Sunday, December 3, 2023

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2349 (starts 12/4/23) 

    So it's 1970 and you're starting to get the blues.  But these are blues that rock, and you're getting them from places like Chicago, home of the Flock, San Francisco, where Big Brother and the Grateful Dead are boogieing down, Los Angeles, Cleveland, New York, the Deep South and even London. May as well go with it.

Artist:     Flock
Title:     Tired Of Waiting For You
Source:     German import LP: Underground '70 (originally released on LP: The Flock)
Writer:     Ray Davies
Label:     CBS (original US label: Columbia)
Year:     1969
     The Flock was one of those bands that made an impression on those who heard them perform but somehow were never able to turn that into massive record sales. Still, they left a pair of excellent LPs for posterity. The most notable track from the first album was their cover of the 1965 Kinks hit Tired Of Waiting For You, featuring solos at the beginning and end of the song from violinist Jerry Goodwin, who would go on to help John McLaughlin found the Mahavishnu Orchestra a couple years later.

Artist:    Grateful Dead
Title:    New Speedway Boogie
Source:    LP: Workingman's Dead
Writer(s):    Hunter/Garcia
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    The first three Grateful Dead albums were all attempts to capture the energy and experimentation of the band's live sets. Finally, in 1969, the band decided just to release a double LP of live performances. Once this goal had been reached the band began to move into new territory, concentrating more on songwriting and studio techniques. The result was Workingman's Dead, the first Grateful Dead LP to include songs that would become staples of the emerging album rock radio format.

Artist:    Three Dog Night
Title:    Rock And Roll Widow
Source:    Mono 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Allsup/Greenspoon/Hutton/Negron/Scherme/Sneed/Wells
Label:    Dunhill
Year:    1970
    Three Dog Night are generally not remembered for their songwriting abilities. Almost all of their hits were covers of songs that had been previously recorded by the songwriters themselves, such as Randy Newman's Mama Told Me (Not To Come). Rock And Roll Widow, appearing on the B side of that record, is a rare exception, credited to all seven band members.

Artist:     James Gang
Title:     Woman
Source:     CD: James Gang Rides Again
Writer:     Fox/Peters/Walsh
Label:     MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:     1970
     During my senior year of high school I often found myself hanging out at this sort of coffee house in Alamogordo, NM, whose name I have long since forgotten. The place had a room with an old console stereo in it, and a stack of half a dozen albums that someone had donated. Side one of James Gang Rides Again must have been played a hundred times on that thing, often over and over when everybody was too stoned to get up to change the record. By the time I graduated I knew every note of Woman, as well as every other song on that side of the album, by heart.

Artist:    Allman Brothers Band
Title:    Hoochie Coochie Man
Source:    CD: Beginnings (originally released on LP: Idlewild South)
Writer(s):    Willie Dixon
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1970
    The second Allman Brothers Band, Idlewild South, generally got better reviews than the group's debut LP, mostly because of shorter tracks and tighter arrangements, both of which appealed to the rock press. Their version of Willie Dixon's Hoochie Coochie Man, for instance, actually comes in at less than five minutes. The band's next album, Live At The Fillmore East, proved to be the Allman's commercial breakthrough, however; the fact that the album is made up almost entirely of long jams with extended solos from guitarists Duane Allman and Dickie Betts and keyboardist Gregg Allman only goes to show that sometimes what the public wants is not the same thing as what the critics think they should.

Artist:     Al Kooper/Mike Bloomfield/Harvey Brooks/Eddie Hoh
Title:     Really
Source:     LP: Super Session
Writer:     Bloomfield/Kooper
Label:     Columbia/Legacy
Year:     1968
     Al Kooper and Michael Bloomfield first met in 1965, when Kooper sat in on sessions for the classic Highway 61 Revisited album and later performed as a member of Dylan's band at the Newport Folk Festival, where Kooper's organ was physically assaulted by angry folk purists. After a stint with seminal jam band The Blues Project, Kooper became a staff producer for Columbia Records in New York, where he came up with the idea of an album made up entirely of studio jams. He recruited Bloomfield, who had in the intervening years played with the Butterfield Blues Band and the Electric Flag, along with bassist Harvey Brooks (also from Butterfield's band) and studio drummer Eddie Hoh and came up with the surprise hit album of 1968, Super Session. Although Bloomfield bowed out of the project halfway through, he plays on all the tracks on side one of the album, including Really, which utilizes a classic blues progression.

Artist:    West, Bruce & Laing
Title:    Slow Blues/Dirty Shoes
Source:    British import CD: Whatever Turns You On
Writer(s):    West/Bruce/Laing
Label:    COE (original US label: Columbia/Windfall)
Year:    1973
    After the demise of Mountain, guitarist/vocalist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing teamed with legendary bassist Jack Bruce to form West, Bruce & Laing. From a musical standpoint the band was really a continuation of Mountain, with Bruce filling the same role as Felix Pappalardi had in the earlier group. The fact that Pappalardi's own style of singing and playing bass grew out of his own association with Bruce as producer of Cream only made the transition smoother. Unlike in Cream, however, where Bruce had the lion's share of vocals, he and West shared lead vocal duties equally. In fact on some songs, such as the medley of Slow Blues and Dirty Shoes, both singers are up front.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Spoonful (live version)
Source:    LP: Wheels Of Fire
Writer(s):    Willie Dixon
Label:    RSO (original label: Atco)
Year:    1968
    When Atco decided to release Fresh Cream in the US they chose to replace the longest song on the original 1966 British album, a cover of Willie Dixon's Spoonful, with I Feel Free, which was simultaneously released as a single in January of 1967. Because of this change, most American listeners had never heard Cream perform the song until the album Wheels Of Fire was released in 1968. The double LP album featured new studio tracks on the first two sides, and live recordings made at two of San Francisco's most famous concert venues on the other two. The longest of the four live tracks was a sixteen and a half long version of Spoonful recorded at the Winterland Ballroom (although the label reads "Live at the Fillmore"). Cream had already achieved legendary status for their ability to improvise on stage, but none of their studio recordings had reflected that aspect of the group. The live version of Spoonful heard on Wheels Of Fire quickly became an underground FM radio staple and has been considered the definitive Cream "jam" song ever since.

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    I Need A Man To Love
Source:    LP: Cheap Thrills
Writer(s):    Joplin/Andrew
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1968
    Big Brother and the Holding Company recorded their first album at the Chicago studios of Mainstream records in 1967. Mainstream, however, was a jazz label and their engineers had no idea how to make an anarchic band like Big Brother sound good. When the band signed to Columbia the following year it was decided that the best way to record the band was onstage at the Fillmore West. This didn't work out as planned, however, and only the album's final track, Ball And Chain, is actually a live recording. Other songs, such as I Need A Man To Love, were recorded in the studio, but were made to sound live in post-production.

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