Sunday, February 6, 2022

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2207 (starts 2/7/22)

    This week it's back to full free-form mode, as we feature 11 tunes ranging from 1968 to 1975. We start on the folky side with tracks from Steeleye Span and Pentangle and end up with Steely Dan's unique blend of rock and jazz. In between? Read on...

Artist:    Steeleye Span
Title:    Cold, Haily, Windy Night
Source:    LP: Please To See The King
Writer(s):    Traditional, arr. Steeleye Span
Label:    Chrysalis (original label: Big Tree)
Year:    1971
    I had never in my life seen or heard the word "haily", so of course when I ran across a song called Cold, Haily, Windy Night I had to check it out. The traditional English folk tune is featured on the second Steeleye Span album, Please To See The King, which originally came out in 1971. The album itself was moderately successful in the UK, where it peaked at #45 on the British album charts and was chosen as Melody Maker's folk album of the year. In the US, however, it suffered from poor distribution and a lack of any kind of promotion from the Big Tree label, and was soon deleted from their catalog. It was reissued a few years later on the Chrysalis label, after the group had become more well-known following a 1973 LP produced by Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson.

Artist:    Pentangle
Title:    Pentangling
Source:    LP: Superecord Contemporary (originally released on LP: The Pentangle)
Writer(s):    Cox/Jansch/McShea/Renbourne/Thompson
Label:    Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    Once in a while an album comes along that is so consistently good that it's impossible to single out one specific track for airplay. Such is the case with the debut Pentangle album from 1968. The group, consisting of guitarists John Renbourne and Bert Jansch, vocalist Jacqui McShea, bassist Terry Cox, and drummer Danny Thompson, had more talent than nearly any band in history from any genre, yet never succumbed to the clash of egos that characterize most supergroups. A slightly edited version of Pentangling appeared on a special promotional album for JBL speakers called Superecord Contemporary in 1971.

Artist:     Rolling Stones
Title:     No Expectations
Source:     CD: Beggar's Banquet
Writer:     Jagger/Richards
Label:     Abkco (original label: London)
Year:     1968
     After the heavy dose of studio effects on Their Satanic Majesties Request, the Rolling Stones took a back-to-basics approach for their next album, Beggar's Banquet, the first to be produced by Jimmy Miller (who had previously worked with Steve Winwood in Traffic and the Spencer Davis Group). No Expectations, the second track on the album, uses minimal instrumentation and places a greater emphasis on Mick Jagger's vocals and Brian Jones's slide guitar work. Sadly, it was to be Jones's last album as a member of the Rolling Stones, as heavy drug use was already taking its toll (and would soon take his life as well).

Artist:    Kak
Title:    Trieulogy
Source:    British import CD: Kak-Ola (originally released in US on LP: Kak)
Writer(s):    Yoder/Grelecki
Label:    Big Beat (original label: Epic)
Year:    1969
    The story of Kak is one of the strangest in rock history. Guitarists Gary Yoder and Dehner Patton had both been members of the Oxford Circle, the legendary East (San Francisco) Bay area band that broke up in early summer of 1967. Not long the breakup Yoder was approached by a guy named Gary Grelecki, who introduced himself as a fan of the band and offered to get Yoder a deal with Columbia, then the second largest record label in the country. Yoder figured that he didn't have anything to lose by saying yes; sure enough, two months later he got a call from Grelecki saying the contract was a done deal. It turned out that Grelicki's father was with the CIA and had been using Columbia as a front for agency activities in East Asia, and actually had legitimate contacts at the label. Yoder got into contact with Dehner, who had been playing in a band called Cherry Jam since the Oxford breakup, performing original material in the Davis area. One of the other members of Cherry Jam was percussionist/harpsichordist Chris Lockheed, who had previously played in a band called the Majestics. The lineup was completed with the addition of bassist Joe-Dave Damrill, who had been playing with another Davis band called Group B. The new band, calling itself Kak, was signed to Columbia's Epic subsidiary, releasing their only LP in 1969. Although neither the band (which played fewer than a dozen gigs in its entire existence) or the album was a commercial success at the time, Kak gained a cult following that exists to this day. The most ambitious track on the album, Trieulogy, is made up of three originally unrelated pieces, Golgotha, Mirage and Rain, that Yoder later said "blended well together", adding that "it's a logical pattern, lyrically and musically." The third part of Trieulogy, Rain, was also released as a single in 1969.

Artist:    Grand Funk (Railroad)
Title:    Stop Lookin' Back
Source:    LP: We're An American Band
Writer(s):    Farner/Brewer
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1973
    Grand Funk Railroad's seventh album, We're An American Band, was a huge departure from the group's previous efforts. For starters, the band shortened its name (temporarily, as it turned out) to Grand Funk. They also brought in a new producer, Todd Rundgren, which changed their overall sound considerably. Previously, nearly every non-cover song recorded by GFR had been written solely by guitarist Mark Farner, who also provided the lead vocals. On We're An American Band, however, drummer Don Brewer wrote or co-wrote five of the album's eight songs, including Stop Lookin' Back, which Brewer sang lead on as well. This trend would continue for the remainder of the band's existence.

Artist:    Rush
Title:    Working Man
Source:    CD: Rush
Writer(s):    Lee/Lifeson
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1974
    Fun fact: Neil Peart was not the original drummer for Rush, nor did he play on their first album. The band was formed in Toronto in1968 by guitarist Alex Lifeson, drummer John Rutsey and bassist/vocalist Jeff Jones, who was replaced by Geddy Lee following their first gig. It wasn't until five years and several lineup changes later that Lee, Lifeson and Rutsey got to work on their self-titled debut LP, released in Canada on their own Moon label. Although only 3500 copies of the album were made, one of those found its way to Cleveland radio station WMMS, where DJ Donna Harper added Working Man to her regular playlist. Cleveland being your basic blue collar town, Working Man was an instant hit in the area, and most of the remaining copies of the LP were shipped there and soon sold out. At this point, someone at Mercury Records noticed what was going on and re-released the album on their own label. The band's manager then paid $9,000 to have the entire album remixed for better sound quality, and that has become the version used on all subsequent copies, including the CD. Due to complications from diabetes, Rutsey was unable to go on tour with the band and retired shortly after Rush was released. His replacement, of course, was Neil Peart.

Artist:    Wishbone Ash
Title:    Blind Eye
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Wishbone Ash
Label:    Decca
Year:    1970
    One of the first bands to feature two lead guitarists working in tandem, Wishbone Ash rose to fame as the opening act for Deep Purple in early 1970. After guitarist Andy Powell sat in with Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore during a sound check, Blackmore referred Wishbone Ash to MCA, the parent company of the US Decca label. The band's first LP came out in December of 1970, with Blind Eye becoming the band's first single. Although Wishbone Ash went on to become one of Britain's top rock bands of the 1970s, they were never as successful in the US, despite relocating to the states in 1973.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Tightrope Ride
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Manzarek/Krieger
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1971
    Following the death of lead vocalist Jim Morrison in 1971, the remaining members of the Doors decided to carry on without him, releasing the album Other Voices later that year. Many of the tracks had actually been started before Morrison's death, with the hope being that he would return from Paris to complete the album. When that didn't happen, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger ended up doing the vocals themselves. One single, Tightrope Ride, was released from the album. The tune features Manzarek on lead vocal.

Artist:    Queen
Title:    Doing All Right
Source:    LP: Queen
Writer(s):    May/Staffell
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1973
    Before there was a band called Queen, there was Smile. Formed by guitarist Brian May and bassist Tim Staffell, the group soon recruited drummer Roger Taylor and, eventually, keyboardist/vocalist Farrokh Basada, who suggested the band change its name to Queen. Staffell left the band before the group's first album (replaced by John Deacon), but not before co-writing a song called Doing All Right, which Staffell originally sang lead vocals on. When Queen finally got a record contract in 1973, they included Doing All Right on the debut LP, with Basada, who by then had taken the stage name Freddie Mercury, doing the vocals in a style deliberately similar to that of Staffell.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is
Source:    CD: The Chicago Transit Authority
Writer(s):    Robert Lamm
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    There are actually three versions of the Chicago song Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, all taken from the same original recording on the band's debut LP. The most well-known is the second edited version that has appeared on all the band's anthology albums. That version starts with a horn intro section in a staggered rhythm followed by a short Robert Lamm's piano section in 5/8 time that leads directly into the main body of the song. An earlier single edit leaves out the entire intro of the song, starting in rather abruptly with the familiar two-chord pattern and trumpet riff that leads into the first verse of the song. The orginal album version heard here, however, has a long free-form piano section that sets the stage for the entire song, transforming it in the process.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Your Gold Teeth II
Source:    CD: Katy Lied
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1975
    In 1974, following a somewhat disappointing tour to promote the Pretzel Logic album, keyboardist/vocalist Donald Fagen and bassist Walter Becker decided to disband the original Steely Dan, retaining the name as a duo and using studio musicians on all their subsequent albums. The first of these albums was Katy Lied, released in 1975. Although the album received mixed reviews from the rock press, it was a commercial success, achieving gold record status and hitting the #13 spot on both the US and UK charts. One of the songs on Katy Lied, Your Gold Teeth II, is a kind of sequel to a song from the 1973 album Countdown To Ecstacy. Because of a defect in the then-new DBX sound reduction system, Becker and Fagen refused to listen to the completed album, even though engineers claimed to have corrected the problem.

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