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Fifty Year Friday: Spirit, Led Zeppelin, Turtles, Pink Floyd, Renaissance, Pentangle

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Spirit: Clear

Spirit probably would have made the big time if they had played at Woodstock as planned, possibly right before Hendrix and his band played the festival’s last set. As it was, the band ended up going on a a multi-venue promotional tour. To make matters worse, lead guitarist/singer/songwriter Randy California  who had previously played with Jimi Hendrix for three months (it was Hendrix that give the originally named “Randy Wolfe” the new last name of California to distinguish him from Randy Palmer whom Hendrix named “Randy Texas”) and drummer/singer/songwriter Jay Ferguson begin to have differences of opinions on the style and direction of the band.  In the middle of all of this,  Spirit released their third studio album, Clear, an album with elements of early prog, blues-rock and psychedelic rock.  “Dark Eyed Woman” is probably the best known track, but the album contains two quality instrumentals on side two and has generally good, though not world-changing, material overall and some quality guitar work from Randy California.

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Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin II

On October 22, 1969, Led Zeppelin released their second studio album, more polished and musically interesting than their first and a undeniable success commercially, reaching #1 on the charts in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Spain, Denmark, and Holland. Included is “Whole Lotta Love”, “Living Loving Maid”, the passionate ballad, “Thank You”, and “Moby Dick” which features a drum solo that always brought to my imagination the virtuosic dribbling of a basketball. Though Led Zeppelin would get even better, this is a pretty good album, full of energy, life, and creativity.

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The Turtles: Turtle Soup

While newer groups are making significant commercial inroads, some older groups are winding down.  The Turtles released their last of five albums, an album very much in the style of the late sixties, closer to 1967 or even 1966 than late 1969.  That said, this is a fairly decent album with some good acoustic guitar work on the first side. Also of interest, is that the album is produced by The Kink’s Ray Davies, and one can hear this in several songs such as in the opening of “The House on The Hill.”  The most interesting composition is “John and Julie”  which includes added strings that enhance the qualities of the song. The one track on the album to get any notable airplay is “You Don’t Have to Walk in the Rain” which shares a few too many similarities with their 1968 hit, “Elenore” — such blatant mimicking of a previous hit, though, is not new for the Turtles, whose 1965 single, “Let Me Be”, followed almost immediately after the success of “It Ain’t Me, Babe”, sounding suspiciously similar.

This final studio album, though, did not mean an end for the Turtles, for their very best songs reflected the sixties so well, that they were not quickly forgotten — this is particularly true of their best song, and only number one hit, “Happy Together.”

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Pink Floyd: Ummagumma

Released on October 25, 1969 in the U.K. and in early November in the U.S., Ummagumma (pronounced “OOH-ma GOO-ma”) is a two record set, the first LP containing material recorded live in April and May 1969 and the second an interesting collection of individual contributions, both in terms of authorship and performance, from the band.  The first side is an indispensable document of 1969 Pink Floyd live, performing some of their earlier psychedelic space-rock classics, and serves as the main attraction of the album.  The second LP which showcases each band member’s individual efforts, has its moments, but clearly the group is much better together than as isolated soloists. Nonetheless, this set of solo offerings on the second LP is still more interesting than most avant-garde and exploratory music of its time.

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Renaissance: Renaissance

The first iteration of the newly formed band, Renaissance, formed by two former Yardbird band members, Keith Reif and Jim McCarty, released their very first album in October 1969. From the start, with John Hawken’s classically-influenced piano, the listener knows this is a special album. Reif and McCarty had tired of the heavier rock sound of the Yardbirds and were looking to blend folk, rock and classical elements — and classically-trained Hawken was a perfect fit for their vision.  Most of the material is has a fresh, progressive tone to it, effectively mixing rock, jazz, folk, pop and classical elements including incorporation of material from Rachmaninoff, Chopin and Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata.

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Pentangle: Basket of Light

Released on October 26, 1968, this is the most commercially successful album for Pentangle and one of their best.  It opens with a Brubeck-like “Light Flight” with its off kilter meter of 5/8 and 7/8 with a 6 beat middle section. Quite the composition, it was the theme for the BBC’s “Take Three Girls” about three young woman in hip and swinging 1969 (to 1971) London.

The rest of the album is a mix of rearranged folk songs and new compositions, all performed beautifully and artfully on acoustic instruments with lead vocals distributed between Jacqui McShee, Bert Jansch, and John Renbourn.   A good album to start with if you haven’t devoted much time listening to Pentangle or wish to enjoy some quality English Folk Rock.

Fifty Year Friday: Woodstock and August 1969

Wide-angle overall of huge crowd facingWoodstock: Aug 16-18

The history of people gathering together to hear others play music is almost as old as people gathering together to play music — both going back to prehistoric times.

And there were many older people in 1969, those of the “Great” generation and those of the so-called “Silent” generation, that would have identified “Woodstock” as just another prehistoric-type gathering to listen to primitive music.

Woodstock wasn’t the first multi-day music festival.   The Greeks had multi-day festivals where music played an important role.  In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance there were music festival that included a competitive element as portrayed in Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

Wagner himself started the famous Bayreuth Festival in 1876, and though the first year was a financial disaster, it was a significant historical achievement with Russian attendee, composer Peter Tchaikovsky, writing “Something has taken place at Bayreuth which our grandchildren and their children will still remember.”

And so we can say the same about Woodstock.

There were many earlier multi-day rock events including the three-day Trips Festival in 1966, the two-day Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival in June 1967, the three-day Monterey Pop Festival from June 16 to June 18 in 1967, the Northern California Folk Rock Festival in May 1968, the two-day Newport Pop Festival in early August 1968, which had over 100,000 paid attendees, the two-day Isle of Wight Festival on August 31 and September 1, 1968, the two-day San Francisco Pop Festival on October 26 and 27, the two-day Los Angeles Pop Festival on December 22 and 23, the three-day Miami Pop Festival on December 28-30, several large, multi-day festivals in the first seven months of 1969 including the July 25-27 Seattle Pop Festival, and the three-day, attended by over 100,000, Atlantic City Pop Festival on August 1-3.

But Woodstock was one of a kind.  It was the peak of such gatherings — both a musical and social event the likes of which had never occurred before and has yet to occur again.

It was further celebrated and immortalized by the Warner Brothers movie, Woodstock, which came out in March 1970 — a important documentary that other studios had no interest in funding, and that, with its box office success, saved Warner Brothers from bankruptcy.

I had not even heard of Woodstock when my father, one evening in April 1970, while my sister and mom were attending some a Job Daughters or Eastern Star related meeting, took me to see a movie about music he personally had no interest in or no particular affection for. At fourteen, I was just along for the ride, so to speak, and would have accompanied my dad to any movie he chose.  Fortunately he chose Woodstock.

And what I saw were the myriad and complex vestiges of sixties mixing with, and more significantly, fueling the new music and culture of the upcoming 1970s — I was watching a document foreshadowing the world I would soon more fully engage and participate in.  Outside of sometimes reminding me of the importance of being considerate of others and sensitive to other people feelings, taking me to movies was the closest my dad ever came to explaining the facts of life or teaching me about what life would be like as an older teenager or young adult.  Woodstock, even in just its movie reincarnation, provided exposure to curse words, skinning dipping, drugs, and most of all some really timeless music.

Today there are various DVDs and on-demand streaming sources of video and audio that cover the music played at Woodstock and capture interviews of musicians and attendees.   I think its appropriate to celebrate this anniversary by watching the original movie or the extended version — or just listening to some of the audio from this landmark event.  Appreciate any comments on this topic!

Albums for the rest of August 1969

For the most part, by August of  1969, the sixties were wrapping up and the seventies were off to the races.

There were a number of musicians and groups that were symbols of the sixties that now had to make the transition to the seventies or fold trying.  Those that more-or-less folded, including Donovan, as mentioned in last week’s post, and groups like the Association, who released their fifth album in August 1969, the first of two Association albums that didn’t have a charting single, would be long remembered for their contributions in the sixties, but not recognized as a part of the seventies.

While other groups were declining, wrapping up, or dissolving, there were many new groups — with three genres becoming more and more prevalent: hard rock groups, which would evolve mainly into metal, progressive rock, and hard rock blues bands; the folk and country rock groups, which would often, in the case of some folk rock bands, get more progressive and complex, or with some country rock bands, develop a harder edge to their music or become more acoustic or folk-oriented; the blues rock bands, which depending on their musical sophistication usually evolved into metal, hard rock, jazz-rock, or more prog rock bands.  On top of this the Motown sound of the sixties was generally replaced with funk, soulful rock with the heart and soul of the Tamla/Motown set of record labels (including Tamla, Motown, Miracle/Gordy, VIP, Soul) shifting from Detroit to Los Angeles.

The shift from the sixties to the seventies was marked by the formation of super groups – — top musicians from different bands getting together as was the case earlier with Crosby, Stills, and Nash which released their album in May of 1969, and Blind Faith and The Hollies, both of which released their albums in August of 1969.

Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood formed Blind Faith with Ginger Baker and Ric Grech. The Blind Faith album, with its controversial original cover, which Eric Clapton fought for by stipulating their would be no album without that cover of the topless prepubescent strawberry blonde suggestively holding a Concord-like aircraft , and which cover was predictably replaced when initially released in the U.S. and Canada, is foundationally a blues rock album, with some particularly engaging writing by Steve Winwood and overall quality playing from Clapton, Winwood, Gretch and Baker.  Half of the album, side two, is an extended jam number which particularly showcases Eric Clapton.

Steve Marriot of the Small Faces and Peter Frampton of the Herd formed the Hollies.  Their first album, As Safe As Yesterday Is, released in early August of 1969, is a mixture of blues rock, jam rock, and some good solid songs. particularly the title song, “As Safe As Yesterday Is”, by Peter Frampton.  This style of British rock-blues looked forward to the blues and guitar oriented rock of the early seventies and contained few vestiges of the original British Invasion sound.

Ten Years After, who also played at Woodstock, was an English blues rock band  releasing their third studio album, Ssssh in August of 1969.  However by this third album Alvin Lee’s impressive guitar style had more of a seventies’ sound and his writing style likewise as was the the general hard-rock rhythmic drive of drummer Ric Lee and bassist Leo Lyons as well as the blues-rock sound of classical trained keyboard player Chick Churchill.  Ssssh, outsold the previous two albums and got as high as the twentieth position on the US Billboard Album Charts.

Mick Abrams, the guitarist on the first Jethro Tull album, leaving apparently from differences with Ian Anderson on the musical direction of Jethro Tull, had formed the band British Blues Band Blodwyn Pig.  Incorporating the reed work of Jack Lancaster and including elements of jazz-rock as exemplified by the track, ““The Modern Alchemist”,  the album reached number 9 on the UK charts. Again we have a solid, British Blues album, very much forging the way into the start of the seventies.

David Brown Plays With Santana At Woodstock

In America, starting in 1966, Carlos Santana led a Bay-Area-based live-concert jam band, Santana. Santana’s first album, recorded in May 1969 and released at the end of August, 1969, incorporated some actual songs in order to be commercially friendly — but as to be expected from this type of jam band, the album is mostly instrumental.  One of songs on the album, “Evil Ways”, caught on in a big way reaching #9 on the charts sometime in March 1970. With the combination of the heavy airplay of “Evil Way” and their appearance at Woodstock and in the film, their first album eventually climbed up to number 4 on the US Billboard Album Charts.  While “Evil Ways” received incessant airplay on AM, FM radio stations played other cuts of the Santana album.

Michigan, which had provided the MC5 and The Stooges, provided yet another hard-edged, blues-based rock band with Grand Funk Railroad. Though the level of musicianship was not at the level of English groups like Blind Faith, The Hollies, Ten Years After, or Blodwyn Pig it was clearly an improvement over MC5.  The first album, On Time, released in August of 1969, was also much better received by rock critics.   Grand Funk was a natural seventies arena rock band, so much so that Rolling Stone writer David Fricke later declared “You cannot talk about rock in the 1970s without talking about Grand Funk Railroad!”  And though an intelligent musically-oriented discussion of seventies rock music certainly wouldn’t suffer from an omission of Grand Funk (as they were more commonly called by fans), they were one of the few early seventies hard rock bands that managed to successfully steer away from what some considered the contaminating influence of progressive rock — staying mostly true to the vision of a generic, relentlessly devoid of any traces of self-awareness, hard rock.

Stevie Wonder, did not play at Woodstock, but continued to mature as a musician and composer, releasing My Cherie Amour on August 29, 1969. Wonder would become one of the most important voices of the 1970s, but for the most part My Cherie Amour is still a sixties album. The biggest hit was the title track, “My Cherie Amour”, a tune originally written by Stevie for his girlfriend as “Oh, My Marsha” when he was a student at the Michigan School for the Blind and then recorded in 1967.  Reaching #4 on the U.S. Billboard Singles chart, the song is relatively simple, instantly accessible and charmingly a product of the sixties.  “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday”, also recorded back in 1967, reached number #7 in the US and #2 in the UK.

Love also was making the transition from the sixties to the seventies. To start with, Arthur Lee, the primary creative force behind Forever Changes, dismissed all the previous members of Love after the departure talented songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Brian MacLean had left.  The new album, Four Sails, released in either August or September was a disappointment to fans expecting an extension of the melodically-rich, proto-prog sound of Forever ChangesFour Sail starts off promising enough, with the first track “August”, propelling forward with impressive contrapuntal interplay between the two guitars and the bass.  The next track though, pulls the listener back into the sixties as does “I’m With You” with its similarities to the quintessentially sixties “Feeling Groovy” and “Robert Montgomery” with its similarities to “Eleanor Rigby.” Overall, the album is supported by some strong, seventies-style guitar work, but it does not match the quality of the earlier Forever Changes album, and it garnered even less commercial and critical attention.

Another album bypassed by most consumers and critics alike, selling less than a total of 20,000 copies in 1969 and 1970, was Boz Scaggs solo album, simply titled “Boz Scaggs”, recorded after his departure from the Steve Miller Band and released in August 1969. This is mostly a country music album, but it smoothly incorporates elements of blues, folk, soul and gospel. One could make the case that this album is the most seventies album of all the late sixties albums as it effectively incorporates horns, and background singers into a polished presentation that is as much about style and appearance as substance.  Fortunately, there is also real substance to the songs. Scaggs own compositions are generally based on traditional country laments (unrequited love, being taken for granted, unappreciated, leaving because unappreciated, and abandonment.)  The covers Scaggs chooses are wisely selected and fill out the full county/blues spectrum with “Look What I Got” (I found someone else, so there — but it could/should have been you.”) and and “Waiting for a Train” and “Loan Me A Dime” covering down and out territory.  The album ends with a final country song, Scaggs and keyboardist Barry Becket’s “Sweet Release” that balances desolation with the promise of solace.  This strong and powerful ballad is reminiscent of Procol Harum and anticipates the country-rock sound of Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connections.  Overall Scaggs gives us one of the first seventies-style Americana albums, simple, effective, and liberated from the influence of the musical influences of the British Invasion. Once Boz made it big, the album was reissued and belatedly charted in 1976.

August was a busy month for releases, and with albums like Miles  Davis’s In a Silent Way, Nick Drake’s “Five Leave’s Left”, Yes’s first album, Yes, Jethro Tull’s “Stand Up”, Santana’s first album, Santana, and Can’s “Monster Movie”,  now in the hands of many listeners by the end of August, 1969, it seems appropriate to note that this was the beginning of the seventies, calendar mechanics and formalities ignored — and it you were to bring such silly technicalities up, my reply would certainly be typical seventies jargon — “screw that!”

 

 

 

Fifty Year Friday: It’s A Beautiful Day, Beck-Ola, Pretties For You, A Salty Dog

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It’s a Beautiful Day: It’s a Beautiful Day

Recorded starting in 1968 through 1969, released in June 1969, the debut album of the Bay Area group, It’s a Beautiful Day, is clearly rooted in the Bay Area culture of mixing folk rock and psychedelic rock.  In addition, the music reaches into the classical-influenced rock genre by incorporating the violin of classically-trained David LaFlamme and the keyboards of his first wife, Linda LaFlamme.  The finally product is an early progressive rock album, accessible and more mellow than busy or just complex for the sake of complexity.

It’s A Beautiful Day

Additional musician

  • Bruce Steinberg – harmonica (track 2)

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Jeff Beck Group: Beck-Ola

I am not normally a jam-album fan.  This album, recorded in April of 1969 and released that June, is mostly a thrown together assembly of music that would be suitable jam-rock material.  What is inescapable is the quality of the improvisation and the distinctive character of the individual musicians and what they have to say. Mozart and Beethoven could dazzle listeners by improvising on the most mundane material.  Here we have the 1969 equivalent, with the exception of Nicky Hopkin’s reflective ballad “Girl From Mill Valley”, a welcome contrast with Hopkins providing both the piano and organ tracks.

In fact, Nicky Hopkins particularly shines throughout the album.  Add to that Jeff Beck’s unerring musicality, Ron Wood’s hard-rock bass, and some earthy vocal work from Rod Stewart and we get an album that is a pleasure to listen to.

Personnel

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Alice Cooper: Pretties for You

Also recorded starting in 1968 through 1969, released June 25, 1969, Pretties For You, is another one of those 1969 total commercial failures by a band that would go on to make it pretty big.  The album is heavily influenced by some of Frank Zappa’s more musical works and Sid Barrett-era Pink Floyd — not surprising, the band is on Zappa’s “Straight” label, which recorded a small number of artists, including Captain Beefheart, and Alice Cooper was the opening band for Pink Floyd during Barrett’s tenure.

At this point in time, Alice Cooper was still the band’s name, not yet taken as a stage name by their singer, Vincent Furnier. The album is full of content that required careful rehearsal before recording, with many instances of time signature changes or compound meters. Despite the Zappa and Barrett influences, this music is different from anything before, and different from later progressive rock or Alice Cooper albums to follow. Perhaps with some better production, fine tuning, and further crafting, this album would be particularly noteworthy — unfortunately, it doesn’t quite come together and so it is a bit of a curiosity — but still a particularly enjoyable work and one of historical interest, for unlike most of the future progressive rock bands that start sounding more traditional and refined and extended their approach, this band, Alice Cooper, starts with some pretty lofty objectives, delivering an interesting art-rock album, to later distinguish themselves as a hard-rock, quasi-glam-rock band.

Alice Cooper band

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Procol Harum: A Salty Dog

Recorded in March 1969 and released in June 1969, this album begins with one of the finest early orchestral-based prog-rock pieces, “A Salty Dog”.  The soft cries of the sea gulls and the chromatically descending strings create the appropriate atmosphere for the narrative to follow “All hands on deck, we’ve run afloat“)  With the classic early prog-rock anthem unfolded and completed, the rest of the album continues to flirt with a nautical-based theme, and though nothing on the remaining album comes close to the first song, overall we still have an eclectic mix of blues, rock, Jamaican pop, gospel, country-rock, classical and British pop, with strong vocals, and strong musicianship.  Listen to the second track, “Milk of Human Kindness” and try to not compare to later Supertramp songs like “Bloody Well Right” — or try to ignore the simple charm of the third track “Too Much Between Us.”

The arpeggios that open “Wreck of the Hesperus” and their stubborn recurrence later,  provide the pattern for many upcoming prog-rock symphonic-style numbers, including Genesis’s “Fifth of Firth.”  The strings here, might be later replaced by synthesizers, but the basic quality is much the same.

“All This and More” is another trademark Gary Booker song, providing that dark, sinuous, introspective quality so strongly associated with Procol Harum at their best.

The slow bluesy-gospel style of the alternatively-spelled “Crucifiction Lane” anticipates some later McCartney and Lennon works like Lennon’s “She’s So Heavy” and material on Paul’s first solo album. The album ends with “Pilgrim’s Progress” which clearly influenced later prog-rock groups like Kayak and Fireballet.

All in all, an important album historically, required as necessary listening for anyone that is looking for a broad understanding of the development or post-1960s rock.

Personnel

  • Gary Brooker – lead vocals (1–4, 6, 8), piano, celeste, three-stringed guitar, bells, harmonica, recorder, wood, orchestral arrangements (1, 8)
  • Robin Trower – lead and acoustic guitars, lead vocals (9), sleigh tambourine
  • Matthew Fisher – organ, lead vocals (5, 7, 10), marimba, rhythm and acoustic guitars, piano, recorder, orchestral arrangements (7), production
  • Dave Knights – bass
  • B. J. Wilson – drums, conga drums, tabla
  • John “Kellogs” Kalinowski – bosun’s whistle, refreshments
  • Keith Reid – lyrics

 

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

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

 

RVF.jpg

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

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