Sunday, September 10, 2023

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2337 (starts 9/11/23)

    Well, we are once again rocking out least in the first half of the show. Then we go the prog-rock route with Emerson, Lake & Palmer, King Crimson and Pink Floyd. As Eric Burdon once said, it's all meat on the same bone.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Do It Again
Source:    CD: Can't Buy A Thrill
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1972
    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.

Artist:      Grand Funk Railroad
Title:     Mr. Limousine Driver
Source:      CD: Grand Funk
Writer:    Mark Farner
Label:     Capitol
Year:     1969
     When Grand Funk Railroad first appeared on the scene they were universally panned by the rock press (much as Kiss would be a few years later). Despite this, they managed to set attendance records across the nation and were instrumental to establishing sports arenas as the venue of choice for 70s rock bands. Although their first album, On Time, was not an instant hit, their popularity took off with the release of their second LP, Grand Funk (also known as the Red Album). One of the many popular tracks on Grand Funk was Mr. Limousine Driver, a song that reflects the same attitude as their later hit We're An American Band.

Artist:    Humble Pie
Title:    Sweet Peace And Time
Source:    CD: Smokin'
Writer(s):    Marriott/Ridley/Clempson/Shirley
Label:    A&M
Year:    1972
    In the late 1960s rock bands were not above poaching players from other bands to improve their chances of success. The Herd had been around since 1965, but when Steve Marriott of the Small Faces decided the band needed a second guitarist/vocalist he went after the Herd's Peter Frampton. Marriott's band mates, however, knew nothing about Marriott's plans at first, and when they found out they resisted the idea strongly. So strongly, in fact, that Marriott eventually ended up leaving the Small Faces to start a new band with Frampton. That band, formed in early 1969, was Humble Pie. After four studio albums, Frampton left Humble Pie just before the band released its first, and most successful live album, Performance Rockin' the Fillmore, leaving Marriott as the group' sole front man. With new guitarist Clem Clempson, along with bassist Greg Ridley and drummer Jerry Shirley, Humble Pie released its most commercially successful LP, Smokin', which went to the #6 spot on the Billboard album's chart. The final track on the album, Sweet Peace And Time, shows the band in full hard rock mode.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Sea Lion
Source:    LP: War Child
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:    1974
    Jethro Tull's 1974 album War Child was a return to shorter songs, following back-to-back albums (Thick As A Brick and A Passion Play) made up of one continous piece each . The album was not, however, a critical success (although it did well enough on the charts to make the reviews somewhat irrelevant). I usually don't give much credence to the rock press, but I had to chuckle at a quote from the Rolling Stone review, which reminded us that "Tull rhymes with dull". In the case of side one of the War Child LP, I have to agree. In fact, the only track on that side of the album that even comes close to the quality of material on 1971's Aqualung album is the final track on the side, Sea Lion, which actually sounds like it could have been a Passion Play outtake. Side two of the original LP, by the way, is much better, with several strong tracks. Why Ian Anderson and the gang chose to put their weakest material up front is anyone's guess, but the band never did regain its earlier popularity, despite an occasional strong tune here and there over the next several years.

Artist:    Mott The Hoople
Title:    Jerkin' Crocus
Source:    45 RPM single B side (originally released on LP: All The Young Dudes
Writer(s):    Ian Hunter
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1972
    After releasing four albums over a period of three years to a lukewarm response at best, England's Mott The Hoople was on the verge of breaking up when David Bowie gave them the song All The Young Dudes. The song became the title track of their fifth LP, which also included several Mott originals such as Jerkin' Crocus. The song was selected to be issued as the B side of the third single released from the album as well.

Artist:    Sugarloaf
Title:    Don't Call Us, We'll Call You
Source:    LP: Don't Call Us, We'll Call You
Writer(s):    Corbetta/Carter
Label:    Claridge
Year:    1974
    Sugarloaf was a band from Denver, Colorado that had their first national hit, Green-Eyed Lady, in 1970. Unfortunately for the band the label they were on, Liberty, was going through a series of changes that resulted in the label being merged into United Artists and dropping every artist on its roster. In fact, Sugarloaf's third single, Mother Nature's Wine, was the last record ever released under the Liberty banner. Internal conflicts led to the band's breakup in late 1972, with vocalist/keyboardist retaining the rights to the Sugarloaf name. Two of the original members eventually rejoined the band in time for an album called I Got A Song, but the label it was on, Brut, soon went under and the album went nowhere. In 1974, after being turned down by Columbia Records, Corbetta went into a friend's recording studio in Denver to cut a new song called Don't Call Us, We'll Call You using local session players. The song, a tongue-in-cheek version of Corbetta's experience with Columbia, was released on Frank Slay's Claridge label under the Sugarloaf name in late 1974 and became a surprise hit the following year. This led to Corbetta and Slay buying the rights to the LP I Got A Song and, after replacing one of the original tracks with the new song, issued it as Don't Call Us, We'll Call You, again on the Claridge label. The song itself includes the touch tones to a private phone number of an executive at Columbia's New York headquarters which, coincidentally, also turned out to be a public number for the White House in Washington, DC, albeit with a different area code.

Artist:    Mothers
Title:    Dirty Love
Source:    CD: Over-Nite Sensation
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1973
    After a series of experimental and jazz-oriented albums, Frank Zappa returned to rock with a pair of albums that defined the direction his music would take in the 1970s and beyond. The first, Over-Nite Sensation, was credited to the Mothers of Invention, and was released in 1973. The second was Apostrophe('), which, although recorded at the same time as Over-Nite Sensation, was released as a Frank Zappa solo album the following year. Both albums combine superb musicianship from the likes of George Clinton and Jean-Luc Ponty with Zappa's unique brand of satiric humor, and are among Zappa's most popular releases. One of the highlights of Over-Nite Sensation, Dirty Love, contains the repeated phrase "The poodle bites, the poodle chews it", which also shows up in a track from the Apostrophe(') album, albeit in a different form. In both cases the refrain is sung by the Ikettes, who were, at Ike Turner's insistence, excluded from the album's musician credits, although they did get paid for their work (but, again at Turner's insistence, at the minimum allowable wage rate, or so Turner was led to believe).

Artist:    Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Title:    The Endless Enigma/Fugue
Source:    CD: Trilogy
Writer(s):    Emerson/Lake
Label:    Atlantic (original label: Cotillion)
Year:    1972
    I've never been able to figure out why Emerson, Lake & Palmer chose to open their third LP, Trilogy, with The Endless Enigma, a complex piece that starts with Greg Lake tapping the muted strings of a bass guitar to simulate a heartbeat. A much more natural opening number, Hoedown, closes out the album's first side and in fact soon became their live show opener. The Endless Enigma itself is actually broken into two parts, with the piano and bass trading licks on Fugue between the two. A complex piece indeed, and one that was so difficult to play live that it was dropped from the setlist almost immediately (and led to the band being determined to make sure their next album would be playable live).

Artist:    King Crimson
Title:    The Court Of The Crimson King
Source:    CD: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Writer:    MacDonald/Sinfield
Label:    Discipline Global Mobile (original label: Atlantic)
Year:    1969
    Perhaps the most influential progressive rock album of all time was King Crimson's debut LP, In The Court Of The Crimson King. The band, in its original incarnation, included Robert Fripp on guitar, Ian MacDonald on keyboards and woodwinds, Greg Lake on vocals and bass, David Giles on drums and Peter Sinfield as a dedicated lyricist. The title track, which takes up the second half of side two of the LP, features music composed by MacDonald, who would leave the group after their second album, later resurfacing as a founding member of Foreigner. The album's distinctive cover art came from a painting by computer programmer Barry Godber, who died of a heart attack less than a year after the album was released. According to Fripp, the artwork on the inside is a portrait of the Crimson King, whose manic smile is in direct contrast to his sad eyes. The album, song and artwork were the inspiration for Stephen King's own Crimson King, the insane antagonist of his Dark Tower saga who is out to destroy all of reality, including our own.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Biding My Time
Source:    CD: Relics
Writer(s):    Roger Waters
Label:    Capitol (original label: Harvest)
Year:    1971
    Although it was originally recorded during sessions for the Ummagumma album and performed live as part of a concept piece called The Man And The Journey, the studio version of Roger Waters's Biding My Time was held back for two years, finally seeing the light of day in 1971 as the only previously unreleased track on Pink Floyd's Relics album. Along with David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Roger Waters on their usual instruments, keyboardist Richard Wright plays trombone, as well as piano and organ, on the track.

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