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Archive for the ‘Progressive Rock’ Category

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

hplovecraft-2

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}

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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.

UltimateS1

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

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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

Miles in the sky.jpeg

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

 

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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

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

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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: 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

members-don-t-git-weary-1968-max-roach

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: 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: 1968 Jazz-Rock and Fusion

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In the late 1960s, rock music’s commercial value to the record companies far exceeded that of their jazz and classical products.  This led to many dismal outcomes, including two particularly appalling trends.  One was to try to commercialize and update jazz, with the record companies convincing (and in many cases failing to convince) reluctant jazz musicians to include rock tunes in their albums, often resulting in half-hearted attempts that included some token improvisation between the initial statement of one or more verses and the chorus and their return.  The other was to try to elevate rock music, or provide a more palatable version of it to older consumers, by saccharine orchestral or quasi-big band arrangements.  The cultural impact and commercial success of such attempts were thankfully very limited.

At the same time, a diverse range of rock groups were incorporating jazz elements into their music, and, musicians with varying degrees of jazz experience or jazz exposure were being included in some bands. Soon Miles Davis and John McLaughlin would make jazz fusion history and reap wide commercial recognition and compensation.  But prior to that, the talented and innovative vibraphonist Gary Burton, looking to make the move away from straight-ahead jazz and appeal to younger audiences drew upon his own love of popular music and started to blend jazz and rock elements in a series of four notable albums in 1967 and 1968.

Gary Burton worked with Stan Getz from 1964-1966,  during the period of Getz’s continuing ascendancy into fame from his successful merging of samba, bossa nova and jazz — Getz achieving significant recognition and acclaim from the 1963 Getz/Gilbert album that included the incredibly commercially popular “Girl From Ipanema.”  Perhaps Burton learned invaluable lessons of the breadth and flexibility of jazz, and that when it honestly and sincerely embraced and fully incorporated other elements, how it could extend its capabilities and capacity to appeal and captivate to a wide range of listeners.  Or perhaps Burton just followed his instinct of embracing the music he loved and creating music that, most of all, appealed to himself.

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During this period that Gary was working with Stan Getz, the first historically significant jazz-rock group, The Free Spirits, formed in 1965.  Playing in New York as opening acts or at very small venues, their music ranged from rock and roll to psychedelic rock,  similar to other rock bands — with the exception of the jazz background of four of their five members.  For the most part, the jazz element present was similar to the jazz element in contemporaneous rhythm and blues.  The songs on their 1967 Out of Sight and Sound album are appealing and accessible, with solid, often frenetic and dynamic drumming from Bob Moses, soulful, bluesy saxophone from Jim Pepper (no relation to Art Pepper),  and catchy compositions and expressive guitar work from Larry Coryell.  Additional band members were rhythm guitarist Columbus “Chip” Baker and bassist and vocalist Chris Hills.

After the Out of Sight and Sound album, Larry Coryell, and then later,  Bob Moses, joined up with Gary Burton.  Just as Larry Coryell significantly influenced the sound of the Free Spirits towards a contemporary rock sound, Larry Coryell would have a significant impact on the sound of the four Gary Burton albums he was a part of.

The first of these four important Gary Burton quartet albums, Duster, recorded in April 1967, and sometimes referred to as the very first fusion recording, includes guitarist Larry Coryell, talented bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Roy Haynes.  Larry Coryell had further sharpened his skills as can be heard on this indisputable example of early jazz fusion, “One, Two, 1-2-3-4” available on Youtube here.

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The second album, Lofty Fake Anagram, with Bob Moses now on drums,  was recorded in August 1967, and is a little more mellow, with continuing impressive interplay between Burton and Coryell and impressive bass work from Steve Swallow.

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The third album, recorded a month earlier in July 1967 and released in 1968, is the dramatic concept album, Genuine Tong Funeral, written by composer and pianist Carla Bley and subtitled “A Dark Opera without Words.”   Focused on the topic of death and mourning, this mixture of third-stream and avant-garde composition covers a wide range of emotion and even includes passages of irony or dry humor reminiscent of Kurt Weill.  Besides some amazing, prodigious vibraphone work by Gary Burton, using his usual four mallets and to fine effect,  there is some outstanding, pushing-the-envelope soprano sax from Steve Lacy, some nicely-miked acoustic bass work from Steve Swallow, and some welcome tuba passages performed  by Howard Johnson. The album’s last track, with a chaotic free jazz section breaking from the confines of the suite’s structural boundaries, perhaps indicating some level of relief or release from grief is followed by a return of the “Survivors” theme, providing an appropriate and proper closure to the suite.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All compositions by Carla Bley
  1. “The Opening / Interlude : Shovels / The Survivors / Grave Train” – 6:37
  2. “Death Rolls” – 1:36
  3. “Morning (Part 1)” – 1:43
  4. “Interlude : Lament / Intermission Music” – 4:28
  5. “Silent Spring” – 7:58
  6. “Fanfare / Mother of the Dead Man” – 2:51
  7. “Some Dirge” – 7:47
  8. “Morning (Part 2)” – 1:17
  9. “The New Funeral March” – 2:40
  10. “The New National Anthem / The Survivors” – 6:34
  • Recorded in New York City in July 1967.

Personnel

The fourth of these four Burton/Coryell albums, recorded live at Carnegie Hall on February 23, 1968, is simply titled “Gary Burton Quartet in Concert.”  Of particularly note is the amazing contrapuntal duet between Burton and Coryell in the recording of “Lines” and the overall excellence of the group’s performance of “Walter L.”  The album ends with an avant garde treatment of “One, Two, 1-2-3-4”, notably different than the original performance on Duster.

Track listing

All compositions by Gary Burton except where indicated
  1. “Blue Comedy” (Mike Gibbs) – 9:02
  2. “The Sunset Bell” – 5:17
  3. “Lines” (Larry Coryell) – 3:06
  4. “Walter L.” – 6:36
  5. “Wrong Is Right” (Coryell) – 6:14
  6. “Dreams” – 5:49
  7. I Want You” (Bob Dylan) – 3:06
  8. “One, Two, 1–2–3–4” (Burton, Coryell) – 10:45

Personnel

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In early 1968,  former Stan Kenton big band saxophonist, Steve Marcus, New Zealand born jazz keyboardist, Mick Nock,  and three former members of The Free Spirits,  guitarist Larry Coryell, bassist Chris Hills, and drummer Bob Moses,  recorded two jazz-rock albums, produced by jazz flutist Herbie Mann under Steve Marcus’s name.

The first album, Tomorrow Never Knows, appropriates five well known rock tunes and either imposes jazz commentary on them (“Mellow Yellow”) or develops and transforms them (“Tomorrow Never Knows”).  Added at the end, as a sixth tune, is Gary Burton’s “Half a Heart.”  This is one of those albums that may sound initially bizarre, with the band still wrestling to establish an overall sound and approach, but becomes more sensible and coherent after repeated listenings.

Track listing

  1. Eight Miles High” (David CrosbyHarold E. ClarkJames McGuinn) – 4:44
  2. Mellow Yellow” (Donovan Leitch) – 4:50
  3. Listen People” (Graham Gouldman) – 2:25
  4. Rain” (John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney) – 7:02
  5. Tomorrow Never Knows” (John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney) – 11:07
  6. Half A Heart” (Gary Burton– 5:21

Personnel

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The second album, though, Count’s Rock Band, (“Count” referring to Steve Marcus’s nickname and not that of William James Basie) is more organic, polished, and finely finished. There are only two rock covers here,  “Scarborough Fair” which is a straightforward rendition, based on Simon and Garfunkel’s version, arranged exquisitely with single focus, not straying a single step outside of its intended character, and Mick Jagger and Keith Richard’s Backstreet Girl; this modest tune is placed in an finely-crafted French cabaret-like setting with accordion  accompaniment, followed by an spellbinding jazzy middle section that evolves from straight-ahead, highly accessible jazz to wildly aggressive free jazz, followed by the return of the calm and tender original section.  The album also includes two compositions by bassist Chris Hills, which both work convincingly as final, unified outcomes of blending blues, rock and jazz.

If none of these musicians had ever recorded a note, jazz and rock would inevitably come together, just like twins separated in later years through pursuing different careers and interests, but meeting again in their more mature years.  In the case of rock, though, it’s relation to other music is more complex than simple siblinghood.  The young rock and roll looked very much, and acted very much like a young, somewhat clueless child of blues and jazz (and the baby sibling of the more capable rhythm and blues) but as rock and roll matured into rock, it developed its own identity, eventually accepting not only the best of what it’s parents could offer, but exploring all other available musical influences, examining and absorbing recorded and written music of all accessible areas of the globe and all accessible time periods.

Track listing

  1. Theresa’s Blues” (Chris Hills) – 12;19
  2. Scarborough Fair (Traditional,  Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel)” – 2:39
  3. “Drum Solo” – 3:55
  4. Ooh Baby” ( Chris Hills) – 12:14
  5.  “C’est Ca” ( Chris Swansen) – 0:19
  6. Back Street Girl” (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards) – 5:46
  7. “Piano Solo”  – 0:51

Personnel

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