Wednesday, July 31, 2013

40 Year Itch : Those We Missed July 1973


10cc's playful debut spawned four singles in the UK ( the #1 "Rubber Bullets" and #2 "Donna" among them). One of the weirdest art pop bands of its day, 10cc's entire catalogue from here to Bloody Tourists is worth owning.

Although it's home to "Knockin' On Heavens's Door" ( US #12), this soundtrack of mostly instrumentals makes for nice background listening and that's it. And why would you by a Dylan album that you didn't want to really listen to?

Fusion doesn't get more furious than on this 5-track album from Carlos Santana and members of the Mahavishnu Orchestra ( as well as Stanley Clarke of Return to Forever and Larry Young of the Tony Williams Lifetime). It's not a particularly easy listen , but the album went gold anyway.


No band went through more stylistic changes than this Dutch group which formed in 1961. (Their Beatlesque stuff is pretty great!) Twelve years later, Moontan  and its single "Radar Love" broke Golden Earring in the US where they toured with the Doobie Brothers and Santana. Album closer "The Vanilla Queen" is a classic rock track for disc jockeys needing a pee break. "Just Like Vince Taylor" sounds like something the Del Lords would have put out in 1984.

Prone to disenchantment, Cat Stevens left behind his hit making era with Foreigner, an album featuring a  side long suite and some prog rock and funk experimentation. Tedious but it still went gold.

After years of playing and arranging for Bette Midler and singing and writing commercial jingles, Barry Manilow signed with Bell and released his first album. "Could It Be Magic" was a #6 hit in 1975 . But the real surprise here is the rocking tune "Flashy Lady".

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

40 Year Itch: Calling All Cars ! Calling All Cars!


It's one of the great musical debates of our time: What was the first disco song? There are sections of Eddie Kendricks's 1972 hit "Girl You Need A Change of Mind" that have that propulsive dance floor beat. 1972 also saw  disco progenitors like Jerry Butler's "One Night Affair" and Manu Dibango's "Soul Makossa" that compel you to get up and boogie.

But a strong case can be made that all of the disco elements come together for the first time in the 1973 single "Armed and Extremely Dangerous" by the Philly trio First Choice. Produced by Norman Harris of MFSB, the song is propelled by the congas and bongos of Larry Washington and the drums of Earl Young. Plus, you get the diva-esque vocals from Rochelle Fleming

MFSB is the same band that plays on the O'Jays "Love Train" ( which it #1 in March of 1973). Philadelphia also gave us "The Love I Lost", a #1 R and B tune by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Released in February of 1973, "Armed and Extremely Dangerous" was a #11 hit on the R and B charts and a Top 20 hit in the UK. 

The album followed in the Fall and featured more MFSB support and a nice cover of Al Green's "Love and Happiness"

Monday, July 29, 2013

40 Year Itch: The Rock n Roll Raceway

On July 28th 1973 600,000 fans packed Watkins Glen Raceway in upstate New York to see The Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead and The Band. It was the biggest rock concert ever staged in the U-S,  surpassing Woodstock by 200,000. Promoters expected 150,000 fans ( paying $10 each) but there were already people camping out two days before the concert. A full day before showtime, hours earlier than planned,  promoters opened the gates. The field was soon jam packed with people up to half a mile from the stage with hundreds of thousands still on their way. Traffic was insane. People abandoned their cars and hiked the final 5 miles to the raceway.

Here's some home movie footage narrated by one of the Summer Jam attendees:

  To appease fans who had been soaked by rain,  the bands prolonged their sound checks. The Dead played two short sets. The Band went for sixty minutes. The Allman Brothers played for ninety.
   The next day the Dead opened the rock festival with "Bertha". They played two long sets featuring many of their best known songs including "Box of Rain", "Jack Straw" and "Playing in the Band".
  Next came the Band with a two hour set as a thunderstorm threatened to wash them off the stage.

  Finally the Allman Brothers took the stage for a three hour performance that concluded with a jam featuring the Grateful Dead, The Band's Rick Danko and Richard Manuel and Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts that started around 2:30 in the morning.

Yes there was mud, litter, nudity and drugs. But only one death. A skydiver named Willard Smith --known for putting on a sparkling light show on his decent--accidentally set off an explosive in mid-air. He was dead before his body hit the ground.

More photos from the Summer Jam:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

40 Year Itch: Wigglin' My Fanny ( Ha Ha Man Get Down)

Funk was once a word used to describe the smell of a bedroom after a session of sweaty sex.
In that case, Betty Davis's debut album just might be the funkiest funk album ever released.

   After her marriage with jazz legend Miles Davis came to an end, Betty took off for San Francisco where she hooked up with the Family Stone's rhythm section , bassist Larry Graham and drummer Greg Errico. Neil Schon of Santana and Doug Rodrigues of Mandrill also play on the album. Backing vocalists include Sylvester and the Pointer Sisters.

   That's a lot of star power but there's no mistaking who's album this is. Moaning, screeching and clawing your back with pleasure, Betty Davis got a lot of flack for her high libido funk. But you couldn't ignore her.
The remastered CD comes with 32 pages of liner notes.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

40 Year Itch : Future Days


Future Days is the fifth album from Krautrock luminaries Can and the final album to feature Damo Suzuki on vocals. Returning from a sunny vacation, the five members of Can entered Inner Space Studio to record another blissed-out album of mostly instrumental electronic boogie. All but the three-minute single "Moonshake" ( my favorite all-time Can tune) are lengthy, 8-minute plus trance-inducing numbers with the twenty minute "Bel Air" taking up an entire album side.

Not a thing on the recording was planned according to keyboard player Irmin Schmidt, who is quoted here from the Mojo Collection:

"It sounds strange, but everybody in this group is a telepath. We never call it improvising, that was a very misleading term. What we improvised were forms, which we called 'instant composition'. It needs some time to come together; you've got to learn to listen to others, rather than just playing. We played every day, for hours and hours, for years.

    Suzuki was clearly done with the band by the time Future Days came out. Looking back, he calls the album "boring" and less of a "freak out" than on albums like Ege Bamyasi and Tago Mago. Suzuki converted to the Jehovah's Witness faith when he married his German girlfriend and retired from music for ten years.

Friday, July 26, 2013

40 Year Itch : Have Mercy!

With their third album, Tres Hombres, released in July of 1973, ZZ Top, that little ole band from Texas, delivered a high powered, tequila-soaked rock 'n' blues best seller. The album hit the Top 10 while the first single, the John Lee Hooker-esque "La Grange", just missed the Top 40 singles chart--peaking at #41. Not bad for a song about a whorehouse!

  Dusty Hill admits he visited the Chicken Ranch, a well known brothel long before "La Grange".

I went there when I was 13. A lot of boys in Texas, when it's time to be a guy , went there and had it done. Fathers took their sons there... oil field workers and senators would both be there

All the publicity forced Texas authorities to put the Chicken Ranch out of business.

Blues fans recognized the "La Grange" lick as John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillin'"and so did the owner of the copyright. He sued in 1992 but had to settle out of court. By then ZZ Top had sold 50 million records.
Only 1979's DeGuello approaches Tres Hombres in quality.

Recorded in Memphis at Ardent Studios, Tres Hombres suggests an evening out with the boys would be one of the wildest of your life: whore houses, beer drinking contests, hell raising and then, when everyone was nice and drunk, you'd all pile into a pick up, convince one of your buddies to crawl into a metal cage then push the whole thing over the side...and watch the sparks fly.

For the gatefold sleeve, Billy Gibbons says they got Leo's Mexican Cafe to prepare a heaping plate of enchiladas. They would take it to go. For the next several years, ZZ Top was one of the biggest touring bands in the US. In Austin 80,000 fans showed up at the "Texas Size Rompin' Stompin' Barndance and Barbecue", destroying some of the stadium's new astro turf.

Years later, for reasons unclear, ZZ Top allowed the record company to issue cds with re-recorded drums. A travesty to be sure! For the original mixes, be sure you're buying cds issued by Rhino. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

40 Year Itch : I Am No Waterboy

When Lou Reed followed up his commercially successful 1972 album Transformer with Berlin, some critics thought he was committing some kind of commercial seppuku. Writing for Rolling Stone, Stephen Davis called the album a disaster:

There are certain records that are so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance on the artists that perpetrate them. Reed's only excuse for this kind of performance (which isn't really performed as much as spoken and shouted over Bob Ezrin's limp production) can only be that this was his last shot at a once-promising career. Goodbye, Lou. 

40 years later that same publication ranks Berlin #344 of the Top 500 greatest albums of all time.
the 1979 Rolling Stone Record Guide describes the album as "grandiose, decadent", and finally "one of the most depressing records ever made, and oddly beautiful in its own awful way."

I think the earlier review is closer to the mark. 

Lou Reed recorded with one of the most exciting rock artists of his time: David Bowie. And what was his take-away? To make a depressing album of cabaret tunes that form a song cycle about a doomed couple that wallow their miserable way into prostitution and suicide.

OK, you may argue, this is capital "A" Art. Then why is Reed taking two songs from his Velvet Underground days (Oh Jim and Carolina Says (II))? And just in case you want to immerse yourself in a quiet pity party, there's two minutes of screaming and crying infants in "The Kids". A portent ( like the first 15 seconds of the album) of Metal Machine Music.

    The funny thing: I actually like the way Lou reinvented some of these songs for his live tour --witness Rock 'n' Roll Animal and  Lou Reed Live ( both recorded December 21st, 1973).

And yes, the Waterboys got their name from this album.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

40 Year Itch: Van the Man Plays the Rainbow

For two nights in July of 1973 Van Morrison and his ultra tight 11 piece Caledonia Soul Orchestra played the Rainbow Theatre in London. This is the same band that would record the classic 1974 double live album It's Too Late to Start Now. The string and horn section --and Van's fiery delivery--give even Morrison's Them era tunes an epic quality. The 1973 tour was put together to promote Morrison's first disappointing album Hard Nose the Highway. (Only "Warm Love" can stand next to the high achievements of the man's early 70's work).

 A restless and irritable bandleader, Van broke up the Caledonia Soul Orchestra after the '73 tour but we have the live album and this show to mark the zenith of his concert career.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

1973 In Salsa


New York salsa was fusion music; you could hear urbane Havana son and country Puerto Rican jibaro styles, jazzy horn and flute solos, Santana-style rock guitar, wah wah keyboards, long percussion jams that drew on funk and African music while mixing in various Caribbean and South American rhythms. It was integrated, like the city it came from.
  Will Hermes, Love Goes to Buildings On Fire: Five Years in New York That Changes Music Forever.

  As much as I enjoyed the sections of this book that focused on New York's punk and art rock scene of the 70's, I got the most pleasure from learning about the city's red hot salsa scene. In 1973 nobody could top the combination of bandleader Willie Colon and troubled singer Hector Lavoe for high energy dance music. A great place to start.


This is the other classic salsa album from 1973. Conga player and bandleader Barretto lives up to his Superman cover, hitting up virtually every form of Afro-Latin rhythm in this heart pounding album. Timeless! (If you like this, the next stop is Acid from 1967)


Palmieri's classic is 1971's jazzy Harlem River Drive but this album contains the pianist's anthemic "Puerto Rico". Though it's not apparent on that track, with Sentido Palmieri and producer Harvey Averne began mining the psychedelic rock vein where Santana found gold.


Afro Filipino ex-con Joe Bataan combined booogloo and doo wop in his 1960's band. The smooth tenor coined the term "salsoul" with this album in 1973 and paved the way for the inescapable Latin influenced disco sound. "Latin Strut" is a reworking of Deodato's "Super Strut".

Monday, July 22, 2013

40 Year Itch: California Tumbles Into the Sea

"There is a substantial body of opinion which holds that Countdown was the best Steely Dan album, bar none. Generally speaking, the type of person who typically holds this position is not the sort of individual you want sitting across the table from you at a dinner party, especially one where alcoholic beverages are being served. Nor would you be well advised to give one of these guys your email address or (gasp) your phone number. Should it happen that such a fan gets a hold of your street address or place of employment, you may as well call the police stalking squad straightway, before the situation deteriorates any further. You get, we trust, the general idea."
--Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, liner notes for 1998 re-issue

In the Summer of '73 Steely Dan followed up their critically acclaimed Top 20 debut with Countdown to Ecstasy. The band enjoyed more critical acclaim ( Robert Christgau praised the band's "studio slickness -perfect licks that crackle and buzz when you listen hard")" but not as many sales, thanks to the lack of a single on the scale of Can't Buy A Thrill's "Do It Again" and "Reeling in the Years".

   It's not a popular opinion but to these ears Countdown to Ecstasy is a bit of a sophmore slump. "The Boston Rag", "Pearl of the Quarter" and "King of the World" can't hold my interest and I'm just annoyed by "Bodhisattva" despite the dueling lead guitars of Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Denny Dias.

And, right there,  I've just disparaged half the album's eight songs.

That leaves four classics though: the singles "My Old School" and "Showbiz Kids" still get plenty of FM radio play ( Rickie Lee Jones does a super cover of 'Showbiz Kids' on 2000's  It's Like This) and "Your Gold Teeth" and "Razor Boy" are bold exciting explorations into the places where jazz and rock meet. Lyrically, you have to appreciate these cynical and sarcastic East Coasters fuming about having to live in phony Los Angeles where show biz kids are making movies about themselves "you know they don't give a fuck about anybody else".

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Meaner Than a Junkyard Dog

Billboard Hit Singles July 21, 1973

1. Jim Croce : Bad Bad Leroy Brown
2. Billy Preston : Will It Go Round in Circles
3. The Carpenters : Yesterday Once More
4. Three Dog Night : Shambala
5. Paul Simon : Kodachrome

Jim Croce finally convinced himself he made it the day he slung a guitar strap over his shoulder and stood up to perform in concert.  Those days of getting assaulted by a drunk in a Pennsylvania bar were behind him.

"When the fights started, " he told Billboard Magazine "you wanted to be able to put down your guitar and dive behind the bar in a flash. Playing with a strap on slows you down too much."

Nothing was slowing down Jim Croce. A year after the released of You Don't Mess Around with Jim produced two hit singles in "Operator ( #17) and the title track ( #8), Croce put out Life And Times featuring "Speedball Tucker" and his #1 hit "Bad Bad Leroy Brown".

 It could be argues this is just a re-write of "You Don't Mess Around With Jim" but Croce often said there really was a Leroy Brown, a soldier he met when they were both stationed at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

 This is a song about a guy I was in the army with... It was at Fort Dix, in New Jersey, that I met this guy. He was not made to climb the tree of knowledge, as they say, but he was strong, so nobody'd ever told him what to do, and after about a week down there he said "Later for this" and decided to go home. So he went AWOL, which means to take your own vacation, and he did. But he made the mistake of coming back at the end of the month to get his paycheck. I don't know if you've ever seen handcuffs put on anybody, but it was SNAP and that was the end of it for a good friend of mine, who I wrote this tune about, named Leroy Brown.

Croce would not be able to enjoy his success for long; He was killed when his chartered plane crashed into a tree soon after takeoff on September 20, 1973.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

40 Year Itch : Rock and Roll's A Loser's Game


Mott the Hoople's follow-up to the David Bowie aided and abetted All the Young Dudes, Mott is a masterpiece and one of the great rock and roll albums of the 70's. It plays like a concept album about the trials and tribulations of a road-weary, instrument-misplacing, infighting and ultimately disillusioned rock band and proved Mott the Hoople could make a great music all by themselves.

The band rocks hard on "Whizz Kid", "Drivin' Sister" and the band's only weak track "Violence". Hunter's Dylan obsession comes through on the classic "I Wish I Was Your Mother" and Mick Ralphs gets his moment in the sun singing "I'm a Cadillac/ El Camino Dolo Roso" and playing some stunning Spanish guitar.

Most telling of the tracks is "Ballad of Mott the Hoople (26th March 1972, Zurich)". The parenthetical date and place are significant. Mott the Hoople decided to break up after another frustrating, poorly attended gig in Zurich ...only to be met back in their home country by David Bowie offering them first "Suffragette City" ( which Mott turned down) and then "All the Young Dudes". Both the song and the album of the same name were produced by David Bowie and, almost overnight, the band became huge.

Though the songwriting credits go to the entire band, it's clearly Ian Hunter's autobiographical tune:

I changed my name in search of fame
To find the Midas touch ...

( Ian Hunter was born Ian Hunter Patterson)

 Buffin lost his child-like dreams

(Buffin is drummer Dale Griffin's nickname. Griffin was the youngest member of the original band)

 And Mick lost his guitar

( the second reference to Mick Ralphs losing a guitar on the album. The first is the line "Forgot my 6 string razor" on "All the Way from Memphis")

And Verden grew a line or two

(Verden is the oldest member and possibly the angriest since the band wouldn't play his songs. He left before the band recorded Mott)

And Overend's just a rock'n'roll star

(Shaggy bassist Overend Watts has the rock and roll look down pat)

Behind these shades the visions fade
As I learn a thing or two
Oh but if I had my time again
You all know just what I'd do

( Ian Hunter is never seen without his shades --perhaps to hide his disillusionment)

 Rock'n'roll's a loser's game
It mesmerises and I can't explain
The reasons for the sights and for the sounds
We went off somewhere on the way
And now I see we have to pay
The rock'n'roll circus is in town

(Mott toured the UK in 1972 with a circus made up of a vaudeville comedian and a knife throwing act)

With the help of two British hit singles, "Honaloochie Boogie" (UK#12) and "All the Way From Memphis" (UK#10), Mott is the most successful of the band's UK album peaking at #7 there and #35 in the US. Despite the success, the band was in tatters. Guitarist Mick Ralphs followed keyboardist Verden Allen out the door and formed Bad Company with his hometown chum Paul Rodgers.

 By 1974, Ian Hunter -too- was gone.

Mott topped Creem Magazine's 1973 readers poll for both album and band.

 Top Albums 

1. Mott The Hoople - Mott 
2. The Who - Quadrophenia
3. Elton John - Goodbye Yellowbrick Road
4. Rolling Stones - Goat's Head Soup
5. New York Dolls
6. Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon
7. Allman Brothers - Brothers and Sisters
8. Led Zeppelin - Houses Of The Holy
9. Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies
10. Stooges - Raw Power
11. Blue Oyster Cult - Tyranny and Mutation
12. David Bowie - Aladdin Sane
13. Paul McCartney and Wings - Band On The Run
14. Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery
15. Todd Rundgren - A Wizard, A True Star
16. Yes - Yessongs
17. Paul Simon - There Goes Rhymin' Simon
18. David Bowie - Pin-Ups
19. J. Geils Band - Bloodshot
20. Jethro Tull - A Passion Play

Top Group

1. Mott the Hoople
2. The Who
3. Allman Brothers
4. The Rolling Stones

Friday, July 19, 2013

40 Year Itch : Wake Up & Turn I Loose


   Following shortly on the heels of the 1973 Island Records release Catch A Fire, Trojan Records put out African Herbsman, a collection of  recordings by Bob Marley and the Wailers most of which were produced as far back as the 1960s by Lee Perry. In Jamaica they were released in 1971 as Soul Revolution.

Among the tunes that would be re recorded for future Island releases: "Lively Up Yourself" ( Natty Dread). "Duppy Conqueror" (Burnin) and "Sun is Shining" ( Kaya). Not just the hipster fans claim the original, less dynamically produced Wailers is the superior stuff.

Billboard Magazine interviewed Marley for a November 1973 article that begins in a way that shows the author, Leroy Robinson, is not overwhelmed.:

The fact that reggae music has not been able to "Catch A Fire" (on Island Records) as the title of the Wailers' recent album suggests cannot be blamed on the Kingston, Jamaica group, headed by Bob Marley, for they have literally been steaming for ten years.

Marley is clearly in the position of selling this little known form of music to the America.

"I think as soon as the people in America find out what the real Reggae is, it will be around for a long long while."

He says Reggae is "mostly out of own living, our ghetto, our own oppressions. It's the kind of thing that really tears your heart open. The Jamaican man grows up with Reggae.It's our blues...Yeah, man it's a black people's music. But I prefer all people to like our music."

That day would soon come.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Style Council's Mick Talbot : My Top Ten

In June of 1983 Mick Talbot provided Smash Hits with a  soul heavy Top Ten List of his favorite tunes. 

At the time Talbot and Former Jam leader Paul Weller were promoting their mini LP Introducing the Style Council and the UK#4 single "Speak Like A Child". The list comes courtesy of Brian at Like Punk Never Happened

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

40 Year Itch : Tengo Tiempo

Can you spare a minute for the greatest rock album to ever come out of Argentina?

When the Argentine version of Rolling Stone Magazine compiled that nation's top rock albums of all time it was hardly a surprise that Artaud by Pescado Rabioso ( Rabid Fish) topped the list. In truth, this was a solo album by the band's  Luis Alberto Spinetta...known in his country as El Flaco or "Skinny".

Spinetta had a poet's sensibility and a voice that nearly equaled Jeff Buckley in beauty and emotion. Artuad is full of dreamlike images and inspired musical passages that rival anything the great art bands were doing in 1973.

You've heard of vocalists so good you'd want to hear them sing the phone book?
Listen to the 101-second "Por" which begins with just a series of single words:


(tree, eye, jump, light, approximation, furniture, wool, taste, foot, tea, prints, gazes)

 This album has been on high rotation on my iPhone all year. If you'd like to snag another mp3, check out this post from Aquarium Drunkard which features the bluesy "Cementerio Club". Sadly, Spinetta joined that club in February of 2012 leaving behind four children and decades of great music.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

40 Year Itch: "My name is Ray Davies...and I am dying"

On July 15 1973 Ray Davies told fans at London's White City Stadium he was quitting the Kinks. To quote Davies:

"I'm fucking sick of the whole thing. I'm sick up to here with it."

Looking "haggard and ill" according to Sounds Magazine, Davies was a pill popping freak who describes the theatrical, rock operatic years between 1973 and 1975 as a time "in my life, in my career, when I should not have been allowed to put any records out." In the Summer of '73 his wife Rosa had moved out and taken the kids with her. Davies took more pills, slipped into a depression and had already wound up in a hospital one time after a rumored suicide attempt.

Then came the White City show which Davies recalls in his "unauthorized autobiography" X Ray.

Every song seemed to resonate inside Raymond Douglas. He sang songs like "Holiday", "Celluloid Heroes", "You Really Got Me", "All Day and All of the Night". Each song had a meaning about his own life. There was obviously a lot of self-pity involved, but he could not escape these emotions, there was no escape, this was the real world come tumbling down on Raymond Douglas' fantasyland. At the end of the concert he announced that this was the final concert by the Kinks, but the PA company accidentally turned off the sound system, and so nobody heard the resignation speech. It would have ended with 'The Kinks are dead, I am dead." Well-meaning people helped R.D. away from the stage, but he wished that he had just died.

Davies was still wearing stage make up when he checked into the hospital telling the attending nurse:

"Hello my name is Ray Davies. I am the lead singer of The Kinks. And I am dying"

There was talk of having Dave Davies take over the band but Ray returned for what would be an unproductive period commercially. The albums Preservation Act 1(1973), Preservation Act 2 (1974) Soap Opera (1975) and Schoolboys in Disgrace (1975) each have a song or two to recommend.

From the first album, the US single "Sweet Lady Genevieve" --a true nugget--was released in August of 1973.

Monday, July 15, 2013

40 Year Itch: Faithful Till Death


In the early morning hours of July 15, 1973 a drunk driver hit Clarence White as he was loading equipment into his van following a gig in Palmdale, California. He died the next day at the age of 29.

Though best known for his stint with The Byrds ( beginning as a session musician on Younger Than Yesterday and then as a full fledged member from 1968 -1973), White also played with country rock pioneers Nashville West, the bluegrass super group Muleskinner, Gram Parsons and with his brothers in The Kentucky Colonels.

As a bluegrass artist, he was  a fast, accurate and incredibly innovative guitarist.

  With an electric guitar he practically invented country rock. He and Gene Parsons came up with a device called the B Bender which can make an electric guitar sound like pedal steel when the neck is pulled back. You can hear a B Bender on a lot of Linda Ronstadt and Eagles tunes ( especially "Peaceful, Easy Feeling").

  The legend of Clarence White is approaching the same mythical status as Gram Parsons ( who sang "Farther Along" at White's funeral). If you want to learn more and hear more from White check out the ten part series by Adios Lounge.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blown Away !

40 Year Itch: Slow Jamming With Stevie Wonder

On July 13 1973, weeks before the release of Innervisions,  Stevie Wonder finished his show at New York City's Rainbow room with an impromptu  six and a half minute thank you to his audience.

Wonder had given the New York crowd a preview of four songs that would appear on next month's release Innervisions.

1. Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing
2. Higher Ground
3. Superwoman
4. To Know You is To Love You\
5. Signed Sealed Delivered I'm Yours
6. Visions
7. Living for the City
8. You Are the Sunshine of My Life
9. Superstition
10. My Dreams

Saturday, July 13, 2013

40 Year Itch : If I Crossed A Million Rivers

Thundering right out of the gates with its lead off track "Keep Yourself Alive", Queen released its debut album on July 13th 1973 and immediately drew comparisons to Led Zeppelin.

"With its first album Queen has produced a driving, high energy set which in time may be looked upon with the same reverence Led Zep I now receives" said the Chicago Tribune

Rolling Stone's Gordon Fletcher added "There's no doubt that this funky, energetic English quartet has all the tools they'll need to lay claim to the Zep's abdicated heavy-metal throne, and beyond that to become a truly influential force in the rock world. Their debut album is superb.".

It took them long enough. 

     Queen played very few gigs. Its members were all college students. Guitarist Brian May was working on his Ph.D. in astronomy. It took Queen almost all of 1971 just to record five demos at the state of the art De Lane Lea studios in Wembley. Checking out the studio, producers Roy Thomas Baker and John Anthony heard the demos and signed the band to their management company Tribute. What did Queen get out of the deal? An opportunity to record their album only when the studio wasn't booked. 

Usually between 3 am and 7 am.

Pulling all nighters, Queen recorded all the songs by November of 1972 but had to wait another 9 months for the album to be released by EMI and Elektra. 
Thus the poignant point in the liner notes:
"Representing at least something of what Queen's music has been over the last three years."

Despite good reviews, Queen's debut did not sell. It wasn't glam enough for the now waning glam rock scene nor hard enough for the hard rock crowd. There are multi-tracking moments that will remind listeners of what Queen would become but not enough.

A strange footnote: 

While recording the album Freddie Mercury  and the boys agreed to record a cover of the Beach Boys' hit "I Can Hear Music" as  Larry Lurex.

What would push Queen to the next level? Certainly not publicity photos like the one below.

 In August of 1973 they were back in the studio working on Queen II.

Friday, July 12, 2013

40 Year Itch : Adventures in Soul

Two Great Artists Challenge Themselves and Their Fans

With his dazzling live album in 1972 and his partnership with Roberta Flack on the Grammy winning "Where Is the Love", the multi-talented Donny Hathaway had finally struck Gold. Now, to show his new fans what he was really capable of, Hathaway recorded his most ambitious set yet.

I decided to call it Extension of a Man because I am in the process of expanding and developing styles. I would like to record as many styles as humanly possible for one person.
-Donny Hathaway

The album's best known cut is the beautiful easy listening anthem "Someday We'll All Be Free" ( used in Spike Lee's Malcolm X). When Hathaway first heard the finished take of the tune he broke down in tears. The lyrics, by friend Edward Howard, were written not as an anthem but as a message to Hathaway:

 "What was going through my mind at the time was Donny, because Donny was a very troubled person. I hoped that at some point he would be released from all that he was going through. There was nothing I could do but write something that might be encouraging for him."

But there's also the symphonic opener "I Love the Lord; He Heard My Cry ( Parts I & II)" , a Tijuana Brass inspired "Flying Easy", a funky revisiting of  "The Ghetto" called "The Slums" and a Latin instrumental called "Valdez in the Country". Added up, it's a masterpiece from one of soul music's great visionaries. 

This would be Hathaway's final album. The man Curtis Mayfield described as "instilled with the depth of religious feeling in black music" was also suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. The year after his 1978 comeback duet with Flack, "The Closer I Get To You", Hathaway apparently leaped to his death from the 15th floor of New York City's Essex House.

I think we've found a winner for worst album cover of 1973.

Perhaps taking a cue from the progressive rock experimentalists , Aretha Franklin followed up her double live album of gospel music, Amazing Grace, with what initially was going to be a jazz vocal album, Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky). There's a straightforward take on Stephen Sondheim's "Somewhere" and a swinging rendition of James Moody's "Moody's Mood". Had producer Quincy Jones, record execs and Aretha herself not gotten cold feet, this might have a great, if underselling gamble. 

Instead they padded the album with filler and a song written by Aretha's sister Carolyn ( who sings background with Erma Franklin)  called "Angel" which hit #1 on the R and B charts and peaked at #20 on the pop charts. It was the first album Aretha recorded for Atlantic not to crack the Top 25 pop chart.

Quincy Jones also produced an astonishing Grammy winning single for Aretha in 1973 called "Master of Eyes ( The Deepness of Your Eyes)" which made it up to #33 on the pop charts but for some reason did not appear on Hey Now Hey.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

40 Year Itch: Don and Phil Call It Quits

By July of 1973, Don and his younger brother Phil Everly were barely talking. They would stay at different hotels, take separate cars to the gigs and even use separate dressing rooms. They'd fight like cats and dogs until the curtains were pulled apart and the show started. They were making good money as the Everly Brothers and, like Siamese Brothers,  seemed to be stuck with each other for life.

Then on July 13, 1973 at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California,  Don walked on stage after knocking back a few margaritas. He slurred the words. He sang the wrong words. He sang flat. At the end of the show, as Don took his bow, Phil smashed his guitar, walked off the stage and announced "I'll never get on a stage with that man again."

They only met once over the next decade : to bury their father.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

40 Year Itch: This and That...


Bits of Music news from the early Summer of 1973:

Richie Havens begins an 8 city tour to promote Portfolio, an album containing eight lithographs Havens himself drew.

Why is John Dean's picture in a music blog? Because the Time Magazine cover story was promised to Paul Simon.

  Buck Owens was spotted in San Diego for farewell ceremonies to two US Navy Destroyers sold to Brazil:
 The USS Buck and the USS Owens.

Gemini announced that their Watergate poster was outselling posters of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy and The Jackson 5.

Billy Paul bough his wife a Mercedes with the money he earned from "Me and Mrs Jones."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

40 Year Itch : Of Love in Boulder Canyon


  In the Summer of 1973, you could not escape the cheery mop top with the granny glasses. John Denver was everywhere. "Rocky Mountain High" had already peaked at #9 in the Billboard charts. Now his new album, Farewell Andromeda, was rising into the Top 20.

    He hosted a BBC variety show and guest hosted The Tonight Show. On a chairlift in Aspen, he had just written "Annie's Song", a future #1 song on the Easy Listening Charts. Swenson had just introduced a new ice cream flavor called "Rocky Mountain High".

And, with a backdrop of films showcasing the Rocky Mountains, Denver was about to perform a seven night engagement at the Universal Amphitheater. My dad and stepmother --who both knew Denver before he became a households name took me to a John Denver concert in 1973 and again in 1974.

After the latter concert Dad wrote Denver this letter:

Dear John:
 Your concert in New Haven was stupendous! My God, when you came on stage that first moment and the Coliseum must be an extraordinary sensation, rather frightening, rather pleasing, rather contemptible even. I mean how is it possible not to react with something approaching scorn at the animal that gets unleashed. There is that crowd aura, that same frenzied grip that politicians strive for, that Hitler achieved ( he, too, had at Nuremberg that astonishingly staged and managed show which created a crowd frenzy). I don't mean to compare you to Hitler, my friend, all I mean is you have achieved that same quality of having crowds react to you but that, unlike Hitler, of course you deserve it. 

 You gave the impression of being perfectly at ease, in control and professional all of which you are, but it came across. And I think your music--that is, the songs you write, are getting more and more beautiful and lyrical. I think "Sunshine on My Shoulder" (sic) is one of the loveliest songs I've heard in years. Very simple, very true like all good writing must be. And "Goodbye Again" is lovely too. Of course "Rocky Mountain High"--the title suddenly for the first time struck me as perfect for a high school in Denver. Wonderful idea, the little girl saying "I'm at Rocky Mountain High" and the other responding "I'll say..."--anyway , Rocky Mountain High is such a pleasing song and a nice thought.


Monday, July 8, 2013

40 Year Itch : Samba Soul from 1973

Inspired by a West Coast heat wave, I present here three great Samba Soul tunes from 1973. 

Let's begin with Tim Maia and "Gostava Tanto de Voce" from his 1973 self-titled album. Maia was one of music's great wild men and ranked by Rolling Stone as the greatest Brazilian singer. Ever.

Nobody could fuse Brazilian samba with soulful jazz rhythms like Luiz Melodia who released his highly acclaimed solo album, Perola Negra, in 1973. The title track is a classic.

Marku Ribas , the King of Samba Soul, died in April of this year. A master percussionist and vocalist, Ribas had already been recording for 20 years when he worked on the Dirty Work album with the Rolling Stones and even appeared in the music video for "Just Another Night". 1973's Underground is the place to start with this artist.