Thursday, May 31, 2012

40 Year Itch : Three We Missed

This is the end of the month round-up of albums I didn't get to for one reason or another.

Radio has such a short memory. When Dave Edmunds released "I Hear You Knockin" in 1971, there wasn't anything else like it getting played. The music of Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Smiley Lewis couldn't be heard anymore.

For his debut album, Rockpile, Edmunds recorded the music of his idols, a few originals and some surprising covers: Neil Young's "Dance Dance Dance", Ron Davies's "It Ain't Easy" (which would also show up on David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust a month later) and "Down, Down, Down" from The Move's Trevor Burton. Everything great thing Dave Edmunds has ever done can be heard in these three glorious minutes.

No sophomore slump for Los Angeles slacker boogie artists Little Feat. The critically acclaimed Sailin' Shoes features a second version of Lowell George's classic "Willin'" which I don't think I'll ever get tired of listening to. I managed to grow up without hearing a lot of Little Feat. Even when I bought Dixie Chicken I didn't listen to it much.

 In college I had The Neville Brothers and Radiators delivering the same kind of dazed funk --the air on campus smelling like ripe magnolias and sweet weed. In New Orleans "Sailin' Shoes" meant the Robert Palmer cover version recorded with The Meters. It's still taking some time for me to get into this one. Where am I going wrong?

1972 was a great year for Italian progressive rock. We got the first two albums from  Premiata Forneria Marconi (the name means Award-Winning Macaroni Bakery) and the first two albums from Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso ("Tour the Mutual Aid"?) as well as Le Orme 's Uomo di Pezza..

Founded by brothers Vittorio and Gianni Nocenzi, Banco specialized in complex, symphonic prog rock a la Emerson Lake and Palmer or Gentle Giant. Frankly, it's not the kind of stuff I listen to for pleasure. The follow-up Darwin!, released later in the year, is said to be their masterpiece.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

40 Year Itch: A Rockin Night on the Telly

On May 30, 1972, you could flip on Granada and see Argent perform their Top 5 hit "Hold Your Head Up" then flip over to The Old Grey Whistle Test to see Dutch prog rockers Focus yodel their way through "Hocus Pocus".

 In fact fans were so wild about "Hocus Pocus", Sire Records released the single in October and watched in astonishment as the song hit #20 in the UK and #9 in the US.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

40 Year Itch: Two Guys Named Bobby

I don't know anything about women. But I have a good excuse. I've only been married ten years. I only have one daughter. I've only had one mother, three stepmothers, one sister, two half sisters and a step sister. 

But I know good advice when I hear it. And no song offers better advice about women than Bobby Womack's "Woman's Gotta Have It". Like half of Bobby's songs it begins with a moment on the pulpit: 

Fellas I wonder would you mind if I talked to ya for a minute. You know, sometimes we have the tendency, or should I say we forget, what a woman needs every now and then. That is if you wanna keep your thing together.

And then we learn the rules of keeping your woman happy

1. Keep a smile on her face
2.  Say the things that make her feel better every day
3. Mind your p's and q's.
4. Make her know she's needed
5. When you kiss her, make her feel it
6. Make her feel secure so she know she's not walking on shaky ground
7. Don't take her for granted even if she's got a smile on her face.

   "Woman's Gotta Have It" is the stand out track from Understanding, released May 29, 1972. But not the only noteworthy song. "Harry Hippie", a B side to Womack's cover of "Sweet Caroline", became a top ten R and B hit. Sadly, Bobby had a free spirited brother named Harry who was killed by a jealous girlfriend years after the song was released.

"I Can Understand It' is a groovy six minute jam. Our deep cut is "Got To Get You Back" co-written by Jerry Lynn Williams who also wrote Delbert McClinton's hit "Givin It Up For Your Love" and Eric Clapton's "Promises". Good stuff all around

Womack, recently declared cancer free by doctor,  has a new Damon Albarn produced album coming out June 12, The Bravest Man in The Universe.

Bobby Weir also released his first solo album , Ace, in May of 1972. But to call this a solo album might be stretching the definition. Every member of the Dead except Pigpen and Micky Hart played on Ace and almost every song became a staple of the Dead's live repertoire. Especially "Playing In The Band" and "One More Saturday Night".

Our deep cut is "Cassidy", named after the daughter of a crew member and family friend and featuring allusions to Beat associate Neal Cassady. The phrase "Catch-colt" refers to colt born to a mare who accidentally bred with the wrong stallion. Must have made for some awkward birthday parties for "Uncle Bob".


Monday, May 28, 2012

40 Year Itch: Southern Child

In May of 1972 Little Richard wrapped the last of his string of poorly selling albums for Reprise Records by knocking out ten tracks for the album Southern Child. Despite shooting an album cover with Little Richard milking a cow, Southern Child wasn't released until, get this, January 2005 ( 32 years later on a Rhino Records anthology). You won't find a piano on any track. And you won't hear any squealing. This is Richard Wayne Penniman rediscovering his roots, perhaps inspired by Taj Mahal, with some of the best session musicians around ( Earl Palmer on drums, Lee Allen on sax and "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow on pedal steel). 

The track "If You Pick Her Too Hard (She Comes Out of Tune") has hit legend status in the blogosphere thanks to Moistworks among others. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

40 Year Itch : Messin With Jim

A former truck driver, and a man who knew how to hammer nails into wood, Jim Croce was a common man with an uncommon ability to write instant classics. His ABC Records debut You Don't Mess Around With Jim, released in May of 1972,  sounds like a greatest hits album with the Top 10 title track, the masterful Top 20 hit "Operator", "Photographs And Memories" and "Time in A Bottle" which would hit #1 19 months later--its lyrics (There never seems to be enough time/ To do the things you want to do/ Once you find them) suffused with meaning following Croce's fatal plane crash in September of 1973.

Croce's death propelled this album past the million sales mark to the top of the album charts.

 "New York's Not My Home" tells about the period in the late 60's when Jim and wife Ingrid tried to make it as a duo.

Though all the streets are crowded
There's something strange about it
Lived there 'bout a year and I never once felt at home
I though I'd make the big time
I learned a lot of lessons awful quick

 Ingrid is still alive, maintaining a website in honor of her husband and running a San Diego eatery, Croce's Restaurant and Jazz Bar.

"My work has been to keep Jim's music and his memory out there," she told The San Diego Downtown News. "That's in appropriate places. I'm not interested in selling something I don't believe in. I don't want to see wine or perfume out there for "Time in a Bottle." I don't want something out there that's not quality."

Saturday, May 26, 2012

40 Year Itch : The Who Record "Relay"

Forget what you've heard about Al Gore inventing the internet. Listen to the lyrics Pete Townshend wrote for "Relay" , recorded on May 26, 1972 at Olympic Studios, and you might think he's commenting on social media circa 2012. In fact, Pete introduced the song at the Glastonbury Festival in 2007 in this way :

When you look up on the stage and see all these old fuckers up here talking about the Internet, well in 1971 I wrote a song which we’re about to play which is about the Internet…

From tree to tree,
From you to me,
Travelling twice as fast as on any freeway.
 Ev'ry single dream
Is wrapped up in the scheme,
They all get carried on the relay.
 "Pass it on."
 Someone disapproves
Of what you say or do,
I was asked to see what I could learn you;
 Don't believe your eyes,
They're seeing only lies,
What is done in the first place don't concern you.

"Relay" was released in the winter of 1972, reaching #21 in the UK and #39 in the US. It was one of three great singles ( the others are "Let's See Action" and "Join Together") from the aborted Lifehouse project that helped string fans along between Who's Next and Quadrophenia. Had The Who released the Lifehouse rock opera, "Relay" would have come near the end of the album between "Slip Kid" ( from The Who By Numbers) and "Who Are You".

The single's B side is "Waspman" written by Keith Moon.

Friday, May 25, 2012

40 Year Itch: Teen Idol Bares All

David Cassidy posed naked ( for photographer Annie Leibovitz) and revealed his drug use in the May 11th, 1972 issue of Rolling Stone. "The Business of David Cassidy" --which at that point included a Top Ten version of "Cherish" and a hit TV show called "The Partridge Family "-- would never be the same.

   It pissed off everybody that was really profiting from the business of David Cassidy. I had fan letters that came to me--and there were hundreds of thousands of them, literally-- in defense of me by fans of mine, that said, "Oh David, I know that you couldn't possibly have done this because I know that you would never have posed nude for photographs", And the fact was, I had, willingly done so, had thought about it. I scratched my head and thought, you know, this David Cassidy business has really gotten outta hand. 
~ David Cassidy

Thursday, May 24, 2012

40 Year Itch: Carpenters Down Under

The Carpenters play Festival Hall in Melbourne on May 24, 1972. At the time "Hurting Each Other" , from the upcoming album A Song For You, was #20 on the Australian charts. It would move up to #9 the following week and remain in the Top 10 until August 5. The song peaked at #2 on the US Billboard charts.

The Carpenters, brother and sister Richard and Karen,  were both millionaires and both still lived at home with their parents.

00:02 - Help [lesser sound quality]
02:37 - Love Is Surrender [lesser sound quality]
04:30 - *Richard explains harmonies
07:30 - Ticket To Ride
11:40 - For All We Know
14:06 - Close To You
17:37 - Cinderella Rockefella
19:35 - Superstar
23:16 - *Band Introduction
26:47 - Medley ---------
Any Day Now ---------
Baby It's You ---------
Make It Easy On Yourself ---------
There's Always Something There To Remind Me ---------
Walk On By ---------
Do You Know The Way To San Jose?
39:04 - Hurting Each Other
42:28 - We've Only Just Begun

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

40 Year Itch : Bedroom Secrets


Kris Kristofferson met Rita Coolidge in November 1970 at an LA airport. Both were catching the same plane to Tennessee. When Rita got off in Memphis, Kris followed her. The pair would get married in 1973 and record several albums as a duet before their divorce eight years later.

 Here, from May 23, 1972 episode of The Old Grey Whistle Test is an abbreviated version of Kristofferson's classic "Help Me Make It Through The Night". The two lovers share shy and intimate glances. One of television's steamiest moments ever!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

40 Year Itch: The Guess Who Is God


On May 22, 1972 The Guess Who recorded their sold out concert at Seattle's Paramount Theatre. Steve Wilson, then 16, was one of the thousands of people who paid $3.75 a ticket to see the band. He drove up from the other side of Tacoma and got to The Paramount early enough to get decent seats.

  So you fought for a seat and then during the show most of the people ended up standing on the seats and breaking them. I was actually pretty scared because people around me were smoking pot and I was pretty young at the time. I remember singing along once I finally calmed down, but to tell you the truth I wasn't the biggest Guess Who fan. It was the fact that I got to go to a show.  That was the thing!

Fans heard "These Eyes", "Undun" and "Share The Land" but the only major hit that made it to the original live album was a 17 minute version of the band's Number 1 hit "American Woman". This is the song legendary rock critic Lester Bangs celebrated  in a  review that led him to declare "The Guess Who is God":

 I saw the Guess Who do this version of “American Woman” live a year ago, and I have never been more offended by a concert. Just as he does on the record, Burton Cummings indulged himself in a long, extremely cranky rumination on Yankee Yin, in a sort of fallen-out Beat poetic style: 

American bitch
American cunt 
American slut 
American lesbian 
American schoolgirl
American housewife 

American beaver etc., etc., etc. 

  Wouldn’t you be offended by this Canuck creep coming down here taking all our money while running down our women? Sure you would! Until you realized, as I did, eventually, that that kind of stuff is exactly what makes the Guess Who great. They have absolutely no taste at all, they don’t even mind embarrassing everybody in the audience, they’re real punks without even working too hard at it.

Like a lot of people there, Steve was surprised The Guess Who put out a live album of the concert. But of course he bought it and ,even today, he can point to a shadow on the back cover and say that's him. The new CD adds six bonus tracks and is gloriously remastered. Burton Cummings has an amazing voice and the band is incredibly tight. Great stuff!

                                      Steve Wilson is right  +

Monday, May 21, 2012

40 Year Itch: Inside a Rolling Stones Rehearsal

 The Rolling Stones gather in a closed movie house in Montreux, Switzerland on May 21st to rehearse for the upcoming "Cocaine and Tequila Sunrise" North American tour.


 With a baby on the way, Keith and Anita decided to clean up their act . Going "cold turkey" in the US, England or France was not an option so they went to a clinic in Vevey, Switzerland, four miles from Montreux.


 It is fucking awful. ..the whole body just sort of turns itself inside out and rejects itself for three days...your skin crawls, your guts churning, you can't stop your limbs from jerking and moving about, and you're throwing up and shitting at the same time.
  --Keith Richards on going cold turkey in his book LIFE

   It was while getting clean that Keith says he wrote "Angie".

Sunday, May 20, 2012

40 Year Itch : Shoo Bee Doo Wah


Great 1972 single from Shocking Blue, the Dutch band that brought us "Venus". The band put out three albums in 1972. A bit later this year we'll check out Shocking Blue Live In Japan.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

40 Year Itch : The State of Teenage Blues

For tax reasons, his accountants suggested Elton John--like The Rolling Stones-- record his albums outside the UK. That's how Honky Chateau, released May 19, 1972,  got recorded at the Chateau d'Hierouville, a 17th Century chateau in the french countryside . Guitarist Davey Jonstone joined Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson in Elton's band. They would meet for meals and then walk a few yards through a courtyard to Strawberry Studios, a 16 track recording studio. Lyricist Bernie Taupin says songs could be written in 20 minutes, rehearsed in an hour and recorded that afternoon:

It was literally like a music factory. I'd be upstairs in my bedroom, writing at top speed. I'd give each set of lyrics straight to Elton at the piano.

In just three weeks the album was finished. It would hit #1 in July and stay there for five weeks thanks in part to a hit single Elton thought was too slow. It's opening line came to Taupin as he was driving alone in Lincolnshire:

"She packed my bags last night preflight. zero hour is 9 am". I remember jumping out of the car and running into my parents house shouting "Please dont anyone talk to me until I've written this down."

"Rocket Man" peaked at # 6 in the US and # 12 in the UK. Among other well known cuts: the #8 US hit "Honky Cat" and "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" which Elton dedicated to emergency works and New York City during The Concert For New York City. Our "deep cuts" selection is "I Think I'm Going to Kill Myself", probably the most upbeat song ever written about teenage suicide. Former Bonzo Dog drummer "Legs" Larry Smith performs the tap dancing on the track.

Honky Chateau has a great feel and it is little wonder Elton John returned to the Chateau d' Hierouville to record Don't Shoot Me I'm Only The Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. He's not the only one who liked the vibe here. T.Rex recorded The Slider, David Bowie recorded Low and The Bee Gees recorded "How Deep Is Your Love" and "Staying Alive" here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

40 Year Itch : Clouds In My Coffee

40 years ago this month Carly Simon met producer Richard Perry at his Laurel Canyon house and played him a new song called "Ballad of a Vain Man".

      As Sheila Weller writes in Girls Like Us , the song had been written in four parts. Carly sketched out a melody with the chorus "Bless You Ben". Then on an airplane her musician seatmate pointed to his cup and said "Doesn't that look like clouds in my coffee?" Then, thinking back on some of the men in her life she wrote her most famous lyric "You're so vain; I betcha think this song is about you". It all came together when a man she knew walked into a party ( "like he was walking onto a yacht").

    Weller suggests the way Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson shared girls led to the line "You gave away the things you loved; And one of them was me".

When Carly sat down to play "Ballad of a Vain Man" on that May day, Perry grabbed his bongos and started pounding out a thunderous beat. The first time he heard the song Perry says he knew it would be a hit.

Released on December 2, 1972, with backing vocals from Mick Jagger, "You're So Vain" topped the charts for three weeks in January.

Frankly, I've read so much about who might be the subject of the song, I've stopped caring.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

40 Year Itch : A Bra To Fit A Car

When In The Land Of The Grey And Pink failed to sell in big numbers, Caravan co-founder David Sinclair left the band to join Robert Wyatt in Matching Mole. So the kings of the Canterbury Scene brought jazz keyboardist Steve Miller aboard and made a very pleasant album full of bouncy pop and long Traffic-like jams. For those who might have missed the sex-capades of "Golf Girl", Caravan offers up "Waterloo Lily" herself:

                            Waterloo Lily's got enough to turn us all on/
                            Got a bra to fit a car/ 
                            A port upon her back you warm your feet on

Waterloo Lily didn't sell all that well either but David Sinclair returned to the band for their what is often considered their best album, 1973's  For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

40 Year Itch: A Mess Of Help


On May 16. 1972...two days after the release of Carl And The Passions, The Beach Boys (minus Brian Wilson and Bruce Johnson; plus Daryl Dragon, Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin) play their new single "You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone" on the BBC2's Old Whistle Test.

What was Brian up to?

The answer is here .

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

40 Year Itch : A Heep Of Gothic Metal

For those who want their heavy metal infused with wizards living in mountain homes, rainbow demons riding on horses of fire, a million silver stars, acoustic guitars and heavy handed organs, this is the album for you. Plus you get "Easy Livin'", Uriah Heep's only Top 40 hit in the US , a Roger Dean album cover ( with hidden images of male and female genitalia)... and wisdom: "Today is Only Yesterday's Tomorrow". I'm not sure what to do with that wisdom exactly. Maybe tack it up on the fridge and see if it sinks in.

 There are far more painful listens in the early 70's heavy metal sphere. Demons and Wizards offers short, sharp shocks of metal along with a 12 minute epic called "Paradise/The Spell" at the end. Had I mixed more with a different crowd, who's to say this wouldn't be a magic carpet ride back to a youth spent smoking pot in a room filled with black light posters.

 Rolling Stone critic Mike Saunders was impressed with Demons and Wizards.

  These guys are good. The first side of Demons and Wizards is simply odds-on the finest high energy workout of the year, tying nose and nose with the Blue Oyster Cult...They may have started out as a thoroughly dispensable neo-Cream and Blooze outfit, but at this point Uriah Heep are shaping up into one hell of a first-rate modern rock band.

Monday, May 14, 2012

40 Year Itch : The Greatest Guitarist Goes Live


"How does it feel to be the greatest guitarist in the world? I don't know, go ask Rory Gallagher." —Jimi Hendrix quote from 1969 Rolling Stone magazine

Legend has it this is the album that inspired future U2 members Adam Clayton and The Edge to learn guitar and play in a band. Live in Europe, compiled from live performance recorded throughout Europe during February and March 1972, captures the immense talent and showmanship of the Irish blues guitarist who knocked Eric Clapton from 1972's Melody Maker's poll as Best Guitarist. Gallagher plays the hell out of the beat up Fender Stratocaster you see on the cover. But he also plays harmonica, acoustic guitar and mandolin. All before an adoring audience completely swept up in the show. The album barely crept onto the Billboard charts stateside but hit Top Ten in the UK. Gallagher sold more than 30 million albums worldwide before his untimely death at the age of  47. By the way, in Rolling Stone's Top 100 Guitarists issue, Gallagher was not even mentioned once.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Dave Marsh's Top Ten Albums of 1972

Creem/ Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh's list of the best albums of 1972:

1. Rolling Stones Exile On Main St
 2. "Wonder, Stevie" Talking Book
 3. "Mayfield, Curtis" Super Fly (Soundtrack)
 4. "Morrison, Van" Saint Dominic's Preview
 5. "Green, Al" I'm Still In Love With You
 6. "Mitchell, Joni" For The Roses

7. "O'Jays, The" Back Stabbers
 8. Al Green Let's Stay Together
 9. Stevie Wonder Music Of My Mind
 10. Paul Simon Paul Simon
 11. "Stewart, Rod" Never A Dull Moment
 12. Aretha Franklin Young Gifted And Black

13. "Hendrix, Jimi" Hendrix In The West
14. Allman Brothers Eat A Peach
15. "Temptations, The" All Directions

16. "Nash, Johnny" I Can See Clearly Now
17. "Gaye, Marvin" Trouble Man (Soundtrack)
 18. Steely Dan Can't Buy A Thrill

19. "Persuasions, The" Street Corner Symphony
 20. "Band, The" Rock Of Ages
 21. "Geils, J. Band, The" Live Full House
 22. War The World Is A Ghetto
 23. Todd Rundgren Something/Anything
 24. "Kinks, The" Everybody's In Show-Biz
 25. "Franklin, Aretha" Amazing Grace
 26. "Jackson, Michael" Ben
 27. "Simon, Carly" No Secrets
 28. "Bowie, David" The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

 29. "King, B. B." L. A. Midnight
 30. Creedence Clearwater Revival Mardi Gras
 31. "Jackson, Michael" Got To Be There

32. "Stylistics, The" Round 2: The Stylistics
33. "Chi-Lites, The" A Lonely Man
 34. Mott The Hoople All The Young Dudes
 35. Deep Purple Machine Head
 36. "Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The" Will The Circle Be Unbroken
 37. "Staple Singers, The" Beatitude: Respect Yourself
 38. The Kinks Kinks Kronikles
 39. "Lennon/Ono/Plastic Ono Band With Elephant's Memory" Some Time In New York City
 40. Elton John Honky Chateau

Saturday, May 12, 2012

40 Year Itch : Basement Tapes


 All rock records should be made in dank basements of old Nazi strongholds on the Cote d'Azur, with reliable heroin connections in Marseille and Gram Parsons hovering in the paneled hallways. That way they might sound half as good as Exile On Main St.
           -Barney Hoskyns, The Observer, 2004

Recorded in the cold and humid basement of tax exile  Keith Richards's villa in the South of France, Exile On Main Street is often hailed as the greatest rock album of all time. How it ever got recorded with all the drugs, the booze, the never-ending house party, with anywhere between twenty and thirty visitors making noises upstairs, is a tribute, to of all people, Keef himself. Sure he was strung out and sleeping the day away, but at the oddest hours, Keith was a self described task master churning out song after song:

  "Rocks Off", "Happy", "Ventilator Blues", "Tumbling Dice", "All Down The Line" --that's five string tuning to the max. I was starting to really fix my trademark; I wrote all that stuff within a few days. Suddenly, with the five-string, songs were just dripping off my fingers".

Keith might have a line or two in mind to go with these riffs but it was up to Mick to come up with the lyrics. As Keith wrote in his autobiography:

"Most of what I had to do was to come up with riffs and ideas that would turn Mick on. To write songs he could handle. They had to be good records but translatable to being played on stage. I was the butcher cutting the meat"

To this day Mick has referred to Exile as "a bit overrated"...with , again in his opinion, none of the great songs that made Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed such classics. But Mick wasn't always around for Exile. He would occasionally disappear with his new very pregnant bride Bianca . Keith was living the album-- producing two songs a day on a heroin habit which he said helped him shut out all of the daily stuff and concentrate on the music. "Happy" wasn't even recorded with the Stones but with producer Jimmy Miller on drums, Bobby Keys on baritone and Keith doing everything else.

   Even when that legendary summer at Villa Nellcote ended, the Stones still spent four or five months in LA mixing and over dubbing, recording two new cuts ( "Torn And Frayed and "Loving Cup"), adding percussion in some places, backing vocals in others. Richards and Jagger were both at the monumental recording of Aretha Franklin's Amazing Grace album at LA's New Temple Missionary Baptist Church, and were inspired to add gospel inflections to songs like "Let It Loose" and "Shine A Light".

 Released on May 12, 1972, the album got mixed reviews. Naturally some critics compared it unfavorably to The Beatles double album. Lenny Kaye, writing for Rolling Stone, said "here are songs that are better, there are songs that are worse, and others you'll probably lift the needle for when the time is due."

To listen to Exile in its entirety --even the remastered 2010 deluxe version--is to immerse yourself in a thick stew of roots oriented rock n roll at its most ragged. For the most part, the songs don't sound over practiced ( though sounds can be deceiving-- "Tumbling Dice" was played more than 100 times before they captured that languid intensity we hear today). The bloom of inspiration shines on just about every cut. Still, I'll try to follow Lenny Kaye's lead and, at the risk of losing some of that claustrophobic basement funk, condense Exile into one epic ten song LP:

1 Rocks Off
2 Rip This Joint
3 Tumbling Dice
4 Sweet Virginia
5 Loving Cup
6 Happy
7 Let It Loose
8 All Down The Line
9 Shine A Light
10 Soul Survivor

Friday, May 11, 2012

40 Year Itch : The Metric System

As The Meters, guitarist Leo Nocentelli, keyboardist Art Neville, bassist George Porter Jr and drummer Ziggy Modeliste backed just about every artist who found his way to New Orleans and producer Allen Toussaint : Dr. John, LaBelle, Robert Palmer even Paul McCartney. When the label for whom they made three instrumental records, Josie Records, went backrupt The Meters signed with Reprise and released their first album on May 11, 1972.  Cabbage Alley brought percussionist Cyril Neville on board and the album combines the  New Orleans  funk ingrained in The Meters' DNA as well as some Caribbean island flavor
(especially on "Soul Island"). 

"Do The Dirt" ( pronounced "Doit" in that Jersey-like New Orleans accent)  offers a better glimpse of what the Meters would be doing down the road: earthy funk that would hit its peak on 1974's Rejuvination ( a rare 5-star album according to The Rolling Stone Record Guide). But if Josie failed The Meters by going bankrupt, Reprise wouldn't be doing The Meters much of a solid either. All of the Reprise records quickly went out of print. When I ran into George Porter in the mid-90's, he said his only copy of Rejuvination was on a squeaky cassette tape. 

Since 2000,  Sundazed Records has earned the worship and hard earned money of music fans by  releasing The Meters catalog. I would suggest buying Rejuvination first, one of the instrumental albums second ( maybe Meters over Look A Py Py), and Fire On The Bayou before you get Cabbage Alley.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

40 Year Itch : Dadgummit-ah!

Bill Withers followed up the folk soul of his debut Just As I Am by taking over the production reins and enlisting members of the Watts 103rd Rhythm Band to raise the funk. And the funk do cometh especially on raunchy cuts like the #2 pop hit "Use Me" and "Who Is He ( And What Is He To You)?". Makes you wonder if some  Foxy Brown kind of lady entered his life right about the time "Ain't No Sunshine" hit Number One. You know, the kind who is too much woman for one. But not enough for two. Using him until she used him up.

No matter how funky things get, Withers plays it cool . We've all probably heard "Lean On Me" too many times by now. But next time,  listen to the song in the context of all the gospel soul that was hitting the charts in 1972: Aretha Franklin's Young Gifted And Black and Amazing Grace, The Staple Sisters's "I'll Take You There", Jesus Christ Superstar. The Rolling Stones's "Let It Loose" and "Shine A Light"? Could the compassionate singer be JC himself?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

40 Year Itch : The Doors Carry On


 On May 8, 1972, ten months after Jim Morrison's death, The remaining Doors played on BBC2's Old Grey Whistle Test. Naturally, it wasn't the same thing. While the band could always find a great riff, there's something kind of pathetic about watching Robbie Kreiger sing a song as sophmoric as "I'm Horny, I'm Stoned".

The song comes from the 1971 album Other Voices. Recordings for Other Voices began while Jim Morrison was on vacation in France with the expectations that the Lizard King would not die in a Parisian bathtub. Robbie and Ray Manzarek recorded the vocal tracks and the album peaked at #31 in the charts.

 In the Spring of 1972, The Doors got back together to record another album. Full Circle appears to be an effort by the band to forge a new musical direction which may explain the album's single "The Mosquito".

Inspired by a traditional Mexican tune, Robbie wrote what may be the best know post-Morrison Doors song, It peaked at #85 in the singles chart. Full Circle , released in August of 1972, was aptly named. It was the last Doors album.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

40 Year Itch : Two From The Q


Al Anderson has already joined NRBQ when he recorded this delightful album to fulfill a five year contract with Vanguard Records. Some of the NRBQ boys helped out on the album including Tom Staley on drums, Terry Adams on piano and his brother Donn Adams on trombone. Most of the songs are happy foot-tappin' ditties that will remind you of the Q ("Be My Woman Tonight", We'll Make Love", "Don't Hold The Line"). In the few that don't really work for me , Al's just trying too hard ("Ain't No Woman Finer Lookin'","I Haven't Got The Strength To Carry On"). Apparent effortlessness was always part of NRBQ's charm.

In 1972, NRBQ released Scraps, their first album with guitarist Al Anderson. In fact Al had only been in the band for two weeks when they recorded the album and he contributed no songs. ( Possibly due to his Vanguard contract). Among the highlights are Terry's "Howard Johnson's Got His Ho-Jo Working", the Adams/ Joey Spampinato tune "Magnet", and Joey's "Only You" with its toy piano solo. This is the last album featuring vocalist Frank Gadler. There are still legions of NRBQ fans who believe this is the band's high point but I'm stinking with Yankee Stadium.

Monday, May 7, 2012

40 Year Itch: Brian Wilson's Beach Girls Gem

Having withdrawn from The Beach Boys following 1971's Surf's Up , Brian Wilson instead devoted "some" of his time to the girl group sounds of his wife Marilyn and sister in law Diane Rovell, both former members of The Honeys. In May of 1972, as Spring ("American Spring" outside the US), they released a record that absolutely vanished  There are only two used copies of the CD for sale at Amazon and both are prices at  just under $130. 

Brian with his wife and 2/3's of Wilson Phillips

This is a collector's item because it gives us some insight into Brian's frame of mind during his missing years. Marilyn said at the time "The idea was to record all the songs that we ever loved. Brian helped out in all departments--he sang, arranged most of the backgrounds, wrote some of the songs and picked the material. He was very emotional throughout and would cry at the sessions because he liked a song so much he couldn't believe it."

Among the songs Brian picked were Carole King's "Now That Everything's Been Said", Tommy Roe's "Everybody", Delaney and Bonnie's "Superstar", The Shirelles's "Mama Said" and three songs from the Wilson Brothers. Two came from Dennis Wilson. "Fallin In Love" ( recorded as "Lady" on Pacific Ocean Blue) and "Forever" from The Beach Boys album Sunflower. Also from Sunflower came "This Whole World" with an extra bridge ("Starlight/Star Bright"). That's the song The Mojo Collection-The Greatest Albums Of All Time calls the highlight of this mostly unheard album..."as fine as anything Brian Wilson ever produced"

Listening to the album I was struck by how commercial it must have seemed to at least a few United Artists record execs. After all didn't Carole King just re-record a whole bunch of girl group songs for Tapestry?
History proved them wrong but this is still an absolute delight of an album.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

40 Year Itch : The American Badfinger

Has any band announced itself with as much aplomb as The Raspberries in those first ten seconds of their debut album? Wally Bryson lays down some fat stabbing chords, Eric Carmen answers with four syllables "Ma Ma Yeah. Wooh!" and the radio speakers rattle with the million-selling teen sex anthem "Go All The Way".  Those who bought the album got a scratch and sniff sticker that presumably smelled like a raspberry and an album full of power pop promise. Wally sings lead on "Come Around And See Me" which , to my ears at least, sounds like a long lost Wings tune. There's also a second single "Don't Want To Say Goodbye" that features Eric quavering a la George Harrison.

That was actually a problem within the band. As Wally put it many years later "What had always been happening was that Eric would want our songs to sound like The Beach Boys, The Who or The Beatles. He'd say 'Play a Who drum roll there, or play a Townshend guitar riff here'. I wanted us to be The Raspberries."

The Raspberries would record four sensational albums in the 70's : their debut, Fresh, Side 3 and Starting Over. When the last one sold poorly, the band broke up and the American Badfinger went down in history as the fathers of Power Pop

Friday, May 4, 2012

40 Year Itch : Feminist Boogie

Joy of Cooking is overdue for that kind of  reappraisal that plucks great artists from the past and makes them the new big thing. And not just because two women led this band of confident purveyors of in-the-groove-boogie or that some of the lyrics offered feminist takes on love lost and gained. Joy of Cooking simply rocked.

In a 1971 article entitled "Female Rock" Time Magazine wrote:

  "The one outfit so far that can compete with top-level male band quality is Joy of Cooking, and it is only partly female. The group is owned and led by two 32-year-old women. Terry Garthwaite, a tough rock singer, plays electric guitar and sings with a scratchy authority that can suggest Janis Joplin. Her partner, Toni Brown, a pretty Bennington graduate, sings, stomps around the stage, plays electric piano and organ, and writes songs about what it is like to be a woman ("Time goes, and the baby keeps growin', and I can't help knowin', baby I love you"). The girls —backed by three males, Fritz Kasten, 27, drums, Ron Wilson, 37, congas, and Jeff Neighbor, 28, bass—produce a reasonably rich mixture of blues, wailing gospel and riffs of pure country, folk and hard rock, all curiously overlaid with Latin conga rhythms."

Formed in Berkeley during the hippie era, Joy Of Cooking had to wait four years before recording their major label debut. They spent a lot of that time playing house parties, finding the grooves of their songs and making them last for the people enjoying the show. We only got three initial Joy Of Cooking albums. Castles , released in May of 1972, was the last. It earned an A- from critic Robert Christgau  who wrote "the music has grown crisper and fuller while continuing to flow as swimmingly as you'd hope."

 Toni and Terry each had kids in the 70's. Both moved on. Toni is a full time artist. Terry has been exploring the healing power of music. In 2006, the two put together a Joy of Cooking compliation made of unreleased tunes and a live concert.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

40 Year Itch: Job Number 79682

Forty years ago today, Bruce Springsteen made his first "formal" studio audition at CBS Studios in New York City. John Hammond produced the twelve song demo session which became known in the studio logs as job number 79682. Half the songs Springsteen played would appear on his debut album Greetings From Asbury Park the following year. Among them, "Growin' Up", seen below performed live in 1972 at The Gaslight, the same club in which he performed for a half dozen CBS record execs. ( One of whom dismissed Bruce as another Dylan clone)

The songs Springsteen played in his audition were MARY QUEEN OF ARKASAS ( two takes), SAINT IN THE CITY, JAZZ MUSICIAN (two takes), IF I WAS A PRIEST, ARABIAN NIGHTS, GROWIN' UP,  DOES THIS BUS STOP AT 82ND STREET?, TWO HEARTS IN TRUE WALTZ TIME, STREET QUEEN, ANGELS,  SOUTHERN SUN and COWBOY OF THE SEA. The Mary, Saint, Bus and Growin' Up demos all appear on the 1998 box set Tracks.

Hammond, who also discovered Bob Dylan and Stevie Ray Vaughan, said “I couldn’t believe it. I reacted with a force I’ve felt maybe three times in my life. I knew at once that he would last a generation.” 

Hammond took the tapes to his boss, Clive Davis, who found Springsteen's act "amusing". They offered Bruce a $25k advance to record his debut album, fully expecting to get a singer-songwriter effort because that was the only thing selling in 1972. Instead Bruce went back to Jersey and gathered together the boys in his band. And the rest is history...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

40 Year Itch: The Sunset Cowboy Dies On Stage

It was May 2nd, 1972 at The Top Rank Ballroom in Swansea .1200 fans were lined up outside the club waiting to get in. Stone The Crows guitarist Les Harvey ( far left in above photo) was playing during a sound check when, with wet, sweaty hands apparently, he touched a microphone that wasn't grounded. Harvey was electrocuted--thrown into the air by the shock --and killed instantly. He died at that most infamous of rock star ages: 27. ( The same age Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison. Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse passed away).

   At the time, Stone the Crows was a band on the rise, in the midst of recording what would be their top selling album Ontinuous Performance. Harvey and the band backed "Britain's answer to Janis Joplin" and Harvey's girlfriend, Maggie Bell, who would win the 1972 NME Pop Poll for Best Female Singer. (That's Maggie who goes toe to toe with Rod Stewart on "Every Picture Tells A Story").

 After some time off the band finished recording Ontinuous Performance adding a new song , "Sunset Cowboy" written for Les. Ex Thunderclap Newman guitarist Jimmy McCullouch took Harvey's place until the band broke up the following year and he joined Wings.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

40 Year Itch: The Snark Sails Away

That Randy Newman didn't sell anywhere nearly as many albums as his more famous contemporary singer-songwriters is an indication of only one thing: Americans don't get satire, irony or sarcasm. We prefer to have a point jabbed into our chests. Randy Newman nonchalantly drawling out  strip tease requests in "You Can Leave Your Hat On" (" Baby take off your dress/ Yes, yes, yes") only works for us when Joe Cocker is squeezing the meaning out of every line while Kim Basinger strips for Mickey Rourke in 9 1/2 Weeks.

But dig it. Randy Newman invented "Snark". When Newman uses the politician's throwaway applause line "It's great to be an American", it's coming from a slave trader trying to get Africans on a boat setting sail for Charleston in "Sail Away".

  There is something for everybody on this album. Play "Simon Smith and The Amazing Dancing Bear" for the kids and "Dayton, Ohio-1903" for the grandparents ( and iced tea fans). C'mon! He calls Cleveland the "city of light, city of magic" in a song about the Cuyahoga River catching fire. Have you been to Cleveland?

Anyway, the version of another classic Sail Away cut, "Political Science", you'll hear is from a 1974 live show in Sausalito,CA . Randy was out pushing the follow up Good Ole Boys at the time. Another magnificent album that would be as misinterpreted and forgotten as Newman's anti-prejudice anthem "Short People" would be in 1977.

Newman still records the occasional pop album but we've mostly lost him to the movie soundtrack business. He's been nominated for twenty Academy Awards, winning twice.