Sunday, January 23, 2022

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2205 (starts 1/24/22)

    This week, following an opening track from the Joe Walsh era James Gang, we work our way back from 1976 to 1968, one year at a time. Along the way we run across album tracks from Savoy Brown, Curtis Mayfield, the Mothers and several other artists. There's even a token hit single hidden in the middle of it all.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    There I Go Again
Source:    CD: James Gang Rides Again
Writer(s):    Joe Walsh
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1970
    The two sides of James Gang Rides Again sound like two entirely different albums. As it turns out, this was somewhat intentional. According to bassist Dale Peters, guitarist Joe Walsh had written a set of acoustic tunes while the band was recording what would become side one of the album. Rather than try to hastily come up with another side's worth of tunes, the band decided just to let Walsh record the songs he had already written with a minimum of accompaniment. Among those tunes on side two of James Gang Rides Again is There I Go Again, a catchy number that features Walsh on both acoustic and (overdubbed) steel guitar.

Artist:    Tommy Bolin
Title:    Shake The Devil
Source:    CD: Private Eyes
Writer(s):    Bolin/Cook
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1976
    Tommy Bolin was a self-taught guitarist that impressed pretty much everyone who ever heard him play, including the members of Deep Purple, who invited him to join the band in 1975 following the departure of founding guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Bolin accepted, although doing so meant he was unable to properly promote his own debut solo LP, Teaser. After Deep Purple officially disbanded, Bolin formed his own band and began working on his second solo LP, Private Eyes. The album, featuring outstanding tracks such as Shake The Devil, was released in September of 1976, and Bolin went on tour to promote Private Eyes. Unfortunately, Bolin died of a drug overdose on December 3, 1976 in Miami following a live appearance opening for Jeff Beck, cutting short a brilliant career.

Artist:    Renaissance
Title:    Song Of Scheherazade-part two
Source:    LP: Scheherazade And Other Stories
Writer(s):    Hout/Camp/Dunford/Thatcher
Label:    Sire
Year:    1975
    Probably the most musically ambitious piece in the entire Renaissance catalog, Song Of Scheheraze takes up the entire second side of the 1975 LP Scheherazade And Other Stories. The nearly 25-minute long suite is made up of several sections, with a break about halfway through. This the second half of that suite. The album itself, the band's 6th studio LP, was the first to not include any compositions from the group's founding members, drummer Jim McCarty having severed ties with the band following the release of Turn Of The Cards.

Artist:    Who
Title:    Naked Eye
Source:    British import CD (Spirit Of Joy) (originally released on LP: Odds And Sods)
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    Polydor (original US label: Decca)
Year:    1974
    While touring to promote the Tommy album, the Who began developing several new songs as part of their live act. Many of these appeared, at least in part, on the Live At Leeds album in 1970. One of those songs, Naked Eye, was partially recorded in the studio around the same time, but remained unfinished when the 1971 album Who's Next was released. Over the next couple of years several bootlegs of the Who's live performances were in circulation, prompting bassist John Entwhistle to compile a new album of outtakes and unreleased tracks in 1974. The album Odds And Sods, included the completed version of Naked Eye.

Artist:    Mothers
Title:    I'm The Slime
Source:    CD: Over-Nite Sensation
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1973
    In 1973, Frank Zappa, along with an array of talented musicians, recorded two albums' worth of material. The first, released as a Mothers album, was Over-Nite Sensation. Strangely enough, a single was released from the album, although it really didn't make much of a dent in the top 40 charts. That single was I'm The Slime, a song that only gets more relevant as time goes on. The song is basically a description of America's top drug of choice, as the opening lyrics make clear: "I am gross and perverted. I'm obsessed 'n deranged. I have existed for years, but very little has changed. I'm the tool of the government and industry too, for I am destined to rule and regulate you. I may be vile and pernicious, but you can't look away. I make you think I'm delicious, with the stuff that I say. I'm the best you can get. Have you guessed me yet? I'm the slime ooozing out of your TV set." Ironically, Zappa and his band performed the song on his first appearance on NBC's Saturday Night Live.

Artist:    Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina
Title:    Your Mama Don't Dance
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Loggins/Messina
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1972
    Kenny Loggins was just 20 years old when he released the first of three singles for Snuff Garrett's Viva label in 1968. This led to a brief stint as guitarist for the "new, improved" Electric Prunes in 1969 before forming the band Gator Creek with fellow guitarist Mike Deasy, releasing one album on the Mercury label. In 1970 he met up with Jim Messina, who had become an independent record producer following his runs with Buffalo Springfield and Poco. The two of them began recording some of Loggin's tunes for a proposed Loggins solo LP that eventually turned into the first Loggins and Messina LP, officially titled Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin' In. The two began touring together to promote the album and soon decided to officially become a duo, releasing the album Loggins And Messina in 1972. The album included Your Mama Don't Dance, a tune that they wrote together that became their biggest hit single, going into the top 5 in early 1973.

Artist:    Curtis Mayfield
Title:    Beautiful Brother Of Mine
Source:    CD: The Anthology 1961-1977 (originally released on LP: Roots)
Writer(s):    Curtis Mayfield
Label:    MCA (original label: Curtom)
Year:    1971
    Throughout the 1960s, R&B was dominated by singers and vocal groups like Aretha Franklin, the Supremes and the Temptations. Curtis Mayfield, the lead singer of the Impressions, was much more than that, which became more evident after he left the group he had led for nearly a decade in 1970 for a solo career. By the time his third album, Roots, was released in 1971, Mayfield had established a sound described by one critic as "rumbling funk", which is on full display on Beautiful Brother Of Mine. Held down by a powerful bass line, the elaborately produced piece carries a message of black pride that would characterize Mayfield's work as a solo artist.

Artist:    Firesign Theatre
Title:    Hawaiian Sellout
Source:    LP: Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers
Writer(s):    Proctor/Bergman/Austin/Ossman
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1970
    Among the many short sections of TV shows that George Tirebiter tunes in on the album Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers is Hawaiian Sellout, a bit that parodies 1960s game shows, with the humor coming from the absurdity of the prizes that the contestant has won so far. This sort of sketch humor would become the staple of actual TV shows like Saturday Night Live and Second City TV in the 1970s, as well as movies like Tunnel Vision and the Groove Tube.

Artist:    Savoy Brown
Title:    Leavin' Again
Source:    CD: Looking In
Writer(s):    Simmonds/Peverett
Label:    Deram (original label: Parrot)
Year:    1970
    There are several similarities between Fleetwood Mac and Savoy Brown. Both started out recording covers of American blues artists almost exclusively. Both were originally led by talented guitarists (Peter Green and Kim Simmonds, respectively) whose first love was very obviously the blues. Both bands ended up going through many lineup changes over the years, as they slowly became more rock-oriented. That's where the similarity ends, however. Whereas Green decided to leave Fleetwood Mac altogether following the 1969 LP Then Play On, Simmonds instead tightened his reins on the group in order to keep them rooted in the blues, aided in his efforts by lead vocalist Chris Youlden. After Youlden left the group for a solo career, however, the remaining band members asserted their desire to play more rock, as can be heard on tracks like Leavin' Again, from the 1970 album Looking In. Simmonds, however, wasn't having any of it and dismissed the entire band following the release of Looking In and hiring several members of Chicken Shack to continue in a more blues-oriented direction. As for the dismissed members of Savoy Brown (Dave Peverett, Roger Earl and Tone Stevens), they went off and formed their own band: Foghat.

Artist:    Al Kooper/Michael Bloomfield/Harvey Brooks/Eddie Hoh
Title:    Blues For Nothing
Source:    CD: Super Session (bonus track)
Writer(s):    Al Kooper
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1968, released 1995
    Blues For Nothing was left off the original Super Session LP, presumably due to lack of space, or possibly a desire by Producer Al Kooper to maintain a balance between the guitar work of Michael Bloomfield on side one of the LP and Stephen Stills on side two.  Basically it's a blues instrumental played by four outstanding musicians that's available as a bonus track on the CD version of Super Session. That's good enough for me.

Artist:    Jeff Beck
Title:    Rock My Plimsoul
Source:    LP: Truth
Writer(s):    Stewart/Beck
Label:    Epic
Year:    1968
    Working with producer Mickie Most, Jeff Beck released three singles after leaving the Yardbirds before getting to work on his first LP, Truth. Following a similar pattern as the Yardbirds, the A sides of these singles were designed to get played on top 40 radio (which in England meant BBC Radio 1), while the B sides were given over to the artists to do what they wanted with them. In Beck's case that meant rocking out on tunes like Rock My Plimsoul, a song loosely based on B.B. King's Rock Me Baby, featuring Rod Stewart on vocals, Ronnie Wood on bass and Ainsley Dunbar on drums. Beck re-recorded the tune, this time with Micky Waller on drums, for the Truth album.

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