Sunday, September 24, 2023

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2339 (starts 9/25/23)

Trying a different kind of link this week to see if it works...

    I have a confession to make. As you know, Rockin' in the Days of Confusion is recorded in real time. That means that once the recorder is turned on, it stays on until the show is finished. Any small mistakes that are made are there for everyone to hear; that's part of what live radio is all about. This week, however, something happened about 40 minutes in that made me stop recording and start over from scratch. I won't get into specifics, but I will mention that involved a George Carlin bit that should have been more carefully screened. My bad. The upside of all this is that, although all of the same songs were used in the second take, the order was changed in a way that ended up sounding a whole lot better than the original session. Enjoy.

Artist:     Traffic
Title:     Feelin' Alright
Source:     CD: Smiling Phases (originally released on LP: Traffic)
Writer:     Dave Mason
Label:     Island (original label: United Artists)
Year:     1968
     Dave Mason left Traffic after the band's first album, Mr. Fantasy, but returned in time to contribute several songs to the band's eponymous second LP. Among those was the classic Feelin' Alright, which would become one of the most covered songs in rock history.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    All You've Got Is Money
Source:    CD: Survival
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1971
    Mark Farner, on Grand Funk Railroad's fourth studio album, Survival, wrote a song complaining about something pretty much none of the band's fans could relate to personally: All You've Got Is Money. Lyrically, the song is a kind of turnaround of the classic blues tune Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out, but from a musical standpoint it's vintage Grand Funk, with an extended lead guitar solo accompanied by lots of spooky sounding screams taking up the last third of the song.

Artist:    Hot Tuna
Title:    Ode For Billy Dean
Source:    LP: Burgers
Writer(s):    Jorma Kaukonen
Label:    Grunt
Year:    1972
    Most bands start with a studio album or three before releasing a live album, but Hot Tuna (Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady) took a different route. Originally an offshoot of Jefferson Airplane, they duo recorded their self-title debut LP as an acoustic duo at Berkeley's legendary New Orleans House in September of 1969, releasing it in May of the following year. This was followed by a second live LP. First Pull Up, Then Pull Down, featuring electric instruments and two new members, violinist Papa John Creach and drummer Sammy Piazza, was recorded at Chateau Liberte in Los Gatos, California in April of 1971 and released two months later. For their third release the four musicians went into a recording studio for the first time as a band. The result was Burgers, released in 1972. About a third of the album was made up of covers of classic blues and gospel tunes, with the rest, including Ode For Billy Dean, composed by Kaukonen. The tune features extensive fills from Creach on an instrument not usually associated with electric blues.

Artist:    Johnny Winter
Title:    Be Careful With A Fool
Source:    German import CD: Johnny Winter
Writer(s):    King/Josea
Label:    Repertoire (original US label: Columbia)
Year:    1969
    Johnny Winter's first album for Columbia (his second overall) is nothing less than a blues masterpiece. Accompanied by bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Uncle John Turner, Winter pours his soul into classics like B.B. King's Be Careful With A Fool, maybe even improving on the original (if such a thing is possible).

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Whole Lotta Love
Source:    CD: Led Zeppelin II
Writer(s):    Page/Plant/Bonham/Jones/Dixon
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1969
    If any one song can be considered the bridge between psychedelic rock and heavy metal, it would have to be Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love. Released in 1969 as the lead track to their second LP, the song became their biggest hit single. Whole Lotta Love was originally credited to the four band members. In recent years, however, co-credit has been given to Willie Dixon, whose lyrics to the 50s song You Need Love are almost identical to Robert Plant's.

Artist:    Ten Years After
Title:    One Of These Days
Source:    LP: A Space In Time
Writer(s):    Alvin Lee
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1971
    Although whether or not it's coincidental is debatable, the fact is that Ten Years After's first album released on the Columbia label in the US (after six on Deram), saw the band moving in a more commercial direction. This shift in emphasis is not particularly noticable on the first track, however. One Of These Days, after a quiet orchestral buildup, shows itself to be rooted solidly in the blues tradition, with lyrics based on the age-old theme of being incarcerated and looking forward to being reunited with a loved one upon release.

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    Combination Of The Two
Source:    CD: Cheap Thrills
Writer(s):    Sam Andrew
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1968
     Everything about Big Brother And The Holding Company can be summed up by the title of the opening track for their Cheap Thrills album (and their usual show opener as well): Combination Of The Two. A classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, Big Brother, with Janis Joplin on lead vocals, had an energy that neither Joplin or the band itself was able to duplicate once they parted company. On the song itself, the actual lead vocals for the verses are the work of Combination Of The Two's writer, bassist Sam Houston Andrew III, but those vocals are eclipsed by the layered non-verbal chorus that starts with Joplin then repeats itself with Andrew providing a harmony line which leads to Joplin's promise to "rock you, sock you, gonna give it to you now". It was a promise that the group seldom failed to deliver on.

Artist:    It's A Beautiful Day
Title:    Soapstone Mountain
Source:    LP: Marrying Maiden
Writer(s):    David LaFlamme
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1970
    By 1970 many of the California-based "hippy bands" were starting to transition from pure psychedelic rock to something a bit more country flavored. With some, like the Byrds, the change was obvious and somewhat abrupt, while with other bands, such as It's A Beautiful Day, it was not as complete. Soapstone Mountain, the final track on that band's second LP, Marrying Maiden, is a good example. Although the vocal parts have the most country influence, the extended jam in the second half of the song, featuring guitar work from Hal Wagenet, still retains a strong psychedelic flavor.

Artist:    Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina
Title:    Nobody But You
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Jim Messina
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1972
    Nobody But You was the second single from the 1972 album Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin' In. Written by Messina, it was soon eclipsed by its B side, Danny's Song, which became a top 40 hit for Anne Murray the following year. Nobody But You was also the opening track on the album itself.

Artist:    Joni Mitchell
Title:    Woodstock (live)
Source:    LP: Miles Of Aisles
Writer(s):    Joni Mitchell
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1974
    Oddly enough, the song most associated with the Woodstock Music And Art Festival was written by someone who did not attend the event. Joni Mitchell actually had an opportunity to perform at Woodstock but was advised by her manager that it would be better to make an appearance on the Dick Cavett show that weekend. She was, however, dating Graham Nash at the time. Nash, of course, was at Woodstock (in fact a case could be made that his appearance as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was one of the highpoints of the entire festival) and was more than willing to tell her all about the experience. Mitchell then based her song on Nash's recollections and released it on her 1970 album Ladies Of The Canyon. Other versions of the song by various artists, including Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, followed and in 1974 Mitchell included her own electric version of the song on her Miles Of Aisles live album with Tom Scott And The L.A. Express.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Conversation Piece
Source:    Mono CD: Sound + Vision Sampler (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Ryko (original label: Mercury)
Year:    1970
    It's seems strange that such an iconic figure as David Bowie would have as many truly obscure recordings as he does, but songs like Conversation Piece prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that such things do exist. The song was originally recorded for Bowie's 1969 self-titled LP, but left off the album, instead appearing the following year as the B side of The Prettiest Star, a single released only in the UK, Germany and Norway that failed to chart in any of those places. Another sign of the record's obscurity is the fact that a copy surfaced on E-bay in 2021 on sale for £425 (about $520 in US dollars).

Artist:    Peter Gabriel
Title:    Solsbury Hill
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Peter Gabriel
Label:    Atco
Year:    1977
    Vocalist Peter Gabriel's first single after leaving Genesis was Solsbury Hill, a song inspired by a spiritual experience Gabriel had atop Little Solsbury Hill in Somerset, England. Gabriel said of the song:  "It's about being prepared to lose what you have for what you might get ... It's about letting go." The song hit the top 20 in the UK and shows up from time to time in various TV and movie soundtracks. As I recently discovered, it's also a nice song to wake up to.

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