Sunday, March 17, 2024

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2412 (starts 3/18/24)

    There is a pattern in this week's playlist, but I'm going to let you figure out what it is for yourself. Or you could just sit back and enjoy the tunes from artists like Robin Trower, Steely Dan, Janis Joplin, Jethro Tull and more. Your choice.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Ups And Downs
Source:    CD: On Time
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1969
    The first time I ever heard Grand Funk Railroad's Ups And Downs (on 8-track tape) I was caught off guard by the band suddenly breaking into a chorus of Row Row Row Your Boat midway through the song. Apparently the band had simply gone into the studio and knocked off eight tunes over a two-day period in June, performing them exactly as they did on stage for their 1969 debut album, On Time (along with a pair of tunes recorded a couple months earlier). The result was some of the most raw and honest hard rock ever recorded.

Artist:    Al Kooper/Stephen Stills/Harvey Brooks/Eddie Hoh
Title:    You Don't Love Me
Source:    LP: Super Session
Writer(s):    Willie Cobb
Label:    Sundazed/Columbia
Year:    1968
    You Don't Love Me was originally recorded and released as a single by Willie Cobbs in 1960. Although the song is credited solely to Cobbs, it strongly resembles a 1955 Bo Diddley B side, She's Fine She's Mine, in its melody, lyrics and repeated guitar riff. The Cobbs single was a regional hit on the Mojo label in Memphis, but stalled out nationally after being reissued on Vee-Jay Records, due to the label pulling promotional support from the song due to copyright issues. A 1965 version by Junior Wells with Buddy Guy saw some minor changes in the lyrics to the song; it was this version that was covered by Al Kooper and Stephen Stills for the 1968 Super Session album. The recording extensively uses an effect called flanging, a type of phase-shifting that was first used in stereo on the Jimi Hendrix Experience track Bold As Love.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    Lost Woman
Source:    CD: Yer' Album
Writer(s):    Dreja/McCarty/Beck/Relf/Samwell-Smith
Label:    MCA (original label: Bluesway)
Year:    1969
    The first James Gang album was primarily designed to show off the performing talents of guitarist Joe Walsh, bassist Tom Kriss and drummer Jim Fox. As such, most of the album was made up of cover songs such as the Yardbirds' Lost Woman. Like other covers on Yer' Album, Lost Woman turns into a long extended jam, running a total of nine minutes before all is played and done. Subsequent albums would focus more on the songwriting talents of the band members, particularly Walsh.

Artist:    Cactus
Title:    You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover
Source:    CD: Cactus
Writer(s):    Willie Dixon
Label:    Wounded Bird (original label: Atco)
Year:    1970
    Cactus was kind of an accidental supergroup formed in 1969, when plans for a new band featuring bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice from Vanilla Fudge, along with former Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck, had to be scrapped due to Beck being injured in a car accident. Instead, Bogert and Appice recruited guitarist Jim McCarty, a veteran of Mitch Ryder's Detroit Wheels who had more recently been working with the Buddy Miles Express, and vocalist Rusty Day from the Amboy Dukes to form Cactus. The group released their self-titled debut LP in 1970. The album featured a mix of originals and high-energy covers of blues classics such as Willie Dixon's You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover, which had originally been recorded by Bo Diddley. The Cactus version of the tune runs six and a half minutes and includes some wailing guitar work from McCarty, who would eventually leave the band over creative differences with the other members.

Artist:     Janis Joplin
Title:     Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)
Source:     CD: I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama
Writer:     Ragavoy/Taylor
Label:     Columbia/Legacy
Year:     1969
     A glance through the various playlists on this blog makes one thing abundantly clear: the psychedelic era was a time for bands, as opposed to individual stars. The music industry itself, however, tends to favor the single artist. Perhaps this is because it is easier to market (cynics would say exploit) an individual artist than a collective of musicians. In the case of Janis Joplin, people in the industry managed to convince her that her fellow members of Big Brother and the Holding Company were holding her back due to their lack of musicianship. A listen to her first album without her old bandmates puts the lie to that argument. Although the Kozmic Blues Band may indeed have had greater expertise as individual musicians than Big Brother, the energy that had electrified audiences at the Monterey Pop Festival and at various San Francisco ballrooms was just not there, and the album is generally considered somewhat limp in comparison to Cheap Thrills. The opening (and some would say best) track on the album is Try (Just A Little Bit Harder). While not a bad song, the recording just doesn't have the magic of a Piece of My Heart or Ball and Chain, despite a strong vocal performance by Joplin herself.
Artist:    Doors
Title:    Peace Frog/Blue Sunday
Source:    LP: Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mine (originally released on LP: Morrison Hotel)
Writer(s):    Morrison/Kreiger
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1970
    The Doors' Peace Frog, in a very basic sense, is actually two separate works of art. The track started off as an instrumental piece by guitarist Robbie Kreiger, recorded while the rest of the band was waiting for Jim Morrison to come up with lyrics for another piece. Not long after the track was recorded, producer Paul Rothchild ran across a poem of Morrison's called Abortion Stories and encouraged him to adapt it to the new instrumental tracks. Peace Frog, which appears on the album Morrison Hotel, leads directly into Blue Sunday, one of many poems/songs written by Morrison for Pamela Courson, his paramour since 1965.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    Mother Goose
Source:    CD: Aqualung
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1971
    Aqualung was Jethro Tull's breakthrough album, and it remains their all-time best-seller, with over seven million copies sold worldwide so far. The album, released in 1971, was the first to include keyboardist John Evan and bassist Jeffrey Hammond as full time members, and also the last to feature founding member Clive Barker on drums. The album also contains more acoustic material than the band's earlier works; a prime example of this is Mother Goose, a song that continues the abstract imagery of Cross-Eyed Mary, which appears earlier on the same side of the original LP.

Artist:    Steely Dan
Title:    Fire In The Hole
Source:    Mono 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Becker/Fagen
Label:    ABC
Year:    1972
    Donald Fagen's unique piano style is on display on Fire In The Hole, a track from the first Steely Dan album, Can't Buy A Thrill. The tune also appeared as the B side of Steely Dan's second single (and first hit), Do It Again.

Artist:    Nazareth
Title:    Broken Down Angel
Source:    45 RPM single (promo)
Writer(s):    Nazareth
Label:    A&M
Year:    1973
    Nazareth was formed in Dumfermline, Scotland in 1968, and recorded their first album in 1971. The band's original lineup included Dan McCafferty on lead vocals, Darrell Sweet on percussion, Pete Agnew on bass guitar and Manny Charlton on electric guitar, and had a series of hit singles in the UK, Canada and Europe in the early 1970s. The first of these was Broken Down Angel, which made the British top 10 in 1973. The song was not a hit in the US, however. Ironically, Love Hurts, the only Nazareth song to hit big in the US, failed to crack the top 40 in the UK.
Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    Too Rolling Stoned
Source:    CD: Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Robin Trower
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:    1974
    One of the most celebrated guitar albums of all time, Bridge Of Sighs was Robin Trower's second solo LP following his departure from Procol Harum. Released in 1974, the LP spent 31 weeks on the Billboard album charts, peaking at #7. Bridge of Sighs has served as a template for later guitar-oriented albums, especially those of Warren Haines and Gov't Mule. Among the many tracks from Bridge Of Sighs to get extensive airplay on US FM rock stations in the mid-1970s was Too Rolling Stoned, which opens up the album's second side.

Artist:    Robin Trower
Title:    In This Place
Source:    CD: Bridge Of Sighs
Writer(s):    Robin Trower
Label:    Chrysalis/Capitol
Year:    1974
    About half of the tunes on Bridge Of Sighs were co-written by vocalist/bassist James Dewar, with the remainder credited solely to Trower. In This Place is an example of the latter.

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