Monday, September 18, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1738 (starts 9/20/17)

Wow. A whole lot of good stuff this week, including Yes's most ambitious piece ever: the eighteen and a half minute long Close To The Edge. And the rest is even better.

Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    The Wizard
Source:    LP: Demons And Wizards
Writer:    Hensley/Clarke
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1972
    Although Uriah Heep had been around since 1969, they didn't get much attention in the US until their Demons And Wizards album in 1972, which included their biggest hit, Easy Livin'. The Wizard, which opens the album, was the first of two singles released from the album. The song itself is a semi-acoustic tune about a wizard whose name is never given, but is thought to be either Merlin or Gandalf.

Artist:    Queen
Title:    White Man
Source:    LP: A Day At The Races
Writer(s):    Brian May
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1976
    Following up on the success of their 1975 album A Night At The Opera, Queen borrowed yet another Marx Brothers title for their fifth LP, A Day At The Races. As was the case with their previous album, the liner notes proudly proclaimed that no synthesizers were used in the making of A Day At The Races. Although the album did not have a mega-hit along the lines of Bohemian Rhapsody, it did follow the pattern set on the previous album of alternating songs from Freddie Mercury and Brian May. One of May's best tracks on the album, White Man, takes a look at the European colonization of the North American continent from the point of view of the native population. The song became a concert favorite that included both vocal and guitar solos on various tours.

Artist:      Grand Funk Railroad
Title:     Sin's a Good Man's Brother (edit)
Source:      Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:     1970
     A rare promo pressing of Sin's A Good Man's Brother, the opening track from Grand Funk Railroad's third album, Closer To Home. This edited version cuts the original running time of 4:35 down to slightly over three minutes in length.

Artist:    Yes
Title:    Close To The Edge
Source:    LP: Close To The Edge
Writer(s):    Anderson/Howe
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1972
    Close To The Edge, the title track that takes up the entire third side of Yes's fifth studio album, was, among other things, the straw that broke Bill Brufords's camel's back. Like many bands in the early 1970s, Yes tended to do its arranging (and even some composing) in the studio itself, often recording dozens of takes until they were satisfied with the results. From a drummer's point of view, such a process is boring and repetitive (not to mention physically draining), and following the album's completion Bruford left Yes to join King Crimson.

Artist:    Seatrain
Title:    Flute Thing
Source:    LP: Watch
Writer(s):    Al Kooper
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    By 1973, Seatrain was approaching the end of the line. At this point the band consisted of Julio Coronado (drums, percussion), Bill Elliot (keyboards) Lloyd Baskin (keyboards, vocals) Andy Kulberg (bass, flute, vocals) and Peter Walsh (guitar), with only Kulberg remaining from the band's original lineup. Prior to beginning sessions for their final album, Watch, Seatrain lost two key members, Peter Rowan and Richard Greene, who left to form a band called Muleskinner. This led to an increased use of studio musicians on Watch, which in retrospect was not the best idea, considering that the early 70s were a time when album buyers prized the musicianship of individual band members above all other considerations. The one track that did focus on musicianship was actually a cover song. Al Kooper had originally written the Flute Thing as a showcase for the talents of Andy Kulberg when they were both members of the Blues Project. This updated version of the song has a faster tempo, giving it more of a bop jazz feel.

Artist:    Roy Buchanan
Title:    Wayfaring Pilgrim
Source:    CD: The Best Of Roy Buchanan (originally released on LP: In The Beginning)
Writer(s):    Buchanan/Freeman
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1974
    When it comes to pure technique, very few guitarists can claim to be in the same class as Roy Buchanan. Born in Ozark, Arkansas, in 1939, Buchanan made his recording debut as a sideman for Dale Hawkins in 1958, releasing his first single as a solo artist in 1961. Throughout his career he was known for being a master of the Fender Telecaster guitar, and was considered a major influence by many younger guitarists over the years, including Robbie Robertson (whom he tutored when they were both members of Ronnie Hawkins's Hawks) Jeff Beck and Jerry Garcia. Buchanan's greatest commercial success, however, came in the 1970s after signing the the Polydor label, which was looking for talent to fill out the roster of its newly-formed US division. Buchanan recorded five albums for Polydor, including In The Beginning, which was released in the UK as Rescue Me. Buchanan's arrangement of Wayfaring Pilgrim from that album also features the talents of Neil Larsen on piano.

Artist:    Neil Young
Title:    Southern Man
Source:    CD: After The Gold Rush
Writer:    Neil Young
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1970
    Neil Young stirred up a bit of controversy with the release of the album After The Gold Rush, mostly due to the inclusion of Southern Man, a scathingly critical look at racism in the American South. The song inspired the members of Lynnard Skynnard to write Sweet Home Alabama in response, although reportedly Young and the members of Skynnard actually thought highly of each other. There was even an attempt to get Young to make a surprise appearance at a Skynnard concert and sing the (modified) line "Southern Man don't need me around", but they were never able to coordinate their schedules enough to pull it off.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    That's The Way
Source:    CD: Led Zeppelin III
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    I read somewhere that Jimmy Page came up with The Rain Song (from the album Houses Of The Holy) in response to someone asking him why Led Zeppelin hadn't recorded any ballads. Apparently that person had never heard That's The Way, from the album Led Zeppelin III.

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