With one exception (Patti Smith's unique version of Hey Joe) it's been over a year since any of the songs on this week's show have made an appearance on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion. In fact, two of this week's tunes have never been played on the show at all. One of those two is our opener...
Artist: Leon Russell
Title: Shoot Out At The Plantation
Source: LP: Best Of Leon (originally released on LP: Leon Russell)
Writer(s): Leon Russell
Label: MCA (original label: Shelter)
Leon Russell was already well established as a producer, songwriter and especially a session musician (he was a member of the legendary Wrecking Crew) by the time he released his first solo album in 1970. One of the most popular tracks on the album was the possibly autobiographical tune Shoot Out At The Plantation, describing the life of a rock musician. The Plantation was an actual house in Los Angeles where Russell and other musicians lived in the late 1960s.
Artist: James Gang
Source: CD: Yer' Album
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Label: MCA (original label: Bluesway)
One of the highlights of the first James Gang album was a six-minute-long cover version of Bluebird, a Stephen Stills song that had originally appeared on the second Buffalo Springfield album. The James Gang version of the tune opens with a new instrumental intro written by drummer Jim Fox (playing piano), which leads into a short second intro featuring Joe Walsh on backwards-masked guitar. This in turn segues directly into the body of the song itself, which is played at a considerably slower tempo than the Springfield original (sort of a Vanilla Fudge approach, you might say). Yer' Album (so named in response to friends of the band always asking "when is yer album gonna come out?") was the only album by a rock band ever released on ABC's Bluesway subsidiary. The next four James Gang LPs would all appear on the ABC label itself.
Artist: George Harrison
Title: I Dig Love
Source: CD: All Things Must Pass
Writer(s): George Harrison
Label: Capitol (original label: Apple)
Although George Harrison's songs can usually be characterized as being spiritual in nature, there are some notable exceptions, including I Dig Love. The song, released on the 1970 album All Things Must Pass, reveals a side of the former Beatle that he later became well-known for (Harrison is said to have had intimate relations with literally hundreds of women in his lifetime). The song itself is one of the first to feature Harrison playing slide guitar, a technique that he had picked up while touring with Delaney & Bonnie in 1969. Although I Dig Love got plenty of airplay on FM rock radio when it first came out, it is one of the few songs that Harrison never talked about in later years, and was not included in his two-volume Songs Of George Harrison books, published in 1988 and 1992 respectively.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: Black Night
Source: CD: The Blues Project Anthology (originally released on LP: Lazarus)
Writer(s): Jessie Mae Robinson
Label: Polydor (original label: Capitol)
After the original Blues Project fell apart in late 1967, drummer Roy Blumenfeld and bassist/flautist Andy Kulberg decided to permanently relocate to Marin County, California, getting a large house in the hopes that guitarist Danny Kalb, who was recovering from a nervous breakdown, would be able to eventually join them in a new version of the band. Adding three new members, including bassist Don Kretmar, they did a few gigs as the Blues Project, but soon changed their name to Seatrain. After a pair of albums with the new lineup, one of which was released as the Blues Project album Planned Obsolescence, Blumenfeld left the group, eventually hooking up with Kalb and Kretmar for a power trio version of the Blues Project. It was this lineup that released the album Lazarus in 1971. Probably the strongest track on the album was a cover of Charles Brown's 1951 blues hit Black Night. Following one more LP for Capitol in 1972, the Blues Project disbanded, but various members have been occasionally getting back together for reunion gigs ever since.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Smoke On The Water (edited live version)
Source: Mono 45 RPM single (reissue)
Label: Warner Brothers
Based on what is quite possibly the most recognizable riff in the history of rock, Smoke On The Water was released in December of 1972 on Deep Purple's Machine Head album. The song became a huge hit the following year when a live version of the tune appeared on the album Made In Japan. For the single release, Warner Brothers chose to pair up edited versions of both the live and studio renditions of the tune on either side of a 45 RPM record.
Artist: Stephen Stills-Manassis
Title: Isn't It About Time
Source: 45 RPM single (promo) (taken from the LP: Down The Road)
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
The critics were not kind to the second (and last) Stephen Stills-Manassis album, Down The Road. The consensus seems to be that the album sounds like it was made for making money, as opposed to for artistic reasons. Personally, I don't know, since I've never had a copy of Down The Road (or known anyone with a copy, for that matter). I do, however, remember hearing the album' single, Isn't It About Time, on the radio and thinking it was a decent enough tune (although apparently not decent enough to inspire me to go out and buy the album). Somehow, though, I've managed to acquire a promo copy of the single, although, to be honest, I have no idea where it came from. Anyway, here it is. Enjoy.
Artist: Patti Smith
Title: Hey Joe
Source: Mono 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Billy Roberts (spoken intro written by Patti Smith)
Before signing with Arista Records in 1975, the Patti Smith group recorded a 1974 single for the independent Mer label. Financed by art collector/curator Sam Wagstaff, the record featured Smith's version of Hey Joe, with a spoken introduction concerning Patty Hearst, who had been kidnapped by, and subsequently became a member of, a radical group calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army that year.
Artist: Moody Blues
Source: CD: Days Of Future Passed
Evening is the penultimate track on the 1967 Moody Blues album Days Of Future Passed. Like all the other tracks on the album, Evening is a suite that includes an orchestral opening section composed and conducted by Peter Knight, which leads into two songs by the band itself. The first of these, The Sun Set, was written by keyboardist Michael Pinder and features his newly-purchased mellotron prominently against a vaguely Indian background. This is followed by multi-instrumentalist Ray Thomas's high-energy Twilight Time, a popular concert piece that segues into an orchestral coda from Knight.
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: Ball And Chain
Source: European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Cheap Thrills)
Writer: Willie Mae Thornton
Label: Sony Music (original label: Columbia)
In June of 1967 Big Brother And The Holding Company, fronted by Janis Joplin, electrified the crowd at the Monterey International Pop Festival with their rendition of Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton's Ball And Chain. Over the years Joplin, both with and without Big Brother, continued to perform the song. One of the finest performances of Ball And Chain was recorded live at the Fillmore in 1968 and included on the band's major label debut, Cheap Thrills. In retrospect the recording marks the peak of both Big Brother and of Joplin, who went their separate ways after the album was released.
Artist: Butterfield Blues Band
Title: Everything's Gonna Be Alright
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On-Back To Yasgur's Farm (originally released on LP: Woodstock Two)
Writer(s): Walter Jacobs
Label: Rhino (original label: Cotillion)
The Butterfield Blues Band had already gone through several personnel changes by the time they played the Woodstock festival in August of 1969. They had also evolved stylistically, adding a horn section and, for the most part, moving away from the long improvisational jams that had characterized their landmark 1966 LP East-West. Those elements were not entirely gone, however, as their nearly nine minute long performance of Walter Jacobs' Everything's Gonna Be Alright amply demontrates. In addition to a Butterfield harmonica solo to start things off, the piece showcases the talents of new guitarist Buzzy Feiten.