Sunday, January 27, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1905 (starts 1/28/19)

    This week's show (which was actually recorded in May of 2018 as a contingency in case something like a blizzard might prevent me from getting to the studio) starts off in strange territory...and then it gets heavy. But eventually everything is made clear.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Strange Days
Source:    CD: Strange Days
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    One of the first rock albums to not picture the band members on the front cover was the Doors' second LP, Strange Days. Instead, the cover featured several circus performers doing various tricks on a city street, with the band's logo appearing on a poster on the wall of a building. The album itself contains some of the Doors' most memorable tracks, including the title song, which also appears on their greatest hits album despite never being released as a single.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Strange Kind Of Woman
Source:    CD: The Very Best Of Deep Purple (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single and in US on LP: Fireball)
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice
Label:    Warner Archives/Rhino (original US label: Warner Brothers)
Year:    1971
    Strange Kind Of Woman was a top 10 hit when it was released as a single in the UK in 1971. In the US, however, the song didn't see much chart action. That very lack of chart success as a single, however, gave the song added credibility on FM rock stations in the US, which treated anything played on top 40 radio with disdain.

Artist:    Steve Miller Band
Title:    Come On In My Kitchen/Evil
Source:    LP: The Joker
Writer(s):    Johnson/Miller
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1973
    Although they had largely moved away from psychedelia into a more commercial sound on the 1973 LP The Joker, there was one aspect of the Steve Miller Band's music that remained from the band's early years: Miller's own fondness for American roots music, particularly the blues. This can be heard on the cover of Robert Johnson's Come On In My Kitchen, a live recording that segues into the studio recording of Evil (a Miller composition, not the Willie Dixon song of the same name).

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    I Want You (She's So Heavy)
Source:    CD: Abbey Road
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Apple)
Year:    1969
    With the exception of John Lennon's 1968 audio collage Revolution 9, the longest Beatle track ever recorded was I Want You (She's So Heavy), from the Abbey Road album. The track alternates between two distinct sections: the jazz-like I Want You, which contains most of the song's lyrical content, and the primal-scream based She's So Heavy, which repeats the same phrase endlessly in 6/8 time while an increasingly loud wall of white noise eventually leads to an abrupt cut-off at 7:47.

Artist:    Gentle Giant
Title:    Knots
Source:    CD: Octopus
Writer(s):    Minnier/Shulman/Shulman/Shulman
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1972
    In 1972 I was still pursuing the garage rocker's dream, despite the fact that the last band from my high school days, Sunn, had finally given up the ghost in the fall of '71. That dream was sorely put to the test, however, when I heard Gentle Giant's Octopus album. I mean, really! How was a garage rocker supposed to play music that even a seasoned jazz professional would find daunting? Of course the answer was to dive into the heavy metal movement that was still in its infancy, but still, the sheer complexity of Gentle Giant's music nonetheless continues to blow my mind. Take Knots, for instance. Inspired by the works of Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing, Knots is full of unexpected musical twists and turns, using dissonance and abrupt timing to enhance the lyrics. To top it off, it is basically an a cappela piece, with only minimal instrumentation until late in the track.

Artist:    Frank Zappa
Title:    Excentrifugal Forz/Apostrophe'
Source:    CD: Apostrophe (')
Writer(s):    Zappa/Gordon/Bruce
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1974
    The material making up side two of the 1974 Frank Zappa album Apostrophe (') actually predates the recordings on the first side of the album, which were from the same sessions as the 1973 album Over-Nite Sensation. Excentrifugal Forz, for example, uses drum tracks originally recorded in 1969 (outtakes from the Hot Rats album) combined with overdubs from 1973 and 1974, while Apostrophe' is basically a jam session by Zappa, bassist Jack Bruce (who disavowed ever having participated in the session) and drummer Jim Gordon.

Artist:    Elton John
Title:    Friends
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    John/Taupin
Label:    Uni
Year:    1971
    Elton John and Bernie Taupin started work on the soundtrack for the film Friends before John hit it big in the US with Your Song, a tune from his self-titled second LP (his first to be released in the US). Although the film itself was a flop, John's album did respectively well, with the title track being released as a single in 1971. The album itself, however, is long out of print and has never been released on a CD.

Artist:     Who
Title:     Behind Blue Eyes
Source:     45 RPM single
Writer:     Pete Townshend
Label:     Decca
Year:     1971
     One of the most iconic Who songs ever, Behind Blue Eyes continues to get played on commercial FM stations, both in its original form and the more recent cover version by Limp Bizkit. Well, I might be wrong about that last part. I mean, I've never heard the Limp Bizkit version played on the radio. Does anyone play Limp Bizkit at all anymore, for that matter?

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Nature's Way/Animal Zoo/Love Has Found A Way/Why Can't I Be Free
Source:    CD: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
Writer(s):    California/Ferguson/Locke
Label:    Epic/Legacy
Year:    1970
    Spirit was one of those bands that consistently scored well with the critics, yet was never truly able to connect with a large segment of the record buying audience at any given time. Perhaps their best album was Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, released in 1970 to glowing reviews. Despite this, the album actually charted lower than any of their three previous efforts, and would be the last to feature the band's original lineup. In the long haul, however, Twelve Dreams has become the group's top selling album, thanks to steady catalog sales over a period of years. Unlike many more popular records of the time, Twelve Dreams sounds as fresh and original today as when it first appeared, as can be easily heard on the four-song medley that makes up the bulk of the LP's first side. Indeed, despite never having charted as a single, Nature's Way, a Randy California tune which starts the sequence, is one of the best-known songs in the entire Spirit catalog. Additionally, its ecological theme segues naturally into Animal Zoo, a Jay Ferguson tune with a more satirical point of view. Love Has Found A Way, written by vocalist Ferguson and keyboardist John Locke, can best described as psychedelic space jazz, while Why Can't I Be Free is a simple, yet lovely, short coda from guitarist California. Although Spirit, in various incarnations, would continue to record for many years, they would never put out another album as listenable as Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus.

Artist:    Doobie Brothers
Title:    Clear As The Driven Snow
Source:    CD: The Captain And Me
Writer(s):    Patrick Simmons
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    In the mid-1970s I (apparently experiencing temporary insanity) bought one of those huge console stereos that it takes at least two people to move. In this particular case it had AM/FM, a turntable and an 8-track recorder. That's right. An 8-track recorder. I even managed to hang onto the thing through a couple of moves, including one into a spanish-style house surrounded by apartment complexes on both sides in a part of Albuquerque that is now known as the "war zone". The place had a huge living room with a big grease stain in the middle of the carpet (the story I heard was that a motorcycle had been parked there and had leaked oil). There were at least four other people who lived in the house (and a few others that seemed to be there all the time), and, as was common among the people I hung out with in the mid-1970s, no TV set in the living room, which meant the stereo got a lot of use. One of the albums that got played a lot was the third Doobie Brothers album, The Captain And Me, which usually ended up being the last album played on any given evening. As the last track on the better side of the album, Clear As The Driven Snow was often the last song I heard before drifting off to sleep, which is probably why I've always though of the song as having a kind of magical quality to it.

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