Free, Songs Of Yesterday . . . Played Free near the end of my show last week – Soon I Will Be Gone – which tweaked my brain to this track as an obvious opener for this week, since it’s what my show’s all about. That said, my mantra for the show is ‘old bands, old tracks, old bands, their new tracks, if they’re still around, alive and kicking.” So I do play new stuff by classic rock bands, if they’re still releasing stuff. But not in this case. Great band, Free. This one, a jaunty track is how I’d describe it, is from their second, self-titled album in 1969. It features one of the greatest album covers ever. The album didn’t do well, though, only made No. 22 in the UK and didn’t chart at all in North America. Perhaps had this been released as a single, the album may have done better. Instead, Broad Daylight and I’ll Be Creepin’ were the singles, good tunes, but not with the immediacy, perhaps, that propel songs up the charts.
Pink Floyd, Interstellar Overdrive . . . More connections between my shows. I played Yes’s Sound Chaser to open last week’s show and in my commentary, I pulled from the album liner notes which described the song as “Yes in interstellar overdrive”. So, naturally, it prompted me to think of this Pink Floyd psychedelic instrumental from their 1967 debut, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. So why didn’t I play it last week when I was putting together my show? Well, for one thing, I forgot about the liner notes until later, when I did my commentary and besides, I opened with about half an hour of prog/psychedelic stuff and figured that was enough. 🙂
Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Trilogy . . . Speaking of prog, didn’t get to ELP last week, although I did play an early King Crimson track, I Talk To The Wind, with Greg Lake on vocals. So, I thought I’d play ELP this week. Great song, all of the great ELP elements, the piano/keyboards of the beautiful, mellow first part of the almost nine-minute tune, until the full force of the band is unleashed.
John Mayall, Broken Wings . . . One of my favorite Mayall songs, not with the Bluesbreakers but just Mayall, on the appropriately named 1967 release, The Blues Alone. The album features Mayall playing every instrument aside from Keith “Keef’ Hartley helping him out on drums and percussion – except for this beautiful, tender song on which Mayall also does the drumming.
Van Morrison, Astral Weeks . . . I love Van the Man but Astral Weeks is one of those great albums, usually a top critics’ choice, that admittedly took me a long time to get into. But as with most such albums that aren’t necessarily ‘immediate’, once you ‘get it’, wow. Great stuff, front to back including this title track. Just let it wash over you.
Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band, Take A Chance . . . I’ve always liked this one, from 1991’s The Fire Inside. It was a single, made it to No. 10 on some charts, yet, and maybe I’m wrong, it seems somewhat overlooked in Seger’s ouvre. Perhaps because it’s not on any compilations.
Neil Young, Spirit Road . . . Chugging rocker from the Chrome Dreams II album in 2007. In typical quirky Neil Young fashion, there was no Chrome Dreams I preceding it. Well, actually, there was. It just never came out, officially. Recorded between 1975 and ’77, Chrome Dreams was supposed to be released in 1977 but was shelved in favor of American Stars ‘N Bars. However, several of the tunes recorded for the original Chrome Dreams – Pocahontas, Like A Hurricane, Powderfinger, Sedan Delivery – did come out on various albums, in different arrangements or versions. And, this track starts me off on a mini-set featuring song titles about roads, and/or driving. I’m still in this rut and can’t seem to get out. Maybe it’s a good thing. Who knows? Who cares? One of these weeks I’m going to go back to just playing tunes with no pattern to them whatsoever. Whatever moves me at the time is how it goes.
Ry Cooder, Drive Like I Never Been Hurt . . . How to describe Ry Cooder? Great name, for one thing. Ry Cooder. Just sounds cool. Great guitarist, purveyor of all sorts of wonderful music and styles including movie soundtracks, session player/guest musician to the stars, a star on his own albeit not always commercially massive.This one from I, Flathead in 2008.
David Bowie, Always Crashing In The Same Car . . . From 1977’s Low, the first of Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy of albums, the others being Heroes, also in 1977, and Lodger in 1979. Collaborating with Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti, Bowie experimented with various soundscapes to produce some perhaps less accessible but, on repeat listens, brilliant music. According to Wikipedia, the song is about repeatedly making the same mistakes and refers to a real-life incident during the height of Bowie’s cocaine addiction. He spotted a drug dealer on the streets who he believed had ripped him off. So Bowie repeatedly rammed his car into the dealer’s car, then returned to his hotel and wound up driving around in circles in the underground garage.
Led Zeppelin, Trampled Underfoot . . . A relentless funk-influenced propulsive piece from Physical Graffiti. Bass/keyboard player John Paul Jones plays clavinet on it and said he was inspired by Stevie Wonder’s clavinet-fuelled 1972 hit Superstition for the beat.
The Rolling Stones, Fingerprint File . . . Certainly at the time, an arguably uncharacteristic track for the Stones. I’ve always loved it, I’d describe the riff as a musical razor, if there could be such a thing, cutting its way, in a good way, into your consciousness. Funky, jazzy, delicious stuff.
Black Sabbath, The Dark/Zero The Hero . . . Short instrumental The Dark segues into one of my favorite tracks from Born Again, the 1983 one and only Sabbath album featuring vocalist Ian Gillan of Deep Purple fame. The stories about this album and tour – which was lampooned in the movie This Is Spinal Tap – are legend and far too lengthy to get into here, but easily searchable. Good, heavy album, though. I like it, as do most Sabs fans I know. I find Sabbath fascinating in the original post-Ozzy Osbourne years, first with the great Ronnie James Dio on vocals and then especially after he left. You had Gillan, then the Tony Martin period of revolving lineups with the lone constant, Tony Iommi, holding it all together and producing some great, if perhaps less well known or appreciated music.
Deep Purple, Gettin’ Tighter . . . Up-tempo tune from Come Taste The Band, the one and only album Purple did with guitarist Tommy Bolin. Lots of funk elements on the record, which threw a lot of people at the time although, given the increasing influence of bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes, who sings this one, that was already seeping into Purple on the previous album, Stormbringer, and helped drive original guitarist Ritchie Blackmore out of the band in disgust. Organ/keyboard player Jon Lord liked Come Taste The Band but said he didn’t consider it to really be a Purple album. I’m glad it is, being a big fan of the band. It shows their eclecticism, it still rocks in a lot of spots, and it’s one of my favorites by the group.
Pretenders, Precious . . . Lead cut from the first Pretenders album, 1979. What an opening salvo. I can’t describe the song/lyrics any better than music critic Simon Reynolds, via Wikipedia: “a strafing stream of syllables” mixing “speed rap, jive talk, baby babble” and the song as “punk skat, all hiccoughs, vocal tics, gasps and feral growls, weirdly poised between love and hate, oral sensuality and staccato, stabbing aggression.” Yes.
The Who, Slip Kid . . . Opening track from 1975’s The Who By Numbers, one of my favorite Who albums. It’s one of the first albums I bought with my own money and the Who release I really grew up with, so to speak. I knew all the previous hits, Tommy, Who’s Next etc. but this one holds a special place. Bought it for the single, Squeeze Box, which quickly became my least-listened to song on a great album. This song, a leftover from the abandoned Lifehouse project that morphed into Who’s Next, was the second single from the album, but didn’t chart. The band was somewhat in tatters at the time, lyrically it’s a very personal, Pete Townshend album, really, given the internal angst he typically lets out in song. He was having his doubts about himself, the future of the band and indeed rock music at the time, which the song expresses well, especially given Roger Daltrey’s swaggering, growly vocals. None of that internal band stuff I knew of at the time, though. I just enjoyed the album, one of The Who’s best, in my opinion, solid throughout. I’d say my favorite song on it is How Many Friends, but I’ve played that recently so decided to go with Slip Kid.
Aerosmith, Nobody’s Fault . . . From the great Rocks album. So difficult to pick a favorite song by great bands one likes, but all the great hits aside, if I had to pick just one, this very well could be the Aerosmith tune I’d take with me to a desert island. Great playing, great vocals by Steven Tyler (“now we’re just a little too LATE” etc.), just a great tune.
Rod Stewart, Mandolin Wind . . . From Every Picture Tells A Story, the album with Maggie May on it. Maggie May prompted me to buy the album way back when, but this Stewart-penned tune rivals it as easily one of Rod’s best. I saw him live, August 1988 in Toronto and he played it. Surprisingly, to me, many in the crowd did not recognize it, it didn’t get much reaction and I can only presume it’s because most of the crowd had grown up on just his big radio hits. I was inspired to play this one via a Twitter discussion where a fellow music aficionado asked people to post songs featuring mandolin. I used this one, to great feedback.
Love, Signed D.C. . . . The Forever Changes album gets most of the, er, love in the Love catalogue, and it’s a fantastic album. But this beautiful song, about a harrowing topic – drug addiction – from Love’s self-titled debut album in 1966 remains my favorite single song by the band.
Fairport Convention, Matty Groves . . . I got into this great UK folk rock band primarily through my love of Jethro Tull. Dave Pegg, Tull’s bassist in the early 1980s, had been in Fairport earlier so my natural inclination for following the various branches of band trees brought me to the Convention. A bit late, because FP started in 1967 led by renowned guitarist Richard Thompson, but I quickly made up for lost time with a band that for a too-brief period featured the amazing vocals of the late Sandy Denny. Pegg remains in the still-active band. They continue to record and tour and feature another Tull alumnus, 1980s drummer Gerry Conway.
Eric Burdon & War, Bare Back Ride . . . A La Grange-like riff, before ZZ Top did it, in 1973. This one from 1970’s Black-Man’s Burdon, the second and final album from the terrific jazz-rock funk and soul fusion marriage that was Burdon’s collaboration with War. That pairing produced the great single, Spill The Wine, which Burdon opened with when I saw him at the 2016 Kitchener Blues Festival. Great show by a great artist, still in great voice when I saw him, then age 75. He turns 80 on May 11.
ZZ Top, Hot, Blue and Righteous . . . Speaking of ZZ Top . . . A beautiful slow, wonderfully sung almost gospel blues from 1973’s Tres Hombres, the album that featured La Grange.
Mose Allison, Stop This World . . . The Who covered his Young Man Blues on Live At Leeds. Many, including John Mayall and Blue Cheer, have done Parchman Farm. All great covers, in fact Allison termed The Who’s Live At Leeds version of Young Man Blues ‘the command performance’ of that song. The great thing about music is how those covers prompt interested listeners into checking out the originals, and the original artists, which is how I got into this late great, and influential, jazz and blues pianist.