August 7 – The Moody Blues Roll On

8/7/70: Moody Blues – A Question of Balance

Jumping back across the pond after celebrating Canned Heat a few days ago, today’s feature is the sixth album released by The Moody Blues, A Question of Balance, which was unveiled 50 years ago today.

How Moody Blues Found New Urgency With 'A Question of Balance'

Recorded between January and June of 1970, this release represents a concerted effort to strip down the production present on their previous works for the purpose of being able to perform its songs more effectively live on stage. This is a bit of a misnomer in the greater context of rock music at the time; it’s really only stripped down compared to their own work. A Question of Balance is still quite lush with the Moody’s trademark elements of Mellotron and layered vocals. There wasn’t any question of balance when it came to everyone in this band having their moments to shine, which is one of the really cool features of the Moodys. There’s no drop off in quality when the vocals shift from one member to another, or when the featured instrument switches from guitar to Mellotron or Moog to flute.

The Moody Blues

Its well known opening track, Question, was recorded months earlier. Coincidentally or not, if any song sounds a bit out of place on this release, stylistsically speaking, it’s this one. Its Vietnam-era themed lyrics, however, were right on time. Album title implications aside, it might’ve fit better as the side two opener or as the album’s closer. Yet Justin Hayward has said that the album flowed from that signature opener, so what do I know? As a single, it reached No. 2 in the U.K. and 21 in the U.S. The album received middling grades by some reviewers, but I listen to it within the context of their seven album stretch beginning with 1967’s Days of Future Passed and ending with Seventh Sojourn in 1972. If that string of releases were one song, A Question of Balance is part of its solid bridge in the middle. I can’t think of another band I think of in that frame of reference.

moody-blues-uk-group-in-1970-A6707T.jpg

My favorite tracks on this release include Mike Pinder’s How Is It (We Are Here), which has a subtle-yet-distorted guitar in the midst of its Mellotron-drenched middle. Ray Thomas’s And the Tide Rushes In features beautiful finger picked guitar work. It’s Up to You is perhaps the most straight-forward rock song on the album, and in a way is a nice changeup in the middle of the album. Dawning is the Day highlights Thomas’s flute among acoustic guitars and Justin Hayward’s tasty mandolin, and the closer, The Balance, has Mike Pinder’s spoken-word harkening back to Days of Future Passed. As with The Moody Blues’ other albums from this era, I enjoy A Question of Balance most of all as whole work. Any nitpicks aside, this album is, as John Mendelsohn referred to it in his Rolling Stone review, unexaggerably beautiful.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Question
  2. How Is It (We Are Here)
  3. And the Tide Rushes In
  4. Don’t You Feel Small
  5. Tortoise and the Hare

Side Two:

  1. It’s Up to You
  2. Minstrel’s Song
  3. Dawning is the Day
  4. Melancholy Man
  5. The Balance

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/a-question-of-balance-mw0000046519

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/moody-blues-question-of-balance/

http://web.archive.org/web/20080606000834/http://www.rollingstone.com/artists/themoodyblues/albums/album/184173/review/6068352/a_question_of_balance

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

Desert Island Album Draft, Round 4: Blue

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There will be ten rounds, with draft order determined randomly by round. With the first pick in round four, I’ve selected the first Joni Mitchell album I ever owned.

Anatomy of a Perfect Album: On Joni Mitchell's Blue | Literary Hub

Judge: “Mr. blogger known as Introgroove, you are accused of musical acculturation in the first degree. How do you plead?” Me: “Guilty as charged.” We’re now into the fourth round, and I realize I could fill my top 50 – never mind 10 – desert island collection with albums from 1965-75 alone. I do have one “modern” album from the 90’s in mind for later, yet even it’s over a quarter century old. It seems strange when I think of it, but I guess I’m just an older soul. Always have been. My choice to kick off this round, for example, was released when I was not quite four months old: Joni Mitchell’s Blue.

Picture of Joni Mitchell

Other than the handful of Joni’s singles I’d heard on the radio growing up – specifically Big Yellow Taxi, Raised on Robbery, Help Me, and Free Man in Paris – I didn’t know anything about her albums other than that they were held in high esteem by the omniscient scribes at Rolling Stone and MOJO. So at the age of 21 I decided to investigate for myself. I was at Streetside Records one day and ran into an older acquaintance I knew to be knowledgeable about such matters, so I asked him where I should start with Joni Mitchell. Without hesitation he said Blue. I took it home, popped it into the changer, and never looked back. At the time I was in an obsessive Dylan and Neil Young self-education mode, and her music fit my schooling perfectly. These days, I don’t try to categorize her. Especially not after gaining an appreciation for her later Hejira album.

Joni Mitchell's Alternative Tunings

But Blue? Almost everything I love about music from that era is encapsulated on this album: great songwriting, bare bones honest lyrics, a beautiful and unique voice, and unparalleled musicianship. Bob and probably even Neil couldn’t touch her alternate tunings (if I were still categorizing her). But it’s more than that. While the songs are mostly about Mitchell’s relationships past and then-present, some with famous musicians, others not well known, the recordings capture the mood of 1971. That is, it was a come down. Joni didn’t allot many words to political commentary, but in California she summed it up concisely: Reading the news and it sure looks bad, They won’t give peace a chance, That was just a dream some of us had… There’s a melancholy and resignation in those words and in her voice that can be found throughout the landscape of artists at the turn of the 1970’s. It wasn’t always bleak, but the 60’s hangover was hard to avoid, as in the title track: Acid, booze, and ass, Needles, guns, and grass, Lots of laughs…

Joni Mitchell makes appearance at Brandi Carlile tribute - Los Angeles Times
A rare Joni sighting – At Brandi Carlile’s tribute performance of the Blue album in L.A. last October

As we trudge through a summer of uncertainty and discontent, Blue maintains a contemporary feel. For me there’s something visceral about Joni’s music. As much as or more than other artists whom I admire but was born too late to listen to while they were in their prime, I feel like I was there when I listen to her. It’s 1971, except I’m 23 years old. I’m lounging at some dingy outdoor cafe with a buddy who’s just returned from Vietnam, unsure of what to do with his life. Return to school? Morocco sounds better. Or maybe the roles are reversed. Then again, maybe it’s just 2020 and we’re waist-deep in our own troubled times, but thinking about it in 50 year old terms makes it seem more palatable. Either way, Mitchell’s music is deep but accessible. This and her other early albums earned Joni the well-intended accolade from various critics, “Best Female Songwriter/Musician,” which rankled her and rightly so. She’s one of the best, most innovative songwriters, singers, and musicians ever, male or female, period.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. All I Want
  2. My Old Man
  3. Little Green
  4. Carey
  5. Blue

Side Two:

  1. California
  2. This Flight Tonight
  3. River
  4. A Case of You
  5. The Last Time I Saw Richard

-Stephen

August 3 – The End of an Era for Canned Heat

8/3/70: Canned Heat – Future Blues

For two or three years around the turn of the 1970’s, a handful of artists stepped away from the trend of heavy, self-important music to record albums that get the listener up off the couch and into boogie mode. A couple days ago we turned the spotlight on Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen, which I described as loose and sounding like a party taking place on stage. That album had counterparts in the blues rock idiom at the time such as Delaney & Bonnie: On Tour with Eric Clapton and Canned Heat’s Future Blues, the latter released 50 years ago today.

6 - Canned Heat - Future Blues - D - 1970--- | Klaus Hiltscher | Flickr

Future Blues was the band’s fifth album, and the last to feature most of the classic lineup. Larry Taylor and Harvey Mandel left the group after its recording and just before its release. Co-founder Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson passed away a month after its release, an unfortunate founding member of the 27 Club.

Alan Wilson of Canned Heat - Rockers Who Died at Age 27

This is widely considered to be one of their best albums. Future Blues was to critic Robert Christgau what Life Cereal was to Mikey… The band eschewed the extended jams they were also known for, sticking with more concise tracks mostly under three minutes long. The whole thing clocks in under 36 minutes as originally released. Future Blues is also noted for its stylistic diversity, from 1940’s jump blues on Skat (with horns arranged by Dr. John), to the darker London Blues (featuring Dr. John on piano) and heavy guitar of its most well known track, Let’s Work Together. This is not to say it’s a dark album, not by a long shot.

Canned Heat - Titel & Alben : Napster

Favorite tracks of mine include the straight forward blues of Sugar Bee and So Sad, both sung by Bob Hite, Charlie Patton’s Shake It and Break It sung by the Blind Owl, Arthur Crudup’s That’s All Right, Mama with Hite’s gravely vocal, as well as Wilson’s rolling but eerily prophetic My Time Ain’t Long and John Lee Hooker-influenced London Blues. When I think of American bands from that time, the “Woodstock Era,” Canned heat is one of the first to come to mind. Their combination of blues n’ boogie was unmatched to my ears. The vocal styles of Bob Hite and Alan Wilson couldn’t have been much more different, yet it was unquestionably Canned Heat regardless of who sang or how long the track was.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Sugar Bee
  2. Shake it and Break it
  3. That’s All Right (Mama)
  4. My Time Ain’t Long
  5. Skat
  6. Let’s Work Together

Side Two:

  1. London Blues
  2. So Sad (The World’s in a Tangle)
  3. Future Blues

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/release/future-blues-mr0000098435

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_Blues_(Canned_Heat_album)

August 1970 – Mad Dogs on the Loose

August 1970: Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs & Englishmen

One of the many unique elements of the late 60’s/early 70’s music scene was emergence of artists who established their solo careers as interpreters of others’ songs. Even more interestingly to me, many of these weren’t fresh takes on 20-30 year old tunes, but contemporary ones. Richie Havens and Rod Stewart come to mind, as does Joe Cocker. The latter released his loose and rollicking live album Mad Dogs & Englishmen from his tour of the same name 50 years ago this month.

File:Joe cocker 1970.JPG - Wikimedia Commons

The tour and album were put together on short notice to meet a contractual obligation, with Cocker assembling his band very quickly and Leon Russell serving as musical director along with his duties on guitar, piano, and vocals. The band was another mix ‘n’ match grouping of usual suspects who appeared in those days on different projects with musicians such as Delaney & Bonnie, George Harrison, and Eric Clapton.  Besides Russell they included Don Preston (guitar), Chris Stainton (keyboards), Carl Radle (bass), Jims Gordon & Keltner (drums), Jim Horn, Bobby Keys, and Jim Price (brass), Rita Coolidge (of course) and a large cast of others on backing vocals.

Sam Recommends: “The Letter” by Joe Cocker//Leon Russell | by Samantha  Lamph | Memoir Mixtapes | Medium

Mad Dogs & Englishmen captures the seat of the pants live music scene of 1970 perfectly. It sounds like a party taking place on stage. It also highlights how crucial Leon Russell’s contributions were in those years. The album is comprised of covers of well known contemporary rock and soul tracks, along with some written by Russell. Favorites of mine from the original release include The Letter, which was recorded during tour rehearsals and released as a single before ultimately finding its way on the album, Cry Me a River, Dave Mason’s Feelin’ Alright, Ashford, Simpson & Armstead’s Let’s Go Get Stoned, Lennon/McCartney’s She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, and Leon’s Delta Lady. A deluxe edition was released in 2005 with about an hour’s worth of additional music, and a year later a six-disc box with four full Fillmore East shows appeared. A concert film from the tour was released in March of 1971.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Intro
  2. Honkey Tonk Women
  3. Intro
  4. Sticks and Stones
  5. Cry Me a River
  6. Bird on the Wire

Side Two:

  1. Feelin’ Alright
  2. Superstar (Rita Coolidge)
  3. Intro
  4. Let’s Go Get Stoned

Side Three:

  1. Blue Medley – a) I’ll Drown in My Own Tears b) When Something is Wrong with My Baby c) I’ve Been Loving You Too Long
  2. Intro
  3. Girl from the North Country
  4. Give Peace a Chance

Side Four:

  1. Intro
  2. She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
  3. Space Captain
  4. The Letter
  5. Delta Lady

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/mad-dogs-englishmen-mw0000679117

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/joe-cocker-mad-dogs-englishmen/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mad_Dogs_%26_Englishmen_(album)

 

July Music Wrap Up, Pt. 2

Let’s wrap up this, uh, wrap up of July 1970 tunes. Pt. 2 is a little more singles-centric.

7/16/70: Diana Ross – Single: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

I think just about any Motown artist could’ve done a successful rendition of this classic Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson-written song. A few of them certainly did. This is the third version behind Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s original which was followed by the version recorded by Diana and the Supremes with the Temptations. Diana released her solo take 50 years ago this month, and it reached #1 on both the pop and R&B charts. She earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

July 1970: Humble Pie – Humble Pie

Humble Pie released their third album overall and their first on A&M this month in 1970. It’s considered a transition album toward their heavier sound, and it received a middling grade at the time. I don’t know, Marriott, Frampton, Ridley, and Shirley were just a damn solid band to my ears.

Humblepiealbumcover.jpg

July 1970: Funkadelic – Free Your Mind, Your Ass Will Follow

See my comments on Parliament’s debut in my July Music Wrap Up, Pt. 1.

Funkadelic free your mind g.gif

July 1970: Grand Funk Railroad – Single: I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)

One of those classic rock radio staples that seems on the verge of being forever squeezed out of ever-shrinking playlists these days in favor of more newly christened “classic” songs such as Pour Some Sugar on Me. Ugh.

I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home) - Grand Funk Railroad.jpg

July 1970: James Brown – Single: Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine

Brown released this as a two-part single 50 years ago this month. What can be said, other than he truly was the godfather of soul. I heard a funny interview with Bootsy Collins recently where he was asked if it was true that James fired him for taking acid trips during performances. He responded in the affirmative that while people might’ve been shakin’ their moneymakers in the aisles, he was soaring across the galaxy while somehow playing these funky bass licks.

GetUp(IFeelLikeBeingA)SexMachine.jpg

July 1970: Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Single: Tears of a Clown

For some reason I’ve always thought of the R&B and soul songs mentioned in this post as being from a few years earlier. This classic from Smokey and the Miracles is no different – it sounds like a companion track to The Tracks of My Tears dating to 1965. It’s irrelevant, but a realization I just had. It goes to show how cool the variety of music overall was in 1970. It wouldn’t be long before Stevie, Marvin and others took soul and R&B in a more serious direction.

Tearsofaclown45.jpg

-Stephen

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Your_Mind…_and_Your_Ass_Will_Follow

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27m_Your_Captain_(Closer_to_Home)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Get_Up_(I_Feel_Like_Being_a)_Sex_Machine

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

July 1970 Music Wrap Up, Pt. 1

With everything that’s going on out there these days on top of it being my least favorite time of year, to refer to them as dog days is an insult to dogs everywhere. But the music plays on. If I haven’t said so in the past, these end of the month wrap up posts aren’t simply what I deem to be “leftovers” not worthy of dedicated posts. In many instances they’re an acknowledgement of my ignorance. In other words, I know what I know, but there’s so much music I haven’t absorbed in my 49.5 years, yet I continue to play catch up.

Three cheers to the first person to correctly name the band in that rather nondescript featured image at the top…

7/7/70: Parliament – Osmium

See, this is what I’m talking about. I could spend a year in a Parliament and Funkadelic 101 course and barely scratch the surface. Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain (1971) and Eddie Hazel’s Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs (1977) are in my rotation, but that still leaves, what, thirty or so albums? Anyway, Osmium was Parliament’s debut album, released 50 years ago this month. Osmium is the chemical element of atomic number 76. Duh.

Osmium (album) - Wikipedia

7/8/70: Beck Hansen born

Beck released his first album about 27 years ago, and he’s been doing things his own way ever since. He’s one of the more innovative musicians out there, and is certainly one of my favorite contemporary artists. I tend to gravitate toward albums like Sea Change and Morning Phase. He turned 50 earlier this month. Seems like yesterday that the McCartneys and Jaggers of the world hit the half-century mark.

Beck Hansen Contact Info | Booking Agent, Manager, Publicist

7/14/70: Supertramp – Supertramp

Supertramp’s eponymous debut album was released 50 years ago. It (as well as their second album, Indelibly Stamped) is an album I “should” be more familiar with than a couple of YouTube listens. It’s a bit more on the prog side of life than what they came to be known for, which is why I never heard the album as a kid. I’m a fan of the Roger Hodgson/Rick Davies combo, and I love every release within their five album stretch from 1974’s Crime of the Century to 1980’s live Paris. 1982’s …Famous Last Words has its moments as well. It’s inevitable that I’ll absorb this and its follow up a bit more, probably in the near future.

Supertramp - Supertramp.jpg

7/20/70: The Doors – Absolutely Live

This was the first live Doors album, and it contains performances from mid-1969 to spring of ’70. It received rather poor reviews, but with the Doors one never knows what personal ax a writer might have had to grind with that band. The Doors were a group that people either seem to like or dislike without middle ground. Maybe it was the Celebration of the Lizard that sealed this album’s status among Rolling Stone writers and their ilk. Live at the Hollywood Bowl was my live Doors listening experience during my formative years. Come to think of it, that might be the show they got the Absolutely Live album cover photo from. It’s certainly not representative of the bearded and slightly bloated Jim of 1970. I’m still a fan.

DoorsAbLive1970.jpg

July 1970: Fairport Convention – Full House

Fairport Convention is a band that I’ve raved about, and in a way I’ve patted myself on the back for having discovered them for myself despite my rural Midwest American 1970’s-80’s upbringing. But the reality is I only know and love the albums they did with Sandy Denny, which comprise three of the first four Fairport albums. Full House was their fifth. This was Richard Thompson’s last appearance with the band, and it’s apparently a very good album which follows in the vein of Liege & Lief but without Sandy, who had moved on to form Fotheringay. I just haven’t heard it. Perhaps you can see the dilemma I face when trying to decide what direction to take with my music education: Funkadelic or post-Denny Fairport Convention? Have I reached a point where there’s just not enough time to devote to all the sounds I’ve yet to explore?

Fairport Convention-Full House (album cover).jpg

-Stephen

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

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolutely_Live_(The_Doors_album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_House_(Fairport_Convention_album)

 

 

Desert Island Album Draft, Round 3: Darkness on the Edge of Town

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There will be ten rounds, with draft order determined randomly by round. With the third pick in round three, I’ve selected one of my favorite Springsteen albums.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Release Passaic 1978 Concert Live  Album

What is it about Bruce Springsteen’s music that has earned him one of the largest and most loyal fan bases on the planet? I don’t know the first thing about cars, auto mechanics, or racing. I never worked in a factory or a car wash or on a highway. I never had and lost a job at a lumber yard or slept in an abandoned beach house or in a car because I had nowhere else to go. I never stood in a filthy phone booth for hours on a freezing night talking to my girlfriend until I thought it was safe to go home and face my father. I never ran from a state trooper. I know nothing of life growing up in a coastal town adjacent to once great but now failing boardwalk communities. However, I do possess deeply rooted feelings about friendships and family, past and present. I’m for respecting basic human rights and dignity, and for people having a fair shot in life. I’m for the underdog. I do enjoy the open road, and oh yeah, I love good music. Bruce Springsteen, with and without the E Street Band, checks all those boxes, and I’m happy to be able to add one of his finest albums to my desert island collection.

BBC Four - Bruce Springsteen: Darkness Live 1978

Darkness on the Edge of Town, released in June of 1978 after taking nearly a year to record, was the follow up to Born to Run. Due to Bruce’s ongoing legal dispute with his former manager there was a three year gap between the two. However, this was an extremely productive time for him, as he wrote approximately 70 (!) songs. Some – Because the Night, Fire, Rendezvous, and others – were recorded by other artists. Others ended up on later releases of his such as The River, Tracks, and The Promise. Forty-plus years on, the songs from Darkness remain part of the core of his marathon live sets. Whether on the studio cuts or live versions, the songs from this album are filled with honesty, sincerity, and emotion.

Bruce Springsteen - Darkness on the Edge of Town Lyrics and Tracklist |  Genius

I was not exposed to much of Bruce’s music as a kid. The first Springsteen song I remember hearing was Hungry Heart. In 1984, with the heavy presence of Born in the U.S.A. in the Top 40 and on MTV, suddenly he was everywhere and I was becoming a fan. I had that album, but still had yet to explore his back catalog. Two years later when I was 15, he released the Live 1975-85 box set. A local radio station announced they would play all three albums from the box in their entirety over three consecutive nights, and I was ready with a pack of cheap TDK D-90’s and an even cheaper stereo on which to record it. That was my “ah-ha” experience with Springsteen’s music. I was mesmerized by all that music I’d not heard before, as well as his audiences’ reactions to it. Badlands, Adam Raised a Cain, Candy’s Room, Racing in the Street, Darkness on the Edge of Town…where had this music been all my life?

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band 1978 by danwind on DeviantArt

These songs, and all the other pre-Born in the U.S.A. tracks I heard through headphones with my radio reception fading in and out in the basement those three late November nights in 1986, caused my head to spin. This was at a time when, mixed in with my Beatles, Elton, U2, and R.E.M. albums, I also listened to the standard mid-80’s Top 40 fare that average teen sheep like myself played. But after my Springsteen mini-immersion, Madonna, Wang Chung, and Cameo suddenly sounded even sillier than I already knew their music to be (yes, there was some good stuff on the airwaves back then, but you get the picture). Soon after, I made a bee-line to the nearest record store 30 miles away and purchased Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town on LP. A couple years later The River and Nebraska were among the first CD’s I owned. Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle weren’t far behind. My conversion to Springsteen lifer status was complete.

-Stephen

 

Desert Island Album Draft, Round 2: Rubber Soul

I’m participating in an album draft with nine other bloggers, organized by Hanspostcard. There will be ten rounds, with draft order determined randomly by round. I was the ninth to select in this round, and I scored one of my favorite Beatles albums.

Bob Whitaker: Three Beatles – Snap Galleries Limited

There was no doubt that my second pick would be a Beatles album. It was only a matter of what was still available to choose from. Twenty years ago, Rubber Soul would’ve been at the top of my Beatles list. Today it’s second by a hair, but I’ll still gladly add it to All Things Must Pass in my fledgling desert isle collection. Rubber Soul is another of their albums which saw two releases on separate labels with different track lists and song totals. I grew up with the U.S. (Capitol) version, which does have its positives despite being two tracks shorter. However, in my adult life I’ve only listened to the Parlophone version which was standard across most of the planet outside the U.S., and for the purposes of the draft that’s the one I’m going with.

Rubber Soul Sessions 1965 — The Beatles in 3D

By 1965 the Beatles were progressing at lightning speed as writers and as individuals, more so than what their heavily promoted mop top image – or what was left of it at that point – might’ve suggested. It’s astounding to me when looking at it in terms of a timeline just how rapidly they evolved. During their month long U.S. tour that summer they met Dylan in New York, dropped acid with The Byrds in L.A. (with Paul famously abstaining for the time being), listened to a lot of Motown and Stax music on the radio, and smoked pot for breakfast (John would even describe Rubber Soul as “the pot album”). They returned to the U.K. inspired to write a new batch of songs reflective of these experiences, which they began recording a short time later in October. Rubber Soul was released – along with its accompanying smash double A-sided single, Day Tripper/We Can Work it Out – on December 3. It was their second album of all original material, still somewhat unheard of in rock and pop music at the time. Whew!

day tripper.jpg

The title pokes fun at themselves for not having “authentic” soul like the American R&B artists they admired, but when the needle hits the grooves, it’s anything but phony. The themes are more serious and much less bubblegum than on previous albums, and for many younger fans whose lives hadn’t changed so drastically and in such a short period of time, this was a shock. There are beautifully written songs of lament (You Won’t See Me, Wait, I’m Looking Through You, Girl), and sentimental retrospection (In My Life). We also start to hear their “later” personalities and influences come to the fore, especially with Harrison. There’s stern advice from “grumpy George” (Think for Yourself) as well as the sweet, jangly sound of his 12-string Rickenbacker on the Byrds-influenced If I Needed Someone (he’s no longer saying “I need you,” but only “If…”). Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), written by John about an extramarital affair and played in the style of Dylan, was not only the first Beatles song on which George played sitar, it was the first rock record to do so, period. This song alone spawned “raga rock” and brought Hindustani classical music – particularly that of Ravi Shankar and his associates – to Western ears like never before. John had laid bare his feelings of despair earlier in the year on his song Help!, but few heard it as he meant it. With Nowhere Man listeners now understood there was complexity behind Lennon’s goofy, sometimes acerbic façade.

69 Years Ago Today … – The Kitty Packard Pictorial

I realize it’s silly to second guess what the Beatles did on their albums, but there are a couple of nicks in Rubber Soul’s vinyl in my view. It’s been written, and boasted about somewhat by McCartney, that they were a very democratic band, and to a great extent they were. Yet at times it was a bit to their detriment. While I wouldn’t have wanted anyone but Ringo as the drummer for the Beatles, looking at it today it seems rather misguided for them to designate a slot on their albums for a Ringo song. What Goes On, if only briefly, disrupts the vibe and flow of the album. Other than perhaps his White Album tracks, Ringo’s songs should’ve been B-sides only. And beginning with their next album it made even less sense as George was writing a lot more yet was still allotted only one or two tracks per record. Additionally, Run for Your Life has a regrettable set of lyrics despite being an otherwise fun track instrumentally speaking. Even John disavowed it later.

BEATLES - Ringo Starr in 1965 Stock Photo - Alamy

1965 was a transitional time all the way around for the Beatles and on Rubber Soul in particular, but not in a way to suggest anything was lacking. Almost everything they did, whether with their music or their group image and as individuals, had a major impact on popular culture. And if one is inclined to hear this album and Revolver as companion pieces as George Harrison did, it could be argued that it was their peak.

 

July 24 – A Second Offering from Yes

7/24/70: Yes – Time and a Word

Yes’s second album, released on Atlantic 50 years ago today, was recorded during the band’s touring breaks and continued the evolution of their classic early/mid 70’s sound (and lineup). A small brass and string section was employed on most of the album which sets it apart from Yes’s other albums, a move which guitarist Peter Banks did not approve of and which hastened his departure from the group before Time and a Word‘s release. He was replaced by Steve Howe, who was added to the group photo on the album’s jacket which was released in the U.S. because the original U.K. jacket was deemed inappropriate for release across the Atlantic.

Original US cover featuring Steve Howe (far right)

There’s simply no doubt who you’re listening to from the opening notes of Tony Kaye’s Hammond organ on No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed, a very interesting take on Richie Havens’s original which is also notable to me as a Havens fan because Richie was known better for being an interpreter of others’ tracks rather than the one being covered. Yes’s version has an Aaron Coplandesque bombast of strings and brass, giving it a bit of an American flavor. Other favorites of mine include their reading of Stephen Stills’s Everydays, which starts out spacey before kicking into an extended jam before returning to where it began, plus Jon Anderson & David Foster’s Sweet Dreams, which points the way to future Yes albums, and Anderson’s Astral Traveller, a standout track for drummer Bill Bruford. Dear Father is probably the only song on this album that doesn’t really do anything for me.

Yes

Time and a Word is considered by prog and specifically Yes aficionados to be the weakest of their 1970’s albums. I consider myself to be a casual Yes fan, and I find it to be a very enjoyable listening experience despite its status as a transitional work. The Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge, and Relayer it is not. Probably not Tales from Topographic Oceans, either. But to me that says more about their depth of quality albums in those years. Take away the occasional overuse of strings and it would probably be more on par with those others.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed
  2. Then
  3. Everydays
  4. Sweet Dreams

Side Two:

  1. The Prophet
  2. Clear Days
  3. Astral Traveller
  4. Time and a Word

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/time-and-a-word-mw0001948160

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

http://www.prog-sphere.com/specials/yes-time-word/

 

When Sir Douglas Quintet Let the Good Times Roll

April 1969: Sir Douglas Quintet – Mendocino

Sir Douglas Quintet was formed in San Antonio in 1964 by Doug Sahm with his friend Augie Meyer. Sahm began his professional career as a child playing country (he played with Hank Williams, Sr. during his final performance), but gradually incorporated blues and R&B into his repertoire. As SDQ became well known in their native Texas, their music became a hybrid of sounds prominent in the southern part of the state, including Mexican, Polish, Czech, German, Cajun, and African American. Then they added a measure of Beatles before scoring a hit in 1965 with She’s About a Mover, which is one of their two best known songs. Its similarities to the Fabs’ She’s a Woman are no coincidence. Like their fellow native Texan Janis Joplin, they headed west and landed in the heart of psychedelic San Francisco, where they recorded their fantastic Mendocino album.

Sir Douglas Quintet | rocktourdatabase.com

The music on this release is pretty straight forward country rock and Tex-Mex, with its signature sound being Augie Meyer’s Vox Continental organ complimenting acoustic and jangly electric guitars. The title track, the group’s other most famous tune, spent fifteen weeks in the Billboard Hot 100. I Don’t Want is probably the most au courant tune in the set. It could’ve been on a Byrds album. She’s About a Mover makes another appearance here in an updated version, though it’s not far from their original four years prior. At the Crossroads and Texas Me are great examples of Sahm’s soulful vocals, the former bringing to mind the Grateful Dead’s version of Morning Dew, the latter a lament of a man far from home:

Now I’m up in Sausilito, Wonder where I ought to be, An’ I wonder what happened to that man inside, The real old Texas me…

The Resurrection of Doug Sahm: Sneak peak at SXSW Film biopic plus deets on  SXSW Music blowout - Music - The Austin Chronicle

The album clocks in at 31:05, and closes out with Oh, Baby, It Just Don’t Matter, a burst of distorted, grungy goodness. I’m not a native Texan, and no matter how long I end up living here I doubt I’ll ever feel like one. The closest connection I feel to this state is when I listen to music like this. There’s such an attitude embedded in Mendocino’s grooves. It was so original, inclusive, and downright cool. It’s unpretentious country rock in the best ways. It’s for hippies, rednecks, and plain ol’ dudes like me. It can be served up with a six pack of Lone Star Beer or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Like the man sang, it just don’t matter.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Mendocino
  2. I Don’t Want
  3. I Wanna Be Your Mama Again
  4. At the Crossroads
  5. If You Really Want Me to I’ll Go

Side Two:

  1. And it Didn’t Even Bring Me Down
  2. Lawd, I’m Just a Country Boy in this Great Big Freaky City
  3. She’s About a Mover
  4. Texas Me
  5. Oh, Baby, It Just Don’t Matter

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/mendocino-mw0000453380

https://www.nodepression.com/review-doug-sahm-and-the-sir-douglas-quintet-the-complete-mercury-recordings-box-5cd-hip-o-select-2006/

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

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