Sunday, July 22, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1830 (starts 7/25/18)

    This week's show is pretty much an exercise in seat-of-the-pants programming. What that means is that, for the most part, I didn't know what record was gonna get played until the previous one was already spinning. This was actually done on purpose, as a kind of experiment in free association. Hope you like it.

Artist:    Flock
Title:    Green Slice/Big Bird
Source:    British import CD: Dinosaur Swamps
Writer(s):    The Flock
Label:    BGO (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1970
    The Flock's Dinosaur Swamps is one of those rare albums that can never truly be defined. Is it jazz? Rock? Novelty? Gospel? I honestly can't say. The album cover itself is one of the coolest ever printed: a gatefold sleeve that you have to open up and turn 90 degrees to look at. Every song title refers to something on the cover (or on the inside of the gatefold sleeve). Green Slice, for instance, refers to the album title itself, which is printed in curved block letters on a green background shaped like an arch above the actual album cover art. The first thing that (hopefully not literally) jumps out at you on the cover itself is a huge pterodactyl flying toward you: a Big Bird indeed.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    The Approaching Storm/Man Vs. Man: The End
Source:    LP: Chicago III
Writer(s):    James Pankow
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1971
    Chicago's self-titled second album was a huge success. This put pressure on the band to make their third LP an even bigger hit; in terms of chart action they actually succeeded, with Chicago III hitting a higher position than either of its predecessors. However, the fatigue of constant touring was taking its toll, and the album itself has a more world-weary feel than any of their other LPs. The fact that Chicago III was the third consecutive double-LP released by the band only contributed to this weariness. Still, in some ways Chicago III was also the heaviest album ever released by the group. Even the instrumentals, such as trombonist James Pankow's album side length suite Elegy had a darkness to them. The suite itself has a long enough silence between the third and fourth parts that I have chosen to treat them as separate tracks. This week we have the final two parts of Elegy, The Approaching Storm and Man Vs. Man: The End. The titles say it all.

Artist:    Mountain
Title:    Don't Look Around
Source:    CD: The Best Of Mountain (originally released on LP: Nantucket Sleighride)
Writer(s):    West/Palmer/Pappalardi/Collins
Label:    Windfall/Columbia
Year:    1971
    One of Mountain's most popular tracks was Nantucket Sleighride, released on an album of the same name in 1971. The opening track of that album, Don't Look Around, is a power rocker that was considered good enough in its own right to make the band's greatest hits collection.

Artist:    Eagles
Title:    Life In The Fast Line
Source:    LP: Hotel California
Writer(s):    Walsh/Henley/Frey
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1976
    Built on a riff that Joe Walsh came up with during a warm up session, Life In The Fast Lane is one of the Eagles' most popular songs. The title of the song comes from an experience that Glen Frey had while riding on the freeway with a drug dealer known as the Count. The car was apparently going a bit too fast for Frey's tastes, but when he tried to tell the Count to slow down the only response he got was "It's life in the fast lane!" The lyrics for the song were written mostly by Frey and Don Henley.

Artist:    Joni Mitchell
Title:    Big Yellow Taxi
Source:    LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: Ladies Of The Canyon)
Writer(s):    Joni Mitchell
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1970
    One of Joni Mitchell's best-known tunes, Big Yellow Taxi was originally released on the 1970 album Ladies Of The Canyon. The original studio version of the song hit the top 10 in Australia and the top 20 in the UK and Mitchell's native Canada, but only reached the #67 spot in the US. A later live version of the song, however, cracked the top 30 in the US in 1974. Mitchell says she was inspired to write the song on a visit to Hawaii, where she looked out her hotel window to view a mountain vista in the distance, only to be shocked back to reality when she looked down to see a parking lot "as far as the eye could see".

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Bodhisattva
Source:    LP: Countdown To Ecstacy
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    ABC
Year:    1973
    Steely Dan's second album, Countdown To Ecstacy, is the only one made up entirely of songs designed to be performed by a live band. This came about after the band's label, ABC, asked the band to go on the road to promote album sales. The band's two core members, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, set about putting together a stage band, and composed tunes specifically with that group of musicians in mind. Among those tunes in Bodhisattva, a fast-paced tune taking a satirical look at America's obsession with Capitalism as a path to spiritual enlightenment. Fagen summarized the song's message as "Lure of East. Hubris of hippies. Quick fix". The song features, jazz-style, a series of instrumental verses highlighting the talents of various band members, particularly guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter.

Artist:    Ten Years After
Title:    Sugar The Road
Source:    CD: Cricklewood Green
Writer(s):    Alvin Lee
Label:    Chrysalis (original label: Deram)
Year:    1970
    Ten Years After's fourth LP, Cricklewood Green, was the band's first release following their appearance at Woodstock, and by all accounts they made the best of the situation with what is generally considered to be their best studio album. In addition to progressive FM radio favorites Love Like A Man and 50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain, the album contains several tunes that show the group's diversity, such as Sugar The Road, which opens side one of the LP.
Artist:    Pavlov's Dog
Title:    Song Dance
Source:    LP: Pampered Menial
Writer(s):    Mike Saffron
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; however, one of the best tracks on the album, Song Dance, was penned by Mike Safron. Safron, for reasons that are unclear, was not available when the band recorded their follow-up LP, and Bill Bruford was brought in as a temporary fill-in. Saffron had a falling out with the rest of the band over not receiving credit on the album cover and left the group permanently before work on their third album began. It turned out to be a somewhat moot point, however, as Columbia, citing poor sales on the first two LPs, chose not to release the third one. A bootleg copy of that third LP, credited to the St. Louis Hounds, appeared in the early 1980s.

Artist:    Illinois Speed Press
Title:    Hard Luck Story
Source:    German import LP: Underground '70 (originally released on LP: Illinois Speed Press)
Writer(s):    Kal David
Label:    CBS (original US label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    In 1967 someone coined the phrase "San Francisco sound" to describe the wave of bands coming out of the Bay Area that year, despite the fact that there really was no specific San Francisco sound. The following year, someone at M-G-M Records (which had missed out entirely on the whole San Francisco thing, with the exception of the Eric Burdon And The Animals single San Franciscan Nights) decided to sign a bunch of Boston bands and market them as the "Boss-Town Sound." This campaign went over like a lead balloon, actually hurting the chances of the bands to make a name for themselves. Undeterred, Columbia Records tried the same thing in Chicago in 1969, signing the Chicago Transit Authority, the Flock, Aorta and Illinois Speed Press and marketing them as the "Chicago Sound". Producer James William Guercio, who had previously worked with the Buckinghams and Blood, Sweat & Tears, was brought in to produce the first Illinois Speed Press album, which included the song Hard Luck Story, a somewhat atypical piece of blues-rock written by Kal David, who along with Paul Cotton formed the core of the band. David and Cotton soon wearied of being lumped in with other Chicago bands, and relocated to California, essentially becoming a duo in the process and helping pioneer the country-rock sound that would emerge from Southern California in the mid-1970s.

Artist:    Savoy Brown
Title:    I Can't Get Next To You
Source:    LP: Street Corner Talking
Writer(s):    Whitfield/Strong
Label:    Parrot
Year:    1971
    Following the release of the album Looking In, Savoy Brown founder Kim Simmonds decided to take the band in an entirely new direction. His enthusiasm for the change was not shared by his bandmates, however, and Simmonds ended up firing the lot of them and hiring a whole new crew for the 7th Savoy Brown LP, Street Corner Talking. This new lineup consisted of members of the band Chicken Shack, which had fallen apart when their front person, Christine Perfect (later to be Christine McVie) left to join Fleetwood Mac. One indication of the band's new direction was a bluesy arrangement of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong's I Can't Get Next To You, which had been a hit single for the Temptations a few years earlier. The Savoy Brown arrangement of the song was inspired by Al Green's version of the song.

Artist:    Love Sculpture
Title:    So Unkind
Source:    British import CD: Blues Helping
Writer(s):    James/Sehom
Label:    EMI (original US label: Rare Earth)
Year:    1968
    Before scoring an international hit with his early 70s remake of Fats Domino's I Hear You Knockin', Dave Edmunds fronted one of the best of the late 60s British blues-rock bands, Love Scupture. Their debut LP was made up mostly of electrifying versions of blues standards, such as the Elmore James tune So Unkind. 50 years later, it still rocks!

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