July 1970 – Dave Mason Alone (Together with a Bunch of Friends)

July 1970: Dave Mason – Alone Together

There are individuals in my world of music interests whose names I heard or read often as a younger adult, who are considered to have made important contributions and are highly regarded musicians, songwriters, etc., yet when it came down to it I knew next to nothing about them or their work for a long time. Dave Mason was one of those artists. Even after I discovered Traffic for myself in the late 80’s and learned Mason was on their first few albums it still didn’t click. His best known Traffic song, Feelin’ Alright?, in my opinion is not in the same league as Joe Cocker’s cover. In my mind rightly or wrongly (o.k., wrongly), Traffic was Winwood, Capaldi, and Wood, period. Fully acknowledging my ignorance, Mason was the guy who sang 1977’s We Just Disagree, and that was about it. Yet there his name appeared in liner notes of albums by Jimi Hendrix, the Stones, Delaney & Bonnie, George Harrison, Crosby & Nash, and many others. It was a long time before I had my “ah-ha” moment with Mason, and it came a year or so ago when listening for the first time to his debut solo album Alone Together, released 50 years ago this month.

Dave Mason's 'Alone Together': Colorful Throughout | Best Classic ...

The instrumental tracks were of the somewhat standard fare for 1970, with rhythm section, keyboards, and mostly acoustic guitars and just the right touches of electric guitars on top. The best known track on the album is Only You Know and I Know, a song which Delaney & Bonnie covered. Highlights for me include the uptempo gospel influenced Waitin’ On You, the tasty acoustic guitar and keyboards of World in Changes, the acoustic guitar and piano combined on the wistful Sad and Deep as You, and the powerful closer Look at You Look at Me, which combines the best of most everything on the album onto its longest track at 7:38. My favorite track of all is Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave, which closes out side one and, somewhat ironically, harkens back to Traffic. I realize I’ve just listed almost every track on the album, but yeah, it’s one of those releases. It sounds rather organic, straight forward and unfussy. It’s a solid rock album of its time, and it has aged very well.

Dave Mason – Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre

There was much cross-pollenation on albums around this time among artists such as Delaney & Bonnie and George Harrison (on whose albums Mason appeared that same year), as well as Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, and Leon Russell. Mason had help on this album with a list of well known musicians whose names popped up frequently around the turn of 1970’s, including drummers John Barbata, Jim Capaldi, Jim Gordon, and Jim Keltner. There were also contributions by Don Preston (Mothers of Invention, Plastic Ono Band) on keyboards, bassists Chris Ethridge (Flying Burrito Bros., Gene Clark, and many others), Larry Knechtel (see Wrecking Crew), and Carl Radle, as well as the aforementioned Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell and, of course, the then-ubiquitous vocalist/muse Rita Coolidge. But other than the Capaldi co-credit on the closing track, Mason was the sole songwriter. What set the better albums apart during the album rock explosion of the era was just the right batch of songs combined with just the right session players (on solo albums) and production. With Alone Together it all came together for Dave Mason. It was his peak. This one should’ve been on my shelf with those others all along.


Side One:

  1. Only You Know and I Know
  2. Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving
  3. Waitin’ On You
  4. Shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave

Side Two:

  1. World in Changes
  2. Sad and Deep as You
  3. Just a Song
  4. Look at You Look at Me






July 1970 – James Gang, Independence Day, and American Music

July 1970: James Gang – James Gang Rides Again

It’s the morning of Independence Day in the U.S.A., and it’s such a strange time. I awoke early and stepped out on the back patio to visit with my wild friend Ginny for a bit and enjoy some fresh air before temps reach triple digits later today. I’m pondering what the Fourth of July means to me now with so much uncertainty in the air. It occurred to me that the best way for me to enjoy the day is to indulge in my favorite pastime, listening to music. Today, it’s 100% American music: Gershwin, Copeland, Miles, Bird, Dylan, Willie, Muddy, Bruce…you get the picture.


I didn’t have to put this post together today. James Gang’s second album, James Gang Rides Again (a.k.a. Rides Again), was released some time in July of 1970, but I’ve not been able to locate the exact 50th anniversary among my usual sources. I doubt it was released on July 4, but today seems as good a day as any to celebrate it as the album is a quintessential early 1970’s recording by a classic American band.

James Gang Look Back on 'Rides Again' at 45: Exclusive Interview

Rides Again contains one of the band’s two hits, Funk #49 (the other being Walk Away), but every track on it is quality rock music that features Joe Walsh’s fantastic, multidiminsional songwriting and musicianship, as well as that of bassist Dale Peters and drummer Jim Fox. Other than the driving Funk #49, my favorite song is The Bomber. The band ran into a bit of a legal dispute early on over this track due to its unauthorized inclusion of a rendition of Ravel’s Boléro, which was removed after initial pressings. It was restored on recent CD releases.

James Gang, The | Nostalgia Central

The organ on Tend My Garden adds another diminsion to the band’s sound that fades into the mellow folk of Garden Gate. This gives way to the country rock of There I Go Again which features Rusty Young on pedal steel guitar. Walsh has acknowledged that he only sang because the band needed a vocalist after their original singer quit the band and audiences responded well to him. He says he developed a lead/rhythm guitar style à la his friend Pete Townshend in order to allow him to sing effectively. As an aside, and speaking of Pete, James Gang opened for The Who on a few U.S. dates that same year.

James Gang - Wikipedia

*Non Music-Related Editorial Alert*

I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to do this, but I feel the need to express something on this American holiday that’s supposed to be a cause for celebration. I don’t claim to speak for any other Americans who might read this, but to those of you from other parts of the planet who follow my blog, I’m disgusted with what is happening to my country right now and apologize for any negative impact it’s having internationally. Whether it’s Covid 19 or race-related, the absolute lack of leadership at the highest levels of my government and the shocking levels of selfishness and willful ignorance among much of the American population is sad and unnerving to me. This is not the United States I grew up in, nor is it representative of what I believe to be the vast majority of my fellow Americans.

Happy Fourth of July. Thanks for reading.



Side One:

  1. Funk # 49
  2. Asshtonpark
  3. Woman
  4. The Bomber: Closet Queen/Boléro/Cast Your Fate to the Wind

Side Two:

  1. Tend My Garden
  2. Garden Gate
  3. There I Go Again
  4. Thanks
  5. Ashes the Rain and I





July 1 – The Traffic Album that Made Me a Fan

7/1/70: Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die

Traffic represents, to me, the quintessential turn of the 1970’s band and sound, especially one originating in the U.K. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of my favorite album by that band, John Barleycorn Must Die.

Traffic had dissolved after 1968’s eponymous album, with Dave Mason leaving a second time prior to its completion. Steve Winwood joined Blind Faith, and along with Chris Wood took part in Ginger Baker’s Air Force project. Wood and Jim Capaldi also did session work. Early in 1970, Winwood, still only 22 years old, returned to the studio to fulfill a contract obligation with a new solo album. But before it was completed he’d brought in fellow Traffic alumni Wood and Capaldi, and it became a new Traffic album instead, their fourth. This core trio would go on to release three additional albums.


The music on this album was a vehicle for Winwood’s vocals and instrumental work from keyboards to guitar, and the jazz, folk, and progressive rock influence on these sessions gave them plenty of room to spread out. Four of the album’s six songs which make up the original release exceed six minutes, but do not reach the running time of some tracks by their full on prog cousins. John Barleycorn Must Die peaked at number 5 on the Billboard 200 and was certified gold, but surprisingly only reached number 11 in the U.K.

Traffic - 1970 - Nights At The Roundtable - Past Daily: News ...

Dave Lifton, in his 45th anniversary review of the album in Ultimate Classic Rock, notes the similar vibe of the opening track, Glad, to that of jazz great Ramsey Lewis’s 1965 hit The In Crowd, and I can hear it. Glad, Freedom Rider, Empty Pages, and John Barleycorn Must Die are the songs that keep me coming back to this album, but there’s not a weak link. Chris Wood’s reed instruments are a perfect compliment to Winwood’s keyboards and vocals, as well as Capaldi’s percussion, the latter also contributing with four songwriting co-credits. The title track – a traditional British folk tune dating to the 16th century – might be my favorite as it combines all the aforementioned elements. It was covered by many British artists including Jethro Tull, Fairport Convention, and Pentangle. I was unaware until preparing this post that the song is not about a person, but the personification of a type of barley used in brewing beer and whiskey distillation.

Steve Winwood: "I always felt the need to work with the people ...

Showing my age relative to the music I cover as I tend to do, I was a Winwood fan from 1981’s Arc of a Diver onward when I was a kid. But as a youth, though I was familiar with the songs Dear Mr. Fantasy and The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, I was mostly unaware of Traffic until my later teen years. Those were the two songs that got me interested in this band in the late-80’s, but John Barleycorn Must Die was the album that did it for me. It’s a complete package, a great album, and certainly one of my favorites by anyone in 1970.


Side One:

  1. Glad
  2. Freedom Rider
  3. Empty Pages

Side Two:

  1. Stranger to Himself
  2. John Barleycorn (Must Die)
  3. Every Mother’s Son







June 1970 Odds ‘n Ends

I hope everyone is faring at least tolerably during these strange times. Let’s wrap up June of 1970 with a few notable releases…

6/3/70: Stevie Wonder – Single: Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours

This was the first single Wonder produced on his own, and it spent six weeks atop the charts. His early career stuff is great, but it’s when he traded the suits for batik gear that his music gets really interesting in my book.


6/3/70: On this day, Ray Davies made a round-trip from New York to London and back in the middle of a Kinks U.S. tour in order to re-record one word on their latest single, Lola. In order to receive airplay in the U.K. he had to change “Coca-Cola” to “cherry cola.”

Lola (song) - Wikipedia

6/5/70: Deep Purple – Deep Purple in Rock

This was the first album by Deep Purple’s “Mock II” lineup, and it put them over the top in Europe. It remained on the charts for over a year.

Deep Purple in Rock.jpg

6/8/70: Bob Dylan – Self Portrait

This album was a major disappointment to fans and critics alike, both for its songs and production. Author, critic, and Dylan fanatic Greil Marcus put it rather succinctly in his review in Rolling Stone: “What is this shit?” Yet when these sessions were revisited on 2013’s Bootleg Series Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait, it was a completely different story. A revelation, one might say. It was to me, anyway.

Bob Dylan - Self Portrait.jpg

6/15/70: Grand Funk Railroad – Closer to Home

Grand Funk Railroad’s third album, relatively well received, is best known for the radio staple I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home).

Closer to Home.jpg

June 1970: Tangerine Dream – Electronic Meditation

This is Tangerine Dream’s debut album. They went on to release eleventy zillion more in the 50 years that followed. That I know of, I’m only familiar with Zeit (1972), Phaedra (1974), and the soundtrack to Risky Business (1984). This music has its time and place for me.

Electronic Meditation.png

June 1970: Elvis – On Stage

The tracks on this highly rated live album were mostly taken from Vegas shows in February 1970. I just can’t get into Elvis’s music from that point in his career though.

On Stage February, 1970.jpg

June 1970: Ides of March – Vehicle

The debut from the Ides of March was released 50 years ago this month. I’m including it because I missed the anniversary in March of the title track single, Vehicle. I’ve never owned or heard the entire album, and I’ve rarely heard the title track on the radio, yet I’ve heard it numerous times overall as its promo film was regularly shown on VH1’s My Generation hosted by Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits back in the late 1980’s. That seems really random to me now. It’s a pretty tight track, but I get all the brass-heavy 60’s/70’s rock I need from Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and The Electric Flag.


See ya in July.









June 26 – Free’s Breakthrough

6/26/70: Free – Fire and Water

The English rock band Free released their third album on this day 50 years ago. The band, consisting of vocalist Paul Rodgers, guitarist Paul Kossoff, bassist Andy Fraser, and drummer Simon Kirke, found themselves in a make or break situation with this recording after their first two albums garnered little attention. Recorded over the first half of June 1970 and clocking in at 35 minutes, Fire and Water reached number two on the U.K. album chart and 17 in the U.S. The album spawned the single All Right Now, a top five hit on both sides of the pond which remains a classic rock radio staple. Due to the album’s success, Free was invited to perform at the Isle of Wight Festival a few months later in front of 600,000 people.

Free - Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970 - Amazon.com Music

This is a tight, rocking album which critics have favorably compared to Blind Faith, Cream, and Derek & the Dominos. I don’t disagree with that, but to me what stands out is that it was a harbinger of an album rock sound going forward in the 1970’s, whereas albums by those other bands mentioned were (in my mind, anyway), the sound of the end of the 60’s. The obvious comparison would be with Bad Company, and the reason I find that interesting is because Free released three more albums after this one in rapid succession, but didn’t find much acclaim. Yet when Bad Company – including Rodgers and Kirke from Free, Mick Ralphs of Mott the Hoople, and Boz Burrell from King Crimson – released their eponymous debut in ’74 they were off to the races with a sound not unlike Fire and Water – just with better production and presumably better promotion.

Andy Fraser, Free's Bassist, Dies at 62 - The New York Times

The title track could’ve also been the radio hit from the album (though off the top of my head I can’t think of another example of a song fading out to a drum solo). Oh I Wept displays Rodgers’ ability to have a soft touch with his vocal when called for. Remember has a nice, mellow groove with its congas (I can hear a bit of Traffic on this one), and Heavy Load sounds very much like a preview of Bad Company (Ready for Love, for example). And, of course, the enduring All Right Now: To me, this song is a good example of the power of great rock ‘n’ roll guitar riffs and driving rhythm that more than make up for lyrics lacking much depth.


Side One:

  1. Fire and Water
  2. Oh I Wept
  3. Remember
  4. Heavy Load

Side Two:

  1. Mr. Big
  2. Don’t Say You Love Me
  3. All Right Now






June 1970 – Fotheringay

June 1970: Fotheringay – Fotheringay

Fifty years ago this month the eponymous debut from the British folk group Fotheringay was released. The band was formed by Sandy Denny after she left Fairport Convention in 1969, and included her future husband Trevor Lucas on guitar as well as Gerry Conway on drums, guitarist Jerry Donahue, and Pat Donaldson on bass. The band’s name was derived from a castle where Mary, Queen of Scots was once imprisoned. It was also the title of a Denny song recorded with Fairport Convention. Fotheringay was the only album they released during their original incarnation. The group disbanded in 1971 during sessions for their second album when Denny chose to pursue a solo career. Fotheringay 2 was finally released in 2008.

Gallery: Unseen Fotheringay Imagery | Features | Clash Magazine

I began to take an interest in the late 1960’s/early 70’s British folk scene in the late 90’s, about the time I, like many others, discovered Nick Drake through a Volkswagen commercial. The first group whose music I explored was Fairport Convention, and I immediately became a fan of the late Sandy Denny’s vocals on their second through fourth albums. It turned out I had heard her sing before; she was the only guest vocalist to appear on a Led Zeppelin album, on the song The Battle of Evermore. As a natural progression I gave this album a listen and found it to be a continuation of the Fairport sound I like, then dove into Denny’s wonderful solo work. She was a brilliant composer and vocalist, but a somewhat tragic figure who passed away in 1978 at the age of 31.

News UK Archives on Twitter: "Led Zeppelin (John Bonham, Robert ...

Fotheringay was produced by Joe Boyd, whose fingerprints are all over recordings from the British folk and underground scene including the aforementioned Drake, as well as The Incredible String Band, Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention, and others. My favorite tracks on the album overall were written and sung by Denny, especially Nothing More (with its Jerry Donahue guitar solo that I wish was about five minutes longer), though Trevor Lucas’s rendition of Gordon Lightfoot’s The Way I Feel is a particularly strong example of the British folk rock I enjoy. They also took a turn at Dylan’s Too Much of Nothing, another song from his 1967 basement sessions with the group that would soon be named The Band that wouldn’t see the official light of day until 1975. Interestingly, Fotheringay wasn’t even the first to release a version. Peter, Paul and Mary had a Top 40 hit with it in 1967, and Spooky Tooth also released it on their debut the following year.

Folk Awards Hall of Fame's Sandy Denny's appearances at the Royal ...

Below is a live clip of Fotheringay performing perhaps my favorite song of theirs on the German TV program Beat Club, followed by the album itself.


Side One:

  1. Nothing More
  2. The Sea
  3. The Ballad of Ned Kelly
  4. Winter Winds
  5. Peace in the End

Side Two:

  1. The Way I Feel
  2. The Pond and the Stream
  3. Too Much of Nothing
  4. Banks of the Nile





April 1970 – The McCartney Album 50 Years On

4/17/70 – Paul McCartney – McCartney

To wrap up my makeup work on some of the key 50th album release anniversaries I missed this spring, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the McCartney album.

As a kid I thought this album was titled Bowl of Cherries. I like it a lot, always have. My brother’s copy got a lot of spins when I was growing up, and since it was Paul McCartney I automatically accepted it as good, just as I did with all his solo and Wings albums through Tug of War. There’s definitely a degree of psychology involved in some of our musical preferences, which is another way of saying we like what we like. There are also plenty of folks who don’t like it. They hear some if not all of the songs as weak and sloppily recorded. It’s another example of McCartney’s ego run amok with him playing all the instruments. And worse, he slipped that little “interview” into the album jacket in which he announced the breakup of the Beatles, even though he later claimed that wasn’t his intent.

FEATURE: After The Beatles… Paul McCartney's McCartney at Fifty ...

When artists achieve a certain degree of critical acclaim, they have as a result set a high bar not just for their peers but for themselves as well going forward. The most creative and ambitious among them welcome the challenge, though rarely are those peaks reached again. Though Paul would later attempt to scale those heights in his solo career with varying amounts of success, that’s not what McCartney is about. It was largely a vehicle for Paul to pick himself up again after the Beatles had come undone because he didn’t know what else to do. The McCartneys had retreated to their farm in Scotland after the difficult Get Back sessions in January 1969, and Paul sank into a dark emotional space of fear and depression. That’s a real thing. He was also compelled to reassure the world he was still alive via some uninvited guests on his farm from Life Magazine (hard to believe that was a real thing, too).


That’s not to say Paul didn’t care about moving product, because of course he did. With Linda’s help, he pulled himself together and wrote some songs which he combined with a couple he’d already written and demoed with the Beatles. You can hear John mocking Teddy Boy on The Beatles Anthology Vol. 3 during the Get Back sessions, for example.  McCartney also features a couple of tracks in Maybe I’m Amazed and Every Night which I think are up to standard for any McCartney album or Beatles for that matter. Plenty of musicians can only dream of writing two songs that good. But for me as an adult it’s not just that I still enjoy listening to it. As with much of the music from past eras it’s also the context of the creation of this record that interests me after all this time.

2241 Momma Miss America – Paul McCartney (1970) | Songs We Were ...

And what of the other tracks on the album? The lack of flow to me is in itself the flow, beginning with the brief and whimsical The Lovely Linda which opens the album, a song whose inclusion makes perfect sense considering Linda’s role in motivating Paul at the time. In the instrumentals such as Valentine Day Paul shows off a bit of lead guitar work – something he did occasionally in the Beatles but which the casual fan wasn’t very aware of since Paul was “the bass player.” Man We Was Lonely is a goofy autobiographical song, and it’s just now dawning on me as I write that it’s a country song. I’d never thought of it like that. Oo You and Momma Miss America are improvised rockers, the latter with a cool tremolo guitar effect. I like Paul’s drumming on these tracks, simple as it might be. Teddy Boy and Junk are from the same mold as Another Day which was released the following year. And what McCartney fan hasn’t, at least in the privacy of  their home, sung along to the karaoke that is Singalong Junk

The Paul-is-Dead Saga” …And Beatles' Demise:1969-1970 | The Pop ...

My first copy of this album came in the form of a low quality Maxell D-90 cassette onto which I recorded my uncle’s LP. During Momma Miss America the music cuts out and there’s a piercing, high pitched noise that lasts two or three seconds. My uncle later admitted he had inadvertently hit pause while it was recording. It just became part of the song for me for about ten years until I bought a copy on CD.


Side One:

  1. The Lovely Linda
  2. That Would Be Something
  3. Valentine Day
  4. Every Night
  5. Hot as Sun/Glasses
  6. Junk
  7. Man We Was Lonely

Side Two:

  1. Oo You
  2. Momma Miss America
  3. Teddy Boy
  4. Singalong Junk
  5. Maybe I’m Amazed
  6. Kreen-Akrore





June 14 – The First Time the Grateful Dead Went Mainstream

6/14/70: The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead

For their fourth studio album, the Grateful Dead wanted to record in less time and with less fuss and expense than with their previous efforts. This was due in part to please Warner Bros., who hadn’t seen much of a return on their investment in the band, but also because the kind of music the band was gravitating toward demanded it. Workingman’s Dead was recorded over a period of about nine days in February 1970 and released a half-century ago today.

Grateful Dead - Workingman's Dead

The album represented a shift in direction from the psychedelic sounds of their first albums, as well as the mayhem of those recording sessions, to more of a folk/country rock sound. Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir had occasionally played acoustic guitars on tour just prior to going back into the studio, with the former being especially influenced by the Bakersfield sound. Garcia introduced a steel guitar to their music, and vocally the Dead were influenced by CSN’s vocal harmonies. And in a repeated theme of the time across the rock landscape, the influence of The Band’s first two albums crept into the music of the Grateful Dead, specifically with Robert Hunter’s lyrics.

Opinion | The Genius Behind the Grateful Dead - The New York Times
Robert Hunter

In his original Rolling Stone review from July 1970, Andy Zwerling emphasized the album’s warmth resulting from Garcia’s acoustic guitar and the band’s clean harmonies, but predicted “staunch Dead freaks” probably wouldn’t like country flavored songs such as Uncle John’s Band. He also pointed out that even the tracks which aren’t exactly country, such as Casey Jones, have that flavor. The group had dispersed from Haight-Ashbury into quieter and more rural surroundings around Marin County, which in turn also influenced the vibe of the album. While it might’ve seemed like a radical shift in musical direction, the album is a reminder that Garcia’s and Weir’s musical roots, as well as those of lyricist Robert Hunter, were found in places other than the manic psychedelia of the Dead’s first albums. Country, bluegrass, folk, straight forward rock, and blues make up this record.

Grateful Dead 1970 London Photograph by Chris Walter

As I’ve probably mentioned in the past, I’m a bit of a tweener when it comes to this band. That is, I enjoy the Grateful Dead as a live act and recognize that they were at home on stage, but I don’t possess the knowledge, passion, commitment, and downright obsession of most Deadheads to fully submerge myself in the vastness of their live documents. Not yet at least, though I’m inching in that direction. But from what I can tell, I might appreciate their studio albums more than those entrenched in the live recordings. What can I say, I’m an album kind of guy I suppose. And on this one, my favorite tracks besides the obvious Uncle John’s Band and Casey Jones are the country tinged High Time and Dire Wolf, plus New Speedway Boogie (Hunter’s commentary on Altamont), and Cumberland Blues with it’s fantastic harmonies.

TUE FEB 25 7:30pm – BPO recreates 1970 Grateful Dead & BPO ...

Workingman’s Dead topped Rolling Stone magazine readers poll for best album of 1970, and contemporary reviews were universally enthusiastic. More significantly, the album and its followup, American Beauty, greatly expanded the Dead’s audience just as In the Dark and the promotional vehicle known as MTV would do 27 years later for better and for worse. As Blair Jackson pointed out in Guitar World: 

“Workingman’s Dead” turned the Dead into a song band, and it was the launch pad for everything that came after it. It was a big gamble, a radical change in direction, but it paid off like a royal flush.”


Side One:

  1. Uncle John’s Band
  2. High Time
  3. Dire Wolf
  4. New Speedway Boogie

Side Two:

  1. Cumberland Blues
  2. Black Peter
  3. Easy Wind
  4. Casey Jones




Workingman’s Dead

June 12 – Gasoline Alley at 50

6/12/70: Rod Stewart – Gasoline Alley

Rod Stewart, including his work with Faces, is another example of an artist from rock’s late 60s-mid-70s era whose greatness I’ve bemoaned – probably ad nauseam – as not appreciated as it should be in the 21st century as a result of dumbed-down corporate classic rock radio, not to mention his own chosen musical direction in later years. That’s not to say the man has suffered; he’s done quite well for himself in later incarnations as disco Rod and Great American Songbook crooner Rod. Thankfully we can turn directly to the albums for a nice reminder of how good those early releases are, start to finish. Stewart’s second solo album, Gasoline Alley, turns 50 today.

Gasoline Alley (album) - Wikipedia

This album, along with his other early solo works, is a consistent blend of folk, blue-eyed soul, country rock, and straight forward rock, mostly with sparse arrangements. All of his Faces bandmates – Ronnie Wood, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan, and Kenny Jones – contribute to this album, just as some if not all of them would participate on Stewart’s other early solo albums. Gasoline Alley features powerful bass lines by Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane, heavy though not overplayed drums by Mick Waller and Kenney Jones, barrel house piano work by Ian McLagan and Pete Sears, and guitars by Wood and Martin Quittenton. These sounds are augmented with just the right touches of violin (Dennis O’Flynn, Dick Powell) and mandolin (Stanley Matthews).

Small Faces/Faces/Rod Stewart: Box Sets | Louder

Langdon Winner, in his September 1970 review of the album in Rolling Stone, interestingly compared Gasoline Alley and Stewart’s debut album favorably to The Band’s Music from Big Pink for its country rock, or what we now call Americana, flavor. That had never occurred to me, and I don’t disagree. Six of the nine songs are covers, but they all sound like Stewart made them his own. His cover of Bobby and Shirley Jean Womack’s It’s All Over Now is more raucous than the Stones’ version, and dare I say nearly as soulful as the original Valentinos version featuring Womack. His take on the Small Faces’ 1967 song My Way of Giving would’ve fit in even “way back” in psychedelic ’67 just as it did in ’70. Stewart’s version of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Country Comfort appeared four months before Elton’s, and his rendition of Dylan’s Only a Hobo was released 21 years before the original. Bob originally recorded the song in late 1962/early ’63 but left it off The Times They Are a-Changin’. It would eventually appear on The Bootleg Series Vols. 1-3 (Rare and Unreleased) in 1991. There were no singles from Gasoline Alley, but it still reached 27 on the pop charts.

Rod Stewart was a 1970s ally - OpenLearn - Open University

I’ll stop short of suggesting Rod Stewart hasn’t been given his due when it comes to being a great rock interpreter of others’ originals because maybe he has. I will say that I didn’t realize it for myself until I listened to these albums all the way through. It’s something that I had never really considered perhaps due to Stewart’s image in my mind based upon growing up hearing songs such as Stay with Me and Hot Legs, whether singing his own songs or interpreting others’. By image I of course mean that of the rock front man diva. I can listen to this and his other early albums and hear them for their musical qualities alone. He belts out the vocals when needed, but there’s a sincere, gravely warmth in his singing on tracks such as Only a Hobo, Lady Day and Jo’s Lament, the latter two being Stewart originals. Again from Winner in his 1970 Rolling Stone review:

The music of Rod Stewart helps us to remember many of the small but extremely important experiences of life which our civilization inclines us to forget. Compassion. Care for small things. The textures of sorrow. Remembrance of times past. Reverence for age. Stewart has a rare sensitivity for the delicate moments in a person’s existence when a crucial but often neglected truth flashes before his eyes and then vanishes. The amazing character of Stewart’s work is largely due to the fact that he can recall these fragile moments of insight to our minds without destroying their essence.

Rod Stewart : The Third Gasoline Alley Jacket - Flashbak

An Ultimate Classic Rock 45th anniversary retrospective review refers to his cover of You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want to Discuss It) as the only “clunker,” but even that track is worth a listen for Ronnie Lane’s driving bass alone. I suppose if there’s a weak link on this album to my ears, it’s Country Comfort. I hear Elton’s version on Tumbleweed Connection a few months down the line as being a fuller, more realized rendition. I’m not breaking any news here, but Stewart’s recorded vocal output between 1969-1973 is remarkable by any standard. For my own perspective I listed the four solo Rod Stewart and four Faces releases – all widely considered good/great – over a period of three years and four months in chronological order. I’ll just leave it:

Stewart – An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down (a.k.a. The Rod Stewart Album) – 11/69

Faces – First Step – 3/27/70

Stewart – Gasoline Alley – 6/12/70

Faces – Long Player – 2/71

Stewart – Every Picture Tells a Story – 5/28/71

Faces – A Nod is as Good as a Wink…to a Blind Horse – 11/17/71

Stewart – Never a Dull Moment – 7/21/72

Faces – Ooh La La – 3/73

How would Faces be rated in rock’s pantheon if Stewart’s first four solo albums had been official Faces albums instead?


Side One:

  1. Gasoline Alley
  2. It’s All Over Now
  3. Only a Hobo
  4. My Way of Giving

Side Two:

  1. Country Comfort
  2. Cut Across Shorty
  3. Lady Day
  4. Jo’s Lament
  5. You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want to Discuss It)





Gasoline Alley


April 1970 – Elton’s Transatlantic Debut

4/10/70: Elton John – Elton John

When Elton John’s eponymous album was released 50 years ago this past April, it was assumed by many in the U.S. to be his debut, not realizing his first album, 1969’s Empty Sky, hadn’t been released in America. That album wouldn’t make it to record store shelves here until 1975, at the peak of Elton mania.

The History of Elton John's 'Your Song'

With this album we hear a significant shift in Bernie Taupin’s lyric writing. While there are hints of the esoteric themes prevalent on Empty Sky such as in First Episode at Hienton and Take Me to the Pilot (a song whose meaning even Taupin has stated he has no idea of), the songs on this second release – tracks such as I Need You to Turn To, The Greatest Discovery, and the instant classic Your Song – are of the variety that listeners can relate to directly. And, the socially conscious Border Song is no less relevant today than it was 50 years ago. Indeed, Elton and Bernie dove right in to what would be loosely termed the singer/songwriter era. In addition to Gus Dudgeon’s production, the album’s immediately recognizable sound is due in large part to the string arrangements of Paul Buckmaster, who I wrote about in a recent post.

50 Years On: Remembering the 'Elton John' Album – Part 1 - Elton John

One of my favorite tracks on this album is Sixty Years On. Elton performed a powerful version of it on his 1979 Russia tour with Ray Cooper. An official album from that tour was released in recent years, but unfortunately this song was left off. As a result, it’s not in my collection.

Elton John was certified gold in February 1971 and received a Grammy nomination for  Album of  the Year. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2012.  It also spawned a few of Elton’s concert staples over the following five decades. If interested in where I ranked Elton John within his discography, see this series I did a while back.


Side One:

  1. Your Song
  2. I Need You to Turn To
  3. Take Me to the Pilot
  4. No Shoe Strings on Louise
  5. First Episode at Hienton

Side Two:

  1. Sixty Years On
  2. Border Song
  3. The Greatest Discovery
  4. The Cage
  5. The King Must Die



Elton John Flashback: Stunning 1970 Live Version of ‘Take Me To The Pilot’