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January 1, 1970: Where to Go from Here?

To those of you who used to visit my blog from time to time, it’s nice to see you again.  To any new visitors, welcome!  If interested, have a look at my inaugural post and perhaps my second entry for a better idea of who I am and why I started these pages.  I began writing about (mostly) 50th anniversaries of album releases in January 2018, and I had a great time with it for that entire year.  We turned over into 2019/1969, and for various reasons I ran out of steam and interest.  I said Happy Birthday to George Harrison last February and called it a day.  When I closed my laptop on the 25th of that month it made the sound of the Monty Python foot stomp, which was doubly fitting since Monty Python’s Flying Circus had hit the airwaves fifty years earlier.

Image result for monty python foot stomp

No regrets, though.  Yes, I missed out on yammering about some great and/or important albums and events from March – December 1969, but to borrow the title of a great Fleetwood Mac track from 1969 that I didn’t write about, oh well.  Is there any silver lining to skipping most of ’69?  Perhaps.  For me, that year didn’t offer as much in terms of sheer volume of albums that interest me as did the years 1965-’68 (’65 being the first year of my favorite ten-year stretch of music).  1970 might mirror ’69 for me in terms of the overall number of works that I enjoy or that I would like to explore more (or for the first time), but I feel we’re really entering a new era in rock and popular music in general in 1970. This is one of the main reasons I’m wading back into the blogosphere.  To illustrate:

Bands that shut down in 1970:  The Beatles (What!?  Why am I just now hearing about this?), the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, the Marvelettes, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (R.I.P. Neil Innes), The Nice, Simon and Garfunkel, the Turtles, the Dave Clark Five, the Box Tops, Nazz, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Vanilla Fudge, among others.  A rather 1960’s sounding list, no?

Image result for the beatles 1963

Bands that said hello in 1970:  Aerosmith, America, Ambrosia, Blackfoot, Chilliwack, Derek and the Dominos, Dixie Dregs, the Doobie Brothers, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Electric Light Orchestra, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Fotheringay, Gentle Giant, Jefferson Starship, Lindisfarne, Mudcrutch, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Pure Prairie League, Queen, Raspberries, Sugarloaf, Uriah Heep, Weather Report, and Wet Willie, among others.  That, my friends, is a 1970’s list.

Image result for earth wind and fire

Bands/individuals from the latter list I’ve seen live:  Clapton (but not Derek and the Dominos), Jeff Lynne’s ELO (but not the original ELO), Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (but not Mudcrutch), and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.  And in the spirit of honesty and full disclosure I’ll admit to one more that I’d be embarrassed about if I had attended of my own free will.  Instead, it’s just kind of funny to me looking back:  Tony Orlando.

Image result for tony orlando and dawn

Yes, in a previous life my then in-laws treated their daughter and me to what was truly a lovely few days in Branson, MO.  The trout fishing was a blast, the round of golf frustrating but still fun, and then the Orlando (sans Dawn) show, a matinee as I recall.  He played his hits during the first set, then at the beginning of the second he announced that a great friend of his was in the audience; a wonderful man and a spiritual leader for our time:  Ladies and Gentlemen, a warm welcome, please, for the Doctor, Reverend…Jerry Falwell!  My jaw dropped to the floor as the Great Man arose in front to scattered applause among the assemblage of blue hairs throughout the half empty theater.  If ever there was a situation tailor made for me to get arrested for creating a public disturbance, or at least get thrown out of a theater, this was it.  But the stunning moment got away from me too fast.  And with that, Tony Orlando launched into a second set loaded with Neil Diamond covers…

So, where to go from here?  I guess it’s just time to get back to it again.  One of the aspects of this hobby that I missed during my hiatus is learning about music I’m not as familiar with, if familiar at all.  Not that I ceased exploring over the past ten months, but my critical listening to lesser known (to me) albums dropped significantly.  This is another reason I’m back, as will be illustrated in my next post.  And with that, I offer a humble thank you for checking back in with me or for visiting for the first time.  1970, here we go.  Happy New Year!

-Stephen

 

 

 

 

 

November 27 – My Favorite Album by My Favorite Artist: All Things Must Pass Turns 50

Note: The following is a slightly edited re-post from a few months back when I was participating in a desert island album draft.

Where to start with George’s 1970 triple album opus, and how to explain concisely why this album means so much to me in a manner that doesn’t make me sound full of myself? If you’re reading this you’re probably a music fan and can, at least to some extent, relate. Despite the fact that I have no clue what it’s like to be musically gifted, internationally famous (never mind an ex-Beatle), a millionaire, etc., if there’s one artist who I think I can relate to as a person, it’s George. I wear my heart on my sleeve like he did, and if I were ever to experience any degree of fame, I’d probably react to it similarly to him. That is to say, “Hari Krishna, now please get off my lawn while I enjoy this piece of cake.” Maybe it’s because I’m a fellow Pisces, I don’t know. And if there’s one album of his which displays his full range of emotions relating to personal relationships and spiritual longing, and is presented in beautifully crafted songs with fantastic musicianship from start to finish, it’s All Things Must Pass, released 50 years ago today.

Eight Things I Learned From George Harrison

Due to the limits he faced regarding his songs making it onto Beatles albums, Harrison had been stockpiling them since roughly 1966. After starting 1968 by staying in India longer than the other Beatles, in the fall of that year George spent time with Dylan and The Band at Woodstock, which was perhaps the final nail in the Beatles’ coffin as far as George was concerned. Their influence is all over this solo debut album, which was an artistic and emotional purging for Harrison. There are songs of human love for friends, including the Dylan co-written I’d Have You Anytime, and George’s attempt at coaxing Bob out of his self-imposed exile on Behind That Locked Door. Apple Scruffs is his humorous love song to his loyal fans who waited daily outside the recording studio, and What is Life is one of a number of George’s uniquely ambiguous love songs over the course of his solo years which leaves it up to the listener to decide if it’s about human or Godly love.

Bob Dylan George Harrison - May 1 1970 - Listen Full Session - NSF - Music  Magazine

There are songs of lament over friendships on the wane. Wah-Wah was written when George walked out of the Get Back sessions. It’s a double entendre which refers to the guitar effect as well as the headache John and Paul had caused him. Run of the Mill, too, was written out of his sadness over the Beatles’ slow dissolution. Isn’t it a Pity, to me, is the most powerful track on this emotional roller coaster of an album. There are two slightly different versions on the album, and he could’ve added a third one as far as I’m concerned – a rendition for each of the three LPs.

My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison – lyriquediscorde

And there are the songs which focus on George’s spiritual journey. The smash hit, of course, was My Sweet Lord, which includes a Vedic chant for which Harrison took heat from Christian fundamentalists for supposedly trying to subliminally indoctrinate America’s youth into heathen Eastern religion. As with his organizing the Concert for Bangladesh a year later, it took nerve (and Phil Spector’s insistence) for him to put this song out as a single, but it paid off. The Art of Dying had its genesis around 1966 when Lennon’s Tomorrow Never Knows was the Tibetan Book of the Dead-influenced song to make the cut on Revolver. To the uninitiated, it can be a dark or disturbing song. It is not. As with The Art of Dying, Awaiting on You All is Harrison encouraging us to wake up to what’s real and eschew that which isn’t. And lastly, after all the madness, fame, and fortune of his Beatles experience left him emotionally and spiritually frayed, there’s George’s bare bones plea in Hear Me Lord. For such a private man, it doesn’t get any more open and sincere than this.

LP posters that should be framed | Steve Hoffman Music Forums

But wait, there’s more! The third album in this set, known as Apple Jam, includes four extended instrumentals and a 49 second Monty Pythonesque ditty with an appearance by good ol’ Mal Evans. The indulgent jams include Dave Mason, Ginger Baker, Gary Wright, Billy Preston, and Derek & the Dominos. I’ve actually read opinions by fans who are put off by inclusion of these tracks, as if they are interspersed throughout the first two records and they’re forced to listen to them. I think of it as the unbuckling of the belt after a big meal. Sometimes I listen to it, sometimes I don’t. Either way, I unapologetically like it.

Bobby Whitlock Talks Layla – American Songwriter

I could go on about other tracks, the plagiarism lawsuit, other session players, the cover, etc. Wiki’s got that covered if you’d like to read more. I would, however, like to comment briefly on Phil Spector’s production. As with Let it Be, this is the version we grew up with, and I love it just like it is. Perhaps when the deluxe 50th anniversary edition comes out, whenever that might be, it will include alternate versions and demos with toned down production. Some of it is available on bootlegs and YouTube.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. I’d Have You Anytime
  2. My Sweet Lord
  3. Wah-Wah
  4. Isn’t It a Pity (Version 1)

Side Two:

  1. What is Life
  2. If Not for You
  3. Behind That Locked Door
  4. Let It Down
  5. Run of the Mill

Side Three:

  1. Beware of Darkness
  2. Apple Scruffs
  3. Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)
  4. Awaiting on You All
  5. All Things Must Pass

Side Four:

  1. I Dig Love
  2. Art of Dying
  3. Isn’t It a Pity (Version 2)
  4. Hear Me Lord

Side Five (Apple Jam)

  1. Out of the Blue
  2. It’s Johnny’s Birthday
  3. Plug Me In

Side Six (Apple Jam)

  1. I Remember Jeep
  2. Thanks for the Pepperoni

-Stephen

November 23 – Another Classic from Cat Stevens

11/23/70: Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman

Cat Stevens released his fourth studio album on this day 50 years ago. Tea for the Tillerman was his second release that year, with Mono Bone Jakon released the previous April. The album was recorded over three months in the middle of 1970, with Father and Son and Wild World issued as singles, the latter reaching #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 while becoming an enduring classic. Wild World has also been covered by a number of artists. Just two months ago, Stevens/Yusuf released a new version of the album titled Tea for the Tillerman 2.

Yusuf/Cat Stevens Talks Revisiting 1960s Catalog for New Album - Rolling  Stone

Five of the songs on the album were featured on the 1972 soundtrack to the movie Harold and Maude (not all the songs issued on the soundtrack were in the film), the other half originating on Mona Bone Jakon. The album has garnered classic status in the world of music critics despite the typical “someone pee’d in my Cornflakes” contemporary take by Robert Christgau, who found it monotonous at the time. To me, this album represents the second in a trilogy of fantastic albums, with Teaser and the Firecat following in 1971.

Cat Stevens - Wild World - Live BBC TV Studios - 1970 - YouTube

Stevens may have had his internal struggles with the limelight, but you wouldn’t know it simply by listening to these songs. The album is the epitome of what was good about the singer/songwriter era. They are songs that transcend the years. If they were relatable in 1970, then they can touch nerves in 2020. I certainly don’t limit myself on when I listen to Tea for the Tillerman, but I think of it as Sunday morning music. And if it’s raining, all the better.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Where Do the Children Play?
  2. Hard Headed Woman
  3. Wild World
  4. Sad Lisa
  5. Miles from Nowhere

Side Two:

  1. But I Might Die Tonight
  2. Longer Boats
  3. Into White
  4. On the Road to Find Out
  5. Father and Son
  6. Tea for the Tillerman

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_for_the_Tillerman

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_for_the_Tillerman_2

November 20 – The Debut of Emerson, Lake & Palmer

11/20/70: ELP – Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Flailing, booming, bozos, clunky, heavy-handed, savage, imposingly gothic edge, 5/5 stars, A grade, C grade, lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful, impressive musicianship, deliberately archaic, daunting talents…

By its nature, rock music is subject to impassioned stances taken by fans and critics, and perhaps no sub-genre elicits stronger opinions than prog. One of the most successful prog bands, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released their eponymous debut 50 years ago today, and the responses from critics as seen above illustrate the wide variation of views on the genre as a whole, not just this record.

The Song Remains the Same: Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, and Carl Palmer entered the studio in July 1970 having yet to play on stage together. Sessions lasted three months, and the competed album contained six tracks over 41 minutes, including three instrumentals and arrangements of classical works by the likes of Bartók, Janácek, and J.S. Bach. It reached number four on the U.K. album chart, and 18 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. The single Lucky Man/Knife-Edge climbed to 48 in the U.S., and as such are the best known songs on the album.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Music) - TV Tropes

But tracks like the keyboard-drenched Barbarian (a rather audacious opener for a debut record), Greg Lake’s jazz-inflected Take a Pebble, and Tank, which features Emerson on clavinet and Moog, also make this an enjoyable album. Some of the keyboard adventures of late Emerson, himself classically trained, get to be a bit much for me – specifically the pipe organ (same goes for Neil Young) – but it doesn’t dissuade me from listening ELP one bit.

Keith Emerson, '70s Rock Showman With a Taste for Spectacle, Dies at 71 -  The New York Times

I see myself as a music fan, period, and don’t subscribe to all-encompassing maxims about any musical classification. Sometimes I want to hear “bloated” prog bands, other times The Clash or Hüsker Dü hit the spot. I’d rather not limit myself. I couldn’t if I tried, actually.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. The Barbarian
  2. Take a Pebble
  3. Knife-Edge

Side Two:

  1. The Three Fates: a) Clotho b) Lachesis c) Atropos
  2. Tank
  3. Lucky Man

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/emerson-lake-palmer-mw0000650116

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emerson,Lake%26_Palmer_(album)

November 19 – Desert Island Album Draft, Final Round (Box Sets): Superstars of the 70’s

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There were ten initial rounds, and this is my final selection of four bonus rounds which have covered soundtracks, compilations, music-related movies, and now box sets, with draft order determined randomly by round.

popsike.com - Superstars of the 70's 4 LP set, Warner SP-4000, 1973, 41  Various Artists - auction details

With my final desert island draft pick I’m sharing this rabbit trail off my personal memory lane as a nod to my oft-mentioned older brothers who got me started on my journey in music when I was still in diapers. Thanks brudduhs.

The four LP Superstars of the 70’s box set, released by Warner Bros. in 1973, represents an odd case in my music listening life. My older brothers owned it, but I have little memory of them playing it. I can see it in my mind’s eye resting flat on the musty indoor/outdoor carpet in our somewhat finished basement underneath their stereo stand. I’d pull it out from time to time out of curiosity but was probably nine or ten years old before I started to recognize many of the names (other than Roberta Flack, whose albums my mom played upstairs on her Motorola console, and Judy Collins because I’d seen her on Sesame Street).

As much as I learned about music from my brothers, they weren’t really into most of the artists included in this set until they were older, at least not enough to spend after school part-time job paychecks on individual albums by the likes of Black Sabbath or Emerson, Lake & Palmer. One of them recently told me, looking back, that they kind of cherry picked the songs they liked, but otherwise they tended to think of it as one of those “As Seen on TV” types of releases. And it may have been just that.

When my interest in music from the era other than the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, and Elton was beginning to take off in the mid-1980s, I copied most of the songs from Superstars of the 70’s onto cassette. To my surprise, there were some snaps, crackles, pops, and even a skip or two. Evidently it had been spun a few times over the years after all! Yet while giving it a listen when trying to decide which songs to tape, I still wasn’t familiar with some of them, such as the Byrds’ version of Cowgirl in the Sand (which was actually a new track from their ill-fated reunion album that came out about the same time as this release) and the post-Morrison Doors’ Tightrope Ride.

By no means is this the box set that I’ve listened to the most over the years. Retrospectives by Clapton, Dylan, Bruce, and others top that list. But as it turned out, the songs in this collection – which has now probably spent way too many North Texas summers in my brother’s attic to be playable – formed a cornerstone or two of the foundation of my music tastes going forward.

Tracklist:

A1 – Alice Cooper – School’s Out
A2 – Seals & Crofts – Summer Breeze
A3 – Beach Boys – Surf’s Up
A4 – Randy Newman – Sail Away
A5 – Judy Collins – Both Sides Now
A6 – The Doors – Tightrope Ride
B1 – The Bee Gees – Lonely Days
B2 – James Taylor – Fire & Rain
B3 – The Grateful Dead – Truckin’
B4 – Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – Where Is The Love
B5 – Stephen Stills – Love The One You’re With
B6 – Yes – Roundabout
C1 – The Doors – Light My Fire
C2 – Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit
C3 – CSN – Marrakesh Express
C4 – Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze
C5 – The Bee Gees – To Love Somebody
C6 – The Kinks – Lola
D1 – Carly Simon – Anticipation
D2 – The Guess Who – American Woman
D3 – Todd Rundgren – We Gotta Get You A Woman
D4 – America – Ventura Highway
D5 – Jo Jo Gunne – Run, Run, Run
D6 – Rolling Stones – Tumbling Dice
E1 – Otis Redding – (Sitting On) The Dock Of The Bay
E2 – Deep Purple – Hush
E3 – Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind
E4 – Roberta Flack – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
E5 – Jimi Hendrix – Foxy Lady
E6 – Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
F1 – Eagles – Take It Easy
F2 – America – A Horse With No Name
F3 – The Byrds – Cowgirl In The Sand
F4 – Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi
F5 – The Guess Who – These Eyes
F6 – Van Morrison – Domino
F7 – Judy Collins – Amazing Grace
G1 – Doobie Brothers – Listen To The Music
G2 – Joni Mitchell – Woodstock
G3 – Wilson Pickett – In The Midnight Hour
G4 – Arlo Guthrie – City Of New Orleans
G5 – Jackson Browne – Doctor My Eyes
G6 – Black Sabbath – Paranoid
H1 – Allman Brothers Band – One Way Out
H2 – Aretha Franklin – (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
H3 – Faces – Stay With Me
H4 – Graham Nash – Chicago
H5 – Rolling Stones – Happy
H6 – Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Lucky Man

-Stephen

https://www.discogs.com/Various-Superstars-Of-The-70s/release/512289

November 16 – Stephen Stills’ Solo Debut

11/16/70: Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills

November 1970 was quite a significant month in the world of album releases, and today the train rolls on with the second of four major solo releases from the members of CSNY after Déjà Vu’s release the previous March. Stephen Stills relocated to England to put some distance between himself and the drama emanating from the group, moving into Ringo’s old residence in Surrey. While there, he established musical connections and wrote a bunch of songs which he recorded primarily in London in the first half of 1970 between CSNY tours. His somewhat eclectic and fantastic Stephen Stills was released on this day 50 years ago.

Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills - Amazon.com Music

Though he crossed the Atlantic to get away from it all, and while this is 100% solo Stills in terms of songwriting, by the time the album was finished he’d enlisted the help of a number of A-Listers including the names Hendrix, Clapton, Starr, Crosby, Nash, Sebastian, Mama Cass, Booker T., Rita Coolidge, and others. The songs on the LP are personal in nature and hint at his relationships in CSNY as well as his unsteady romantic involvement with Coolidge, the latter symbolized by the giraffe on the album cover photo taken by Henry Diltz (Stills and Coolidge either bought the stuffed animal together or she bought it for him). By the time of its release, she had left Stills for Nash, putting a temporary nail in CSNY’s coffin. And what of that odd cover? AllMusic refers to it as an understatement, that judging by the cover one might think the album is full of gentle, introspective singer/songwriter material, only to hear a “seamless” blend of folk, blues, hard rock, and gospel.

Contemporary reviews ranged from tepid with its “undefined” or “elusive” qualities, to fantastic, such as AllMusic’s retrospective description as a “jaw-dropping experience, the musical equal to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu.” I tend to hear it as a little of both, though not elusive in a negative way. Stephen Stills starts out with a bang. The theme of his anthem to free love might be dated, but the song is a classic in which he uses the chorus to full effect. By the end of side one we’ve heard signature guitar licks from Jimi Hendrix (who would pass before the album’s release, and who it’s dedicated to) on the funky Old Times Good Times, and Eric Clapton on Go Back Home. My other favorites include the quieter Do for the Others, the spirited Sit Yourself Down, and the CSNY concert staple, Black Queen.

Love the One You're With - Wikipedia

Looking at it through the lens of 2020, perhaps the only thing the album suffers from is the fact that there were other great albums released in 1970, namely Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, which came out just a couple weeks later. (And to tie them together, it’s interesting that Stills borrowed the phrase “love the one you’re with” from Billy Preston, who also tutored Harrison in the ways of gospel music George used on My Sweet Lord. Was there ever a time of more cross-pollination in music than around 1970?) Stephen Stills reached number three on the U.S. Billboard album chart, and eight in the U.K., and was fueled by singles Love the One You’re With b/w To A Flame and Sit Yourself Down b/w We Are Not Helpless. This is Stills at or near the peak of his powers, and it gets better for me with each listen.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Love the One You’re With
  2. Do for the Others
  3. Church (Part of Someone)
  4. Old Times Good Times
  5. Go Back Home

Side Two:

  1. Sit Yourself Down
  2. To a Flame
  3. Black Queen
  4. Cherokee
  5. We Are Not Helpless

-Stephen

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/stephen-stills-debut-album/

https://www.allmusic.com/album/stephen-stills-mw0000197145#:~:text=Stephen%20Stills%20is%20top%2Dheavy,Stills%20%26%20Nash%20or%20D%C3%A9j%C3%A0%20Vu%2C

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Stills_(album)

November 15 – The Velvet Underground’s Swan Song, Sort Of

11/15/70: The Velvet Underground – Loaded

The shifting of rock’s tectonic plates in 1970 continued this day 50 years ago with the fourth studio release by the Velvet Underground, Loaded. In a year that gave us legendary swan songs by Simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles despite their respective disintegrating songwriting partnerships, the finale from the second phase of VU shows us once again that great music can be created despite discord. While technically not the final VU album, it was the last one to include Lou Reed, who left the group prior to the album’s release. John Cale had departed after White Light/White Heat.

Loaded': The Velvet Underground in 5.1 surround, win a free box set from  Rhino | Dangerous Minds

Loaded is an outstanding album arising from multiple streams of conflict within the band, from Doug Yule’s increasing role to bad feelings between Sterling Morrison and Reed over Cale’s departure. Additionally, drummer Moe Tucker was on maternity leave, her duties assumed by three session players including Yule’s brother Billy. Finally, Atlantic wanted an album loaded with hits, hence the double entendre in the title. Despite Reed’s pop leanings, he was not pleased with edits made in the name of shorter, radio-friendly songs. These factors led some purists to think of Loaded as something other than a “real” VU album. The group would finally dissolve after their next release in 1973. There was also plenty of controversy after Loaded’s release. Among other song edits not authorized by Reed (this is disputed by Yule) was the “heavenly wine and roses” bridge on Sweet Jane, which I didn’t even know about until I heard Cowboy Junkies’ version in 1990. It was restored on later releases. Also, it took legal proceedings for songwriting credits to be restored to Reed after the initial release credited the entire band.

Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition - Rolling Stone

I’ve always liked the Velvets, but don’t consider myself a hardcore fan, whatever that may look like. This includes some of the heavier, avant-garde contributions of John Cale. I came to Loaded well after becoming familiar with the previous three albums, and as a result it’s not an album that usually comes to mind as being among my favorites from 1970. But it never fails that when I listen to it I have an “Oh yeah, that is one of the best” epiphany. I love a well-crafted pop song like anyone else, and there’s no shortage of them with its singles including Who Loves the Sun, Sweet Jane, Rock & Roll, and Head Held High. The B-side Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ is also one of my favorites. Simply put, it’s a very accessible album, which is not something I normally associate with this band. Yet despite the radio promotion the album didn’t chart. As is often the case, retrospective reviews have been quite kind, as they should be.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Who Loves the Sun
  2. Sweet Jane
  3. Rock & Roll
  4. Cool It Down
  5. New Age

Side Two:

  1. Head Held High
  2. Lonesome Cowboy Bill
  3. I Found a Reason
  4. Train Round the Bend
  5. Oh! Sweet Nuthin’

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/loaded-mw0000196213

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loaded_(The_Velvet_Underground_album)

November 15 – Van Morrison’s Less Great Album?

11/15/70: Van Morrison – His Band and the Street Choir

Van Morrison’s fourth studio album, His Band and the Street Choir, was released half a century ago today. It was recorded over two sessions in New York’s A & R Studios in the first half of 1970, and released less than a year after Moondance. By the time the album reached stores, it had been renamed from Virgo’s Fool without Morrison’s consent. Despite the overall long term success of Street Choir, which peaked at 32 on the Billboard chart and 18 on the U.K. album chart, Morrison has expressed displeasure with seemingly everything to do with the album. He originally intended to record it a cappella – hence the “Street Choir,” but ultimately abandoned the idea when he became dissatisfied with the result.

His Band and the Street Choir - Wikipedia

Critics noted the songwriting is a bit simpler than on the previous two albums, and that the tracks are more R&B inspired with only hints of folk. But simpler isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as there is an element of joy in these songs with minimal overdubbing which were inspired by the likes of James Brown. Singles from the album included the gospel-inflected Call Me Up in Dreamland, plus Blue Money and Domino, the latter being the most successful single of Morrison’s career. Some of the songs on Street Choir were originally intended for the Astral Weeks and Moondance albums, which Morrison rearranged for the personnel on this release. These include I’ve Been Working and Domino, his tribute to Fats Domino. Other lyrics were inspired by his marriage, such as in I’ll Be Your Lover, Too, Call Me Up in Dreamland, and Sweet Jannie.

Vinyl Album - Van Morrison - His Band And The Street Choir - Warner Bros. -  USA

By almost anyone’s standard, His Band and the Street Choir could be a career-making album. This is a good album with a couple of strong singles. Highlights for me include the soulful Crazy Face, I’ve Been Working, the whimsical Blue Money, and album closer Street Choir. I prefer the live version of Domino on 1974’s Too Late to Stop Now to the studio original. Perhaps I’ve heard it too many times. But in the context of the creative streak Van Morrison was on at the time, this album just isn’t as interesting to me overall as those preceding and following it. I’m more of an Astral Weeks/St. Dominic’s Preview/Veedon Fleece kind of guy, though I’m certainly not turning my nose up at Street Choir. As Stephen Thomas Erlewine noted in his 2015 review in Pitchfork, the album is “all about the rough and tumble joy of living,” and Van the Man did it well enough for this to be considered a classic.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Domino
  2. Crazy Face
  3. Give Me a Kiss
  4. I’ve Been Working
  5. Call Me Up in Dreamland
  6. I’ll Be Your Lover, Too

Side Two:

  1. Blue Money
  2. Virgo Clowns
  3. Gypsy Queen
  4. Sweet Jannie
  5. If I Ever Needed Someone
  6. Street Choir

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/his-band-and-the-street-choir-mw0000191086

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/21092-astral-weeks-his-band-and-the-street-choir/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/His_Band_and_the_Street_Choir

November 1970 – Paul Kantner & the Evolution of the Airplane

November 1970: Paul Kantner & Jefferson Starship – Blows Against the Empire

Where do we go from here? Chaos or community? -from Hijack, side 2 track 2

Fifty years ago this month saw one of the more unique releases of the era, Paul Kantner’s concept album Blows Against the Empire. Technically, it’s credited as Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship, though it shouldn’t be confused with the band of that name which didn’t officially form until four years later. It’s also not the Jefferson Airplane, who were still together but experiencing inevitable internal strife on the downward slope of their run. Grace Slick does add vocals and piano throughout, and Jack Casady plays bass on two tracks.

Paul Kantner - Wikipedia

Blows Against the Empire is counterculture science fiction set in a future where the hippie generation is able to unite, steal a starship, and create their Utopia in another solar system. It’s in the anti-military, anti-government (even California’s then-governor Reagan is called out), anti-conventional society, “back to the land” spirit, only the land is on a distant planet where babies grow on trees. Another element of the story is the allegory of relationships and childbirth, which symbolize Kantner’s romantic relationship at the time with Grace Slick, who would give birth to their daughter China the following year. The album was nominated for a Hugo, a literary award for best science fiction or fantasy work in the category of Best Dramatic Presentation.

I'd Love to Turn You On #124 – Paul Kantner – Blows Against The Empire |  Twist and Shout

The album was recorded in San Francisco during the summer and fall of ’70 utilizing a number of Bay Area musicians including members of the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and the Jefferson Airplane. David Crosby and Graham Nash also participated, and many of these musicians assisted Crosby with his solo debut which he recorded at the same time and location. This “shifting supergroup” was informally known as PERRO, or The Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra.

Grace Slick With Paul Kantner: The Rolling Stone Interview - Rolling Stone

From a musical standpoint, the tracks are built around Slick’s piano with plenty of vocal harmonizing between Kantner and her. In that regard it’s not far from sounding like the Airplane. An exception is The Baby Tree, featuring only Kantner’s vocal and Jerry Garcia’s banjo. My favorite songs here are heavy on piano and acoustic guitar with just the right touches of electric guitar, such as A Child is Coming (feat. David Crosby), Have You Seen the Stars Tonight? (feat. Crosby & Garcia), and Starship (feat. Jerry Garcia). That said, there’s plenty to keep me interested throughout.

Planet Earth Rock And Roll Orchestra | Psychedelicized

Thematically, the album contains many counterculture clichés in a tidy 33 1/3 rpm album. To the cynical among us, maybe even to the point of being a parody of itself. But by the end of 1970 the dream was fading, and disillusionment was creeping into a lot of the music. This album almost sounds like one last grasp at an alternative way of being, and in a way it’s unsettlingly relevant 50 years later. Even in an era of relative artistic freedom and experimentation, Blows Against the Empire stands out as a spacy oddity. Not Trout Mask Replica odd, but out there nonetheless. And I like it.

Wave goodbye to Amerika, say hello to the garden. -from Let’s Go Together

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Mau Mau (Amerikon)
  2. The Baby Tree
  3. Let’s Go Together
  4. A Child is Coming

Side Two:

  1. Sunrise
  2. Hijack
  3. Home
  4. Have You Seen the Stars Tonight?
  5. XM
  6. Starship

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/blows-against-the-empire-mw0000024441

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blows_Against_the_Empire

November 9 – Desert Island Album Draft, Round 13 (Music-Related Movies): Jazz on a Summer’s Day

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There were ten initial rounds, and now we’re into the third of three four bonus rounds which will cover soundtracks, compilations, music-related movies, and box sets, with draft order determined randomly by round.

Jazz on a Summer's Day.jpg

I first watched Jazz on a Summer’s Day, which I rented on VHS at a local independent shop after picking up the box by chance, some time in the mid-1990’s when I was into my jazz journey. The film documents the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, beautifully blended with footage of the America’s Cup yacht races taking place simultaneously in the bay. There is no narration other than the stage emcee, Willis Conover, and occasionally the yacht race announcer. The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1999 for its cultural, historic, and aesthetic significance.

Jazz on a Summer's Day - Kino Lorber Repertory

I was immediately captivated not just by the music, but by Bert Stern’s color cinematography that captured the carefree sights and sounds, from the music to the setting around the festival grounds to the party atmosphere in town and on the beach, as well as the yacht races. This is where I discovered Anita O’Day, who immediately became one of my favorite jazz singers. It’s also where I first saw performances by the likes of Thelonious Monk, George Shearing, Gerry Mulligan, Eric Dolphy, and others. The footage of a young Chuck Berry is priceless. It’s also how I learned that gospel music fit in with the jazz scene of the time, with Mahalia Jackson closing out the festival in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Remembering Chuck Berry's Scandalous Stand at the 1958 Newport Jazz  Festival - Flipboard

The film begins with the music of the Jimmy Giuffre 3 playing a rippling sound that perfectly matches the closeup of the water in the harbor before shifting to the stage itself, and immediately I’m drawn in. As with Murray Lerner’s Festival documentary of the Newport Folk Festival, we see afternoon and evening sessions, each with distinctive vibes. When the sun is out, the crowds are very laid back and casually dressed, wearing Wayfarer and cat eye sunglasses, smoking cigarettes and munching on hotdogs and homemade sandwiches or enjoying a book. At night, it’s much more of a party atmosphere. But day or night, the attendees are hip. Also, the audiences are racially integrated, not insignificant for 1958.

Beating the heat with some cool jazz — The incredible montage

In addition to the big names on stage, there are scenes of other jazz ensembles jamming off-site while day partiers with crates of beer sit in open windows and dance on the roofs of the massive Newport homes nearby in the cooler climes of the northeast U.S. summer. When the scene shifts to the evening session the crowd looks to be in a euphoric state and without a care in the world. It just looks like they’re having so much damn fun, swingin’ to the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, Big Maybelle, and Louis Armstrong before Mahalia Jackson takes it home. Everyone is smiling.

Streaming now: 'Jazz on a Summer's Day' | Film | taosnews.com

Jazz on a Summer’s Day is a wonderful snapshot of late 1950’s Americana, and captures what appears to me to be an idyllic moment in time. In my younger naiveté I assumed that all pre-1967 America was rather repressed. Then I learned about the Roaring 20’s, read Kerouac, and watched this film, where the hipsters in its scenes appear just as free as their younger counterculture siblings did nine and eleven years later at Monterey and Woodstock.

Lineup:

  • Jimmy Giuffre 3: Jimmy Giuffre, Bob Brookmeyer, Jim Hall
  • Thelonious Monk Trio: Thelonious Monk, Henry Grimes, Roy Haynes
  • Sonny Stitt & Sal Salvador
  • Anita O’Day
  • George Shearing
  • Dinah Washington
  • Gerry Mulligan Quartet with Art Farmer
  • Big Maybelle
  • Chuck Berry
  • Chico Hamilton Quintet with Eric Dolphy
  • Louis Armstrong and his All-Stars: Trummy Young, Danny Barcelona, and Jack Teagarden
  • Mahalia Jackson

-Stephen

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052942/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz_on_a_Summer%27s_Day

November 9 – Badfinger’s Third

11/9/70: Badfinger – No Dice

Power pop progenitors Badfinger released their third album, No Dice, on this day in 1970. It was their second under the Badfinger moniker, their first album being under their original name The Iveys. It was also their first album to include guitarist Joey Molland.

Badfinger - No Dice - Amazon.com Music

No Dice is the work of a band with enormous promise, and shows them on the verge of a breakthrough if in fact this wasn’t good enough to be the one to put them over the top. The album featured one single, the standout No Matter What, and another track that would become one of the biggest hits of all time when covered by Harry Nilsson, Without You. The group was really beginning to establish itself as a musical force with great songwriting and lead and harmony vocals spread amongst the quartet. As with their patrons from Liverpool, they also showed versatility in music styles, from crunchy rockers like the opener, I Can’t Take It, to ballads such as Without You, and catchy singalongs including Blodwyn.

Badfinger - No Dice Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

The story of Badfinger is a sad and cautionary tale, but for a period of three or four years they created some great music which stands on its own merit. With their follow up to No Dice a year later they would punch their ticket to rock immortality.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. I Can’t Take It
  2. I Don’t Mind
  3. Love Me Do
  4. Midnight Caller
  5. No Matter What
  6. Without You

Side Two:

  1. Blodwyn
  2. Better Days
  3. It Had to Be
  4. Watford John
  5. Believe Me
  6. We’re for the Dark

-Stephen

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/badfinger-no-dice/

https://www.allmusic.com/album/no-dice-mw0000270661

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Dice