Rockin' in the Days of Confusion is in full free-form mode this week, as we let the music flow continuously for nearly the entire hour before taking our first (and only break). Then we add one more track, appropriately called Valedictory, to finish out the week.
Artist: Savoy Brown
Title: That Same Feelin'
Source: LP: Raw Sienna
Writer(s): Kim Simmonds
Savoy Brown truly hit its stride with the 1970 LP Raw Sienna. Unfortunately for all involved, it would be the last to feature vocalist Chris Youlden, who, as is far too common, would find out the hard way that a successful solo career was not going to happen for him. Nonetheless, Raw Sienna is full of fine tunes such as That Same Feelin', one of the three tracks on the album written by bandleader/lead guitarist Kim Simmonds. Savoy would continue on for several more albums in the 1970s, but none sounded quite as good as Raw Sienna. As for Youlden's solo albums, the less said the better.
Artist: Steely Dan
Title: Do It Again
Source: CD: Can't Buy A Thrill
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
Although they at first appeared to be a real band, Steely Dan was in reality two people: keyboardist/vocalist Donald Fagen and bassist (and later guitarist) Walter Becker. For their first album they recruited, from various places, guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, drummer Jim Hodder, guitarist Denny Dias, and finally (when they realized they would have to actually perform live, which terrified Fagen) vocalist David Palmer. The first single from the album, Do It Again, was a major hit, going to the #6 spot on the Billboard charts and, more importantly, introducing the world at large to the Steely Dan sound, combining jazz-influenced rock music with slyly cynical lyrics (often sung in the second person). Steely Dan would continue to be an influential force in popular music, and especially FM rock radio, throughout the 1970s.
Title: Black Sunday
Source: LP: Fat
Writer(s): Peter Newland
Label: RCA Victor
Formed in Springfield in 1968 by vocalist/songwriter Peter Newland, Fat quickly became one of the most popular bands in Western Massachusetts. Their debut LP for RCA in 1970 featured such Newland originals as Black Sunday, and led to Fat being booked as an opening act for such big names as Mountain, Ten Years After and the Allman Brothers Band. Although the original members drifted apart in the mid-1970s, Fat continues to play shows from time to time.
Artist: Robin Trower
Title: Sweet Wine Of Love
Source: CD: Essential Robin Trower (originally released on LP: In City Dreams)
Robin Trower's fifth solo album, In City Dreams, featured a new bass player, Rusteen Allen, allowing James Dewar to concentrate more on his vocals. Unfortunately, the songwriting on the album was lackluster, although there were a couple of gems, including Sweet Wine Of Love.
Artist: Ten Years After
Title: Hear Me Calling
Source: LP: Goin' Home-Ten Years After Greatest Hit (originally released on LP: Stonedhenge)
Writer(s): Alvin Lee
Ten Years After's third album, Stonedhenge, was the band's first real attempt to take advantage of modern studio techniques to create something other than a facsimile of their live performances. Included on the album are short solo pieces, as well as half a dozen longer tracks featuring the entire band. One of the most popular of these full-band tracks is Hear Me Calling, which finishes out side one of the original LP. The song itself follows a simple blues structure, but is augmented by dynamic changes in volume as well as dizzying stereo effects. TYA would continue to develop their studio technique on their next LP, the classic Cricklewood Green.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Ramble On
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin II
Some songs grab you the first time you hear them, but soon wear out their welcome. Others take a while to catch on, but tend to stay with you for a lifetime. Then there are those rare classics that manage to hook you from the start and yet never get old. One such song is Led Zeppelin's Ramble On, from their second LP. The song starts with a Jimmy Page acoustic guitar riff played high up on the neck with what sounds almost like footsteps keeping time (but turns out to be John Bonham playing bongo style on a guitar case). John Paul Jones soon adds one of the most melodic bass lines ever to appear in a rock song, followed closely by Robert Plant's Tolkien-influenced lyrics. For the chorus the band gets into electric mode, with guitar, bass and drums each contributing to a unique staggered rhythmic pattern. The song also contains one of Page's most memorable solos, that shares tonal qualities with Eric Clapton's work on Cream's Disraeli Gears album. Although I usually don't pay much attention to lyrics, one set of lines from Ramble On has stuck with me for a good many years:
"'Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her."
How can any Tolkien fan resist that?
Artist: J.J. Cale
Title: After Midnight
Source: CD: Naturally
Writer(s): J.J. Cale
Label: Mercury/Polygram (original label: Shelter)
Throughout his career, J.J. Cale was one of the most highly-respected, yet unknown to the general public, artists in rock music. He is credited as the creator of the Tulsa Sound adopted by Eric Clapton in the mid-1970s. In fact, several of Clapton's best known songs were written by Cale, including After Midnight, originally released on the 1972 album Naturally. Cale's version is more laid back than Clapton's, and is itself an early example of the Tulsa Sound.
Artist: Mike Bloomfield/ Al Kooper/ Skip Prokop/John Kahn
Title: Dear Mr. Fantasy
Source: LP: The Live Adventures Of Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper
With the unexpected success of the 1968 jam album Super Session, it was inevitable that Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield would release a followup LP, and probably just as inevitable that it would be a live album. Most of the tracks on The Live Adventures Of Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper are covers of classics blues tunes, although there are a few more contemporary songs such as Traffic's Dear Mr. Fantasy thrown in as well. The track features dazzling guitar and keyboard work by Bloomfield and Kooper, respectively, but is flawed by the failure of a vocal microphone midway through the recording.
Artist: Derek And The Dominos
Title: Bell Bottom Blues
Source: CD: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Bell Bottom Blues, from the Derek And The Dominos album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, is at once one of the many and one of the few. It is one of the many songs inspired by/written for George Harrison's wife Pattie Boyd by Eric Clapton, who was in love with her at the time. At the same time it is one of the few songs on the album that does not include guitarist Duane Allman on it. Clapton wrote the song after Boyd asked him to pick up a pair of bell-bottom jeans on his next trip to the US (apparently they were not available in London at that time). The song was released twice as a single in 1971, but did not chart higher than the #78 spot. In 2015 drummer Bobby Whitlock, who had helped write the third verse, was given official credit as the song's co-writer.
Artist: Lynyrd Skynyrd
Title: Tuesday's Gone
Source: LP: Gold & Platinum (originally released on LP: (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd)
Writer(s): Collins/Van Zant
By the time Lynyrd Skynyrd entered the studio to record their debut LP, (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd), they had perfected every song they intended to record, and did no improvising on the album itself. They did, however, insist that Atlanta Rhythm Session drummer Robert Nix sit in for Tuesday's Gone, one of two tracks on the album not to include the band's original drummer, Bob Burns.
Artist: Bob Marley
Title: No Woman, No Cry (live version)
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s): Vincent Ford
No Woman, No Cry is one of Bob Marley's most famous songs. The live version of the song is ranked #37 on Rolling Stone's list of greatest songs of all time. What many people don't know, however, is who Vincent Ford, who is credited with writing No Woman, No Cry, actually was. He was not a member of the Wailers, nor was he involved with Marley's music in any significant way. How, then, did he manage to get writing credit on one of Marley's most successful songs? The most likely answer is that Marley himself wrote the song, first recording it (with a drum machine) on the 1974 album Natty Dread. He must have known he had a hit on his hands even before it was published, however. As for Vincent Ford, he was a friend of Marley's who ran a soup kitchen that was perpetually underfunded. Marley's idea, so the theory goes, was to give Ford songwriting credit on the potential hit so that he could collect royalties for years to come, allowing him the continue his work running the soup kitchen. Seeing that Ford outlived Marley, I'd have to say it was a sound strategy.
Artist: Gentle Giant
Source: CD: The Power And The Glory
Label: Alucard (original label: Capitol)
The Power And The Glory is a 1974 concept album from the British progressive rock band Gentle Giant. The album is a cautionary tale about the use of political power, and how, despite the best of intentions, that power inevitably corrupts those who use it. Musically, The Power And The Glory owes its structure more to classical music than to rock, although it uses modern rock instruments such as electric guitars, synthesizers and drums to the exclusion of traditional classical instruments (except for an occasional string instrument). For that matter, the band's classical influences seem to be more inclined toward relatively modern composers like Igor Stravinsky than the traditional "three Bs" of classical music. Valedictory, the album's final track, brings back themes heard throughout the album, but with a greater intensity than on the earlier pieces. The digital reissue of the album, incidentally, includes a Blu-ray disc containing animations of the entire album with a surround sound mix. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of things like Pink Floyd's The Wall.