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 – 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

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.

ginny.jpg

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.

-Stephen

Tracklist

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

https://www.allmusic.com/album/rides-again-mw0000194237

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

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/james-gang-interview-2015/

 

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.

TRAFFIC - JOHN BARLEYCORN MUST DIE DELUXE EDITION | UNCUT

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.

Tracklist

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

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/john-barleycorn-must-die-mw0000197791#:~:text=Fantasy%2C%22%20but%20four%20of%20the,typical%20of%20earlier%20Capaldi%20sentiments.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/cfq4/

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/traffic-john-barleycorn-must-die/

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Barleycorn#Versions_and_variants

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.”

Tracklist

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

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workingman%27s_Dead#Track_listing

https://www.guitarworld.com/artists/workingman-s-dead-grateful-dead-shifted-uncommercial-jam-band-one-worlds-most-popular-acts

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?

Tracklist

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)

-Stephen

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

https://www.allmusic.com/album/gasoline-alley-mw0000650828

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/rod-stewart-gasoline-alley/

Gasoline Alley

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_Stewart#1969%E2%80%931975:_Solo_career_established_and_Faces_albums

January ’69 – Fairport Convention’s Holiday Show and Tell

Fairport Convention – What We Did on Our Holidays

…she stood out like a clean glass in a sink full of dirty dishes – Fairport band member Simon Nicol on Sandy Denny’s audition with the band.

When Fairport Convention released their second album, What We Did on Our Holidays, 50 years ago this month, British folk rock was evolving quickly. By the end of 1969, it would be a full-fledged thing. But at the beginning of the year, the band had yet to take the full plunge. What we have on this album, remarkably the first of three by Fairport that year, is an interesting mix of original songs with then-obscure cover versions as well as their own arrangements of traditional songs. Perhaps the most notable thing the band did on its holiday was hire a new lead singer, Sandy Denny, to replace the departed Judy Dyble. This was Denny’s rather remarkable debut.

p01bql27.jpg
L-R:  Richard Thompson, Simon Nicol, Sandy Denny, Martin Lamble, and Ashley Hutchings

What We Did… shows a very young group of musicians with a new vocalist rapidly finding their way, but by no means were they scraping the barrel for material. The opening track is Sandy’s Fotheringay, one of the most beautiful acoustic folk songs of the era. There’s also the straight forward electric blues track Mr. Lacey, written by band member Ashley Hutchings and featuring the stellar lead guitar of 19-year-old Richard Thompson. The Book Song and No Man’s Land remind me of American west coast bands, the former the Mamas and the Papas with a Cajun twist, the latter a mish-mash of early Dead and Airplane.

hqdefault

There’s a nice version of I’ll Keep it with Mine, at the time a lesser known Dylan track which turned out to be a good song choice for Sandy’s vocal and Iain Matthews’ harmonies (only Judy Collins had it on an album at the time; Bob’s versions would see the official light of day on later compilations). They were also the first to release Joni Mitchell’s Eastern Rain – a track which is perfect for either Fairport or Joni (or even It’s a Beautiful Day?). Leaning once again toward English folk, they also put down their own take of the traditional Nottamun Town, a “lost song” from medieval England which ended up passed along through oral tradition to American Appalachia, and whose melody Dylan used in Masters of War in 1963.

61NIeIh9FwL._SX355_.jpg
The album’s “chalkboard cover” is a photo taken in a university classroom that doubled as the band’s dressing room before a gig. They picked up the chalk, started drawing, and ended up with an album cover.

Reviews are mostly positive. AllMusic’s Richie Unterberger:

And more than simply being a collection of good songs (with one or two pedestrian ones), it allowed Fairport to achieve its greatest internal balance, and indeed one of the finest balances of any major folk-rock group.

My favorites are Sandy Denny’s original Fotheringay, Richard Thompson’s Meet On the Ledge, Joni Mitchell’s Eastern Rain, and the traditional She Moves Through the Fair – a song I’ve yet to hear a bad version of, with or without vocals. While it may or may not be a cohesive album, I no longer hear it as just a step along the way toward Liege & Leif. It’s a great collection of songs, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with a band releasing a batch of tunes they just happen to enjoy playing, whether they “go together” or not. 1969 had to have been a blur for the group. They would soon experience major adversity prior to the release of their next album just a few months later as they forged ahead, leaving a significant footprint on the music world.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Fotheringay
  2. Mr. Lacey
  3. Book Song
  4. The Lord Is in This Place…How Dreadful Is This Place
  5. No Man’s Land
  6. I’ll Keep It With Mine

Side Two:

  1. Eastern Rain
  2. Nottamun Town
  3. Tale in Hard Time
  4. She Moves Through the Fair
  5. Meet on the Ledge
  6. End of a Holiday

-Stephen

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

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

https://www.allmusic.com/album/what-we-did-on-our-holidays-mw0000309532

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/5hw6/

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

 

 

January ’69 – A Bert Jansch Folk & Blues Classic

Bert Jansch – Birthday Blues

In the late 1960’s and early ’70’s there was seemingly an alternate universe of musicians and bands happening right alongside the mega groups, and in some cases (cough Led Zeppelin cough) they were a serious influence, even providing the only female vocal ever heard on a song by that parenthetical band. This was a British world of mostly acoustic “folk revival” performers including Davey Graham, Nick Drake, Al Stewart, the Pentangle, Fairport Convention, and the duo and solo acts within those groups (John Renbourn, Sandy Denny, and Richard Thompson, to name a few). There were, of course, many more. One of them was Renbourn’s duo counterpart and fellow member of the Pentangle, Scotsman Bert Jansch. He released his fifth solo album, Birthday Blues, 50 years ago this month.

51CyW2SPvhL.jpg

The Pentangle had just released its pinnacle album Basket of Light, and Birthday Blues is basically a Pentangle album without singer Jacqui McShee or fellow guitarist Renbourn (he’s backed by the band’s rhythm section of Danny Thompson and Terry Cox on this release). It is considered Jansch’s most “pop” record, but it’s firmly in the folk and blues genre. It’s alternatively playful and moody, as the album’s title suggests. Jansch was a dynamic guitarist with a distinctive singing voice – a good combination – so if you like this style of music, there’s a lot to enjoy on this release. Miss Heather Rosemary Sewell is a beautiful instrumental inspired by his wife, who also designed the album cover. Poison is a haunting track on the folk rock side of things with heavier drums and an eerie guitar and harmonica that give a feeling of foreboding. A Woman Like You is another one in that vein.

gettyimages-84898932-612x612.jpg

Trying to recall what inspired me to learn about Bert Jansch, it was probably a Roots of Led Zeppelin sampler CD that came attached to an issue of MOJO Magazine or one like it around 2003 with Jansch’s 1966 take on the traditional Blackwater Side. I purchased a Best of Bert Jansch CD and was on my way. It didn’t occur to me at the time to even bother looking into whether or not he still performed live. Even if he did, it seemed highly unlikely he would pass through Texas. Then one day in 2010 I read he was going to perform at the local symphony hall – opening for and performing with Neil Young! Then I looked at the ticket prices.  Then I looked at my bank account. Wasn’t happening. A little over a year later Jansch died of lung cancer. Missing that show is a big music regret of mine.

Tracklist

Side A:

  1. Come Sing Me a Happy Song to Prove We Can All Get Along the Lumpy, Bumpy, Long & Dusty Road
  2. The Bright New Year
  3. Tree Song
  4. Poison
  5. Miss Heather Rosemary Sewell
  6. I’ve Got a Woman

Side B:

  1. A Woman Like You
  2. I Am Lonely
  3. Promised Land
  4. Birthday Blues
  5. Wishing Well
  6. Blues

-Stephen

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

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

https://www.allmusic.com/album/birthday-blues-mw0000205948

Bert Jansch – Birthday Blues LP

 

 

January ’69 – Donovan the Hit Maker

Donovan – Donovan’s Greatest Hits

Today’s entry is a first for Introgroove:  a greatest hits album. Thinking ahead, it probably won’t be the last such release I give a nod to. To this day, if there’s an artist or band I’m unfamiliar with but feel I “should” know about them, a compilation is usually my first stop if one exists. Some hits records take on lives of their own. An obvious example is the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), the biggest selling album in US history. Elton’s Greatest Hits as well as Simon and Garfunkel’s were mainstays in my home growing up, even though the studio albums those songs were culled from were always in heavy rotation.

gettyimages-109322538-1024x1024.jpg

In my music world, other such compilations which triggered my instant interest in further exploration include Marley’s Legend, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (Vol. 1 was out of stock that day in the mid-1980’s when I decided to take the plunge), James Taylor’s Greatest Hits, Cat Stevens’ Greatest HitsThe Essential Leonard Cohen, Fairport Convention’s 20th Century Masters: Millennium Collection, Neil Young’s Decade, and others. As I write this, The Best of Doug Sahm and the Sir Douglas Quintet is on order. Some compilations are really all I “need” in my collection by some artists. Jim Croce’s Photographs & Memories: His Greatest Hits is one example. Another is Donovan’s Greatest Hits, released this month 50 years ago. It’s been in my collection since I first listened to a college roommate’s copy 30 years ago, hearing tracks other than Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow for the first time.

donovan.jpg

Donovan has loomed throughout my first year’s worth of posts, and for good reason. He may not have been as big as Dylan or the Beatles, but he was seemingly always around the scene and on camera at just the right times with just the right people, and releasing really good tunes along the way. I’m sure there were contemporary or perhaps even earlier greatest hits releases by 1960’s artists, but off the top of my head I can’t think of any others besides the Byrds and the Beach Boys. (There’s a trivia/discussion topic for you: list some others that I’m forgetting.) The crème de la crème for me here includes Sunshine Superman, Hurdy Gurdy Man, Wear Your Love Like Heaven, Colours, and Season of the Witch. I always thought There is a Mountain was kind of goofy at best, but gained a slightly better appreciation for it after realizing what I was hearing on the Allman Brothers’ Mountain Jam.

One of my favorites didn’t make it into the above playlist, but is on the album:

Tracklist (original listing differs from CD reissue linked above)

Side One:

  1. Epistle to Dippy
  2. Sunshine Superman
  3. There is a Mountain
  4. Jennifer Juniper
  5. Wear Your Love Like Heaven
  6. Season of the Witch

Side Two:

  1. Mellow Yellow
  2. Colours
  3. Hurdy Gurdy Man
  4. Catch the Wind
  5. Leléna

-Stephen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donovan%27s_Greatest_Hits

 

November 1 – Sophomore Success for the Pentangle

The Pentangle – Sweet Child

Continuing a busy day of significant 1968 album releases, British folk rock group the Pentangle released their second album of the year and second overall on this date fifty years ago, and on it they proved they were no one-album wonder.  Sweet Child is a double album; half of it was recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, London, in June of ’68, the other half in the studio.

download.jpg
L-R:  John Renbourn, Danny Thompson (standing), Terry Cox, Jacqui McShee, Bert Jansch

In addition to the folk and rock element, the Pentangle added experimental jazz and blues to their repertoire – something which set them apart from contemporaries Fairport Convention.  To illustrate how prolific they were at the time, the live half of the album on the original release contains only one song from their debut earlier in the year, with the rest of it and the second disc being completely new material.  Its tracks’ origins run the gamut, from traditional songs, to jazz and blues from the likes of Charles Mingus and Furry Lewis, to originals by the group.  The album jacket was designed by Peter Blake, of Sgt. Pepper fame.

Poster.jpg

In his AllMusic review, Matthew Greenwald calls Sweet Child “an awesome and delightful collection, and probably their finest hour.”  It’s also an hour for which I’ve arrived quite late.  When it comes to British folk rock groups, I’ve always favored Fairport Convention while giving short shrift to the Pentangle.  My only explanation is that I prefer Sandy Denny’s vocals to Jacqui McShee’s.

But I’m acquiring a taste for her singing, and there’s so much more to this group anyway with dual virtuoso guitarists John Renbourn and Bert Jansch (not to mention the latter’s vocals), as well as Danny Thompson’s jazz-infused stand up bass.  I’ve been enjoying solo Renbourn and Jansch for a while now, so it’s a no-brainer.  I’m finally waking up to this amazing group.

Tracklist:

Side One:

  1. Market Song
  2. No More My Lord
  3. Turn Your Money Green
  4. Haitian Fight Song
  5. A Woman Like You
  6. Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat

Side Two:

  1. Three Dances:  a) Brentzel Gay b) La Rotta c) The Earl of Salisbury
  2. Watch the Stars
  3. So Early in the Spring
  4. No Exit
  5. The Time Has Come
  6. Bruton Town

Side Three:

  1. Sweet Child
  2. I Loved a Lass
  3. Three-Part Thing
  4. Sovay
  5. In Time

Side Four:

  1. In Your Mind
  2. I’ve Got a Feeling
  3. The Trees They Do Grow High
  4. Moon Dog
  5. Hole in My Coal

-Stephen

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

https://www.popmatters.com/pentangle-sweet-child-turns-50-2601840684.html

https://www.allmusic.com/album/sweet-child-mw0000206628