Sunday, September 30, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1840 (starts 10/1/18)

    My intention this week was to focus on the more acoustic stuff, and indeed there are some nice quiet tunes in the first half hour or so. But then the rock asserts itself, as it always does, leading us eventually to one of the best Yes tracks ever recorded.

Artist:    Who
Title:    The Song Is Over
Source:    LP: Who's Next
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    Decca
Year:    1971
    While on their 1969-70 Tommy tour, the Who's primary songwriter, Pete Townshend, began working on something called the Lifehouse project. Conceived as a multi-media experience that would take the idea of immersion to its ultimate conclusion, Townshend eventually abandoned the project as unworkable; he did, however, manage to salvage several of the Lifehouse songs, including them on the 1971 album Who's Next. Among those tunes was The Song Is Over. The piece was designed to be the finale to Lifehouse, and serves quite nicely as the closing track for Who's Next.

Artist:      Bloodrock
Title:     Fatback
Source:      CD: Bloodrock
Writer(s):    Grundy/Rutledge
Label:     One Way/Cema Special Markets (original label: Capitol)
Year:     1970
     Bloodrock had the mixed blessing of putting out one of the most notorious songs of the year 1970 when they recorded D.O.A.. The song was a huge hit, making them a household name overnight, but soon became an albatross after the novelty wore off. Bloodrock was a discovery of Terry Knight, who took them under his wing, booking them as the opening act for another band he managed, Grand Funk Railroad, on their 1970 tour. The band's first two LPs both were released in 1970. Although Bloodrock 2 was the better seller of the two, thanks to the inclusion of D.O.A., the first LP was a solid debut for the Dallas band. Lead vocalist Jim Rutledge, who had decided to take center stage on Bloodrock 2, was still behind the drum kit on the first LP, singing and playing on songs like Fatback.

Artist:    Chevy Chase
Title:    Mission: Improbable
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits Of The National Lampoon (originally released on LP: The Missing White House Tapes)
Writer(s):    Chevy Chase, possibly others as well
Label:    Uproar (original label: Banana/Blue Thumb)
Year:    1974
    The missing White House Tapes was originally released as a single on the Blue Thumb label in 1973. It was then expanded into a full-length album, featuring an array of young talent that would soon be associated with a new TV show called NBC Saturday Night. Among those new talents was a young man named Chevy Chase, who provided several comedy bits for the album, including Mission: Improbable.

Artist:     Crosby, Stills & Nash
Title:     Wooden Ships
Source:     CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Writer:     Crosby/Stills/Kantner
Label:     Rhino (original label: Cotillion)
Year:     1969
     As is often the case, our musical journey through the Days of Confusion leads us to Woodstock, where Crosby, Stills and Nash became household words. At the beginning of 1969 vocal harmonies were out of vogue. Part of the reason for this was the emphasis on instrumental profiency that had come about in the wake of the success of guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Another, less obvious reason was the association of vocal harmonies with such groups as the Beach Boys, who were seen as relics of an earlier, less socially and politically aware time. Somehow, though, Crosby, Stills and Nash (and later Young) managed to overcome this prejudice to become superstars in the early 70s. Performing a song such as Wooden Ships, which was also released in 1969 by Jefferson Airplane, certainly helped, as the song had an obvious anti-war message at a time where such messages were embraced by a large segment of the public, particularly young people of draftable age.

Artist:    Cross Country
Title:    In The Midnight Hour
Source:    LP: Cross Country
Writer(s):    Pickett/Cropper
Label:    Atco
Year:    1973
    The emphasis on vocal harmonies popularized by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the early 1970s prompted three of the four members of the Tokens (the vocal group known mainly for their early 60s hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight) to form Cross Country in 1973. The group put out one self-titled LP that year, with this ultra-mellow arrangement of Wilson Pickett's In The Midnight Hour chosen to be the album's only single.

Artist:    America
Title:    A Horse With No Name
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Dewey Bunnell
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1971
    In early 1967 my dad, a career military man in the USAF, got word that he was going to be transferred from his post as liason officer to Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, to Lakenheath, England. Before the move could take place, however, his new posting got changed to Lindsay Air Station in Weisbaden, Germany. Of course we were all a bit disappointed with the change, but, as any enlisted man will tell you, you go where they tell you to go, period. If we had gone to England, however, I probably would have attended high school with three other Air Force brats who went on to form a band called America shortly after graduation. As it turned out, however, I did not hear of any of them until after I returned to the US and graduated from high school myself, when I first heard A Horse With No Name on the radio. It was the first of many hits for America in the 1970s.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Laguna Sunrise
Source:    CD: Vol. 4
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1972
    Although credited to the entire band, Laguna Sunrise, from the album Black Sabbath Vol. 4, is a Tony Iommi solo piece. There seems to be one of those on every Black Sabbath album. It's a nice one, too.

Artist:    Wishbone Ash
Title:    The King Will Come
Source:    LP: Argus
Writer(s):    Upton/Turner/Turner/Powell
Label:    Decca
Year:    1972
    I remember hearing Blind Eye, the single from the first Wishbone Ash album, sometime in early 1971, but as a high school senior did not have the spare cash to buy a copy of the album itself. It wasn't until a few years later that I finally got to check out an entire Wishbone Ash album. Unfortunately it was Wishbone Four, and I was not in the least bit impressed. I didn't run across a copy of Argus until years later, and that copy was so scratchy I couldn't listen to it objectively. Finally, in the 21st century, I found a playable copy of Argus. I had no idea was I was missing. The entire album is outstanding, as is evident on tracks like The King Will Come. I'm just sorry it took so long for me to discover it.

Artist:    Mothers
Title:    Dirty Love
Source:    CD: Over-Nite Sensation
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1973
    After a series of experimental and jazz-oriented albums, Frank Zappa returned to rock with a pair of albums that defined the direction his music would take in the 1970s and beyond. The first, Over-Nite Sensation, was credited to the Mothers of Invention, and was released in 1973. The second was Apostrophe('), which, although recorded at the same time as Over-Nite Sensation, was released as a Frank Zappa solo album the following year. Both albums combine superb musicianship from the likes of George Clinton and Jean-Luc Ponty with Zappa's unique brand of satiric humor, and are among Zappa's most popular releases. One of the highlights of Over-Nite Sensation, Dirty Love, contains the repeated phrase "The poodle bites, the poodle chews it", which also shows up in a track from the Apostrophe(') album, albeit in a different form. In both cases the refrain is sung by the Ikettes, who were, at Ike Turner's insistence, excluded from the album's musician credits, although they did get paid for their work (but, again at Turner's insistence, at the minimum allowable wage rate).

Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    The Fool And Me
Source:    LP Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Trower/Dewar
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1974
    Guitarist Robin Trower's breakthrough album, Bridge Of Sighs, featured vocals by bassist James Dewar, who also co-wrote a couple of the songs on the LP. The better of these was The Fool And Me, which closes out side one of the original LP. Drummer Reg Isidore completed the trio.

Artist:    Rush
Title:    Something For Nothing
Source:    LP: 2112
Writer(s):    Lee/Peart
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1976
    Inspired by graffitti seen on a wall in Los Angeles, Something For Nothing is the last track on the 1976 Rush album 2112. According to lyricist Neil Peart, "All those paeans to American restlessness and the American road carried a tinge of wistfulness, an acknowledgement of the hardships of the vagrant life, the notion that wanderlust could be involuntary, exile as much as freedom, and indeed, the understanding that freedom wasn't free." 2112 was Rush's fourth LP, and, for a time looked like it might be their last one. In fact, they were in danger of being dropped by Mercury Records (which had rights to the band's music everywhere but in their native Canada), following disappointing sales of their previous LP, Caress Of Steel and declining concert attendance. The band's manager, Ray Danniels, flew to Chicago in a last-ditch effort to convince the label to give Rush one more chance. Oddly enough, Danniels had not actually heard any of the music for the new album and in fact had been deliberately kept out of the loop by the band itself until they could present him a finished product. Danniels was nonetheless successful in convincing Mercury to release one more Rush album. In February of 1976 the band got to work on the new album. After spending some time debating over whether to remain true to their artistic vision or try to be more commercial, they decided it would be better to "go down in flames" than compromise their musical integrity. The result was their first truly successful album. 2112 ended up peaking at #5 on the Canadian LP charts and #61 in the US.

Artist:    Yes
Title:    Yours Is No Disgrace
Source:    CD: The Yes Album
Writer(s):    Anderson/Squire/Howe/Kaye/Bruford
Label:    Elektra/Rhino
Year:    1971
    1970 was a transition year for the progressive rock band known as Yes. Their first two albums, Yes and Time And A Word, had not sold well, and their label, Atlantic, was considering dropping them from their roster. Internally, creative differences between guitarist Peter Banks and the rest of the band led to Banks leaving the group, eventually forming his own band, Flash. The remaining members quickly recruited Steve Howe, who was making a name for himself as a studio musician following the breakup of Tomorrow a couple of years earlier. Howe proved to be a more than suitable replacement, as his versatility served the band's experimental style well. With Howe firmly in place, the group got to work on their third LP, The Yes Album. Unlike Yes's previous albums, which had each included a pair of highly rearranged cover songs (following a pattern set by such bands as Vanilla Fudge and Deep Purple), The Yes Album was made up entirely of original material, mostly written by vocalist Jon Anderson and bassist Chris Squire. Yours Is No Disgrace, however, which opens the album, is credited to the entire band, and gives each member a chance to shine without detracting from the band as a whole. The membership of Yes would continue to fluctuate, however, with keyboardist Tony Kaye, who did not share the rest of the band's enthusiam for the new synthesizers hitting the market, leaving shortly after the album was released, and drummer Bill Bruford following suit following the release of the band's fifth album, Close To The Edge. Eventually even Anderson and Squire would depart the group, leaving Steve Howe currently at the helm of a band containing none of its original members.    

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