Sunday, July 2, 2023

Rockin' Independence Day of Confusion # 2327 (starts 7/3/23)

    Once again it's time to celebrate Independence Day, early 70s style, with a slightly revised playlist from previous years' shows. We've replaced the Nice's live version of Leonard Bernstein's America with the same band's original 1968 studio version of the piece, freeing up space for a couple of tunes that got squeezed out last time around. Enjoy!

Artist:     Jimi Hendrix
Title:     Star-Spangled Banner
Source:     CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Writer(s):    John Stafford Smith
Label:    Rhino (original label: Cotillion)
Year:     1969
     When the Woodstock film and soundtrack album was released, right-wingers across the nation decried the disrespect inherent in the Jimi Hendrix interpretation of the Star-Spangled Banner. Looking at it another way, however, it was a US Army veteran playing his country's national anthem on guitar in the style he was famous for. Is that any less patriotic than Whitney Houston singing that same anthem in her own style years later?

Artist:     Jimi Hendrix Experience (MkII)
Title:     Freedom
Source:     CD: First Rays of the New Rising Sun (originally released on LP: Rainbow Bridge)
Writer:     Jimi Hendrix
Label:     MCA/Experience Hendrix (original label: Reprise)
Year:     1970
     Jimi Hendrix was working on a new double album when he died, but nobody else seemed to be sure where he was going with it. As there were several tracks that were unfinished at the time, Reprise Records gathered what they could and put them together on an album called The Cry Of Love. Freedom, a nearly finished piece (the unfinished part being a short "placesetter" guitar solo that Hendrix never got around to replacing with a final take), is the opening track from the album. Soon after that, a new Hendrix concert film called Rainbow Bridge was released along with a soundtrack album containing most of the remaining tracks from the intended double album. Finally, under the auspices of the Hendrix family in 1997, MCA (with the help of original engineer Eddie Kramer and drummer Mitch Mitchell) pieced together what was essentially an educated guess about what would have been that album and released it under the name First Rays of the New Rising Sun.
Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    Sweet Freedom
Source:    LP: Sweet Freedom
Writer(s):    Ken Hensley
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    Uriah Heep hit their Apex in 1972 with the back-to-back LPs Demons And Wizards and The Magician's Birthday. They followed those up with a double-LP live album (pretty much a standard thing for rock bands at the time) and, in 1973, released the album Sweet Freedom. Sweet Freedom saw the band moving beyond their own fantasy-based image, both lyrically and musically, with mixed success. The title track, which closed the album, was probably the most stylistically similar song on the album to their earlier material, and with a six and a half minute running time is the longest track on the album itself.

Artist:    Who
Title:    I'm Free
Source:    CD: Tommy
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    MCA (original label: Decca)
Year:    1969
    1969 was a banner year for the Who. Not only did they gather high praise from the rock press for their rock-opera Tommy, they scored big commercially with the first single from the album, Pinball Wizard. The follow-up single, I'm Free, did not do quite as well on the charts but is perhaps a better indicator of what was to come from the band in the 70s.

Artist:    Graham Nash/David Crosby
Title:    Immigration Man
Source:    LP: Graham Nash David Crosby
Writer(s):    Graham Nash
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1972
    Anything I could say here would only detract from the point of this song, and the reason I'm playing it.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Immigrant Song
Source:    CD: Led Zeppelin III
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    Although the third Led Zeppelin album is known mostly for its surprising turn toward a more acoustic sound than its predecessors, the first single from that album actually rocked out as hard, if not harder, than any previous Zeppelin track. In fact, it could be argued that Immigrant Song rocks out harder than anything on top 40 radio before or since. Starting with a tape echo deliberately feeding on itself the song breaks into a basic riff built on two notes an octave apart, with Robert Plant's wailing vocals sounding almost like a siren call. Guitarist Jimmy Page soon breaks into a series of power chords that continue to build in intensity for the next two minutes, until the song abruptly stops cold. The lyrics of Immigrant Song were inspired by the band's trip to Iceland in 1970.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Politician
Source:    LP: Wheels Of Fire
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    Atco
Year:    1968
    Despite its title, Cream's Politician, from the Wheels Of fire album, is really not the kind of scathing indictment you might expect from a track from 1968. Indeed, the song's lyrics are actually gentle satire rather than overt criticism. Eric Clapton's guitar work, however, is always a treat, and on Politician he knocks out not one, but two overdubbed solos at the same time, along with his basic guitar track. Controlled chaos at its best!

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    War Pigs
Source:    LP: Black Sabbath
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    Originally titled Walpurgis, Black Sabbath's War Pigs, the opening track on their second LP, Paranoid, started off being about the Witches' Sabbath (Walpurgis being the Satanists' analog to Christmas). As Bill Butler's lyrics developed, however, the song ended up being more about how the rich and powerful declare the wars, but send the poor off to die in them. Either way, it's about evil people doing evil things and the rest of us suffering for it. I guess some things never change.

Artist:     Nice
Title:     America (From "West Side Story"), 2nd Amendment
Source:     LP: Autumn To Spring (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:     Music by Leonard Bernstein, adapted by the Nice
Label:     Charisma (original label: Immediate)
Year:     1968
     Before Emerson, Lake And Palmer became one of the hottest acts on the progressive rock scene, there was a band called the Nice that featured Keith Emerson on keyboards, along with guitarist David O'List, drummer Brian Davison and bassist Lee Jackson. The band's second single was a hard rocking instrumental version of Leonard Bernstein's America (from West Side Story) released in 1968 that originally concluded with a young child speaking the line "America is pregnant with promise and anticipation, but is murdered by the hand of the inevitable." That line was edited out of the song for the 1972 LP Autumn '67-Spring '68, which was released in the US as Autumn To Spring. The official title of the track included the words "2nd Amendment", and was publicised in the UK with a poster picturing the band members holding small boys with the superimposed faces of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Emerson, who once referred to the record as the "first ever instrumental protest song", famously burned a US flag during the performance of the piece at a charity performance at the Royal Albert Hall in July of that year. As a result, the Nice was permanently banned from playing the Royal Albert Hall.

Artist:     Yes
Title:     America
Source:     CD: Yesterdays (originally released in UK on LP: The New Age of Atlantic)
Writer:     Paul Simon
Label:     Atlantic
Year:     1972
     Following the success of the Fragile album and the hit single Roundabout, Yes went into the studio to cut a ten and a half minute cover of Paul Simon's America for a UK-only sampler album called The New Age Of Atlantic. The track was then edited down to about four minutes for single release in the US as a followup to Roundabout. The original unedited track was finally released in the US on the 1974 album Yesterdays, which also included several tracks from two earlier Yes albums that featured an earlier lineup of the band that included guitarist Peter Banks and keyboardist Tony Kaye. Paul Simon's America was, in fact, the only track on Yesterdays that featured the classic Yes lineup of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squires, Bill Bruford and Rick Wakeman.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    It Better End Soon (1st and 2nd movements)
Source:    CD: Chicago
Writer(s):    Lamm/Parazaider/Kath
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1970
    It may come as a surprise to those familiar with the many "safe" hits cranked out by Chicago from the mid-70s  through the late 80s, that Chicago was originally one of the most political (and hard rocking) bands on the national rock scene. For example, most of the fourth side of the second Chicago LP, released in 1970, is taken up by the hard-hitting It Better End Soon. Written by keyboardist Robert Lamm, the four-movement continuous piece features vocals by guitarist Terry Kath, and includes an outstanding flute solo from Walter Parazaider, earning him a co-writing credit on the piece's second movement. The lyrics of It Better End Soon appeared on the inner gatefold cover of the double-LP' along with a "Producer's note", stating "This endeavor should be experienced sequentially", and a declaration written by Robert Lamm: "With this album, we dedicate ourselves, our futures and our energies to the people of the revolution. And the revolution in all of its forms."

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