Once again we have two short sets bookending a much longer one. In this case the short ones are from specific years, 1972 and 1970, while the longer sets counts down from 1975 to 1968 one year at a time.
Artist: Graham Nash/David Crosby
Title: Immigration Man
Source: 45 RPM single (promo)
Writer(s): Graham Nash
Graham Nash and David Crosby decided to make an album without Stephen Stills or Neil Young in 1972. The two songwriters' compositions alternated on the album, with the final track, Nash's Immigration Man (based on his own real life experience at customs) being released as a single.
Artist: Lou Reed
Title: Wild Child
Source: European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Lou Reed)
Writer(s): Lou Reed
Label: Sony Music (original label: RCA Victor)
Lou Reed's first album after leaving the Velvet Underground was made up mostly of new recordings of songs the VU had already recorded but not released, using British session musicians and members of other bands such as Yes. Familiar names on songs such as Wild Child include Steve Howe and Caleb Quaye on guitars and Rick Wakeman on piano.
Artist: Rare Bird
Title: Birdman-Part One (Title #1 Again)
Source: 45 RPM promo (stereo side)
The appropriately named Rare Bird was never very popular in their native England. None of their albums charted there, and they only had one charted single that went to the #27 spot in 1969. They were much more successful in continental Europe, however. That same single, Sympathy, was an international hit, selling a million copies worldwide and hitting the #1 spot in both France and Italy. By the time the Rare Bird's third LP, Epic Forest, was released, the band had gone through several personnel changes, including the loss of the group's founder, keyboardist Graham Field. In the US the band got some airplay on college radio stations, but was virtually ignored by mainstream US listeners. I did manage to find a copy of Birdman-Part One (Title #1 Again), the single from the Epic Forest album in a thrift store many years ago. It's really quite listenable.
Artist: Return To Forever
Title: No Mystery
Source: LP: No Mystery
Writer(s): Chick Corea
When it comes to jazz-rock fusion, generally the first name that comes to mind is Chick Corea, founder of Return To Forever. The band was formed out of Corea's desire to better "communicate" with an audience than was possible with the avant-garde jazz he had been performing with his previous band, Circle. Along with bassist Stanley Clarke, Corea oversaw the evolution of Return To Forever over the years from a Latin-based sound featuring Flora Purim and her husband Airto Moreira into one of the first true jazz-rock fusion bands. By 1975 Corea had become well-versed in the use of synthesizers, as can be heard on the album No Mystery. On the album Corea and Clarke were joined by guitarist Al DiMeola and drummer Lenny White for what is now considered the "classic" Return To Forever lineup. Corea himself wrote the title track, which is probably the best-known tune on the album.
Artist: John Lennon
Source: CD: Lennon (box set) (originally released on LP: Walls And Bridges)
Writer(s): John Lennon
Label: Capitol (original label: Apple)
John Lennon was never shy about expresssing his deepest feelings through his music. This is especially true on his 1974 album Walls And Bridges. Made during his eighteen-month long separation from Yoko Ono, the album features many songs relating directly to the separation. Other songs, such as Scared, which closes the LP's first side, center more on Lennon's feelings of isolation. As a singular pop star, there were very few people he could feel comfortable around without suspecting ulterior motives, and at the same time he was aware that he wasn't getting any younger. Walls And Bridges would be Lennon's last album of new original songs until 1980's Double Fantasy collaboration with Yoko Ono.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Dancing With Mr. D.
Source: LP: Goat's Head Soup
Label: Rolling Stones
Depending on whose point of view you choose to agree with, Goat's Head Soup marked either the end of the Rolling Stones' golden age or the beginning of their mid-70s decline into rock star decadence. With a track like Dancing With Mr. D. starting off the album, I'd have to go with the former view.
Artist: Jo Jo Gunne
Title: I Make Love
Source: CD: Jo Jo Gunne/Bite Down Hard/Jumpin' The Gun/So…Where's The Show (originally released on LP: Jo Jo Gunne)
Writer(s): Jay Ferguson
Label: Rhino/Edsel (original label: Asylum)
I Make Love is the last track on side one of the first Jo Jo Gunne LP. Written by Jay Ferguson (formerly of Spirit), the song features a distinct opening guitar rift by Matt Andes. Other than that, it's probably the weakest track on a strong album, which puts it at a disadvantage.
Artist: Allman Brothers Band
Title: Statesboro Blues
Source: LP: At Fillmore East
Writer(s): Willie McTell
Label: Mercury (original label: Capricorn)
The Allman Brothers Band is generally accepted as the original Southern Rock band. Much of this reputation, however, is based on the group's second phase, following the death of founder Duane Allman. In the beginning, however, the Allman Brothers Band was first and foremost a blues-rock band, perhaps even the best American blues-rock band of its time. This is evidenced by the fact that their breakthrough album, At Fillmore East, starts with their electrifying arrangement of a Blind Willie McTell blues classic, Statesboro Blues. McTell originally recorded the tune in 1928. Forty years later Taj Mahal recorded a blues-rock version that inspired Duane Allman to take up the slide guitar. The Allman Brothers Band At Fillmore East version of Statesboro Blues is ranked #9 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of all-time greatest guitar songs.
Title: Mississippi Queen
Source: CD: Electric 70s (originally released on LP: Mountain Climbing)
Label: Warner Special Products/JCI (original label: Windfall)
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: Led Zeppelin
Title: What Is And What Should Never Be
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin II
Due to contractual obligations with another label, singer Robert Plant did not received any writing credits for songs on the first Led Zeppelin album. By the time the band's second LP was released, Plant had been able to get out of his previous contract, and his name began appearing as co-writer of songs such as What Is And What Should Never Be. The song itself was based on a true story concerning Plant's attraction to his girlfriend's sister.
Source: LP: Wheels Of Fire
Label: RSO (original label: Atco)
Although the songwriting team of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown are best known for providing Cream with its more psychedelic songs such as White Room and Swlabr, they did occasionally come up with bluesier numbers such as Politician from the Wheels Of Fire album. The song quickly became a staple of Cream's live performances.
Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: Uncle John's Band
Source: CD: Skeletons From The Closet (originally released on LP: Workingman's Dead)
Label: Warner Brothers
For many people who only got their music from commercial radio, Uncle John's Band was the first Grateful Dead song they ever heard. The tune, from the 1970 LP Workingman's Dead, was the first Dead song to crack the top 100, peaking at #69, and got significant airplay on FM rock radio stations as well. The tight harmonies on the track were reportedly inspired by Crosby, Stills and Nash, whose debut album had come out the previous year.
Artist: Joni Mitchell
Title: Big Yellow Taxi
Source: LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: Ladies Of The Canyon)
Writer(s): Joni Mitchell
Label: Warner Brothers (original label: Reprise)
One of Joni Mitchell's best-known tunes, Big Yellow Taxi was originally released on the 1970 album Ladies Of The Canyon. The original studio version of the song hit the top 10 in Australia and the top 20 in the UK and Mitchell's native Canada, but only reached the #67 spot in the US. A later live version of the song, however, cracked the top 30 in the US in 1974. Mitchell says she was inspired to write the song on a visit to Hawaii, where she looked out her hotel window to view a mountain vista in the distance, only to be shocked back to reality when she looked down to see a parking lot "as far as the eye could see".
Title: Green-Eyed Lady
Source: CD: Billboard Top Rock 'N' Roll Hits-1970 (originally released on LP: Sugarloaf and as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Liberty)
The unwritten rules of radio, particularly those concerning song length, were in transition in 1970. Take Sugarloaf's Green-Eyed Lady, for example. When first released as a single the 45 was virtually identical to the album version except that it faded out just short of the six-minute mark. This was about twice the allowed length under the old rules and it was soon replaced with an edited version that left out all the instrumental solos, coming in at just under three minutes. The label soon realized, however, that part of the original song's appeal (as heard on FM rock radio) was its organ solo, and a third single edit with that solo restored became the final, and most popular, version of Green-Eyed Lady. The song went into the top 5 nationally (#1 on some charts) and ended up being the band's biggest hit.