Sunday, December 6, 2020

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2050 (starts 12/7/20) 

    This week's show is basically a countdown from 1976 to 1969 at the rate of one song per year. Once we get to 1969, we stay there for the rest of the show.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    The Royal Scam
Source:    CD: The Royal Scam
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1976
    By 1976 Steely Dan had evolved from being an actual band to being a pair of songwriters who recruited the best musicians available to play specific parts on their albums. The credits for their fifth LP, The Royal Scam, included two dozen names, including guitarist Larry Carlton, who is heard prominently on several tunes on the album, including the title track. Lyrically The Royal Scam, with its message that sometimes the American Dream ain't all it's cracked up to be, is consistent with the cynicism that had come to be associated with Steely Dan's songs at that point in time. The album itself, while not getting strong initial reviews, has since come to be regarded as a classic.

Artist:    Pavlov's Dog
Title:    Song Dance
Source:    LP: Pampered Menial
Writer(s):    Mike Saffron
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1975
    Pavlov's Dog, from St. Louis, Mo., was somewhat unusual in that they had not one, but two keyboardists in the band. In addition to keyboardists David Hamilton and Doug Rayburn, the group included vocalist David Surkamp, guitarist Steve Scorfina, bassist Rick Stockton, drummer Mike Safron, and violinist Siegfried Carver (born Richard Nadler) at the time they recorded their first album, Pampered Menial. The 1975 album was released briefly on the ABC label, then almost immediately on Columbia. Most of the songs on the album were written by either Surkamp or Scorfina; however, one of the best tracks on the album, Song Dance, was penned by Mike Safron. Safron, for reasons that are unclear, was not available when the band recorded their follow-up LP, and Bill Bruford was brought in as a temporary fill-in. Saffron had a falling out with the rest of the band over not receiving credit on the album cover and left the group permanently before work on their third album began. It turned out to be a somewhat moot point, however, as Columbia, citing poor sales on the first two LPs, chose not to release the third one. A bootleg copy of that third LP, credited to the St. Louis Hounds, appeared in the early 1980s.

Artist:    Gentle Giant
Title:    Valedictory
Source:    CD: The Power And The Glory
Writer(s):    Shulman/Shulman/Minnear
Label:    Alucard (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1974
    The Power And The Glory is a 1974 concept album from the British progressive rock band Gentle Giant. The album is a cautionary tale about the use of political power, and how, despite the best of intentions, that power inevitably corrupts those who use it. Musically, The Power And The Glory owes its structure more to classical music than to rock, although it uses modern rock instruments such as electric guitars, synthesizers and drums to the exclusion of traditional classical instruments (except for an occasional string instrument). For that matter, the band's classical influences seem to be more inclined toward relatively modern composers like Igor Stravinsky than the traditional "three Bs" of classical music. Valedictory, the album's final track, brings back themes heard throughout the album, but with a greater intensity than on the earlier pieces. The digital reissue of the album, incidentally, includes a Blu-ray disc containing animations of the entire album with a surround sound mix. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of things like Pink Floyd's The Wall.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Alexis
Source:    CD: Bang
Writer(s):    Bolin/Cook
Label:    Atco
Year:    1973
    When Joe Walsh left the James Gang, many people thought it was all over for the Cleveland, Ohio band formed by drummer Jim Fox. The group recovered, though, adding two Canadians, guitarist Dominic Troiano and vocalist Roy Kenner, from the band Bush. The group recorded two more albums for ABC before Troiano left to replace Randy Bachman in the Guess Who. With their ABC Records contract now expired, the group was once again expected to ride off into the sunset, but instead added guitarist Tommy Bolin, formerly of the Boulder, Colorado band Zephyr, and signed a new contract with Atlantic's Atco label. The first album from the new lineup was 1973's Bang, considered the strongest James Gang album since Walsh's departure. Bolin, in particular, strutted his stuff, both as a guitarist and a songwriter, on several of Bang's tracks. He even took the lead vocals on Alexis, a standout tune that foreshadows his work as a solo artist later in the decade.

Artist:    Supersister
Title:    No Tree Will Grow (On Too High A Mountain)
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released in Holland on LP: To The Highest Bidder)
Writer(s):    Robert Jan Stips
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1971
    When the subject of Dutch progressive rock bands comes up, usually the first group to come to mind is Focus. After all, their best known tune, Hocus Pocus, still gets a decent amount of exposure on classic rock radio. But Focus was not the first prog-rock band to come from the Netherlands. That honor goes to Supersister. Formed in 1965 at the Grotius College in the Hague as the Blubs by drummer Marco Vrolijk and keyboardist Robert Jan Stips, the band was known as Sweet OK Supersister by 1967, and had shortened their name to Supersister by the time they released their debut LP, Present From Nancy, in 1970. Infuential British DJ John Peel began to give the group exposure on his BBC show, and in 1971 the band's second album, To The Highest Bidder, became their first to be released in the UK. One of the featured tracks on the album was the seven and a half minute long No Tree Will Grow (On Too High A Mountain), which was also released, in edited form, as a single.

Artist:    Jimmie Haskell
Title:    Zachariah (End Title)
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Jimmie Haskell
Label:    ABC
Year:    1971
    In the summer of 1971, while attempting to make a living playing in a band in a rural part of Oklahoma, a bunch of us went to the drive-in to see a new movie called Zachariah. It was billed as "The First Electric Western", so of course we had to go check it out, especially since we were all fans of the James Gang, who appear at the beginning of the film playing at full volume in the middle of the desert without a generator in sight. The film itself, co-written by Joe Massot and the four member of the Firesign Theatre, was pretty surreal, with (among other things) drum solos taking the place of the classic western showdown, and Country Joe And The Fish acting as sort of traveling minstrels. In addition to music provided by the above bands, the film featured a soundtrack by Jimmie Haskell, a prolific composer and arranger whose work includes arranging horns on Blondie's hit The Tide Is High and pretty much all the Grass Roots early 70s hits and writing the Hollywood Squares theme song.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Hey, Hey, What Can I Do
Source:    British import LP: The New Age Of Atlantic (originally released in US as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Page/Plant/Bonham/Jones
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    In their entire existence Led Zeppelin only issued one non-album track. Hey, Hey, What Can I Do was originally released as the B side of Immigrant Song in 1970, and was included on a British anthology album called the New Age Of Atlantic the following year. The song was not available in any other form in the US until 1990, when it was included in the first Led Zeppelin box set. It has since been made available as a bonus track on the Led Zeppelin III CD.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Nothing Is Easy
Source:    LP: "M.U." The Best Of Jethro Tull (originally released on LP: Stand Up)
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis (original US label: Reprise)
Year:    1969
    Not long after the release of the first Jethro Tull album, guitarist Mick Abrahams, who was a blues enthusiast, left the group due to musical differences with lead vocalist/flautist Ian Anderson, who favored a more eclectic approach to songwriting. Abrahams's replacement was Martin Barre, who remains a member of the group to this day. One of the first songs recorded with Barre is Nothing Is Easy, a blues rocker that opens side two of the band's second LP, Stand Up. More than any other track on Stand Up, Nothing Is Easy sounds like it could have been an outtake from This Was, the band's debut LP.

Artist:    Andromeda
Title:    The Day Of The Change
Source:    British import CD: Definitive Collection (originally released on LP: Andromeda)
Writer(s):    John Du Cann
Label:    Angel Air (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1969
    Before joining Atomic Rooster, guitarist John Du Cann fronted his own band, Andromeda. The group, one of the first true progressive rock bands, released one album on the British RCA Victor label in 1969. Although a respectable (for the time) 10,000 copies were sold, the album has been nearly impossible to find since the early 1970s. It is generally believed that this is because nobody wants to part with their copy of the album. A listen to The Day Of The Change will make the reason for that abundantly clear.

Artist:      Mountain
Title:     Blood of the Sun
Source:      CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On-Back To Yasgur's Farm
Writer(s):    West/Pappalardi/Collins
Label:    Rhino
Year:     1969
     Reportedly Leslie West, Felix Pappalardi and Corky Laing of the band Mountain didn't like the way their performance of Blood Of The Sun at the Woodstock festival sounded, so they recorded a substitute live take for the album Woodstock 2. In 2009 Rhino issued the actual Woodstock performance heard here. Although there have been claims that the Woodstock 2 recording is the actual Woodstock performance, anyone with half an ear can hear the difference between the two versions.

Artist:    Crosby, Stills and Nash
Title:    Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
Source:    LP: Crosby, Stills and Nash
Writer:    Stephen Stills
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    After the demise of Buffalo Springfield, Stephen Stills headed for New York, where he worked with Al Kooper on the Super Session album and recorded several demo tapes of his own, including a new song called Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (reportedly written for his then-girlfriend Judy Collins). After his stint in New York he returned to California, where he started hanging out in the Laurel Canyon home of David Crosby, who had been fired from the Byrds in 1967. Crosby's house at that time was generally filled with a variety of people coming and going, and Crosby and Stills soon found themselves doing improvised harmonies on each other's material in front of a friendly, if somewhat stoned, audience. It was not long before they invited Graham Nash, whom they heard had been having problems of his own with his bandmates in the Hollies, to come join them in Laurel Canyon. The three soon began recording together, and in 1969 released the album Crosby, Stills and Nash. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes was chosen as the opening track for the new album and was later released (in severely edited form) as a single.

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