This week's show is pure free-form rock, with 13 tunes from 13 bands, including one from the Norman Whitfield produced Undisputed Truth to get things under way.
Artist: Undisputed Truth
Title: Feelin' Alright
Source: British import CD: Nothing But The Truth (originally released on LP: Law Of The Land)
Writer(s): Dave Mason
Label: Kent (original label: Gordy)
By 1969 producer Norman Whitfield had established himself as Motown's "psychedelic soul" producer, using the Temptations to crank out hits like Psychedelic Shack and Cloud 9. The problem was that many Temptations fans, as well as some of the members of the Temptations themselves, were not entirely happy with the direction the group had taken, and still preferred their older hits like My Girl. Whitfield, seeing the writing on the wall, began assembling a new vocal group that would not have the baggage the Temptations brought with them, and the Undisputed Truth was born. The group's main lead vocalist was Joe "Pep" Harris, who had been with a group called the Fabulous Peps prior to 1968, and was backed up by Billie Calvin and Brenda Evans, who had been in the California soul band The Delicates. Although most of their songs were also recorded by the Temptations (and often used the same instrumental backing tracks), there were some that were uniquely recorded by the Undisputed Truth. Among these is a version of Traffic's Feelin' Alright, done in a style that foreshadowed the direction soul music would be taking in the 1970s with bands like the Commodores.
Artist: Steely Dan
Title: Only A Fool Would Say That
Source: CD: Can't Buy A Thrill
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
Steely Dan's first album, Can't Buy A Thrill, is best known for its two hit singles, Do It Again and Reeling In The Years. The album, however, has plenty more good tracks, including Only A Fool Would Say That, which also appeared as a B side.
Artist: Steve Miller Band
Title: Dime-A-Dance Romance
Source: CD: Sailor
Writer(s): Boz Scaggs
It's fairly well known that Boz Scaggs started off as an original member of the Steve Miller Band. What's not as well known however, is just how brief his tenure with the group actually was. He appeared on their first two albums, both released in 1968, before embarking on his own solo career, and barely wrote enough material to fill only one side of an LP while with the group. Among his half-dozen or so compositions was Dime-A-Dance Romance which appeared as the last track on Sailor, Scaggs's last album with the band.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Street Fighting Man
Source: Mono CD: Singles Collection-The London Years (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: 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 parted company with their longtime producer, Andrew Loog Oldham and began an equally long association with Jimmy Miller, who had already established himself as a top producer working with Steve Winwood of the Spencer Davis Group and later Traffic. The first song Miller produced with the Stones was Street Fighting Man, which appeared on the 1968 LP Beggar's Banquet. Before that LP was released, however, the band recorded an even more iconic single, Jumpin' Jack Flash, which was the first Miller/Stones production to be heard by the general public.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Woman From Tokyo
Source: CD: The Very Best Of Deep Purple (originally released on LP: Who Do We Think We Are)
Label: Warner Archives/Rhino
Deep Purple's most successful period came to an end with the band's seventh LP, Who Do We Think We Are. The album, released in 1973, was the last for vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, both of whom had joined the band three years earlier. Those three years saw the group go from semi-obscurity (especially in their home country) to one of the world's most popular rock bands. Songs like Smoke On The Water and Highway Star had become mainstays of FM rock radio worldwide, but tensions within the band itself were starting to tear it apart. Nonetheless, the final album by the classic lineup of Richie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord and Ian Paice featured some of the band's best material, including the LP's opening track, My Woman From Tokyo, which is still heard with alarming regularity on classic rock radio stations.
Artist: Climax Blues Band
Title: Reap What I've Sowed
Source: Stereo 45 RPM promo
Writer(s): Climax Blues Band
The Climax Chicago Blues Band was a band steeped in confusion pretty much from the start. Formed in Stafford, England in 1967, the group originally consisted of vocalist/harmonica player Colin Cooper, guitarist/vocalist Pete Haycock , guitarist Derek Holt, bassist/keyboardist Richard Jones, drummer George Newsome, and keyboardist Arthur Wood. Originally part of the British blues-rock scene of the late 1960s, the band found itself continually adapting to a changing musical landscape throughout its existence, racking up a total of 17 albums over the years. After releasing two LPs on EMI's Parlophone label, the band switched over to EMI's progressive rock oriented label, Harvest, releasing their third album, A Lot Of Bottle, in 1970. By this time there was more than a little confusion over the band's name, which, on the British release of A Lot Of Bottle, was still the Climax Chicago Blues Band. In the US, however, the name of the album itself was The Climax Blues Band. To make things even more confusing, the band's next two studio albums were credited to the Climax Blues Band in North America, but appeared under the name Climax Chicago in the rest of the world. This confusion over the band's name may be part of the reason they were never a major success, although they did manage a couple hit singles over the years (Couldn't Get It Right in 1977 and I Love You in 1981). The band's first US single, 1971's Reap What I've Sowed, was only issued to radio stations, with the notation that it was from the "forthcoming" album, The Climax Blues Band, which had actually been released the previous year in the UK. As I said, steeped in confusion.
Artist: Brownsville Station
Title: Lightnin' Bar Blues
Source: LP: Yeah
Writer(s): Hoyt Axton
Label: Big Tree
Some of the best concerts I've ever been to involved opening acts that outperformed the actual headliner. One such case was the Joe Cocker concert I went to around 1975 or so. The opening act was Brownsville Station, who had charted a hit a couple years before with Smokin' In The Boys Room, but hadn't been heard on the radio much since then. They did exactly what they were supposed to, firing up the crowd with upbeat rockers like Lightnin' Bar Blues, a tune written by Hoyt Axton. The second band, Foghat, kept the energy up, but Cocker showed up drunk and insisted on concentrating his performance on off-key versions of low energy tunes such as his recent hit You Are So Beautiful. We all left before the concert ended.
Artist: Second Hand
Source: British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Reality)
Formed in Streatham, South London, in 1965 by vocalist/keyboardist Ken Elliott, guitarist Bob Gibbons and drummer Kieran O'Connor, the Next Collection soon won a local battle of the bands and the opportunity to make a demo recording at Maximum Sound Studios. This brought them to the attention of producer Vic Keary, who got them signed to Polydor in 1968 under the name Moving Finger. Just as the album Reality was about to be released, however, another band called the Moving Finger released a single on another label, forcing Elliot and company to come up with a new band name, as well as new packaging for the LP. The name they chose was Second Hand, since all of their equipment had been bought used. Apparently the delay also caused some rethinking on the part of the people at Polydor, who had initially been enthusiastic supporters of the band. When Reality was released in late 1968 it got no promotional support whatsoever from the label, and was a commercial failure. In recent years, however, Second Hand's Reality, including the title track, has come to be recognized as one of the pioneering albums of the prog-rock movement, predating bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer by several years.
Title: South California Purples
Source: CD: Chicago Transit Authority
Writer(s): Robert Lamm
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Chicago never considered themselves a jazz-rock band, despite all the hype from the rock press and the publicity people at Columbia Records. Rather, the defined themselves as a rock band with a horn section. Songs like Robert Lamm's South California Purples, which is basically a blues progression, lend credence to this view. The track, which showcases the guitar work of Terry Kath, was one of the most popular songs on the band's debut album and continued to be a concert staple until Kath's death in 1978.
Title: Born Under A Bad Sign
Source: CD: Wheels Of Fire
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were pretty much considered the cream of the crop of the British blues scene in the mid 1960s, so it came as no surprise when they decided to call their new band Cream. Although the trio would go on to record several memorable non-blues tunes such as I Feel Free and White Room, they never completely abandoned the blues. Born Under A Bad Sign, originally recorded by Albert King for the Stax label and written by labelmates William Bell and Booker T. Jones, is one of the better known tracks from Cream's double-LP Wheels Of Fire, the last album released while the band was still together.
Title: Uncle Jack
Source: CD: The Best Of Spirit (originally released on LP: Spirit)
Writer(s): Jay Ferguson
Despite nearly universal positive reviews by the rock press, the first Spirit album never really caught the imagination of the record buying public. Why this is the case is still a bit of a mystery, as the album is full of outstanding tracks such as Uncle Jack. Perhaps the album, and indeed the band itself, was just a bit ahead of its time.
Artist: Wishbone Ash
Title: Blowin' Free
Source: CD: Argus
Known to the band's fans as the "Ash Anthem", Blowin' Free is probably the single most popular song Wishbone Ash ever recorded. The song, with lyrics written by bassist Martin Turner before Wishbone Ash even formed, is about Turner's Swedish ex-girlfriend.
Title: Rat Race
Source: German import CD: Gun
Label: Repertoire (original US label: Epic)
Led by guitarist/vocalist Adrian Curtis (later changed to his birth name, Gurvitz) Gun was known for its high-energy rock, supplemented by horns and strings. On the more melodic side were tracks like Rat Race, which still rocked out harder than most bands in 1968.