Sunday, November 12, 2023

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2346 (B27) (starts 11/13/23)

    This time around we have a free-form show recorded over five years ago to be used when the circumstances called for it. As a result there are a couple tunes (in fact the first two) that were heard on Rockin' in the Days of Confusion less than a month ago. It's OK though. They're good ones, as are the rest of the tunes on this week's show.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    The Wizard
Source:    CD: Black Sabbath
Writer:    Osborne/Iommi/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    Often cited as the first true heavy metal album, Black Sabbath's debut LP features one of my all-time favorite album covers (check out the Stuck in the Psychedelic Era Facebook page's Classic Album Covers section) as well as several outstanding tracks. One of the best of these is The Wizard, which was reportedly inspired by the Gandalf character from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    The Wizard
Source:    LP: Demons And Wizards
Writer:    Hensley/Clarke
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1972
    Although Uriah Heep had been around since 1969, they didn't get much attention in the US until their Demons And Wizards album in 1972, which included their biggest hit, Easy Livin'. The Wizard, which opens the album, was the first of two singles released from the album. The song itself is a semi-acoustic tune about a wizard whose name is never given, but is generally considered to be Merlin.

Artist:        Ten Years After
Title:        A Sad Song
Source:    CD: Stonedhenge
Writer:        Alvin Lee
Label:        Deram
Year:        1969
        The Base Exchange (BX) at Ramstein Air Force Base had, in 1969, a fairly sizable record and tape section, comparable to those of the large discount stores like K-Mart and Woolco that were starting to pop up in many US cities. Most LPs ran $2.50 (compared to $3.98 stateside), and included a mixture of domestic and import pressings of the most popular albums of the time. Each month the BX would feature one new LP for $1.50, and as a general rule it was something I would have bought anyway (like the European version of the Rolling Stones' Through The Past, Darkly album). Sometimes I would even take a chance on a band I had never heard of, if the cover looked interesting enough. One such case was an album from an obscure British blues band called Ten Years After. The album was called Stonedhenge, and the cover, featuring the famous monolithic stones against a maroon background, immediately grabbed me. It was probably the best purchase of its type I have ever made, as the album soon became one of my favorites. The LP has a unique structure, with each side starting and ending with tracks featuring the full band, alternating with short solo pieces from each of the band's four members (and including a full band track in the middle of each side). Side two of the album opens with A Sad Song, a quiet blues piece that was likely inspired by British blues guru John Mayall.

Artist:    Bloodrock
Title:    D.O.A.
Source:    CD: Bloodrock 2
Writer(s):    Cobb/Grundy/Hill/Pickens/Rutledge
Label:    One Way (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1970
    Bloodrock gained infamy in 1970 with the inclusion of D.O.A. on their second LP, a song reputed to be the cause of more bad acid trips than any other track ever recorded. Although the origins of the song are popularly attributed to a plane crash that killed several student atheletes in October of 1970, the fact that the album was already in the hands of record reviewers within a week of that event makes it unlikely that the two are related. The more likely story is that it was inspired by band member Lee Pickens's witnessing of a friend crashing his light plane a couple years before. Regardless of the song's origins, D.O.A. has to be considered one of the creepiest recordings ever made.

Artist:    Moby Grape
Title:    Chinese Song
Source:    LP: 20 Granite Creek
Writer(s):    Skip Spence
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1971
    After first being reduced to a trio and then all but disbanding in 1969, Moby Grape reappeared with all five original members on a different label for the 1971 album 20 Granite Creek. Skip Spence only wrote one song for the album, but it was a memorable one, with Spence playing Koto, as well as guitar and vocals, on Chinese Song.

Artist:    Mothers
Title:    Montana
Source:    CD: Over-Nite Sensation
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Discreet)
Year:    1973
    Montana is quite possibly the most recognizable song Frank Zappa ever wrote. The track first appeared on the Mothers album Over-Nite Sensation and quickly became a concert staple. On the original album version Zappa's guitar solo is followed by a series of vocal gymnastics performed by none other than Tina Turner and the Ikettes, who were recording with Turner's husband Ike in an adjacent studio. According to Zappa it took the singers two days to master the complex melody and timing of the section. Reportedly Tina was so pleased with the result that she invited her husband into the control room to hear the finished section, only to have Ike say "What is this shit?" and walk back out.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Any Major Dude Will Tell You
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    ABC
Year:    1974
    For a while it looked like Steely Dan would, like many other early 70s bands, start strong and then slowly fade away. Their debut single, Do It Again, got a lot of airplay on AM top 40 radio, which actually worked against them when it came to the more album-oriented FM stations that were starting to pop up all over the US. Despite the fact that their second LP, Countdown To Ecstacy, was much more suited to FM, it was pretty much ignored by FM rock stations at the time. However, it all came together for the group with the release of their third LP, Pretzel Logic, in 1974. In addition to a big hit single (Rikki Don't Lose That Number), Pretzel Logic included several FM-friendly tunes, such as Any Major Dude Will Tell You, and was a favorite of the rock press.

Artist:    Tim Hardin
Title:    Hoboin'
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (original released in US on LP: Bird In A Cage)
Writer(s):    Hooker/Josea
Label:    Sony Music (original US label: Columbia)
Year:    1971
    Although Tim Hardin is best known for songs he wrote that became hits for other artists, such as Reason To Believe and If I Were A Carpenter, he had a recording career of his own as well. He originally signed with Columbia in 1964, but the label terminated his contract before any of his recordings got released. Two years later he signed with the Verve Forecast label, releasing four LPs before re-signing with Columbia in 1969. The label sent him to Nashville to work with studio musicians there, but none of those recordings were considered good enough to be released. Instead, he returned to his home in Woodstock, NY, and recorded Suite for Susan Moore and Damion: We Are One, One, All in One, a cycle of songs dedicated to his wife and son, that became his first release for Columbia. Following his performance at the Woodstock festival later that year, Hardin went to work on his next LP, Bird In A Cage. Unlike Hardin's previous albums, all the backing tracks on Bird In A Cage were recorded before Hardin actually set foot in the studio, with Weather Report's Joe Zawinul arranging some of the tunes, including Hoboin', a tune written by legendary blues artist John Lee Hooker and Joe Bihari (under the pseudonym Joe Josea).

Artist:    Return To Forever featuring Chick Corea
Title:    No Mystery
Source:    LP: No Mystery
Writer(s):    Chick Corea
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1975
    When it comes to jazz-rock fusion, generally the first name that comes to mind is Chick Corea, founder of Return To Forever. The band was formed out of Corea's desire to better "communicate" with an audience than was possible with the avant-garde jazz he had been performing with his previous band, Circle. Along with bassist Stanley Clarke, Corea oversaw the evolution of Return To Forever over the years from a Latin-based sound featuring Flora Purim and her husband Airto Moreira into one of the first true jazz-rock fusion bands. By 1975 Corea had become well-versed in the use of synthesizers, as can be heard on the album No Mystery. On the album Corea and Clarke were joined by guitarist Al DiMeola and drummer Lenny White for what is now considered the "classic" Return To Forever lineup. Corea himself wrote the title track, which is probably the best-known tune on the album.

Artist:    Doobie Brothers
Title:    Daughters Of The Sea/Flying Cloud
Source:    CD: What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits
Writer(s):    Simmons/Porter
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1974
    When I got out of basic training in southwestern Texas I was told to report to duty at my tech school in northern Texas. Now this might seem a fairly short distance; apparently the people making my travel arrangements thought so, because, rather than a plane flight, they put me on a bus. This bus also had several other basic training graduates on it, all heading for the same tech school location. The ride took approximately six hours, as I recall, and one of the guys had used his initial paycheck to buy a boombox and an 8-track tape of the new Doobie Brothers album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. Apparently he didn't realize how big Texas is, as he did not buy any other tapes. And so, for six hours, we listened to the new Doobie Brothers album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, over and over. And over. And over. Luckily, it's actually a pretty decent album, although some songs are more listenable than others, of course. A personal favorite is (are?) the closing track of the original LP, which is actually two songs that merge together, Daughters Of The Sea and the short instrumental Flying Cloud. A good way to end a good album.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Stone Rap/Collage
Source:    CD: Yer' Album
Writer(s):    Walsh/Cullie
Label:    MCA (original label: Bluesway)
Year:    1969
    Sometime in early 1969 (more or less) three students from Kent State University (yes, that one!) travelled to New York to record an album at the Hit Factory. Apparently they had been continually confronted by fans who kept asking them "when is yer' album coming out?", so when it came time to come up with a name for the LP, the natural choice was Yer' Album. That LP launched the careers of two legends: first, the band itself, the James Gang, who would (with an ever-changing lineup) release a total on nine studio albums (and one live LP) before finally disbanding in 1976. The second legend was lead guitarist/vocalist Joe Walsh, who would go on to have a highly successful solo career before becoming an even bigger star as a member of the Eagles. Walsh wrote about half the songs on that first album, including Collage, a collaboration with his friend Patrick Cullie. Although Yer Album was released in 1969, the James Gang had actually been in existence since 1966. Led by drummer Jim Fox, the band's original lineup also included bassist Tom Kriss, who would leave the group after the release of their first LP.

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