Sunday, May 29, 2022

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2223 (starts 5/30/22) 

    Once again we've managed to squeeze 13 tunes into a one-hour show. This is getting to be a habit. Whether it's a good one or not remains to be seen (or heard), but we do have some talented artists on the roster this week, including Savoy Brown, Santana, Focus and David Bowie, just to name a few.

Artist:    Janis Joplin
Title:    Half Moon
Source:    LP: Pearl
Writer(s):    John & Johanna Hall
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1971
    Half Moon was the B side of Janis Joplin's biggest-selling single, Me And Bobby McGee. As such, it is one of Joplin's best known songs from the Pearl album. The song itself was written (with his wife Johanna) by John Hall, who later went on to form his own band, Orleans, which scored major hits in the late 1970s with Dance With Me and Still The One, both of which were Hall compositions. In 1977 Hall left Orleans to pursue a solo career, becoming active in the anti-nuclear movement as well, co-founding Musicians United for Safe Energy with Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Graham Nash. While living in Saugerties, NY, he co-founded two citizens' groups, which led to his election to the Saugerties Board of Education. Hall continued to write songs, both for himself and other artists, while simultaneously pursuing a political career that led to him serving two terms in the US House of Representatives.

Artist:    Andromeda
Title:    Too Old
Source:    British import CD: Definitive Collection (originally released on LP: Andromeda)
Writer(s):    John Du Cann
Label:    Angel Air (original UK label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1969
    It's a known fact that success in the music world is more a matter of being in the right place at the right time than actually having a lot of talent. John Du Cann was a guitarist/vocalist/songwriter who proved that statement by never being in the right place at the right time despite having a wealth of talent. Unlike a lot of guitarists of the 1960s, Du Cann (then known as John Cann), did not come from a folk music background. In fact, his first guitar was an electric one, which he purchased, along with a small amplifier, while still in his teens. Within a couple of years he was fronting his own band as vocalist and lead guitarist (he later claimed that had he learned to play lead before learning the play rhythm guitar), which eventually led to him forming the power trio Andromeda, which released its first LP in 1969. Despite Andromeda having a strong local following and sharing the bill with such bands as the New Yardbirds (who soon began calling themselves Led Zeppelin) and Black Sabbath (who actually served as Andromeda's opening band), and getting rave reviews from critics for songs like Too Old (which opens the album), the LP was a commercial failure and has since become a highly sought after collectable (an original copy sold for over $1000 in 2017). John Du Cann soon grew frustrated with the album's poor sales, and when offered a job as lead guitarist with Vincent Crane's band, Atomic Rooster, disbanded Andromeda in 1970. Du Cann's stint with Atomic Rooster did not last long, however, and he drifted from one band to another (including a reformed Atomic Rooster in the early 1980s), without achieving the success or recognition he deserved. John Du Cann died following a heart attack in 2011, leaving behind a collection of 75 guitars, 30 amplifiers and a large number of records, which were sold at auction in 2012.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    For A Thousand Mothers
Source:    European import LP: Stand Up
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis (original US label: Reprise)
Year:    1969
    For years, the only copy I had of Jethro Tull's For A Thousand Mothers was a homemade cassette tape. As a result I was under the impression that this was actually two separate songs. Long silences will do that. Long silences will also trip the sensors on automated radio station equipment, which partially explains why such a great track has always gotten far less airplay than it deserves.

Artist:    Savoy Brown
Title:    Waiting In The Bamboo Grove
Source:    CD: A Step Further
Writer(s):    Kim Simmonds
Label:    Deram (original label: Parrot)
Year:    1969
    The history of Savoy Brown is marked by frequent personnel changes. In fact it wasn't until their third and fourth albums (Blue Matter and A Step Further), that the band used the same lineup for more than one consecutive record. Even then, the albums were supplemented by an unusually large number of studio musicians, especially on A Step Further, which included brass, winds and strings in addition to the usual guitar, bass, drums and keyboards played by the various band members. A Step Further would be the last Savoy Brown album to feature the charismatic front man Chris Youldman; their next LP would see guitarist Dave Peverett taking on the lead vocals, as he would in his next band, Foghat, as well. Perhaps as a hint of things to come, A Step Further included one instrumental track, the jazz-inflected Waiting In The Bamboo Grove, written by guitarist/bandleader Kim Simmonds.

Artist:    Mountain
Title:    Mississippi Queen
Source:    LP: Vintage Rock (originally released on LP: Mountain Climbing)
Writer(s):    West/Laing/Pappalardi/Rea
Label:    K-Tel (original label: Windfall)
Year:    1970
    One of the most overlooked bands of the mid-1960s was the Vagrants. Based on Long Island, the group made a specialty of covering popular R&B and rock songs, often slowing them down and featuring extended solos by guitarist Leslie Weinstein, inspiring fellow Long Islanders Vanilla Fudge to do the same. Although the Vagrants never were able to gain much national attention, Weinstein himself had established quite a reputation by the time the group disbanded. Meanwhile, keyboardist/producer/songwriter Felix Pappalardi had been working with the members of Cream as a producer, but with the demise of that band was looking for a new project to sink his teeth into. That new project turned out to be a solo album by Weinstein, who by then had shortened his last name to West. The album was called Mountain, and soon after its release West and Pappalardi decided to form a band of the same name. The group first got national attention performing at Woodstock, and in 1970 released the album Mountain Climbing, featuring the hit single Mississippi Queen.

Artist:    Guess Who
Title:    Humpty's Blues/American Woman (Epilogue)
Source:    CD: American Woman
Writer(s):    Bachman/Cummings/Peterson/Kale
Label:    Buddha/BMG (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1970
    Guitarist Randy Bachman of the Guess Who was, in the words of lead vocalist Burton Cummings, "chomping at the bit" to use some new guitar effects equipment he had acquired (fuzz boxes and Herzog sustain pedals, mostly). So the rest of the band obliged him by coming up with a Led Zeppelin style blues number called Humpty's Blues. Cummings's lyrics for the song were about the band's drummer, Garry Peterson, who had somehow acquired the nickname "Humpty Mix". The finished song ended up being the longest track on the album, which, combined with a short reprise of the opening section of American Woman, closes out the Guess Who's most successful album.

Artist:    Focus
Title:    Anonymous
Source:    LP: In And Out Of Focus
Writer(s):    van Leer/Akkerman/Dresden
Label:    Sire
Year:    1970
    Tracking down the discography of the Dutch band Focus can be a bit confusing. Their 1970 debut LP was originally called Focus Plays Focus, and may or may not have been released in the US. The album contained seven tracks, but the original Dutch label mistakenly listed Anonymous twice (once on each side of the LP). To add to the confusion, the first and last tracks on the album were both called Focus, with one being an instrumental version of the piece. In some countries, however, the single House Of The King was added to the album, bringing the song total up to eight. In 1971 the album was re-released under the title In And Out Of Focus, with House of the King replacing the second version of Focus. In the US, however, the original version of In And Out Of Focus had the same track listing as the original Focus Plays Focus, with the two versions of the song Focus being specified as instrumental and vocal. That same year, a second version of In And Out Of Focus appeared in the US with an entirely different album cover. This version had a total of eight songs, and included House Of The King and both versions of the song Focus. The album did not sell particularly well in the US, however, and was quickly deleted from the Sire/Polydor catalog. Then, in 1973, the song Hocus Pocus became a huge US hit, and In And Out Of Focus was reissued, but this time with only six songs on it. Gone were House Of The King and another tune, Sugar Island, which had been included on all previous releases of the album. Finally, in 2001, the eight-song version of the album was released on CD in the US, but is no longer available. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only version of In And Out Of Focus currently available is a Russian import. A highlight of all versions of the album is original seven minute long version of Anonymous, which would be expanded in length to nearly 27 minutes on the 1972 album Focus 3. As I said, confusing.

Artist:    Blues Image
Title:    Fugue U/Parchman Farm/Wrath Of Daisey
Source:    CD: Open
Writer(s):    Blues Image/Allison
Label:    Sundazed (original label: Atco)
Year:    1970
    Despite drawing decent crowds in Florida (and, later, Los Angeles) and getting rave reviews from the rock press, as well as their fellow musicians, Blues Image was never able to sell a lot of albums. This is a shame, as almost all of their material was as good or better than anything else being recorded in 1969-70. A classic example is the medley of Fugue U (emulating J.S. Bach), a jazz-rock arrangement of Mose Allison's Parchman Farm and the latin-rock instrumental Wrath Of Daisey). Guitarist Mike Pinera went on to replace Eric Brann in Iron Butterfly the following year.

Artist:    Santana
Title:    Se A Cabo
Source:    CD: Abraxas
Writer(s):    Chepito Areas
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1970
    Following their successful appearance at Woodstock in August of 1969, Santana returned to the studio to begin work on their second LP. Unlike their self-titled debut, Abraxas took several months to record, finally hitting the racks in September of 1970. Like the group's first album, Abraxas includes several instrumental tracks such as Se A Cabo, which opens side two of the original LP. The tune was written by percussionist José Octavio "Chepito" Areas, who played timbales for the band from 1969-1977, returning for a three-year stint in the late 1980s.

Artist:      Black Sabbath
Title:     Electric Funeral
Source:      CD: Paranoid
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:     Warner Brothers
Year:     1970
     When Black Sabbath first appeared on vinyl they were perceived as the next step in the evolution of rock, building on the acid rock of the late sixties and laying the groundwork for what would become heavy metal. Electric Funeral, from the band's second album, Paranoid, shows that evolution in progress.

Artist:     Jimi Hendrix Experience (II)
Title:     In From The Storm
Source:     LP: The Cry Of Love
Writer:     Jimi Hendrix
Label:     MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:     1970
     Although nobody knows for sure what the final track lineup would have been for Jimi Hendrix's first studio album since 1968's Electric Ladyland, most everyone associated with him agrees that it would have been a double LP and that In From The Storm would have been included on it. The song was first released on The Cry Of Love, the first posthumus Hendrix album, and subsequently was included on Voodoo Soup, Alan Douglas's first attempt at recreating that legendary fourth album. The song also appears on First Rays Of The New Rising Sun, the CD that has replaced Voodoo Soup in the Hendrix catalog. The recording features Hendrix on guitar, Mitch Mitchell on drums and Hendrix's longtime friend Billy Cox on bass. Before Hendrix's death in September of 1970 the trio had often been billed as the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Artist:     David Bowie
Title:     Andy Warhol
Source:     45 RPM single B side (reissue originally released on LP: Hunky Dory)
Writer:     David Bowie
Label:     RCA
Year:     1971
     Although the song Changes appeared on Bowie's third LP for RCA, the label went back to Bowie's first RCA album, Hunky Dory, for the B side, Andy Warhol. The pairing makes for an interesting contrast between Bowie's pre and post Ziggy Stardust styles.
Artist:    America
Title:    Rainy Day
Source:    CD: America
Writer(s):    Dan Peek
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1971
    In the late 1960s nearly two million Americans were in the Armed Forces. Of these, a significant percentage were career military men raising families of their own. Most members of the military received overseas assignments from time to time, with tours of duty ranging from one year (Viet Nam) to three years (Japan, Europe and the UK). Those serving longer assignments often brought their families with them, with entire communities of "dependents" springing up all over the world. One of these communities was the United States Air Force base at RAF South Ruislip near London. Like many overseas bases, it included its own commissary, base exchange, housing area and schools (among other things). Three of the dependents (aka Air Force Brats) attending London Central High School were Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek and Gerry Beckley. Like many high school kids in the US, the three played in local bands and had dreams of someday becoming rock stars. In their case, those dreams came through not long after they graduated. In 1970, inspired by the success of Crosby, Stills & Nash, the three formed an acoustic, harmony-oriented band, choosing the name America in part to make sure the locals knew that they were in fact Americans. They soon came to the attention of producers Ian Samwell and Jeff Dexter, who got them a contract with the UK branch of Warner Brothers Records. They released their self-titled debut LP in late 1971. Originally the album had 11 songs, including Peek's Rainy Day, but was expanded in 1972 to include the hit single A Horse With No Name. The original trio's run came to its end with the departure of Peek in 1977, although Beckley and Bunnell continue to perform as America with various backup musicians.

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