Sunday, October 31, 2021

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2145 (starts 11/1/21)

    This week we do a bit of genre-bending, framed by some rockin' blues, courtesy of Johnny Winter and Ten Years After. In between we touch on folk-rock, jazz-rock, space-rock, punk rock, heavy metal and even a bit of soft rock.

Artist:    Johnny Winter
Title:    Be Careful With A Fool
Source:    British import CD: Johnny Winter
Writer(s):    King/Josea
Label:    Repertoire (original US label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    Johnny Winter's first album for Columbia (his second overall) is nothing less than a blues masterpiece. Accompanied by bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Uncle John Turner, Winter pours his soul into classics like B.B. King's Be Careful With A Fool, maybe even improving on the original (if such a thing is possible).

Artist:    B.B. King
Title:    Friends
Source:    LP: Live And Well
Writer(s):    King/Szymczyk
Label:    Bluesway
Year:    1969
    Thanks to rock guitarists like Jimi Hendrix (who performed a fast version of Rock Me Baby at Monterey) and Eric Clapton, B.B. King reached a whole new audience in the late 1960s. In 1969, working with producer Bill Szymczyk, he released Live And Well, an album that featured live tracks on one side and studio tracks, with a different set of backup musicians, on the other. One of those studio tracks was the instrumental Friends, which features Paul "Harry" Harris on piano, Hugh McCracken on guitar, Gerald Jemmott on bass guitar and Herb Lovelle on drums, described by Szymczyk as "some of the best young blues musicians in the country".

Artist:    Joni Mitchell
Title:    Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire
Source:    LP: For The Roses (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Joni Mitchell
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1972
    After releasing several albums for Reprise, Joni Mitchell signed with David Geffen's Asylum label in 1972. Her first album for the label was For The Roses, which includes one of her first forays into jazz-folk fusion, Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire, a powerful portrait of a heroin addict's life. Alone among Mitchell's albums, For The Roses was selected by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry in 2007.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    The Road
Source:    LP: Chicago
Writer(s):    Terry Kath
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1970
    In their early days as the Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago was known for laying down some solid rock behind the blistering guitar work of Terry Kath. By the 1980s, however, they were cranking out a series of soft-rock hits, usually sung by bassist Peter Cetera. Oddly enough, Kath was the first songwriting band member to steer the band in that direction with The Road, from the band's second LP, released in 1970.

Artist:    Chick Corea
Title:    The Leprechaun's Dream
Source:    LP: The Leprechaun
Writer(s):    Chick Corea
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1976
    A pioneer in jazz-rock fusion, Chick Corea also incorporated elements of classical music in pieces like The Leprechaun's Dream from his 1976 LP The Leprechaun. Corea would continue to break new ground throughout his career.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Embryo
Source:    CD: Works (originally released in UK on LP: Picnic-A Breath Of Fresh Air)
Writer(s):    Roger Waters
Label:    Capitol (original label: Harvest)
Year:    1970
    Until the emergence of CD box sets in the 1990s, trying to gather all of Pink Floyd's officially released material was a daunting task. There were non-album singles and B side, tracks made specifically for movie soundtracks and even one tune, Embryo, the original studio version of which only appeared on a UK-only Harvest Records sampler called Picnic-A Breath Of Fresh Air, released in 1970. The song finally made its first US appearance in 1983, on a Pink Floyd anthology album called Works that was released by Capitol Records in an attempt to undercut the release of The Final Cut on the Columbia label. Embryo, written by Roger Waters, is actually an outtake from the Ummagumma sessions recorded in 1969 with David Gilmour on lead vocals. The band considered Embryo to be an unfinished piece not suitable for release, which prompted Harvest to withdraw Picnic-A Breath Of Fresh Air not long after it was originally issued.

Artist:    Stooges
Title:    Not Right
Source:    CD: The Stooges
Writer(s):    The Stooges
Label:    Elektra/Rhino
Year:    1969
    When the Stooges first started working on their 1969 debut LP for Elektra they were told that they needed more actual songs (as opposed to the excessive jamming they usually did on stage). Their response was to go home and write three new songs overnight. Not Right is one of those three songs.

Artist:    Who
Title:    5:15
Source:    CD: Quadrophenia
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    MCA
Year:    1973
    I'll be honest. When I first heard the Who's Quadrophenia I had the same opinion of it as I did Jethro Tull's Passion Play. I thought it was overblown and too far removed from what rock is supposed to be. These days I've come to appreciate Pete Townshend's magnum opus about life in Mod mode a bit more. And so, here's 5:15. Make of it what you will.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Jack The Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots
Source:    CD: Paranoid
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    As a general rule, Black Sabbath's songwriting process on their first three albums consisted of guitarist Tony Iommi coming up with a basic riff, to which vocalist Ozzy Osbourne would add a melody. Bassist Geezer Butler would then compose lyrics and drummer Bill Ward would add the finishing touches. According to Butler, however, the lyrics to Fairies Wear Boots were entirely the work of Osbourne. Although Osbourne himself says he doesn't remember where he got the idea for those lyrics, Butler has said they were inspired by an encounter Osbourne had with a group of London skinheads who taunted him about the length of his hair by calling him a fairy. Butler added that Osbourne's lyrics often went off on a tangent, however, and that the later verses actually describe an acid trip. US versions of the Paranoid album list the track as being two separate compositions, with the instrumental intro carrying the title Jack The Stripper. This actually does not make a whole lot of sense, since that instrumental theme is repeated much later in the track, but in all likelihood the division was made to increase the amount of royalties the band would receive for the album itself. The Grateful Dead's second LP, Anthem Of The Sun, was similarly formatted for that reason, and both Anthem Of The Sun and Paranoid came out on the Warner Brothers label in the US, lending credibility to the idea.

Artist:    Ten Years After
Title:    Hear Me Calling
Source:    CD: Stonedhenge
Writer(s):    Alvin Lee
Label:    Deram
Year:    1969
    Ten Years After's third album, Stonedhenge, was the band's first real attempt to take advantage of modern studio techniques to create something other than a facsimile of their live performances. Included on the album are short solo pieces, as well as half a dozen longer tracks featuring the entire band. One of the most popular of these full-band tracks is Hear Me Calling, which finishes out side one of the original LP. The song itself follows a simple blues structure, but is augmented by dynamic changes in volume as well as dizzying stereo effects. TYA would continue to develop their studio technique on their next LP, the classic Cricklewood Green.

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