Sunday, February 16, 2020

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2008 (starts 2/17/20)

    Over half (the "middle seven") of this week's 13 tracks are making their Rockin' in the Days of Confusion debut, including the hard-to-find "Edit 6", aka the Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles from Jethro Tull's A Passion Play (normally broken up over two sides of an LP). We begin, however, on a much more familiar note...

Artist:    Mountain
Title:    Mississippi Queen
Source:    CD: Electric 70s (originally released on LP: Mountain Climbing)
Writer(s):    West/Laing/Pappalardi/Rea
Label:    Warner Special Products/JCI (original label: Windfall)
Year:    1970
    One of the most overlooked bands of the mid-1960s was the Vagrants. Based on Long Island, the group made a specialty of covering popular R&B and rock songs, often slowing them down and featuring extended solos by guitarist Leslie Weinstein, inspiring fellow Long Islanders Vanilla Fudge to do the same. Although the Vagrants themselves never were able to gain much national attention, Weinstein himself had established quite a reputation by the time the group disbanded. Meanwhile, keyboardist/producer/songwriter Felix Pappalardi had been working with the members of Cream as a producer, but with the demise of that band was looking for a new project to sink his teeth into. That new project turned out to be a solo album by Weinstein, who by then had shortened his last name to West. The album was called Mountain, and soon after its release West and Pappalardi decided to form a band of the same name. The group first got national attention performing at Woodstock, and in 1970 released the album Mountain Climbing, featuring the hit single Mississippi Queen.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Pretzel Logic
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagan
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1974
    Steely Dan's third album, Pretzel Logic, was almost universally praised by the rock press, including NME magazine, which named it the 1974 album of the year, and Village Voice critic Robert Christgau, who ranked it at the top of his own annual list. The title track, according to co-writer Donald Fagan, is actually about time travel, and includes references to Napoleon Bonaparte and travelling minstrel shows.

Artist:    Graham Nash
Title:    Prison Song
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Graham Nash
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1973
    Graham Nash's Prison Song is one of those songs that by all rights should have been a huge hit. It was by a name artist. It had a catchy opening harmonica riff and a haunting melody. I can only surmise that once again Bill Drake (the man who controlled top 40 radio in the 60s and early 70s) decided that the lyrics were too controversial for AM radio and had the song blacklisted, much as he had done with the Byrds Eight Miles High a few years earlier. Those lyrics center on a subject that is unfortunately still relevant today: the utter absurdity of drug laws and the unequal sentences for violation of those laws in the US and its various states.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Snowblind
Source:    CD: Vol. 4
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1972
    During their early years the members of Black Sabbath were known for smoking a lot of pot and drinking a lot of booze. In 1972, however, the started getting heavily into cocaine as well. The band had gone out to Los Angeles to work on their fourth LP, and had rented a place in Bel-Air for the duration of their sessions at the Record Plant. According to guitarist Tony Iommi, the band actually had speaker boxes full of cocaine delivered right to the studio, and the scene at the house in Bel-Air was one constant party. In fact, the original title of the album was supposed to be Snowblind, but their label, Warner Brothers, insisted they call it something else, and in the end the band just decided to call it Vol. 4. The song that would have been the title track from the album was kept, however, and became one of the group's most popular songs.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    All You've Got Is Money
Source:    CD: Survival
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1971
    Most commercially successful artists have become so because they are able to create something that a complete stranger can somehow relate to. Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad certainly captured the imaginations of older teenage males with songs like Mr. Limousine Driver, Are You Ready and other hormone-charged rockers on Grand Funk Railroad's early albums. By 1971, however, themes of success itself were starting to show up on songs like All You've Got Is Money, which is basically a complaint about how everyone is after your bread when you have a lot of it, but seem to be nowhere around when the money's gone. The entire second half of the track is a kind of dirge, with a repeating guitar/bass riff accompanied by various screams, moans and guitar licks. Notably, the new liner notes accompanying the remastered CD version of the Survival album have something to say about every song on the album except All You've Got Is Money.

Artist:      Bloodrock
Title:    Fancy Space Odyssey
Source:      CD: Bloodrock 2
Writer(s):    John Nitzinger
Label:    One Way/Cema Special Products (original label: Capitol)
Year:     1970
     In the early 1970s the Dallas-Fort Worth area was known mostly as the home of guys with names like Landry and Staubach. For a short time in 1971, however, even their fame was rivalled by a band called Bloodrock, whose D.O.A., a first-person account of the aftermath of a plane crash as seen by one of the victims, is considered one of the goriest songs in rock history. Bloodrock rise to fame began when they signed on as the second band to be produced and managed by Terry Knight, touring as Grand Funk Railroad's opening act in 1970. Their first two LPs both came out in 1970, with D.O.A. being released in edited form as a single in early 1971. The closing track of Bloodrock 2 was a tune called Fancy Space Odyssey, written for the band by a local guitarist named John Nitzinger. Nitzenger wrote several songs for Bloodrock over the course of four LPs and eventually released a couple albums of his own as well.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    A Passion Play (Edit #6) aka The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles
Source:    45 RPM single B side (promo)
Writer(s):    Anderson/Hammond/Evan
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1973
    For thirty years, The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles, the "intermission" portion of Jethro Tull's 1973 album A Passion Play, was split into two parts, with the first part appearing at the end of side one of the LP and the second at the beginning of side two. Even early CD issues of the album indexed the two parts onto separate tracks. It wasn't until the 2003 CD remaster of A Passion Play that the two parts of the story were finally united as a single piece. Well, that's not entirely true, actually. Although A Passion Play was always meant to be considered a single uninterrupted work (flipping the LP over notwithstanding), bandleader and main composer Ian Anderson broke down the album into a series of ten edits for use on US radio stations. This special edition of the LP, labeled "Edited version for DJ use only" included The Story Of The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles in its entirety as the first track on the LP's second side, labeled Edit #6. This same edit was also issued as the B side of A Passion Play (Edit #10), the second single from the album.

Artist:    Stories
Title:    What Comes After
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Brown/Lloyd
Label:    Kama Sutra
Year:    1973
    Keyboardist Michael Brown first made his mark in the music business at the age of 17, when a song he co-wrote called Walk Away Renee became a huge national hit for his band, the Left Banke. Unfortunately, a series of missteps caused the band's demise the following year. Brown wasn't quite done, however. In 1971 he formed a band called Stories with vocalist Ian Lloyd, but left the band following the release of their second LP, About Us. Just after Brown left the band recorded a cover of Hot Chocolate's Brother Louie that became the band's biggest hit. Although Brown did not appear on Brother Louie, the B side of the record, What Comes After, was one of the tracks from About Us that Brown co-wrote and played on. After Brother Louie became a hit, incidentally, copies of About Us were recalled and replaced with a new version of the album that included the hit single as the LP's final track.

Artist:    Gong
Title:    Dynamite: I Am Your Animal
Source:    British import CD: Camembert Electrique (originally released in France)
Writer(s):    Tritsch/Smyth
Label:    Charly (original label BYG Actuel)
Year:    1971
    It's almost impossible to describe Gong. They had their roots in British psychedelia, founder Daevid Allen having been a member of Soft Machine, but are also known as pioneers of space-rock. The Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, from 1973-74, is considered a landmark of the genre, telling the story of such characters as Zero the Hero and the Pot Head Pixies from Planet Gong. The groundwork for the trilogy was actually laid in 1971, when the album Camembert Electrique was recorded (and released) in France on the BYG Actuel label. The album itself ranges from the experimental (and even somewhat humorous) Radio Gnome tracks to the spacier cuts like Tropical Fish: Selene, and Dynamite: I Am Your Animal, a piece that foreshadows the coming electronic-rock movement.

Artist:    Fleetwood Mac
Title:    Dust My Broom
Source:    Australian import CD: The Essential Fleetwood Mac (originally released in UK as LP: Mr. Wonderful
Writer(s):    James/Johnson
Label:    Sony Music (original label: Blue Horizon)
Year:    1968
    Cited as the "most recognizable guitar riff in the history of the blues" by no less an authority than the  Library of Congress' National Recording Registry, the opening notes of Dust My Broom were first recorded by Elmore James in 1951. James's recording was based on an earlier acoustic version of the song called I Believe I'll Dust My Broom that came out in 1937, but it was James that adapted the riff for slide guitar. The song was already considered a blues standard when Peter Green's band, Fleetwood Mac, recorded the song for their second LP, Mr. Wonderful. The band's lineup at the time consisted of Green on lead guitar, vocals and harmonica, Jeremy Spencer playing slide guitar, John McVie on bass and Mick Fleetwood on drums. Christine Perfect, then a member of Chicken Shack, played piano on the tune.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Cat's Squirrel
Source:    CD: This Was
Writer(s):    Trad., arr. Abrahams
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    Probably the Jethro Tull recording with the least Ian Anderson influence, Cat's Squirrel was recorded at the insistence of record company people, who felt the song was most representative of the band's live sound. The traditional tune was arranged by guitarist Mick Abrahams, who left the band due to creative differences with Anderson shortly thereafter. Cat's Squirrel became a live staple of Abrahams's next band, Blodwyn Pig.

Artist:    Savoy Brown
Title:    The Incredible Gnome Meets Jaxman
Source:    LP: Getting To The Point
Writer(s):    Kim Simmonds
Label:    Parrot
Year:    1968
    Savoy Brown, perhaps more than any other band in rock history (except Fleetwood Mac), was famous for its constantly changing lineup. Besides founder and bandleader Kim Simmonds on lead guitar, only one musician (pianist Bob Hall) that played on the first Savoy Brown LP, Shake Down, was around for the group's sophomore effort, 1968's Getting To The Point. New members included Chris Youlden (vocals), Dave Peverett (guitar), Rivers Jobe (bass) and Roger Earl (drums). With the change in lineup came a change in focus as well. While Shake Down was made up almost entirely of blues covers, Getting To The Point had seven originals, including the instrumental The Incredible Gnome Meets Jaxman.

Artist:    Ten Years After
Title:    Love Like A Man
Source:    CD: Cricklewood Green
Writer(s):    Alvin Lee
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1970
    Cricklewood Green was Ten Years After's fourth studio effort and fifth LP overall. Released in 1970, the album is considered by critics to be the apex of Ten Years After's studio work. The best known track from the album is Love Like A Man, which became the group's only single to chart in the UK (in an edited version), peaking at the #10 spot. The band was still considered an "underground" act in the US, despite a successful appearance at Woodstock the year before. However, Love Like A Man was a favorite among disc jockeys on FM rock radio stations, who almost universally preferred the longer album version of the song heard here.

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