This week we pull out the old Time Machine to move upward through the years one step at a time, starting in 1969 and continuing until we reach 1973, at which time we head back down via a different route, finally finishing up with an Al Kooper Blood Sweat & Tears classic that has somehow never been heard on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion before this week.
Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Title: Time Machine
Source: CD: Heavy Hitters (originally released on LP: On Time)
Writer: Mark Farner
Universally panned by the rock press, the first Grand Funk Railroad album, On Time, was at best a moderate success when it was first released. Thanks to the band's extensive touring, however, GFR had built up a sizable following by the time their self-titled follow up LP (aka the Red Album) was released in 1970. That year, Grand Funk Railroad became the first rock band to chalk up four gold albums in the same year, with Closer To Home and their double-LP live album joining the first two studio albums on the million seller list. One of the most popular tracks from On Time was Time Machine, which captures the essence of the band's early years.
Artist: Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young
Title: déjà vu
Source: LP: déjà vu
Writer(s): David Crosby
One of the biggest selling albums in the history of rock music, Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young's déjà vu was also one of the most difficult and time-consuming albums ever made. It is estimated that the album, which to date has sold over 8 million copies, took around 800 hours of studio time to record. Most of the tracks were recorded as solo tracks by their respective songwriters, with the other members making whatever contributions were called for. The album also features several guest musicians (including John Sebastian, who plays harmonica on the title track), as well as drummer Dallas Taylor and bassist Greg Reeves, whose names appear in slightly smaller font on the front cover of the album.
Title: L.A. Woman
Source: CD: The Best Of The Doors (originally released on LP: L.A. Woman)
Writer(s): The Doors
Ray Manzarek became justifiably famous as the keyboard player for the Doors. Before joining up with Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger and John Densmore, however, Manzarek was already making a name for himself as an up-and-coming student filmmaker at UCLA. Although he didn't have much of a need to pursue a career in films once the Doors hit it big, he did end up producing and directing an outstanding video for the title track of the 1971 album L.A. Woman years after the band had split up. I only mention this because, really, what else can I say about a song that you've probably heard a million times or so?
Artist: Emerson, Lake And Palmer
Title: From The Beginning
Source: CD: Trilogy
Writer(s): Greg Lake
Label: Atlantic (original label: Cotillion)
Although his primary function in Emerson, Lake And Palmer was to provide lead vocals and play bass lines supporting Keith Emerson's keyboard work, Greg Lake generally got to include one of his own ballads on each ELP album. Usually Lake played acoustic guitar on these tracks, with synthesizer backup from Emerson and little or no drumwork from Carl Palmer. For the band's third LP, Trilogy, Lake provided From The Beginning, one of most melodic tunes in the group's catalog. The song ended up being the band's highest charting single, peaking at # 39.
Artist: Stephen Stills-Manassis
Title: Isn't It About Time
Source: 45 RPM single (promo) (taken from the LP: Down The Road)
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
The critics were not kind to the second (and last) Stephen Stills-Manassis album, Down The Road. The consensus seems to be that the album sounds like it was made for making money, as opposed to for artistic reasons. Personally, I don't know, since I've never had a copy of Down The Road (or known anyone with a copy, for that matter). I do, however, remember hearing the album' single, Isn't It About Time, on the radio and thinking it was a decent enough tune (although apparently not decent enough to inspire me to go out and buy the album). Somehow, though, I've managed to acquire a promo copy of the single, although, to be honest, I have no idea where it came from. Anyway, here it is. Enjoy.
Artist: Grace Slick
Source: LP: Manhole
Writer(s): Grace Slick
There is not, nor has there ever been, a movie named Manhole. That didn't stop Grace Slick from writing a theme for it, however. In fact, she based her entire first solo album on it. The album starts with a song called Jay. Trying to describe it is all but impossible, so I'll just let you sit back and listen to it, mentioning only that virtually every musician that later became a part of Jefferson Starship (the exception being Papa John Creach) appears on the album at some point.
Title: State Of The Union
Source: LP: Chicago V
Writer(s): Robert Lamm
It's easy to forget that one of the most successful soft-rock bands in history started off as a much harder-edged group, with a tendency to experiment on their LPs. Chicago, in the early years, often got quite political as well, with most of the "in your face" tunes, such as State Of The Union (which qualifies as both experimental and political), coming from keyboardist/vocalist Robert Lamm.
Artist: Rare Earth
Title: Hey Big Brother
Source: CD: The Collection (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Motown (original label: Rare Earth)
Like many successful bands, Rare Earth relied on outside songwriters for their hit singles, although they did have many self-penned tunes on their LPs. At first those hits were covers of Temptations songs such as Get Ready and (I Know) I'm Losing You, but by the early 1970s they had switched to the songwriting team of Dino Fekaris and Nick Zesses, who provided them with their final top 20 hit, Hey Big Brother. It was also the most political of Rare Earth's hit records.
Artist: Wishbone Ash
Title: Lady Whiskey
Source: CD: Wishbone Ash
Label: MCA (original label: Decca)
In its own way, the first Wishbone Ash album rocks out as hard as any album released in 1970, and is certainly one of the better debut LPs in rock history. The band would actually soften their sound a touch for later albums, but on tunes like Lady Whiskey they showed that they could hold their own in a world that included bands like Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Led Zeppelin.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: What Is And What Should Never Be
Source: German import LP: Led Zeppelin II
Due to contractual obligations, singer Robert Plant did not received any writing credits for songs on the first Led Zeppelin album. By the time the band's second LP was released, Plant had been able to get out of his previous contract, and his name began appearing as co-writer of songs such as What Is And What Should Never Be. The song itself was based on a true story concerning Plant's attraction to his girlfriend's sister.
Artist: Neil Young
Title: I've Been Waiting For You
Source: LP: The 1969 Warner/Reprise Songbook (originally released on LP: Neil Young)
Writer(s): Neil Young
Label: Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
Despite being included on the very first Warner Brothers Loss Leaders album, the 1969 Warner/Reprise Songbook, I've Been Waiting For You, from Neil Young's self-titled 1968 debut LP, is one of the least-known and underated of all of Young's songs...or at least it was until 2002, when David Bowie (with Dave Grohl on guitar) released his own version of the song as a single and included it on the album Heathen.
Artist: Blood, Sweat & Tears
Title: I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know
Source: LP: Al's Big Deal (originally released on LP: Child Is Father To The Man)
Writer(s): Al Kooper
Ever since he was a teenager, Al Kooper had wanted to start a rock band that had a horn section. After making his name as a session musician with Bob Dylan, Kooper joined the Blues Project in 1965 as the band's keyboardist. He left that group in early 1967 and began the slow process of assembling his dream band, Blood, Sweat & Tears, which made its vinyl debut in February of 1968. One of the best remembered songs on the album was I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know. Although not released as a single, the tune became one of the core songs heard on the new FM rock stations popping up across the country in the late 1960s. Kooper himself ended up leaving the band he founded later that same year, moving on to producing and appearing on albums like Super Session and The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper, as well as continuing to work as an in-demand studio keyboardist.