Sunday, January 9, 2022

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2203 (starts 1/10/22)

    There are only seven tracks on this week's hour-long show, which means a mixture of long and longer, with only our opening tune clocking in under four minutes. Read on...

Artist:    Gun
Title:    Race With The Devil
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Gun)
Writer(s):    Adrian Gurvitz
Label:    Repertoire (original UK label: Columbia)
Year:    1968
    One of the most popular songs on the jukebox at the teen club on Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany in 1969 was a song called Race With The Devil by a band called Gun. The song was so popular, in fact, that at least two local bands covered it (including the one I was in). Nobody seemed to know much about Gun at the time, but it turns out that the group was fronted by the Gurvitz brothers, Adrian and Paul (who at the time were using the last name Curtis); the two would later be members of the Baker-Gurvitz Army with drummer Ginger Baker. I've also learned recently that Gun spent much of its time touring in Europe, particularly in Germany, where Race With The Devil hit its peak in January of 1969 (it had made the top 10 in the UK in 1968, the year it was released).

Artist:    King Crimson
Title:    I Talk To The Wind/Epitaph
Source:    CD: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Writer(s):    Fripp/McDonald/Lake/Giles/Sinfield
Label:    Discipline Mobile Global (original label: Atlantic)
Year:    1969
    During my years in Albuquerque, New Mexico I had a friend named Dave Meaden. It was Dave who first introduced me to King Crimson's first album, In The Court Of The Crimson King, featuring lyrics by poet Peter Sinfield. Dave was such a big fan of Sinfield's work that he had actually handwritten the entire lyrics to Epitaph on a flag that he had hanging in his living room. I usually don't pay all that much attention to lyrics, being more of an instrumentalist, but for this particular piece I have to make an exception. In fact, I'm posting the entire text of Epitaph right here:

The wall on which the prophets wrote is cracking at the seams.
 Upon the instruments of death the sunlight brightly gleams.
 When every man is torn apart with nightmares and with dreams,
 Will no one lay the laurel wreath as silence drowns the screams?
 Between the iron gates of fate, the seeds of time were sown,
 And watered by the deeds of those who know and who are known;
 Knowledge is a deadly friend when no-one sets the rules.
 The fate of all mankind, I see, is in the hands of fools.
 Confusion will be my epitaph,
 As I crawl a cracked and broken path.
 If we make it we can all sit back and laugh.
 But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying,
 Yes I fear tomorrow I'll be crying.

Epitaph is preceded on the album by a Greg Lake composition called I Talk To The Wind, with lyrics by Sinfield. The song is a quiet, reflective piece, highlighted by classically-oriented flute solos by Ian McDonald. The two tracks are cross-faded on the original LP, and really need to be heard as one continuous piece to be fully appreciated.

Artist:     Traffic
Title:     Empty Pages
Source:     LP: John Barleycorn Must Die
Writer:     Winwood/Capaldi
Label:     Island
Year:     1970
     Traffic was formed in 1967 by guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Steve Winwood, who was looking for more artistic freedom after rising to stardom as a teenager with the Spencer Davis Group. The original band, also featuring guitarist/vocalist Dave Mason, drummer Jim Capaldi and woodwind player Chris Wood, released two and a half albums worth of studio tracks and one LP side of live performances before disbanding in early 1969, when Winwood left to form Blind Faith. Following the breakup of Blind Faith Winwood began working on a solo LP that soon turned into a Traffic reunion album (without Mason). John Barleycorn Must Die was released in 1970 and led to a second successful run for the band. Although Empty Pages was released as a single, it got most of its airplay on progressive FM stations, and as those stations were replaced by (or became) album rock stations, the song continued to get extensive airplay for many years. Modern classic rock stations, however, tend to ignore Traffic in favor of Winwood's later solo work, which is a shame, as Traffic put out some of the best rock albums ever made.

Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    Salisbury
Source:    European import CD: Salisbury
Writer(s):    Byron/Hensley/Box
Label:    Sanctuary Midline (original US label: Mercury)
Year:    1971
    Described by keyboardist Ken Hensley as Uriah Heep's "First trip into large scale composing", the title track of the 1971 LP Salisbury features horns and strings arranged by John Fiddy, who has since gone on to a lucrative career composing library recordings for British films and television. According to Hensley "There are so many different sounds going on it's easy to pick up something new each time around. This track was a gas to record. It really was!"

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Josie
Source:    CD: Aja
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1977
    When it comes to a discussion of high productions standards in rock music, Steely Dan's 1977 effort, Aja, is often cited as a prime example. Ironically, the album itself is usually noted for its incorporation of non-rock elements, particularly from the realm of jazz. The final track on the album, Josie, is usually considered the most conventional rocker on the album, with Walter Becker's guitar solo singled out for praise (one critic called it a "real stormer"). Josie was released as the album's third single, making it into the top 30 and, surprisingly, hitting #44 on the easy listening chart.

Artist:    Queen
Title:    Tie Your Mother Down
Source:    LP: A Day At The Races
Writer(s):    Brian May
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1976
    Following the commercial success of their fourth studio album, A Night At The Opera, with its hit single Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen got to work on a followup LP. Following the pattern set by the Marx Brothers, they decided to call the new album A Day At The Races. The LP, released in 1976, starts with a Brian May rocker calledTie Your Mother Down that became the album's second single. The song actually dates back to May's college days, when he was working on his Astronomy PhD. Vocalist Freddie Mercury said of the song: "Well this one in fact is a track written by Brian actually, I dunno why. Maybe he was in one of his vicious moods. I think he’s trying to out do me after Death On Two Legs actually." Death On Two Legs, of course, was Mercury's scathing indictment of Queen's former manager that had appeared on A Night At The Opera. Tie Your Mother Down was part of Queen's stage repertoire for several years, and got considerable airplay on FM rock radio in the US in the late 1970s. On the album the track is preceded by a slowly fading-in guitar intro that uses something called a Shepard tone. The same solo guitar piece appears at the end of the album as well, only this time fading out.

Artist:    Roy Buchanan
Title:    I'm Evil
Source:    CD: The Best Of Roy Buchanan (originally released on LP: Live Stock)
Writer(s):    Roy Buchanan
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1975
    Since the late 1960s there have been a succession of guitar heroes who have captured the ears of rock fans across the world. Nearly every one of them cites Roy Buchanan as one of the very best to ever play the instrument. Known as the "master of the Telecaster", Buchanan was first discovered by another legend, Dale Hawkins, the writer and original performer of the song Suzy Q. In 1961 Buchanan joined Dale's cousin Ronnie Hawkins's band, the Hawks, which would later be known as the Band, leaving an indelible impression of that band's second guitarist, Robbie Robertson. For most of the 1960s, however, Buchanan was happy to settle in Washington, DC, playing small clubs and backing up various guest musicians who came to town. In 1970, after a review in the Washington Star led to similar articles in the Washington Post and then Rolling Stone magazine, Buchanan was offered a contract with the Polydor label, which was then just beginning to extend its recording empire into the US market. His fifth album of the 1970s was Live Stock, which showcased just how much could be done live on stage with a 1953 Fender Telecaster with a minumum of effects in the hands of a master on songs like I'm Evil (sounding like a Willie Dixon tune but credited to Buchanan himself). Unfortunately, Buchanan had a series of personal issue that led to his death in 1988 at the age of 48.


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