Sunday, January 31, 2021

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2106 (starts 2/1/21)

    This week we feature a long extended piece from the jazz-rock band Chase, a group best-known for their 1971 hit Get It On. Before that, though, we have a descending trip through the years 1973 to 1968. To finish out, we have a set of tracks from 1970. It all starts with a song that has one of the most distinctive (and, to be honest, goofy) intros in the history of recorded music...

Artist:    Blue Suede
Title:    Hooked On A Feeling
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Mark James
Label:    EMI
Year:    1973
    By 1974, the novelty record was almost dead. Then again, the Blue Suede version of the 1969 B.J. Thomas hit, Hooked On A Feeling, is not quite a novelty record. The single, release in May of 1973 in the band's native Sweden, went all the way to the top of the charts when it was released in the US in early 1974. Not bad for a band that recorded nothing but cover songs (even the famous "ooka-chaka" intro was swiped from a 1971 Jonathan King version of the song). If you are one of the many who hoped never to hear this song again, you can blame Quentin Tarantino, who revived interest in the song when he included it in the soundtrack of his film Reservoir Dogs.

Artist:    West, Bruce & Laing
Title:    Love Is Worth The Blues
Source:    CD: Why Dontcha
Writer(s):    West/Bruce/Laing
Label:    Columbia/Windfall
Year:    1972
    When Mountain's bassist/vocalist Felix Pappalardi announced, in January of 1972, that he would be leaving the band at the end of their current tour, the group's remaining two members, guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing, immediately set about looking for a replacement. From the start the choice was obvious; Pappalardi had produced all but the first album by Cream, and, as Mountain's producer, deliberately set out to model his new band on the legendary British supergroup, even to the point of developing a vocal style similar to that of Cream bassist Jack Bruce. In fact, one of Mountain's most popular songs, Theme From An Imaginary Western, was a cover of a Jack Bruce/Pete Brown composition from Bruce's first solo LP. It was quickly decided that, rather than continue on as Mountain, the band would call itself West, Bruce & Laing. They got to work on their first album, Why Dontcha, early in 1972, but, due to a combination of factors, including a schedule of live performances and a tendency to spend a lot of their off time getting high, the album was not finished until November of 1972. Although they had managed to negotiate a lucrative deal with Columbia, the label itself was not happy with the overall quality of the album and did not give it a lot of promotional support. Nonetheless, the album did fairly well, staying on the Billboard LP chart for a total of 20 weeks, peaking in the #26 spot. One of the highlights of Why Dontcha was Love Is Worth The Blues. The song, credited to the entire band, features lead vocals from Leslie West and features the kind of interplay between guitar, bass and drums that Cream was famous for.

Artist:    Gordon Haskell
Title:    Sitting By The Fire
Source:    British import LP: The New Age Of Atlantic (originally released on LP: It Is And It Isn't)
Writer(s):    Gordon Haskell
Label:    Atlantic (original label: Atco)
Year:    1971
    Gordon Haskell was one of those British musicians that was probably known more for the people he knew rather than the music he himself made, at least during the early part of his career. Born in 1946, he played bass during his high school years in a band led by schoolmate Robert Fripp. By the mid-60s he had turned professional as a member of the British psychedelic band Fleur de Lys. Although never a major player on the British music scene, the band did score a #1 hit in South Africa with Haskell's Lazy Life, which also hit #3 in Australia. For a short time in 1966 he was roomates with Jimi Hendrix, who had just moved to England at the behest of the Animals' Chas Chandler. Haskell became more well-known in 1970, when he replaced Greg Lake as bassist for King Crimson on their album In The Wake Of Poseidon, taking on lead vocal duties as well for the band's third LP, Lizard. His own preference for blues and folk music put him at odds with Fripp's more avant-garde approach, however, and Haskell soon left King Crimson for a solo career. Signing with Arif Marden's Atlantic subsidiary Atco, Haskell released It Is And It Isn't, in 1971. Although the album itself was not a commercial success, one of the songs, Sitting By The Fire, was chosen for inclusion on the British sampler album The New Age Of Atlantic. For the next thirty years or so Haskell played mostly bar gigs, occasionally doing support work for other artists as well. In 2001 he released an album called Look Out that featured a song called How Wonderful You Are. Despite a total lack of promotion from his label the song went on to become the most requested song in the history of the BBC's Radio 2, and led to a contract with the British label East-West. His next album, Harry's Bar, went to the #2 spot on the British album charts, but after Haskell referred to a record company official as an android the label dropped him from their roster. Haskell continued to perform across Europe until his death from cancer in October of 2020.

Artist:    Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young
Title:    Country Girl
Source:    LP: déjà vu
Writer(s):    Neil Young
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    The second Crosby, Stills and Nash album, déjà vu, was enhanced by the addition of singer/songwriter/guitarist Neil Young, along with bassist Dallas Taylor and drummer Greg Reeves. The LP itself was printed on textured cardboard with gold offset lettering, giving the package a unique look. But it was the music itself that made the album one of the top sellers of 1970, with three singles going into the top 40. One of the non-single tracks was Country Girl, a medley of three uncompleted Neil Young songs that would not have been out of place on a Young solo album.

Artist:    Fairport Convention
Title:    Tale In Hard Time
Source:    LP: Fairport Chronicles (originally released in UK on LP: What We Did On Our Holidays and in US on LP: Fairport Convention)
Writer(s):    Richard Thompson
Label:    A&M (UK label: Island)
Year:    1969
    One of the more confusing things about Fairport Convention is the fact that their self-titled debut LP was only released in the UK, and their second album, What We Did On Our Holidays, was released as their self-titled US debut album. Two different albums. Same name. Confusing. What's not confusing, however, is the music itself. Songs like the often overlooked Tale In Hard Time make that abundantly clear.

Artist:    Al Kooper/Stephen Stills/Harvey Brooks/Eddie Hoh
Title:    Harvey's Tune
Source:    CD: Super Session
Writer(s):    Harvey Brooks
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    1968
    Probably the most overlooked track on the classic Super Session LP is the album's closer, a two-minute instrumental called Harvey's Tune. The piece was written by bassist Harvey Brooks, who, along with Mike Bloomfield, had been a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and later, the Electric Flag.

Artist:    Chase
Title:    Invitation To A River
Source:    LP: Chase
Writer(s):    Raub/Chase/Richards
Label:    Epic
Year:    1971
    Up until the 1970s, the usual attempts at fusing jazz and rock were to start with a rock band and add horns. This was done mostly by bands from Chicago like the Buckinghams, the Flock and, of course, Chicago. Of course there were exceptions, such as Miles Davis's Bitches Brew album, that attempted to add rock elements to jazz, but those efforts were still considered experimental, and usually included other musical elements as well. In 1970 four jazz trumpeters formed a band incorporating a rock-oriented rhythm section. They called that band Chase, after the band's leader. In addition to the four trumpeters, Bill Chase, Ted Piercefield, Alan Ware and Jerry Van Blair, the band included keyboardist Phil Porter, guitarist Angel South, bassist Dennis Johnson and drummer Jay Burrid. The final member was lead vocalist Terry Richards, who co-wrote the band's first, and biggest hit, Get It On. The song was taken from the band's self-titled debut LP, which also included a fourteen-minute long piece called Invitation To A River, which was actually made up of a series of five shorter pieces, Two Minds Meet, Stay, Paint It Sad, Reflections and River, that play as one continuous track. Chase released two more albums before a plane crash took the life of Bill Chase and five others in 1974.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    25 Or 6 To 4
Source:    CD: Chicago
Writer(s):    Robert Lamm
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1970
    For their second LP, Chicago (which had just dropped the words "Transit Authority" from their name in response to a threatened lawsuit) tried out all three of their vocalists on each new song to hear who sounded the best for that particular song. In the case of Robert Lamm's 25 Or 6 To 4, bassist Peter Cetera did the honors. The song became a top 10 single both in the US and UK. Despite rumors to the contrary, Lamm says 25 Or 6 To 4 is not a drug song. Instead, he says, the title refers to the time of the morning that he was awake and writing the tune.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Wicked World
Source:    LP: Black Sabbath
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1969
    The Secret Origin of Heavy Metal-Part One: After a short (one month) stint as Mick Abrahams's replacement in Jethro Tull, guitarist Tony Iommi rejoined his former bandmates Ozzy Osborne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward in the blues-rock band Earth in January of 1969. Later that year they realized that there was already another English band called Earth and decided to change their name. Taking inspiration from a playbill of a movie theater showing classic Boris Karloff horror films across the street from where they were rehearsing, they started calling themselves Black Sabbath in August of 1969 and began to forge a new sound for the band in keeping with their new name. Three months later Black Sabbath got their first record contract, releasing a cover of Crow's Evil Woman in November. They followed the (UK only) single up with their self-titled debut LP, recorded in just two days, on Friday, February 13th, 1970. The album was released three months later in the US, and spent over a year on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart. Although Evil Woman was included on the UK version of the LP, Warner Brothers chose to instead include the B side of the band's British single, a song called Wicked World that was not on the UK version of the album. Most Black Sabbath fans, it turns out, consider Wicked World a stronger track, as it shows a trace of the band's original blues-rock sound, especially on its fast paced intro and closing sections.

Artist:    Sugarloaf
Title:    Green-Eyed Lady
Source:    CD: Billboard Top Rock 'N' Roll Hits-1970 (originally released on LP: Sugarloaf and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Corbetta/Phillips/Riordan
Label:    Rhino (original label: Liberty)
Year:    1970
    The unwritten rules of radio, particularly those concerning song length, were in transition in 1970. Take Sugarloaf's Green-Eyed Lady, for example. When first released as a single the 45 was virtually identical to the album version except that it faded out just short of the six-minute mark. This was about twice the allowed length under the old rules and it was soon replaced with an edited version that left out all the instrumental solos, coming in at just under three minutes. The label soon realized, however, that part of the original song's appeal (as heard on FM rock radio) was its organ solo, and a third single edit with that solo restored became the final, and most popular, version of Green-Eyed Lady. The song went into the top 5 nationally (#1 on some charts) and ended up being the band's biggest hit.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Ship Of Fools
Source:    CD: Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mine (originally released on LP: Morrison Hotel)
Writer(s):    Morrison/Krieger
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1970
    1969 was, if nothing else, a turbulent year for the Doors. The band had made headlines for a March 1st performance in Miami that resulted in lead vocalist Jim Morrison's arrest for indecent exposure. In July, the group released their fourth album, The Soft Parade, which was heavily criticized for its use of strings and horns and an overall more commercial sound that the band had previously exhibited. That same month Morrison gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine in which he stressed the importance of country and blues to American culture. It was not a big surprise then, that the band's next album, Morrison Hotel, featured a more stripped down sound, perhaps even more so than their first LP. Side one of the album, subtitled Hard Rock Cafe, starts off strong with one of the band's most iconic songs, Roadhouse Blues, and ends on a similar note with Ship Of Fools. The group would continue in this direction and even improve on it on their next LP, L.A. Woman. Sadly, L.A. Woman would be the last Doors studio album before Morrison's death.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Hats Off To (Roy) Harper
Source:    German import LP: Led Zeppelin III
Writer(s):    Trad., arr. Charles Obscure
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    The final track on Led Zeppelin's third album at first sounds like a throwaway track featuring Jimmy Page noodling slide guitar and Robert Plant throwing out blues cliches. This impression is reinforced by the fact that the writing credits on the label read "Traditional, arr. Charles Obscure". The reality, though, is that Hats Off To (Roy) Harper is based on a 1937 recording of Shake 'Em On Down by delta bluesman Bukka White. The title of the Led Zeppelin version is a tribute to the band's friend Roy Harper, who would come to international prominence in 1975 as the guest lead vocalist on Pink Floyd's Have A Cigar, from their Wish You Were Here album.

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