Sunday, March 22, 2020

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2013 (starts 3/23/20)

    This time around we have a long journey through the early 70s, one year at a time, that includes a track from the mostly instrumental first Journey album, a track by the Band featuring a guest appearance from Bob Dylan, and a seldom heard Firesign Theatre bit from 1974. First, though, an often overlooked Marvin Gaye classic...

Artist:    Marvin Gaye
Title:    Trouble Man
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Marvin Gaye
Label:    Tamla
Year:    1972
    Marvin Gaye played drums and piano, as well as providing all of the vocals, for the song Trouble Man. Released in November of 1972, the song was featured in a film of the same name. Gaye himself called it one of the most honest recordings he ever made. Gaye continued to perform the song for the rest of his life. Trouble Man was also the title of Marvin Gaye's biography.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You
Source:    German import LP: Led Zeppelin
Writer(s):    Bredon/Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1968
    It is the nature of folk music that a song often gets credited to one writer when in fact it is the work of another. This is due to the fact that folk singers tend to share their material liberally with other folk singers, who often make significant changes to the work before passing it along to others. Such is the case with Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You, which was originally conceived by EC-Berkeley student Anne Johannsen in the late 1950s and performed live on KPFA radio in 1960. Another performer on the same show, Janet Smith, developed the song further and performed it at Oberlin College, where it was heard by audience member Joan Baez. Baez asked Smith for a tape of her songs and began performing the song herself.  Baez used it as the opening track on her album, Joan Baez In Concert, Part One, but it was credited as "traditional", presumably because Baez herself had no knowledge of who had actually written the song. Baez eventually discovered the true origins of the tune, and later pressings gave credit to Anne Bredon, who had divorced her first husband, Lee Johannsen and married Glen Bredon since writing the song. Jimmy Page had an early pressing of the Baez album, so when he reworked the song for inclusion on the first Led Zeppelin album, he went with "traditional, arranged Page" as the writer. Robert Plant, who worked with Page on the arrangement, was not originally given credits for contractual reasons, although later editions of the album give credit to Page, Plant and Bredon.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Teacher
Source:    LP: Living In The Past (originally released on LP: Benefit)
Writer:    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1970
    LPs released by British Groups often had different song lineups in the US and the UK. One of the reasons for this is that British labels generally did not include songs that had been released as singles on LPs. In the US, however, running times were 5-10 minutes shorter per LP, and songs that had been included on British LPs would end up being dropped in favor of the latest hit single by the same artist. Jethro Tull, however, was generally an exception to this practice. Both of their first two LPs had exactly the same song lineup on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact, the only notable exception was the song Teacher, which was released as a single before the UK version of the group's third LP, Benefit. The US version of Benefit has a longer version of Teacher on it, replacing Just Trying To Be, which would not be issued in the US until the Living In The Past album (which included the US mix of Teacher as well).

Artist:    Rory Gallagher
Title:    Can't Believe It's True
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Rory Gallagher)
Writer(s):    Rory Gallagher
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1971
    In addition to his obvious prowess on guitar, Rory Gallagher was an accomplished saxophonist, although he largely abandoned the instrument in the mid-1970s. This can be heard on Can't Believe It's True, the final and longest track on Gallagher's first solo album, recorded in 1971. Accompanying Gallagher on the album were drummer Wilgar Campbell and bass guitarist Gerry McAvoy. Gallagher had set up practice sessions with Campbell and McAvoy, as well as former Jimi Hendrix Experience members Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding following the breakup of his original band, Taste, but ultimately decided to form a power trio with the two Belfast natives for his solo debut.
Artist:    The Band, w/ Bob Dylan
Title:    Don't Ya Tell Henry
Source:    CD: Rock Of Ages (bonus track)
Writer(s):    Bob Dylan
Label:    Capitol
Year:    Recorded December 31, 1971, released 2000
    Fans who showed up for the Band's New Year's Eve concert at New York's Academy Of Music (as it was still known in 1971), got a surpise treat when Bob Dylan made a guest appearance, performing  songs like Don't Ya Tell Henry, a song that dated back to the "basement tapes" years. This particular performance features Dylan singing a duet with Levon Helm, and was the only time Dylan ever performed the song in front of an audience.
Artist:    Stevie Wonder
Title:    Higher Ground
Source:    LP: Innervisions
Writer(s):    Stevie Wonder
Label:    Tamla
Year:    1973
    Written and recorded in just under three hours, Higher Ground was the lead single from Innervisions, the 16th studio album by Stevie Wonder. A true solo effort, Higher Ground features Wonder playing Hohner clavinet, drums, Moog bass and tambourine, as well as providing handclaps and all of the vocals for the track. Innervisions is considered one of Wonder's greatest achievements, and often appears on all-time best album lists.

Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    The Fool And Me
Source:    CD: Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Trower/Dewar
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:    1974
    Guitarist Robin Trower's breakthrough album, Bridge Of Sighs, featured vocals by bassist James Dewar, who also co-wrote a couple of the songs on the LP. The best of these was The Fool And Me, which closes out side one of the original LP. Drummer Reg Isidore completed the trio.

Artist:    Journey
Title:    Kohoutek
Source:    LP: Journey
Writer(s):    Schon/Rolie
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1975
    Formed in San Francisdo as the Golden Gate Rhythm Section in 1973, Journey was originally made up of former members of Santana (keyboardist Greg Rolie and guitarist Neil Schon) and Frumious Bandersnatch (bassist Ross Valory and rhythm guitarist George Tickner) along with Tubes drummer Prarie Prince. The group developed a jazz-rock style similar to that heard on Santana's 1972 LP Caravanserai, the last to feature Rolie and Schon as members of the band. Not long after making their stage debut at the Winterland Ballroom on December 3, 1973 Journey recorded their first demo tapes. After Prarie Prince decided to rejoin the Tubes, Journey recorded their self-titled debut LP with new drummer Ainsley Dunbar, who had just finished a stint working with Frank Zappa. The LP was not a commercial success, although it did get positive reviews for the band's superb musicianship on tracks like Kohoutek.
Artist:    Firesign Theatre
Title:    Bear Whiz Beer/Channel 6 Happy Hour News
Source:    LP: Everything You Know Is Wrong
Writer(s):    Proctor/Bergman/Austin/Ossman
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1974
    The 1974 Firesign Theatre album Everything You Know Is Wrong takes on several trends of the mid-1970s, including the UFO craze, the "happy talk" TV news style, Evel Knievel (voiced by Phil Austin) and even Howard Cosell (Peter Bergman). Much of this can be heard in the final five minutes of the album's first side, including the infamous Bear Whiz Beer commercial.

Artist:    Heart
Title:    Dreamboat Annie
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Ann and Nancy Wilson
Label:    Mushroom
Year:    1975
    If you look at the label of Heart's Dreamboat Annie album you will notice that there are actually three tracks bearing the name Dreamboat
Annie. This single, however, is not the same as any of them. It is, in fact, a patchwork piece made by splicing the intro from Crazy On You (which was edited out of the single version of that song) onto the two-minute long Dreamboat Annie track that closes out side one of the LP. This new version of Dreamboat Annie (technically the fourth) was then issued as the band's third single. Although it barely missed the top 40 (peaking at #42) it was the first Heart single to hit the Adult Contemporary charts, making it to the #17 spot.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Wrapcity In English/Fred
Source:    CD: Yer' Album
Writer:    Joe Walsh
Label:    MCA (original label: Bluesway)
Year:    1969
    The only rock record to ever be released on the Bluesway label was Yer' Album, the debut LP by Cleveland's James Gang. Featuring Joe Walsh on Guitar, Tom Criss (who would leave the band after this album) on bass and Dale Peters on drums, the group was one of the first "power trios" of the 70s. Unlike the group's later efforts, Yer' Album included cover tunes written by such diverse composers as Stephen Stills, Jerry Ragavoy and Jeff Beck, as well as a smattering of original compositions. One of those originals was Fred, a Walsh song that was described in the liner notes as "and it's straaaaaaaange." It is preceded by a short fully orchestrated Walsh instrumental called Wrapcity In English that tracks directly into Fred. In the 1980s I found a brand new copy of Yer' Album at a local department store and, of course, snatched it right up. Unfortunately, it was a Pickwick reissue that was missing several tracks, including (you guessed it) Wrapcity In English and Fred.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Dirty Work
Source:    CD: Can't Buy A Thrill
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1972
    When Walter Becker and Donald Fagen first formed Steely Dan their hope was that they could be a successful studio band in the mold of the post-1966 Beatles, without having to actually make any live appearances. Their record label, however, saw things differently, and insisted that the band begin making plans for touring before even finishing their first LP, Can't Buy A Thrill. This brought to the fore an issue that Fagen in particular had hoped would not become an issue: his own stage fright. Such was his fear of public performance as a vocalist that a second lead singer, David Palmer, was brought in to be the band's front man for live appearances. He ended up singing lead on three of the album's ten tracks as well. Of these, Dirty Work is probably the best known. Fagen, of course, soon got over his stage fright, and Palmer and the band parted company.


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