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Posts tagged ‘Moody Blues’

Fifty Year Friday: Uncle Meat, With a Little Help from My Friends, On the Threshold of a Dream

uncle meat

The Mothers of Invention: Uncle Meat

Frank Zappa continues to challenge the boundaries of commercial music, producing an audio collage of breathtakingly fresh music, snippets of musique concrète, and dialogue from his unfunded movie.

Recorded from September 1967 to September 1968 and released on April, 21, 1969, Uncle Meat is a particularly colorful album on a number of levels besides just the colorful dialogue included.  Zappa aggressively and artfully deploys twelve-track recording and speed alterations to affect the timbre and character of voices and instruments, creating a clearly contemporary work not possible just a few years earlier.

This is album is a barrel-full-of-monkeys fun to listen to with the highlights including the title theme, Ian Underwood’s keyboards and sax contributions, “Mr. Green Genes”, and the King Kong tracks on side four of the original LP.

 

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Joe Cocker: With a Little Help from My Friends

In 1969 and in the early seventies, I not only unsympathetically and almost unequivocally dismissed any version of a Beatles song not performed by the Beatles, but its accurate to say that I generally formed a dim view of any performer making such an attempt.  And so my first impression of Joe Cocker was particularly negative when I heard his version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” on AM radio and later saw Cocker perform on television.

Wisdom and time has helped me overcome this teenage bias, and as a musically mature adult, I actually respect anyone with enough nerve (or even recklessness) to do a cover of one of the Beatles classics.  If they do it well, that is, they deserve my respect; looking back on Cocker’s rendition of one of the last of McCartney and Lennon’s true collaboration’s, “With A Little Help From My Friends”, and comparing it against Ringo’s vocals, I must admit that Cocker and his backing musicians pull this off pretty nicely.

In fact, the whole album is pretty good, with some original tracks along with a diverse set of covers including the well-known and often recorded 1926 composition, “Bye, Bye Blackbird” as well as a couple of Dylan covers.  Cocker and back-up singers team up with musicians as capable and as well respected as Albert Lee, Jimmy Page and Stevie Winwood, taking Cocker’s debut album as high as the thirty-fifth spot on the billboard chart.

 

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The Moody Blues continue with their signature style of music crafting an album that encompasses elements of the past, present and future:  “To Share Our Love” harkens back to 1966 British Beat music, “Send Me No Wine” is country rock with an English accent, and “The Voyage” is an exploration into the territory of progressive rock.

Recorded in the first two months of 1969, and released in the UK in April of 1969  and in the US in May of 1969, On the Threshold of a Dream quickly reached the number one spot on the UK album charts by May 4, 1969, staying there for a couple of weeks.  There are some that would profess this to be the first progressive rock album to claim the number one spot, but to my mind that distinction either belongs to the Beatles’ 1967 Sgt Pepper’s album or ELP’s 1971 Tarkus, depending on how stringently one defines progressive rock.  That said, it is a tribute to British taste how well this album did, particularly since its best mark on the US charts was the twentieth spot occurring the week of July 26, 1969.

Though the Moody Blues is not one of my favorite bands, and one that I rarely listen to today, I am always impressed by their dreamy, evocative artistry that unfailingly creates a consistent, though often varied, mood — an enveloping, trademark mood providing a generally calming, mystical musical palette distinct from that of other bands of that era.  Pay particular attention to the ethereal flute and oboe provided by Ray Thomas and the cello and mellotron contributions from Pinder, Hayward and Lodge.

Track listing  [From Wikipedia]

Side A

#

Title

Writer(s)

Lead vocals

Length

1.

In the Beginning Graeme Edge Hayward, Pinder, Edge (narration)

2:08

2.

Lovely to See You Justin Hayward Hayward

2:35

3.

Dear Diary Ray Thomas Thomas

3:56

4.

Send Me No Wine John Lodge Hayward, Lodge, Thomas, Pinder

2:20

5.

To Share Our Love Lodge Pinder

2:54

6.

So Deep Within You Mike Pinder Pinder

3:07

Side B

 #

Title

Writer(s)

Lead vocals

Length

1.

Never Comes the Day Hayward Hayward

4:43

2.

Lazy Day Thomas Thomas

2:43

3.

Are You Sitting Comfortably? Hayward, Thomas Hayward

3:29

4.

The Dream Edge Pinder (narration)

0:57

5.

Have You Heard (Part 1) Pinder Pinder

1:30

6.

“The Voyage” Pinder  

3:58

7.

Have You Heard (Part 2) Pinder Pinder

2:32

The Moody Blues Personnel

Justin Hayward – vocals, guitars, cello, mellotron on “Never Comes the Day”
John Lodge – vocals, bass guitar, cello, double bass
Ray Thomas – vocals, harmonica, flute, tambourine, oboe, piccolo
Graeme Edge – rums, percussion, vocals, EMS VCS 3
Mike Pinder – vocals, mellotron, Hammond organ, piano, cello

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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: Decca Panoramic Sound, Deram; Moody Blues “Days of Future Passed”

91e2plus49l-_sl1500_The listener of recorded music of the first six decades of the twentieth century will notice the leaps in improvement of recordings over those decades.  And though the sound improvements that took place in the sixties were not as dramatic as those before, progress did continue in creating more realistic and/or more engaging recordings.

Decca recording engineers experimented with ways of improving stereo recordings. They created a technique called “Decca Panoramic Sound” which created more depth and sound positioning.  Previously,  stereo recordings of jazz, folk and rock albums usually ended up with some music on the right channel, some on the left and some in the center (for example, the Beatles’ stereo version of Rubber Soul or Revolver.)  This not only made the music sound artificial but created a sense of detachment of parts from a natural whole.   With “Decca Panoramic Sound” or Deramic sound, for short, a more natural representation of a performance was possible, achieved primarily through a pairing of four-track tape recorders (later replaced by a true 8 track recording set-up) allowing engineering techniques that could place the content of any track at virtually any point of a left-to-right sound field.

Decca then launched Deram Records to realize this potential for rock, folk and easy-listening recordings.  In October 1967, six easy listening albums (“Strings in the Night, “Brass in the Night”, etc.)  were released using this new approach. Soon afterwards, as Deram continued to sign more interesting artists, in November 1967, Deram released the orchestra-backed, ambitious album Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues.

Originally, the story goes, the Deram’s intent was to have the Moody Blues record a version of Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  Fortunately, the band had more interest in  their own original material and recorded what some people consider to be the first progressive rock album ever and others consider to be the first true rock concept album. (For those that read the post on Nirvana’s Simon Simopath’s concept album, although Nirvana’s album was released a month earlier, The Moody Blue’s album’s first session occurred in May 1967, two months before Nirvana’s recording session for “Simon.”  In terms of determining what is progressive rock, that is perhaps a topic for another post.)

Though basically an album of the psychedelic era, with its mellotron, tambura, sitar, spoken poetry,  pastoral, mellow musical elements, colorful lyrics, symbolic use of a single day to represent a higher abstraction, and psychotropically-flavored album cover, this is also album that blurs the boundaries between rock and classical music, which along with its use of a song cycle on the life of a given day, high quality music, and musical coherence creating a sense of a single work as opposed to a set of songs, establishes this is a work with more than just a commercial objective:  a work with an artistic purpose — a common characteristic found in these musically progressive albums of 1967.

Side 1: The Day Begins 5:45; Dawn: Dawn Is A Feeling 3:50; The Morning: Another Morning 3:40;  Lunch Break: Peak Hour 5:21

Side 2: The Afternoon: Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?) 8:25; Evening: The Sun Set: Twilight Time 6:39; The Night: Nights In White Satin 7:41

More complete track listing from Wikipedia

Musicians

The Moody Blues:

 

 

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