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Archive for the ‘Fifty Year Friday’ Category

Fifty Year Friday: Herbie Hancock, Speak Like a Child; The Web, Fully Interlocking; Deep Purple, Grateful Dead

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The Web; Fully Interlocking

Released by Deram sometime in 1968, The Web’s debut album, Fully Interlocking, is both an early jazz-rock album and an early progressive rock album. Though no home run is scored under either of these uniforms, credit must be given for the moments of sophistication and the early foray into the two new styles of rock music that would soon surge in popularity. In accordance with the title, the music is interlocking with no silence between tracks.  Track 4, Green Side Up,  is particularly notable as a fully-formed prog rock instrumental, with King Crimson-like rhythmic punctuation (this before King Crimson’s first-ever rehearsal in January 1969), a Robert Wyatt-like second theme, and effective saxophone and bass guitar lines. No progressive rock fan should miss hearing this.

The band included two guitars, two percussionist, an electric bass, and Tom Harris who played sax and flute. There was one American, their dedicated vocalist, John L. Watson, who was quite good, but sounded more like a lounge singer than a rock or progressive rock vocalist. (Later Watson would be replaced by singer and keyboardist Dave Lawson who would eventually join Greenslade.)

Some of the music sounds dated, such as their attempted single, “Wallpaper”, and some doesn’t live up to its conceptual promise such as the “War and Peace” suite, but this generally ignored album contains much of interest, both musically and historically.  Three bonus tracks are available on CD, and the first two of these are not to be missed.  “I’m A Man”, predates Chicago’s version on the first album, and works perfectly for Watson, who provides a strong rhythm-and-blues delivery.  The similarities between this and the later Chicago version, are striking, and one wonders if someone from Chicago or Columbia records had somehow heard The Web’s version first.  The second track, is Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child”,  also sounding strikingly similar to the Blood, Sweat and Tears’ version that was recorded in October 1968.

This album, only obtainable as a used LP in previous decades, is available as a CD, mp3s, or from a streaming service. It’s worth checking out for anyone that has an interest in rock, jazz-rock, or progressive rock history.

Tracks Listing [from progarchives.com]

1. City of Darkness (2:55)
2. Harold Dubbleyew (3:10)
3. Hatton Mill Morning (3:37)
4. Green Side Up (2:02)
5. Wallpaper (2:40)
6. Did You Die Four Years Ago Tonight? (2:20)
7. Watcha Kelele (3:57)
8. Reverend J. McKinnon (2:55)
9. Sunday Joint (2:03)
10. War or Peace (9:56) :
– a. Theme 2:11
– b. East Meets West 2:39
– c. Battle Scene 0:38
– d. Conscience 2:00
– e. Epilogue 2:28

Total time 35:35

Bonus tracks on 2008 remaster:
11. I’m A Man (3:33)
12. God Bless The Child (5:00)
13. To Love Somebody (3:29)

Line-up / Musicians from progarchives.com

– John L. Watson / vocals
– John Eaton / guitar
– Tony Edwards / guitar
– Tom Harris / sax, flute
– Dick Lee-Smith / bass, congas
– Kenny Beveridge / drums
– Lennie Wright / vibes, congas, claves

With:
– Terry Noonan / orchestra direction & arrangements

 

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Recorded in March 1968 and released a few months later, this is Herbie Hancock’s first album as a leader since his classic Maiden Voyage, recorded 3 years earlier.  The album starts out with a calmer version of “Riot” than that recorded on Miles Davis;’s Neferiti, and ends with “The Sorcerer”, a composition on Davis’s 1967 “Sorcerer” album.  In between these tracks we have compositions relating to childhood, three by Hancock and one by Ron Carter — the Ron Carter piece being different in character and not including the alto flute, flugelhorn and bass trombone present on the  rest of the album.

Track listing[from Wikipedia]

All compositions by Herbie Hancock, except as indicated.

Side A:

  1. “Riot” – 4:40
  2. “Speak Like a Child” – 7:50
  3. “First Trip” (Ron Carter) – 6:01

Side B:

  1. “Toys” – 5:52
  2. “Goodbye to Childhood” – 7:06
  3. “The Sorcerer” – 5:36

 

Personnel

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Shades of Deep Purple

 

Deep Purple: Shades of Deep Purple

In their debut album, recorded in three days in May of 1968, and released on July 17, 1968, Deep Purple comes out swinging, providing exuberant hard rock with multiple glimpses of early heavy metal and progressive rock.

This album didn’t do well at all in the UK, but due to the single, “Hush”, which received significant airplay in the States, and reached the #4 slot, Shades of Deep Purple sold fairly well in the U.S., staying for 23 weeks on the Billboard top 200 album list and peaking at #24 in November, 1968.

The arpeggiated keyboard-led opening, interlude, and return included amongst the garden- variety chord progressions of “One More Rainy Day” is historically notable as this simple, but effective, compositional technique soon becomes a significant part of the musical vocabulary found in 1970s progressive rock.  Also, common to early progressive rock, is the quoting of classical music — in this case, Rimsky-Korsakov’s  Scheherezade, which provides the material for “Prelude: Happiness”, followed by Deep Purple’s take on Cream’s “I’m So Glad” based on the Skip James 1930’s tune.

Deep Purple would tour the U.S. while their album was climbing the charts, making a name for themselves, and establishing the appeal of this new style of rock music.  Below is a replica (from Dirk Kahler’s Deep Purple Tour Page) of the Oct. 18 ticket for their engagement as an opening act for Cream’s two night appearance at the Fabulous Forum.

deep purple ticket

Tracks Listing [from progarchives.com]

1. And The Address (4:38)
2. Hush (4:24)
3. One More Rainy Day (3:40)
4. Prelude: Happiness / I’m So Glad (7:19)
5. Mandrake Root (6:09)
6. Help (6:01)
7. Love Help Me (3:49)
8. Hey Joe (7:33)

Total time 43:33

Bonus tracks on 2000 remaster:
9. Shadows (Outtake) (3:38)
10. Love help me (Instrumental version) (3:29)
11. Help (Alternate take) (5:23) *
12. Hey Joe (BBC Top Gear session, 14 January 1969) (4:05) *
13. Hush (Live US TV, 1968) (3:53) *

* Previously unreleased

Line-up / Musicians

– Rod Evans / lead vocals
– Ritchie Blackmore / guitars
– Jon Lord / Hammond organ, backing vocals
– Nick Simper /bass, backing vocals
– Ian Paice / drums

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Grateful Dead: Anthem of the Sun

A day after the release of Shades of Deep Purple, Grateful Dead’s second album, Anthem of the Sun, was released on July 18, 1968.  Very different than their first album, which was mostly rock and roll and blues rock, this second album has more folk-rock, bluegrass,  psychedelic and progressive elements including a suite-like first track. Micky Hart’s addition to the band as their new percussionist appears to extend their boundaries as does their bold approach of mixing live and studio versions for the content of each track, focusing on achieving an overall aesthetic product that delineated the separate instruments but also achieved a sense of immediacy and freedom present in live shows. Throughout, there is an interesting mix of studio segments and additions with live material and improvised passages like the quote of Donovan’s “There is a Mountain” on side two’s “Alligator.”  Note that there are two versions of this album: the original mix from 1968 and a 1971 more commercial, and more commonly available, remix.  Released earlier this week, the 50th anniversary edition of Anthem of the Sun includes both the 1968 and 1971 mixes, remastered, on the first CD,  with additional live tracks from a 10/22/1967 concert at Winterland, San Francisco.

Track listing

Side one

#

Title

Length

1.

That’s It for the Other One” (Jerry GarciaBill KreutzmannPhil LeshRon McKernanBob WeirTom Constanten)

  • I. Cryptical Envelopment (Garcia)
  • II. Quadlibet for Tenderfeet (Garcia, Kreutzmann, Lesh, McKernan, Weir)
  • III. The Faster We Go, the Rounder We Get (Kreutzmann, Weir)
  • IV. We Leave the Castle (Constanten)

7:40

2.

“New Potato Caboose” (Lesh, Robert Petersen)

8:26

3.

Born Cross-Eyed” (Weir)

2:04

Side two

#

Title

Length

4.

“Alligator” (Lesh, McKernan, Robert Hunter)

11:20

5.

“Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)” (Garcia, Kreutzmann, Lesh, McKernan, Weir)

9:37

Personnel

Grateful Dead

Additional personnel

Production

  • Grateful Dead – producers, arrangers
  • David Hassinger – producer
  • Dan Healy – executive engineer
  • Bob Matthews – assistant engineer
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Fifty Year Friday: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Charles Tolliver, The Doors and more

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Tyrannosaurus Rex: My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair… But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows

After the collapse of John’s Children, Marc Bolan hastily formed a new group to play at the Electric Garden club in Convent Garden, London, interviewing band members just a few hours before it was time to go on stage.  The band was booed off, and Bolan dropped the bass and guitarist, keeping drummer, Steve Peregrin Took, and busking in the tube stations as an acoustic guitar and bongos duo, until, championed by famous DJ John Peel, they recorded their first album, which included John Peel reciting Marc Bolan’s prose on the last track of side two.

Released on July 5, 1968, Tyrannosaurus Rex’s debut album, My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair… But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows, starts off with a basic blues number, a composition from Marc Bolan’s earlier days, but still sung with an authenticity hearkening back to blues 78s from the 1920s.  It is after that point in the album, excepting another earlier song, “Mustang Ford”, that the duo of Bolan (assumed last name based on Bob Dylan) and Peregrin Took (yes, assumed last name from the novel, The Hobbit) embark on their own path, a concoction of folk, blues, and sidewalk musicianship that has an otherwordly, mystical flavor and just enough dissonance to make the music sparkle.

Give some credit, also, to producer Tony Viscounti, for capturing the general spontaneous and naturalness of the duo,  yet delivering a polished, finished product.  Viscounti had been working as an in-house producer for the Richmond Organization which produced music by the Weavers, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie,  Georgie Fame, and Anthony Newley as well  as other folk and jazz artists.  Just as one can hear some similarities with Anthony Newley on David Bowie’s first album, there are moments in this T. Rex album that are very much folk, with Viscounti working his magic to create a freshness, vitality and clarity to the music, keeping intact the beauty of the acoustic guitar through this wonderful album.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Marc Bolan.

Side A

No.

Title

Length

1.

“Hot Rod Mama”

3:09

2.

“Scenescof”

1:41

3.

“Child Star”

2:52

4.

“Strange Orchestras”

1:47

5.

“Chateau in Virginia Waters”

2:38

6.

“Dwarfish Trumpet Blues”

2:47

Side B

No.

Title

Length

1.

“Mustang Ford”

2:56

2.

“Afghan Woman”

1:59

3.

“Knight”

2:38

4.

“Graceful Fat Sheba”

1:28

5.

“Wielder of Words”

3:19

6.

“Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love)”

5:55

Tyrannosaurus Rex

Also, John Peel, narration on “Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love)”

 

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Charles Tolliver: Paper Man

Recorded on July 2, 1968, Charles Tolliver first album as a leader, Paper Man, seems to be one of those overlooked gems of jazz, not easily available today as a CD or LP, though accessible via Amazon streaming or downloadable from Amazon as mp3s.  Tolliver is supported by pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Joe Chambers and, for part of the album, altoist Gary Bartz.  Herbie Hancock is particularly inventive, providing diverse accompaniment and soloing, and Charles Tolliver sounds great!  The title track, perhaps intended for radio air play, is the most conservative, and potentially most commercial of the tracks and ends the album, with the first five tracks all being more adventurous and compelling.  The production quality of this album is very good for 1968, with clear definition of Joe Chambers’ excellent drum work on the left channel and Hancock acoustic piano on the right.  Well worth the effort to track this down, and an album that deserves repeated listening.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All compositions by Charles Tolliver

  1. “Earl’s World” – 4:23
  2. “Peace With Myself” – 9:37
  3. “Right Now” – 5:47
  4. “Household of Saud” – 6:06
  5. “Lil’s Paradise” – 7:05
  6. “Paper Man” – 6:11

Personnel

Waiting For The Sun

The Doors: Waiting For the Sun

Recorded mostly in the first five months of 1968 and released on July 3, 1968, this third Doors’ album continues along the same path as their second,  however with all but one of Morrison’s cache of original material previously recorded, Morrison and the band had to rush to come up with new music.  Initially, the were going to include a composite piece of earlier Morrison fragments (a version of this can be heard on side four of their live album released two years later), but for whatever reason this was abandoned.  The hit from this album “Hello, I Love You”, was written by Morrison a few years earlier, and was previously recorded in 1965 with an earlier version of the band named Rick & The Ravens. This 1968 version was promoted as the first rock single released in stereo, and it climbed to number one on the pop charts in both the U.S. and Canada.

The album is generally pretty good with Ray Manzarek’s keyboards and Robby Kreiger’s providing interest and substance.  For fans of West Coast jazz, Leroy Vinnegar plays bass on track “Spanish Caravan.”

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by The Doors (Jim MorrisonRay ManzarekRobby Krieger and John Densmore), except as stated.

Side A
No. Title Length
1. Hello, I Love You” (written by Morrison) 2:14
2. Love Street” (written by Morrison) 2:53
3. Not to Touch the Earth” (written by Morrison) 3:56
4. “Summer’s Almost Gone” (written by Morrison) 3:22
5. “Wintertime Love” 1:54
6. The Unknown Soldier 3:23
Side B
No. Title Length
7. “Spanish Caravan” 3:03
8. “My Wild Love” 3:01
9. We Could Be So Good Together 2:26
10. “Yes, the River Knows” (written by Krieger) 2:36
11. Five to One” (written by Morrison) 4:26

The Doors

Additional musicians

 

Southern Rock from Canada and California

Rock was a child of many parents including Rock and Roll — and Rock and Roll was mainly the child of rhythm and blues, but often with some country thrown in, absorbed, stolen, or otherwise incorporated. One permutation of the more traditional rock-and-roll and blues-based rock music family offshoots that had been influenced by country music was what would later be labelled Southern Rock.  In contrast the progressive exploration and aggressive, rebellious pushing of the envelope taking place in 1968, we see an opposite trend in Southern Rock: a more conservative approach to music generally using a limited set of chord progressions, reverting back to a more homophonic or chordal texture, with solo guitar lines providing a large portion of the musical contrast or musical interest.

Amazingly enough, two of the early commercially successful representatives of this style were a California band sounding as if they had come from Louisiana, and a Canadian band that had first provided backup in Toronto for Arkansas-born Ronnie Hawkins and then later served as Bob Dylan’s touring rock band.

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Credence Clearwater Revival: Credence Clearwater Revival

With their three youngest players, including John Fogerty, together since their junior high in Los Cerritos,California, and the fourth being John’s older brother, Tom, who they soon joined up with, the Blue Velvets, played basic rock and roll, eventually signing up with Fantasy Records in 1964, with the unfortunate name of The Golliwogs being thrust on them — which, thankfully, was changed to Credence Clearwater  Revival when Fantasy Records changed ownership.  1960’s rock and roll, blues, rhythm and blues, and country music all contributed components to their first album, titled after the name of the band.

And though this is not the type of music I turn cartwheels over, I have to admit it is pretty good. John Fogerty’s guitar solos are interesting, the production of the album provides clear distinction of the basic rock instruments of drums, bass, rhythm guitar and lead guitar, and music is well crafted and well performed.  The album provided three singles for airplay,  including”Suzie Q”, a “swamp-rock” classic originally recorded and co-written by Dale Hawkins in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1957.  The remaining tracks are also interesting, with the bass and rhythm guitar on the last track, “Walk on Water”, a remake from the earlier days as the Golliwogs, being particularly notable.

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The Band: Music from the Big Pink

It’s easy enough to forget how much bad music was on the AM airwaves in 1968.  When we ask a streaming music assistant like Alexa to play music from the 1968, the fare provided is generally some of the better music, the classic tracks, the music that has survived the more critical scrutiny that occurs over time, as opposed to some of the least palatable numbers that found their way to the charts and on to the portable turntables of some of the teenyboppers that had lesser developed musical tastes.  One of the many annoying singles in 1968, was “The Weight.”  Listening to this again in 2018, I still cringe, despite the high audio quality of the track on the Mobile Fidelity SACD release of The Band’s debut album, Music from the Big Pink.  Listening to the album as a whole,  I hear much that is good, but nothing that excites me musically.

I realize that this album is considered a true rock classic by many, and though I don’t deny its historical influence, I don’t particularly celebrate that influence either.  To my ear these songs seemed to have started with a sequence of chord changes,  fairly ordinary chord changes, on which lyrics where imposed with the melody derived from the meter of the lyrics and the underlying chords.  Or perhaps, the lyrics were written first in some cases, perhaps in the case with the three Dylan songs on this album, and the music was something provided to support the lyrics.  However, this was put together, it doesn’t strike me as carefully crafted final set of music and lyrics, but something produced from the output of a series of casual jam sessions consolidated into shorter songs.

That first CCR album and this first album by The Band, along with a few other albums of 1968, such as the August 1968 Byrds album, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” and the two 1968 albums by Canned Heat, are early examples of country rock and more blues-based rock bands that would become more popular and prevalent in the 1970s, possibly as an alternative to the apparently less-accessible and more complex progressive rock that it would co-exist with.  One should also consider the influence of The Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish, psychedelic rock, blues rock and hard rock on this genre.  As always, pasting labels on music is perhaps effective for display or marketing purposes, but does little to further the enjoyment or understanding of such music. Never let anyone else’s opinion of something influence your innate desire to explore the vast expanse and richness of music left to us by previous or current generations of composers and musicians.

 

Fifty Year Friday: June 1968 including Roland Kirk, Pink Floyd and more

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“When I die I want them to play the BLACK AND CRAZY BLUES, I want to be cremated, put in a bag of pot and I want beautiful people to smoke me and hope they got something out of it.”

― Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Recorded in November of 1967 and released on June 14, 1968,  The Inflated Tear is proof that jazz is as vital and important in the late 1960’s as at any time in its storied history.  “Black and Crazy Blues” opens a very personal, somewhat biographic album with a bluesy funeral dirge, a well crafted and perfectly performed composition that resonates with the type of quiet pride that carries the weary or downtrodden through defeat, suffering, sadness and darkness, whether that darkness is sightlessness, social ignorance or the absence of carefree joy.

This is followed by the light-hearted “A Laugh for Rory” with its playful, dancing flute-work — a sparkling, imaginative tribute to Roland Kirk’s young son, whose voice is heard at the start of the track.  The third track, “Many Blessings”, opens up with Kirk’s solo tenor, joined by a second sax, played simultaneously by Kirk, joined by Rahn Burton on piano, Steve Novosel on bass and Jimmy Hopps in the statement of a very Thelonious Monk-like theme followed by some amazing saxophone soloing and an exuberant piano solo with Kirk’s saxophone providing a strong closing for the work.

“Fingers In the Wind” showcases Kirk’s sensitivity and lyrical expressiveness.  Here we have Roland on flute delivering a work of intimacy, confidence, and clarity.

After hearing the first track, one would normally assume that this is the masterpiece of the album, but “Inflated Tear” is more personal and dives further into the depths of darkness, exploring anguish as well as moments of quiet despair and desolation. Kirk uses his instrumental talents to provide emotional range and impact, particularly in using two saxophones simultaneously to fully and accurately display anguish.

Duke Ellington’s “Creole Love Song” is mostly in a style that recalls Mingus, and this is followed by the lively, jubilant “A Handful of Five” featuring Kirk on the “manzello”, a  modified B-flat soprano saxophone.

“Fly By Night”, is generally upbeat, perhaps indicative of the unconquerable spirit of independence exhibited by those with disabilities that soar through the sky in whatever conditions that are present as part of their circumstance. The last track, “Lovellevelliloqui”, impossible to type without referencing the album jacket, is a buoyant celebration of the power of love, and finishes the album nicely by providing the quest, the accomplishment, and the ultimate victory.

This album, a broad and honest representation of life, is worth not only our attention, but the attention of those generations that follow us.  We can inspect or scrutinize, or simply marvel at these works, just like we marvel at an Edward Hopper,  Andrew Newell Wyeth or Frederick Remington painting.  The music is modern, profound and easily accessible to anyone that appreciates how multi-faceted jazz also requires an alert and empathetic listener to explore both its surfaces and its depths.

Track listing [from Wikipedia ]

All tracks written by Roland Kirk, except where noted.

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “The Black and Crazy Blues” 6:07
2. “A Laugh for Rory” 2:54
3. “Many Blessings” 4:45
4. “Fingers in the Wind” 4:18
5. “The Inflated Tear” 4:58
6. Creole Love Call Duke Ellington 3:53
7. “A Handful of Fives” 2:42
8. “Fly by Night” 4:19
9. “Lovellevelliloqui” 4:17

Personnel

 

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Pink Floyd: Saucerful of Secrets

With Syd Barrett becoming more unstable, guitarist and friend David Gilmour was brought in with the original intent that Barrett would continue to write some music for the band — but with Barrett, around March of 1968 eventually agreeing to leave entirely.

Three tracks have Barrett playing or singing including his own composition, “Jugband Blues” and the Water’s composition “Set the Controls for the Heart of The Sun” in which we get to hear both Barrett and Gilmour on guitar.

Due to his erratic and unreliable behavior, there was little choice but to drop Barrett, the primary song writer for the group.  Roger Waters and Richard Wright, then provided the music for this second album with Mason and Waters working out the general musical outline for the an additional track required to add additional length to the album to provide the necessary minutes to fill out side 2. This would be titled , “A Saucerful of Secrets”, and would also become the title for the album.

Historically this is quite an interesting album.  For one, the last track when compared to the rest of the album provides us a reminder that Pink Floyd would have had a very different timeline if Syd Barrett had stayed with the group. Whether any treatment available at the time could have helped Barrett is not clear, but if he had been able to recover from the difficulties apparently brought on by psychotropic drugs like LSD and had stayed with the group, it is likely that Pink Floyd’s ensuing albums would have had a very different character.

The other important historical aspect is the progressive nature of this music and the first appearances of “space rock”, the otherworldly transformation of psychedelic rock, providing a more open, often gentler and slower paced genre of music that is the musical equivalent of stretching out space and time, and de-emphasizing matter and energy, achieving a transcendental or hypnotic type of listening experience.  “Set The Controls for the Heart of the Sun” is a prime example of a shorter space-rock track, with the title track being a more expansive, longer example, architected beforehand to have an overall shape and character — and highly improvised, evolving from beginning to end as if a single statement.  This style of music will be influential in the direction and style of many European bands. particularly bands in Germany and some in France influencing groups as diverse as Tangerine Dream,  Amon Düül II, Hawkwind, Gong, Grobschnitt, Ash Ra Tempel, and Hoelderlin.  Ultimately, from the seventies well into the 21st century, we have numerous bands and individuals creating various manifestations of space rock and a Bay Area weekly radio program, “Hearts of Space”, started in 1973 that went national on public radio in 1983 with archived programs online at the Hearts of Space website.

Track listing

  1. Let There Be More Light
    05:37 (Waters)
  2. Remember a Day
    04:34 (Wright)
  3. Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
    05:28 (Waters)
  4. Corporal Clegg
    04:12 (Waters)
  5. A Saucerful of Secrets
    11:57 (Mason/Waters/Wright/Gilmour)
  6. See-Saw
    04:37 (Wright)
  7. Jugband Blues
    03:00 (Barrett)

Personnel

Pink Floyd

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Max Roach: Members Don’t Get Weary

Recorded in late June of 1968, Members, Don’t Git Weary is an excellent post-bop jazz album, featuring one of the most interesting and effective jazz drummers of all time, Max Roach, along with Charles Tolliver on trumpet, Gary Bartz on alto sax, Stanley Cowell on piano and electric keyboards and electric bass pioneer, Jymie Merritt.

Besides the excellence of the music, particularly tracks 2, 3, and 6, I am amazed at similarities in the first three tracks and some of the modal-jazz passages used by the jazz-rock group Chicago in their 1969 and 1970 albums.  It leads me to speculate that one or more of Chicago horn players, if not Chicago’s main songwriters, had listened to the first side of this album repeatedly.

Though this album is mostly post-bop modal music, the title track, “Members, Don’t Git Weary”, is a blues based tune with Andy Bey on vocals providing a vehicle for free-jazz improvisation that makes for an interesting contrast to the rest of the album as does “Equipose” which shares some similarities with the modal music on John Coltrane’s Love Supreme album.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All compositions by Stanley Cowell except as indicated

  1. “Abstrutions” – 3:40
  2. “Libra” (Gary Bartz) – 4:58
  3. “Effi” – 6:15
  4. “Equipoise” – 6:22
  5. “Members, Don’t Git Weary” (Max Roach) – 5:32
  6. “Absolutions” (Jymie Merritt) – 4:39
  • Recorded in New York on June 25 (tracks 2-4 & 6) and June 26 (tracks 1 & 5), 1968

Personnel 

 

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The Beach Boys: Friends

Released on June 24, 1968, Friends, is the Beach Boys 14th Studio Album.  Though generally good, it did not sell well in the states with sales around 18,000 units.  It did better on the UK charts peaking at number 13.

The two best tracks on the album are the first two tracks, with “Friends”, which was also released as a single, being a minor masterpiece.  Unfortunately, the promise of the first two tracks are not met by the remainder of the album with the weakest tracks on side two.

Track Listing and Personnel

 

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Aretha Franklin: Aretha Now

Released on June 14, 1968, less than five months after the highly successful Lady Soul album, Aretha Now is an impressive showcase of Aretha’s amazing vocal artistry, peaking at number 1 on the R&B album charts, number 3 on the pop charts and number 9 on the jazz charts.

Every track on this album from “Think” to “”I Can’t See Myself Leaving You” is another opportunity to be wowed and entranced by Aretha’s amazing singing.  Particularly interesting, from an arrangement and interpretive perspective, is the rendition of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “I Say a Little Prayer”, a 1967 hit sung by Dionne Warwick.  Though the original message of the song was about the singer’s concern for her loved one serving in the Vietnam War, this interpretation on Aretha Now reaches past the original message of “offering a prayer”  for someone, to praying (to get) someone, hinted at from the beginning with the Aretha singing “I’ll say a little prayer” and the backup singers following her with “for you” separating the two parts out to highlight this alternative meaning. In the closing, Aretha makes this alternative meaning quite clear with her passionate entreaty in the delivery of the last line: “To live without you would only mean heartbreak for me.”  Whichever of the two ways one takes the meaning, this is emotional affective intepretation, and possibly closer to how Burt Barcharach would have liked to have heard the song having purportedly indicated that the Dionne Warwick version felt a bit rushed.

Track Listing and Personnel

 

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Spooky Tooth: It’s All About

Whereas Aretha Franklin takes a previously successful song and makes an every more impressive version. Spooky Tooth  falls into the trap on their pretty good debut album, It’s All About, of taking a  previously perfectly rendered hit, Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child” and falling short of that level of excellence. Janis Ian had starting conceptualizing this song around 1964 at age 13, finishing it and recording it at age 14, in 1965. About a partially taboo topic for the mid sixties, racial prejudice and its suppression of romantic choice,  it was banned by numerous radio stations, slowing is climb up the national charts, limiting it to achieving only the 14th spot, sadly short of what the song deserved.

Spooky Tooth’s inclusion of this song is clearly a tribute to their understanding of the solid musical craftsmanship of the work, and the gothic, organ-dominated rendition of this certainly is interesting.  Just as The Stories had reversed the genders in “Brother Louie”, Spooky Tooth, reverses the gender to match the gender of the singer, thus inadvertently weakening the message which was not completely separable from the gender-related double standard connected to the topic.

Still one should praise the intent and musical appreciation of this English Band for taking on this American classic song and the generally high level of musicianship and creativity on the first track and the album itself.  The two vocalists, Mike Harrison and Gary Wright, are also providing keyboards, with Harrison sometimes on harpsichord, and Wright providing solid foundation and sometimes psychedelic organ passages.  Music ranges from psychedelic to hard rock with elements of acid rock and heavy metal with overall quality ranging from mundane and predictable to fascinating and interesting.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

  1. Society’s Child” 4:30 (Janis Ian)
  2. “Love Really Changed Me” 3:33 (Grosvenor, Miller, Wright)
  3. “Here I Lived So Well” 5:06 (Wright, Grosvenor, Harrison, Miller)
  4. Too Much of Nothing” 3:57 (Bob Dylan)
  5. “Sunshine Help Me” 3:02 (Wright)
  6. “It’s All About a Roundabout” 2:43 (Miller, Wright)
  7. Tobacco Road” 5:33 (J.D. Loudermilk)
  8. “It Hurts You So” 3:03 (Miller, Wright)
  9. “Forget It, I Got It” 3:26 (Miller, Wright)
  10. “Bubbles” 2:49 (Grosvenor, Wright)

“Too Much of Nothing” was replaced by a cover version of The Band’s “The Weight” on the American release.

Personnel

Spooky Tooth

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Arthur Brown: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

Released in June 1968, Arthur Brown’s first album,  and the first and final album of the band named after him, “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown” is one of a kind.  The first side, somewhat symphonic and conceptual in nature is pretty impressive.  Quite unconventional and Zappa-like in moments, this first side includes their one hit, “Fire”, which got heavy air play in Southern California peaking at number 2 nationally.   The second side is also of interest.  David Bowie fans need to listen to “Rest Cure” where Arthur Brown vocals anticipate David Bowie’s post Ziggy vocals. The  album is provided with overdubbed orchestration by producer Kit Lambert, which effectively raises the level of activity and intensity without sounding artificial or contrived.

The original intent of Brown’s ambitious first album was to make the entire album a rock-opera — a rock album themed around entering into and the resulting horrors of Hell.  Interestingly, enough, Kit Lambert, who would later produce the Who’s Tommy, preferred something more commercial and Brown and Lambert came to compromise limiting this mini-rock opera to one side.

Kit Lambert had plenty of experience with opera, and classical music, being the son of composer Constant Lambert.    Though Constant Lambert never composed an opera,  he did write themed ballets and the social circle which Constant, Constant’s friend, and Kit’s godfather, William Walton, and Constant’s brothers, sculptor Maurice Lambert and painter George Lambert were part of exposed Kit to a wide array of music and culture.  Kit’s father died at an early age (brought about partly from alcohol abuse) when Kit was only 16.  Kit then pursued a more adventurous life, studying film at Trinity College in Oxford and at the University Paris, then serving as an officer in the British Army, and then joining an expedition to locate the source of Brazil’s Iriri River in which one member was killed by one of the Panará tribes.

Kit is known largely for his and Chris Stamp’s involvement with the Who. The two were setting to make a documentary about a single band, and ultimately Kit became interested in a group called The High Numbers.  Kit and Chris took over management and changed the name of the group to “The Who.” Kit encouraged Townshend’s songwriting, and was responsible for some of the group’s onstage tricks.  Kit produced and engineered the Who’s albums up to Tommy (coming back for Quadrophenia), being partly responsible for the progressive nature of The Who, which is definitely missing in the post-Quadrophenia albums.

It is ironic, then, that Kit Lambert, with his background in classical music and the arts, and who was involved in the writing of the first draft of the Who’s Tommy, discouraged Arthur Brown from making a full album rock-opera and encouraged him to make something more commercial.  And also ironic, then, is that this album doesn’t sound very commercial at all.  And further ironical is that such a non-commercial album not only did so well commercially, but also produced a number two singles hit. Oh, wait, never mind, this was 1968.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side one

  1. “Prelude/Nightmare” (Arthur Brown) – 3:28
  2. “Fanfare/Fire Poem” (Brown, Vincent Crane) – 1:51
  3. Fire” (Brown, Crane, Mike Finesilver, Peter Ker)[6] – 2:54
  4. “Come and Buy” (Brown, Crane) – 5:40
  5. “Time” (Brown) – 3:07
  6. “Confusion” (Crane) – 2:08

Side two

  1. I Put a Spell on You” (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) – 3:41
  2. “Spontaneous Apple Creation” (Brown, Crane) – 2:54
  3. “Rest Cure” (Brown, Crane) – 2:44
  4. I’ve Got Money” (James Brown) – 3:09
  5. “Child of My Kingdom” (Brown, Crane) – 7:01 (Original North American releases of the album contained a 6:25 edit of this track, but incorrectly list its length as 5:05; the UK mono edition contains a 6:04 edit)

Personnel

  • Arthur Brown – vocals
  • Vincent Crane – keyboards, vibes, musical arrangements and orchestration
  • Nick Greenwood (billed as “Sean Nicholas”) – bass guitar
  • Drachen Theaker – drums
  • John Marshall – drums (on “I Put a Spell on You” and “Child of My Kingdom”)[1]
Additional personnel
  • Pete Townshend – associate producer
  • Kit Lambert – producer
  • David King – cover design
  • David Montgomery – photography
  • Ed Strait – compilation producer

Os Mutantes and Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival

If you are still reading at this point, and there is no concrete reason to think you are, I need to also mention Brazil’s Os Mutantes and the June 15 recording of the Bill Evans Trio at Montreux, Switzerland.

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From this first track, of Os Mutantes’s self-title debut album “Panis Et Cirenses” (Latin for “Bread and Circuses” and meant to indicate a means of superficial or easily-provided appeasement), one is caught up in this very accessible Brazilian pop. Tangentially connected to the Tropicália movement and also Gil Gilberto as evidenced by the music that opens each side of the album, Os Mutantes releases their first album in June 1968,  filling it full of joy and celebration.  Enriched with special effects, as in the rain-forest-meets-Carnaval “Adeus Maria Fulô”, this album is certainly progressive in the general sense of that word and with its best quality tracks — as with “O Relógio” — this is a fun and enjoyable album that vibrantly bubbles with the musical elements of 1968 pop, rock and Brazilian music.

 

Track Listing [from progarchives.com]

1. Panis Et Circenses (3:40)
2. A Minha Menina (4:45)
3. O Relógio (3:32)
4. Adeus Maria Fulô (3:06)
5. Baby (3:02)
6. Senhor F (2:36)
7. Bat Macumba (3:10)
8. Le Premier Bonheur Du Jour (3:40)
9. Trem Fantasma (3:19)
10. Tempo No Tempo (1:49)
11. Ave, Gengis Khan (3:51)

Total time 36:30

Personnel [from Wikipedia]

Os Mutantes
Special guests
  • Dirceu: drums
  • Jorge Ben: vocals and acoustic guitar (in “A Minha Menina”)
  • Dr. César Baptista: vocals (in “Ave, Gengis Khan”)
  • Clarisse Leitepiano in “Senhor F”
  • Cláudio Baptista: electronics
  • Gilberto Gilpercussion (in “Bat Macumba”)

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We are very fortunate that someone at the Montreux Jazz Festival recorded this performance of the Bill Evans Trio —  the only recording that I am aware of Bill Evans with Eddie Gómez and Jack DeJohnette.

I sometimes lose interest in obligatory bass solos, but not with any of Gómez’s solo or ensemble bass work.  I love that “Embraceable You” is used as a platform for over six minutes of mesmerizing bass work.  I also am impressed at how well Jack DeJohnette’s partners with both Gómez and Evans throughout the live performance, with “Nardis”  being an impressive display of how well these three musicians work together.

Most of all, I love listening to Bill Evans and he is in top form here. We get two beautiful, expressive solo piano ballads (“Quiet Now” and “I Loves You, Porgy”) as well as two original Evans compositions.   Time enough spent blogging — or in your case, if you made it this far, reading — time now to listen to this and other music again!

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

  1. “Spoken Introduction” – 0:57
  2. “One for Helen” (Bill Evans) – 4:22
  3. A Sleepin’ Bee” (Harold ArlenTruman Capote) – 6:05
  4. “Mother of Earl” (Earl Zindars) – 5:14
  5. “Nardis” (Miles Davis) – 8:23
  6. “Quiet Now” (Denny Zeitlin) – 6:26 (Not on original LP, but included on CD)
  7. I Loves You, Porgy” (George GershwinIra GershwinDuBose Heyward) – 6:00
  8. “The Touch of Your Lips” (Ray Noble) – 4:45
  9. Embraceable You” (G. Gershwin, I. Gershwin) – 6:45
  10. Some Day My Prince Will Come” (Frank ChurchillLarry Morey) – 6:08
  11. “Walkin’ Up” (Evans) – 3:34

Personnel

 

Fifty Year Friday: British Folk Rock

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Continuing the trend of merging rock and British folk music as exemplified by Donovan, The Incredible String Band, and the then relatively unknown Roy Harper, the spring and summer of 1968 warmly welcomed The Incredible String Band’s third studio album, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter and Pentangle’s and Fairport Conventions first studio albums, both self-titled.

Released in March of 1968, The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter continues much along the lines of the Incredible String Band’s two earlier albums, with Robin Williamson continuing to extend his cache of musical weapons and share writing responsibilities with fellow band-member and multi-instrumentalist Mike Heron.  As on the previous album, Williamson and Heron supplement this recording with additional musicians.

The first time I heard this group was around 1972 from their inclusion in a Warner Brothers’ Loss Leader compilation. Starting around 1969, Warner Brothers released $1 compilation albums of their artists, and these albums were my first exposure to Van Dyke Parks, Pentangle, Steeleye Span, Family, Curved Air, and Martin Mull, and the Incredible String Band.  I remember anticipating what a band called “The Incredible String Band” would sound like and when I got to the track, the next to last track on side two of the two LP set, I was disappointed as I was expecting a large string ensemble or exotic bowed instruments as opposed to a small folk group.

So its only lately again that I have explored the music of Incredible String Band, and for the most part it still isn’t music that excites me. I have avoided including mention of them in “Fifty Year Friday” as I like to stay with albums I really like, but due to the historic importance of this band, its appropriate to acknowledge both them and their third album in this particular post.

The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter certainly includes a wonderful mix of instrumentation and it is peppered with many interesting moments.  The unconventional instrumentation and the use of 24 track technology enhances the underlying compositions and provides a level of sophistication to the music.  Unfortunately, the music is overly repetitive, and not particularly adventurous melodically or harmonically, often suffering from lack of originality (“The Minotaur’s Song” is clearly modeled after Gilbert and Sullivan.)   The highlight of the album is the thirteen-minute “A Very Cellular Song” which incorporates a diverse set of musical components and textures, but unfortunately none sound particularly original and the repetition of the melodies borders on annoying.    The following passage provides an example of this — each couplet is a repetition of the melodic “couplet” and so gets a bit tiring as there is no development or contrast throughout this section:

And I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight,
Lord, I bid you goodnight, goodnight, goodnight,
 
One of these mornings bright and early and fine,
Goodnight, goodnight.
 
Not a cricket, not a spirit going to shout me on.
Goodnight, goodnight.
 
I go walking in the valley of the shadow of death.
Goodnight, goodnight.
 
And his rod and his staff shall comfort me
Goodnight, goodnight.
 
Oh John, the wine he saw the sign
Goodnight, goodnight.
 
Oh, John say, “I seen a number of signs”
Goodnight, goodnight.
 
Tell “A” for the ark that wonderful boat.
Goodnight, goodnight
 
You know they built it on the land, getting water to float.
Goodnight, goodnight
 
Oh, tell “B” for the beast at the ending of the wood.
Goodnight, goodnight.

You know it ate all the children when they wouldn’t be good.
Goodnight, goodnight.
 
I remember quite well, I remember quite well.
Goodnight, goodnight

And I was walking in Jerusalem just like John.
Goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.

The quality of lyrics is also a challenge for me.  In some cases the lyrics appear to be written first and the music added as an afterthought and in other cases the lyrics seemed to have been improvised over the music, as if by trial and error, until they sort of stuck.  Overall, I don’t hear an abundance of craftsmanship or refinement in the lyrics or the music.

And so, this is not an album that I find completely engaging.  Yes, there are some  good moments and good music, including the opening track if it was less repetitive, but there is too much content here that comes across as stream of consciousness or improvised inspiration that is then extended and over-repeated.  At a minimum, I expect an album to keep me entranced and ensnared — not covertly coaxing me to consider what else I could spend my time listening to.

That said, this is a critically acclaimed album, nominated for a Grammy and is rated five stars by both Rolling Stone Album Guide and by allmusic.com.  It was also influential for groups like Led Zeppelin and praised by Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and John Peel.  Don’t let my opinion of this work keep you from checking this out yourself.  I encourage anyone that has not heard The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter to listen to it on their streaming music service or via youtube.com at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgQuVeMOyAk .  Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Robin Williamson, except tracks 4, 5 and 9 by Mike Heron.

No. Title Length
1. “Koeeoaddi There” 4:49
2. “The Minotaur’s Song” 3:22
3. “Witches Hat” 2:33
4. A Very Cellular Song 13:09
5. “Mercy I Cry City” 2:46
6. “Waltz of the New Moon” 5:10
7. “The Water Song” 2:50
8. “Three Is a Green Crown” 7:46
9. “Swift As the Wind” 4:53
10. “Nightfall” 2:33

 

Incredible String Band

Additional Personnel

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Pentangle released the self-titled first album on May 17, 1968.  The recording’s production brings out the strengths of the acoustic instruments, emphasizing the instruments individually by closely miking them.  The musicians play crisply and with distinction and the vocals fit in very nicely  This album blends folk with jazz and blues techniques and elements,  intermingling traditional tunes with originals, like the excellent “Bells”, creating vital and refined music that is a joy to listen to.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme Traditional 2:37
2. “Bells” Pentangle 3:52
3. “Hear My Call” The Staple Singers 3:01
4. “Pentangling” Pentangle 7:02

 

Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. “Mirage” Bert Jansch 2:00
6. “Way Behind the Sun” Traditional 3:01
7. Bruton Town Traditional 5:05
8. “Waltz” Pentangle 4:54

 

Pentangle

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Released sometime in June 1968 in the UK, but sadly not available in the US until 1970 except as an import, Fairport Convention’s first album is as much of a rock album as a folk album, blending folk and rock elements convincingly and effectively with use of both electric and acoustic instruments. We have some fine tracks with electric guitars and electric bass, as with the case with the first two tracks, which are really unlike anything else at the time — sounding more like early 70’s rock — and we have some  excellent acoustic work, most notably the fourth track of the album, “Decameron.” Overall, this is a strong, impressive album with some weak spots, like the last three tracks at the end of side two.

My definition of progressive rock is a rather broad one. I will acknowledge any rock music as progressive rock if it pushes past the conventions or boundaries that were generally adhered to by other groups for that time period and makes a convincing music statement while doing that.  I also lean towards considering rock as progressive rock if it is exceptionally excellent and worthy of being mentioned with other great music of previous generations.   For me, “Yesterday”, “Here, There and Everywhere” and “Eleanor Rigby” are included with “Strawberry Fields”, and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” as progressive rock, even though one could argue “Yesterday” is no more a rock song than Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.”

Then there is the style of progressive rock considered as a genre and exemplified by groups like Yes, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator, and Gentle Giant.  Decades later there have come about a number of groups that imitate these groups,  some of them creating high quality music, but without adding much new or stretching the boundaries of the original music that influenced them.  These groups are also categorized as progressive rock, or sometimes neo-progressive rock.  I would be hesitant to call such music progressive rock unless it really is saying something new or extending into previously unexplored or rarely explored territory.

The instrumental interlude in Fairport Convention’s “Sun Shade” and the instrument introduction to the next track, “Lobster” not only fit my personal definition of progressive rock, but, I think, would have to be classified as being music of the progressive rock genre. In fact, if one thinks strictly in terms of the music of progressive rock landmarks like King Crimson’s “In the Court of the Crimson King”,  one can listen to instances like Vanilla Fudge’s “That’s What Makes a Man” mentioned in last week’s Fifty Year Friday’s post , the Nice’s first album, and the instrumental introduction to “Lobster”, and hear not just the seeds of the progressive rock style, or music that some label as “proto-prog”, but clearly hear the “progressive rock” style of music, set in motion by the progressiveness of earlier efforts from the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, not to mention the earlier progressive contributions of jazz, big band music, be-bop, cool jazz, and hard bop.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Time Will Show the Wiser” Emitt Rhodes 3:05
2. “I Don’t Know Where I Stand” Joni Mitchell 3:45
3. “If (Stomp)” Ian McDonaldRichard Thompson 2:45
4. “Decameron” Paul Ghosh, Andrew Horvitch, Thompson 3:42
5. Jack O’Diamonds Bob DylanBen Carruthers 3:30
6. “Portfolio” Judy DybleTyger Hutchings 2:00

 

Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. Chelsea Morning Joni Mitchell 3:05
8. “Sun Shade” Ghosh, Horvitch, Thompson 3:50
9. “The Lobster” George Painter, Hutchings, Thompson 5:25
10. “It’s Alright Ma, It’s Only Witchcraft” Hutchings, Thompson 3:12
11. “One Sure Thing” Harvey BrooksJim Glover 2:50
12. “M.1 Breakdown” Hutchings, Simon Nicol 1:22

 

Fairport Convention

Additional Personnel

  • Claire Lowther – cello

Fifty Year Friday: Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida and Vanilla Fudge’s Renaissance

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In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (Released June 14, 1968)

A while back, Time Magazine reported that the ideal length of time for workers to take a break was 17 minutes.  Not coincidentally, this is the time it took for Iron Butterfly to record “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” created a revolution in rock albums, taking up an entire side, psychologically preparing the way for tracks like the sixteen minute medley on side two of Abbey Road, Van Der Graaf Generator’s 23 minute “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” on side two of Pawn’s Heart,  the 23 minute “Supper’s Ready” taking up most of side two of Genesis’s Foxtrot, Yes’s 18 minute “Close to the Edge”, Jethro Tull’s 44 minute complete album, “Thick As a Brick”, and Yes’s two LP, “Tales of Topographic Oceans”, not to mention very-long tracks from Can, Amon Duul II , Ash Ra Tempel and Pink Floyd as well as works like Morton Feldman’s 1983 six-hour String Quartet No. 2, Max Richter’s eight hour “Sleep”, Kuzhalmannam Ramakrishnanand’s 501 hour concert in 2009 and John Cage’s Organ²/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible) which if not rushed, lasts around 639 years.

And, yes, there were earlier long works going back hundreds of years across various continents long before recorded music.  We also have several cases of very long jazz tracks that pre-date “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”  But we are talking about rock here, a genre of music born from the three-minute pop tune aimed at attention-deficit teens and cultivated to sustain a revenue stream through theoretically expendable music and even more expendable music groups.

It was “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” that bridged the gap between The Doors “Light My Fire”  and the multi-section progressive rock long tracks to follow.  And unlike some of the progressive rock to come, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”  was not several songs bound together but a single song, with extended solos, including the famous drum solo that changed the role and egos of rock drummers until the end of time.

For historic purposes, one has to mention  Love’s 1967 single-side 19 minute song, “Revelation” — but the difference is that Love’s long “Revelation” was generally ignored at that time it was released, for good reason, and Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” carried its album to the number four billboard spot and made it in abbreviated form as a hit single.

Originally titled “In A Garden of Eden”, but reportedly changed to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” upon hearing how composer Doug Ingle pronounced the title after a gallon of cheap wine. “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” starts off with Doug Ingle’s neo-baroque organ solo in d minor followed by baroque-like layering of the entrances of the other instruments including Ingle’s vocal.  Remarkable and clearly inescapable is the ostinato (a repeated musical phrase, often in the lower register) not too distantly related to the  opening of Tcherepnin’s Bagatelle op. 5 no. 1 (C, C, B-flat, C [long, short, short, long]) and the 1960’s more frequently played Ajax’s “Stronger Than Dirt” jingle, except transposed to d minor and transformed brilliantly so the opening pattern is D, D, F, E, C, D (long, long, short, short, short, long) thus creating one of the first and most impactful heavy metal riffs.

There are a number of notable components to this work including the hard rock introduction, the modulation from the verse to the chorus, the organ passage work, the guitar solo, the basic (basic enough for non-musicians to tap along with) but memorable two-and-a-half  minute drum solo, the organ solo incorporating “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, and the ensemble percussion section with organ and guitar commentary.  For comparison of how similarly In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was played live, one can check out the group’s Filmore East live album released decades later which includes two concert recordings of  from April 1968.

As a bonus, the first side has some very accessible tracks, mostly of the psychedelic era but here and there with early heavy-metal elements and a number of interesting organ passages. The first two tracks are upbeat with “Flowers and Beads” being material that would have worked quite well for the Turtles. “My Mirage” is more reflective, “Termination” includes a solid early metal ostinato on the chorus and a wistful, ethereal coda, and “Are You Happy” makes a solid case that this group has made the leap from psychedelic rock and acid-rock into heavy metal territory — also, note this track’s primal, dark, earthy opening, and then the descending chords sequence in the verse.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side one

#

Title

Writer(s)

Lead Vocals

Length

1.

“Most Anything You Want” Doug Ingle Ingle

3:44

2.

“Flowers and Beads” Ingle Ingle

3:09

3.

“My Mirage” Ingle Ingle

4:55

4.

“Termination” Erik BrannLee Dorman Brann

2:53

5.

“Are You Happy” Ingle Ingle

4:31

Side two

#

Title

Writer(s)

Lead Vocals

Length

6.

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida Ingle Ingle

17:05

Personnel

 

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Renaissance (Released June 14, 1968)

Known mostly as a sophisticated cover band and not for their original compositions (if you need verification, ask Amazon’s Alexa to play songs by Vanilla Fudge and see how many hours, not minutes, elapse before she plays something that wasn’t a cover of a previously successful song), this album contains five original compositions by band members, one composition by songwriter  Essra Mohawk, and their cover of the Donovan song, “Season of the Witch”, which received some airplay for a few weeks on both AM and FM radio.   Not only are the original songs of satisfying quality, but were strong enough to propel the album up to the number 20 spot on the Billboard album chart only a few weeks after its release.

The opening of “The Sky Cried/When I Was a Boy” is as solidly progressive as just about anything in the first half of 1968. When the vocals arrive, the track sounds more psychedelic or early metal than progressive, but the musicianship is solid. “That’s What Makes a Man” also has an instrumental introduction that anticipates Yes.  The band’s vocalizing is effective on all seven tracks and their sometimes eerie, wraith-like supporting vocals likely had some influence on later bands, particularly Uriah Heep.  Overall, this album generally gets classified as psychedelic rock, hard rock or acid-rock.  Worth listening to if you haven’t previously heard this album and are interested in hard rock or the roots of progressive rock; also worth revisiting if you haven’t heard this since the late sixties or early seventies.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side 1

  1. “The Sky Cried/When I Was a Boy” (Mark SteinTim Bogert) – 7:36
  2. “Thoughts” (Vince Martell) – 3:28
  3. “Paradise” (Stein, Carmine Appice) – 5:59
  4. “That’s What Makes a Man” (Stein) – 4:28

Side 2

  1. “The Spell That Comes After” (Essra Mohawk) – 4:29
  2. “Faceless People” (Appice) – 5:55
  3. Season of the Witch” (Donovan Leitch; interpolating “We Never Learn” by Essra Mohawk) – 8:40

Personnel

Fifty Year Friday: Joan Baez, Baptism: A Journey Through Our Time, Randy Newman

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From 1967 continuing into 1968 and forward, popular music continues to become more serious, stimulating, and consequential at the same time that modern concert hall music (commonly called twentieth century classical music, modern classical music or avant-garde classical music) continues to struggle to appeal to sizable audiences, with most classical music concerts programming music from the 19th and 18th centuries with a few early, relatively accessible twentieth century works, like Debussy’s orchestral works or Stravinsky’s Firebird included now and then.

In the late sixties many of the best artists and bands in popular music became just as intent on creating works of artistic value as anyone in the more traditional and established areas of the fine arts.  When such artists or bands were lacking in a given area, they would either extend their own skills or reach out to others to assist them in completing a given objective or vision.  More and more this meant including orchestration in their albums.  At first this may have been more driven by producers and the commercial interests of the record companies, and in many of these cases the orchestration was added as something appended to the original product, as in the case with Stanley Turrentine’s “Look of Love” where strings are overdubbed on top of previously  recorded tracks.  But there were also many cases where the orchestration was part of the fabric of the music — or where electronic keyboards and more sophisticated usage of electric guitars, electric bass guitars and percussion replace the instruments of the traditional orchestra, further empowering the artistic determination of the artist or band.

Before the prevalence of electronic keyboards, either the artist or someone in the band had to be a skilled orchestrator or be able to effectively collaborate with a skilled arranger and orchestrator.  In Joan Baez’s case, she was able to partner with Peter Schickle on three of her albums.  Schickle, the mastermind behind PDQ Bach, with three PDQ Bach albums already to his credit on Vanguard, was also composing for film when he partnered with her for the third time on Joan’s 1968 concept album, Baptism. Though neither a commercial nor critical success, Baptism is a strong political statement against war and the ongoing inhumanity characteristic of “civilized” societies.  No doubt, some who had purchased this album were disappointed at the ratio of spoken word to singing, and I suspect this is not an album many will care to listen to more than once or twice, but as a document of the times, this remains an effective artistic statement with a well-selected mix of readings. some excellent orchestration, and Baez’s beautiful vocals.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

  1. “Old Welsh Song” (Henry Treece)
  2. “I Saw the Vision of Armies” (Walt Whitman)
  3. “Minister of War” (Arthur Waley)
  4. “Song In the Blood” (Lawrence FerlinghettiJacques Prévert)
  5. “Casida of the Lament” (J.L. Gili, Federico García Lorca)
  6. “Of the Dark Past” (James Joyce)
  7. London” (William Blake)
  8. “In Guernica” (Norman Rosten)
  9. “Who Murdered the Minutes” (Henry Treece)
  10. “Oh, Little Child” (Henry Treece)
  11. “No Man Is an Island” (John Donne)
  12. “Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man” (James Joyce)
  13. “All the Pretty Little Horses” (Traditional)
  14. “Childhood III” (Arthur Rimbaud, Louis Varese)
  15. “The Magic Wood” (Henry Treece)
  16. “Poems from the Japanese” (Kenneth Rexroth)
  17. “Colours” (Peter LeviRobin Milner-GullandYevgeny Yevtushenko)
  18. All in green went my love riding” (E. E. Cummings)
  19. “Gacela of the Dark Death” (Federico García LorcaStephen Spender)
  20. “The Parable of the Old Man and the Young” (Wilfred Owen)
  21. “Evil” (N. Cameron, Arthur Rimbaud)
  22. “Epitaph for a Poet” (Countee Cullen)
  23. “Mystic Numbers- 36”
  24. “When The Shy Star Goes Forth In Heaven” (James Joyce)
  25. “The Angel” (William Blake)
  26. “Old Welsh Song” (Henry Treece)

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It’s certainly not a mystery why talented composers would choose to pursue the popular music of their times — music that they listen to, their friends listen to, and reflect the time they live in — as opposed to less popular music of academia, which can only unconvincingly assert its lineage to the great music of  Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.  One should expect that the most engaging, commercially viable, and prevalent music would attract a substantial proportion of able and talented musicians and composers: it was the case during the jazz era, the swing era, the be-bop era, and in the late sixties, during some of the most exciting days of rock music.

Randy Newman’s father and mother were not professional composers, but three of his uncles were:  Alfred NewmanLionel Newman and Emil Newman  — all noted Hollywood film-score composers, with the most famous, Alfred Newman, conducting, arranging and composing about two-hundred film scores, nine of which won Academy Awards.  Randy already had written a number of songs including a B-side (“They Tell Me It’s Summer”) for a hit single of the Fleetwoods (“Lovers by Night, Strangers by Day”), the song lyrics for Bobby Darin’s “Look at Me” (the title song of the 1964 movie, “The Lively Set”), and songs recorded by Dusty SpringfieldPetula ClarkJackie DeShannon, and the O’Jays, when he dropped out of UCLA, only one semester short of a music degree. By then, he had taken courses in music theory, music history and probably one or more orchestration classes, though clearly he had already learned the basics before his UCLA studies having written background music for a 1962 episode of TV’s The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and then eventually providing music for other TV shows including  Lost in SpacePeyton Place,  Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea and one of my favorites as kid, Judd For The Defense.

With several years of experience in songwriting and orchestra scoring, Randy Newman released his first album, Randy Newman, in June of 1968.  The album did not sell well, and Warner Brothers provided any dissatisfied buyers the opportunity to exchange the album for any other album in their catalog.

But this album is a keeper.  From the beginning we see a thoughtful approach to songwriting.  The first song, “Love Song” immediately makes an impact with its dry, wry humor, its shrewdly crafted orchestration, and its structure: Newman’s ending to the song eschews the standard return of the chorus and ends with a bridge section that is followed by a final, modified verse with a simple brief coda, creating not a climax, but an ending that aligns well with the sober, yet tongue-in-cheek message: “When our kids are grown with kids of their own, they’ll send us away to a little home in Florida; we’ll play checkers all day ’til we pass away.”

Newman’s unique delivery, the reflective piano accompaniment, the excellent orchestration, often veering intentionally away from the core song material, make their mark on each and every track.  Repeatedly Newman is taking up the voice of the underdog, the rejected, or the trodden-down, forgotten citizen, even when reflecting on the status of God as in “I Think He’s Hiding.”  Songs like “Bet No One Every Hurt So Bad”, “Living Without You”, and “Linda” not only reflect on the sadness and angst of the persona of the lyrics (the point of view, narrator, speaker) but provide commentary on the character of that persona such that we may feel some sympathy but would sometimes also wish to distance ourselves a little from some of these characters if they came into our vicinity.

On the song “Cowboy”, perhaps the best song on the album, we feel genuine empathy and compassion for the persona. This is a song from the heart without any clever commentary or cloaked irony.  Newman raises this to an art song with his orchestration.  The work starts off with the images of the prairie, the orchestration developing and sculpting the mood, supporting the lyrics and evoking some of the characteristics of the music of Aaron Copland. Following “Cowboy”, “Beehive” is an interesting variant on the well-known “St. James Infirmary Blues”, followed by the classic “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today”, recorded by Judy Collins in 1966.  Ending this excellent album is “Davy The Fat Boy” — a track that might be considered politically incorrect today, but it is not a portrait about Davy but about the scoundrel exploiting him.  The orchestration/arrangement is again the star here, and it is every bit of an art song as anything turned out by the Beatles or Beach Boys.

In an act of full disclosure here, I once saw Newman perform “Love Story” on network television a very long time ago — perhaps this was in 1970 on an “In Concert” program — or perhaps on late night TV — and at that time, hearing him accompanied only by his piano, I was not impressed enough to follow-up further by purchasing an album or requesting it as a possible present for the next birthday or Christmas.  It turned out that for me, Randy Newman was an acquired taste, cemented by taking a music history course at my local college during my senior year in high school, in which course, the cellist, and course instructor, Terry King, played part of Newman’s “Sail Away” album. King had played on that album and reminisced about the experience.  Later that same week, Mr. King played, with great pride, a recording of Schubert’s Erlkönig.  At the end, one of the students asked “what was so special about that?  It’s just a song.”  King, unflustered, replied that no, Erlkönig was not an ordinary song, it was truly something extraordinarily special, but didn’t go into any details to support that conclusion.  At that point, I thought, yes, Schubert’s Erlkönig is quite dramatic and special — and even catchy, in an early-nineteenth-century-equivalency-of-hard-rock sort of way — but it is a song — and I thought back to that earlier class in which King had played Randy Newman — someone who also wrote songs, but one hundred and fifty years later. Yes, a song is a song, but there is no particular boundary to how good (or bad) it can be.  It’s up to the listener to make that evaluation, and if enough listeners have a favorable opinion over time, that song may have some longevity.

So possibly, the songs of Randy Newman will be around in the 22nd century.  If so, this album, out of print for fifteen years before being released on CD, and generally ignored by the rock critics of 1968, provides more than just an interesting assortment of early Randy Newman tunes, but a complete, and rewarding, musical experience.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All songs written and arranged by Randy Newman.

  1. “Love Story (You and Me)” – 3:20
  2. “Bet No One Ever Hurt This Bad” – 2:00
  3. “Living Without You” – 2:25
  4. “So Long Dad” – 2:02
  5. “I Think He’s Hiding” – 3:04
  6. “Linda” – 2:27
  7. “Laughing Boy” – 1:55
  8. “Cowboy” – 2:36
  9. “Beehive State” – 1:50
  10. I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” – 2:55
  11. “Davy the Fat Boy” – 2:50

Fifty Year Friday: Silver Apples and Horace Silver’s Serenade to a Soul Sister

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Silver Apples was what was left of the cover band, The Overland Stage Electric Band, after vocalist, Simeon Coxe III,  incorporated old-fashioned 1940’s technology audio oscillators into their performances at Café Wah in Greenwich Village, annoying, exasperating, and eventually alienating all other members of the band except the drummer, Danny Taylor.  Now, with only two of the five original members still on board, the band was renamed and, with a set of thirteen oscillators connected together, soon recorded an album for the small label, Kapp, which had recently been purchased by MCI after Kapp had repeatedly proved itself, including recording Louis Armstrong’s very successful single, “Hello Dolly”, in 1964 and recording the original cast album of “Man of La Mancha” in 1966.

For those that would propose that all the new music in any decade following the sixties is truly based on something already recorded prior to 1970, this first Silver Apples album, Silver Apples,  makes a good exhibit A for such a case. Here, in this album, we can hear many of the key ingredients of the music of Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, techno-rock, and various pockets of underground dance music and indie rock that followed. To their credit, Beck, the Beastie Boys, Stereolab and Portishead’s Geoff Barrow have all publicly acknowledged the influence of Silver Apples.

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Heralded by John Lennon and Gary Booker of Procol Harum, and joined by Jimi Hendrix for jam sessions, Silver Apples appeared to have a future that looked interesting, if not particularly promising commercially.  Unfortunately, the actual longevity of Silver Apples was brief, even in rock-career years, as a result of the album cover content of their second LP, Contact, which shows the band in a PanAm cockpit with the PanAM logo clearly visible in the upper right on the front, and Simeon and Taylor sitting amidst the wreckage on the back cover perhaps humorously hinting they weren’t up to handling all the sophisticated electronics.  Ironically, the agent of their “crash and burn” was not due to any misuse of electronics, or lack of public recognition, but was solely due to that back album cover itself, which precipitated a lawsuit from Pan Am Airlines; though PanAm had had originally approved the group’s use of the Pan Am logo for the front cover, they were completely taken by surprise with the wreckage portrayed on the back cover.

 

“They sued us, big‑time,” Simeon stated in a 2010 Sound on Sound interview.  “They sued Kapp Records, they sued us as a band, they sued us personally, they sued our management, they got some judge in New York to issue a cease‑and‑desist on us performing. All the records had to be taken off the shelves in all of the record stores. They put some sort of a lien on our equipment and they actually came to a club where we were playing and confiscated Danny’s drums. Fortunately, my stuff wasn’t there. That photograph led to the lawsuit that broke the band up. No record label would touch us from that point on. That was the end of Silver Apples.”

Let’s forget about this tragic demise for now (the band, like so many sixties band, have reunited for concert appearances), and celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of this influential and historical significant album.  It is rough in spots, with generally weak vocals, but there is no scarcity of interesting content — such content bookended by the strongest tracks, “Oscillations” and “Misty Mountain.”  Youtube audio doesn’t do this track justice, but still conveys that this music sounds more like a composition from the late seventies than the late sixties:

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side A

#

Title

Writer(s)

Length

1.

“Oscillations”

Simeon, Taylor, Warren

2:48

2.

“Seagreen Serenades”

Simeon, Taylor, Warren

2:55

3.

“Lovefingers”

Simeon, Taylor, Warren

4:11

4.

“Program”

Simeon, Taylor, Warren

4:07

5

“Velvet Cave”

Simeon, Taylor, Warren

3:00

Side B

#

Title

Writer(s)

Length

1.

“Whirly-Bird”

Simeon, Taylor, Warren

2:41

2.

“Dust”

Simeon, Taylor, Warren

3:40

3.

“Dancing Gods”

Navajo Indian Ceremonial

5:57

4.

“Misty Mountain”

Simeon, Taylor, Eileen Lewellen

2:47

Silver Apples Personnel

  • Dan Taylor – drums, percussion, vocals
  • Simeon – oscillators, flute, vocals

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With a series of excellent albums on the Blue Note record label since he first signed with Blue Note in 1952, Horace Silver delivered another with Serenade for a Soul Sister released in early June 1968.

This is a high energy album, musically positive, with strong forward momentum; in addition, it conveys that special Blue Note quality captured in so many of the albums engineered by Rudy Van Gelder.  The first three tracks include Stanley Turrentine on tenor sax, sounding better than on his own 1968 album, “The Look of Love”, which is marred by overdubbed strings added into an otherwise surprisingly good performance of mostly contemporary pop tunes.  The very first track, “Psychedelic Sally” swings, bops, and rocks, brimming with a level of energy more commonly associated to electric guitars and electronic keyboards than a small acoustic jazz group.  The second and third tracks are in 3/4,  and the fourth track is in a fast 5/4 with a recurring syncopation between the second and third beats which extends its way with an added beat into a 6/4 bridge-like section that returns to the original theme followed by strong improvisation by Bennie Maupin, Charles Tolliver, and then Silver followed by the return of the ensemble.  The fifth track, “Kindred Spirits”, takes a slower and more casual tempo, and the last track, “Next Time I Fall in Love”, is a calm, relaxed, and somewhat carefree piano solo by Silver that nicely ends this upbeat and generally energetic album.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All compositions by Horace Silver.

  1. “Psychedelic Sally” – 7:14
  2. “Serenade to a Soul Sister” – 6:19
  3. “Rain Dance” – 6:21
  4. “Jungle Juice” – 6:46
  5. “Kindred Spirits” – 5:55
  6. “Next Time I Fall in Love” – 5:19

Personnel

Musicians

on tracks 1 – 3 (February 23, 1968)

on tracks 4 – 6 (March 29, 1968)

Production

 

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