Saturday, August 31, 2013

40 Year Itch: Angie, Ahyyynnnnn -gee!

"There is a sadness about the Stones now, because they amount to such an enormous 'So what?' 
-Lester Bands Creem

The most remarkable thing about The Rolling Stones Goats Head Soup is how unremarkable it is. Outside of some "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo"s , the tune "Silver Train" (which dedicated rock fans had already heard performed by Johnny Winter on his Still Alive And Well album) and a line about a groupie giving Steve McQueen head , this is about as uninspired as the world's greatest rock band can sound. Naturally it shot to #1 worldwide and went triple platinum,  thanks in large part to the #1 simpering single that preceded it, "Angie", written by Keith for his daughter Dandelion.

The Stones were due a let down after a four album winning streak consisting of some of the best albums ever made in the rock era ( Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile On Main St). It didn't help that Keith Richards was a full blown heroin addict and Mick Jagger a jet setter preoccupied with his new rival David Bowie.

Recorded mostly in Jamaica, with percussionists roaming in and out of the studio and Billy Preston playing clavinet,  Goats Head Soup had a few noteworthy leftovers that appeared on Tattoo You: "Waiting On a Friend" and "Tops"

It would be three years before the Rolling Stones would do something interesting again. By then Ronnie Wood would replace Mick Taylor but that's a story for another day,

Friday, August 30, 2013

40 Year Itch : Those We Missed in August of '73

"Midnight at the Oasis" is the big hit, but this album, featuring assistance from the likes of Dr John, Ry Cooder and, again, Clarence White is a tasteful delight all the way through. 

For Rolling Stone Jon Landau wrote "One of the half-dozen best albums of the year, the kind of glorious breakthrough that reminds me why I fell in love with rock and roll -- even though there isn't much straight rock here."

One of rock's great eccentrics, Exuma 's final album for Kama Sutra , Life, didn't sell much but the Bahamian musician had achieved legendary status around New Orleans by the time I attended college there in the 80's so I bought this on cassette.  Life has two Rolling Stones covers, "Paint It Black" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want".

Former Byrds drummer Gene Parsons's first solo album, Kindling, is almost a one man band effort. He gets some support from Clarence White , Gib Guilbeau and a few others on this tasteful but low key tribute to the music of Appalachia.

Captain Beyond follow up their spectacular debut by changing direction with a sound they described at the time as "Space-Latin rock". Some have also called it "Acoustic Prog". In any case it's a far cry from the founders' former bands Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly. An intelligent and rewarding listen

[Out of Print]

On their third album, Pressure Cookin', Labelle were still a year away from achieving their  "Lady Marmalade" chart success despite the presence of a Stevie Wonder penned single ("Open Your Heart") Noteworthy for its melody teaming up Gil Scott Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" with Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air". (Thunderclap Newman's 1969 album was re released in '73).

Stevie Wonder wrote and plays the keyboards on the 8 and a half minute title track for B.B. King  who also covers The Staple Sisters "Respect Yourself" and bends plenty of blues notes on his most commercial effort yet.

Todd Rundgren produced this seventh, slickest and most successful of Grand Funk (Railroad) albums. By late September the title track , sung by drummer Don Brewer, would be the #1 song in the land. And the four members would have enough money to buy some gutdam clothes. And that's a natural fact!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

40 Year Itch: The Wizard of Wood

     Recorded in 1969, Roy Wood, who had already been one of the creators of The Move and Electric Light Orchestra,  had to wait until his band Wizzard had become one of the most popular acts in the UK before this delightfully inventive and whimsical album would see the light of day.

Boulders is all Roy Wood ( except for a harmonium on two tracks). That's Roy singing all the vocals and playing about two dozen instruments ( including the water splashes on "Wake Up"). Roy even did the self portrait on the album cover. Among home-made albums created by single artists, Boulders is right up there with Paul ( and Linda) McCartney's Ram and Emmit Rhodes's solo debut.

Roy with all the instruments he played on Boulders
 There's a sense of humor that pervades the whole album. Some of it's in your face like the single "When Gran'ma Plays the Banjo"and the sped up vocals of "Rock Down Low". There are snarky nods at The Beach Boys ("All the Way Over The Hill") the Everly Brothers ("She's Too Good For Me") and the Christian themes popping up in the songs of the Byrds and George Harrison ( "Songs of Praise", which The New Seekers would perform in the Eurovision contest). "Miss Clarke and the Computer" is a love song written from the point of view of a computer.

Packed full of hooks , Boulders is one of 1973's true gems.

Want to hear more? As of this writing Aquarium Drunkard still had an MP3 of "Wake Up" available for download.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

40 Year Itch : Ballads for the Bedroom

I can't see anything wrong with sex between consenting anybodies. I think we make far too much of it. After all, one's genitals are just one important part of the magnificent human body. I have no argument with the essential part they play in the reproduction of the species; however, the reproduction process has been assured by the pleasure both parties receive when they engage in it
--Marvin Gaye

On August 28, 1973 Marvin Gaye followed up his Trouble Man soundtrack by releasing Let's Get It On, a concept album devoted to the celebration of sex and love. With his volatile marriage to Anna Gordy Gaye at a low point, Gaye became infatuated with 17 year old Janis Hunter. Their sexually charged affair is documented all over this album especially in its unforgettably carnal tour de force  "You Sure Love to Ball".

Atmospheric and seductive, Let's Get It On is responsible for a lot of people who will be celebrating their 40th birthdays in the Summer of '74.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

40 Year Itch: Some Hard Rock Gems

Welsh rockers Budgie released their finest album in 1973, Never Turn Your Back on a Friend. It kicks off with the heavy riffing of "Breadfan" which practically invents thrash metal. Metallica covered the tune as a B side in 1988. The musicianship is flawless. Bassist and vocalist Burke Shelley has a thin, one dimensional voice that may remind you of Geddy Lee. That, and the ironic name of the band, may be the reason why Budgie never hit it big in America.

If you're going to call your album Volcanic Rock, you'd better deliver the goods. These Aussie badasses do just that on what may be the heaviest, sludgiest, and most criminally forgotten hard  rock album of 1973.

Almost makes up for the album cover featuring a castrated man holding up a giant rock that , on closer inspection, is actually a penis.

America's answer to the British onslaught of hard rock superstars like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, Ronnie Montrose ( who played on the Edgar Winter band's "Frankenstein" single) and his band cranked things up on this Ted Templeman produced debut which kicks off with three great rawking classics: "Rock the Nation", "Bad Motor Scooter" and "Space Station #5". If you're working your way backwards from Van Halen, Sammy Hagar finally redeems himself!

Monday, August 26, 2013

40 Year Itch : This Bird You Cannot Change

When Lynyrd Skynyrd first climbed out of the Florida swamp and began honing their rock and roll sound in juke joints and biker bars, nobody yelled out "Free Bird!" at them. That only happened to every band--every single band-- that followed these "American Rolling Stones". 

   That famous nine minute /three guitar epic appears on their debut album Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd which was released in August of 1973. Thanks in part to an opening slot on The Who's Quadrophenia tour, Lynyrd Skynyrd quickly rose to fame, selling two million copies of Pronounced.

 Lynyrd Skynyrd weaved the best things the South had to offer: blues, country, boogie and a "heritage not hate" pride in all things Southern.. (Naturally they went to Jacksonville's Robert E Lee High School). The songs are defiant, some are sentimental. All are ageless.

I always like to write something that helps you listen to albums in a new way. But I think I'll let the man who discovered Skynyrd , Al Kooper, take it from here. This is from one of those egregious Rolling Stone Magazine issues where they rank  Eminem and Jay Z as greater artists than Talking Heads, Tom Petty or Lynyrd Skynyrd ( who ranked #95).

Ronnie Van Zant was Lynyrd Skynyrd. I don't mean to demean the roles the others played in the group's success, but it never would have happened without him. His lyrics were a big part of it — like Woody Guthrie and Merle Haggard before him, Ronnie knew how to cut to the chase. And Ronnie ran that band with an iron hand. I have never seen such internal discipline in a band. One example: These guys composed all of their guitar solos. Most bands improvised solos each time they performed or recorded. Not them. Ronnie's dream was that they would sound exactly the same every time they took the stage.

  After three or four albums, Lynyrd Skynyrd transcended the Southern-rock tag. They became one of the greatest rock and roll bands in history. They feared no one. On their very first national tour, they opened for the Who. And got encores!

  When Ronnie went down in that terrible 1977 plane crash, the forward progress of the band ended. After the survivors all healed, they miraculously reassembled. Ronnie's kid brother Johnny took over, and you had to rub your eyes to make sure it wasn't Ronnie. But while the band could duplicate the majesty of past live shows (and still can), the heart and soul of the band was gone forever.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

40 Year Itch: Look Yeah But Don't Touch

For 3 + 3 the original Isley Brothers, Ronald, Rudolph and O'Kelly, made it official. The new generation of Isleys ( guitarist and younger brother Ernie, bass player and youngest brother Marvin, and cousin Chris Jasper on keyboards) who all played on 1971's Givin' It Back and 1972's Brother Brother Brother were now members of the band.  Witness the album cover. Witness the threads!

     The 3 +3 Formula = Big Success. Beginning with the release of the Top 10 gold single "That Lady", The Isley Brothers became one of the most consistently best selling acts of the 70's. A lot of that success belongs not just to the smooth vocalist Ronnie, but to their most enthusiastic new member: Ernie. Undaunted by having to fill the lead guitar role once occupied by Jimi Hendrix ( his wardrobe often brought Jimi to mind) , Ernie could play long searing guitar solos that drew the attention of gape-mouthed rock and roll audiences.

"I just love the guitar, " he told critic Robert Palmer who was writing for Penthouse. "The sound of it, the feel of it, the way it looks. I never know what I'm going to do when I play a solo, and, really, that's why I love rock and roll . It's free -- that's what makes it. You can't take one song or one form and define the style".

    While recording his monster solo on "That Lady", Ernie faced the corner of the studio room with his back to his brothers. He had no idea they were jumping for joy and giving each other high 5's. It's the equivalent of hitting a grand slam home run to win the World Series. Absolute brilliance!

  The album contained several  covers: "Summer Breeze", A Top 10 R and B hit; James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" and Jonathan Edwards's "Sunshine (Go Away Today)". "What It Comes Down To" is another Top 10 R and B hit.

   On a personal note, this album takes me back to the sunny highways and beaches that surround Charleston, South Carolina. I did this on purpose. I stopped at a record store on the way to the city and picked up an album that would be my soundtrack for that long weekend. Something I would play every time I got in my car. Something I had never heard before. Now every time I play these wonderful songs I can see the faces of friends, the wild sea oats , the waves, horse drawn carriages and cobbled streets. It's better than taking photos.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

40 Year Itch: Campus Report for Late August 1973

As reported to Billboard Magazine for their August 25, 1973 issue.

Tulane University

Blues rock supergroup West, Bruce and Laing ( made up of two members of Mountain and Jack Bruce of Cream) are getting the most airplay at Tulane. The Section is a band comprised of session musicians who played on all the great 70's singer songwriters albums. Sunflower is one of vibraphonist Milt Jackson's best selling jazz albums.

1. West Bruce and Laing : Whatever Turns You On
2. The Section: Forward Motion
3. Milt Jackson: Sunflower

U. California Berkeley

Coulson, Dean, McGuiness and Flint created a sensation by recording Dylan tunes before they were released on his Basement Tapes album. The Etta James album has already been featured this month. The Andrews Sisters enjoyed a revival when Bette Midler had a hit with their "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy"

1. Coulson Dean McGuinness, Flint : Lo and Behold
2. Etta James : Etta James
3. Andrews Sisters : Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy

University of Alabama

Bloodshot was the best selling J Geils album until Freeze Frame came along. Don Nix was a songwriter and session musician who worked on the Concert for Bangladesh. George Harrison contribute some slide guitar on this album. Yeah contained Brownsville Station's biggest hit "Smokin in the Boys Room" which would peak at #3 later in the year.

1. The J Geils Band Bloodshot
2. Don Nix : Hobos, Heroes and Street Corner Clowns
3. Brownsville Station: Yeah!

Friday, August 23, 2013

40 Year Itch : American Graffiti

                                         "Where were you in '62?"
                                                                                -American Graffiti tagline

Just months after That'll Be The Day charmed UK moviegoers with its 50's/early 60's nostalgia, leading to a soundtrack album that topped the charts there for three weeks, George Lucas's American Graffiti became America's top grossing film of 1973. The double album soundtrack went gold and sent Bill Haley and The Comets's twenty-five year old "Rock Around the Clock" back into the Top 40 .

 Nostalgia for the Eisenhower era was already very much in evidence in the early 1970's. Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt Kickers's 1962 #1 hit "Monster Mash" was back in the charts in 1973, peaking at #3 in the UK. From Don McLean's #1 hit "American Pie", a remembrance of Buddy Holly, to the remakes of early 60's hits like Donny Osmond's "Puppy Love", Ringo Starr's "You're Sixteen", Grand Funk Railroad's "The Locomotion", the 50's were back. Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" was an updating of the the 50's sound.

Concert promoter Richard Nader can claim some credit for the revival. He sent 50's acts on the road as early as 1969 beginning with Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry and the Platters. In 1972 he managed to get Dion and the Belmonts to reunite.Gene Vincent did one of his shows. A Nader produced revival sold out Madison Square Garden in 1970 and 1974.

American Graffiti inspired TV hits "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley".

These were soundtracks to a less complicated time when America promised of happiness and prosperity. By the early 70's, the first rock and roll generation had faced not just their own disappointments but the ugliness of war and assassinations and a crook in the white house. Can you blame Americans for taking a little break back in time?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

40 Year Itch: Danger When You Taste Brown Sugar

With a hard charging cover of Hot Chocolate's "Brother Louie" , the troubled power pop band Stories hit #1 on August 25 1973. Stories was formed when Michael Brown of The Left Banke met Seattle native Ian Lloyd (born Buonconciglio) and the two decided to make Beatlesque music. They made one decent album before Brown left. While recording the second album, as an afterthought, the remaining band has to seek out a single. Ian Lloyd spent a weekend listening to demos when he heard the Hot Chocolate tune, already a Top 10 hit in the UK. As he told Classic

When "Brother Louie" was played, it was crazy because when I heard it, I thought "that's different." Then they got to the chorus. As soon as they hit the chorus, I said "This is the one. This is the one we should do." Obviously I was surprised because you can think something's a number one record, but it won't be a number one record. But the fact that I had really been listening for two days to all this stuff and then heard that and said "This is a number one record," when it finally went to number one, I was surprised. I was kind of like, "Wow! I was right!"

The single shot up to #1 forcing the Kama Sutra label to re-release the band's About Us album with "Brother Louie" as the lead off cut.

The song, about an inter-racial love affair, was very edgy for its time. Billboard Magazine wrote

 "When our review panel heard the song, they like it but felt the sensitive nature of the material would keep radio stations at arms length".

That wasn't the case. Had American's radio listening public decided it really didn't "make no difference if you're black or white" or was there a certain shock value in the lyrics that helped propel the tune to the top of the charts?

Maybe it's just the performance. The funky bass line, the wah wah guitar and Ian Lloyd's Rod Stewart styled vocals just sounds like a soundtrack to a steamy Summer.

There was a second 1973 cover of "Brother Louie" worth noting. Vibes master Roy Ayers recorded a version for his album Virgo Red.

And in 1974 the Undisputed Truth recorded a cover for the album Down to Earth

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

40 Year Itch: This and That from August 1973

Billy Paul, Barry White and  Bobby Womack headline the 1973 Watts Summer Festival at the 100,000-seat Coliseum, a year after WATTSTAX. Admission is $2. Other stars include Azteca, Bloodstone, Dramatics, Emotions, Intruders, Thelma Houston, Esther Phillips, Barbara Mason and Soul Children.

 The Dean of rock critics, Robert Christgau,  gave the 1973 Esther Phillips album Black Eyed Blues a rare A rating.

The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff, makes its Los Angeles debut August 22, 1973. Cliff can be heard on three different labels. The soundtrack is on Mango. His new album , Unlimited, is on Warner Brothers and Wonderful World, Beautiful People has been re-released on A and M Records.

Shada Music sues D'Amiano Films. producers of Deep Throat with copyright infringement for using the same melody as "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing ( In Perfect Harmony)"  to something a bit more intimate.

John Denver makes his acting debut on "McCloud" where he gets to chime in with his trademark catch phrase "Far Out!" ( at :59 seconds in the clip below)

Columbia Records signs Billy Joel

    Impressed with the songs he wrote for Roger Daltry's solo album, Chrysalis Records signs Leo Sayer.

After Rolling Stone called them the "best unsigned band in America", ABC/Dunhill has signed Orleans whose debut album is recorded at Muscle Shoals Recording Studio. It would take three albums before Orleans caught on with the public thanks to singles like "Dance With Me" and "Still the One".

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

40 Year Itch: Rollin' Down Highway Forty-One

“The way the title Brothers And Sisters came about was that even though we have had two great losses, we were still a family. " -Gregg Allman 

 Just a few months after recording the landmark album At Fillmore East, guitar legend Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident. He was only 24. Just a little more than a year later bassist Berry Oakley was killed in similar circumstances. It would be perfectly understandable for the band to take a break...if not break up. Oakley's death happened right in the middle of sessions for a new album, to be called Lightnin' Rod. Instead, with a new bass player (Lamar Williams) and Chuck Leavell on piano, they released the astonishing Brothers and Sisters, released in August of 1973.

In an 1974 interview with Cameron Crowe of Hit Parader, Allman explained how the band kept going: “First of all, we were all friends … if you’ve ever read about wolves, you know they travel in packs. One wolf would die, man. One wolf can’t tackle a moose. He needs the pack to survive. So there you go. Together, we knew that we had something and that no matter how far the bullshit went, we would survive if we hung together. In the early days of the Allman Brothers Band we went out and collected bottles and shit to keep going."

While "Ramblin' Man" peaked at #2 on the pop charts, Brothers and Sisters topped the album chart for five weeks and sold seven million copies. While drummer Butch Trucks's son Vance is on the cover, it's still heartbreaking to realize that Berry Oakley's daughter Brittany is posing on the back cover just months after losing her father. 

                            "Suddenly my dad wasn't here," she told People Magazine in 1996. "It was painful."

Aside from "Ramblin' Man", Brothers and Sisters gave us one of the great road songs, "Southbound", "Wasted Words" and the instrumental "Jessica", all FM mainstays.

Although the inner sleeve pictured a huge multi-racial family, heavy touring, solo albums, drugs and Cher all took their toll on the band. Allman married Cher twice, the first time for just nine days. But as the Allman Brothers faded, they opened the doors for other Southern rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band. 

If they ramble into your neck of the woods, check them out. The Allman Brothers still put on a great show.

Monday, August 19, 2013

40 Year Itch : One Week's Worth of '73 Soul Singles

For proof that 1973 was a great year for soul, look no further than this list of singles that all entered the Billboard soul charts on August 25, 1973. 

Entering the charts the highest is "Get It Together", the title track from the Jackson 5's new album which closes with the future  #2 hit "Dancing Machine".

Entering the soul chart at #64 is "Sexy, Sexy, Sexy" from James Brown's soundtrack to Slaughter's Big Rip Off. The single peaked at #6 on the soul chart and #50 on the pop chart.

The future #1 single ( originally written as "Midnight Plane to Houston" by Jim Weatherly) debuted in the soul charts at #75. Rolling Stone ranked it #432 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Tina Turner says Marc Bolan of T.Rex plays guitar on this rocking, semi-autobiographical single that became Ike and Tina Turner's last big hit. Debuting on the soul charts at #79, the song peaked at #11 and #22 on the Hot 100 pop chart.

Originally released by Lee Dorsey in 1970, "Yes We Can Can" debuted at #83 on the soul charts for the Pointer Sisters on its way to #11 on the pop charts and #12 on the soul charts. Written by Allen Toussaint.

Other new singles:
#81 Tribe - KDKE, pt 1
#86 Freda Payne - Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

#90 John and Ernest - Soul President Number One
#97 Barrett Strong - Stand Up and Cheer for the Preacher

#98 Manhattans - Do You Ever
#99 Eddie Floyd - Check Me Out
#100 Creative Source - You Can't Hide Love

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Seattle Police to Hempfesters: Do Listen to Dark Side of the Moon

shot from Joshua Lewis/KOMO News

A message on the Doritos Seattle Police handed out to this weekend's Hempfesters includes the suggestion they should listen to the 1973 Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon "at a reasonable volume". An unopened bag is selling for $50 on EBay.  More shots from the Hempfest here.