Sunday, January 15, 2023

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2303 (starts 1/16/23)

    This week's show focuses mainly on the early 1970s, and features the title track of the first Pink Floyd album to top the British charts (it hit # 55 in the US). We also have a higher than normal percentage of tracks that were released as singles this time around (not sure how that happened, but it was probably the result of a subconscious desire to balance out the long Pink Floyd album track). We start with 13 questions, none of which actually get answered...

Artist:    Seatrain
Title:    13 Questions
Source:    British import CD: Seatrain/Marblehead Messenger (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Seatrain)
Writer(s):    Kulberg/Roberts
Label:    BGO (original US label: Capitol)
Year:    1970
    Despite being formed by the remaining members of the Blues Project, Seatrain spent most of its four years under the radar, getting little attention from the rock press and even less from the record buying public. Some of this lack of popularity can be attributed to the band's basic instability. None of their four albums (for three different labels!) have the same lineup, making it hard to establish a fan base. The fact that they didn't fit neatly into any particular genre, having elements of folk, country and jazz as well as rock, didn't help either. Their most successful record was the 1970 single, 13 Questions. Anyone who bought the album Seatrain soon realized, however, that the punchy horn-heavy single was nothing like the rest of the LP.

Artist:     Traffic
Title:     Empty Pages
Source:     LP: John Barleycorn Must Die
Writer:     Winwood/Capaldi
Label:     Island
Year:     1970
     Traffic was formed in 1967 by guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Steve Winwood, who was looking for more artistic freedom after rising to stardom as a teenager with the Spencer Davis Group. The original band, also featuring guitarist/vocalist Dave Mason, drummer Jim Capaldi and woodwind player Chris Wood, released two and a half albums worth of studio tracks and one LP side of live performances before disbanding in early 1969, when Winwood left to form Blind Faith. Following the breakup of Blind Faith Winwood began working on a solo LP that soon turned into a Traffic reunion album (without Mason). John Barleycorn Must Die was released in 1970 and led to a second successful run for the band. Although Empty Pages was released as a single, it got most of its airplay on progressive FM stations, and as those stations were replaced by (or became) album rock stations, the song continued to get extensive airplay for many years. Modern classic rock stations, however, tend to ignore Traffic in favor of Winwood's later solo work, which is a shame, as Traffic put out some of the best rock albums ever made.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Love Her Madly
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1971   
    Released as a single in advance of the 1971 Doors album L.A. Woman, Love Her Madly was a major success, peaking just outside the top 10 in the US, and going all the way to the #3 spot in Canada. The album itself was a return to a more blues-based sound by the Doors, a change that did not sit well with producer Paul Rothchild, who left the project early on, leaving engineer Bruce Botnik to assume production duties. Rothchild's opinion aside, it was exactly what the Doors needed to end their run (in their original four man incarnation) on a positive note.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Supernaut
Source:    CD: Vol. 4
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers/Rhino
Year:    1972
    After a string of three outstanding albums, success started to take its toll on Black Sabbath. Their fourth LP was originally going to be called Snowblind, which accurately describes the state the band members were in most of the time while recording the album. Reportedly, entire speaker boxes full of cocaine were arriving at the studio on a regular basis; at the same time, the band was making their first attempt at producing themselves. Despite all this, the album, which ended up being called Vol. 4 after their label rejected Snowblind as the title, has some of Sabbath's strongest songs, including Supernaut, which closes out the LP's first side. Fans of the song included John Bonham, Frank Zappa and Beck (Hansen).

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Atom Heart Mother Suite
Source:    LP: Atom Heart Mother
Writer:    Mason/Gilmour/Waters/Wright/Geesin
Label:    Harvest
Year:    1970
    The longest continuous piece of music ever committed to vinyl by Pink Floyd was not something from the Wall or Dark Side of the Moon, but the 23 1/2 minute Atom Heart Mother Suite (Shine On You Crazy Diamond is actually longer, but was interrupted by being split across two sides of an LP with other tracks between the two parts). The suite was also the last Pink Floyd piece to credit anyone outside the band as a songwriter; in this case Scottish composer/arranger Ron Geesin, who was brought in to help orchestrate and tie together the various sections of the piece. Primarily an instrumental, the piece has several distinct sections, although on vinyl and most CDs it is treated as a single track. Indeed, the drum and bass parts, which were the first tracks recorded, were recorded as a continuous take, giving the entire piece a consistent tempo throughout. The title was taken from a newspaper headline about a pregnant woman who had been fitted with a pacemaker; the actual headline was "Atom Heart Mother Found". Pink Floyd originally performed the suite live with a full orchestra, but after losing money on the tour decided to perform a pared down version and after a couple of years stopped performing the piece altogether. In recent years none of the band members has had anything good to say about the Atom Heart Mother Suite. Nonetheless, the piece stands as an important step on Pink Floyd's journey to the Dark Side of the Moon.

Artist:     Guess Who
Title:     American Woman
Source:     European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: American Woman)
Writer:     Bachman/Cummings/Peterson/Kale
Label:     Sony Music (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1970
     American Woman is undoubtably the most political song ever recorded by the Guess Who, a generally non-political Canadian band. My family was living on Ramstein AFB, which was and is a huge base in Germany with enough Canadian personnel stationed there to justify their own on-base school. From early 1969 until mid-1970 (when we moved back to the States) I found myself hanging out with the Canadian kids most of the time and I gotta tell you, they absolutely loved this song. They also loved to throw it in my face as often as possible. I guess that's what I got for being the "token American" member of my peer group.
Artist:    Joe Cocker
Title:    The Letter
Source:    LP: Mad Dogs & Englishmen
Writer(s):    Wayne Carson
Label:    A&M
Year:    1970
    The Letter is one of a handful of songs that has been a major hit for more than one artist. The original 1967 version by the Box Tops was their first, and biggest hit, going to the top of the charts in both the US and Canada, as well as making the top 10 in several other parts of the world. Joe Cocker's 1970 version, from the live album (and concert film) Mad Dogs & Englishmen, became his first top 10 single in the US. The tour that gave Cocker's album its name featured a band with more than 20 members, including such notables as Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge. Not to be outdone by the likes of the Grateful Dead, the Mad Dogs & Englishmen band featured three drummers, one of whom later described the tour as "a big, wild party".

Artist:    Santana
Title:    Everybody's Everything
Source:    45 RPM single (promo)
Writer(s):    Santana/Moss/Brown
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1971
    Santana's third album, released in 1971, was called simply Santana. The problem is, their first album was also called Santana. The guitar solo on Everybody's Everything, by the way, is not by Carlos Santana. Rather it was performed by the then 17-year-old Neal Schon, who, along with keyboardist Greg Rolie would leave the band the following year to form Journey.

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