Sunday, July 21, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1930 (starts 7/22/19)

    Once again we have an hour of free-form rock, with a definite emphasis on the progressive side of things (hey, if it ain't broke...)

Artist:    Doors
Title:    People Are Strange
Source:    CD: The Best Of The Doors (originally released on LP: Strange Days and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    The first single from the second Doors album was People Are Strange. The song quickly dispelled any notion that the Doors might be one-hit wonders and helped establish the band as an international act as opposed to just another band from L.A. The album itself, Strange Days, was a turning point for Elektra Records as well, as it shifted the label's promotional efforts away from their original rock band, Love, to the Doors, whom ironically had been recommended to the label by Love's leader, Arthur Lee.

Artist:    Todd Rundgren
Title:    Good Vibrations
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Wilson/Love
Label:    Bearsville
Year:    1976
    Todd Rundgren has stated that his musical career began in 1966, the year he formed Nazz. Ten years later he released the album Faithful. The first side of that album was made up entirely of near-perfect replicas of some of Rundgren's favorite songs from 1966 (and one from early 1967). One of these, Good Vibrations, was also released as a single. Although Rundgren's voice isn't quite up to the level of the mid-60s Beach Boys in the harmony department, the arrangement of the song is dead on, and is actually less jarring to listen to than Brian Wilson's own remake of the song from 2004.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Our Lady
Source:    Japanese import CD: Who Do We Think We Are
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    Deep Purple was the top selling artist of 1973, thanks in large part to the release of their seventh studio album, Who Do We Think We Are. It was also the final year for the band's classic MK2 lineup, with both Ian Gillan and Roger Glover leaving the band that summer. According to Gillan, the band had just finished 18 months of touring and every member had had some sort of major illness over that same period, yet their managers insisted that they immediately get to work on the new album, even though the band members desperately needed a break. Nonetheless the album itself is one of their strongest, in spite of the fact that, for the most part the band members weren't even on speaking terms and much of the album was recorded piecemeal, with each member adding his part at a different time. The final track on the album, Our Lady, was a return to the band's psychedelic roots, with a definite Hendrix vibe to the entire piece.

Artist:    Genesis
Title:    Watcher Of The Skies
Source:    CD: Foxtrot
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Rhino/Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1972
    The opening song for most of Genesis's live performances throughout the mid-1970s was also the opening track of their 1972 album Foxtrot. Watcher Of The Skies was inspired by the works of science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood's End) and legendary comic book writer Stan Lee (the Watcher series), although the title itself reportedly was taken from an 1817 poem by John Keats. The two alternating chords at the beginning of the piece were actually the result of the limitations of a Mellotron MKII that keyboardist Tony Banks had just bought from King Crimson. According to Banks "There were these two chords that sounded really good on that instrument. There are some chords you can't play on that instrument because they'd be so out of tune. These chords created an incredible atmosphere. That's why it's just an incredible intro number. It never sounded so good on the later Mellotron."

Artist:    Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Title:    Knife-Edge
Source:    CD: Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Writer(s):    Janocek, arr. Emerson/Lake/Palmer
Label:    Rhino (original label: Cotillion)
Year:    1970
    Starting with the release of their first self-titled LP, Emerson, Lake & Palmer were known for incorporating classical music into rock compositions. One of the earliest examples of this is Knife-Edge, an adaptation of  the first movement of Leoš Janácek's Sinfonietta that incorporates a section of Johann Sebastian Bach's first French Suite in D minor as well. All this on a piece that rocks out as hard, if not harder, than anything else released in 1970.

Artist:    Nektar
Title:    A Tab In The Ocean
Source:    LP: A Tab In The Ocean
Writer(s):    Nektar
Label:    Passport (original German label: Bellaphon)
Year:    1972 (US release: 1976)
    On the surface it seems like a story you've heard before: a group of young British musicians go to Hamburg, Germany to hone their craft, building up a cult following in the process. But this story is not about the Beatles. It is about Nektar, formed in 1969 by Roye Albrighton on guitars and vocals, Allan "Taff" Freeman on keyboards, Derek "Mo" Moore on bass, Ron Howden on drums, and Mick Brockett and Keith Walters on lights and special effects. Nektar's early style is well represented on the title track of their second LP, A Tab In The Ocean, which takes up the entire first side of the album. The LP was originally released in Germany in 1972 on the Bellaphon label. Nektar would eventually become closely associated with the progressive rock movement of the early to mid 1970s, thanks in large part to A Tab In The Ocean finally being released in the US in 1976. Like fellow prog-rockers Genesis and Gentle Giant, Nektar began to commercialize their sound with shorter songs containing fewer time and key changes as the decade wore on; unlike those other bands, however, Nektar did not become more popular because of the changes. Indeed, by 1978, the band had decided to call it quits, although two of the members reformed the band briefly the following year, releasing one album in 1980 before disbanding again in 1982.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Breathe/Speak To Me/On The Run
Source:    CD: The Dark Side Of The Moon
Writer(s):    Mason/Waters/Gilmour/Wright
Label:    Capitol (original label: Harvest)
Year:    1973
    Is there really anything I can say about Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon that hasn't been said a hundred times already? Probably not, so let's just kick back and enjoy the album's opening tracks, Breathe/Speak To Me and On The Run.

Artist:    Steeleye Span
Title:    The Wife Of Ushers Well
Source:    LP: All Around My Hat
Writer(s):    Trad., arr. Hart/Prior/Knight/Johnson/Kemp
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1975
    Steeleye Span hit the peak of their popularity in 1975 with the album All Around My Hat, which spent six months on the British album charts, peaking at #5. It was also their first album to chart in the US, peaking at #143. Although all the songs on the album were credited to the band members, many of the tunes, such as The Wife Of Ushers Well, were actually traditional English folk ballads that had been given electric rock arrangements by the band.

Artist:    Faces
Title:    Ooh-La-La
Source:    45 RPM single (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Wood/Lane
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    Rod Stewart does not perform on the song Ooh-La-La (that's Ronnie Wood on lead vocals). In fact, he is entirely missing from three of the ten tracks on the 1973 album Ooh La La. This is because by 1973 Rod Stewart was a Big Solo Rock Star who apparently had little interest in honoring his commitments to his bandmates. He missed the first two weeks of sessions for the album entirely and appeared to be distracted when he did bother to show up. After the album was released he went out of his way to tell anyone that would listen how bad the album was. Now do you understand why I have zero respect for Rod Stewart?

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    Stranger To Himself
Source:    LP: John Barleycorn Must Die
Writer(s):    Winwood/Capaldi
Label:    Island (original label: United Artists)
Year:    1970
    Stranger To Himself is one of two songs that Steve Winwood had completed for his first solo album when he decided to instead make a new Traffic album. Rather than recut the song, Winwood included the recording, on which he plays all the instruments himself, as the first track of side two of the fourth Traffic LP, John Barleycorn Must Die.

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