Sunday, November 29, 2020

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2049 (starts 11/30/20) 

    This week's show starts off in the late 60s, with tracks from Spirit, Jethro Tull, Frijid Pink and Creedence Clearwater Revival before going into some 70s-style free-form rock, featuring such diverse artists as Black Sabbath, Paul McCartney and Johnny Winter. And yes, there's some Yes in there too.

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Fresh Garbage
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Spirit)
Writer(s):    Jay Ferguson
Label:    Sony Music (original label: Ode)
Year:    1968
    Much of the material on the first Spirit album was composed by vocalist Jay Ferguson while the band was living in a big house in California's Topanga Canyon outside of Los Angeles. During their stay there was a garbage strike, which became the inspiration for the album's opening track, Fresh Garbage. The song starts off as a rather bouncy rock tune and suddenly breaks into a section that is pure jazz, showcasing the group's instrumental talents, before returning to the main theme to finish out the track.The group used a similar formula on about half the tracks on the LP, giving the album and the band a distinctive sound right out of the box.

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:    Frijid Pink
Title:    Drivin' Blues
Source:    German import CD: Frijid Pink (originally released in US as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Thompson/Beaudry
Label:    Repertoire (original US label: Parrot)
Year:    1969
    Frijid Pink released two singles before hitting it big with their third, a distortion-ridden version of House Of The Rising Sun, in late 1969. The A side of their second single, Drivin' Blues, was recycled as the B side of House. I guess that's one way of getting your original material into the hands of the record buying public.

Artist:    Creedence Clearwater Revival
Title:    Good Golly Miss Molly
Source:    LP: Bayou Country
Writer(s):    Blackwell/Marascallo
Label:    Fantasy
Year:    1969
    Although Creedence Clearwater Revival's second album, Bayou Country, contained mostly John Fogerty originals, there was one notable cover song on the LP: a version of Good Golly Miss Molly that was rowdy enough to make Little Richard proud.
Artist:    Grand Funk
Title:    Black Licorice
Source:    CD: We're An American Band
Writer(s):    Farner/Brewer
Label:    Capitol/EMI
Year:    1973
    By 1973 Grand Funk Railroad, the first true arena-rock band, was sounding a bit fatigued. The band had released six studio LPs, as well as a double disc live album, over a period of just four years, with guitarist Mark Farner writing virtually all the group's original material, as well as handling all the lead vocals. Having parted company with their original manager/producer, Terry Knight, just prior to recording their self-produced Phoenix album in 1972, the band was seeing a dropoff in sales as well. To get things back on track they brought in a new producer, Todd Rundgren, for their seventh LP, We're An American Band, as well as shortening the band's name to Grand Funk (temporarily, as it turned out). The most noticable change, however, was the rise to prominence of drummer Don Brewer, both as a songwriter and a vocalist. In fact, Brewer took over lead vocal duties on fully half the album's songs, writing or co-writing several of them, including Black Licorice. The album was a huge success, changing the direction of Grand Funk's music forever.

Artist:    Yes
Title:    Starship Trooper
Source:    CD: The Yes Album
Writer(s):    Anderson/Squire/Howe
Label:    Elektra/Rhino
Year:    1971
    Although technically it was the third LP released by the band, The Yes Album was, in many ways, the true beginning of the Yes story. The Yes Album was the first to feature guitarist Steve Howe, whose contributions significantly altered the band's sound. This influence is particularly strong on the third section of Starship Trooper (subtitled Wurm), which Howe had brought with him from his previous band, Bodast. The opening section of the song, Life Seeker, as well as the title of Starship Trooper itself, was inspired in part by the Robert Heinlein novel, with Jon Anderson's lyrics centering on a search for God. The middle section, Disillusion, was provided by bassist Chris Squire, and was actually based on a section of an earlier piece called For Everyone. Starship Trooper, although never released as a single, quickly became a popular (and permanent) part of Yes's stage repertoire.

Artist:     Blind Faith
Title:     Presence of the Lord
Source:     British import LP: Blind Faith
Writer:     Eric Clapton
Label:     Polydor (original US label: Atco)
Year:     1969
     When the album Blind Faith first came out, several critics questioned why Steve Winwood sang lead on Presence Of The Lord instead of the song's composer, guitarist Eric Clapton. Many went so far as to say Clapton should have sung the tune, but after countless subsequent recordings of Clapton singing Presence of the Lord over the years, it's kind of refreshing to go back and hear Winwood's original interpretation.

Artist:    Johnny Winter
Title:    I'll Drown In My Tears
Source:    British import CD: Johnny Winter
Writer(s):    Henry Glover
Label:    Repertoire (original US label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    Originally recorded by Lula Reed in 1951 under the title I'll Drown In My Tears, Drown In My Own Tears was one of Ray Charles's legendary hits for the Atlantic label. Released in 1956, it was Charles's fourth song to top the R&B charts, and inspired him to hire a permanent group of backup singers that would come to be known as the Raelettes. In 1969 Johnny Winter went back to the original title for the version included on his first album for the Columbia label. Although most of the tracks on that album showcase Winter's prowess on guitar, I'll Drown In My Own Tears shifts the emphasis to his vocals, with an arrangement that closely parallels of the Ray Charles version. Keyboards on the track are provided by Johnny's brother Edgar, who would become a full-fledged member of Johnny's band for the album Second Winter.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Got No Time For Trouble
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Bolin/Tesar
Label:    Atco
Year:    1974
    In 1974 the James Gang hired their third lead guitarist since the band made their recording debut in 1969. That guitarist was Tommy Bolin, who had first come to national attention as a member of the Boulder, Colorado band Zephyr. Bolin co-wrote several of the tracks on his first album with the James Gang, Bang, including Got No Time For Trouble, which also was issued as the B side of the only single taken from Bang. Lead vocals on the song are by Roy Kenner, who had joined the James Gang shortly after the departure of the band's original guitarist/vocalist, Joe Walsh.

Artist:    Paul McCartney And Wings
Title:    Junior's Farm
Source:    CD: Wings Greatest (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Paul and Linda McCartney
Label:    Capitol (original label: Apple)
Year:    1974
    Paul McCartney's final record to come out before the dissolution of Apple was one of his biggest non-album singles. Junior's Farm, released in 1974, also marked the debut of Jimmy McCulloch as Wings' lead guitarist. The song went into the top 5 in the US, and was released in two dozen countries.

Artist:    Moody Blues
Title:    I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band)
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    John Lodge
Label:    Threshold
Year:    1972
    Following the release of their eighth LP, Seventh Sojourn (don't ask), the Moody Blues decided to take a sojourn of a different kind: a five-year hiatus, allowing the individual members to pursue various solo projects. Before calling it quits, however, they released one last single. As the last track on Seventh Sojourn, I'm Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band) was an appropriate choice for a final effort, and did reasonably well on the US charts, peaking at #12, although it barely made the top 40 in their native England. Since reforming in 1978, the Moody Blues have established themselves as a consistent concert draw, especially around PBS pledge drive time.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Jack The Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots
Source:    CD: Paranoid
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    As a general rule, Black Sabbath's songwriting process on their first three albums consisted of guitarist Tony Iommi coming up with a basic riff, to which vocalist Ozzy Osbourne would add a melody. Bassist Geezer Butler would then compose lyrics and drummer Bill Ward would add the finishing touches. According to Butler, however, the lyrics to Fairies Wear Boots were entirely the work of Osbourne. Although Osbourne himself says he doesn't remember where he got the idead for those lyrics, Butler has said they were inspired by an encounter Osbourne had with a group of London skinheads who taunted him about the length of his hair by calling him a fairy. Butler added that Osbourne's lyrics often went off on a tangent, however, and that the later verses actually describe an acid trip. US versions of the Paranoid album list the track as being two separate compositions, with the instrumental intro carrying the title Jack The Stripper. This actually does not make a whole lot of sense, since that instrumental theme is repeated much later in the track, but in all likelihood the division was made to increase the amount of royalties the band would receive for the album itself. The Grateful Dead's second LP, Anthem Of The Sun, was similarly formatted for that reason, and both Anthem Of The Sun and Paranoid came out on the Warner Brothers label in the US, lending credibility to the idea.

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