January 22 – Lady Soul, Spirit, Dr. John

January 22, 1968 gave us a three course meal with very distinct flavors:  soul, jazz-rock, and a batch of psychedelic New Orleans gumbo.

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul

The beauty amidst the world’s chaos continued on this day with the release of Aretha Franklin’s classic, Lady Soul, one of three great albums to come out on this date.  This one may be the most beloved of the three, and one of the most enduring of 1968 to this day.  Clocking in at 28:41, it’s very short but very sweet.  There’s not a weak song in the bunch, which includes a couple of her biggest hits. This music just leaves you feeling good.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Chain of Fools
  2. Money Won’t Change You
  3. People Get Ready
  4. Niki Hoeky
  5. (You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman

Side Two:

  1. (Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone
  2. Good to Me As I Am to You
  3. Come Back Baby
  4. Groovin’
  5. Ain’t No Way

 

Spirit – Spirit

January 22 also saw the release of the self-titled debut from the band Spirit.  While their most famous song would come along later in 1968, they immediately carved their own niche into the rock music world with elements of progressive rock as well as jazz incorporated into their songs on this album, due in large part to drummer Ed Cassidy.  Cassidy himself was a bit of an oddity in rock at the time with his “Mr. Clean” shaved head, but more so because he was a couple of decades older than anyone else in the band and had played with such jazz luminaries as Cannonball Adderley and Thelonious Monk.  He was also the stepfather of founding member Randy California, who had briefly played with Jimi Hendrix prior to the latter’s rise to fame.  Another founding member was vocalist Jay Ferguson, who later found brief acclaim in the 1970’s pop world with the song Thunder Island.

I didn’t know much about this band when I picked up a copy of Mojo Magazine 15 or so years ago with a Roots of Led Zeppelin sampler CD attached, and Spirit’s Fresh Garbage was one of the songs.  I came to discover that Zeppelin had in fact opened shows for Spirit early on and were known to hang out side stage and listen to Spirit’s sets after their own.  In recent years one song from this first album, Taurus, made the news when Mark Andes, the only other living original member of the band besides Ferguson, sued Jimmy Page for copyright infringement on behalf of Randy California due to the similarity between a portion of Taurus and Stairway to Heaven (recorded two years later), but lost.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Fresh Garbage
  2. Uncle Jack
  3. Mechanical World
  4. Taurus
  5. Girl in Your Eye
  6. Straight Arrow

Side Two:

  1. Topanga Windows
  2. Gramophone Man
  3. Water Woman
  4. The Great Canyon Fire in General
  5. Elijah

Does the riff at about :43 in the following song sound familiar?

 

Dr. John – Gris-Gris

Somehow I only discovered this album in recent days (at one time I owned his 1994 album, Television), and I’m actually a little embarrassed to type that because it’s so good.  Swampy, funky, definitely not mainstream, this is the debut album of Dr. John (Mac Rebennack), and it’s also the first example of a nice side benefit of this little hobby of mine:  the opportunity to discover albums I’d never heard of, and to give others that I’d not paid much attention to a more critical listen.  If you’re so inclined, grab a sixer of Abita and dial-up this album late some warm, rainy night and enjoy.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya
  2. Danse Kalinda Ba Doom
  3. Mama Roux
  4. Danse Fambeaux

Side Two

  1. Croker Courtbullion
  2. Jump Sturdy
  3. I Walk on Guilded Splinters

Another reason to like Dr. John:  He was the inspiration for the Muppet character Dr. Teeth.

Dr_Teeth_pink.jpg

 

-Stephen

 

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