Sunday, August 22, 2021

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2135

    The first half of this week's show progresses from 1968 to 1973, one year at a time. The second half is regresses from 1973 to 1968, one year at a time. Now that's symmetry!

Artist:    Spirit
Title:    Fresh Garbage
Source:    CD: The Best Of Spirit (originally released on LP: Spirit)
Writer(s):    Jay Ferguson
Label:    Epic (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 fairly hard rocker 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:    Fleetwood Mac
Title:    Oh Well
Source:    Mono LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: Then Play On)
Writer(s):    Peter Green
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
Year:     1969
    Fleetwood Mac had already established themselves as one of Britain's top up-and-coming blues bands by the time Then Play On was released in 1969. The band had just landed a deal in the US with Reprise, and Then Play On was their American debut LP. At the same time the album was released in the UK, a new non-LP single, Oh Well, appeared as well. The song was a top pick on Radio Luxembourg, the only non-BBC English language top 40 station still operating in Europe in 1969 (not counting the American Forces Network, which was only a top 40 station for an hour or two a day), and Oh Well soon shot all the way to the # 2 spot on the British charts. Meanwhile the US version of Then Play On (which had originally been issued with pretty much the same song lineup as the British version) was recalled, and a new version with Oh Well added to it was issued in its place. The song itself has two distinct parts: a fast blues-rocker sung by lead guitarist Peter Green lasting about two minutes, and a slow moody instrumental that runs about seven minutes. The original UK single featured about a minute's worth of part two tacked on to the end of the A side (with a fadeout ending), while the B side had the entire part two on it. Both sides of the single were added to the US version of the LP, which resulted in the first minute of part two repeating itself on the album.

Artist:    Derek and the Dominos
Title:    Layla
Source:    CD: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs
Writer:    Clapton/Gordon
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1970
    After the breakup of Blind Faith after one album, Eric Clapton set about forming a new band that would be more of a group effort than a collection of stars working together. To this end he found musicians that, although quite talented, were not particularly well-known outside of the British blues community. At first the group deliberately downplayed Clapton's presence in the band in order to stay focused on making music as a collective, although even in the beginning it was clear that Clapton would be the group's lead vocalist. The new group had trouble coming up with a name, however, and (half-jokingly) told one stage MC that their name was Del and the Dynamos. The MC misheard the name and introduced the new band as Derek and the Dominos. The name stuck. Meanwhile, Clapton had recently discovered a new band out of Atlanta, Georgia, calling itself the Allman Brothers band and was so impressed by guitarist Duane Allman that he asked him to join the Dominos. Allman, however, declined Clapton's offer, choosing to stick with the band he had co-founded with brother Gregg. Duane Allman did, however, sit in with Derek and the Dominos in the studio for several tracks on their upcoming double LP. One of the tracks where Allman's distinctive slide guitar stands out is the album's title song, Layla.
Artist:    Gong
Title:    Squeezing Sponges Over Policemen's Heads/Fohat Digs Holes In Space
Source:    European import CD: Camembert Electrique
Writer(s):    Allen/Smyth
Label:    Charly (original French label: BYG)
Year:    1971
    Australian musician David Allen first arrived in England in 1961, where he formed a free jazz group The Daevid Allen Trio. In 1966 that group added two more members to create Soft Machine, one of Britain's first progressive rock bands. Following a European tour in 1967 Allen, who had overstayed his original work visa, was refused re-entry to the UK, and was forced to leave Soft Machine. Moving to Paris with his partner Gilli Smyth, Allen formed the original version of Gong that same year. After getting caught up in the 1968 Paris protests Allen and Smyth fled to the Spanish island ot Mallorca, returning to Paris in August of 1969. They were offered the opportunity to make an album for the French label BYG Actuel, and revived the Gong name for the album Magick Brother, which was released in March of 1970. Most people, however, including Allen himself, considered the 1971 LP Camembert Electrique to be the first actual Gong album. In addition to Allen and Smyth, the band included Didier Malherbe on flute and saxophone, Christian Tritsch on bass, and Pip Pyle on drums. Of the album's eleven tracks, four are actually short "Radio Gnome" pieces with titles like Squeezing Sponges Over Policemen's Heads that segue into mostly instrumental prog-rock pieced such as Fohat Digs Holes In Space.

Artist:    Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina
Title:    Danny's Song
Source:    45 RPM promo single
Writer(s):    Kenny Loggins
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1971 (single edit released 1972)
    In 1972 Columbia confused everyone in the radio business by releasing two promo singles by Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina. One was a Jim Messina song called Nobody But You, which was clearly marked as the single's A side, with a Kenny Loggins tune called Danny's Song as the B side. The other had Danny's Song on both sides. The result of this oddity was that Nobody But You rose no higher than #86 on the Billboard Hot 100, while Danny's Song didn't chart at all. Ironically, Danny's Song eventually became one of Loggins's most popular songs, thanks in part to Anne Murray's version of the song going into the top 10.

Artist:    Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Title:    Cosmic Cowboy-Part One
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Michael Martin Murphy
Label:    United Artists
Year:    1973
    The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band has gone through several stylistic changes over the years. Formed in 1966 by Jeff Hanna and Bruce Kunkel (and soon expanded to six members, including a young Jackson Browne), the group started as a jug band, releasing a pair of albums on the Liberty label before switching to electric instruments in 1968. By that point the band had already gone through several personnel changes, including the departure of Kunkel and Browne, and the addition of Chris Darrow and John McEuen. The next pair of albums were not commercially successful, and the band went on hiatus for about six months in 1969. The emerged from this self-imposed exile with a new contract and more artistic freedom, releasing their most successful album to date, Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy, in 1970. The album included their hit cover version of Jerry Jeff Walker's Mr. Bojangles, which put the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band at the forefront of the burgeoning country-rock movement of the early 1970s. In 1972 the band released Will The Circle Be Unbroken, a landmark collaboration with such country legends as Roy Acuff, Doc Watson and Mother Maybelle Carter, among others. The following year they released the live album Stars And Stripes Forever, which included the single Cosmic Cowboy. The band continued in a country-rock vein for the rest of the 1970s, including a stretch when they were known simply as the Dirt Band. By the 1980s, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (full name restored) was releasing records exclusively to country radio stations, and having great success with songs like Fishin' In The Dark.

Artist:    Stealer's Wheel
Title:    Everyone's Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine
Source:    Mono 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Egan/Rafferty
Label:    A&M
Year:    1973
    Not long after Stuck In The Middle With You became an international success in 1973, all the members of Stealers Wheel except for founders Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty left the group. Rather than recruit replacements, Stealers Wheel officially became a duo, supplementing their sound with studio musicians. Their next single was Everyone's Agreed That Everything Will Turn Out Fine, a strong tune that probably should have done better than it did (it hit #33 in the UK and stalled out at #49 in the US). The LP Ferguslie Park didn't do any better and by the time a third LP, Right Or Wrong, was released Stealers Wheel had officially disbanded. Rafferty would go on to score a major hit with the song Baker Street in 1978.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Get Her Back Again
Source:    LP: Straight Shooter
Writer(s):    Dominic Troiano
Label:    ABC
Year:    1972
    While drummer Jim Fox was forming the James Gang in the late 1960s, two of his future bandmates were having some success in the popular Canadian club band, Mandala. Around the time the James Gang were working on their most successful LP, James Gang Rides Again, Mandala was morphing into a rock band called Bush. Bush only released one album before disbanding, but, significantly, that album made them labelmates with the James Gang. When guitarist/lead vocalist Joe Walsh departed the James Gang for a solo career, the remaining two members of the band (Fox and bassist Dale Peters) recruited the two songwriting members of Bush, vocalist Roy Kenner and guitarist Dominic Troiano, to keep the James Gang going. The first album by the quartet was Straight Shooter, an album that in many ways was a stylistic continuation of the Walsh version of the band. Even songs like Get Her Back Again, written by Troiano, had a Joe Walsh feel to it, which in the long run actually hurt the band more than it helped. Troiano would stick around for one more James Gang album before returning to Toronto, where he became Randy Bachman's replacement in the Guess Who. Meanwhile, the James Gang would recruit guitarist Tommy Bolin for a pair of albums that temporarily revived the group's fortunes.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Going To California
Source:    CD: Led Zeppelin IV
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    The fourth Led Zeppelin album is known for the band's return to a harder rock sound after the acoustic leanings of Led Zeppelin III. There were, however, a couple of acoustic songs on LZ IV, including Going To California, a song that vocalist Robert Plant has since said was about Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. The tune features Plant on vocals, Jimmy Page on acoustic guitar and John Paul Jones on Mandolin.

Artist:     Allman Brothers Band
Title:     In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
Source:     CD: Beginnings (originally released on LP: Idlewild South)
Writer:     Dicky Betts
Label:     Polydor (original label: Capricorn)
Year:     1970
     The second Allman Brothers Band LP, Idlewild South, was notable for the emergence of guitarist Dicky Betts as the band's second songwriter (joining Gregg Allman, who wrote all of the band's original material on their debut album). One of Betts's most enduring compositions is the instrumental In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed, which soon became a concert staple for the group, and is one of two tracks on their Live At The Fillmore East album to get extensive airplay (the other being Whipping Post).

Artist:    Steppenwolf
Title:    It's Never Too Late
Source:    CD: Born To Be Wild-A Retrospective (originally released on LP: At Your Birthday Party)
Writer(s):    Kay/St. Nicholas
Label:    MCA (original label: Dunhill)
Year:    1969
    Although not generally known for their slow ballads, Steppenwolf did, on occasion, quiet things down on tracks like It's Never Too Late, from their third LP, At Your Birthday Party. The song was released as a single in 1969, but only reached the #51 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

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.

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