Sunday, November 10, 2019

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1946 (starts 11/11/19)

    Once again we have a two part show. The first part is a trip from 1969 to 1974, featuring hit singles, popular album tracks and a rather scary sounding instrumental written by Robert Fripp. From there it's pure free-form, as we jump from sub-genre to sub-genre with reckless abandon before wrapping it up with yet another hit single, this one from Elton John's first #1 album, Honky Chateau.

Artist:    Blues Image
Title:    Leaving My Troubles Behind
Source:    LP: Blues Image
Writer:    Blues Image
Label:    Atco
Year:    1969
    Miami's Blues Image was highly regarded by critics and musicians alike. Unfortunately, they were never able to translate that acclaim into album sales, despite recording a pair of fine albums for Atco. One of the highlights of their self-titled debut LP was a track called Leaving My Troubles Behind. Sung by conga player Joe Lala (who would eventually turn to acting, appearing on TV shows like Miami Vice and doing a ton of voice work for animated shows and video games), the song has all the earmarks of a rock standard, but for some reason never truly caught on. After a second LP charted even lower than the first one, guitarist Mike Pinera left Blues Image to replace Eric Brann in Iron Butterfly, and after yet another commercially unsuccessful album the group disbanded.

Artist:     Flock
Title:     Tired Of Waiting For You
Source:     British import CD: The Flock
Writer:     Ray Davies
Label:     BGO (original label: Columbia)
Year:     1969
     The Flock was one of those bands that made an impression on those who heard them perform but somehow were never able to turn that into massive record sales. Still, they left a pair of excellent LPs for posterity. The most notable track from the first album was their cover of the 1965 Kinks hit, Tired Of Waiting For You, featuring solos at the beginning and end of the song from violinist Jerry Goodwin, who would go on to help John McLaughlin launch the Mahavishnu Orchestra a couple years later.

Artist:     Guess Who
Title:     American Woman
Source:     European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: American Woman)
Writer:     Bachman/Cummings/Peterson/Kale
Label:     Sony Music (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1970
     American Woman is undoubtably the most political song ever recorded by the Guess Who, a generally non-political Canadian band. My family was living on Ramstein AFB, which was and is a huge base in Germany with enough Canadian personnel stationed there to justify their own on-base school. I found myself hanging out with the Canadian kids most of the time and I gotta tell you, they absolutely loved this song. They also loved to throw it in my face as often as possible. I guess that's what I got for being the "token American" member of the group.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Immigrant Song
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    Although the third Led Zeppelin album is known mostly for its surprising turn toward a more acoustic sound than its predecessors, the first single from that album actually rocked out as hard, if not harder, than any previous Zeppelin track. In fact, it could be argued that Immigrant Song rocks out harder than anything on top 40 radio before or since. Starting with a tape echo deliberately feeding on itself the song breaks into a basic riff built on two notes an octave apart, with Robert Plant's wailing vocals sounding almost like a siren call. Guitarist Jimmy Page soon breaks into a series of power chords that continue to build in intensity for the next two minutes, until the song abruptly stops cold. The lyrics of Immigrant Song were inspired by the band's trip to Iceland in 1970.

Artist:    Blue Oyster Cult
Title:    Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll
Source:    LP: Blue Oyster Cult
Writer(s):    Pearlman/Roeser/Bouchard
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1972
    Blue Oyster Cult's first single, Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll, is proof that by the early 1970s top 40 radio had become irrelevant. The song failed to chart, yet B.O.C. went on to become one of the most well-known rock bands of the decade. The song itself has become a concert staple and was featured in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. Vocals on the tune come from drummer Joe Bouchard.

Artist:    National Lampoon
Title:    Mr. Roberts
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits Of The National Lampoon (originally released on LP: That's Not Funny, That's Sick)
Writer(s):    Murray/Guest
Label:    Uproar (original label: Label 21)
Year:    1977
    There are actually two Mr. Roberts tracks on the 1977 National Lampoon LP That's Not Funny, That's Sick. The more famous one depicts the children's show host (a parody of Mister Rogers) being accosted by the father of one of the neighborhood kids for spending too much time alone with his son. For my money, though, the far funnier one involves Mr. Roberts (voiced by Christopher Guest) interviewing a jazz bassist (voiced by Billy Murray), culminating in a trip to the "magic kingdom". Murray and Guest wrote the piece, which is included on the Greatest Hits Of The National Lampoon CD.

Artist:    King Crimson
Title:    Red
Source:    CD: Red
Writer(s):    Robert Fripp
Label:    Discipline Global Mobile (original label: Atlantic)
Year:    1974
    Red is the seventh and final album of the original run of King Crimson, released in 1974. By then, only guitarist Robert Fripp remained of the original King Crimson lineup; he would form a new King Crimson seven years later. The title track of Red, which opens the album, is the only piece on the LP written entirely by Fripp. It is an instrumental written for multi-tracked guitar, bass and drums, and redefines the term "power trio" in a scary way. Fripp himself was somewhat ambiguous about including the track on the album, but bassist John Wetton insisted on it (drummer Bill Bruford reportedly told Fripp "I don't get it, but if you tell me it's good, I trust you").
Artist:    Emerson, Lake, and Palmer
Title:    The Only Way (Hymn)/Infinite Space (Conclusion)
Source:    LP: Tarkus
Writer(s):    Emerson/Lake/Palmer
Label:    Cotillion
Year:    1971
    Emerson, Lake and Palmer's second studio album, Tarkus, was basically two "half-albums". The first side of the album was the title track, a massive seven-part piece that is considered one of the greatest prog-rock suites ever recorded. The second side, on the other hand, contains several unrelated pieces such as The Only Way (Hymn) and Infinite Space (Conclusion). The two run together as kind of a mini-suite, with Greg Lake's vocals and Keith Emerson's organ work combining to create a church-like atmosphere on The Only Way (Hymn), while Infinite Space (Conclusion) is much more electronic in nature, with Emerson's synthesizers and Carl Palmer's drums taking center stage.

Artist:    Steve Miller Band
Title:    Motherless Children
Source:    LP: Your Saving Grace
Writer(s):    Trad., arr. Miller
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1969
    Motherless Children is one of those songs that seems to have always been there. The first known recording of the song was made by Blind Willie Johnson in 1927, and the tune was considered a traditional ballad  even then. Over the years several versions of Motherless Children have been recorded by such notables as Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Eric Clapton, Rosanne Cash and Lucinda Williams. Perhaps the most unusual arrangement of the tune, however, was the opening track of side two of the Steve Miller Band album Your Saving Grace, released in 1969. Rather than take a traditional blues approach to the tune, Miller slows down the song, giving it an almost drone-like quality and stretching it out to a full six minutes in length.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    It Ain't Easy
Source:    CD: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Writer(s):    Ron Davies
Label:    Ryko (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1972
    David Bowie had little need to record cover songs. He was, after all, one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. But when he did record the occasional cover tune, you can bet it was a good one. Take It Ain't Easy, for instance. The song was already well known as the title track of two different albums, one by Three Dog Night and one by Long John Baldry, when Bowie recorded it, yet he still managed to make the song his own. The song itself was written by Nashville songwriter Ron Davies, whose younger sister Gail is notable as the first female producer in country music.

Artist:    American Dream
Title:    I Ain't Searchin'
Source:    LP: The American Dream
Writer(s):    Nick Jameson
Label:    Ampex
Year:    1970
    In 1970 Albert Grossman, best known for being the manager of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin and others, decided to form his own record label, Bearsville Records. One of his first acts was to sign Todd Rundgren, who had just left his own band, Nazz, as a producer for the new label. The first album issued by Bearsville (and distributed by Ampex, a world leader in magnetic tape recording) was a Philadelphia band called The American Dream. The first single from the album was I Ain't Searchin', a tune written by the band's lead guitarist, Nick Jameson. Although the album itself was not a commercial success, it did pave the way for Rundgren's future career as a producer. Jameson, incidentally, would eventually become a member of Foghat.

Artist:    Elton John
Title:    Honky Cat
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    John/Taupin
Label:    Uni
Year:    1972
    Elton John hit the top of the US charts with his fifth LP, Honky Chateau, in 1972. It was the first of seven consecutive #1 albums for the singer/songwriter and included two major hit singles. The second of these was the album's opening track, Honky Cat, which made the top 10 that same year, despite having a length of over five minutes at a time when most radio stations still observed the three and a half minute standard for top 40 singles.

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