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Fifty Year Friday: The Nice

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The Nice; Ars Longa Vita Brevis

In November of 1968, The Nice release their second album, furthering their advance into progressive rock as initiated in their first album.

With the guitarist, David O’List, no longer part of the group (either dropped from the group or left on his own depending on whose side of the story is being represented), The Nice auditioned replacement guitarists, including Steve Howe.  Evidently this would have worked out, except for Howe having second thoughts a week later.  And so, the band moved on without a replacement guitarist, with a line up more like a traditional piano jazz trio (piano, bass and drums), then a rock group, providing the blueprint for the keyboard-dominated progressive rock group (with occasional augmentation by orchestra as in the case with this second Nice album.)

The first track, “Daddy, Where Did I Come From”,  seems like a throwaway novelty number, but much like the ensuing second and third tracks, has a distinct charm and quirkiness that elevates it above the commonplace. Note the peppy piano intro by Keith Emerson as well as the brief baroque-like organ passage, the ensuing unbridled electric organ accompaniment, and the spoken dialogue as the dad.

The second track, “Little Arabella” includes vocals from Keith Emerson at around the 1:37 mark. The third track, the fanfare-like”Happy Freuds”, has Keith on lead vocals and though mostly a simple upbeat pop number, has both charm and substance.

Keith Emerson’s dominance continues with the keyboard-dominated realization of Sibelius’s Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite.  The main theme works better in its original version, but Emerson’s improvisation and development of the theme — and short detour from the theme — provide the essence of this interpretation.

The title track takes up the length of the second side, including orchestra backup — at least at points.  It is not so much a coherent whole as a stitchwork that includes a dramatic Keith Emerson prelude orchestrated by Robert Stewart, a four minute drum solo, the main “Ars Longa Vita Brevis” theme with Jackson on vocals,  followed by a jazzy instrumental diversion, a third section with an Emerson intro that dives into the first movement of Bach’s Brandenburg, pitting Emerson’s more excursive inclinations against the orchestra’s more faithful script,  followed by a restatement of the “Ars Longa Vita Brevis” theme with more jazz-like trio work and the prelude material serving as a coda.

All in all a pretty good album that delivers quality, variety and some impressive trio passages.

Track listing [From Wikipedia]

All songs written by Keith Emerson and Lee Jackson, except where noted.

Side one

  1. “Daddy, Where Did I Come From” – 3:44
  2. “Little Arabella” – 4:18
  3. “Happy Freuds” – 3:25
  4. “Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite” (Sibelius) – 8:57
  5. “Don Edito el Gruva” (Emerson, Jackson, Brian Davison) – 0:13

Side two

  1. “Ars Longa Vita Brevis” – 19:20
  • “Prelude” (Emerson) – 1:49
  • “1st Movement – Awakening” (Davison) – 4:01
  • “2nd Movement – Realisation” (Jackson, David O’List, Emerson) – 4:54
  • “3rd Movement – Acceptance “Brandenburger”” (J.S.Bach, Davison, Emerson, Jackson) – 4:23
  • “4th Movement – Denial” (Davison, Emerson, Jackson) – 3:23
  • “Coda – Extension to the Big Note” (Emerson) – 0:46
The Nice

 

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Fifty Year Friday: George Harrison, Wonderwall Music

 

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Released in Great Britain on November 1, 2018, George Harrison’s soundtrack to the mod, psychedelic film about a late middle-aged lab scientist that expands his professional interest in watching the domestic life of microbes under a microscope to watching his neighbors through a hole in the wall. Wonderwall Music is both the first solo Beatles album (if one doesn’t count George Martin/Paul McCartney’s The Family Way soundtrack which is basically various Martin arrangements of a single McCartney tune, “Love in the Open Air’) and the very first Apples-label album.

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Harrison had no experience, of course, composing soundtracks, but with guidance from director Joe Massot and assistance from classical trained pianist and Ravi Shankar composition pupil,  John Barham , Harrison produces an effective soundtrack that works quite well as standalone music encompassing multiple styles from classical Indian music to English Music Hall pseudo-ragtime to contemporary rock.  With limited dialogue and a strong focus on visuals over story, there is plenty of opportunity in the movie for musical passages, so much so, that the album doesn’t contain all the musical material present in the film.

In terms of sales, this soundtrack album was not very successful in the UK, but it did much better in the U.S. peaking at 49 on the Billboard album chart.  Critical review has been mixed during both initial evaluations and re-evaluations of the album, but the music is generally strong with some notable tracks and the general critical trend has been towards greater appreciation as time has gone by.

The music was recorded in sessions in London and Bombay, Harrison having determined from the watching the assigned sections of film, stopwatch in hand, the exact length required for the music and working with the musicians to create appropriate material to match the assigned scenes.  The titles are appropriately named so that it is fairly easy to remember which part of the movie each particular track was for.

The first track, “Microbes” is used at the start of the film as background to the routine activity of microorganisms being observed under microscope and showcases the shenai, a double-reed instrument, similar to the oboe.  The second track, “Red Lady Too” is particular notable for its progressive-rock-like arpeggios, suspensions and chord changes and provides a representative example of how each track in the album is a miniature musical movement in a larger suite. The short length of the compositions require a brevity of expression, so instead of having 35 minute ragas, we get short Indian classical compositions, like the one-minute third track, “Tabla and Pakajav” and the four-minute fourth track, “In the Park.”

“Drilling a Home” shows Harrison’s sense of humor, and is very much like the music used for British pantomime television comedy sketches. This is followed by another dualing-shenai composition, “Guru Vandana”, followed by a particular impressive Mellotron and Harmonium duet, showing off Harrison’s sensitivity for the subtle. Next we have Eric Claption featured on guitar in “Ski-ing”, then “Gat Kirwani” featuring sarod, sitar and tabla, followed by one of the best compositions on the album,  the final track of side one, the thoughtfully crafted ambient/Hindi/instrumental/musique-concrete collage, “Dream Scene”, preceding Lennon’s Revolution and saying so much more in so much less time.

Side Two opens up with the strumming of Harrison’s acoustic guitar on a composition reminiscent of The Beatles’ instrumental, “Flying” on Magical Mystery Tour, followed by a sarod love duet, “Love Scene” and a lamenting shenai on “Crying. “Cowboy Music” was written for the scene of the neighbor’s boyfriend on rocking horse”, and is followed by another composition featuring shenai, “Fantasy Sequins.”  “On the Bed”, like a rock fanfare for the opening credits of a movie or a leading-edge BBC TV show, is followed by the masterfully brief, yet totally complete, “Glass Box” featuring sitar and tabla. The album closes with the reflective, “Wonderwall to Be Here”,  a short instrumental that any prog-band would be proud of, and the mystical “Singing Om” with harmonium and Hindustani bamboo flute.

At this time in the late sixties, there were more and more rock albums out that included lengthened tracks, with repeated verses and choruses that added little except to extend the length of an inherently two or three minute song to five or six minutes. In contrast, what we have here with Wonderwall Music is an album mostly of miniature-length compositions, with even the few longer ones, being skillfully compacted musical poems.  Much better than allmusic.com’s and the Rolling Stones Album Guide ratings of 2 1/2 stars, this is why one should only rely on their own sensibilities in determining the merit of the great music of the late sixties.

All selections written by George Harrison.

Side one

  1. “Microbes” – 3:42
  2. “Red Lady Too” – 1:56
  3. “Tabla and Pakavaj” – 1:05
  4. “In the Park” – 4:08
  5. “Drilling a Home” – 3:08
  6. “Guru Vandana” – 1:05
  7. “Greasy Legs” – 1:28
  8. “Ski-ing” – 1:50
  9. “Gat Kirwani” – 1:15
  10. Dream Scene” – 5:26

Side two

  1. “Party Seacombe” – 4:34
  2. “Love Scene” – 4:17
  3. “Crying” – 1:15
  4. “Cowboy Music” – 1:29
  5. “Fantasy Sequins” – 1:50
  6. “On the Bed” – 2:22
  7. “Glass Box” – 1:05
  8. “Wonderwall to Be Here” – 1:25
  9. “Singing Om” – 1:54

 

For those interested in the movie, it can currently be viewed on at youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2e3HeBgHKE

 

 

 

Fifty Year Friday: Jethro Tull, This Was; Traffic, Traffic

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Jethro Tull: This Was

Though basically a blues album with some elements of jazz and classical, this first album by Jethro Tull is one of the very best of the many late 1960’s rock-blues album from either Britain or North America.  Though not rated highly by progressive rock fans or more traditional media reviewers like allmusic.com or Record Collector and panned as “aimless and disorganized” by Rolling Stone, the music is of high quality, generally timeless, and always brings pleasure to me though I may one listen to it once or twice in any given decade.

Titled “This Was” as if it was a retrospective evaluation of a group that had already made a name for themselves as opposed to one just starting out, it’s eerily ironic to look back and how appropriate the title has become.  In a span of a few years, Jethro Tull went from a ad-hoc, little-known group that had produced this low-budget album (estimated as costing about 1200 British pounds or under $3000) to one of the more commercially popular groups of the 1970s.  Looking back at a point in time in the mid 1970’s, the music on this first album contrasts very sharply with the Jethro Tull that was then getting solid airplay on AM and FM radio and had  a 1974 gold album (“War Child) that made it to number two on the pop album charts. Interestingly, during this time, Rolling Stone remained consistently negative in their reviews of the band, admonishing potential album buyers: “Remember: Tull rhymes with dull.” 

And though I find their 1974 commercially-successful single “Bungle in the Jungle” as awkwardly embarrassing as the first time I heard it on the airwaves, the music on this earlier, first album demonstrates consistent good taste and makes one proud to be a Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson fan.  Enjoy this moment fixed in time, for this was Jethro Tull in 1968!

Track Listing from Wikipedia

Jethro Tull

Additional musicians

 

Traffic_(album)

 

Traffic: Traffic

Though not at the overall level of excellence and creativity as their first album, this self-titled second album has its share of moments drawing upon a variety of influences including country, jazz, and soul. Notable is Winwood’s piano, Wood’s flute and sax passages and Mason’s guitar as well as the general quality of the arrangements. Mason’s  “Feelin’ Alright?” is provided with a thoughtful, well-crafted arrangement that brings out the inherent poignancy in the lyrics.  Side two of the album is the strongest with the second, third and fourth tracks the highlight of the album.

Track listing from Wikipedia

Traffic

with:

Fifty Year Friday: Jefferson Airplane and HP Lovecraft

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Jefferson’s Airplane Fourth studio album, released sometime in September of 1968, continues their expansion of San Francisco folk-flavored psychedelic rock, with a mostly denser, darker and more spontaneous, jam-rock-enriched sound.

Grace Slick scores big again, starting from the instant the needle hits the vinyl with her composition “Lather”, which though inspired by her fellow bandmate, and bedmate, drummer Spencer Dryden, turning thirty, also has been crafted to have a more poignant message about an intellectually disabled adult named Lather:

“Lather was thirty years old today,
They took away all of his toys…

“He looked at me eyes wide and plainly said,
Is it true that I’m no longer young?
And the children call him famous,
what the old men call insane,
And sometimes he’s so nameless,
That he hardly knows which game to play…
Which words to say…
And I should have told him, “No, you’re not old.”
And I should have let him go on…smiling…babywide.”

Another impressive track on this first side is Slick’s rendition of David Crosby’s “Triad” with Crosby on guitar.  The Byrds had recorded the work for inclusion on the final Byrds album with Crosby, The Notorious Byrd Brothers,  and for whatever reasons (conjectured explanations range from the nature of the lyrics to the quality of the song to internal band politics and ego-clashes), the Byrds dropped it’s inclusion.  Perhaps this was for the best, as not only was their no hesitation on the Airplane’s part to record this, but Slick on an album of material otherwise written by the band, but the change of the gender of the personna makes the lyrics work out even better.

The rest of the album is generally heavier, rockier and with a more complex sound with the final song covering the nuclear demise of the earth — the Jefferson Airplane are still producing commercially-in-demand and modern, cutting-edge material, with this album having made it as high as the sixth spot on the Billboard album chart.

Jefferson Airplane {from Wikipedia}

Additional musicians

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With a very promising well crafted first album, featuring haunting, distinct, yet harmonious vocals between co-founders George Edwards and classically-trained Dave Michaels, thoughtfully arranged compositions and a sophisticated approach to psychedelic folk-rock that included timpani, harpsichord, piccolo, renaissance recorder, saxophones, clarinet, french horn, tuba, trombone and vibes, H. P. Lovecraft, named after the American horror-fiction writer, recorded their second album in the summer of 1968, releasing it in September of 1968 with no special title, simply called “H P Lovecraft II” with  a small “II”as seen in the album cover above.

This second album is more progressive, but due to a demanding concert schedule, the band had little time to prepare, with the result being a less disciplined effort than the first album, but a step forward musically.  Like their namesake, the author, H. P. Lovecraft, fortune, or even decent wages, were not to be theirs. The group disbanded in 1969, with a subsequent reformation as simply “Lovecraft” and then again as “Love Craft”, but without the leadership and musical skills of George Edwards and Dave Michaels, the band had a much different sound,  lacking that other-worldly, psychedelic, borderline progressive quality of this second album.

H. P. Lovecraft {from Wikipedia}

Fifty Year Friday: Ultimate Spinach

Ultimate Spinach - Behold and See002

There are those that believe that everything is determined, and that no matter how many times something is played out, the same result will occur.  Such a belief may be based on fatalism, or the predictability of Newtonian physics, or the belief that there is no self-determinism and that people are stimulus-response machines and that once set in motion, all resultant activity can theoretically be modeled, given all the initial data points.

There are those that believe that every moment holds countless possibilities, some vastly different, some imperceptibly so, with any given result leading to another countless set of possibilities each leading to their own potential result leading to more possibilities.  Some believe there is self-determinism and that our choices are not predicted solely on past events and current physical and mental factors.  Some believe that we ourselves are not part of the universe we appear to be in, and so can effectively can cause changes to that universe through the exercise of free choice. Some reach out to their understanding of quantum physics to support a belief in uncertainty and unpredictability.  Some go as far as to speculate that there are infinite or nearly infinite universes with each universe having been the result of the cumulative consequences of each and every outcome from each and every previously emergent outcome prior to that.

If we go with this last worldview, or rather universe-view, there are no doubt trillions upon trillions upon trillions of universes similar to ours where the first Ultimate Spinach album sold well, benefiting from the Newsweek January 1968 article that was part of the full-out publicity assault by MGM’s Alan Lorber to establish an identity for Boston-based psychedelic bands like Ultimate Spinach, Eden’s Children, Beacon Street Union, Puff, Quill, and Orpheus.  Though this attempt at creating an identity similar to that of the bands associated to the “San Francisco Sound” worked initially as evidenced by the considerable attention resulting from the Newsweek article, which certainly fueled sales of the first Ultimate Spinach album, there was the inevitable backlash by a handful of music critics, including a prominent Boston rock critic, whose general claim was this was a blatant establishment-based marketing ploy and that there was no characteristic sound of these Boston bands and that the informed consumer should completely discount such commercially motivated hype.  Wall Street Journal joined in the pile-up chiding the publicity effort in their arcticle “The Selling Of A New Sound”, followed by Rolling Stone which stereotyped this purportedly non-existent Boss Town Sound as ” “pretentious,” “derivative,” and “boring’ — terms that would also later be used in the arsenal of the “informed” and elite “anti-elite” music critics against progressive rock.

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Other media outlets weighed in on the topic of the legitimacy of the claim of a Boss Town Sound including Crawdaddy and Playboy. In Alan Lober’s words in an article published in Goldmine in 1992 “the snowball became an avalanche. It was now more trendy to talk “Boston Sound” than to hear it. In retrospect, it was hard to believe that something which had received so much media coverage could fail to become a commercial success.”

Yet, amidst all of this, that first Ultimate Spinach album was relatively successful commercially, staying on the Billboard album chart for 36 weeks and peaking at position 34.  It was also quite good, being easily accessible, fresh, upbeat and generally adventurous incorporating elements of jazz, classical, psychedelia and world music into a primarily contemporary rock style.

So, successfully swimming against the current of some not so-well meaning rock critics, providing an accessible, contemporary sound with plenty of potential for further development and exploration, and then, in August 1968, releasing a second album, Behold & See, more mature, better constructed, and stronger than the first, there was no real reason for Ultimate Spinach not to remain in the spotlight and have ever increasing album sales.

Except that Ian Bruce-Douglas got fed up.  He got fed up with the mechanics of the record industry and the resulting loss of his musical independence and authority, he got fed up with  producer Alan Lorber, and he got fed up with the with the various personal conflicts occurring within the band. Then frustrated to the extreme, he simply walked away from his own band.  With no group to tour in order to promote the new album, and without marketing or live shows, the second album stalled at number 198 on the Billboard top 200 album chart.  Without their leader and composer, the remaining band attempted a third album, which had a different sound and sold even more poorly than the second album.

UltimateS2a

Now if you buy into the multi-universe concept, and concede that there are easily quadrillion to the quintillionth universes that all have this same second Ultimate Spinach album, “Behold & See”, then it is conceivable, that in at least one, or perhaps even two, universes, the Boston music scene was allowed to more naturally flourish, that Ian Bruce-Douglas was able to overcome his initial disgust and dissatisfaction with the immense personal and individual ego challenges, the insensitivity of his record company, and the conflicts between he and his producer — and thus successfully promote through live concerts the second album, continue with the creation of a third and then have that fourth break-out album.  However, this may be pushing the envelop of the possible just a bit too much.  Perhaps there is limited upside to any group named “Ultimate Spinach.”  Or perhaps the personality that provided the music and lyrics for these first two albums, inherently would inevitably be constrained by the idiosyncratic demands of the music industry.   One hesitates to speculate about how much great music was lost because talents like Ian Bruce-Douglas were not able to cope with the realities and frustrations of the commercial music industry.

So even if there are not universes in which there are additional albums by the Bruce-Douglas led Ultimate Spinach, one can at least enjoy these two that are available. For those looking for early progressive rock, they will find many items that they can check off their list of prog characteristics: exotic or non-traditional rock instruments (theremin, acoustic sitar, electric sitar, vibraphone, recorder), angular rhythms and syncopation, an overall conceptual unity present in the two albums,  (anti-war, anti-conformist with references to Sartre in the first, and the theme of achieving transcendent awareness and freedom of thought in the second), imitative counterpoint, classical music reference (J.S. Bach incorporated into the final track of the first album), layered production techniques, interesting instrumental passages or completely instrumental tracks, and for bonus points, a single, visionary leader, who in this case was Ian Bruce-Douglas, who wrote the music and lyrics for the entirety of those first two albums.  Also, as noted earlier, the musical press referred to Ultimate Spinach as “pretentious” — an epithet worn as a badge of honor by many of the progressive groups of the early seventies. (Remember Gentle Giant’s compilation album, “Pretentious for the Sake of it?”)

And if you don’t much care for progressive rock, but like the more melodic psychedelic music of the late 1960’s, or just interested in hearing a bit of the “Boss Town Sound”, these two albums are available on CD, on vinyl, through streaming services, or even youtube as if they are deserving of more respect today than ever before.

And one last note directed at those musical critics that said there was no actual “Boss Town Sound”– history now seems to say otherwise with even once-antagonistic magazines like Rolling Stone conceding in 1988, in its “Rock of Ages” encyclopedia, the existence of such a musical movement.  Unfortunately, the time frame of that movement was ridiculously short, with the lack of commercial success causing most of these Boston-based psychedelic bands to break up by 1969 — yet I have to believe that, in this universe at least, if not in countless other universes, these Boston bands left something of lasting value, both in terms of influencing other, sometimes younger, musicians at the time that carried on, and in the case of the most popular of these bands, The Ultimate Spinach, left us music we can still listen to and enjoy today.

Track listing of Behold & See [from Wikipedia]

Side one

  1. “Gilded Lamp of the Cosmos” – 2:30
  2. “Visions of Your Reality” – 5:49
  3. “Jazz Thing” – 8:20
  4. “Mind Flowers” – 9:38

Side two

  1. “Where You’re At” – 3:10
  2. “Suite: Genesis of Beauty (In Four Parts)” – 9:56
  3. “Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse” – 5:50
  4. “Fragmentary March of Green” – 6:51

Personnel

UltimateS2b

Fifty Year Friday: Family, Music in a Doll’s House; Miles Davis, Miles in the Sky; Progressive Rock Radio

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Family: Music in a Doll’s House

Just as there is a distinction between the commonly used term “classical music”, which includes European music as early as the 12th century (and even earlier), and the “classical style” or “classical period” of music starting at around 1750 with composers like young Franz Joseph Haydn, and ending around the 1820’s and 1830s as composers follow Beethoven’s lead of creating more expressive and extreme music, there is a distinction between “progressive rock music”, music that stretches and extends the vocabulary and significance of the rock music prevalent at the given time, and “progressive rock style” or “prog rock”, music that generally defies a simple definition, but generally borrows elements from classical and jazz, and often deploys complex time signatures, mixed meters, classical-period chord modulations, use of arpeggios (broken chords), lengthy instrumental sections, flashy displays of instrumental technique, musical contrast (including contrasts in tempo, texture, instrumentation), dramatic effects, and sharp angular rhythms.  Generally prog rock musicians have had some classical training or jazz background and influences to their music often include twentieth century “classical music” composers like Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bartok, Janacek and Ginastera and be-bop and cool jazz.

Released on July 19, 1968, Family’s debut album, Music in a Doll’s House, was created during a category-five hurricane of “progressive rock music”, being contemporaneous with progressive music from Hendrix, Zappa, the Beatles, and many others.  Such is the breadth of the late-sixties music revolution that even established jazz players are pulled into this vortex, ultimately embracing electronic instruments and playing to audiences that frequent both rock and jazz concerts.   And, in 1968, we find more occurrences of jazz and classical instruments in rock music than ever before.  With Music in a Doll’s House, we have three vocalists that play multiple instruments: the electric bass player plays violin and cello, the lead vocalist plays tenor sax and harmonica, and the third vocalist plays tenor sax, soprano sax and harmonica — to which is added trumpet and mellotron  Much of the music on the album sounds notably different than anything else released in July of 1968 and even though the are several blues-based numbers, most of the music is only remotely related to music of either American rock and roll or the music of the British Invasion.  In short, this is a distinct rock album carving out is own identity, establishing a level of musical excellence and character much in the way of such albums as Pet Sounds, Revolver, Sgt. Peppers, Odessey and Oracle, Are You Experienced and other landmark albums of 1966, 1967 and 1968.

So its appropriate to place Music in a Doll’s House in this first progressive rock category of “progressive rock music.”  More significant historically, is that it is the earliest album one can unequivocally place in the second category of “prog rock” due to a majority of the album sharing those “I can’t define it, but I know it when I hear it” qualities of the progressive rock style.

The album is far from perfect: it suffers from some of the excesses of progressive rock including over repetition, whereas a group like the Beatles, for example, whether influenced by George Martin or due to their collective sensibilities, or even their individual maturity as composers, rarely repeated a verse or a chorus one too many times — the most notable exception being “Hey Jude” which appears to somehow have become a blueprint in the progressive rock genre for overextending the repetition of a chorus or other musical section.  And so we find a little of this excess on this first Family album. We also find some blues-based numbers that are certainly not classifiable as being in the prog-rock style.  However the first four tracks of the album, including Dave Mason’s “Never Like This”, are solidly both progressive and in the progressive rock style.

The impact of this album is also significant, from forcing the Beatles to abandon their planned title of A Doll’s House for their upcoming 1968 two LP White Album, to Roger Chapman’s extreme vibrato vocal delivery influencing others prog vocalists such as Bernardo Lanzetti of Acqua Fragile and PFM.   The style of these first four tracks will influence, directly or indirectly, Genesis, Hoelderlin, and Marillion.

There is a surge of emotional excitement I get when I hear the best prog-rock music, similar to the feeling when I hear Thelonious Monk, Bach, or Beethoven. I get caught up in the music, and if I started listening with the intent to stop in a few minutes to watch something on TV or do some specific task, I find that once caught up in the music, I cannot pull myself away for something as relatively unimportant as PBS’s Nightly Business Report, tending to chores, or eating dinner.  Music is often classified into genres, but the main measure of any music is its quality and how vital it is, both in its own time and generations later. Music in a Doll’s House does sound dated in parts, but those opening four tracks still retain some of the magic they had when first released in July, 1968, heralding the beginning of the prog rock era.

Track Listing (from progarchives.com)

1. The Chase (2:14)
2. Mellowing Grey (2:48)
3. Never Like This (2:17)
4. Me My Friend (2:01)
5. Variation On A Theme Of Hey Mr. Policeman (0:23)
6. Winter (2:25)
7. Old Songs, New Songs (4:17)
8. Variation On A Theme Of The Breeze (0:40)
9. Hey Mr. Policeman (3:13)
10. See Through Windows (3:43)
11. Variation On A Theme Of Me And My Friend (0:22)
12. Peace Of Mind (2:21)
13. Voyage (3:35)
14. The Breeze (2:50)
15. 3xTime (3:48)

Total time 36:57

Family

– Roger Chapman / lead vocals, harmonica, tenor saxophone
– John ‘Charlie’ Whitney / lead & steel guitar
– Jim King / tenor & soprano saxophones, harmonica, vocals
– Rick Grech / bass, violin, cello, vocals
– Rob Townsend / drums, percussion

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Miles Davis: Miles in the Sky

Released on July 22, 1968, with it’s title and cover acknowledging the Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and the psychedelic rock movement, Miles in the Sky is as much or more of a forerunner of an entire genre of music as is Family’s In a Doll’s House. And as the case with Music in a Doll’s House, Miles in the Sky sounds different than any other album from the summer of 1968.

Miles Davis’s previous album, Nefertiti, began hinting at elements of the yet-to-come jazz fusion, but Miles in The Sky moves forward even further and begins to coalesce the necessary elements to produce this new mixture of jazz, rock, funk, and R & B soon to be known as fusion.  Most music historians will identify In A Silent Way as the first Miles Davis fusion album, with some giving a nod to Filles de Kilimanjaro, but Miles in the Sky is at least a transitional album. This is not due to the inclusion of the electric piano and electric bass on the first track, “Stuff”, or the inclusion of George Benson playing a relatively traditional jazz electric guitar on “Paraphernalia”, but is based on the creation of a different type of post-bop that has incorporated funk and a modal style a step closer to the psychedelic rock improvisation of 1968.

Musically there is a lot to assimilate here. The level of diversity is high, with funk rhythms alongside semi-impressionistic harmonies.  Each track takes a different tact and the length of the first side at close to 30 minutes is rather impressive for the time contrasted to the average of less than twenty minutes a side for most jazz and rock albums.

The first track, “Stuff” is an intriguing composition incorporating points of musical color into a larger structure that drives relentlessly forward. Miles Davis interest in twentieth century classical music is evident — the emphasis is on the overall character and experience with individual musical events functioning more as points in time, providing commentary and coloration rather than having impact or influence to the overall scope and direction of the piece. This is not only common in many classical music works of the academic composers of the 1960s, but is a prevalent trait in some of the best psychedelic and progressive rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

There is also the electric nature of “Stuff” which not only incorporates Herbie Hancock’s colorful contributions on electric piano and Ron Carter on electric bass, but also captures an amplified Wayne Shorter recorded from a studio speaker to create a more resonant, forward sound such as produced by an amplified sax in a large concert hall.  Add to this the funky, vibrant character of the much of the piece and the result is a very early, but clear-cut example, of jazz fusion.

The second track, “Paraphernalia”, recorded about four months earlier than the rest of the album, opens up with some effective rhythmic displacement similar to classical music “hocketing”  followed by somewhat disparate solos.  The third track, “Black Comedy”, despite its variety of meter is the most traditional in the set and the theme is reminiscent of Thelonious Monk.   The fourth and last track, “Country Son” is again quite different, being episodic and free with tempo and texture changes.  It’s a shame that no recorded rehearsals of this piece exist, though there is an alternate take available on CD.

This album also is the first Miles Davis studio album with just four tracks continuing a trend of longer compositions in both jazz and rock album: soon, one or two selections per side would become a more common occurrence in fusion jazz, psychedelic rock and progressive rock.

Miles in the Sky sometimes is treated like a middle child, between the two more impressive Miles Davis studio albums immediately before and after it, but it is still quite good and historically important — providing the necessary groundwork for not only for the fusion phase of Miles Davis, but also for number of future jazz-fusion groups as distinct and different as Weather Report, Brand X, and Nova.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side one

Title

Writer(s)

Recording session

Length

1.

Stuff Miles Davis May 17, 1968

17:00

2.

Paraphernalia Wayne Shorter January 16, 1968

12:38

Side two

Title

Writer(s)

Recording session

Length

1.

Black Comedy Tony Williams May 16, 1968

7:26

2.

Country Son Miles Davis May 15, 1968

13:52

Total length:

50:56

Personnel

Progressive Rock Radio

Two important trends in radio may not have changed the face of music but certainly assisted in clearing some of the fodder from the pathways.

The first was the trend away from playing only singles and music selected by the station manager, program director, or some selection board, to including album cuts in the mix, sometimes selected by the DJ, themselves, particularly in the case of college radio stations.  This opened up the range of music and took part of the control away from the record executives that were determining what album songs would be released as single.

The second trend was to devote time to more adventurous and progressive music.  At first, for some stations this may have been only one segment a week, but eventually. driven by an attractive demographic, ages 17-34, such segments were expanded, or more were added, or in some cases the radio station became a full-time progressive rock station sometimes playing full albums upon their release.

The term “progressive rock” also came into use, referring generally to rock music that was of a higher quality or containing a progressive or culturally relevant social message.  In the October 26, 1968 issue of Billboard, WNEW-FM (102.7 in New York, the same FM radio station that helped gain the Nice attention playing “Little Arabella”) general manager, George Duncan, was quoted as follows: “The exciting thing about progressive rock music (is) it’s the medium young people are using to express themselves and their feelings … because they’re doing it in music rather than literature…. The premise is that music is being played because it’s good.”

And playing good music had the impact of drawing larger listening audiences.  There was no internet, no streaming services, no torrent-sharing sites in 1968, but there was FM progressive rock radio, and it changed not only what music consumers could hear, but, ultimately affected the decisions of record company executives determining what bands to sign and what music to release.

Billboard, July 20, 1968, Classical music in rock

(“www.nyradioarchive.com/images/radioscans/classical_BB19680720.jpg”)

 

 

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

 

HH1MI0000442216

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

herbie-hancock-speak-like-a-child-uk-bn-back-cover-1800-ljc

 

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

0066___grateful_dead___anthem_of_the_sun_by_sunsetcolors-dag1wxs.jpg

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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