Truth by The Jeff Back Group

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Truth by Jeff BeckThere probably has never a debut album like Jeff Beck‘s 1968 solo debut, Truth. This album, of unique interpretations of diverse covers, introduced the talents of future superstar Rod Stewart on lead vocals as well as bassist Ronnie Wood, pianist Nicky Hopkins and the combo future Led Zeppelin members John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page. Further, the choice to focus on hard-edged, guitar-centric, blues-based rock on this debut album pivoted from Beck’s previous solo output which focused on pop-based singles.

Beck was introduced to R&B by Rolling Stone Ian Stewart in the early 1960s, which set the course of his young music career. Through 1963 and 1964 he played in several groups around London, including the Rumbles and the Tridents, while also scoring some gigs as a studio session player. Following the sudden departure of Eric Clapton from The Yardbirds in early 1965, Beck was recruited on the recommendation of Page, a fellow session musician. Beck was present for The Yardbirds commercial peak, including several successful singles and the albums For Your Love in 1965 and the untitled album which became known as “Roger the Engineer” in 1966. Beck launched his solo career with a series of pop singles through 1967 and early 1968 which resulted in three Top 40 hits in the UK.

Aside from the session for the Page-composed track “Beck’s Bolero” in May 1966, recording sessions for Truth took place over just four days in May 1968 with producer Micky Most. The ten-song album features three blues-based original tracks composed by Beck and Stewart.


Truth by The Jeff Beck Group
Released: August, 1968 (EMI)
Produced by: Micky Most
Recorded: Abbey Road Studios, Olympic Sound Studios & De Lane Lea Recording Studios, London, May 1968
Side One Side Two
Shapes of Things
Let Me Love You
Morning Dew
You Shook Me
Ol’ Man River
Greensleeves
Rock My Plimsoul
Beck’s Bolero
Blues De Luxe
Ain’t Superstitious
Primary Musicians
Rod Stewart – Lead Vocals
Jeff Beck – Guitars, Bass, Vocals
John Paul Jones – Organ, Bass
Nicky Hopkins – Piano
Ronnie Wood – Bass
Micky Waller – Drums

 

The album commences with an interesting hard rock remake of The Yardbirds’ 1966 hit “Shapes of Things”. Here, the drums of Micky Waller really stand out throughout as the song features deliberate sections including a unique, the mid-section jam. A definite Cream influence is heard on the original heavy blues rocker, “Let Me Love You”, with a quick turn of co-lead vocals by Beck during the first chorus. Towards the end of the song, Beck’s guitar and Stewart’s vocals do call and response, a technique later borrowed by Page and Robert Plant on Led Zeppelin’s early albums. “Morning Dew” is an oft-covered track by folk singer Bonnie Dobson, with this album’s version focusing on Wood’s thumping bass and a subtle wah-wah-laden guitar throughout.

Next comes Willie Dixon‘s “You Shook Me”, a song first released by Muddy Waters in 1962. This happy-go-lucky version finds Beck, Jones and Hopkins all competing for lead instrumentation during its short duration, in contrast to a more extended Zeppelin cover recorded later in 1968. “Ol’ Man River” is a composition which dates back to the 1920s, with this version showcasing Stewart’s vocals better than any other track n the album, while “Greensleeves” has roots back to the 1500s. This second side opener offers a nice acoustic break to add warmth to the album and further showcase Beck’s diversity as a guitar player. “Rock My Plimsoul” is another original of authentic multi-textured electric blues.

Jeff Beck Group 1968

The hauntingly beautiful “Beck’s Bolero” was recorded while Beck and Page were active members of the Yardbirds and it offered a glimpse into rock n roll’s future back in 1966. Joining the guitar duo on this instrumental was Hopkins, Jones and Who drummer Keith Moon as they re-create a Spanish ‘bolero’ with a highly electric feel led by the Beck’s ethereal Les Paul riff in the main theme. Later, a second part is introduced by Moon’s thundering drums leading to section exemplifying the earliest form of heavy metal music. “Blues De Luxe” is an extended, half jocular original complete with canned studio applause and an impressive, extended piano lead by Hopkins. The album concludes with an indelible cover of Dixon’s “I Ain’t Superstitious” featuring a wild wah-wah guitar which is showcased through strategic stops. After Beck does much indulgence, Waller gets the final album thrill with a short drum solo before the collaborative crash which concludes the album.

Truth peaked at number 15 on the Billboard charts and its influence on future music is immeasurable. A 1969 follow-up album called Beck-Ola was recorded and released by much of this same group before the members went on to other musical endeavors. Despite being offered a slot with The Rolling Stones following the death of Brian Jones, Beck decided to re-form the Jeff Beck Group with new members into the 1970s.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1968 albums.

 

The Byrds 1968 Albums

Buy The Notorious Byrd Brothers
Buy Sweetheart of the Rodeo

The Byrds 1968 albums1968 was a transitional year for folk/rock group, The Byrds, in terms of both musical approach and lineup changes. During the year, the group released two albums, The Notorious Byrd Brothers and Sweetheart of the Rodeo. While each of these albums have their own distinct sound individually, they are extraordinarily disparate collectively, with The Notorious Byrd Brothers having a folk/rock/psychedelic sound and Sweetheart of the Rodeo moving radically towards traditional country and bluegrass.

The Byrds hit their commercial peak during the mid 1960s with the albums Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn! Turn! Turn!, Fifth Dimension and Younger Than Yesterday, as well as the multiple hit singles spawned from these first four albums. These were also encapsulated  on a Greatest Hits compilation released late in 1967. The group subtly evolved during the time span between their 1964 founding and the beginning of 1968, moving from melodic folk/rock/pop driven by multiple guitar textures towards a more underground psychedelic sound with sprawling instrumentation.

Producer Gary Usher, who had first worked with the group on Younger Than Yesterday, produced both of the 1968 albums and (especially on The Notorious Byrd Brothers) employed much innovative studio experimentation. The Notorious Byrd Brothers was recorded in the Autumn of 1967 and it musically reaches the apex of the Byrds’ psychedelic endeavors. With a core folk rock skeleton, the succinct tracks on this album added subtle elements of baroque, jazz, country and the earliest elements of electronic music. While the album is lauded as one of the top albums by the Byrds, the recording sessions were plagued with tension, highlighted by the departure of drummer Michael Clarke and the firing of guitarist, vocalist and composer David Crosby due to his poor attendance at recording sessions and other controversial issues. Original band member Gene Clark, who had departed in early 1966, rejoined for a few weeks during production of The Notorious Byrd Brothers but swiftly left the group again.

For Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the group added Gram Parsons, a pioneer of country rock. As such, the the Byrds’ overall sound evolved rapidly in that direction and they migrated to Nashville for much of the recording of the album and with many session musicians brought in to contribute. Like its predecessor, there were tensions during the production of Sweetheart of the Rodeo as well as some legal complications. Conceived by the initial concept by Roger McGuinn for the album that would become Sweetheart of the Rodeo was to expand upon the genre-spanning approach of the Byrds’ previous LP, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, by recording a double album overview of the history of American popular music. The planned album would begin with bluegrass and Appalachian music, then move through country and western, jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock music, before culminating with futuristic proto-electronica featuring the Moog modular synthesizer.


The Notorious Byrd Brothers by The Byrds
Released: January 15, 1968 (Columbia)
Produced by: Gary Usher
Recorded: Columbia Studios, Hollywood, June–December, 1967
Side One Side Two
Artificial Energy
Goin’ Back
Natural Harmony
Draft Morning
Wasn’t Born to Follow
Get to You
Change Is Now
Old John Robertson
Tribal Gathering
Dolphin’s Smile
Space Odyssey
Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds
Released: August 30, 1968 (Columbia)
Produced by: Gary Usher
Recorded: Columbia Studios, Nashville & Hollywood, March-May 1968
Side One Side Two
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
I Am a Pilgrim
The Christian Life
You Don’t Miss Your Water
You’re Still on My Mind
Pretty Boy Floyd
Hickory Wind
One Hundred Years from Now
Blue Canadian Rockies
Life in Prison
Nothing Was Delivered
Primary Musicians (Both Albums)
Roger McGuinn -Guitars, Banjo, Vocals
Chris Hillman – Bass, Mandolin, Vocals
Gary Usher – Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals

 

The Notorious Byrd Brothers begins with the entertaining and inventive “Artificial Energy”, co-written by Clarke, bassist Chris Hillman and guitarist/vocalist Roger McGuinn. The song features a choppy rock and rhythm with sharp, distant horns and lyrics that deal with the dark side of dependency on the drug “speed”. “Goin’ Back” is one of a few tunes co-written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and it employs a more traditional Byrds’ folk rock sound, complete with chiming 12-string guitar and polished harmonies. Hillman’s “Natural Harmony” follows as a short atmospheric song with plenty of sonic effects, including the use of an early Moog synthesizer.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers album coverCrosby’s “Draft Morning” is a bass-led protest tune with a soft psychedelic vibe and a clever use of military march and weapons sounds in contrast, culminating with a slight guitar lead playing “Taps” at the very end. King and Goffin’s “Wasn’t Born to Follow” is pure sixties folk with some Simon and Garfunkel lyrical and melodic style blended with country and psychedelic elements. The waltz-like “Get to You” was co-written by Clark and completes the original first side.

“Change Is Now” features fine guitar work on differing levels and good musical textures throughout, leading to the short country romp, “Old John Robertson”, a tribute by a retired film director. This is followed by the final two Crosby songs, “Tribal Gathering”, which offers a nice change in vibe with rapid vocal delivery, and the effect-laden “Dolphin’s Smile”. Closing out the album is “Space Odyssey”, a droning and chanting tribute to Arthur C. Clarke’s short story and Stanley Kubrick’s contemporary film.

Overall, The Notorious Byrd Brothers is distinct and inventive but suffers from very quick turnarounds as certain moods are introduced and quickly abandoned. In contrast, Sweetheart of the Rodeo is a much more focused album but the group seems to overall be outside of their natural element and musical comfort zone.

The Byrds in 1968

Sweetheart of the Rodeo is bookmarked by covers of a couple of unreleased Bob Dylan tunes. Right from the jump on the opener “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”, it is clear that the Byrds are moving in a different direction with the heavy use of steel guitar, and good country melody and harmonies. The closer “Nothing Was Delivered” is a bit more interesting in its rich harmonies and cool, thumping refrain which works counter to otherwise country/blues rhythm.

Sweetheart of the Rodeo album coverMuch of the rest of this album is filled with contemporary covers and the occasional traditional song, such as “I Am a Pilgrim”, which has a vibe of pure back-country, porch country-blues with fiddle and banjo really taking the forefront and smooth lead vocals by Hillman. Other highlights of Sweetheart of the Rodeo include William Bell’s philosophical “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd”, and a couple of Parsons’ compositions, “Hickory Wind” and “One Hundred Years from Now”.

After the completion of Sweetheart of the Rodeo in Nashville, The Byrds appeared at the Grand Ole Opry but was greeted harshly by country music purists. Soon Parsons ended his short stint with the band and the Byrds finished out the 1960s as an altered and truncated rock band.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1968 albums.

 

Our 500th Album Review

On December 23, 2016, Classic Rock Review published our 500th album review, David Bowie’s Station to Station. This milestone dates back to our inception on January 1, 2011 and includes in-depth reviews of the best and most important rock and roll albums released during the period between 1965 and 1996.

For more details, check out all of these reviews by artist name.

500 album icons

Some Interesting Stats

Artists with Most Album Reviews

  • Rush (13)
  • Pink Floyd (10)
  • The Rolling Stones (9)
  • Led Zeppelin (9)
  • Aerosmith (9)
  • The Beatles (8)
  • The Who (8)
  • Bruce Springsteen (8)
  • The Kinks (7)
  • Deep Purple (7)
  • Genesis (7)

Highest Percentage of Eligible Album Reviews*

  • Led Zeppelin (100%)
  • The Beatles (100%)
  • Aerosmith (82%)
  • Rush (81%)
  • Bruce Springsteen (73%)
  • The Doors (75%)
  • The Who (8)
  • Pink Floyd (71%)
  • Van Halen (70%)
  • The Eagles (67%)
  • Robert Plant (67%)

*Minimum 5 albums

Moving into 2017, we will continue to review select albums from this period and expand to cover the 20th anniversary of albums released during the year 1997. Please check out the River of Rock newsletter for more details and features.

End of Our Original 5-Year Mission

At the beginning of 2011, Classic Rock Review set out on a monumental task to review the best and most important rock and roll album released during the 30 year period between 1965 and 1994. To accomplish this, we set up a 5 year schedule, covering six classic years annually or approximately one every two months. On December 14, 2015, we published the 452nd and final album review of this original mission, The Who’s My Generation, completing a monumental task of original material that, combined, would fill the pages of about six full novels.

Moving into 2016, Classic Rock Review will pivot towards new features with more select album reviews (we did miss a few) and other interesting content. Stay tuned for our next newsletter for more details!

Album Covers Montage


At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash

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At Folsum Prison by Johnny CashClassic Rock Review only covers studio albums, not compilations or live albums. But there will be one exception to this rule – At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash. This totally unique and legendary record, by one of the legendary founders of rock and Americana, may be the most honest album of all time. The album was recorded in one day at Folsom State Prison in California, where Cash performed two nearly identical shows during the morning and afternoon of January 13, 1968, with 15 tracks chosen for the album. We mentioned this during our Feature on Live Albums, when we proclaimed the studio album exclusivity. But again, this is an exception due to the artist and its place in time.

Cash had the concept of recording an album live in a prison since he wrote “Folsom Prison Blues” in 1955 and he finally got the go-ahead in 1967 from Columbia Records and producer Bob Johnston. Still, Cash mainly financed the project himself. Accompanying Cash on stage were “The Tennessee Three”; guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant, who had worked with Cash since he moved to Memphis in 1954, and drummer W.S. Holland. The performers rehearsed for days, an uncommon occurrence for them, and were even visited by California governor Ronald Reagan during a rehearsal.

A few of the songs recorded but not released on the original album were the country waltz and farmer’s lament “Busted” and “Joe Bean”, a song about a prisoner falsely accused who faces a hanging on his birthday. “The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer” is a theatrical song, written by Cash and his future wife June Carter, from the 1963 album Blood, Sweat, and Tears. With metallic hammer sounds throughout, this recording  suffers from too many tempo changes (which is probably why it was ultimately left off the album).

Cash himself was no stranger to run-ins with the law. Having struggled with drugs and alcohol, he was arrested several times in the late fifties and early sixties. Although he never served a prison sentence, these incidents helped cultivate his outlaw image which he embraced throughout his career. Still, Cash credits this album and the ensuing fame as helping turn his life around.


At Folsum Prison by Johnny Cash
Released: May, 1968 (Columbia)
Produced by: Bob Johnston
Recorded: Live at Folsom State Prison, January 13, 1968
Side One Side Two
Folsom Prison Blues
Dark As a Dungeon
I Still Miss Someone
Cocaine Blues
25 Minutes to Go
Orange Blossom Special
The Long Black Veil
Send a Picture of Mother
The Wall
Dirty Old Egg-Suckin’ Dog
Flushed From the Bathroom of Your Heart
Jackson
Give My Love to Rose
I Got Stripes
Green, Green Grass of Home
Greystone Chapel
Primary Musicians
Johnny Cash – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
Luther Perkins – Guitars
June Carter – Vocals
Marshall Grant – Bass
W.S. Holland – Drums

 

The performances actually began with performances by Carl Perkins and The Statler Brothers, who also joined Cash during the latter part of the performance. A prison MC encouraged the prisoners to “respond” to Cash’s performance, but also made personal announcements for prisoners (by number) when they had a visitor, making this all the more real. Cash breaks right into his performance with his signature “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash” before breaking into “Folsom Prison Blues”. Cash was inspired to write this after seeing the movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison while serving in the Air Force in West Germany. While it wasn’t a big hit originally, this live version became a Top 40 pop hit in 1968 and topped the Country charts.

Many of the remaining  songs on the album fit well with prison, sorrow, and longing for freedom. Merle Travis’s “Dark As a Dungeon” is a slow,  country waltz about Appalachian coal miners, while “I Still Miss Someone” is a short and sweet song with melodic vocals, written by Cash and his nephew Roy Cash Jr. Red Arnall’s “Cocaine Blues” is perhaps the most intense and exciting part of the first side, with the music again employing the famous “train” rhythm and fast shuffle throughout with the two note bass line of Grant, never really deviating until the very end.
 
Johnny Cash on stage at Folsom Prison
 
Shel Silverstein’s “25 Minutes to Go” is a countdown to execution, performed very similar (albeit inverse) to Cash’s famous flood song “Five Feet High and Rising” with a few key changes for effect. On this song, Cash sells the desperation well with lyrics like;

Well I’m waiting for the pardon that well set me free, with 9 more minutes to go, but this ain’t the movies so forget about me, 8 more minutes to go…”

On the traditional fiddle song “Orange Blossom Special”, Cash plays harmonica and sings all the parts in this frantic and breathless song with great drum rolls by Holland.

Cash then performed several ballads and folk songs solo, with just his acoustic guitar. “The Long Black Veil” is a haunting folk song, with haunting but beautiful vocals by Cash, which tell a story about a man falsely accused but refuses to provide an alibi in order to save the honor of his best friend’s wife. “Send a Picture of Mother” is a Johnny Cash original and pure folk song which shows that Cash’s originals are still the best songs in this collection. Harlan Howard’s “The Wall” is a song about escaping prison;

Well, the warden walked by and said son don’t try, I’d hate to see you fall, well, there is no doubt, they’re carry you out if you ever touch that wall…”

…lyrics to which Cash comments “they’re mean bastards, aren’t they?” A couple of novelty songs from his album Everybody Loves A Nut follow, “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog” and “Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart”, adding comic relief to the show.

June Carter and the Tennessee Three bring the level back up with the recent hit from 1967, “Jackson”, one of the highlights of the second side. The album then concludes with a quartet of songs specifically about prison. “Give My Love to Rose” is a Cash original in the traditional tragic country form about a prisoner and his lament of not seeing his wife and son. This has a much larger chord set than most Cash songs, with guitarist Luther Perkins doing a great job with the subtle changes. “I Got Stripes” gets back to the upbeat train rhythm, while Curly Putman’s popular worldwide sixties tune “Green, Green Grass of Home” features the Statler Brothers and June Carter returning to the stage.

The album concludes with “Greystone Chapel”, an original composed by Glen Sherley, who was then an inmate at Folsom. Sherley made a recording of the song and passed it on to a pastor who regularly visited inmates at Folsom, who then got it to Cash. The inclusion of this song solidifies the authenticity of the album and its intent.

At Folsom Prison reached the Top 20 in several countries and really revitalized Cash’s career, with several of his earliest recordings making a popular comeback in subsequent years. Cash would record two more live albums at prisons; San Quentin in California in 1969 and Österåker Prison in Sweden in 1972. He also soon took on the persona of “The Man in Black” to show his solidarity with all the downtrodden.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1968 albums.