This week it's free-form within free-form, as we present a nearly fifteen minute long piece from the first Sons Of Champlin album along with tracks from nine other artists.
Artist: Steely Dan
Title: Do It Again
Source: CD: Can't Buy A Thrill
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
Although they at first appeared to be a real band, Steely Dan was, in fact, two people: keyboardist/vocalist Donald Fagen and bassist (and later guitarist) Walter Becker. For their first album they recruited, from various places, guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, drummer Jim Hodder, guitarist Denny Dias, and finally (when they realized they would have to actually perform live, which terrified Fagen) vocalist David Palmer. The first single from the album, Do It Again, was a major hit, going to the #6 spot on the Billboard charts and, more importantly, introducing the world at large to the Steely Dan sound, combining jazz-influenced rock music with slyly cynical lyrics (often sung in the second person). Steely Dan would continue to be an influential force in popular music, and especially FM rock radio, throughout the 1970s.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Street Fighting Man
Source: CD: Beggar's Banquet
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
The Rolling Stones were at a low point in their career following their most psychedelic album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, which came out in late 1967. As a response to charges in the rock press that they were no longer relevant the Stones, working with producer Jimmy Miller, released Jumpin' Jack Flash as a single in early 1968, following it up with the Beggar's Banquet album later in the year. The new album included the band's first recording with Miller producing, Street Fighting Man, which as a followup single to Jumpin' Jack Flash went a long ways toward insuring that the Rolling Stones would be making music on their own terms for as long as they chose to.
Artist: Little Feat
Title: Tripe Face Boogie
Source: CD: Sailin' Shoes
Label: Warner Brothers
Richie Haywood was a member of Lowell George's legendary Los Angeles club band, the Factory, before helping form a group called the Fraternity Of Man, which was best known for the 1968 song Don't Bogart Me, featured in the film Easy Rider. He reunited with George in 1969 as one of the original members of Little Feat, remaining with the group until it disbanded following George's death in 1979. During this time, he only participated in the writing of three Little Feat songs, the first being Tripe Face Boogie, a tune co-written by keyboardist Bill Payne that appeared on the band's second LP, Sailin' Shoes. The remaining members of Little Feat officially reformed with new lead vocalist/guitarist Craig Fuller (formerly of Pure Prarie League) in 1987. Hayward remained with the group until his death in 2010.
Artist: Blues Image
Title: Leaving My Troubles Behind
Source: LP: Blues Image
Writer: Blues Image
Miami's Blues Image was highly regarded by critics and musicians alike. Unfortunately, they were never able to translate that acclaim into album sales, despite recording a pair of fine albums for Atco. One of the highlights of their self-titled debut LP was a track called Leaving My Troubles Behind. Sung by conga player Joe Lala (who would eventually turn to acting, appearing on TV shows like Miami Vice and doing a ton of voice work for animated shows and video games), the song has all the earmarks of a rock standard, but for some reason never truly caught on. After a second LP charted even lower than the first one, guitarist Mike Pinera left Blues Image to replace Eric Brann in Iron Butterfly, and after yet another commercially unsuccessful album the group disbanded.
Title: Water Woman/The Great Canyon Fire In General
Source: LP: Spirit
Writer(s): Jay Ferguson
Among other things, Southern California is known for its periodic wildfires, which, fueled by hot Santa Ana winds, destroy everything in their path before they can be brought under control. In the summer of 1967, while the members of Spirit were living in L.A.'s Topanga Canyon, one of these wildfires took out about half of the canyon. Although the house the band was living in was spared, the entire area was evacuated and the members of Spirit (and their family) had to spend a week camped out at the beach. The incident inspired the band's vocalist Jay Ferguson to write The Great Canyon Fire In General for Spirit's 1968 debut LP. The tune is preceded on the album by Water Woman, another Ferguson composition that sounds like it could have been written by the demigod Pan himself but was more likely to have been conceived during the aforementioned stay at the beach.
Artist: Eric Clapton
Title: Let It Rain
Source: CD: The Best Of Eric Clapton (originally released on LP: Eric Clapton)
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Following the breakup of Blind Faith in 1969, Eric Clapton attempted to lower his profile by touring as a member of Delaney And Bonnie (Bramlett) And Friends. Still, he was Eric Clapton, and there was no way his fans or his record company were going to treat him like an anonymous sideman. As a result, the live album released by Delaney And Bonnie And Friends in early 1970 was titled On Tour With Eric Clapton. Nonetheless, the influence the Bramletts had on Clapton was evident on his self-titled solo LP, released later the same year. Many of the same musicians participated in the making of the album and in fact would continue to work with Clapton in his next band, Derek And The Dominos. More than half of the songs on the album were co-written by one or both of the Bramletts, including Let It Rain, which originally was called She Rides and had entirely different lyrics by Bonnie Bramlett. Let It Rain, released in 1972 as a five-minute long single, features a guest appearance on guitar by Stephen Stills, as well as an extended solo by Clapton himself.
Artist: Alice Cooper
Title: Halo Of Flies
Source: LP: Killer
Label: Warner Brothers
According to Alice Cooper, Halo Of Flies was written to prove the band could do progressive rock in the vein of King Crimson. It ended up being a concert favorite and holds up as well if not better than any of Cooper's recordings.
Artist: Paul Simon
Title: Loves Me Like A Rock
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single (promo)
Writer(s): Paul Simon
Paul Simon was always one to try new things with his music, even before embarking on a solo career in 1970. One of his more notable experiments was to record Loves Me Like A Rock in 1973 with a genuine gospel group, the Dixie Hummingbirds. Although the lyrics are more secular in nature, the Hummingbirds were reportedly eager to record with Simon, and even released their own version of the song later the same year. Simon's version was a huge hit, barely missing the top spot on the charts, and remaining in the US top 40 for fourteen weeks.
Artist: Sons Of Champlin
Source: British import CD: Loosen Up Naturally/The Sons/Follow Your Heart (originally released on LP: Loosen Up Naturally)
Writer(s): Bill Champlain (writing as B.B. Heavy)
Label: BGO (original label: Capitol)
"The Sons are a joint stock company for the exploration of music". Although the preceding quote comes from the back cover of the third Sons Of Champlin LP, Follow Your Heart, it is an apt description of Freedom, the final track on the band's 1969 debut LP, Loosen Up Naturally. The piece, which takes up the entire fourth side of the double LP, shows the band's synthesis of San Francisco-style rock with Memphis-style R&B. The Sons evolved from a Marin County band called the Opposite Six, formed by multi-instrumentalist Bill Champlin in the early 60s when he was a student at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley. The band specialized in R&B cover songs and featured a horn section. After the draft took half of the band, two of the remaining members, Champlin and sax player Tim Cain formed a new group, initially called the Masterbeaters, that became known as the Sons Of Champlin. The band released seven albums before Champlin left to join Chicago as Terry Kath's replacement in 1981.
Artist: West, Bruce And Laing
Title: Like A Plate
Source: LP: Whatever Turns You On
When bassist/vocalist/keyboardist Felix Pappalardi decided to leave Mountain, the remaing two members, guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing, decided to continue performing and recording together. They invited Jack Bruce, the former bassist/vocalist for Cream, to join them in a new band to be called West, Bruce And Laing. The new band only lasted long enough to record two albums. The second of these, Whatever Turns You On, was marred by heavy drug use by everyone involved and the band had essentially called it quits before the album was even released. The final track on the LP, Like A Plate, is fairly typical of where the band was at that time: loud, chaotic and going on for a bit too long (in fact the track is over a minute and a half longer than indicated on the record label).