February 1971 – Crazy Horse Debuts

February 1971: Crazy Horse – Crazy Horse

Some of the most enjoyable discoveries for me as a music fan are the ones that come about by chance. With Crazy Horse, it happened a number of years back while wading through used discs in a store I no longer recall. There appeared before me a title which simply read Crazy Horse. I wondered to myself, “As in Neil Young & Crazy Horse?” It hadn’t occurred to me that the group had recorded albums without Neil, but here was evidence they had. Noticing the release year and recognizing two of the track titles as songs performed with Neil (Dance, Dance, Dance & Downtown) it was an obvious purchase, and I was not disappointed. The core band that emerged from ashes of The Rockets – Danny Whitten, Billy Talbot, and Ralph Molina, plus Jack Nitzsche and Nils Lofgren – first as backing band to Neil Young on Everybody Knows This is Nowhere and in a more limited role on After the Gold Rush, released their eponymous debut 50 years ago this month.

Crazy Horse (band) - Wikipedia

One thing that stands out to me when perusing the liner notes is that the name Neil Young appears only twice, first with sole songwriting credit on Dance, Dance, Dance, and then with a co-credit along with Danny Whitten on Downtown – a song that would eerily reappear on Young’s Tonight’s the Night album a few years later as a live track featuring Whitten, who’d passed away in 1972. From a music standpoint, Crazy Horse is a damn fine rock album from start to finish, and I wonder if the band’s best-known status as “one of Neil’s bands” helps or hinders the album’s place in the pantheon of albums from the 1960’s and 70’s.

Neil Young News: A Conversation with Ralph Molina | North of the Internet
Molina & Talbot

I’d known about the sad demise of Danny Whitten strictly within the context of his involvement with Young but listening to this album brings home just how talented he was, especially as a rock vocalist. He wrote five of the eleven tracks, and all but three feature him as lead singer. Among my favorite Whitten vocals are the opener Gone Dead Train (subtly driven by Jack Nitzsche’s piano), Look at All the Things (which could’ve been a blueprint for much of their work with Neil), Nitzsche’s Carolay (which hints at Jack’s experience as conductor/arranger for the now late Phil Spector), and his signature song, the sad ballad I Don’t Want to Talk About It – a track made somewhat famous when recorded by Rod Stewart in 1975. This original is enhanced by the sweet slide guitar work of guest player Ry Cooder, who also appears on Whitten’s Dirty Dirty and Nitzsche’s Crow Jane Lady.


Then-nineteen-year-old Nils Lofgren contributed two tracks, including one of my favorites on the album, Beggars Day, which features a much more gravelly, experienced sounding vocal than might be expected from someone so young. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Joe Walsh in his James Gang days. Even the guitar solo is familiar in that regard. Crazy Horse is a no-frills rock band, and saying anything else about this album would just be unnecessary hyperbole. If you like the Horse with Neil Young, listen to this album. The louder the better.


Side One:

  1. Gone Dead Train
  2. Dance, Dance, Dance
  3. Look at All the Things
  4. Beggars Day
  5. I Don’t Want to Talk About It

Side Two:

  1. Downtown
  2. Carolay
  3. Dirty, Dirty
  4. Nobody
  5. I’ll Get By
  6. Crow Jane Lady





January 1971 – Little Feat Debuts

January 1971: Little Feat – Little Feat

“Sooner or later, every committed rock ‘n’ roller finds his or her way to Little Feat, which has been described as everything from ‘bluesadelic’ to ‘funky Americana,’ and all of which really means an eclectic bunch of styles that long ago melded together in a bluesy, boogieing, baked-smile stew. Their influence is wide — not least on Phish, moe. and many other stalwarts of the jam scene.” – contributing writer Chad Berndtson of JamBase

Today we’re celebrating the debut of arguably one of the greatest, yet possibly one of the most underappreciated, American bands of all time. Their eponymous Little Feat is not a typical debut. Recorded late in the summer of 1970 and released 50 years ago this month, it sounds closer to a group that had been around a while, honing their songwriting and production.

One of the remarkable aspects of this album is that it’s not one or maybe two of the band members who stand out; it’s a full team effort, beginning with the first track, Snakes on Everything. That’s Bill Payne on keyboards and lead vocals, though you might be forgiven for mistaking his singing for Leon Russell – and that’s no slight. The songwriting is fantastic throughout, as is the musicianship. The sorely missed Lowell George’s slide and lead guitar work, as well as his vocals, shine throughout. The original version of Truck Stop Girl is here. I’m equally familiar with latter day Byrds’ version, but this one can’t be beat. Richie Hayward’s drums pop.

Faces in the Crowd: Lowell George

My favorite Little Feat song is on this album, yet it’s not my favorite track on it. Huh? It’s true. Lowell George wrote and demoed Willin’ when he was with the Mothers of Invention, which prompted Frank Zappa to suggest George start a band of his own. He did just that, and the song found its way onto Little Feat’s debut. Though guest Ry Cooder’s bottleneck guitar on this original, more up-tempo version makes it an enjoyable listen, I’m glad it was re-recorded for their follow up a year later. It became the definitive version I’ve always known and loved with its more soulful vocals.

Willin': The Story of Little Feat by Ben Fong-Torres

Forty-Four Blues/How Many More Years is an honest tribute to its writers Roosevelt Sykes and Howlin’ Wolf and the era in which they thrived, right down to the distorted vocals. Ry Cooder makes his second appearance on the album on bottleneck here. George’s I’ve Been the One features the sweet pedal steel playing of Sneaky Pete Kleinow. That man played on some mighty fine albums in those years. The weakest link in my opinion is the goofy Crazy Captain Gunboat Willie, thought I don’t consider it a throwaway on this otherwise wonderful, polished album.


Side One:

  1. Snakes on Everything
  2. Strawberry Flats
  3. Truck Stop Girl
  4. Brides of Jesus
  5. Willin’
  6. Hamburger Midnight

Side Two:

  1. Forty-Four Blues/How Many More Years
  2. Crack in Your Door
  3. I’ve Been the One
  4. Takin’ My Time
  5. Crazy Captain Gunboat Willie





June 12 – Gasoline Alley at 50

6/12/70: Rod Stewart – Gasoline Alley

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

Gasoline Alley (album) - Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rod Stewart : The Third Gasoline Alley Jacket - Flashbak

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

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

Faces – First Step – 3/27/70

Stewart – Gasoline Alley – 6/12/70

Faces – Long Player – 2/71

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

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

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

Faces – Ooh La La – 3/73

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


Side One:

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

Side Two:

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





Gasoline Alley