Monday, March 26, 2018
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion #1813 (starts 3/28/18)
This week we take in several rock sub-genres, including folk-rock, jazz-rock, country-rock (sort of), blues-rock, hard rock and even some early heavy metal. And we do it all in an hour.
Artist: Deep Purple
Source: LP: Tales Of Deep Purple
Writer: Joe South
British rockers Deep Purple scored a huge US hit in 1968 with their rocked out cover of Hush, a tune written by Joe South that had been an international hit for Billy Joe Royal the previous year. Oddly enough, the song was virtually ignored in their native England. Hush was included on the album Tales Of Deep Purple, the first of three LPs to be released in the US on Tetragrammaton Records, a label partially owned by actor/comedian Bill Cosby. When Tetragrammaton folded shortly after the release of the third Deep Purple album the band was left without a US label, and went through some personnel changes, including adding new lead vocalist Ian Gilliam (who had sung the part of Jesus on the original Jesus Christ Superstar album) before signing to Warner Brothers and becoming a major force in 70s rock. Meanwhile, original vocalist Rod Evans hooked up with drummer Bobby Caldwell and two former members of Iron Butterfly to form Captain Beyond before fading from public view.
Artist: Ten Years After
Source: European import CD: Ten Years After
Writer(s): Willie Dixon
The late 1960s saw the rise of a British blues-rock scene that brought fame to Peter Green, Dave Edmunds and other talented guitarists. One of the first bands to release an album in this sub-genre was Ten Years After, led by Alvin Lee. Their debut LP, released in 1967, included several cover tunes, including Spoonful, which had been recorded the previous year by Cream (in studio form), and would gain popularity as a live track in 1968.
Artist: Al Kooper/Mike Bloomfield/Barry Goldberg/Harvey Brooks/Eddie Hoh
Source: CD: Super Session
Keyboardist Al Kooper was quite familiar with the talents of guitarist Mike Bloomfield, but felt that Bloomfield had never had the chance to really shine in the recording studio. When, in 1968, Kooper became a staff producer for Columbia Records in New York, one of his first projects was to rectify that situation. To help facilitate the project, two of Bloomfield's former bandmates, bassist Harvey Brooks (Butterfield Blues Band) and pianist Barry Goldberg (Electric Flag), along with studio drummer Eddie Hoh, were brought in. Although Bloomfield himself dropped out halfway through the sessions, necessitating the addition of guitarist Stephen Stills for the LP's second side, the resulting album, Super Session, was the surprise hit of 1968, setting off a wave of similar projects by other musicians. Goldberg only played on a couple of tracks, including the instrumental version of Stop, a Jerry Ragovoy/Doc Shuman composition that was an R&B hit for Howard Tate that same year.
Artist: Larry Coryell
Title: Treat's Style
Source: LP: Lady Coryell
Writer(s): Jim Garrison
Label: Vanguard Apostolic
Most of Larry Coryell's first album was recorded using the same musicians that Coryell had been working with as a member of the early jazz-rock fusion group Free Spirits. For one track, however, he endlisted the services of a pair of veteran jazzmen. Treat's Style was written by Jim Garrison, who also plays double-bass on the track. Garrison was best known for his work as a member of the John Coltrane's quartet from 1961-67. The drummer on Treat's Style is Elvin Jones, himself a legend in the jazz world.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Bron Y-Aur Stomp
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin III
Although often regarded as the fathers of Heavy Metal, Led Zeppelin was actually capable of playing in a variety of styles. Evolving out of the standard-bearing band of the London blues scene (the Yardbirds), Led Zeppelin soon moved into uncharted territory, recording music that incorporated elements of both American and British folk music as well as rock. Much of the group's third LP (Bron Y-Aur Stomp in particular) sounds like it could have been written and performed in the heart of Appalachia.
Title: (Roamin' Thro' The Gloamin' With) 40,000 Headmen
Source: LP: Welcome To The Canteen
Label: United Artists
The live version of (Roamin' Thro' The Gloamin' With) 40,000 Headmen, from the 1971 album Welcome To The Canteen, is considerably longer than the original studio version of the tune heard on Traffic's self-titled second LP, giving Chris Wood, in particular, more time to show his stuff on flute.
Artist: James Gang
Title: Mr Door Is Open
Source: LP: Straight Shooter
One of the most interesting rock and roll histories of the early 1970s was that of the James Gang. Originally consisting of drummer Jim Fox, bassist Tom Criss and guitarist Joe Walsh, the Cleveland-based band first appeared on vinyl on 1969's Yer Album. After replacing Criss with Dale Peters, the group released James Gang Rides Again, which, thanks to tracks like Funk #49 made them stars. Following one more album with this lineup, Walsh left the group for a solo career. At around this same time, labelmates Bush decided to disband after one unsuccessful LP, and Fox and Peters recruited vocalist Roy Kenner and guitarist Dominic Troiano from Bush to continue James Gang. The first album with this new lineup was Straight Shooter, released in 1972. Unfortunately, the inevitable comparisons to the band's earlier material made it difficult for this incarnation of the James Gang to achieve a great amount of commercial success, despite the quality of tracks like My Door Is Open, which was written by Kenner and Troiano. After one more album, Troiano left the group to replace Randy Bachman in the Guess Who, and the James Gang recruited Tommy Bolin, whose outstanding guitar work once again put the band in the national spotlight. But that's a story for another time.
Artist: Grand Funk
Title: The Railroad
Source: CD: We're An American Band
Writer(s): Mark Farner
After six albums working with producer Terry Knight, Grand Funk Railroad switched tracks in 1973, turning to Todd Rundgren, who had received critical acclaim for Something/Anything, a self-produced double LP solo effort from the previous year. The result was We're An American Band, which revitalized the band's career and spawned two hit singles, the title track and Walk Like A Man, both of which were sung by drummer Don Brewer. This was a major departure for the band, as guitarist Mark Farner had previously written and sung all of the band's singles. Farner still wrote and sang much of the material on the LP, however, including The Railroad (ironically the only use of the word "railroad" anywhere on the album, as the band had officially, albeit temporarily, shortened its name to Grand Funk prior to the album's release).
Artist: Black Sabbath
Title: Wasp/Behind The Wall Of Sleep/Bassically/N.I.B.
Source: CD: Black Sabbath
Label: Warner Brothers/Rhino
While feedback-laden bands like Blue Cheer are often credited with laying the foundations of what would come to be called heavy metal, Black Sabbath is generally considered to be the first actual heavy metal band. Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward didn't set out to create a whole new genre. They simply wanted to be the heaviest blues-rock band around. After seeing a movie marquee for an old Boris Karloff film called Black Sabbath and deciding that would make a good name for a band, however, the group soon began modifying their sound to more closely match their new name. The result was a debut album that would change the face of rock music forever. Probably the best known track on the Black Sabbath album is N.I.B., which closes out the LP's first side. Contrary to popular belief, N.I.B. is not a set of initials at all, but just the word nib done in capital letters with periods after each letter. According to Geezer Butler, who wrote the lyrics for N.I.B. "Originally it was Nib, which was Bill's beard. When I wrote N.I.B., I couldn't think of a title for the song, so I just called it Nib, after Bill's beard. To make it more intriguing I put punctuation marks in there to make it N.I.B. By the time it got to America, they translated it to Nativity In Black." On the album the song is preceded by a short bass solo from Butler, which in turn segues directly out of the previous track, Behind The Wall Of Sleep. For some reason (possibly to garner the group more royalties) Warner Brothers Records added extra song titles to the two tracks on the album cover and label to make them look like four separate pieces. The original British release, however, lists them as Behind The Wall Of Sleep and N.I.B.
Artist: Neil Young
Title: The Loner
Source: LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: Neil Young)
Writer(s): Neil Young
Label: Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
The Loner could easily have been passed off as a Buffalo Springfield song. In addition to singer/songwriter/guitarist Neil Young, the tune features Springfield members Jim Messina on bass and George Grantham on drums. Since Buffalo Springfield was functionally defunct by the time the song was ready for release, however, it instead became Young's first single as a solo artist. The song first appeared, in a longer form, on Young's first solo album in late 1968, with the single appearing three months later. The subject of The Loner has long been rumored to be Young's bandmate Stephen Stills, or possibly Young himself. As usual, Neil Young ain't sayin'.