedelic songs such as White Room and Swlabr, they did occasionally come up with bluesier numbers such as Politician from the Wheels Of Fire album. The song quickly became a staple of Cream's live performances.

Artist:    Who
Title:    The Acid Queen
Source:    CD: Tommy
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    MCA (original label: Decca)
Year:    1969
    Pete Townshend, the primary composer of the Who's rock opera Tommy, takes the lead vocals on The Acid Queen, a song that, while integral to the Tommy storyline, also stands as one of Townshend's strongest standalone compositions. The song is sung from the first person viewpoint of a gypsy who promises to cure Tommy's condition (blind, deaf and dumb) by using a combination of sex and drugs. Although her efforts are unsuccessful, the attempt itself has a profound effect on the youngster, who explores his inner self under the influence of LSD. Townshend himself has said that the song is "not just about acid: it's the whole drug thing, the drink thing, the sex thing wrapped into one big ball." In a reference to peer pressure, he adds that "society – people – force it on you. She represents this force." The song later became a hit single for, not surprisingly, Tina Turner, who played the part of the Acid Queen in the hit movie version of Tommy.

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    Every Mother's Son
Source:    LP: John Barleycorn Must Die
Writer(s):    Winwood/Capaldi
Label:    Island (original label: United Artists)
Year:    1970
    Following the breakup of Blind Faith, Steve Winwood returned to the studio to work on his first solo LP, to be titled Mad Shadows. Winwood completed two tracks, including Every Mother's Son, before deciding to invite Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi to reform his old band, Traffic. The group recorded four more tracks for the LP, which was retitled John Barleycorn Must Die and released in 1970 as the fourth Traffic album. Winwood's already completed recording of Every Mother's Son was included as the final track on the LP.

Artist:     Jo Jo Gunne
Title:     Run Run Run
Source:     45 RPM single (stereo promo)
Writer:     Ferguson/Andes
Label:     Asylum
Year:     1972
     After Spirit called it quits following the disappointing sales of the Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, lead vocalist Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes hooked up with Andes's brother Matt and William "Curly" Smith to form Jo Jo Gunne. Their best known song was Run Run Run, which hit the British top 10 and the US top 30 in 1972, receiving considerable amount of airplay on progressive rock stations as well.

Artist:    Elton John
Title:    Honky Cat
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    John/Taupin
Label:    Uni
Year:    1972
    Elton John hit the top of the US charts with his fifth LP, Honky Chateau, in 1972. It was the first of seven consecutive #1 albums for the singer/songwriter and included two major hit singles. The second of these was the album's opening track, Honky Cat, which made the top 10 that same year, despite having a length of over five minutes at a time when most radio stations still observed the three and a half minute standard for top 40 singles.

Artist:    Fleetwood Mac
Title:    Bare Trees
Source:    CD: Bare Trees
Writer(s):    Danny Kirwan
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1972
    Bare Trees, the last Fleetwood Mac to feature Danny Kirwan saw the guitarist/vocalist at his most prolific, writing half of the album's ten songs, including the title track. Bare Trees is also one of the catchiest tunes on the album, and got a decent amount of airplay on FM rock radio when it was released in 1972. Since Linday Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, the band's earlier songs, including Bare Trees, have been noticably neglected by so-called classic rock stations.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Soul Love
Source:    CD: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Ryko (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1972
    The second song on the album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Soul Love is an often overlooked gem from the David Bowie catalog. This partial obscurity may be due in part to the fact that Bowie seldom performed the song live. In fact, he only performed it twice on his Ziggy Stardust tour, and then not again until years later.

Artist:    Argent
Title:    Hold Your Head Up
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: All Together Now)
Writer(s):    Argent/White
Label:    Sony Music (original US label: Epic)
Year:    1972
    Following the dissolution of the Zombies, keyboardist Rod Argent went about forming a new band called, appropriately enough, Argent. The new group had its greatest success in 1972 with the song Hold Your Head Up, which went to the #5 spot on the charts in both the US and UK. The song originally appeared on the album All Together Now, with a running time of over six minutes. The first single version of the tune ran less than three minutes, but was quickly replaced with a longer edit that made the song three minutes and fifteen seconds long. In the years since, the longer LP version has come to be the most familiar one to most radio listeners.

Artist:    Cat Stevens
Title:    Foreigner Suite
Source:    CD: The Very Best Of Cat Stevens (originally released on LP: Foreigner)
Writer(s):    Cat Stevens
Label:    A&M
Year:    1973
    Steven Demetre Georgiou has always had issues with his own success. At age 15 he got his first guitar and almost immediately began writing his own songs. He also began to exhibit talent as a painter, which pretty much set him apart from his peers. By the time he entered college he was performing regularly as a solo artist in various London clubs, using the name Cat Stevens. An audition with record producer Mike Hurst (former member of the Springfields) resulted in Stevens signing with Decca and releasing the first record on the new Deram label, a single containing I Love My Dog and Portabello Road. The followup single, Matthew And Son, went all the way to the #2 spot on the British charts (kept out of the top spot by the Monkees' I'm A Believer); virtually overnight Stevens's income jumped from about two pounds a week to 300 pounds a night. By the time he turned 20 he had several more top 10 hits, both as an artist and as a songwriter for other groups, such as the Tremeloes (Here Comes My Baby). By the early 1970s, however, Stevens had grown weary of being a pop star and decided to completely change musical directions. Starting with his 1970 album, Mona Bone Jakon, Stevens established a reputation for writing tunes with deeply spiritual lyrics set to catchy melodies. By 1973 he was one of the most successful singer/songwriters in the world, with tunes like Wild World, Peace Train and Moonshadow dominating the airwaves. But once again Stevens was getting restless, and that year he released what was up to that point the least commercial album of his career. Foreigner is basically a musical version of stream-of-thought writing, without any real breaks between sections. This excerpt from Foreigner Suite runs well over seven minutes in length; keep in mind, it is only an excerpt from a much longer piece. By the end of the decade Georgiou had undergone the biggest change of all, changing his name to Yusaf Islam and turning his back on the spotlight altogether.

Artist:    Gentle Giant
Title:    The Face
Source:    CD: The Power And The Glory
Writer(s):    Shulman/Minnear/Shulman
Label:    Alucard (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1974
    The Power And The Glory is a 1974 album by Gentle Giant that focuses on an individual that chooses politics as a means to make the world a better place. Like his predecessors, however, he becomes corrupted by power and ultimately becomes that which he originally fought against. The piece called The Face is the climax of the album itself, in which the protagonist declares himself to be the ultimate authority and demands total loyalty and obedience from his subjects (kind of like certain current political leaders). As of 2014, The Power And The Glory is available on Blu-Ray, with each song fully animated with various abstract patterns and all the lyrics displayed prominently on the screen. The latter makes a huge difference in the ability to enjoy the album, as Gentle Giant's vocals are often hard to decipher.

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.

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