Sunday, June 25, 2023

Rcokin' in the Days of Confusion # 2326 (starts 6/26/23) 

    Sometimes you just feel like rockin' out. This is one of those times.

Artist:    Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young
Title:    Almost Cut My Hair
Source:    CD: déjà vu
Writer(s):    David Crosby
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    Almost Cut My Hair could have been the longest track on the Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young album déjà vu. As originally recorded it ran about 10 minutes in length. However, it was decided to fade the cut out starting at around the four-minute mark, leaving Neil Young's Country Girl (which was actually a suite of song fragments) as the longest track on the LP. Nonetheless, even at its shorter-than-recorded released length, David Crosby's counter-cultural anthem stands out as one of the band's most memorable recordings, and is arguably the single track that best incorporates Neil Young's unique lead guitar style into a group that is known mostly for its vocal harmonies.

Artist:    Creedence Clearwater Revival
Title:    Suzie Q
Source:    LP: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Writer(s):    Hawkins/Lewis/Broadwater
Label:    Fantasy
Year:    1968
    When Creedence Clearwater Revival released their first album in 1968 they were already seasoned veterans in the recording studio, having already released several singles under their previous name, the Golliwogs. They also had a more worldly view of what it took to be a successful band than most newly-signed acts. For instance, John Fogerty, the band's lead guitarist and vocalist, says that the band's eight minute long arrangement of Dale Hawkins' Suzie Q was crafted specifically to get airplay on the local San Francisco underground rock station, KMPX. The strategy worked so well that Suzie Q ended up becoming a national hit (after being released in two parts as a single), barely missing out on hitting the top 10.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Back To The Family
Source:    CD: Stand Up
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:    1969
    The second Jethro Tull album, Stand Up, shows a band in transition from its roots in the British blues-rock scene to a group entirely dominated by the musical vision of vocalist/flautist/composer Ian Anderson. Back To The Family is sometimes cited as an early example of the style that the band would be come to known for on later albums such as Thick As A Brick.

Artist:    Peter Green
Title:    Bottoms Up
Source:    LP: The End Of The Game
Writer(s):    Peter Green
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1970
    Peter Green was the founder of Fleetwood Mac. He was also the first member to leave (not counting bassist Bob Brunning, who considered himself a kind of "place sitter" until John McVie could be convinced to join), having recurring mental health problems made worse by experimentation with LSD. In 1970, shortly after leaving the band, he recorded a jam session and released edited portions of it under the title The End of the Game. Bottoms Up is the first of those tracks.

Artist:    Wishbone Ash
Title:    Jail Bait
Source:    LP: Pilgrimage
Writer(s):    Powell/Turner/Upton/Turner
Label:    MCA (original US label: Decca)
Year:    1971
    Although Wishbone Ash's second LP, Pilgrimage, saw the group moving away from blues rock toward a more layered sound, the most popular song on the album was as good a straight blues rocker as you'll ever hear. Jail Bait soon became a concert staple for the band.

Artist:    West, Bruce & Laing
Title:    The Doctor
Source:    LP: Why Dontcha
Writer(s):    West/Bruce/Laing/Palmer
Label:    Columbia/Windfall
Year:    1972
    If West, Bruce & Laing had anything resembling a signature song, it would be The Doctor, from their first LP, Why Dontcha. They performed the song pretty much every time they played live. In addition to the three band members, the song is credited to a Sandra Palmer. I tried using a search engine, but came up with absolutely nothing on her. Anyone?

Artist:    Who
Title:    Bell Boy
Source:    CD: Quadrophenia
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    MCA/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (original label: Track)
Year:    1973
    Depending on who you ask, Quadrophenia is either the Who's crowning achievement or the most boring thing they ever released. Maybe it's because, as an American who spent his teenage years living on military bases, I find it hard to relate to Pete Townshend's story of a former London street tough forced to confront the reality of adulthood. I don't think that's it, though. I suspect it's more a feeling that by 1973 Townshend (who was the sole songwriter of Quadrophenia) was taking himself far too seriously. It's hard to imagine anything as whimsical as Pictures Of Lily or Happy Jack finding a place on a 70s Who album. Instead we get the ponderous, synthesizer-laden Love Reign O'er Me as the first single from Quadrophenia. Just not my thing, I guess. The lack of any John Entwistle songs on the album was a disappointment as well, as his twisted sense of humor always appealed to me. On Bell Boy we find the protagonist confronted by the fact that the gang leader he idolized as a teen has been reduced to a menial job doing the bidding of the upper middle class types they had always reviled. It's a bit of an ugly song to my ears.

Artist:    Les Variations
Title:    Shemoot (The Prayer)
Source:    LP: Cafe De Paris
Writer(s):    Tobali/Bitton/Fitoussi/Meimoun
Label:    Buddah
Year:    1975
    Les Variations was a French band formed in the late 1960s by three Moroccan-born Jews and one Italian. By the early 1970s they had added Tunisian born Robert Fitoussi on lead vocals and had developed a unique style that has come to be called Moroccan Roll. Their fourth LP, Cafe De Paris, was their first to be released in the US. The final track on the album, Shemoot (The Prayer), is arguably the best example of the band's incorporation of  North African and Jewish Sephardic cultural influences into a rock format.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    The Width Of A Circle
Source:    CD: The Man Who Sold The World
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Mercury)
Year:    1970
    David Bowie had a gift for reinventing himself pretty much right from the start. His earliest albums were largely acoustic in nature, with Space Oddity being about as close to rock as he got. Then came The Man Who Sold The World, which included songs like The Width Of A Circle, a progressive rock piece that borders on heavy metal. The piece had actually been part of Bowie's stage repertoire for several months before recording sessions for the album began, but in a shorter form. For the LP, the piece was expanded to eight minutes in length, with Mick Ronson's lead guitar taking a prominent place in the music. The second half of the piece had somewhat controversial lyrics, describing a sexual encounter with a supernatural being in the depths of Hell. For reasons that are not entirely clear, The Man Who Sold The World was released five months earlier in the US than in the UK.

Artist:    Focus
Title:    Hocus Pocus
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Moving Waves)
Writer(s):    van Leer/Akkerman
Label:    Polydor UK (original US label: Sire)
Year:    1971
    Although it was not a hit until 1973, Hocus Pocus, by the Dutch progressive rock band Focus, has the type of simple structure coupled with high energy that was characteristic of many of the garage bands of the mid to late 60s. The song was originally released on the band's second LP, known alternately as Focus II and Moving Waves, in 1971. Both guitarist Jan Akkerman and keyboardist/vocalist/flautist Thijs van Leer have gone on to have successful careers, with van Leer continuing to use to the Focus name as recently as 2006.

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