Sunday, August 20, 2023

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2334 (starts 8/21/23) 

    It's back to free-form the week, with tracks from Jeff Beck, Pink Floyd, Little Feat, and others from the early to mid 1970s. As a bonus, we present the original (but unreleased until 2017) version of Elton John's Madman Across The Water, featuring Mick Ronson on guitar.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    I'm Your Captain
Source:    CD: Closer To Home
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1970
    I first switched from guitar to bass during my junior year in high school, when I joined a band that already had a much better guitarist than I was, but no bass player. Like Noel Redding, I started by using an old acoustic guitar with a pickup, turning the tone control to its lowest setting. It wasn't until spring that I finally got an actual bass to play (a Hofner Beatle that I paid the German equivalent of $90.00 for new at a small local music shop). The band itself was modeled on early power trios like Cream and Blue Cheer, which basically meant that I was playing pseudo leads in the lower register, hopefully in some sort of counterpoint to what the lead guitarist was playing. It wasn't until I returned to the States and hooked up with a band that had two guitarists and played actual songs that I learned what playing the bass was really about. One of those songs was I'm Your Captain by Grand Funk Railroad. Borrowing a copy of the Closer To Home album I listened closely to Mel Schacher's bass lines, especially the riffs on the intro to I'm Your Captain and during the transition to the song's second movement. To this day I credit Schascher as being the most important influence on my own bass playing (even though I haven't actually picked up a bass guitar since 1989).

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Fearless (Interpolating "You'll Never Walk Alone")/Brain Damage/Eclipse
Source:    CD: Works (individual tracks originally released on LP: Meddle and LP: The Dark Side Of The Moon)
Writer(s):    Waters/Gilmour/Rodgers/Hammerstein
Label:    Capitol (original label: Harvest)
Year:    1971/1973
    In 1973, Pink Floyd released their last album to appear on EMI's Harvest label in the US before switching over to Columbia Records (although they continued to appear on Harvest in the UK). In response to the band's defection, EMI continued to release recycled Pink Floyd material from the band's early years as late as 1983, when the album Works was released at the same time as Pink Floyd's latest LP, The Final Cut. This time around, however, producer Joe Boyd took some liberties with the material, such as cross-fading Fearless (from the 1971 LP Meddle) into the final two tracks from Dark Side Of The Moon, Brain Damage and Eclipse, using alternate mixes for the latter two.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Mystery
Source:    LP: Bang
Writer(s):    Bolin/Cook
Label:    Atco
Year:    1973
    It seems like every James Gang album (excepting the first one) ends with a long, grandiose track, complete with strings. For the 1973 album Bang, guitarist Tommy Bolin came up with Mystery, a song very much in the same vein as Joe Walsh's Ashes The Rain And I. Roy Kenner, who had joined the band in 1972, provides lead vocals on the track.

Artist:    Gentle Giant
Title:    Cogs In Cogs
Source:    CD: The Power And The Glory
Writer(s):    Shulman/Minnear/Shulman
Label:    Alucard (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1974
    The Power And The Glory is a 1974 album by Gentle Giant that focuses on an individual that chooses politics as a means to make the world a better place. Like his predecessors, however, he becomes corrupted by power and ultimately becomes that which he originally fought against. Cogs In Cogs, which opens the original LP's second side, highlight's the protagonists frustration at being unable to actually change anything, which leads to his acceptance of, and later embracing of, authoritarianism. Lyricist/vocalist Derek Shulman, had this to say about the album: "Money and power will win no matter what and the people that are hoping for the best won’t usually get the best. The label we were on at that time, WWA, was an imprint of Vertigo. Vertigo was a fully owned company of Phonogram which is Polygram which is now Universal which will probably be GE in a week which is going to be the government soon enough. So there’s the corruption of power right there! The power and the glory! Again! Still to this day!" As of 2014, The Power And The Glory is available on Blu-Ray, with each song fully animated with various abstract patterns and all the lyrics displayed prominently on the screen. The latter makes a huge difference in the ability to enjoy the album, as Gentle Giant's vocals are often hard to decipher.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Minstrel In The Gallery
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1975
    Following the back-to-back album-length works Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play, Jethro Tull returned to recording shorter tunes for the next couple of years' worth of albums. In late 1975, however, they recorded the eight minute long Mistrel In The Gallery for the album of the same name. The song (and album) was a return to the mix of electric and acoustic music that had characterized the band in its earlier years, particularly on the Aqualung and Benefit albums. A shorter version of Minstrel In The Gallery was released as a single and did reasonably well on the charts.

Artist:    Jeff Beck
Title:    You Know What I Mean/She's A Woman
Source:    CD: Blow By Blow
Writer(s):    Beck/Middleton/Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Epic
Year:    1975
    After dissolving the group Beck, Bogert and Appice in 1973, guitarist Jeff Beck spent the next year supporting various other musicians both on stage and in the studio before going to work on what would his first album made up entirely of instrumentals. Produced by George Martin, Blow By Blow opens with You Know What I Mean, a tune written by Beck and keyboardist Max Middleton. Blow By Blow turned out to be Beck's most commercially successful album, leading to more instrumental LPs over the next several years.

Artist:    Little Feat
Title:    Two Trains
Source:    CD: Dixie Chicken
Writer(s):    Lowell George
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    Lowell George's band, Little Feat, truly found their sound, a brand of rock flavored with New Orleans spice, on their third LP, Dixie Chicken. That sound can be heard clearly on tracks like Two Trains, the second song on the album.

Artist:    Joe Cocker
Title:    Hitchcock Railway
Source:    LP: Joe Cocker!
Writer(s):    Dunn/McCashen
Label:    A&M
Year:    1969
    As was the case with his 1968 debut LP, the 1969 album Joe Cocker! was made up almost entirely of cover versions of then-current songs. Some of them, such as She Came In Through The Bathroom Window, are pretty well known in their original incarnations. Others, such as Hitchcock Railway, not so much. It turns out that the song was originally recorded by Jose Feliciano for his 1968 LP Souled, and released as a single that same year, stalling out in the # 77 position on the charts.

Artist:    Elton John
Title:    Madman Across The Water (original version)
Source:    CD: Tumbleweed Connection (bonus track)
Writer(s):    John/Taupin
Label:    Rocket
Year:    Recorded 1970, released 1995
    Madman Across The Water was originally recorded in 1970 and intended for the album Tumbleweed Connection. For reasons that are not entirely clear (although it's nearly nine minute length may have been a factor) the recording was shelved and the song re-recorded with a different guitarist as the title song of Elton John's next LP instead. The original version, featuring Mick Ronson on lead guitar, remained unreleased until 1995, when it was included as a bonus track on the remastered CD version of Tumbleweed Connection.

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