Sunday, March 5, 2023

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2310 (starts 3/6/23)

    This week we manage to fit 14 tracks into a 59 minute show, with only two of them exceeding the five minute mark. It wasn't really planned that way; in fact, the longest track was the first one chosen (although it doesn't show up until half way through the hour). The other "long" track actually starts the show...

Artist:    Mothers
Title:    Montana
Source:    CD: Over-Nite Sensation
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1973
    Montana is quite possibly the most recognizable song Frank Zappa ever wrote. The track first appeared on the Mothers album Over-Nite Sensation and quickly became a concert staple. On the original album version Zappa's guitar solo is followed by a series of vocal gymnastics performed by none other than Tina Turner and the Ikettes, who were recording with Turner's husband Ike in an adjacent studio. According to Zappa it took the singers two days to master the complex melody and timing of the section. Reportedly Tina was so pleased with the result that she invited her husband into the control room to hear the finished section, only to have Ike say "What is this shit?" and walk back out.

Artist:     Spirit
Title:     Mr. Skin
Source:     LP: The Best Of Spirit (originally released on LP: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus)
Writer(s):    Jay Ferguson
Label:    Epic
Year:     1970
     Mr. Skin, a song originally released on the 1970 album The Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, is a playful little number that shows just how far Spirit had moved away from the jazz influences heard on their first LP in the space of only a couple of years

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Our Lady
Source:    Japanese import CD: Who Do We Think We Are
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    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 strong Hendrix vibe throughout the piece.

Artist:    Wishbone Ash
Title:    Blind Eye
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Wishbone Ash
Label:    Decca
Year:    1970
    One of the first bands to feature two lead guitarists working in tandem, Wishbone Ash rose to fame as the opening act for Deep Purple in early 1970. After guitarist Andy Powell sat in with Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore during a sound check, Blackmore referred Wishbone Ash to MCA, the parent company of the US Decca label. The band's first LP came out in December of 1970, with Blind Eye becoming the band's first single. Although Wishbone Ash went on to become one of Britain's top rock bands of the 1970s, they were never as successful in the US, despite relocating to the states in 1973.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Upsetter
Source:    45 RPM single (also released on LP: E Pluribus Funk)
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1972
    Grand Funk Railroad was something of an enigma. Due to universally negative reviews in the rock press, progressive FM stations avoided them like the plague. At the same time, top 40 radio was in the process of being supplanted as the voice of the mainstream by the Adult Contemporary (A/C) format, which tended to ignore hard rock. Nonetheless Grand Funk Railroad had a following. In fact, GFR was the first band to book (and sellout) entire sports arenas, setting attendance records wherever they played. This translated into major record sales, as they became the first band to have three LPs hit the million-seller mark in the same year (1970). That year they also had their first mainstream hit with I'm Your Captain (Closer To Home). From that point on the band would continue to release singles, although most, such as Upsetter, were still ignored by A/C radio (although they did get a fair amount of airplay from the remaining "true" top 40 stations). As the group's album sales were beginning to drop off, the singles became increasingly important to the band's continued success, and from 1973 on (starting with We're An American Band ) Grand Funk became pretty much a singles-oriented group, cranking out tunes like Bad Time and Some Kind Of Wonderful.
Artist:    Chambers Brothers
Title:    I Can't Turn You Loose
Source:    LP: Super Rock (originally released on LP: Love, Peace and Happiness)
Writer(s):    Otis Redding
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1969
    Following the template created by Cream with their Wheels Of Fire album, the Chambers Brothers released the double LP Love, Peace and Happiness in 1969, with one LP made up entirely of studio tracks and the other consisting of live recordings made at the Fillmore East. Unlike Wheels Of Fire, however, Love, Peace and Happiness did not contain any major hit singles like White Room or Crossroads, and got only lukewarm reviews from the rock press. Most reviewers favored the live tracks, with the Brothers' cover of Otis Redding's I Can't Turn You Loose getting the most positive attention.

Artist:    J. Geils Band
Title:    Whammer Jammer
Source:    Mono 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Juke Box Jimmie
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    First they were a Boston bar band called Snoopy and the Sopwith Camel. Then they became the J. Geils Blues Band. Finally they dropped the "blues" from the name and became famous. Whammer Jammer, an early B side showcasing "Magic Dick" Salwitz on lead harmonica, shows why the "blues" part was there in the first place.

Artist:    Renaissance
Title:    Ocean Gypsy
Source:    LP: Scheherazade And Other Stories
Writer(s):    Dunford/Thatcher
Label:    Sire
Year:    1975
    Although they are generally perceived as the art-rock band of the 70s with the closest ties to traditional classic music, Renaissance's two most popular albums, including the 1975 release Scheherazade And Other Stories, do not, like their previous LPs, contain any direct quotes from classical pieces. They do, however, contain some excellent tunes like Ocean Gypsy from the songwriting team of guitarist Michael Dunford and dedicated lyricist Betty Thatcher. The song features outstanding vocals from Annie Haslam.
Artist:    Barclay James Harvest
Title:    The Great 1974 Mining Disaster
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Everyone Is Everybody Else)
Writer(s):    John Lees
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1974
    Although they were never as big as other prog-rock bands such as Yes or Emerson, Lake And Palmer, England's Barclay James Harvest nonetheless had a long and productive career. Their 1974 album Everyone Is Everybody Else is generally considered to be their artistic and commercial peak, and was especially successful in continental Europe, as were the band's subsequent LPs. One of the more notable tracks on Everyone Is Everybody Else is The Great 1974 Mining Disaster, a tribute to the Bee Gees first international hit single, New York Mining Disaster 1941, with a healthy number of David Bowie references thrown in.

Artist:    Derek And The Dominos
Title:    Bell Bottom Blues
Source:    CD: The Best Of Eric Clapton (originally released on LP: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs)
Writer(s):    Clapton/Whitlock
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1970
    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:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Cross-Eyed Mary
Source:    CD: Aqualung
Writer:    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1971
    The fortunes of Jethro Tull improved drastically with the release of the Aqualung album in 1971. The group had done well in their native UK but were still considered a second-tier band in the US. Aqualung, however, propelled the group to star status, with several tracks, such as Cross-Eyed Mary, getting heavy airplay on FM rock radio.

Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    Lady In Black (alternate version)
Source:    British import CD: Salisbury
Writer(s):    Ken Hensley
Label:    Sanctuary
Year:    Recorded 1971, released 2003
    Although never released as a single either in the US or UK, Uriah Heep's antiwar ballad Lady In Black made the top 5 on three separate occasions in Germany, with the song going into the top 5 in two of those runs and winning the Golden Lion award (the German equivalent of a Grammy). The song was also popular in Russia. This alternate recording of the tune is over a minute shorter than the released album track.
Artist:    Who
Title:    Squeeze Box
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    MCA
Year:    1975
    According to Pete Townshend, who wrote the song, Squeeze Box started off as a dirty joke. It ended up becoming the Who's only international #1 hit single. I think that says all you need to know about the world of popular music.

Artist:    Black Oak Arkansas
Title:    Jim Dandy
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Lincoln Chase
Label:    Atco
Year:    1973
    My first exposure to Black Oak Arkansas was at a Grand Funk Railroad concert in August of 1971. I had literally arrived on the campus of Southwestern University in Weatherford Oklahoma the night before the concert, having hitchhiked there from New Mexico. On arrival I soon learned that my bandmates DeWayne and Mike, whose dorm room I was crashing in, already had tickets for the concert in Norman, Oklahoma. They invited me to come along, assuring me that I could easily score tickets at the gate. As it turns out they were right, but by the time we got there the only tickets left were bleacher seats. Of course, the rest of the group that made the drive to Norman all had floor tickets, so I ended up sitting by myself up in the nosebleed section for the opening act, a group I had never heard of called Black Oak Arkansas. I decided that, for the next 45 minutes or so, I would be a reviewer, and started analyzing this new band one song at a time. To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed at first, but found each successive song to be a little bit better than the one before it. By the time the band had finished their set, I was electrified (literally, since the last song was called The Day Electricity Came To Arkansas). I eventually bought a copy of the album Black Oak Arkansas, and was pleased to discover that the songs were in the exact same order on the LP as I had first heard them in concert. Over the years I continued to follow the band's progress, and was happy to hear, in 1973, their remake of an old LaVerne Baker song, Jim Dandy, on the local AM radio station. In fact, I went out and bought a copy of the 45 RPM single (which has since been replaced with a less scratchy copy).


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