September 1970 Music Housekeeping

Another month of a most bizarre year has come and gone. Time to tidy up and move on…

9/4/70: Caravan – If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You

Caravan released their second album this month 50 years ago. It was received relatively well, but their next album would become their most acclaimed. I enjoy the psych/jazz blend of some of the so-called Canterbury Scene groups such as this one and Soft Machine, but it’s been an acquired taste that I’m still developing.

Car-IfI.jpg

9/8/70: Neko Case born

Canadian born Neko Case, one of my favorite singers from the past 20-plus years, turned 50 this month. Random memory: David Letterman once introduced her as “Necko.” Ugh.

Neko Case Pictures, Latest News, Videos.

9/9/70: Macy Gray born

…and so did the great singer/songwriter/producer/actress, Ohio-born Macy Gray.

Macy Gray Filmography, Movie List, TV Shows and Acting Career.

9/12/70: Carpenters – Single – We’ve Only Just Begun

A fragment of this Paul Williams/Roger Nichols written tune first appeared on a bank commercial, sung by Williams. The full song ended up spending seven weeks at number one for the Carpenters.

We've Only Just Begun (Single).jpg

9/14/70: The Byrds (Untitled)

The Byrds released what really is a fantastic double album – one studio album, one live – 50  years ago this month. Their early glory years were way behind them at this point, and it’s silly to even use pronouns such as “them.” Other than McGuinn, this was an entirely different band. But they cooked, especially live, and ironically this version of the group  with McGuinn, Clarence White, Skip Battin, and Gene Parsons was together longer than any of the others. Maybe it’s only my perception as a second generation Byrds fan, but I wonder if a band name change after Chris Hillman’s departure following Sweetheart of the Rodeo would’ve given the latter years albums the attention they deserve. From the live portion, the sixteen minute Eight Miles High is a highlight, though it’s a bit of a letdown when Roger only sings the first verse when all’s said and done. Chestnut Mare is the standout from the studio sides.

The Byrds - (Untitled) album cover.jpg

9/19/70: Performance soundtrack

An interesting soundtrack to a good if somewhat dark period piece film. Names on the album include Randy Newman, Merry Clayton, Mick Jagger (who stars in the film), Ry Cooder, Jack Nitzsche, and  Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Performance-soundtrack.jpg

9/23/70: Ani DiFranco born

Another important artist from the 1990’s-onward turned 50 this month.

Ani DiFranco: Embracing Stability, Remaining Outspoken : NPR

9/25/70: Ringo – Beaucoups of Blues

Ringo released his second solo album on the 25th. His third album would be the breakthrough (with a little help from many of his friends).

BeaucoupsBCover.jpg

September 1970: Curtis Mayfield – Curtis

Mayfield released his post-Impressions solo debut, which he produced, 50 years ago this month. It spent five weeks atop the R&B charts, and reached number 19 on the Billboard Pop albums chart.

Curtismayfield-1970lp.jpg

September 1970: Johnny Winter And

The Texas blues guitarist delivered another butt-kicking album this month in 1970, his fourth studio album.

Johnny Winter And.jpeg

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If_I_Could_Do_It_All_Over_Again,_I%27d_Do_It_All_Over_You

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We%27ve_Only_Just_Begun

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Untitled_(The_Byrds_album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Performance_(soundtrack)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ani_DiFranco#Discography

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curtis_(Curtis_Mayfield_album)

September 23 – Album #2 for The Allman Brothers Band

9/23/70: The Allman Brothers Band – Idlewild South

It hadn’t occurred to me until reading a bit of background on this album just how pivotal it was in the development of the Allman Brothers Band. The group was simultaneously and constantly touring while ducking into studios when time permitted and, in a way, that was just as important an element of the album as these studio tracks themselves. The album was recorded mostly live during sessions which took place intermittently  over a five month period in NYC, Miami, and Macon, GA. Idlewild South, the band’s second album, was released this day 50 years ago. Much of its contents would form part of the core of the band’s live repertoire for years to come.

The Allman Brothers Band: Idlewild South: Super Deluxe Edition | Sound &  Vision

Though I’ve always liked the album opener, Dickey Betts’ gospel-tinged Revival, lyrically speaking it’s kind of atypical of this band, who weren’t exactly a flower power group. Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that the song was originally an instrumental. But that groove is infectious, and along with In Memory of Elizabeth Reed it brought Dickey Betts to the fore as a crucial songwriting contributor. The latter song was written for a woman of a different name who Betts was involved with (Boz Scaggs’ girlfriend). Elizabeth Reed was a name Betts spotted on a headstone in the cemetery where the band liked to hang out and write.

Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers wearing it high and proud! :  Highslingers

The Willie Dixon track Hoochie Coochie Man features Berry Oakley’s only vocal performance with the Allmans, sounding an awful lot like Johnny Winter. This one rocks harder than anything else on an album full of blazing guitar licks. Along with In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Gregg’s Midnight Rider is my favorite track on this record. Roadie Robert Kim Payne received a co-credit for a lyric assist. It was released as a single, but didn’t fare well until recorded by others including Gregg on his 1973 solo album, Laid Back. I like this version as much as Gregg’s solo take. Please Call Home features his typically soulful vocals, and should probably be a better known song.

Gregg Allman to Be Buried Next to Duane Allman at Funeral - Rolling Stone

Contemporary and retrospective reviews have always been quite positive, yet the album initially sold only slightly better than it’s debut predecessor. The band would really make their name through relentless touring which, after this release, would lead to arguably their greatest album the following year, At Fillmore East.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Revival
  2. Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’
  3. Midnight Rider
  4. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed

Side Two:

  1. Hoochie Coochie Man
  2. Please Call Home
  3. Leave My Blues at Home

-Stephen

Idlewild South

https://www.allmusic.com/album/idlewild-south-mw0000196446

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

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/allman-brothers-band-idlewild-south/

September 23 – Simon Finn’s Cult Classic Turns 50

9/23/70: Simon Finn – Pass the Distance

“Madness” “…songs unravel lysergically” “sinewy guitar” “snarling vocals” “catharsis” “raw merriment” “hypnotic” “nocturnal” “nightmarish” “creepy” “beautiful” “poetic” – These are some of the words I’ve come across in reviews of Simon Finn’s Pass the Distance. I’ll go ahead and add “harrowing” to the list. This is a bit of an unorthodox blog entry for me, as Pass the Distance is not a well known album, not by yours truly, anyway. But it’s really quite fascinating to listen to at least once, maybe twice if you enjoy staring over a ledge into the abyss.

SIMON FINN/ “Pass the Distance” 50 anni dopo, la salvezza in una canzone

I discovered this album for myself sometime in the last ten or so years, and if I didn’t find it in the suggested music column on YouTube then I have no idea how I learned of it. In the spirit of Skip Spence’s Oar meets Syd Barrett and maybe Tim Buckley’s more experimental albums, this one is “out there,” a quintessential cult album. I’ve come across a couple of dates given as its release date, including 50 years ago today, so today it is.

Rare inserts: SIMON FINN Pass The Distance

Finn made his professional debut opening for Al Stewart at London’s Marquee Club in 1967, but spent the following two years busking and updating share prices on the London Stock Exchange’s blackboard until presented with the opportunity to record this album with David Toop on guitar and Paul Burwell handling percussion. Besides love and sex, he places heavy focus on Christian themes, redemptive and otherwise. The feature track is titled Jerusalem, in which he equates the Crucifixion with the ideals of the 1960s counterculture. He’s calling out the hypocrites, and there are many. Indeed, if you’re going to sample one song on this album, check out Jerusalem.

The Wire - Pass The Distance: A Portrait Of Simon Finn by Gianmarco Del Re

As Finn shared with a journalist in 2004, “The songs were about alienation and loneliness. Jerusalem came to me in one shot. I wrote it on mescaline and was playing it over and over and one of my flatmates wrote it down.” Due to legal issues the album was withdrawn from circulation in the early 70’s, and Finn relocated to Canada where he disappeared from the music scene completely. He taught karate before taking up organic farming, unaware that Pass the Distance had become a cult classic until it was remastered/re-released in 2004, after which he performed the album on stage on a handful of dates. He has since released a few more albums and toured with Current 93, Graham Coxon, Thurston Moore, and others.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Very Close Friend
  2. The Courtyard
  3. What a Day
  4. Fades (Pass the Distance)
  5. Jerusalem

Side Two:

  1. Where’s Your Master Gone
  2. Laughing ‘Til Tomorrow
  3. Hiawatha
  4. Patrice
  5. Big White Car

Simon Finn – Pass The Distance LP

https://www.allmusic.com/album/pass-the-distance-mw0000636661#:~:text=Pass%20the%20Distance%20is%20not,and%20strange%2C%20oblique%20love%20songs.

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

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 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

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

August 16 – Clapton’s Solo Debut

8/16/70: Eric Clapton – Eric Clapton

The 1970 album party continues today with our ringleaders, Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett. Eric Clapton, fresh off the road with the American couple, released his self-titled solo debut on this date 50 years ago. His supporting cast of characters was largely made up of the usual suspects from D&B’s travelling band of American crazies, including Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, Bobby Keys, Jim Price, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Bobby Whitlock, plus Stephen Stills. This album, recorded November 1969-March ’70 in London and L.A., seems to fall under the Clapton radar for many casual listeners, as does the rest of his 1970’s catalog not titled Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs or Slowhand. These albums are simultaneously praised and reviled. I’m in the former camp. I feel no need to compare Eric Clapton, 461 Ocean Blvd., Backless or any of his others from that decade with his work with the Yardbirds, John Mayall, or Cream. To me, Eric Clapton is enjoyable beyond its tracks that ended up on the Crossroads box set. Produced by Delaney Bramlett, its songs fuse rock, blues, R&B, gospel, country, and pop elements. Three singles from the album, After Midnight, Blues Power, and Let it Rain, became Clapton classics.

Eric Clapton's Solo Debut LP: A Long Way From Home | Best Classic Bands

If his time and music with Cream and Blind Faith were tension-filled, this album definitely has a looser feel with an emphasis on the songs over extended solos. This was undoubtedly made possible by his supporting cast despite the backdrop of ongoing personal turmoil in Clapton’s world. Additionally, he was under the spell of the perceived idyllic music and overall orbit of The Band who, from afar, could be included in this roving cast of musicians so widely heard 50 years ago across albums by D&B, Joe Cocker, Dave Mason, George Harrison, and Clapton. Rolling Stone’s contemporary review noted that it was Bramlett who encouraged Eric to develop confidence in his singing voice, which quickly becomes apparent after the opening instrumental when his voice bursts out on Bad Boy. It continues on the next track, After Midnight, one of the album’s “tambourine shakers” as RS’s Ed Ward referred to it in his write up. Eric recorded a couple versions of this song in his career. This early one is up-tempo and gospel-inflected, the later 80’s version sounding every bit the slick Michelob Beer commercial jingle it became. I prefer this earlier rendition, but neither tops J.J. Cale’s original in my book. The acoustic Easy Now is a nice interlude from the more raucous material, and I can’t help but wonder if Alex Chilton and Chris Bell derived any inspiration from it in the run up to the first Big Star album. Fan favorites and 1970’s concert staples Blues Power and Bottle of Red Wine have aged well.

13 ERIC CLAPTON The Early Years 1964 to 1970 by Trans Reality Air | Mixcloud

Lovin’ You Lovin’ Me and I’ve Told You for the Last Time are a bit pedestrian, but are saved by the backing vocals which became an integral element of his early solo albums. Don’t Know Why pulls everything together with nice Stratocaster licks, Bobby Keys and Jim Horn brass, and plenty of gospel backing vocals. My favorite song on the album, and indeed one of my favorite Clapton songs of all time, is Let it Rain. It’s a good one to close out the album as he lets loose with both his guitar and vocals on the album’s longest track. It’s one of those facial contortion-causing guitar solos for those of us who have been known to play along on our air axes. I can appreciate that he was trying to get away from the “Guitar God” label with these songs. He took his songwriting in a new direction while not depriving listeners of his guitar virtuosity. Contemporary critics, while generally positive in their reviews, weren’t ready to let go of the Clapton of Cream and wished for a bit more indulgent guitar work. Possibly the main criticism I would wield against the album is its jacket, which seems to betray the sounds emanating from its grooves. It just screams (mumbles?) “I’m really not into this at all.” But clearly, he was. The best of Eric’s solo years was yet to come, but this was an auspicious beginning.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Slunky
  2. Bad Boy
  3. Lonesome and a Long Way from Home
  4. After Midnight
  5. Easy Now
  6. Blues Power

Side Two:

  1. Bottle of Red Wine
  2. Lovin’ You Lovin’ Me
  3. Told You For the Last Time
  4. Don’t Know Why
  5. Let it Rain

-Stephen

Eric Clapton

https://www.allmusic.com/album/eric-clapton-mw0000624369

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

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