This week we have another one of those long progressions through the years, going from 1969 to 1977 one year at a time for the better part of an hour. As a bonus we close the show with an opening track; in this instance Spirit's Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus.
Artist: King Crimson
Title: 21st Century Schizoid Man
Source: CD: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Label: Discipline Global Mobile (original US label: Atlantic)
There are several bands with a legitimate claim to starting the prog-rock movement of the mid-70s. The one most musicians cite as the one that started it all, however, is King Crimson. Led by Robert Fripp, the band went through several personnel changes over the years. Many of the members went on to greater commercial success as members of other bands, including guitarist/keyboardist Ian McDonald (Foreigner), and lead vocalist/bassist Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) from the original lineup heard on In The Court Of The Crimson King. Additionally, poet Peter Sinfield, who wrote all King Crimson's early lyrics, would go on to perform a similar function for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, including their magnum opus Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends. Other original members included Michael Giles on drums and Fripp himself on guitar. 21st Century Schizoid Man, as the first song on the first album by King Crimson, can quite literally be cited as the song that got the whole thing started.
Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Title: Got This Thing On The Move
Source: CD: Grand Funk
Writer(s): Mark Farner
From summer of 1967 to summer of 1970 I lived in Germany as a military dependent (my dad was an NCO in the USAF). This gave me a bit of a different perspective on the state of rock music during those years. For example, the Who, a band I had only barely heard of in the US, was huge overseas. On the other hand, bands like the Grateful Dead were little more than a distant legend in Europe at that time. On my return to the States in summer of 1970, I learned of the existence of a power trio from Flint, Michigan called Grand Funk Railroad. In the US they were universally hated by rock music critics, yet managed to set all kinds of attendance records throughout 1969 and 1970, pretty much single-handedly inventing arena rock in the process. They also managed to get no less than three albums certified gold in 1970 alone. Despite this, GFR was totally unknown in Europe, leading me to believe that the people who ordered albums for the BX were paying too much attention to the Village Voice and Rolling Stone magazine and not enough attention to actual record sales and concert attendance figures. Anyway, I soon got my hands on the album Grand Funk (aka the Red Album) and was totally blown away by the opening track, Got This Thing On The Move. There's a valuable lesson in there somewhere.
Artist: Savoy Brown
Title: Sunday Night
Source: CD: Looking In
Writer(s): Kim Simmonds
Label: Deram (original label: Parrot)
Despite being a British blues-rock band, Savoy Brown released their sixth LP, Looking In, to a US audience nearly two months before it was available anywhere else, including their native England. The album, which put more emphasis on hard rock than any other Savoy Brown LP, ended up being their most successful, hitting #50 in the UK and doing even better (#39) in the US. Songwriting duties were spread out among band members, with founder and lead guitarist Kim Simmonds supplying the instrumental Sunday Night, among other tunes. Not long after Looking In was released, Simmonds let the entire band go due to differences in opinion about the band's future musical direction. Savoy Brown, with an ever-changing lineup, would remain solidly based in the blues, while the new band formed by the other three members, Foghat, would continue in a more hard rocking vein.
Title: No One To Depend On
Source: 45 RPM single
Santana's third LP (which like their debut LP was called simply Santana), was the last by the band's original lineup. Among the better-known tracks on the LP was No One To Depend On, featuring a guitar solo by teen phenom Neal Schon (who would go on to co-found Journey). The version here is a rare mono promo pressing issued as a single in 1972. It is obviously not a true mono mix, but what is known as a "fold-down" mix, made by combining the two stereo channels into one. It sounds to me, though, like one channel (the one with Neil Schon's guitar) got shortchanged in the mix.
Artist: David Bowie
Source: CD: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Writer(s): David Bowie
Label: Ryko (original label: RCA Victor)
Starman was the first single released from David Bowie's breakout hit LP The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. The song, about a benevolent being from outer space, was so influential that it became the inspiration for the 1984 movie of the same name.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Our Lady
Source: Japanese import CD: Who Do We Think We Are
Label: Warner Brothers
Deep Purple was the top selling artist of 1973, thanks in large part to the release of their seventh studio album, Who Do We Think We Are. It was also the final year for the band's classic Mk2 lineup, with both vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover leaving the band that summer. According to Gillan, the band had just finished 18 months of touring and every member had had some sort of major illness over that same period, yet their managers insisted that they immediately get to work on the new album, even though the band members desperately needed a break. Nonetheless the album itself is one of their strongest, in spite of the fact that, for the most part the band members weren't even on speaking terms and much of the album was recorded piecemeal, with each member adding his part at a different time. The final track on the album, Our Lady, was a return to the band's psychedelic roots, with a definite Hendrix vibe to the entire piece.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It)
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single (promo)
Label: Rolling Stones
You'd think that after writing such legendary classics as (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, Jumpin' Jack Flash and Honky Tonk Women, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards would be pretty much tapped out for the rest of their lives. But, nope. They had to come up yet another iconic song in 1974, It's Only Rock 'N' Roll (But I Like It). Hell, the title alone probably should be inscribed over the entrance of the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame. The song itself was reportedly written in response to critics who seemed to think that the Stones, Mick and Keith in particular, somehow had a responsibility to be role models, and were not living up to those critics' expectations of how they should be conducting themselves.
Title: White Lightning And Wine
Source: LP: Dreamboat Annie
Writer(s): Ann & Nancy Wilson
First albums by artists that come seemingly out of nowhere with a minimum of hype often turn out to be the best albums those artists ever made. I believe this is because the first album is the culmination of a lifetime (or lifetimes in the case of bands), while subsequent albums only reflect that artists' development since the previous record was released. Take the case of Heart. Sure, they had several hits from the late 1970s through the mid 1980s, but were any of them as memorable as Crazy On You? Or Magic Man? Or Dreamboat Annie? Or even White Lightning And Wine, which was only released as an album track (not even as a B side). It's obvious the Wilson sisters poured everything they had into that first album, and it remains one of the best debut albums of all time.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Nobody's Fault But Mine
Source: LP: Presence
Label: Swan Song
I have to say that the first time I saw the cover of Led Zeppelin's seventh studio LP, Presence, it totally creeped me out. Something about "the object" that shows up in a series of photgraphs of seemingly normal life just set me on edge. Musically, the album probably rocks out as hard as anything else released in 1976, especially on tracks like Nobody's Fault But Mine. Like most Zeppelin songs, the lyrics have a lot in common with early blues classics, in this case Blind Willie Johnson's 1927 recording It's Nobody's Fault But Mine and Robert Johnson's 1937 release Hell Hound On My Trail. As always, Jimmy Page presents some dazzling guitar work, including triple-tracked slide, on the recording, while John Bonham and John Paul Jones are a rhythm section in perfect sync with each other.
Artist: Steely Dan
Source: CD: Aja
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
When it comes to a discussion of high productions standards in rock music, Steely Dan's 1977 effort, Aja, is often cited as a prime example. Ironically, the album itself is usually noted for its incorporation of non-rock elements, particularly from the realm of jazz. The final track on the album, Josie, is usually considered the most conventional rocker on the album, with Walter Becker's guitar solo singled out for praise (one critic called it a "real stormer"). Josie was released as the album's third single, making it into the top 30 and, surprisingly, hitting #44 on the easy listening chart.
Title: Prelude-Nothing To Hide
Source: LP: The Best Of Spirit (originally released on LP: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus)
Writer(s): Randy California
Spirit's first few albums had generated good reviews but poor sales. Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus was considered at the time to be their last chance to reach a larger audience. The pseudo-polygamous lyrics of the album's opening track, Prelude-Nothing To Hide, are actually about the band members' commitment to their music, a commitment that is apparent throughout the album. Unfortunately even that level of commitment did not translate to commercial success, leading vocalist Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes to split from Spirit to form Jo Jo Gunne soon thereafter.