September 19 – After the Gold Rush at 50

9/19/70: Neil Young –  After the Gold Rush

Today I’m celebrating one of my favorite albums of all time. Albums the caliber of Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, released 50 years ago today, are what inspired me to start this blog. Yet ironically with albums such as this I have to overcome the constraints of my “What can I possibly say about it that isn’t already known?” mentality. Then I recall that it’s a mighty big world out there, and not everyone worships at the altar of (insert applicable band or artist name). In this case, it’s Neil Young arguably hovering around his creative peak. And that’s saying something considering the overall quality of his output over the past 55-ish years.

Neil Young Releasing 1970 'Cellar Door' Concerts - Rolling Stone

The album was inspired by a Dean Stockwell-Herb Bermann screenplay of an unmade movie of the same title. Neil was going to produce its soundtrack with the title track and Cripple Creek Ferry being written specifically for it. Most of the recording took place in the basement studio of Young’s Topanga Canyon home with the perfect combination of musicians for this particular collection of songs. Jimmy McDonough suggested in his bio of Neil, Shakey, that Young intentionally wanted to combine the folk rock of CSNY with the heavier sound of Crazy Horse, hence an album roster which includes Stephen Stills and Greg Reeves from CSNY, Ralph Molina, Billy Talbot, and a fading Danny Whitten from the Horse, and Jack Nitzsche. But to me the most interesting personnel decision was the inclusion of 18 year old Nils Lofgren, mostly on piano – an instrument he didn’t even regularly play. It all worked, and Nils obviously made the most of the opportunity.

Neil Young's former house in Topanga for sale for $1.45M - Curbed LA

Thinking of the various times over the years in which Neil has changed his mind about what musicians to work with (or what album he wanted to work on or release) – sometimes in mid-recording or even mid-tour – After the Gold Rush sounds like the perfect melding of musicians and styles that have helped him create his best music over the years. I don’t know if it was as harmonious as all that, but that’s how I like to think of it. The various styles are evident from the start: Tell Me Why could be a CSNY song, as could Only Love Can Break Your Heart. The title track hearkens back in my mind to his Buffalo Springfield days (think Expecting to Fly or Broken Arrow).

Then we have driving Crazy Horse-sounding rockers When You Dance… and Southern Man, the latter song deserving a post of its own if not a book. And with tracks such as Don’t Let it Bring You Down,  Birds, I Believe in You, and his cover of Don Gibson’s Oh, Lonesome Me, we hear a warmth in his music that was a bit sparse during his turbulent-to-dark songwriting which was soon to follow in his “Ditch” years. Yet despite the diverse styles, these songs form a very cohesive album.

▷ ACORDES de NEIL YOUNG: Todas sus canciones

Neil Young’s music – especially his singing voice – is not for everyone, that’s understood. But as with his kindred spirit Bob Dylan, for those of us who are touched by his music, it can cut deeply at times. After the Gold Rush is a perfect combination of songs which display his personal and societal angst, along with reminders that things can also be o.k. All in a shade under 35 minutes. And while I’m not an audiophile, this album has always just sounded damn good from a production standpoint, whether it was my first listens on cassette, or later on CD or LP. Perhaps it’s simply one of the better examples of Neil’s “less is more” approach in the studio.

After the Gold Rush by Neil Young (Album; Reprise; M 56383): Reviews,  Ratings, Credits, Song list - Rate Your Music

Extrees:

-The album reached number eight on the Billboard Pop Chart. Only Love Can Break Your Heart and When You Dance I Can Really Love were issued as singles, reaching 33 and 93, respectively.

-The original Rolling Stone review referred to the album as dull, but within a short number of years considered it a masterpiece. Numerous magazines now rate After the Gold Rush among the top 100 albums of all time.

-The solarized album cover photo of Neil passing an elderly woman next to the NYU Law School campus originally included Graham Nash, who was cropped.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Tell Me Why
  2. After the Gold Rush
  3. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  4. Southern Man
  5. ‘Til the Morning Comes

Side Two:

  1. Oh, Lonesome Me
  2. Don’t Let it Bring You Down
  3. Birds
  4. When You Dance I Can Really Love
  5. I Believe in You
  6. Cripple Creek Ferry

-Stephen

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/neil-young-after-the-gold-rush/

https://www.allmusic.com/album/after-the-gold-rush-mw0000192439

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

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/111265/shakey-neil-youngs-biography-by-jimmy-mcdonough/

After The Gold Rush

September 18 – Black Sabbath’s Second

9/18/70: Black Sabbath – Paranoid

Wrapping up a rather interesting day in 50th music anniversaries, Black Sabbath dropped their rather frightening second album on that bleak Friday in 1970.

Black Sabbath - Wikipedia

This band, as well as Ozzy the solo artist, is a bit of an odd case for me. I’m not going to pretend to be a knowledgeable longtime fan. Osbourne went from being the dark lord of metal from my youth to the amusing caricature of himself on modern “reality” TV. Growing up in the 1970’s and 80’s, the kids who were into this music were the ones who self-tatooed “OZZY” on their knuckles with a ball point pen and seemed to miss school more often than most. You know, the “bad” kids. I always knew and liked a small handful of their songs, mainly from Paranoid, but during my adolescence Led Zeppelin and the departed-on-this-very-same-day Jimi Hendrix were the heaviest sounds emanating from the speakers in my basement bedroom. KISS for a few years of grade school. But Black Sabbath might’ve gotten me thrown out of the house. However…

The older I get, the more I like this music. And more importantly, it’s been a classic since the day of its release. Hence, it gets my 50th anniversary salute.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. War Pigs
  2. Paranoid
  3. Planet Caravan
  4. Iron Man

Side Two:

  1. Electric Funeral
  2. Hand of Doom
  3. Rat Salad
  4. Fairies Wear Boots

-Stephen

Paranoid

https://www.allmusic.com/album/paranoid-mw0000600570

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

September 18 – Fleetwood Mac, Phase Two

9/18/70: Fleetwood Mac – Kiln House

The winds of change were blowing in 1970. From a purely musical standpoint, this date 50 years ago stands out, especially in the realm of blues rock. Most significantly and sadly, Jimi Hendrix passed away in the early morning hours. And when Fleetwood Mac’s fourth studio album went on sale that day, it was the band’s first without blues guitar master Peter Green. There are still some heavy moments on Kiln House with guitarists Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer, the latter making his final appearance with Fleetwood Mac, but we also hear a group trying to find a new direction with elements of blues, folk, 50’s retro, and soft rock mixed together. The album also marks the first appearance of Christine McVie, though she was not yet an official member of the group. She also designed the album cover.

Fleetwood Mac - Kiln House - D - 1970--- | Upper left : Dann… | Flickr

Kiln House – named for a hops drying building that the band and their families lived in communally at the time – lacks cohesiveness yet contains some very good music. Danny Kirwan’s Station Man is my favorite track. It’s a grungy goulash in the vein of early-70’s Stones, Delaney & Bonnie, and Little Feat. Jeremy Spencer’s take on Big Joe Turner’s Hi Ho Silver is a rocker, as is the mostly instrumental Jewel Eyed Judy. Kirwan’s instrumental Earl Gray is a nice interlude after the kitschy Buddy Holly tribute, and the guitar work on Tell Me All the Things You Do suggests the drop off with Green leaving was nowhere near fatal. As for the subjective negatives, I could do without Spencer’s 50’s tributes such as This Is the Rock and Buddy’s Song.

Kiln House, Truncheaunts Lane, Alton © Oast House Archive :: Geograph  Britain and Ireland

That sense of searching for a sound seems to have plagued the group for a six album stretch starting with this one and lasting through 1974’s Heroes Are Hard to Find, yet that may be due in large part to the high standard set during the Peter Green blues years as well as those of the most widely known Fleetwood Mac era of Buckingham and Nicks which followed Bob Welch’s departure. In other words, there’s some really good music on the 1970-74 albums that deserves much wider reappraisal, and Kiln House is but the first of them.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. This is the Rock
  2. Station Man
  3. Blood on the Floor
  4. Hi Ho Silver
  5. Jewel-Eyed Judy

Side Two:

  1. Buddy’s Song
  2. Earl Gray
  3. One Together
  4. Tell Me All the Things You Do
  5. Mission Bell

-Stephen

Kiln House

https://www.allmusic.com/album/kiln-house-mw0000193528

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/fleetwood-mac-kiln-house/

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

September 18 – The Passing of Jimi Hendrix 50 Years On

Like many Gen X-ers, I discovered the brilliance of Jimi Hendrix for myself in the mid/late 80’s, probably due to the numerous twentieth anniversaries at the time in music and pop culture in general. His death fifty years ago today is usually presented as just a given, and in the grand scheme that’s what it was. As with some of his contemporaries who died young, it’s hard for me to imagine Hendrix as a septuagenarian, but who knows? I wasn’t even aware until recently of the concern that extreme negligence of others if not foul play may have been involved. It never occurred to me that there might be more to it than the generic narrative of the overindulgent musician who had one too many pills, drinks, or both.

These are the last known photos of #JimiHendrix taken before he died |  bluesyemre

As with other artists I’ve listened to most of my life, my interest in Jimi’s music has shifted and evolved. While I still love his three core albums, I’ve begun to hear his posthumous releases such as the tracks on First Rays of the New Rising Sun in a much more enjoyable light (pun not really intended). Where would he have gone with his music? Would anything have come of his developing association with Miles Davis? What if he were alive today?

At the same time, now when I watch his performances such as at Monterey Pop or Woodstock, I’m hearing the magnificence of his renditions of Wild Thing and The Star Spangled Banner, performances which to me in the past were overshadowed somewhat by his showmanship. A handful of songs and his persona drew me in as a fifteen year old, but the substance of the music keeps it fresh for me as I approach my own fiftieth anniversary of life. Now that Hendrix poster which adorned my various teenage/early adult bedroom walls has its place in my son’s apartment at college. And on it goes. It may be hard to imagine Jimi Hendrix at seventy-seven, but it’s unfathomable to think of the music world without his incalculable contributions.

-Stephen

https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Scuse-Me-While-I-Kiss-the-Sky/David-Henderson/9780743274012

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/27_Club

September 8 – Desert Island Album Draft, Round 7: Tom Petty – Wildflowers

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’m leading off Round 7 with my favorite Tom Petty album.

Well here it is, my one and only “contemporary” selection in the draft. I just finished peeling off that last annoying bit of tape from the top edge of the CD case (had to wait until my fingernails grew out a little). I wonder how much staying power this album will have… Kidding aside, Wildflowers sounds to me as though it could’ve been released in the last decade and not 26 years ago. Much of that is most likely due to producer Rick Rubin, whose work tends to sound fresh yet timeless. But for the most part, that’s just the nature of Petty’s music. This particular album is officially a solo release, though all members of the Heartbreakers except Stan Lynch played on it.

BangShift.com BangShift Tune-Up: "You Don't Know How It Feels" by Tom Petty  and the Heartbreakers (1994) - BangShift.com

I confess that I didn’t fully appreciate this album as a singular work until years after its release. Petty’s songs were all over contemporary rock radio in the 90’s, and for a while I kind of lost track of which albums the various singles were on from Into the Great Wide Open onward. I eventually bought it, and when I dropped it into the player I was stunned at the quality from start to finish. Late to the party once again. Of course I knew the tracks that received radio play, my favorites being You Don’t Know How it Feels, It’s Good to be King, and You Wreck Me. However, there’s not a weak song among the 15 on this rather sprawling release, with some just as strong as the singles including Time to Move On, Honey Bee, Don’t Fade on Me, House in the Woods, Crawling Back to You, Wake Up Time, and the title track.

Wildflowers is a great collection of songs – hard rockers and wistful acoustic numbers – which compliment one another perfectly. In that light, of the 30 or so songs he had written for it before recording sessions even began, some equallly strong material that didn’t blend with the rest to Petty’s ears was left off the record after he was talked out of releasing it as a double album. Many of those left behind songs will see the light of day on the upcoming Wildflowers & All the Rest. Listening objectively as a detached music fan, it’s a beautiful masterpiece of a rock album.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Full Concert - 10/02/94 - Shoreline  Amphitheatre (OFFICIAL) - YouTube

But there’s also a bit of sadness attached to Wildflowers. First, it marked the end of Petty’s working relationship with drummer Stan Lynch after years of increasing personal and professional differences (enter Steve Ferrone as the new drummer). Second, he had spent close to two years in the studio working on it, a time which Warren Zanes, author of the authorized biography Petty: The Biography, describes as a period when Tom was also avoiding the inevitable at home. Wildflowers was Tom’s self-described divorce album.

As Petty’s daughter Adria describes in the book, the family gathered at their Florida home to listen to the finished album as was tradition, and she knew when she heard it that her parents’ long strained marriage was finished, starting with the lyrics in the title track: Sail away, kill off the hours, You belong somewhere you feel free… Down the line, Tom’s therapist suggested he’d written that song to himself, and Petty agreed. As Zanes puts it, there’s an “almost unnerving openness” to the songs on Wildflowers. There was so much discord in Petty’s personal and professional life, but as is often the case in the art world, some wonderful creations came from it. 

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers Announce Tour « American Songwriter

Tom Petty went on to release eight more studio albums including those with the Heartbreakers and the reunited Mudcrutch before his passing. We’re coming up on three years, and it’s still hard to believe he’s gone. You can add that as a third reason why there’s melancholy attached to Wildflowers. Sometimes it’s just not possible to listen as an indifferent fan to the great music pouring from my speakers. It’s time to move on, it’s time to get goin’…

Tracklist:

  1. Wildflowers
  2. You Don’t Know How it Feels
  3. Time to Move On
  4. You Wreck Me
  5. It’s Good to be King
  6. Only a Broken Heart
  7. Honey Bee
  8. Don’t Fade on Me
  9. Hard on Me
  10. Cabin Down Below
  11. To Find a Friend
  12. A Higher Place
  13. House in the Woods
  14. Crawling Back to You
  15. Wake Up Time

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildflowers_(Tom_Petty_album)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23848010-petty

September 4 – Live Raunch from The Rolling Stones

9/4/70: The Rolling Stones – Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert

“Paint it Black, you devils!”

When the Rolling Stones began their U.S. tour in November 1969, it marked their first concert appearances here since 1966. The music landscape had changed quite a bit in that time, including live shows. For the major acts, the venues had become larger and the amplification louder. The non-stop shrill screaming of teenage girls had ceased as the crowds were now slightly older. And stoned. Enter the world’s most famous musical band of outlaws, now flaunting their badness more openly and brashly than ever. It was Mick Taylor’s first tour as a member of the band, and the last one they would embark upon as just the principal band (including Ian Stewart) without additional musicians. The joy and the horror of that month-long tour was captured for eternity on the Maysles brothers’ documentary, Gimme Shelter. The live album from those dates, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out: The Rolling Stones in Concert, was released 50 years ago today.

Back cover of Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting  Corporation)

The release of this album was largely a response to the bootleg recording Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be from their Oakland, CA show near the start of the tour, which is considered the first major live bootleg album. Ya-Ya’s as originally released contains 10 of the 15 songs which made up their usual set list, including two Chuck Berry covers and one by Robert Johnson. The performances were taken from their November 27th and 28th shows at Madison Square Garden, with Love in Vain from the 26th in Baltimore. Overdubbing of vocals on six tracks and guitars on two took place at Olympic Studios in January 1970. The album reached number one in the U.K., and number six in the U.S.

The Rolling Stones in Chicago: A timeline of the band's 55-year fascination  with the city's blues - Chicago Tribune

I should probably let it go, but if you’ve read my posts in the past you might know I tend to grumble at the self-importance of contemporary reviewers of these albums that have attained “classic” status, but the fact is that the views of scribes for publications such as Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, the L.A. Times, etc., held a lot of weight back in the day. It was no different with this live document. Lester Bangs, in his contemporary review in Rolling Stone – in which he criticized late-60’s live acts for being either too sloppy or too clinical (insert eye-roll emoji) – asked this question at the outset of his album review having seen the show himself:

Sure, the Stones put on what was almost undoubtedly the best show of the year, but did that say more about their own involvement or about the almost uniform lameness of the competition? 

Criterion Channel on Twitter: "Albert and David Maysles's Direct Cinema  landmark GIMME SHELTER captures the Rolling Stones near the end of their 1969  U.S. tour, at a free outdoor concert in San

Their competition aside, I feel there’s everything to like about the album. I put a lot of value on overall context, and the Stones were close to the heart of arguably their wildest and most arrogant years. To my ears, their irreverence is evident from the outset when Charlie’s drumming kicks in seemingly a half beat behind on Jumpin’ Jack Flash (I mean, they could’ve fixed that in the studio if they’d wanted to, right?). Love in Vain is a highlight for me for Taylor’s solo alone (Bangs called the track a low point of the album…). The guitars of Richards and Taylor drive Midnight Rambler to heights not heard on Let it Bleed, which was released the day before Altamont (though I do prefer the studio version of Live with Me from that album over the one on Ya-Ya’s). We don’t really even need the film to visualize Mick prancing around to it, either. It’s a showstopping performance.

The Rolling Stones Fall 1969 Tour - Rolling Stone

They kick into Sympathy for the Devil after the girl in the audience (Bangs refers to her as “an insistent chick”) shouts at the devils to play Paint it Black. It all seems funny and well timed, but it’s hard to listen to without thinking of its place in the Altamont show a few weeks in the future when Keith stops mid-song to admonish the Hell’s Angels. His playing on this one makes up for the absence of “woo-woo’s” heard on the studio version. I used to look at the Chuck Berry covers as throwaways, but now I see them as grittier takes on what were, for the late 1950’s, eyebrow raising songs. This album actually sounds better to me now than when I was younger, with or without the “bonus” tracks added in 2009. And, for what it’s worth, Lester Bangs’s answer to his own question was:

It’s still too soon to tell, but I’m beginning to think Ya-Ya’s just might be the best album they ever made. I have no doubt that it’s the best rock concert ever put on record. The Stones, alone among their generation of groups, are not about to fall by the wayside. And as long as they continue to thrive this way, the era of true rock and roll music will remain alive and kicking with them. 

The Who say hi, but he wasn’t far off the mark.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  2. Carol
  3. Stray Cat Blues
  4. Love in Vain
  5. Midnight Rambler

Side Two:

  1. Sympathy for the Devil
  2. Live with Me
  3. Little Queenie
  4. Honkey Tonk Women
  5. Street Fighting Man

-Stephen

Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/rolling-stones-get-yer-ya-yas-out/

https://www.allmusic.com/album/get-yer-ya-yas-out%21-mw0000191518

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Get_Yer_Ya-Ya%27s_Out!_The_Rolling_Stones_in_Concert

September 3 – Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson

There’s a great deal of joy for me in the music I celebrate on this blog, and generally that’s where I prefer to focus my attention. But with that yin comes the inevitable yang. Beginning with the death of Brian Jones in July of 1969, followed by the darkness of the Manson murders the following month and Altamont in December of that year, the positive vibes of the Peace & Love movement had taken a major hit. The great music played on, but all was not well. Fatigue had set in due to the ongoing mess in Vietnam, riots at home, Kent State, etc. Drugs of choice had become more dangerous, and some folks weren’t equipped to handle it in the long term. Canned Heat co-founder, guitarist, harmonica virtuoso, and singer Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson was a casualty of the times. In the weeks and months following his passing, the bad news kept coming.

Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson – PowerPop… An Eclectic Collection of Pop Culture

The Massachusetts born Wilson became a musician, and specifically a serious blues enthusiast and student, at a young age. His falsetto vocal style was directly influenced by Skip James. Wilson also helped Son House re-learn his own songs after years away from music. He studied music at Boston University before moving to Los Angeles with guitarist John Fahey. It was Fahey who gave the extremely nearsighted, intellectual, and introverted Wilson his moniker, “Blind Owl.” In L.A. Wilson met Bob Hite, and together they formed what became one of the greatest blues rock bands of all time, Canned Heat. That band’s two most commercially successful singles, Going Up the Country and On the Road Again, feature Wilson on vocals (the latter song also featuring him on tambura, harmonica, and guitar).

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

Unfortunately, Wilson was also prone to depression. He had spent a short time in an L.A. hospital after a suicide attempt a few months prior to his death, and on this day 50 years ago he was found behind bandmate Bob Hite’s Topanga Canyon home, dead from an overdose of barbituates. There was no note, and his death was officially ruled an accident. He left an important musical legacy in his brief time on Earth. Like Brian Jones, he championed the cause of the original blues masters who had been nearly forgotten, while creating some of the enduring sounds of the Woodstock Era. Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson: 7/4/43 – 9/3/70.

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Wilson_(musician)

 

August 1970 Loose Musical Notes

It’s time for another end of the month blog cleanup, and we here at introgroove are not happy with ourselves I’m not too happy with myself. There are definitely some items here that deserved dedicated posts during the course of this month, but I just didn’t get it done. I’ll let you decide which ones they are. Let’s do this and move on to September, where slightly cooler temps and another batch of classic album anniversaries await.

8/10/70:  Mothers of Invention – Weasels Ripped My Flesh

This was the Mothers’ seventh album. It’s a mix of studio and live recordings, and is chock full of Zappa improvisation. Retrospective reviews are quite positive. A contemporary review in Billboard called it “far out.” It’s in my collection, and while I enjoy it and find it more accessible than, say, Freak Out!, it has yet to fully click with me.

Frank Zappa Weasels Ripped My Flesh.jpg

8/14/70: Hawkwind – Hawkwind

Hawkwind released their self-titled debut on the 14th, and the album is considered a pioneering recording in the space rock genre. It was recorded live in studio. I own the album. I like the album. I think I know what is meant by “space rock,” but I couldn’t really begin to explain it. I mean, like, you know? Yeah. Spacey. As with the Mothers cover above, this one is also far out. Lemmy would appear on their second through fifth albums.

Hawkwindalbum.jpg

8/17/70: The Band – Stage Fright

We continue with our colorful August 1970 album covers with The Band’s third release, Stage Fright. If not for the legendary status of their first two albums, this one would most likely be thought of in the same light. As it is, Stage Fright is highly regarded to this day, regardless of the fissures that were beginning to appear within the group. The title track and The Shape I’m In are its most well known songs.

StageFright.jpg

8/28/70: The Jackson Five – Single: I’ll Be There

This was the Jackson Five’s first single from their third album (Third Album). It was their fourth number one single in a row, making the group the first to have their first four singles reach the top of the charts. I think Motown was on to something. Great track.

J5-ill-be-there-45.jpg

8/26-8/30/1970: Isle of Wight Festival

At the time, this was the largest music festival in history. Estimates range from 600,00-700,000 attendees, dwarfing Woodstock. Some of the many notable performers included Taste (Rory Gallagher), Chicago, Procal Harum, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Ten Years After, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, ELP, The Who, Sly & the Family Stone, Kris Kristofferson, Donovan, The Pentangle, The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Richie Havens, and a brand new group, Supertramp, among many others.

How 1970's Isle of Wight Festival Became 'Britain's Woodstock'

This was the third consecutive year for the festival on the island, and by that time many of the locals who were opposed to the event taking place there had become organized to the extent that the only location made available to festival planners was at Afton Down, with its large hill overlooking the festival ground which created various issues. The festival spawned a number of individual album and concert documentary releases over the years. For the 75th anniversary perhaps I should do a proper write up of the event.

8/31/70: The Beach Boys – Sunflower

The Beach Boys have been a nice surprise in my music appreciation evolution. There was a time when I assumed all I “needed” was Pet Sounds, Smile Sessions, and a definitive greatest hits compilation for the earlier stuff. I enjoyed those releases for some time before discovering the group hadn’t exactly become passé by the turn of the decade. Well, perhaps they had to the masses, but critically speaking, no. This is a critically acclaimed, very enjoyable album which features songwriting by the entire band, still including Brian Wilson. Its followup a year later, almost to the day, has also aged very well. But for now, yeah, Sunflower.

 

SunflowerCover.jpg

August 1970: Neil Diamond – Single: Cracklin’ Rosie

Cracklin’ Rosie was Neil’s first number one song on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also his breakthrough in the U.K., where it reached number three. It was written by Diamond and recorded with the Wrecking Crew. I’ve no problem acknowledging the greatness of Neil Diamond’s earlier work. The man can write a song, and he still sells out arenas. I also like his latter day albums that were produced by Rick Rubin.

Cracklin Rosie.jpg

August 1970: Sugarloaf – Single: Green Eyed Lady

I’ve aways liked this song, particularly the longer version that sometimes reaches the airwaves. It reached number one in Canada and number three in the U.S. It’s a good song to have on while driving down the highway.

Green-Eyed Lady - Sugarloaf.jpg

-Stephen

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

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27ll_Be_There_(Jackson_5_song)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isle_of_Wight_Festival_1970

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunflower_(Beach_Boys_album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cracklin%27_Rosie

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green-Eyed_Lady

Desert Island Album Draft, Round 6: Gene Clark – No Other

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. My round six pick is an album that should be as well known as any of the great releases from the early-mid 70’s, or from any era for that matter.

Gene Clark | thebluemoment.com

But I know if  you sell your soul, To brighten your role, You might be disappointed in the lights… – Gene Clark: Some Misunderstanding

At some point around the turn of the 21st century it slowly dawned on me that there’s an astounding amount of good music from “classic rock era” that I was still unfamiliar with. I discovered much of it for myself in the pages of MOJO, on music forums, and in more recent years, the blogosphere. Occasionally the term “lost classic” is assigned by those in the know to describe an album which, for whatever reason(s), didn’t get its due upon release. My pick for this round is one of these, though over the years there’s been a bit of a Gene Clark revival to the extent that his masterpiece, No Other, is becoming more widely known by the day. The same goes for Gene himself, who has languished in obscurity except to those who have been shouting about him from mountain tops for years. If you’re unfamiliar with Gene and would like a little more context, I wrote an appreciation of him a while back.

Between his departure from The Byrds, the band he co-founded, and No Other, Gene released three solo albums and two with the brilliant bluegrass musician Doug Dillard (with two songs from that collaboration covered on the smash album by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand). Frankly, all of those albums are lost classics as well. Clark re-joined the other four original Byrds in 1972 for an ill-fated reunion album, Byrds. However, as with the earliest Byrds hits not written by Bob Dylan, the brightest spots on the album were the songs written by Gene, which resulted in David Geffen signing him to Asylum as a solo artist.

Byrd Lives: Cult Hero Gene Clark's 21 Best Songs - Rolling Stone

Clark composed most of No Other from his home in Mendocino. He drew inspiration from Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions and the Stones’ Goats Head Soup, two seemingly opposite poles, musically and spiritually speaking. Clark was searching, and it’s very evident on No Other‘s somewhat esoteric tracks. It’s a stew of folk rock, country rock, gospel, and soul, with plenty of tasteful overdubbed harmonies and instrumental textures produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye. His supporting cast of musicians included some well-known names such as Danny Kortchmar, Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Jesse Ed Davis, Timothy B. Schmit, Craig Doerge, Butch Trucks, Chris Hillman, Joe Lala, Ben Keith, and backing vocalists including the ubiquitous Clydie King.

Gene Clark's 'No Other' Deluxe Reissue: Album Review - Rolling Stone

The album, released in September of 1974, received contemporary praise from Billboard and today generally garners five star retrospective reviews. So, what caused No Other to be “lost?” The CliffsNotes version is this: The album was turned in quite over budget and with too few songs (eight) and not enough commercial appeal for Geffen’s liking. It was not anything close to what the label boss expected as an updated Byrds sound for the mid-1970’s, e.g., The Eagles. It was released with next to zero promotion by Asylum and taken out of print two years later, with conflicting accounts of a subsequent run-in between Gene and Geffen in an L.A. restaurant. Gene went on to release a few more albums, but sadly this was his unheralded peak. His career and life trajectory trended downward from there on. The good news: Awareness of this and Clark’s other great albums continues to increase. The bad news: It has happened posthumously. For example, in 2014 an all-star group formed calling themselves the Gene Clark No Other Band, consisting of members of Fleet Foxes and other indie bands, plus Iain Matthews of Fairport Convention, performing the album live in its entirety a number of times.

The Gene Clark No Other Band - "No Other" Ft. Daniel Rossen - YouTube

I bought No Other about 15 years ago without having heard it, based solely on word of mouth praise from some of Gene Clark’s most dedicated torch bearers. I gave it a couple of cursory listens and thought it was o.k. I listened more closely a few times, and it clicked. The individual tracks are wonderful, but it’s best listened to as an entire work. What I discovered after a few listens is the way in which the intensity and emotion build throughout – with a brief respite near the end with the contemporary/conventional sounding The True One – leaving me somewhat spent at the end. Yet No Other is one of a small number of albums that I usually listen to at least twice in the same sitting when possible. There’s so much soul and otherworldly writing in these songs, and the production takes it somewhere altogether different from anything else of its time.

3660af3c7c62c3dd3ed69805b34737a3.jpg

I can’t bring myself to post just a couple of tracks for you to sample, as there’s no singular song that defines the No Other sound. The title track, plus Silver Raven, Strength of Strings, From a Silver Phial, and the ethereal Lady of the North do feature some of my favorite writing and production, if I’m forced to choose. I like the music of Gram Parsons, but if there really is any such thing as “Cosmic American Music,” it’s this album. If you’ve got 43 minutes to spare, give it a listen. Then do it again.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Life’s Greatest Fool
  2. Silver Raven
  3. No Other
  4. Strength of Strings

Side Two:

  1. From a Silver Phial
  2. Some Misunderstanding
  3. The True One
  4. Lady of the North

-Stephen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desert Island Album Draft, Round 5: Sticky Fingers

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. My fifth round selection is the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers.

March 26, 1971: Rolling Stones Tongue Logo Debuts | Best Classic Bands

It’s just that demon life has got me in its sway…

When it comes to filthy, gritty, living in the moment, above the law, unforgiving, unapologetic rock bands, the Rolling Stones are the original standard bearers. Within their unlikely and absurdly long life as a group – fast approaching 60 years – the stretch of albums loosely termed by many fans as the “Mick Taylor years” stand out for their return to basics, while at the same time cranking it up about 100 notches (I also include the pre-Taylor Beggars Banquet with these releases). For me, at the top of the heap, even if only by a few degrees, is Sticky Fingers. This is the one. This album represents everything I love about the Stones, Brian Jones’s unique contributions notwithstanding.

Sticky Fingers: The Lost Session – Snap Galleries Limited

There were a couple of periods of recording beginning in early 1969, with the bulk of studio work taking place the following year, concluding in December 1970. It was released on April 23, 1971. The album, with its distinctive Andy Warhol Factory designed cover which included, on initial pressings, an actual functioning zipper, topped the charts worldwide soon after. Sticky Fingers was the band’s first album of the 1970’s, and the first on their Rolling Stones label featuring the iconic tongue and lips logo. But, as always, it’s about the MUSIC, maaaan. 

How the Rolling Stones Launched a New Era With 'Sticky Fingers'

And the vibe. To my ears, the vibe or tone of the album is actually set with the count in to the second track, Sway, and it never lets up. Chances are you know this album well, or are at least familiar with it, and you know what I mean. And let’s give major credit where it’s due right now: The session players on Sticky Fingers were an all-star band in themselves, and are just as important to this record as the principals. Bobby Keys and Jim Price brought crucial sax and trumpet contributions. They rocked on tracks like Bitch, and displayed soul on the Stax ballad inspired I Got the Blues along with Billy Preston on the organ. Price also added the beautiful piano part to Moonlight Mile, with only he and the two Micks on the main track.

billy preston | seventies music

Other major contributions include Ry Cooder’s slide guitar and Jack Nitzsche’s piano on Sister Morphine (co-credited to Marianne Faithfull), and Paul Buckmaster’s string arrangements on Sway and Moonlight Mile. Other session players included stalwarts Nicky Hopkins, Rocky Dijon, Jim Dickinson, and Ian Stewart, and though he didn’t play on the album, Sticky Fingers wouldn’t have been what it is without the influence of Gram Parsons. The evidence is on Wild Horses and Dead Flowers. If we’re to include alternate versions, Eric Clapton and Al Kooper can be heard on the looser 2015 bonus disc cut of Brown Sugar. But the core, as always, was Mick and Keith and the boys, now including Mick Taylor, and it’s Taylor’s lead guitar interacting with Richards’s and Jagger’s rhythm playing that took the band’s sound to a place it hadn’t been before his arrival and hasn’t returned to in the 46 years since his departure, with all due respect to Brian Jones and Ronnie Wood.

Mick Taylor - Wikiwand

I don’t know why, but I’m fascinated by bands from that era that stretched and often broke the rules and not only kept it together but seemed to thrive on the chaos. Perhaps guys like Elvis, Hank, and others raised eyebrows earlier, but the Stones flaunted damn near every taboo in society’s face in these songs and said what of it, mate? These years found them defying not only the law, but the Grim Reaper as well, bless Keith’s heart (and veins), and they survived. Sticky Fingers is truly a fly on the wall album for anyone who wants to know what they were about without the visual horrors of watching the cinéma vérité documentary of their 1972 U.S. tour, Cocksucker Blues, that make one want to take a shower after viewing (just remember, I didn’t tell you to watch it). It’s not the first “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” album, but along with Let it Bleed, Exile on Main St. and the others, it’s about as extreme as it gets, especially considering when it came out. It’s an album that makes Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, and certainly latter day examples like the Gallagher and Robinson brothers of Oasis and the Black Crows, respectively – great rock artists that they all are – look like silly wannabes (and I like all of those bands, too). It’s a perfect rock album, and it’s on my island if you want to kayak over and listen some time.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Brown Sugar
  2. Sway
  3. Wild Horses
  4. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
  5. You Gotta Move

Side Two:

  1. Bitch
  2. I Got the Blues
  3. Sister Morphine
  4. Dead Flowers
  5. Moonlight Mile

-Stephen