This was going to be one of those structured shows centered around specific years or perhaps sequences of years, but by the fourth track that was out the window, as the show took on a life of its own, culminating with a final set of three songs that have never even been heard on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion before this week.
Artist: Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Title: Second Hand
Source: LP: Not Fragile
Writer(s): Randy Bachman
As of 1974, Bachman-Turner Overdrive had achieved considerable success on the top 40 charts with Let It Ride and Takin' Care Of Business, but had yet to gain an audience on FM rock radio. That changed, however, with the release of Not Fragile in September of 1974. Bolstered by the addition of Blair Thornton on "second lead guitar", Not Fragile lived up to its title with hard-rocking tunes like Second Hand. Bandleader Randy Bachman later said "Not Fragile was when it all came together for us. We captured the album-oriented rock audience as well as the singles audience with that album. Not Fragile made BTO recognized around the world."
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: No Quarter
Source: CD: Houses Of The Holy
Recorded in 1972, No Quarter was first released on the fifth Led Zeppelin album, Houses Of The Holy, and remained a part of the band's concert repertoire throughout their existence. The song is a masterpiece of recording technology, showing just how well-versed the band had become in the studio by that time. The title of the song comes from the military phrase "No quarter asked, none given" (don't ask a foe for mercy, nor grant mercy to a fallen enemy), with several references to the concept appearing in the lyrics throughout the song.
Artist: Fleetwood Mac
Title: Sentimental Lady
Source: CD: Bare Trees
Writer(s): Bob Welch
One of the great rock love songs of the 1970s, Bob Welch's Sentimental Lady spent several weeks in the top 20 in late 1977. Welch's solo version of the song, from his French Kiss album, was not the original recorded version of the song, however. That title goes to the 1972 Fleetwood Mac version of the song from the Bare Trees album, featuring Welch on lead vocals backed by Christine McVie. Unlike the Welch version, Fleetwood Mac's Sentimental Lady has a second verse and runs about four and a half minutes in length (Welch's solo version is about three minutes long).
Artist: Graham Nash and David Crosby
Title: The Wall Song
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): David Crosby
Such was the popularity of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in the early 70s that each of the members, both as solo artists and in various combinations of two or three members, released albums in addition to official group recordings, all of which sold well. One such effort was the 1972 album by Graham Nash and David Crosby. One of the more notable tracks on the album is The Wall Song, featuring (in addition to Crosby and Nash) Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann on guitar, bass and drums. The version heard here is the rare mono mix of The Wall Song, issued as a B side in 1972.
Artist: Arlo Guthrie
Title: Gabriel's Mother's Hiway Ballad #16 Blues
Source: CD: The Best Of Arlo Guthrie (originally released on LP: Washington County)
Writer(s): Arlo Guthrie
Label: Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
Arlo Guthrie's first album of the 1970s was Washington County, that featured Gabriel's Mother's Hiway Ballad #16 Blues. The song has been described by Glenn Morrow, the owner of Bar/None Records, as a song that "wraps around the listener like a sonic temple—a place of peace and well-being, bracing out the cold winds of a hostile world". If you think I'm going to try to top that description, forget it.
Title: A Maid That's Deep In Love
Source: British import CD: Cruel Sister
Writer(s): Trad., arr. Pentangle
Label: Sanctuary (original label: Reprise)
By 1970 Pentangle had established itself as one of the world's most successful bands, with their own unique fusion of British folk, jazz and folk-rock. Most groups would have continued in the same vein that got them where they were, but such was the quality and integrity of the band's members that they instead chose to go with a far more traditional approach to their fourth album, Cruel Sister. The album opens with a ballad, A Maid That's Deep In Love, that showcases vocalist Jacqui McShee while showing a musical depth rarely heard in popular music at the time.
Artist: James Gang
Title: The Devil Is Singing Our Song
Source: CD: Bang
The James Gang, following the departure of guitarist/vocalist Joe Walsh, could have just called it quits right then and there. Instead, however, bassist Dale Peters and drummer Jim Fox chose to instead add two new members, Canadians Roy Kenner (vocals) and Dominic Troiano (guitar), and carry on in the same vein as they had been. After a pair of albums that failed to catch on, however, Troiano accepted an offer to replace Randy Bachman in the Guess Who. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the James Gang, however, as the addition of former Zephyr guitarist Tommy Bolin revitalized the band for a time. Bolin had a hand in writing much of the material on the band's next LP, James Gang Bang, including The Devil Is Singing Our Song. With a strong signature riff and a gritty guitar solo, the song has a feel to it that presages Bolin's later solo work on his albums Private Eyes and Teaser.
Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: Casey Jones
Source: LP: Workingman's Dead
Label: Warner Brothers
After three albums' worth of studio material that the band was not entirely happy with, the Grateful Dead finally achieved their goal with the 1969 release of the double-LP Live Dead. So where do you go when you've finally accomplished your original mission? For the Dead the answer was to concentrate on their songwriting skills. The results of this new direction were heard on their next two studio LP's, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, both released in 1970. One of the highlights of Workingman's Dead was Casey Jones, a song based on an old folk tale (albeit updated a bit for a 1970 audience). Casey Jones was just one of many classic songs written by the team of guitarist Jerry Garcia and poet/lyricist Robert Hunter.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Castles Made Of Sand
Source: CD: The Ultimate Experience (originally released on LP: Axis: Bold As Love)
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
Although born in Seattle, Washington, James Marshall Hendrix was never associated with the local music scene that produced some of the loudest and raunchiest punk-rock of the mid 60s. Instead, he paid his professional dues backing R&B artists on the "chitlin circuit" of clubs playing to a mostly-black clientele, mainly in the southern US. After a short stint leading his own soul band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, Hendrix, at the behest of one Chas Chandler, moved to London, where he recuited a pair of local musicians, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Although known for his innovative use of feedback, Hendrix was quite capable of knocking out some of the most complex "clean" riffs ever to be committed to vinyl. A prime example of this is Castles Made Of Sand. Hendrix's highly melodic guitar work combined with unusual tempo changes and haunting lyrics makes Castles Made Of Sand a classic that sounds as fresh today as it did when Axis: Bold As Love was released in 1967. The first time I ever heard this song it gave me chills.
Artist: Steely Dan
Title: Rikki Don't Lose That Number
Source: 45 RPM single
Contrary to what you may have heard, Rikki Don't Lose That Number, from the album Pretzel Logic, is not about using the US Postal Service to mail yourself weed. This is according to both Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, who are generally known for being deliberately obscure. The fact that they both, on separate occasions, have addressed the issue leads me to take their version of the story, that the subject of the song was a young woman Fagen knew in college, as the correct one. What's not in dispute is this: Rikki Don't Lose That Number was Steely Dan's biggest hit single, deservedly so.
Artist: Ten Years After
Title: The Sounds
Source: CD: Ten Years After (bonus track originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Alvin Lee
Although not as well known as their later albums, the first Ten Years After LP, released in 1967, nonetheless remained in circulation for several years and is generally known to the band's fans. Not so their first single, Portable People, released in early 1968 with virtually no promotion from their label. The B side of that single, The Sounds, is an Alvin Lee original that gives a hint of the direction the band's music would take on their third LP, Stonedhenge, and beyond.
Title: A Venture
Source: CD: The Yes Album
Writer(s): Jon Anderson
Label: Elaktra/Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Yes is generally known for its long, complex pieces that sound remarkably similar to their original studio versions when played live. A few of their songs, however, were never performed in concert, however. In fact, A Venture, from the 1971 LP The Yes Album, was written by Jon Anderson entirely in the studio. The song finally did get performed in front of an audience in 2013, when the band played the entire Yes Album live.
Artist: Don Ellis
Title: House In The Country
Source: German import LP: Underground '70 (originally released on LP: The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground)
Writer(s): Al Kooper
Label: CBS (original US label: Columbia)
Don Ellis was a trumpeter who was known for his somewhat experimental approach to big band jazz. In 1969 he released an album called The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground that included several songs written by mainstream artists such as Harry Nilsson, Laura Nyro and Sly Stone. The album opened with House In The Country, an energetic cover of a tune from Al Kooper's first Blood, Sweat & Tears LP, Child Is Father To The Man.