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Fifty Year Friday: May 1971

Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On

Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On was released on May 21, 1971, but prior to that, around the end of February 1971, the calmest, most relaxed single of the 1970s yet ever heard by my ears on top 40 AM radio, started receiving airplay displacing the previous smoothest single of the earliest part of that year, “Black Magic Woman”. Now firmly only a fan of FM, my only exposure to AM radio was on the school bus — about a 25 minute ride into school and about a 35 minute ride on the late bus back home. By the middle of March of 1970, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” was likely to be played once, and sometimes twice: once in the morning and once in the afternoon during my daily travel on the bus. With annoying songs like The Osmonds’ “One Bad Apple”, Dawn’s “Knock Three Times”, and other mediocre bubblegum or pop tunes, the inclusion of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”, far removed from the commercial template of most of the songs in the Top 40 of that time, into the AM playlist was like being given access to water in a scorching desert.

How appropriate that this gem leads off Marvin Gaye’s must heralded album, proving both the name and the essence for the entire album, almost by itself asserting the concept of the entire album, which rightfully and fittingly lines up perfectly and unconditionally with the ethos and character of that first track creating a concept album addressing peace, love, ecologic responsibilities, justice and injustice, and the rights and preciousness of all, adults and children.

Zawinul: Zawinul

Recorded in August through October of 1970, and released in 1971, Joe Zawinul’s fifth studio album (as a leader) continues the musical trailblazing of Miles Davis’s masterpiece, In a Silent Way. There is in fact, an amazing version of this Zawinul composition on the album, glimmering with a full rainbow of beauty, the pairing of Herbie Hancock and Joe Zawinul on keyboards and the lyrically lucid and spiritual melodic leadership by trumpet-great Woody Shaw.

The entire album provides a musical retreat, unfolding with the beauty of an uncompromised, unexplored nature reserve. Graced by so many fine musicians, and some creative engineering including some tape manipulation, editing, and praiseworthy aural balancing, the album provides all that is necessary for an immersive musical outing fully contained within the short span of about thirty-six minutes.

Weather Report: Weather Report

A few months after finishing recording his eponymous fifth album, Joe Zawinul teamed up with Wayne Shorter, Miroslav Vitouš, and multiple percussionists for the first Weather Report album released on May 12, 1971. The album embraces much of the creative forces present in Silent Way and Bitches Brew, but moves into new territory also with rhythmically propulsive tracks like “Umbrellas” and “Seventh Arrow” as well as the atmospheric track “Orange Lady” which provides a leisurely, reflective weave from a spectrum of beautiful coordinated musical musings and the shimmering “Waterfall.”

Paul and Linda McCartney: Ram

While my sister was accompanying my maternal grandmother on an ocean cruise for the summer of 1971, I journeyed from Southern California up to Salem, Oregon accompanying my paternal grandparents on a nearly twenty-four Trailways bus trip to spend a couple of weeks with my cousins, aunt and uncle, fishing, introducing my older cousin to the classic Chicago II album, taping drum and bugle practices on a cheap, bottom-of-the barrel cassette recorder and generally having the time of my life.

When driven to the newly open Lancaster shopping mall by my older cousin and her friends, I stumbled into what may be commonplace today, but was a novelty at that time, a record store in a indoor shopping mall — the indoor shopping mall being also a relatively new concept, with the Lancaster mall (now the Willamette Town Center) opened shortly before my arrival.

A moment or two after entering the record store, the store manager changed records, putting the newly arrived second McCartney album, Ram (released a few weeks earlier on May 17, 1971) on the store turntable. The first track, “Too Many People” was immediately recognizable as it was getting airplay on both FM and AM. While my cousin and friends wended their way through the multiple other retailers in the mall, I camped out in the record store, listening to the entire first side including the previously familiar “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”, pulled away by them for a few minutes, and then eventually returning to finish up side two and, to my delight, an unexpected replay of the entire album, or at least side one, as I was eventually whisked away by my cousin and friends to somewhere else. Later on my return to the mall, perhaps a week later, I got to hear most of side two, including the final track, “The Back Seat of My Car.”

Upon my return to Southern California, my good friend, fellow cross-country runner, co-worker at the school cafeteria, and next door neighbor, the one that had introduced my to Chicago, had already purchased Ram, and I promptly recorded it on to my reel-to-reel. I was already in love with the album, and played it several times before eventually tiring of it and moving on to something else. It’s a pleasure to listen to it again after all these years, and even though back in 1971 my cousin may have thought the music to be somewhat silly and certainly not in the same league as Chicago’s second album, I still love the simple, engaging, and buoyantly upbeat music that permeates this album.

The Carpenters: Carpenters

On May 14, 1971, The Carpenters released their third album with meticulous soft-pop arrangements by Richard Carpenter and Karen Carpenter’s trademark vocals. It is not as special as an album as their previous Close To You album, but their performances are beyond reproach even if not all the selected material matches that of Close To You. As the Carpenters moved to Downey, California a few months before my parents moved our family to Orange County, I honor my hometown connection to them and that adds to the fondness I have for their music. Add to this that my Oregon older cousin liked them, even when she dismissed McCartney’s second solo album, and that my spouse, the love of my life, is a big Karen Carpenters fan, I think I will always enjoy listening to their music with an ongoing emotional connection that is in addition to my appreciation of their musical merits.

John Entwistle: Smash your head against the wall; Graham Nash: Songs for Beginners; Rod Stewart: Every Picture Tells a Story

Like George Harrison, John Entwistle did not have an abundance of support to get his bandmates to include his compositions on their albums, so his first solo album, Smash you head against the wall, released during May of 1971, contains many of these “rejected” compositions. One recurring trait in Entwistle’s works is the use of chromatic passages as famously represented in years earlier in “Boris the Spider” and his darkly-tinged humor as represented in the opening track of this debut album, “My Size.”

Graham Nash is one of the most underappreciated songwriters of the sixties and seventies, so its always a joy to listen to his songs whether on Hollies albums, CSN and CSNY albums or his solo albums. This is a wonderful album brimming with catchy melodies including songs like “Military Madness” and “Chicago.”

Though I don’t think of myself as much of a Rod Stewart fan, I took an immediately liking to “Every Picture Tells a Story”, Rod Stewart’s third solo album, released on May 28, 1971. There is an authenticity to his delivery throughout this album and the strongest tracks are certainly among Rod’s best efforts.

Fifty Year Friday: Crosby, Stills and Nash

CSN 1

The first generally-recognized rock “supergroup” was the blues-leaning Cream with Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.  Prior to that, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Stevie Winwood had formed Powerhouse, originally to have included Ginger Baker, but with only an output of three songs, and with two lesser-known members, Powerhouse could hardly have been considered the first supergroup. When Cream formed, Eric Clapton was already considered an established guitarist, Jack Bruce had survived the Graham Bond Organisation and made a name for himself in Manfred Mann, and Ginger Baker had established his credentials as a skilled drummer in the Graham Bond Organisation before founding Cream in 1966.

The second rock supergroup was formed during the initial stages of the inevitable rise of country-rock and country-folk-rock by three talented and recently “released” artists: David Crosby, was given the boot by the Byrds, mainly due to Crosby’s vision of the direction the Byrds should take not aligning with Roger McGuinn’s and Chris Hillman’s views, Stephen Stills was now free with the break-up of the Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash was now seeking new opportunities — Nash, the effective leader of the Hollies, had grown dissatisfied with the Hollie’s aggressive touring schedule and was also no longer interested in having to navigate the gap between Nash’s more creative and musically adventurous aspirations and the other Hollies’ members tendency towards more traditionally pop-oriented music.

Story goes that at a party in July 1968, either at Mama Cass’s or Judy Collin’s home, Nash had asked Stills and Crosby to sing Stills’ “You Don’t Have To Cry” and at some point Nash joined in, harmonizing on the spot.  The three then realized that had something, and soon determined to form a group — but not a group that would continue without any of them — and so they determined the best way to equate the group with the founding members was to name that group after those founding members: “Crosby, Stills and Nash.”

The trio reached out to the management team of Elliot Roberts and David Geffen who signed them with Atlantic, which then had to basically work out a trade for Graham Nash, sending  Richie Furay and his new band Poco to Epic.  (Note that Poco fit nicely into the rising popularity of country rock, releasing their first album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, on May 19, 1968, only ten days before the release of Crosby, Stills and Nash. I ran out of time last week to review, but for those that like country-rock, this is a very solid country-rock album.)

Recorded in February and March of 1969, and released on May 29, 1969, Crosby, Stills and Nash album became almost instantly popular, with “Marrakesh Express”, a song Nash originally intended for the Hollies, getting airplay on AM radios in the middle of July, eventually reaching number 28 spot, soon followed by Suite Judy Blue Eyes peaking at number 21.  FM radio stations embraced the entire album, playing a number of the other fine tracks.

Excellency is really the hallmark of this album. Even if someone is not a fan of folk-rock, the effervescent and transparent blend of vocals and acoustic guitar work has to resonate with even the most selective of listeners.  If somehow you missed growing up with this classic album, or have otherwise not heard it, seek it out, for it is one of the most enjoyable country-folk rock albums ever recorded, so much so that I include this as another valid entry in my list of non-progressive-rock progressive rock albums!

Track listing [From Wikipedia]

Side one

#

Title

Writer(s)

Lead vocals

Length

1.

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes Stephen Stills Stills

7:25

2.

Marrakesh Express Graham Nash Nash

2:39

3.

Guinnevere David Crosby Crosby with Nash

4:40

4.

“You Don’t Have to Cry” Stephen Stills Stills with Crosby & Nash

2:45

5.

“Pre-Road Downs” Graham Nash Nash

2:56

Side two

#

Title

Writer(s)

Lead vocals

Length

1.

Wooden Ships Crosby, Paul Kantner, Stills Crosby with Stills

5:29

2.

Lady of the Island Graham Nash Nash

2:39

3.

Helplessly Hoping Stephen Stills Stills with Crosby & Nash

2:41

4.

“Long Time Gone” David Crosby Crosby with Stills

4:17

5.

“49 Bye-Byes” Stephen Stills Stills

5:16

 

Personnel 

Fifty Year Friday: Byrds, Hollies and Buffalo Springfield

Formed in 1964, in Los Angeles California, the Byrds are generally, with the advantage of retrospect, considered one of the more essential and influential bands of the mid-sixties, primarily due to their blending the rock style of the British Invasion with elements of country and western music, folk, west coast rock and psychedelia.

The fourth album, opens robustly with the semi-ironic, partly humorous, “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” Other strong songs include the jingly-jangly arranged Chris Hillman composition “Have You Seen Her Face”, Hillman’s “The Girl with No Name” (apparently inspired by a young lady with then real name of “Girl Freiberg”, one of the better known covers of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages”, and the David Crosby tracks “”Renaissance Fair” , “Everybody’s Been Burned”, “Mind Gardens” and “Why.” Psychedelia and Indian musical influences are present on several tracks with an  electronic oscillator providing suitable effects and McGuinn’s guitar providing a suitable substitute for the sitar on “Why.”

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

Side one

  1. So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” (Jim McGuinnChris Hillman) – 2:05
  2. Have You Seen Her Face” (Chris Hillman) – 2:25
  3. “C.T.A.-102” (Jim McGuinn, Robert J. Hippard) – 2:28
  4. “Renaissance Fair” (David Crosby, Jim McGuinn) – 1:51
  5. “Time Between” (Chris Hillman) – 1:53
  6. “Everybody’s Been Burned” (David Crosby) – 3:05

Side two

  1. “Thoughts and Words” (Chris Hillman) – 2:56
  2. “Mind Gardens” (David Crosby) – 3:28
  3. My Back Pages” (Bob Dylan) – 3:08
  4. “The Girl with No Name” (Chris Hillman) – 1:50
  5. Why” (Jim McGuinn, David Crosby) – 2:45

Personnel

Sources for this section are as follows:[1][5][23][54][55]

The Byrds

 

The Hollies, released two albums in 1967, “Evolution” and “Butterfly”

Both  albums have their annoying, overly-commercial, teeny-bop elements (think of what you dislike about Herman’s Hermits) but this is compensated by the inclusion of several excellent tracks.  Lot of the credit for what is really good here goes to Graham Nash.

The best track on “Evolution” is the simply arranged and perfectly conceived “Stop Right There.”  Other worthwhile tracks include the hyper-vibrato-infused “”Lullaby to Tim”, the catchy, if outdated-sounding for 1967, “Have You Ever Loved Somebody?”, the wistful, and melancholic “Rain on the Window”, the early Beatles-era “Heading for a Fall”, and the AM radio hit “Carrie Anne.”

US/Canada track listing of “Evolution” [from Wikipedia]

Side 1

  1. Carrie Anne” (Clarke-Hicks-Nash) lead vocal: Clarke, Hicks and Nash
  2. “Stop Right There”
  3. “Rain on the Window”
  4. “Then the Heartaches Begin”
  5. “Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe”

Side 2

  1. “You Need Love”
  2. “Heading for a Fall”
  3. “The Games We Play”
  4. “Lullaby to Tim”
  5. “Have You Ever Loved Somebody”

Personnel

 

“Butterfly” (retitled “Dear Eloise / King Midas in Reverse” in the US)  has its moments also such as the introduction to “Eloise”,  the upbeat, yet also partly annoyingly cloying “Wishyouawish” and “Away Away Away”, Nash’s  simple and direct “Butterfly” (similar to “Stop Right There” on “Evolution”), and “Leave Me”, which was on the original twelve track UK “Evolution” album but not on the US ten track release of “Evolution.” Another notable track, not on the UK version, but only on the US version of the “Butterfly” LP, is the quirky,  “King Midas with a Curse.”

US/Canada track listing of “Butterfly” released as “Dear Eloise / King Midas in Reverse”  [from Wikipedia]

Side 1

  1. “Dear Eloise”
  2. “Wishyouawish”
  3. “Charlie and Fred”
  4. “Butterfly”
  5. “Leave Me” (Clarke-Hicks-Nash)
  6. “Postcard”

Side 2

  1. King Midas in Reverse
  2. “Would You Believe?”
  3. “Away Away Away”
  4. “Maker”
  5. “Step Inside”

Personnel

 

At this point the reader probably sees where I am going with this post — covering the Byrds, which had David Crosby writing some of their best songs, the Hollies, with Graham Nash writing some of their best tunes, and next, Buffalo Springfield, with Neil Young and Stephen Stills — these four guitarists/singers/composers forming Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Buffalo Springfield’s first album. simply titled after the band, was released in December 1966, but it qualifies as one of the first solidly 1967-sounding albums.  In January 1967, the most impressive song of the first half of 1967 hit the airwaves, a rare objective view of the widening political divide in the U.S.. “For What It’s Worth”.  I was eleven when I heard this, and it was, for me, clearly the coolest song on AM radio of all time.  It is worth re-examaning the lyrics so relevant to 1967, but also applicable to today:

What it is ain’t exactly clear:
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware.
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
There’s battle lines being drawn:
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.
Young people speaking their minds —
Getting so much resistance from behind.
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
What a field-day for the heat:
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say hooray for our side!
It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Paranoia strikes deep:
Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you’re always afraid:
You step out of line, the man come and take you away.
We better stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Stop, now, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Stop, children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
This is clearly Stephen Still’s masterpiece of his career and was of such impact that ATCO, the album’s label, re-released this first Buffalo Springfield album in March 1967, including this track. For this reason, its fair game to consider this album belonging to 1967.

Track listing of “Buffalo Springfield”  [from Wikipedia]

 

March 1967 pressing side one
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. For What It’s Worth” (Dec. 5) Stephen Stills Steve with Richie & Dewey 2:40
2. “Go and Say Goodbye” (July 18) Stephen Stills Richie & Steve 2:20
3. “Sit Down, I Think I Love You” (August) Stephen Stills Richie and Steve 2:30
4. “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” (July 18) Neil Young Richie with Steve and Neil 3:24
5. “Hot Dusty Roads” (August) Stephen Stills Steve with Richie 2:47
6. “Everybody’s Wrong” (August) Stephen Stills Richie with Steve and Neil 2:25

 

 

March 1967 pressing side two
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong” (September 10) Neil Young Richie with Steve and Neil 2:40
2. “Burned” (August) Neil Young Neil with Richie and Steve 2:15
3. “Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It” (August) Neil Young Richie with Steve and Neil 3:04
4. “Leave” (August) Stephen Stills Steve with Richie 2:42
5. “Out of My Mind” (August) Neil Young Neil with Richie and Steve 3:06
6. “Pay the Price” (August) Stephen Stills Steve with Richie 2:36

Personnel

Buffalo Springfield

 

 .
As distinct and noteworthy as the first Buffalo Springfield album was, the second one is even better.  Neil Young’s driving, anthem-like “Mr. Soul” opens the album and Young’s surreal “Broken Arrow” closes it.  In between are additional songs by Young and Stephen Stills with three pretty good tracks authored by Richie Furay —  one of these, “Good Time Boy”, arranged to include excellent horn-work by the Louisiana group, “the American Soul Train”   This album is distinctly American, or more accurately, Canadian-American (Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer and Neil Young being Canadian-born musicians), combining rock, folk, country and psychedelic-rock elements.  One should also note David Crosby’s involvement in the Stephen Stills song, “Rock and Roll Woman”, which is predictive of Still’s later “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”

Track listing [from Wikipedia]

 

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. Mr. Soul Neil Young Neil with Richie and Steve 2:49
2. “A Child’s Claim to Fame” Richie Furay Richie with Steve and Neil 2:09
3. “Everydays” Stephen Stills Steve with Richie 2:40
4. Expecting to Fly Neil Young Neil 3:43
5. “Bluebird” Stephen Stills Steve and Richie 4:28

 

Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. “Hung Upside Down” Stephen Stills Richie and Steve with Neil and Richie 3:27
2. “Sad Memory” Richie Furay Richie 3:01
3. “Good Time Boy” Richie Furay Dewey 2:14
4. “Rock and Roll Woman” Stephen Stills Steve with Richie and Neil 2:46
5. Broken Arrow Neil Young Neil and Richie 6:14

Personnel

Buffalo Springfield
Additional personnel
  • James Burton — dobro on “A Child’s Claim to Fame”
  • Chris Sarns — guitar on “Broken Arrow”
  • Charlie Chin — banjo on “Bluebird”
  • Jack Nitzsche — electric piano on “Expecting to Fly”
  • Don Randi — piano on “Expecting to Fly” and “Broken Arrow”
  • Jim Fielder — bass on “Everydays”
  • Bobby West — bass on “Bluebird”
  • The American Soul Train — horn section on “Good Time Boy”
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