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Posts tagged ‘Fifty Year Friday’

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: Donovan, Todd Rundgren and Nazz

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Released in October 1968, with material from late 1967 and April 1968, Hurdy Gurdy Man is the most substantial Donovan album of his many releases,  artfully capturing the spirit of musical adventure and diversity so prevalent at the time.

My sister, up until the release of this album, had mostly purchased singles and albums of musicals, so it was a treat when she bought this in late 1968 and allowed me to play this on our parents’ “Hi-Fi” system.   I had already heard “Jennifer, Juniper” and the more serious and dramatic title track, “Hurdy Gurdy Man” earlier in 1968, so I was curiously anticipating what else the album contained.

Lifting up the heavy wooden cover of the Hi-Fi,  taking out the record from its cover, and setting the music into motion by turning on the electronics and initiating the spinning of the platter and the tone arm’s slow and steady take-off, soon I was hearing a improved version of that first track, “Hurdy Gurdy Man” sounding much better than what I had heard on any car or transistor or even the Hi-Fi AM radio.  The composition’s dark, mysterious mood was now more evident along with a general sense of deep, perhaps profound, mysticism.   And as the album played on past that first track, into “Peregrine” with its even more suspenseful drone-based eastern sound, then into the quietly reflective third track, “The Entertaining of a Shy Girl”, and through the neo-vaudevillian, “As I Recall it”, and then into the creamy saxophone-dominated “Get Thy Bearings”, the variety and quality of the music gained my increasing respect and interest.  I was not musically sophisticated enough to consider that most of the tracks were just a sequence of verses, to appreciate the thoughtfully scored string, flute, oboe, and trumpet lines or the contrapuntal fragments in “Hi, It’s Been a Long Time”, or deconstruct the contributions of melody, harmony and arrangement to the final essence of each song, I just found the album full of character and boldly and creatively different than most of the current AM radio fare; just as Donovan stood apart from the more commercial tunes of the time with songs like “Sunshine Superman”, “Mellow Yellow” and the more recent “Hurdy Gurdy Man”,  so did each track of this album create its very own mood, and even if I couldn’t do credible or meaningful musical analysis at age thirteen of the content, it was clear that significant care had been taken to produce a quality and coherent presentation of the music.

Donovan had originally wanted Jimi Hendrix to play electric guitar on “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”  Hendrix, unfortunately wasn’t available.  There is some contention on who the guitarist on the recording actually is —  with Donovan crediting Jimmy Page and also Allan Holdsworth, but others indicating Jeff Beck or Alan Parker.  Page has indicated it wasn’t him and Holdsworth’s wife has stated that Holdsworth had indicated that the guitarist was Ollie Halsell (guitarist and vibraphone player for the group Timebox, later Platto.)

Years later, listening to this album, I can confirm that my original instincts in liking this music is far from unfounded.  The two songs with the most traditional verse and chorus structures provide an effective start and end to the album, and the contrast between the mood and instrumentation of the songs contained within provide an experience similar to contemporary releases by The Beatles or the Kinks. Donovan has a knack for simple, yet effective melodies and his work is supplemented by David Mills who provides music for three of the tracks. On top of this, the arrangement work is excellent as are the contributions by Harold McNair on flute and his sax soloing on “Get Thy Bearings.”

Tracks [from Wikipedia]

All tracks credited to Donovan Leitch. According to BMI, “A Sunny Day” and “The River Song” were collaborations with David J. Mills, but “Tangier” was written solely by Mills under its original title of “In Tangier Down a Windy Street”.

Side one

  1. Hurdy Gurdy Man” – 3:13
  2. “Peregrine” – 3:34
  3. “The Entertaining of a Shy Girl” – 1:39
  4. “As I Recall It” – 2:06
  5. “Get Thy Bearings” – 2:47
  6. “Hi It’s Been a Long Time” – 2:32
  7. “West Indian Lady” – 2:15

Side two

  1. Jennifer Juniper” – 2:40
  2. “The River Song” – 2:14
  3. “Tangier” – 4:10
  4. “A Sunny Day” – 1:52
  5. “The Sun is a Very Magic Fellow” – 3:31
  6. “Teas” – 2:29

Musicians:

Donovan: vocals, acoustic guitar, tambura, harmonium
Alan Parker?: lead electric guitar on “Hurdy Gurdy Man”
John Paul Jones: bass, arrangement and musical direction on “Hurdy Gurdy Man”
Clem Cattini: drums on “Hurdy Gurdy Man”
Danny Thompson: bass
Tony Carr: drums and percussion
John ‘Candy’ Carr: bongos and percussion
Harold McNair: flute and saxophone
David Snell: harp
Deirdre Dodds: oboe
John Cameron: arrangement and piano

 

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Also recorded in April 1968 and released in October 1968, is one of the best commercially unsuccessful albums of 1968.  Nineteen year-old Todd Rundgren combines influences from The Beatles, The Who (“Open My Eyes”), Jimi Hendrix (some of Rundgren’s guitar work and the opening of “She’s Goin’ Down”) , Burt Bacharach (parts of “Hello It’s Me”), Jimmy Webb (the first section of “If That’s the Way You Feel”), and The Beach Boys (“When I Get My Plane”) with his own musical style, clearly identifiable on this first commercial recording of his and the band that he and later Disney legend, bassist Carson Van Osten  formed in Philadelphia.

Very few first albums are as good as this one, and its more accurate to consider this the first Todd Rundgren album (even with bandmate Stewkey on vocals)  as opposed to the first album of a group that Rundgren happened to be a part of.   All compositions are by Rundgren except “Crowded” and the blues-jam group-effort spectacular that ends side one.  Rundgren’s signature ballad, “Hello It’s Me” appears the first time, lacking the more sophisticated arrangement given to it in the classic 1972 Something/Anything?  The other ballad here is “If That’s the Way You Feel”, arranged by jazz-great Shorty Rogers with a beyond beautiful first section and a sequence of overly-enthusiastic modulations in the second section.

Track listing [From Wikipedia]

All songs written by Todd Rundgren, except where noted.

Side one

  1. “Open My Eyes” – 2:48
  2. “Back of Your Mind” – 3:48
  3. “See What You Can Be” – 3:00
  4. Hello It’s Me” – 3:57
  5. “Wildwood Blues” (Rundgren, Thom Mooney, Robert “Stewkey” Antoni, Carson Van Osten) – 4:39

Side two

  1. “If That’s the Way You Feel” – 4:49
  2. “When I Get My Plane” – 3:08
  3. “Lemming Song” – 4:26
  4. “Crowded” (Mooney, Stewkey) – 2:20
  5. “She’s Goin’ Down” – 4:58

Nazz

  • Robert “Stewkey” Antoni – Keyboards, lead vocals
  • Todd Rundgren – guitar, vocals, string arrangements, mixing
  • Carson Van Osten – bass, vocals
  • Thom Mooney – drums

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: Moody Blues, Buffalo Springfield, Harry Nilsson

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Moody Blues: In Search of the Lost Chord

With their second album, released July 26, 1968, the Moody Blues solidly establish their own style and identity with recognizable, reverberation-enhanced vocals, use of cross-fade between tracks, and a complex, polished production style as realized by Tony Clarke. In the previous album, Days of Future Past, The Moody Blues were backed up by Decca’s house orchestra, The London Festival Orchestra; in this album, the orchestra is replaced by almost three dozen instruments all played by the band members. Mellotron and sitar fans will enjoy the use of those instruments here, part of achieving an effective album. If you don’t have this on LP, consider the CD version with its bonus tracks, two of which provide a glimpse at how good Moody Blues sounded in live performances in 1968.

Track Listing [From Wikipedia]

1. Departure (0:44)
2. Ride My See-Saw (3:38)
3. Dr. Livingstone, I Presume? (2:58)
4. House of Four Doors (4:12)
5. Legend of a Mind (6:36)
6. House of Four Doors, pt.2 (1:47)
7. Voices in the Sky (3:25)
8. The Best Way to Travel (3:14)
9. Visions of Paradise (4:15)
10. The Actor (4:39)
11. The Word (0:48)
12. Om (5:44)

Total Time: 42:03

Moody Blues

– Justin Hayward / acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, lead vocals (1,4,6,8)
– Michael Pinder / piano, Mellotron, Moog, acoustic guitar, maracas, lead vocals (2,4,9,10)
– Ray Thomas / flute, tambourine, lead vocals (3,4)
– John Lodge / bass guitar, lead vocals (4,7)
– Graeme Edge / drums, percussion, whispered vocal (4)

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Buffalo Springfield: Last Time Around

Tinged with folk and country elements, Buffalo Springfield’s final studio album, released on July 30, brings to a close an early chapter in folk/country rock.  Though the weakest of their three albums, there is much to like here, particularly the even number tracks on side one and the first three tracks on side two.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side one
  1. “On the Way Home” (Young) – 2:25
    • Recorded November 15-December 13, 1967, Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, California. Vocals: Richie Furay, Neil Young; bass: Bruce Palmer; piano: Neil Young.
  2. “It’s So Hard to Wait” (Furay, Young) – 2:03
    • Recorded March 9, 1968, Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, California. Lead vocals: Richie Furay.
  3. “Pretty Girl Why” (Stills) – 2:24
    • Recorded February 26 & May 1967, Sound Recorders, Hollywood and Atlantic Studios, New York City. Lead vocals: Stephen Stills; bass: Jim Fielder.
  4. “Four Days Gone” (Stills) – 2:53
    • Recorded late 1967-early 1968. Lead vocals and piano: Stephen Stills, lead guitar solo: Neil Young
  5. “Carefree Country Day” (Messina) – 2:35
    • Recorded late 1967-early 1968. Lead vocals: Jim Messina.
  6. “Special Care” (Stills) – 3:30
    • Recorded January 3–20, 1968. Sunset Sound, Hollywood. Lead vocals, pianos, B3, guitars, bass: Stephen Stills; drums: Buddy Miles.
Side two
  1. “The Hour of Not Quite Rain” (Callen, Furay) – 3:45
    • Recorded late 1967-February 1968. Lead vocals: Richie Furay.
  2. “Questions” (Stills) – 2:52
    • Recorded February 16, 1968, Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, California. Vocals, guitars, bass guitar, Hohner clavinet: Stephen Stills; drums: Jimmy Karstein.
  3. “I Am a Child” (Young) – 2:15
    • Recorded February 5, 1968, Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, California. Lead vocals: Neil Young; bass: Gary Marker.
  4. “Merry-Go-Round” (Furay) – 2:02
    • Recorded February 16-March 1968, Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, California. Lead vocals: Richie Furay; bass: drums: Jimmy Karstein. Harpsichord, calliope, bells: Jeremy Stuart.
  5. “Uno Mundo” (Stills) – 2:00
    • Recorded February–March 1968, Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, California. Lead vocals: Stephen Stills.
  6. “Kind Woman” (Furay) – 4:10
    • Recorded February–March 6, 1968, Atlantic Studios, New York City & Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, California. Lead vocals: Richie Furay; pedal steel guitar: Rusty Young; bass: Richard Davis.(not Dickie Davis)

Personnel

Buffalo Springfield
  • Richie Furay – guitar (1,2,3,8,10,11,12), vocals (1,2,3,5,7,10,12)
  • Dewey Martin – drums (1,2,3,9,11)
  • Jim Messina – bass, vocals (5,12)
  • Stephen Stills – guitar (1,2,3,4,6,8,10,11), piano (4,6,8), B3 organ (6,8,11), bass (6,8), clavinet (8), vibes (1), percussion (11), Handclaps (11), background vocals (1,5,8,10), vocals (3,4,6,8,11)
  • Neil Young – guitar (3,4,9,10), harmonica (9), piano (1), background vocals (1), vocals (9), appears in some capacity on (5)
  • Bruce Palmer – bass (1)
Additional personnel
  • Buddy Miles – drums (6)
  • Jimmy Karstein – drums (8,10)
  • Gary Marker : bass (9)
  • Jeremy Stuart – harpsichord, calliope, bells (10)
  • Rusty Young – pedal steel guitar (12)
  • Richard Davis – bass (12)
  • unidentified – horns (1), saxophone, clarinet (2), drums (4), bass, drums, harpsichord, orchestra (7), piano, drums (12)

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Harry Nilsson: Aerial Ballet

Released sometime in July 1969, Aerial Ballet, provides another set of cleverly crafted pop tunes, very much influenced by Paul McCartney songwriting and the production approach on Beatles and Beach Boys albums.  With his third album, Nilsson provides all original songs with one exception: a song called “Everybody’s Talkin'” written by Fred Neil, who would later drop out of music to focus on an organization he founded, The Dolphin Research Project, dedicated to stopping the mistreatment and exploitation of dolphins around the world.  When Nilsson’s version was released as a single in July 1968, it failed to break into the top 100, but after its inclusion as the theme song in the film Midnight Cowboy in 1969, the song was re-released as a single and became a hit, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart.

The gem of this album is “One”, a song that sounds as unassuming and catchy today  as it did in 1968.  Many will be familiar with the Three Dog Night’s version, but it is this original version that is the definitive, and by far the best, one.

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Harry Nilsson, except where noted.  Arranged by George Tipton.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Daddy’s Song” 2:19
2 “Good Old Desk” 2:22
3. “Don’t Leave Me” 2:18
4. “Mr. Richland’s Favorite Song” 2:12
5. “Little Cowboy” 1:22
6. “Together” 2:08
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. Everybody’s Talkin’ Fred Neil 2:41
8. “I Said Goodbye to Me” 2:13
9. “Little Cowboy” 0:52
10. “Mr. Tinker” 2:41
11. One 2:50
12. “The Wailing of the Willow” Nilsson, Ian Freebairn-Smith 1:57
13. “Bath” 1:44

Fifty Year Friday: Tyrannosaurus Rex, Charles Tolliver, The Doors and more

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

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

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

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

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Marc Bolan.

Side A

No.

Title

Length

1.

“Hot Rod Mama”

3:09

2.

“Scenescof”

1:41

3.

“Child Star”

2:52

4.

“Strange Orchestras”

1:47

5.

“Chateau in Virginia Waters”

2:38

6.

“Dwarfish Trumpet Blues”

2:47

Side B

No.

Title

Length

1.

“Mustang Ford”

2:56

2.

“Afghan Woman”

1:59

3.

“Knight”

2:38

4.

“Graceful Fat Sheba”

1:28

5.

“Wielder of Words”

3:19

6.

“Frowning Atahuallpa (My Inca Love)”

5:55

Tyrannosaurus Rex

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

 

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Charles Tolliver: Paper Man

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

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

All compositions by Charles Tolliver

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

Personnel

Waiting For The Sun

The Doors: Waiting For the Sun

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

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

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

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

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

The Doors

Additional musicians

 

Southern Rock from Canada and California

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

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

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Credence Clearwater Revival: Credence Clearwater Revival

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

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

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The Band: Music from the Big Pink

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

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

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

 

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