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.

Swonderssd.jpg

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.

Idesvehicle.jpg

See ya in July.

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signed,_Sealed,_Delivered_I%27m_Yours

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self_Portrait_(Bob_Dylan_album)

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Stage_(Elvis_Presley_album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_(The_Ides_of_March_album)

June 10 – Edwin Starr & the “Other” Protest Song from June 1970

6/10/70: Edwin Starr – Single: War

This Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong written anti-Vietnam War classic was originally recorded by the Temptations and included on their March 1970 release, Psychedelic Shack. Motown declined to issue it as a single out of concern that it might offend conservative fans of the group whose base crossed racial and political lines. With high demand for it to be released as a single, the label compromised by allowing it to be re-recorded with a different singer and produced by Whitfield. Enter Edwin Starr, who did a more dramatic take on the track. His version reached number one on the Billboard Pop Chart for three weeks and earned a Grammy nomination for best R&B male vocal. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

When I heard this song growing up, I tended to think of it simply as another of the many classic songs of the era I liked. Admittedly, I wasn’t familiar with the Temptations version as it was an album-only track. Psychedelic Shack represents a glaring omission in my music education.

Moving forward, when I heard Bruce Springsteen’s version on his live box set in 1986, it was clear he was bringing a current sense of relevance to the song. My fifteen year old ears could hear it, but my naive fifteen year old mind couldn’t grasp what that song had to do with 1986. As I understood the world at the time, the “next” war would be of the nuclear variety, and deciding whether or not I believed in the cause would be irrelevant. Turned out I was wrong.

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_(The_Temptations_song)

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

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

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.

Tracklist

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

-Stephen

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

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

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/elton-john-1970-album/

 

 

June 1970 – CSNY and the Last Great Protest Song (s)(?)

In the wake of the killings at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, Neil Young, as the story goes, walked into the woods and spilled out the lyrics and music to Ohio after seeing photos of the tragedy in Life magazine. CSNY took it into the studio and recorded it in just a few takes on May 21, and Atlantic rush-released it shortly thereafter in June, though I’m unable to locate the exact release date.

How LIFE Magazine Covered the Kent State Shootings in 1970

Amazingly to me, this could’ve actually been considered a double-A sided single, and if Side A hadn’t been Ohio, then its mournful B side, Stephen Stills’s Find the Cost of Freedom, might’ve been in the running for greatest protest song ever. It’s certainly one of the most powerful in my book. As I write this I’m thinking how silly it is to put it in terms of some sort of ranking since that’s not what it’s all about anyway. I guess that’s just what we do in blogs.

Ohio' | Top 10 Protest Songs | TIME.com

There would be more protest songs down the line, including another notable one that same month. Neil Young himself would pen a couple more angry classics. But what is the role of the protest song in 2020? I’m not about to say it doesn’t exist anymore when I’m utterly clueless about most of what’s current, especially hip-hop. I suppose I’m wondering if the topical song genre is able to traverse the various societal divides and strike a collective nerve anymore. Did it ever? Or, am I simply projecting what I think it was like to hear Blowin’ in the Wind in ’63 or Ohio/Find the Cost of Freedom in ’70? Considering the awful state of affairs in the world today, not to mention the protests taking place at this moment for different reasons involving folks from all walks of life, what will be considered the “soundtrack of the early 21st century” 50 years from now?

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohio_(Crosby,_Stills,_Nash_%26_Young_song)

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/csny-ohio/

Marching Backward to the Music – Leon, Jimi, Ginger, and Past-Due Homework

I was not frequently absent from school when I was a child. However, when I did miss school because of an illness, I tended to make it count. As in three or four days in a row. Not that I was always sick the entire time. I just didn’t want to go back once I’d settled into a cozy routine of morning cartoons and the afternoon B-movie on the independent channel before the usual after school lineup of reruns. There was a price to pay, however. By the third day or so my mom would return from work having visited my teacher at some point during the day and bestow upon me the dreaded stack of makeup schoolwork. What does that little anecdote have to do with my blog?

Time For Homework. Unhappy Nice Serious Boy Sitting At The Desk ...

Well, I’ve had some spells of absenteeism from this hobby over the past year. But unlike grade school, it really bothers me looking back at the album release 50th anniversaries I’ve missed. It’s as if I’ve disrespected these artists by not celebrating their albums properly. Indeed, it gets a little strange between my ears at times. Anyhoo, looking back at my notes from March and April there are a few albums I’d like to belatedly acknowledge as we move forward over the next month or two (and does anyone really know or care what month it is anymore?). Some titles I’ll address individually, others in clusters. Starting now.

3/23/70 (April 24 U.K.): Leon Russell – Leon Russell

Leon’s solo debut was a classic out of the gate. It contains the oft-covered A Song for You, as well as Delta Lady. He also had a little help on the album from a cast of A-listers including Harrison, Starr, Jagger, Clapton, and too many others to list (see wiki link at the bottom). Leon Russell and the following two albums in this post all represent, in my mind, a shift in rock music around this time whereby artists were breaking free of stylistic constraints. Leon was a prolific songwriter and gifted musician, and like his friends Delaney and Bonnie he blended southern gospel elements, blues, and rock into a unique sound that his English musician friends fit right into.

LeonRussellAlbum.jpg

3/25/70: Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsies

Like many of my generation (X) who became Jimi Hendrix fans, it was due to his famous three studio albums augmented by whatever film we could view of the man, either in the Woodstock and Monterey documentaries or on VH1 (remember when VH1 was presented as sort of an MTV for Baby Boomers?). When I explored Jimi’s other commercially available music at the time (early 90’s) it was obvious he had been broadening his musical horizons before his death. Cry of Love and Band of Gypsies were in my collection, but they weren’t played often. It took a few more years and perhaps a little more musical maturity on my part to “get it.” Now I enjoy First Rays of the New Rising Sun (comprising most of the first three posthumous Hendrix releases) and the funk/R&B fused rock of Band of Gypsies as much as any of the original three. If only he’d lived long enough to make that album with Miles Davis.

A photo of Jimi Hendrix playing guitar

3/30/70: Ginger Baker’s Air Force – Ginger Baker’s Air Force

And now for something…completely different. On January 15, 1970, Ginger Baker assembled an eclectic group of musicians for a sold-out performance of Afro/jazz/rock fusion at the Royal Albert Hall. Band members included early Baker influences Graham Bond and Phil Seamen, plus Winwood, Gretch, and Wood of Traffic, post-Moody Blues/pre-Wings Denny Laine, and Remi Kabaka, who would also add flavors of Afro-fusion to music by other British music luminaries of the era. Critics, of course, hated the subsequent album, Ginger Baker’s Air Force. They aren’t too fond of albums produced by drummers, as they tend to be heavily, uh, drummer-centric. I find it to be an interesting and listenable album. Unfortunately I’m limited to listens on YouTube, as the CD issue readily available for purchase these days is a vinyl rip, and a poor one at that. (A better quality release from ’98 containing both Air Force albums and a solo Baker album currently goes for $144 on Amazon – no thanks.) One of these days I’ll have my turntable set up again and I’ll find a used vinyl copy. One of these days.

Ginger Baker's Air Force-album cover.jpg

-Stephen

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginger_Baker%27s_Air_Force_(album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginger_Baker%27s_Air_Force

 

May 1970 – Music Release Wrap-Up

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written one of these “odd ‘n ends,” end of the month posts. As usual it’s a mixed bag.

May: Country Joe and the Fish – CJ Fish

Country Joe and the Fish released their fifth and final album until 1977’s Reunion in May of 1970. I own this one and the debut, and once had a solo McDonald album titled Superstitious Blues (1991) which I liked but for some reason is no longer in my collection. There are days when that mid-late 60’s San Francisco sound and vibe hits the spot, such as last weekend when C.J. & the Fish’s first album, Electric Music for the Mind and Body, fit in nicely between the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane.

CJ Fish - Wikipedia

May: Hot Tuna – Hot Tuna

When I reach these end of the month roundups there’s inevitably at least one band and/or album I feel I should know much better but don’t, hence its relegation to this post. Hot Tuna is definitely one of those bands on my “need to explore” list. I’m certainly familiar with Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady from their time with the Airplane, and I even sat about ten feet away from Jorma at his solo show a couple of years ago. But as much as I enjoyed his performance, the only thing I could tell you about that show today is that he didn’t play Embryonic Journey. That, and some guy right in front of Jorma was wearing a Dave Mason t-shirt. Fans are so silly. Anyway, Hot Tuna released their debut this month 50 years ago. It’s a live performance in Berkeley from September ’69.

HotTunaCD.jpg

5/14/70: The Carpenters – Single: (They Long to Be) Close to You

That’s right, I’m including the Carpenters. There’s no Carpenters music in my collection. It’s not my thing. It’s beyond fluffy, soft MOR music. Karen looked ridiculous behind a drum kit. Et cetera. However, there is no denying this Burt Bacharach/Hal David penned track was a smash hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. And just between you and me, I freely admit that Karen’s silky smooth vocals were in a different league. If that’s your kind of thing. Seriously though, this inclusion is a nod to my big sis. This is one of those “upstairs songs,” a favorite she often played on her aqua-green record player when we were growing up.

They Long to Be Close to You by The Carpenters 7-inch US vinyl single.jpg

5/15/70: Fleetwood Mac – Single: The Green Manalishi (with the Two Prong Crown)

Now we’re talkin’. While I prefer live versions of this song, such as the epic 12 minute jam on the Live in Boston, any version will do. The Green Manalishi was Peter Green’s final song with Fleetwood Mac.

The Green Manalishi (Fleetwood Mac single - cover art).jpg

May: Three Dog Night – Single: Mama Told Me Not to Come

One of Randy Newman’s hit songs, he originally wrote it for Eric Burdon who recorded it in 1967. Both Newman and Three Dog Night released versions in 1970. The latter’s version reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, and was certified gold in July 1970.

Mama Told Me (Not To Come) (Single Version) by Three Dog Night on ...

May: Eric Burdon and War – Single: Spill the Wine

Spill the Wine was the first and only hit by Eric Burdon and War, and I’ve always liked it. As noted by our old friend Wiki, the song was inspired by an accident in which keyboardist Lonnie Jordan spilled wine on a mixing board. The song peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100.

Spill the Wine - Eric Burdon & War.jpg

-Stephen

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

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/(They_Long_to_Be)_Close_to_You

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Green_Manalishi_(With_the_Two_Prong_Crown)

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

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