Sunday, June 23, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1926 (starts 6/24/19)

    Since it's baseball season, I thought we could choke up a little and go with shorter songs this time around. As a result, we have 14 tracks on this week's show, half of which have never been played on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion before.

Artist:     Cream
Title:     Sitting On Top Of The World
Source:     LP: Wheels Of Fire
Writer:     Vinson/Chatmon (original) Chester Burnett (modern version)
Label:     RSO (original label: Atco)
Year:     1968
     Throughout their existence British blues supergroup Cream recorded covers of blues classics. One of the best of these is Sitting On Top Of The World from the album Wheels Of Fire, which in its earliest form was written by Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon and recorded by the Mississippi Shieks in 1930. Cream's cover uses the lyrics from the 1957 rewrite of the song by Chester Burnett, better know as Howlin' Wolf.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Changes
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (originally released on LP: Hunky Dory)
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    RCA Victor
Year:    1971
    Sometimes a seemingly innocous little song will turn out to be something far more than it started out to be. Such is the case with Changes, one of the most recognizable songs of the 20th century. Originally appearing on the 1971 album Hunky Dory and released as a single in 1972, Changes, according to Bowie, started off as a parody of a nightclub song, "a kind of throwaway", that featured Bowie himself on saxophone, with strings provided by Mick Ronson. Rick Wakeman's keyboards also feature prominently in the recording. The song was Bowie's first North American release on the RCA Victor label (although Mercury had released The Man Who Sold The World two years previously, the record had gone nowhere at the time). Changes is often taken as a statement of artistic intent, as Bowie was constantly reinventing himself throughout his career. Oddly enough, the song did not make the British charts until its re-release following Bowie's death in 2016.

Artist:    Peter Gabriel
Title:    Solsbury Hill
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Peter Gabriel
Label:    Atco
Year:    1977
    Vocalist Peter Gabriel's first single after leaving Genesis was Solsbury Hill, a song inspired by a spiritual experience Gabriel had atop Little Solsbury Hill in Somerset, England. Gabriel said of the song:  "It's about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get ... It's about letting go." The song hit the top 20 in the UK and shows up from time to time in various TV and movie soundtracks.

Artist:    Renaissance
Title:    Midas Man
Source:    LP: Novella
Writer(s):    Dunford/Thatcher
Label:    Sire
Year:    1977
    Renaissance hit their commercial peak in the US with the album Novella. Released in January of 1977 (about a year and a half after Scheherazade And Other Stories), the album climbed to the #46 spot on the Billboard album chart, 2 positions higher than its predecessor. Disco, however, was surging in popularity in the US at the time, and subsequent Renaissance albums were not able to crack the top 100, although the band's popularity in the native England actually went up in 1978 thanks to the hit single Northern Lights. Looking back, Novella, despite its chart success, did not have the same sort of memorable tracks as its predecessors, as can be heard by listening to Midas Man, which opens side two of the original LP.

Artist:    David Crosby
Title:    Tamalpais High (At About 3)
Source:    CD: If I Could Only Remember My Name
Writer(s):    David Crosby
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    Of the four albums released by the members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young following the success of the 1970 LP deja vu, David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name has arguably held up best over the years, and has been cited as an influence on indy rock and electronica, as well as other genres. Many of the tracks are considered experimental, such as Tamalpais High (At About 3). The wordless song features vocals by Crosby and Graham Nash, with Crosby on acoustic guitar accompanied by electric guitarists Jorma Kaukonen and Jerry Garcia, bassist Phil Lesh and drummer Bill Kreutzman.

Artist:    Neil Young
Title:    After The Gold Rush
Source:    CD: After The Gold Rush
Writer(s):    Neil Young
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1970
    Once upon a time Dean Stockwell and Herb Bermann wrote a screenplay for a movie to be called After The Gold Rush. Neil Young read the script and decided that he wanted to do the soundtrack for the film, which Stockwell described as "sort of an end-of-the-world movie. I was gonna write a movie that was personal, a Jungian self-discovery of the gnosis... it involved the Kabala (sic), it involved a lot of arcane stuff." The movie was never made, and even the script is now long lost. However, Young did manage to write a couple of songs for the film, including the title track itself, which became the title track of his third album. The song describes a dream vision about the past, present and future of earth's environment. Young still performs After The Gold Rush, although he has updated one of the song's most famous lines ("Look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s") by replacing the words "the 1970s" with "the 21st century".

Artist:    Tommy James
Title:    Draggin' The Line
Source:    CD: Billboard's Top Rock ' N' Roll Hits-1971 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    James/King
Label:    Roulette
Year:    1971
    Although often associated with the "bubble-gum" pop music of 1968-69, Tommy Jame's string of hit single actually predates that trend by a couple of years (and outlasted it as well). After collapsing after leaving the stage at a gig and actually being pronouced dead at the scene in 1970, James left his band, the Shondells, and moved out to the country to recover. He soon embarked on a solo career, however, releasing several singles, including a song called Church Street Soul Survival. The B side of that single was a song called Draggin' The Line. The following year James remastered the song, adding horns and a second guitar and releasing it as a single in 1971, where it went on to become his biggest hit as a solo artist. Although it has sometimes been interpreted as a drug song, James himself has said the song is more of a blue-collar anthem about doing the same job day after day.

Artist:    Ten Years After
Title:    Working On The Road
Source:    CD: Cricklewood Green
Writer(s):    Alvin Lee
Label:    Chrysalis (original label: Deram)
Year:    1970
    Following their successful appearance at Woodstock, Ten Years After returned to the studio to record their fifth LP, Cricklewood Green. The album itself is considered by many critics to be their finest effort, with songs like Working On The Road showing how far Alvin Lee's songwriting had come in the three years since the band's 1967 debut LP.

Artist:    Wishbone Ash
Title:    Moonshine
Source:    CD: The Collection (originally released on LP: Locked In)
Writer(s):    Powell/Turner/Wisefield/Upton
Label:    Spectrum (original label: MCA)
Year:    1976
    Following the departure of guitarist Ted Turner in 1974, the remaining members of Wishbone Ash decided to carry on with a new guitarist, Laurie Wisefield. At first things went pretty well for the new lineup, with the album There's The Rub drawing critical acclaim and making a decent showing on the charts. Things went south, however, with the release of their next album, Locked In, due in large part to the actions of producer Tom Dowd, who insisted that the band play quietly in the studio. This resulted in a crucial loss of energy in the recording. Probably the best track on the LP was Moonshine, which was the only one selected for the band's anthology CD The Collection.

Artist:    ZZ Top
Title:    Snappy Kakkie
Source:    LP: Tejas
Writer(s):    Gibbons/Hill/Beard
Label:    London
Year:    1976
    Having spent four albums establishing their own brand of Texas blues, ZZ Top decided to expand their horizons a bit with the 1976 LP Tejas. Billy Gibbons is at his most creative with his guitar work on Snappy Kakkie, which adds a touch of funk to the band's trademark sound.

Artist:    Johnny Winter
Title:    Nothing Left
Source:    Dutch import CD: Johnny Winter And
Writer(s):    Johnny Winter
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1970
    Johnny Winter went with a whole new band for his 1972 LP Johnny Winter And. The result was an album that went beyond the straight blues of his first three LPs into a harder rocking sound that can be heard on tracks like Nothing Left. Joining Johnny were Rick Derringer (formerly of the McCoys) on guitar and vocals, Randy Hobbs on bass and vocals and Randy Z on drums.

Artist:    Argent
Title:    Hold Your Head Up
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: All Together Now)
Writer(s):    Argent/White
Label:    Sony Music (original US label: Epic)
Year:    1972
    Following the dissolution of the Zombies, keyboardist Rod Argent went about forming a new band called, appropriately enough, Argent. The new group had its greatest success in 1972 with the song Hold Your Head Up, which went to the #5 spot on the charts in both the US and UK. The song originally appeared on the album All Together Now, with a running time of over six minutes. The first single version of the tune ran less than three minutes, but was quickly replaced with a longer edit that made the song three minutes and fifteen seconds long. In the years since, the longer LP version has come to be the most familiar one to most radio listeners.

Artist:    Allman Brothers Band
Title:    Midnight Rider
Source:    CD: Beginnings (originally released on LP: Idlewild South)
Writer(s):    Gregg Allman
Label:    Polydir (original labels: Capricorn/Atco)
Year:    1970
    Gregg Allman said it only took him about an hour to come up with most of what would come to be known as his signature song, Midnight Rider. He had problems coming up with lyrics for the third verse, however, and finally turned to Kim Payne, one of the band's roadies, for help. The two of them broke into the Capricorn studios late at night to record a demo of the song, which was later re-recorded by the full Allman Brothers Band and released on their second LP, Idlewild South. The song was released as the second single from the album, but did not chart in its original form, even though that recording is far superior to the various cover versions (including one by Gregg Allman himself as a solo artist) that did chart over the years.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Got No Time For Trouble
Source:    CD: Bang
Writer(s):    Bolin/Tesar
Label:    Atco
Year:    1974
    In 1974 the James Gang hired their third lead guitarist since the band was formed in 1969. That guitarist was Tommy Bolin, who had first come to national attention as a member of the Boulder, Colorado band Zephyr. Bolin co-wrote several of the tracks on his first album with the James Gang, Bang, including Got No Time For Trouble, which also was issued as the B side of the only single taken from Bang. Lead vocals on the song are by Roy Kenner, who had joined the James Gang shortly after the departure of the band's original guitarist/vocalist, Joe Walsh.

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