Sunday, October 13, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1942 (starts 10/14/19)

    I was really planning on doing two sets this week, but each song seemed to flow so naturally out of the one before it that I just couldn't bring myself to dam up the stream of tunes. So prepare yourself for an amazing musical journey, starting, appropriately enough, with the Who.

Artist:    Who
Title:    Amazing Journey
Source:    British Import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Tommy)
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    Polydor UK (original US label: Decca)
Year:    1969
    After achieving major success in their native England with a series of hit singles in 1965-67, the Who began to concentrate more on their albums from 1968 on. The first of these concept albums was The Who Sell Out, released in December of 1967. The Who Sell Out was a collection of songs connected by faux radio spots and actual jingles from England's last remaining pirate radio station, Radio London. After releasing a few more singles in 1968, the Who began work on their most ambitious project yet: the world's first rock opera. Tommy, released in 1969, was a double LP telling the story of a boy who, after being tramautized into becoming a blind deaf-mute, eventually emerges as a kind of messiah, only to have his followers ultimately abandon him. One of the early tracks on the album is Amazing Journey, describing Tommy's voyage into the recesses of his own mind in response to the traumatic event that results in his "deaf, dumb and blind" condition.

Artist:    Ten Years After
Title:    Gonna Run
Source:    CD: Watt
Writer(s):    Alvin Lee
Label:    Chrysalis (original label: Deram)
Year:    1970
    The fifth Ten Years After album, Watt, was somewhat unfairly criticized by the rock press for being "more of the same" from the British blues-rock band. When "the same" refers to an album of the calibur of Cricklewood Green, however, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, some tracks, such as Gonna Run, are at least the equal of any song on the previous album, and show a growing awareness on the part of the band of how to use the recording studio itself to its fullest advantage.

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Street Worm
Source:    CD: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
Writer(s):    Jay Ferguson
Label:    Epic/Legacy
Year:    1970
    Spirit guitarist Randy California got an opportunity to channel one of his personal heroes, saxophonist John Coltrane, on Jay Ferguson's Street Worm on the 1970 album Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus. It is particularly noticable on the arpeggios at the end of the track.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    River Deep, Mountain High
Source:    CD: The Book Of Taleisyn
Writer(s):    Barry/Specter/Greenwich
Label:    Eagle (original label: Tetragrammaton)
Year:    1968
    The big, spectacular production piece on Deep Purple's second LP, The Book Of Taleisyn, was a ten minute long cover of Tina Turner's 1966 single (credited to Ike And Tina Turner, though it was actually produced by Phil Spector) River Deep, Mountain High. The original Turner version had mysteriously stalled out in the #88 spot in the US, although it was a #3 hit single in the UK. For Deep Purple, the reverse held true, as the album, released in late 1968, was a success in the US (#54 on the Billboard LP chart) but did not chart at all in the UK, where it was not released until mid-1969. The song itself would be covered by several notable artists over the subsequent years, including Eric Burdon And The Animals and a collaboration between the Supremes and the Four Tops that would become the highest-charting US version of the song in 1970.

Artist:    Genesis
Title:    The Return Of The Giant Hogweed
Source:    CD: Nursery Crymes
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1971
    The 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:      Blood, Sweat and Tears
Title:     Sometimes In Winter
Source:      CD: Blood, Sweat and Tears
Writer:    Stee Katz
Label:     Columbia/Legacy
Year:     1969
     Steve Katz was never a superstar. As the rhythm guitarist in Blues Project he was always overshadowed by lead guitarist Danny Kalb and keyboardist Al Kooper. When Kooper formed Blood, Sweat and Tears, nobody seemed to notice that Katz was the only other member of Blues Project in the band. As Sometimes In Winter shows, though, he was a decent singer-songwriter in his own right.

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    I Need A Man To Love
Source:    LP: Cheap Thrills
Writer(s):    Joplin/Andrew
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1968
    Big Brother and the Holding Company recorded their first album at the Chicago studios of Mainstream records in 1967. Mainstream, however, was a jazz label and their engineers had no idea how to make an anarchic band like Big Brother sound good. When the band signed to Columbia the following year it was decided that the best way to record the band was onstage at the Fillmore West. This didn't work out as planned, however, and only the album's final track, Ball And Chain, is actually a live recording. Other songs, such as I Need A Man To Love, were recorded in the studio, but were made to sound live in post-production.

Artist:    Derek And The Dominos
Title:    Anyday
Source:    CD: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs
Writer(s):    Clapton/Whitlock
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1970
    Derek And The Dominos was originally an attempt by Eric Clapton to remove himself from the solo spotlight and work in a larger group setting than he had with his previous bands, Cream and Blind Faith. Such was Clapton's stature, however, that even among talents like Jim Gordon, Carl Radle and Bobby Whitlock, Clapton was still the star. However, there was one unofficial member of the group whose own star was in ascendancy. Duane Allman, who had chosen to stick with his own group the Allman Brothers Band, nonetheless played on eleven of the fourteen tracks on Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs. His slide guitar work is especially noticeable on the title track and on the song Anyday, which remains one of the most popular songs on the album.

Artist:    Doobie Brothers
Title:    Tell Me What You Want (And I'll Give You What You Need)
Source:    CD: What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits
Writer(s):    Patrick Simmons
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1974
    The fourth Doobie Brothers album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, is one those albums that benefits from the inherit limitations of vinyl, specifically the fact that a vinyl LP is divided into two (or more) sides. The first side of the album is just OK, despite the fact that it contains two of the album's three singles, including the band's first #1 hit, Black Water. The second side, however, is where the album really shines, with one strong song after another from start to finish. In the middle of this is Tell Me What You Want (And I'll Give You What You Need), one of the most underrated songs in entire Doobie Brothers catalog. Written by Patrick Simmons, the song shows just how easily the Doobies were able to ease into the 70s California groove usually associated with bands like Poco and the Eagles without losing the edge that made them one of the most popular bands of their time.

Artist:    Stevie Wonder
Title:    Contusion
Source:    LP: Songs In The Key Of Life
Writer(s):    Stevie Wonder
Label:    Tamla
Year:    1976
    Stevie Wonder's 1976 double-LP Songs In The Key Of Life is considered by many musicians to be the greatest album of all time. It was the third consecutive Stevie Wonder album to win the Grammy award for Album Of The Year and spent 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard album chart, including the week was released, making it only the third album in history to make its debut at #1. It also provided the artist with two #1 hit singles, as well as a pair of lesser hits in late 1977. Among the many outstanding tracks on Songs In The Key Of Life is the mostly-instrumental Contusion, a fusion jazz piece that features the talents of Mike Sembello on lead guitar, Nathan Watts on bass guitar, Ben Bridges on rhythm guitar, Raymond Pounds on drums and Greg Phillinganes on keyboards, with Wonder himself playing all the other instruments. Contusion also features wordless vocals from Michael Gray, Josie James, Shirley Brewer and Artece May.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix
Title:    Angel
Source:    CD: The Ultimate Experience (originally released on LP: The Cry Of Love)
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1971
    Shortly after the untimely death of Jimi Hendrix in September of 1970, Reprise released the first of many posthumous Hendrix albums, The Cry Of Love. Like millions of other Hendrix fans, I immediately went out and bought a copy. I have to say that there are very few songs that have ever brought tears to my eyes, and even fewer that did so on my very first time hearing them. Of these, Angel tops the list.

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