Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1839 (starts 9/24/18)

    Once again we take a trip through the years, one at a time. This time it goes from 1968 to 1972, with a couple extra tracks thrown in at the end (including the original version of Led Zeppelin's Moby Dick with John Bonham's drum solo intact).

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Fresh Garbage
Source:    CD: The Best Of Spirit (originally released on LP: Spirit)
Writer(s):    Jay Ferguson
Label:    Epic (original label: Ode)
Year:    1968
    Much of the material on the first Spirit album was composed by vocalist Jay Ferguson while the band was living in a big house in California's Topanga Canyon outside of Los Angeles. During their stay there was a garbage strike, which became the inspiration for the album's opening track, Fresh Garbage. The song starts off as a fairly hard rocker and suddenly breaks into a section that is pure jazz, showcasing the group's instrumental talents, before returning to the main theme to finish out the track.The group used a similar formula on about half the tracks on the LP, giving the album and the band a distinctive sound right out of the box.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    And The Address
Source:    LP: Purple Passages (originally released on LP: Shades Of Deep Purple)
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Lord
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Tetragrammaton)
Year:    1968
    And The Address was, by all accounts, the very first Deep Purple song written by members of the band. In fact, the instrumental piece, which appeared as the opening track on the 1968 LP Shades Of Deep Purple, was actually written before Deep Purple itself was formed. Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore had answered an ad placed by Chris Curtis, a local musician who was trying to put together something called Roundabout, which would feature a rotating set of musicians on a circular stage, with Curtis himself fronting each group. The idea soon fell apart, but the first two people he recruited, Blackmore and Lord, decided to keep working together following Curtis's departure, eventually adding vocalist Rod Evans, bassist Nicky Simper and drummer Ian Paice to fill out the band's original lineup. After securing a record deal, the band went to work on their debut LP, with And The Address being the first song they started to record. The song became the band's set opener for much of 1968, until it was replaced by another instrumental called Hard Road (Wring That Neck), which appeared on the band's second LP, The Book Of Taliesyn. Since then, And The Address has hardly ever been played live.

Artist:    King Crimson
Title:    I Talk To The Wind/Epitaph
Source:    CD: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Writer(s):    Fripp/McDonald/Lake/Giles/Sinfield
Label:    Discipline Mobile Global (original label: Atlantic)
Year:    1969
    During my years in Albuquerque, New Mexico I had a friend named Dave Meaden. It was Dave who first introduced me to King Crimson's first album, In The Court Of The Crimson King, featuring lyrics by poet Peter Sinfield. Dave was such a big fan of Sinfield's work that he had actually handwritten the entire lyrics to Epitaph on a flag that he had hanging in his living room. I usually don't pay all that much attention to lyrics, being more of an instrumentalist, but for this particular piece I have to make an exception. In fact, I'm posting the entire text of Epitaph right here:

The wall on which the prophets wrote is cracking at the seams.
 Upon the instruments of death the sunlight brightly gleams.
 When every man is torn apart with nightmares and with dreams,
 Will no one lay the laurel wreath as silence drowns the screams?
 Between the iron gates of fate, the seeds of time were sown,
 And watered by the deeds of those who know and who are known;
 Knowledge is a deadly friend when no-one sets the rules.
 The fate of all mankind, I see, is in the hands of fools.
 Confusion will be my epitaph,
 As I crawl a cracked and broken path.
 If we make it we can all sit back and laugh.
 But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying,
 Yes I fear tomorrow I'll be crying.

Epitaph is preceded on the album by a Greg Lake composition called I Talk To The Wind, with lyrics by Sinfield. The song is a quiet, reflective piece, highlighted by classically-oriented flute solos by Ian McDonald. The two tracks are tightly-sequenced on the original LP, and really need to be heard as one continuous piece to be fully appreciated.

Artist:     Grand Funk Railroad
Title:     Sin's A Good Man's Brother
Source:     CD: Closer To Home
Writer:     Mark Farner
Label:     Capitol
Year:     1970
     Flint, Michigan, in the mid-1960s was home to a popular local band called Terry Knight and the Pack. In 1969 pack guitarist Mark Farner and drummer Don Brewer hooked up with Mel Schacher (the former bassist of ? and the Mysterians) to form Grand Funk Railroad, with Terry Knight himself managing and producing the new band. With a raw, garage-like sound played at record high volume, Grand Funk immediately earned the condemnation of virtually every rock critic in existence. Undeterred by bad reviews, the band took their act to the road, foregoing the older venues such as bars, ballrooms and concert halls, instead booking entire sports arenas for their concerts. In the process they almost single-handedly created a business model that continues to be the industry standard. Grand Funk Railroad consistently sold out all of their performances for the next two years, earning no less than three gold records in 1970 alone.

Artist:    Genesis
Title:    Return Of The Giant Hogweed
Source:    CD: Nursery Crymes
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1971
    Return Of The Giant Hogweed, from the 1971 Genesis album Nursery Cryme, is actually based on a true story about an invasive organism brought to England from Russia in the 1800s. Genesis, thanks in large part to the sense of whimsy brought to the band by their new drummer, Phil Collins, deliberately exaggerated the story, making the Giant Hogweed a threat to civilization as we know it. Nursery Crymes itself, although officially the third Genesis album, was in fact the debut of the band's classic lineup of Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel. Mike Rutherford and new guitarist Steve Hackett, who joined a few months after founding member Anthony Phillips left the group following the release of the Trespass album. This lineup would remain intact until the departure of Gabriel in 1975.

Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    Rain
Source:    British import CD: The Magician's Birthday
Writer(s):    Ken Hensley
Label:    Sanctuary (original US label: Mercury)
Year:    1972
    Uriah Heep was in full ballad mode on Rain, the last track on side one of The Musician's Birthday. The 1972 track was the first Uriah Heep recording to be completely devoid of electric guitars, although Gary Thain did add bass to the piece. Songwriter Ken Hensley plays piano on Rain, with David Byron providing the vocals.

Artist:    James Taylor
Title:    Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (promo copy)
Writer(s):    James Taylor
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1972
    I've always considered the Grammy Awards to be, let us say, less than relevant. If the fact that Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath were never even nominated for a Grammy (nor was Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon, for that matter) wasn't enough reason, consider this: James Taylor's hit single, Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, from his 1972 album One Man Dog, won a Grammy for best male vocal 2002, when it was included on the album The Best Of James Taylor. Not that it's a bad song, by any means, but how exactly can you consider a thirty year old recording to be the best of the year?

Artist:    Eric Burdon And War
Title:    Spill The Wine
Source:    LP: Eric Burdon Declares War
Writer(s):    Burdon/Miller/Scott/Dickerson/Jordan/Brown/Allen/Oskar
Label:    M-G-M
Year:    1970
    After the second version of the Animals disbanded in late 1969, vocalist Eric Burdon, who was by then living in California, decided to pursue his interest in American soul music by hooking up with an L.A. band called War. He released his first album with the group, Eric Burdon Declares War, in 1970. The album included Spill The Wine, which would be the first of several hits for War in the 1970s. The song was inspired by keyboardist Lonnie Jordan's accidentally spilling wine on a mixing board, although the lyrics are far more fanciful, with Burdon referring to himself as an "overfed long-haired gnome" in the song's opening monologue. The song turned out to be a major hit, going into the top 5 in both the US and Canada.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Moby Dick/Bring It On Home
Source:    German import LP: Led Zeppelin II
Writer(s):    Page/ Bonham/Jones/Dixon
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    By 1969 drum solos had become pretty much mandatory for rock bands, and Led Zeppelin's Moby Dick, from their second LP, is one of the better ones. Many years later the song got a radical remix that all but obliterated John Bonham's actual solo with special effects. As interesting as that may sound, I still prefer the original, which leads directly into the third and final of the band's Willie Dixon cover songs from 1969, Bring It On Home. Unlike You Shook Me and I Can't Quit You Baby, which were both credited to Dixon on the first Zep LP, Bring It On Home was originally credited to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant rather than Dixon, despite the fact that the song's beginning and end were a close copy of Sonny Boy Williamson's original 1963 recording of the song. Newer pressings of the album credit the entire song to Willie Dixon, despite the fact that the main body of the song itself (except for the lyrics) is unquestioningly a Page composition.

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