James Gang Rides Again

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James Gang Rides Again by The James GangThe James Gang reached the peak of their relatively short time together with front man Joe Walsh with their sophomore album James Gang Rides Again in the summer of 1970. The album combines their blues-based power-trio rock with a branched-out experimental method that incorporates keyboards into their sound and includes elements of country. While not a great commercial success, James Gang Rides Again was critically acclaimed and a great influence for many rock bands that emerged later in the decade.

James Gang was founded by drummer Jim Fox in Cleveland, Ohio in 1965. They were were originally a five-piece, British rock influenced band including bassist Tom Kriss. In 1968, Walsh was brought on to replace the group’s original lead guitarist and, after two prompt defections, the band quickly realigned as a trio to fulfill live commitments. With Walsh assuming lead vocal duties, the group decided they liked their sound and moved forward as a threesome. After signing with ABC’s new Bluesway Records subsidiary in early 1969, they recorded and released their debut, Yer’ Album, later that year. Sales for this album were disappointing and a new singer was briefly considered so that Walsh could focus on guitars. While deciding to maintain Walsh as lead vocalist, Kriss decided to abruptly depart from the band in November 1969.

Bassist Dale Peters was recruited by Fox just in time for recording of the group’s second album. Recorded in Los Angeles with producer Bill Szymczyk, the group wanted to replicate the energy of its ever-popular live shows, where the group would jam to new material in the dressing rooms before each show.  With the combination of low label expectations and the state-of-the-art equipment at The Record Plant, the group took a loose and experimental approach to the material on James Gang Rides Again.


James Gang Rides Again by The James Gang
Released: July, 1970 (ABC)
Produced by: Bill Szymczyk
Recorded: The Record Plant, Los Angeles, November 1969
Side One Side Two
Funk #49
Asshtonpark
Woman
The Bomber
Tend My Garden
Garden Gate
There I Go Again
Thanks
Ashes the Rain and I
Group Musicians
Joe Walsh – Guitars, Piano, Vocals
Dale Peters – Bass, Keyboards, Vocals
Jim Fox – Drums, Percussion, Organ

The blistering opening track “Funk #49”, was a group composition that derived from a warm-up jam and initially ad-libbed lyrics by Walsh about an untamed girlfriend. The recording features a slight but potent percussion break by Fox before pivoting back to a final verse. The song was released as a single to moderate initial success but became a later staple on classic rock stations. The instrumental “Asshtonpark” features a slow rhythmic build up towards a country-esque groove featuring a generous amount of delay on Walsh’s guitar. The song’s title is a tribute to production designer Assheton Gorton. The catchy rocker “Woman” follows, starting with and built on Peters’ bass line with some great guitar dynamics to adding a dramatic element to the groove.

The album’s original first side ended with the excellent multi-part suite called “The Bomber”. Here, the musical talent of this emerging trio is fully exhibited, book-marked by the heavy, frantic verses of “Closet Queen”, which reportedly blew out the studio monitors at The Record Plant upon playback. The song’s mid section improvises a couple of established instrumentals, including Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” and an electric rendition of Maurice Ravel’s “Boléro”, which spawned a threatened suit that resulted in certain editions of the track being edited to remove “Boléro” (since restored). In contrast to sound, but just as innovative is “Tend My Garden”, featuring Walsh pulling quadruple duty on vocals, organ, acoustic and electric guitar, a method (as well as a signature riff) that would be echoed years later by Tom Scholz of Boston on “More Than a Feeling” from Boston’s 1976 debut album. From the dissolve of the majestic “Tend My Garden”, comes the simple, homey, front porch country-blues of “Garden Gate”, a short minute and a half track which appears to be a solo performance by Walsh.

James Gang

The whimsical “There I Go Again” may be closest to pure pop ever by James Gang (or Walsh for that matter). This catchy acoustic tune is accented by fine pedal steel guitar of guest Rusty Young. While remaining in the pop form, “Thanks” has a bit more complexity overall with an original arrangement applied to this short acoustic folk tune. “Ashes the Rain and I” concludes the album as a dark acoustic folk with heavy orchestration applied after the first verse and interlude. While certainly atmospheric and original, the decision to shepherd out this record with so much extraneous instrumentation seems like an odd decision by Szymczyk and the band.

Following the recording sessions for James Gang Rides Again, the group embarked on a tour opening for The Who in the United States in early 1970. This led to the group touring the United Kingdom and appearing on the British TV show “Top of the Pops”, which increased their international appeal. However, after 1971’s studio album Thirds and the live album James Gang Live in Concert, Walsh left the band the band at the end of the year to form Barnstorm. Fox and Peters continued the James Gang with several vocalists and guitarists through several more albums over the next half decade but never again would reach this level of artistic merit or sustainability before the group finally disbanded in early 1977.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1970 albums.

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Fun House by The Stooges

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Fun House by The StoogesThe second of the initial trio of albums by The Stooges which were considered integral to the development of punk rock, Fun House, has consistently grown in critical stature in the half century since it’s release in the summer of 1970. Though commercially unsuccessful, this recording a pure raw energy and animalistic sexuality as been described in positive ways ranging from “exquisitely horrible” to “sixties psychedelic rock trapped in the reality of 1970” to “competent monotony with intellectual appeal”.

Stooges front man Iggy Pop, born James Newell Osterberg, started as a drummer in local Ann Arbor, Michigan bands in the early 1960s. In an effort to create a “new form of blues music”, not derivative of historical precedents, he recruited brothers Ron Asheton (guitar) and Scott Asheton (drums) along with bassist Dave Alexander. Being the leader of this new band, Osterberg decided to be the lead singer and soon was christened with the nickname “Pop” by the other band members. With this, he adopted the stage name Iggy Pop by the time the group made its live debut as the “Psychedelic Stooges” in late 1967. They experimented with avant garde methods, incorporating such household objects as a vacuum cleaner and a blender into an intense wall of feedback and soon the group gained a reputation for their wild and unpredictable live performances. While touring with the band MC5 in 1968, the Stooges were discovered by a scout for Elektra Records and they released their self-titled 1969 debut album to disappointingly low sales and bad critical reviews.

Hoping for better results, Elektra head Jac Holzman recruited former Kingsmen keyboardist Don Gallucci the group’s second album. Gallucci was initially doubtful that he could capture their live feeling on tape, But once in the studio in Los Angeles, he and the group decided to tear down all soundproofing and discard any isolation methods to emulate their live performances as closely as possible. The result is a very raw sound compared to the advancing sonic qualities of 1970 contemporary records.


Fun House by The Stooges
Released: July 7, 1970 (Elektra)
Produced by: Don Gallucci
Recorded: Elektra Sound Recorders. Los Angeles, May 1970
Side One Side Two
Down on the Street
Loose
T.V. Eye
Dirt
1970
Fun House
L.A. Blues
Group Musicians
Iggy Pop – Lead Vocals
Ron Asheton – Guitars
Dave Alexander – Bass
Scott Asheton – Drums

The influence of some of the more intense numbers by The Doors can be felt in the opening “Down on the Street”, with a strong interlocked bass and guitar riff holding the backing track for Iggy Pop’s reverberated vocals and chants. Although this song feels raw at first listen, it is more refined than anything that follows and may be the most traditionally produced track on Fun House, even to the point of having Ron Asheton guitar overdubbed during the lead section. “Loose” follows with an interesting drum intro by Scott Asheton as he finds the upbeat groove which, overall, leans more toward the yet-to-be-developed punk genre with a starkly honest lyric.

“T.V. Eye” features a bluesy riff while the vocals are still energetic, wailing and (occasionally) screaming. This very repetitive song builds a tension which never really breaks but does reach a bit of a crescendo late in the song, just before an abrupt stop and restart. Iggy Pop has said he was channeling blues legend Howlin’ Wolf while recording “T.V. Eye”. “Dirt” has a long drum intro by Scott Asheton as Alexander’s bass and Ron Asheton’s guitar slowly join in to this overall soulful rocker. Here, Iggy Pop sounds similar to Eric Burdon of The Animals on this one while it is an overall showcase for Ron Asheton, especially during the multi-textured, wah-wah fused guitar lead.

The Stooges in 1970

It is quite obvious that the second side of an album derives from a singular jam which now includes saxophonist Steve Mackay, and Gallucci laid this out in side-long linear fashion. On “1970”, the rhythmic drums and bass provide backdrop for a pseudo-blues bark on a jam that does provide differing chord structures for the chorus and post-chorus. Late in the song Mackay makes his debut, adding a distinct and original element to the overall sound and vibe. On “Fun House” Mackay is more of an integral part of the sound while Scott Asheton’s drumming is a fine adhesive for the overall jam and Iggy Pop’s vocals are more strained and desperate than ever, as he technically makes his lyrical finale on the album. “L.A. Blues” wraps things up with, effectively, five minutes of noise, screams and off-beat chops as all five members desperately search for a common ending before settling on a sustained feedback loop by Ron Asheton.

Although Fun House has sold under 100,000 copies to date, it has influenced numerous other artists, with many specifically citing as this as their favorite album. The Stooges and their individual members, soon entered a tumultuous period and it would be nearly three years before they followed up Fun House (with the critically acclaimed Raw Power) but that album was sandwiched in between a pair of band breakups.

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Gasoline Alley by Rod Stewart

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Gasoline Alley by Rod StewartHis second official solo album, Gasoline Alley, is a critically acclaimed 1970 album by Rod Stewart. It features a diverse mixture of covers and originals that reflect the various styles of Stewart’s various musical projects and this album has been described as one that both celebrates tradition while featuring the rock sensibilities of its present. Ultimately, while the album is a sentimental snapshot of place and time, it has maintained its musical integrity and interest a half century after its creation.

Sir Roderick David Stewart was born in war-torn London, 1945 to parents of both Scottish and English ancestry. As a teenager he developed an interest in English folk music and he began playing harmonica in the early 1960s, joining the rhythm and blues group The Dimensions as a harmonica player and part-time vocalist. One of the group’s earlier gigs in 1963 was opening for The Rolling Stones in London. After leaving The Dimensions, Stewart made his recording début with the single “Up Above My Head” in June 1964, and soon signed a solo recording contract with Decca Records, where he recorded several further singles and made some national television appearances through the mid 1960s but found little commercial success.

In early 1967, guitarist Jeff Beck recruited Stewart to front the heavy blues Jeff Beck Group. The group included bassist Ronnie Wood and the 1968 debut album, Truth, featured contributions from future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones and acted as a model for Zeppelin’s own debut album. Stewart co-wrote three of the original tracks on this critically acclaimed album, which spawned a world wide tour in late 1968 into 1969. The Jeff Beck Group’s second album, Beck-Ola, was recorded in April 1969 for release that summer.

The heavily-touring group was slated to play the Woodstock Music Festival before Stewart and Wood abruptly left the group to eventually form Faces with former members of The Small Faces. Meanwhile, Stewart recorded and released his debut solo album, An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down (known as The Rod Stewart Album in the US) in late 1969, which established his heartfelt mixture of folk, rock, and country blues in both original and cover material. Faces début album, First Step was released in early 1970 with a more straight-forward rock and roll style and this group quickly earned a strong live following. Simultaneously, Stewart entered the studio with producer Lou Reizner to record Gasoline Alley, which struck a balance between the Faces’ sound and Stewart’s solo debut.


Gasoline Alley by Rod Stewart
Released: June 12, 1970 (Mercury)
Produced by: Lou Reizner & Rod Stewart
Recorded: Morgan Studios, London, February–April 1970
Side One Side Two
Gasoline Alley
It’s All Over Now
Only A Hobo
My Way Of Giving
Country Comfort
Cut Across Shorty
Lady Day
Jo’s Lament
You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want To Discuss It)
Primary Musicians
Rod Stewart – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Martin Quittenton – Guitar
Ronnie Wood – Guitar, Bass
Ian McLagan – Piano, Organ
Mick Waller – Drums

Stewart and Wood collaborated on the opening title track, an excellent folk track with a 12-string acoustic topped by dueling lead guitars and Stewart mimicking the lead riffs throughout to create a catchy melody. Stanley Matthews provides a mandolin lead to “Gasoline Alley” to complete the aura of this ode to a simpler past. the cover of Bobby and Shirley Jean Womack’s “It’s All Over Now” follows as an entertaining track with a country rock feel due to Wood’s twangy guitar and the piano style of Ian McLagan.

A cover of Bob Dylan’s “Only a Hobo”, a song Dylan himself would not release until decades later, offers a nice change of pace as a simple acoustic waltz with sad and moody lyrics delivered masterfully by Stewart. “My Way of Giving” soulfully starts with organ, bass and the masterful guitar chording by Wood. The song was co-written by Ronnie Lane for the Small Faces in 1966 and he, along with Faces band mate Kenney Jones on drums, perform on this track. “Country Comfort” is an Elton John / Bernie Taupin composition and the piano of this folk ballad is delivered nicely by guest Pete Sears, The song also features an odd but charming backing vocal by Jack Reynolds.

Rod Stewart

The album’s second side offers more diversity to its solid overall sound. “Cut Across Shorty” was originally written for Eddie Cochran in 1960 and, a decade later, this version features a duo acoustic beginning by Wood and Martin Quittenton, which is cut across by Mick Waller‘s unique drum pattern before everything kicks in for a driving rhythm under and some fiddle sprinkled throughout. Two Stewart acoustic originals follow, the partly surreal but all feeling ballad “Lady Day” with a fine a fiddle lead, and the celtic-feeling “Jo’s Lament”, with layered instrumental arrangement. “You’re My Girl (I Don’t Want to Discuss It)” wraps things up with a simmering beat and a funk-inflected theme which brings back the Faces’ rhythm section for a final cameo.

While a commercial disappointment in the UK, Gasoline Alley did become the first of 15 consecutive albums for Stewart to chart in the Top 40 in the United States. He would soon reach superstardom with his next 1971 solo record, Every Picture Tells a Story</a,> and continue this success for decades as he became one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1970 albums.

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Fire and Water by Free

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Fire and Water by FreeThe 1970 album Fire and Water was the third studio album by Free and it proved to be the breakthrough of the group’s short but prolific career. The album showcases the British quartet at the peak of their blues rock talents and is at once strongly roots oriented while being sonically innovative. Fire and Water achieved worldwide commercial success, reaching the Top 20 in the US and climbing to #2 on the UK album chart, while staying on that chart for a total of 18 weeks.

Free was formed in London, England in April 1968 when guitarist Paul Kossoff and drummer Simon Kirke of the band Black Cat Bones joined vocalist Paul Rodgers and bassist Andy Fraser to form the new group. All four members were teenagers at the time of formation but their sparse, straight forward blues rock sound got them quickly noticed and the band was signed to Island Records within the year. Free recorded and released two albums in 1969, their debut Tons of Sobs and their self-titled follow-up, but these failed to achieve any notable commercial success or chart movement. However, the group was quickly becoming renowned for their live shows and non-stop touring. In fact, the group gained an American audience not from their studio albums but due to successful tours opening for Delaney and Bonnie and Blind Faith.

Fire and Water was recorded in London during early 1970 and it was largely self-produced by the group members with the assistance of John Kelly and future Queen producer Roy Thomas Baker. These sessions stretched out over several months as the group continued its relentless touring schedule.


Fire and Water by Free
Released: June 26, 1970 (Island)
Produced by: Roy Baker, John Kelly & Free
Recorded: Trident Studios & Island Studios, London, January–June 1970
Side One Side Two
Fire and Water
Oh I Wept
Remember
Heavy Load
Mr. Big
Don’t Say You Love Me
All Right Now
Group Musicians
Paul Rodgers – Lead Vocals
Paul Kossoff – Guitars
Andy Fraser – Keyboards, Bass
Simon Birke – Drums, Percussion

Most of the tracks on Fire and Water were written by Fraser and Rodgers, starting with the opening title track, a song frequently covered through the years. “Fire and Water” sets the pace by featuring simple riffing and beat to back Rogers’ soulful rock vocals, with Kossoff’s droning lead section and Birke;s closing drum solo addsing much needed contrasts to make this an interesting rock anthem. Next comes “Oh I Wept”, the real highlight of the album’s first side. Here Fraser’s electric piano backs Rogers’ excellent Stevie Wonder-like vocals as this moderate ballad builds some power through the choruses and a short, bluesy guitar lead.

“Remember” is a reworking of an unused song originally titled “Woman by the Sea” from the debut Tons of Sobs recording sessions in late 1968 where Rogers shows yet another element to his vocals. “Heavy Load” is a piano ballad where Fraser shines on both bass and piano as the rhythms nicely fade to the background for a dreamy lead guitar section. Written by all four group members, “Mr. Big” is a slow jam structured to have a more intense instrumental section sandwiched between the definitive rock verses and choruses, while “Don’t Say You Love Me” is a slow, blues ballad with Rodgers vocals oriented towards soul complete with a Gospel-like choir in the background later in the song.

Free

The indelible number from this album is saved for the closer. “All Right Now” is a simple anthem built from a well-defined riff, beat and love song lyrical motifs. However, the unique element for this classic is the mid section which starts with a slight guitar lead over a drum shuffle before Kossoff’s second, more bluesy lead guitar is placed on top of Fraser’s signature bass and piano rhythms. The song was written on the spot following a show where the group was dissatisfied with their performance and audience response and decided they needed an uptempo rocker to close shows. Initiated by Fraser, the group composed this anthem in about “ten minutes” right there in the post-show dressing room and “All Right Now” went on to be a worldwide chart-topper and Free’s most popular song.

With the success of Fire and Water, Free appeared destined for superstardom in the 1970s. However, the road would not be so smooth as the group broke up temporarily in 1971 and permanently the following year as Fraser departed and Kossoff developed a drug addiction which ultimately took his life at age 25. In 1973, Rodgers and Kirke became half of the new group Bad Company, a band which fully realized the top-level potential that Free had shown earlier in the decade.

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Bridge Over Troubled Water
by Simon & Garfunkel

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Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and GarfunkelSimon & Garfunkel saved their best for last with the early 1970 release of Bridge over Troubled Water, the fifth studio album by the New York based folk duo. The record shows the artists branching out to new musical avenues with smooth production featuring warm sonic elements to showcase the exquisite compositions of chief songwriter Paul Simon. Despite the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel later in 1970, the album’s success reverberated for several years as it received multiple Grammy awards and even briefly became the best selling record of all time as it topped album charts worldwide.

The duo’s highly successful third album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme was issued in October 1966 and followed by a series of non-album singles including “A Hazy Shade of Winter” and “At the Zoo”, both of which made the Top 20 on the pop charts. However, Simon developed a bout of writer’s block which delayed any follow-up album in 1967. Then Hollywood came knocking as director Mike Nichols, a big fan of Simon & Garfunkel’s previous records, sought the duo to record some songs for the soundtrack to his new film, The Graduate, in 1968 with the single “Mrs. Robinson” becoming the first rock n’ roll song to win the Record of the Year Grammy. Simon & Garfunkel’s fourth studio album, Bookends was also released in 1968 and reached the top of the album charts. Both Simon and Art Gurfunkel were invited to audition for acting roles in Nichols’ next film, Catch 22, but only Garfunkel got the role.
This caused a bit of a rift between the two musicians, especially as filming took up much of 1969 with much taking place in Mexico.

Production of Bridge Over Troubled Water took place in New York and Los Angeles studios with the help of producer Roy Halee, who Garfunkel once referred to as the third member of the group. This album also partly abandoned their traditional style by incorporating further elements of rock, R&B, gospel, and world music as well as using more singular lead voices by each singer, rather than the traditional blended harmonies.


Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
Released: January 26, 1970 (Columbia)
Produced by: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel & Roy Halee
Recorded: Columbia Studios, New York City & CBS Columbia Square, Los Angeles
Side One Side Two
Bridge over Troubled Water
El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)
Cecilia
Keep the Customer Satisfied
So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright
The Boxer
Baby Driver
The Only Living Boy in New York
Why Don’t You Write Me
Bye Bye Love
Song for the Asking
Primary Musicians
Paul Simon – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion
Art Garfunkel – Vocals, Percussion
Fred Carter Jr. – Guitars
Larry Knechtel – Piano, Keyboards
Joe Osborn – Bass
Hal Blaine – Drums, Percussion

Like most previous material by Simon & Garfunkel, the songs here were initiated by Simon and next he would work on the harmonies with Garfunkel. However, with the title track “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Simon basically gave the song as his acoustic composition was transformed with Garfunkel on solo vocals and Larry Knechtelon piano dominating most of the recording. The payoff does come with the exquisitely harmonized third verse followed by the orchestra crescendo to close out this opening title track, which topped the Pop charts and won a Grammy for Song of the Year in 1971. “El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)” follows as a traditional Peruvian instrumental, centuries old onto which Simon added lyrics on top< This interesting track starts with a distant flamenco guitar with the verse proper containing a European waltz beat and a flute mimicking the lead vocals throughout, an arrangement that carries an air of psychedelia.

The inventiveness continues with “Cecilia”, a low-fi dance song driven by the harmonized vocals over a totally unique percussion arrangement that was recorded at home and placed on a loop. “Keep the Customer Satisfied” is an upbeat, acoustic-driven pop song with rich harmonies and a later horn section to complete to fine effect. “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” hearkens back to their early sixties folk style, but with just a touch of mellotron to give it a “modern” edge along. “The Boxer” is another gem of production, from the perfectly Travis-style finger-picked acoustic guitars by Simon and Fred Carter Jr to the contra bass and tuba by Bob Moore to the wild percussion effects recorded on location at a cathedral at Columbia University by the legendary Hal Blaine.

Simon and Garfunkel

While not quite as interesting, the latter part of the album does include some unique moments. “Baby Driver” is a bluesy acoustic folk track in a style later mastered by Jim Croce, while “Why Don’t You Write Me” is upbeat acoustic folk with Joe Osborn laying down some excellent bass. Osborn also shines on “The Only Living Boy in New York”, a song written by Simon about Garfunkel flying off to Mexico to film Catch 22 and featuring a chorus of backing vocals recorded live in an echo chamber in Los Angeles. The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” is an odd live inclusion here with some treated hand clapping by the audience, recorded at multiple gigs, before the closing “Song for the Asking”, a pure Paul Simon style folk with an edge to become a very short soliloquy to complete the duo’s final studio album.

Bridge Over Troubled Water topped the charts in ten countries around the world and was on the best-selling album list for the years 1970, 1971 and 1972. With this massive success, both musicians decided to pursue independent projects and ultimately solo careers as Simon & Garfunkel dissolved into musical history.

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Moondance by Van Morrison

1970 Album of the Year
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Moondance by Van MorrisonWe’ve covered more music from the year 1970 than from any other year at Classic Rock Review. Through these nineteen articles covering twenty-three different albums, we’ve observed some of the finest rock groups as they branched out to embrace some roots or otherwise raw musical genres. Through all that great music, we believe that no one hit the sweet spot like Van Morrison and the most and authentic, entertaining and timeless effort of his long career, Moondance. Morrison blends diverse styles such as jazz, folk rock, country, R&B, and American soul with potent melodies and pristine arrangements, all on a cohesive album which always sounds fresh. For these reasons, we have chosen Moondance as our album of the year for 1970.

Morrison’s previous album, Astral Weeks, was filled with impressionistic, stream-of-consciousness tunes and was recorded in just a few sessions in New York City in late 1968. After that recording, Morrison and his wife decided to move to upstate New York, where the composer began writing songs for a follow-up album. Despite the critical acclaim of Astral Weeks, its improvised nature did not lead to much commercial success and Morrison looked to strike a balance between musical integrity and audience accessibility.

Coproduced by Lewis Merenstein, fresh musicians were recruited for Moondance, starting in the summer of 1969. While all the tracks were composed by Morrison on acoustic guitar, he entered the studio with no written arrangements, leaving room for this album to grow organically with any riffs or fills generated spontaneously through jam sessions. The result is a record of renewal and redemption which is every bit as authentic as its predecessor while shedding that album’s dark and gloomy feel, as Morrison employs simple memories and nature motifs lyrically.


Moondance by Van Morrison
Released: February 28, 1970 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Van Morrison & Lewis Merenstein
Recorded: A & R Studios, New York, August–December 1969
Side One Side Two
And It Stoned Me
Moondance
Crazy Love
Caravan
Into the Mystic
Come Running
These Dreams of You
Brand New Day
Everyone
Glad Tidings
Primary Musicians
Van Morrison – Lead Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica
John Platania – Guitars
Jeff Labes – Piano, Keyboards
Jack Schroer – Saxophones
Colin Tilton – Flute, Saxophone
John Klingberg – Bass
Gary Mallaber – Drums, Percussion

The lyrics of Moondance seem to be symbiotically linked through the individual tracks with certain elemental themes reappearing throughout. One of these primary elements is water and nowhere is it more prominent than on the opening track “And It Stoned Me”. This nostalgic song about a day of adolescence in Ireland, speaks of walking to a fishing hole, getting caught in the rain, and ultimately receiving some H2O rejuvenation. Each lyrical line is filled with vivid yet poetic images and emotions while the moderate yet soulful rock sound features sax accents and a dual lead section featuring Morrison’s acoustic guitar and the piano of Jeff Labes.

The pure jazzy title tune is built on a walking bass pattern of John Klingberg, subtle piano chords by Labes and a great overall melody by Morrison. It later features a jazzy sax lead by Jack Schroer The lyrics of “Moondance” are specifically a tribute to the autumn season as well as romance in general and this hit song did not actually chart until 1977, seven years after its release. “Crazy Love” features Motown inspired, high pitched soul vocals which were accomplished by Morrison getting as close to the microphone as possible. This song is also the  to feature Gospel-style backing singers while the music is very reserved with acoustic, bass, and brushed drums.

“Caravan” is a pure celebration of radio portrayed through a moderate rock backing and very intense vocalization. After two verses comes the first of two improvised bridge sections that bring this song to a new level along with syncopated beats and punching brass. The side one closer “Into the Mystic” paints an indelible picture of life on the water where Morrison again returns to his youth in the port city of Belfast. The mood of this subtle folk tune is driven by a cool but direct bass line, strummed acoustic, and a building array of other instruments added ounthe duration, including a foghorn-mimicking alto saxophone for great effect.

We were born before the wind, also younger than the sun / Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic…”

The album’s second side contains some lesser known but quality songs. The Top 40 hit “Come Running” is upbeat, almost country in its approach, especially with the boogie-woogie piano by Labes, a two chord guitar pattern by John Platania and the first real affirmative presence by drummer Gary Mallaber. The track is not very complex lyrically but this is intentional as it works as an upbeat counter to some of the deeper songs from the first side. “These Dreams of You” portrays upbeat blues with bass rhythm, slide acoustic, and harmonica by Morrison. On “Brand New Day”, the tone is excellent even if the vocal melody seems a bit recycled. Nonetheless, this track is definitely a spiritual, Gospel influenced, song of redemption with rich backing harmonies.

Van MorrisonThe energy returns fully on “Everyone”, which starts with a cool harpsichord by Labes that persists through repetitive, beat driven pattern of this song of pure celebration. Colin Tilton provides flute flourishes throughout this Baroque-styled track which is an ode to the power of music. The album concludes with “Glad Tidings”, featuring the most pronounced bass line, exceptional drumming, subtle saxophones and squeezed out electric guitar notes all behind Morrison’s clarion vocals. While many songs on this album revisit the past, this one is set firmly in the present day of 1970 as Morrison sends “glad tidings” from his new home in New York.

Moondance was a critical and commercial success, peaking in the Top 40 in charts in both the US and the UK. It has continuously sold well during the four and a half decades since its release, eventually certified as triple platinum in sales. Later in 1970, Morrison released the follow-up album, His Band and the Street Choir, which feature “Domino”, the song which ultimately became Morrison’s biggest hit ever. Through the 1970s and into decades beyond, he released a succession of fine albums but none have reached quite the level of esteem as our album of the year, Moondance.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1970 albums.

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Déjà Vu by
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

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Deja Vu by Crosby Stills Nash and YoungDéjà Vu is the sophomore effort by the super group with the expanded name of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, after the addition of Neil Young to the group. Each of the four named members of the group contributed an original composition to each side of the original LP, which worked to give this album a very diverse musical and textual feel overall. following its release, the album topped the charts in the US and went on to be the most successful record overall for the group as a four piece.

The 1969 self-titled debut by Crosby, Stills & Nash was a critical and commercial success. On that album, Stephen Stills played the bulk of the instruments with drummer Dallas Taylor being the only player outside the core trio. After the album’s release and success, the band looked to add more players, at first trying to recruit Steve Winwood (to no avail). At the urging of Atlantc Records founder Ahmet Ertegün, Young was brought on as a fourth member, reuniting him with Stills, his Buffalo Springfield bandmate. This updated group then embarked on their initial tour in the summer of 1969.

Through late 1969, great anticipation was building for another album by the group. Ultimately, the album took a long time to record, with over 500 studio hours logged over the course of five months. The end result is an album filled with precise playing, rich harmonies, and strong rhythms, with three charting singles and several more tracks which have sustained throughout the decades.


Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Released: March 11, 1970 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Recorded: Wally Heider’s Studios, San Francisco and Los Angeles, July-December, 1969
Side One Side Two
Carry On
Teach Your Children
Almost Cut My Hair
Helpless
Woodstock
Déjà Vu
Our House
4 + 20
Country Girl
Everybody, I Love You
Primary Musicians
David Crosby – Guitars, Vocals
Stephen Stills – Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Vocals
Graham Nash – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Neil Young – Guitars, Keyboards, Harmonica, Vocals
Greg Reeves – Bass
Dallas Taylor – Drums

The songs through most of Déjà Vu are great Americana classics which, if they are flawed at all, are just a bit too short in duration. “Carry On” has an upbeat acoustic folk intro. Still’s thumping bass and some hand percussion are present through much of the opening verses. The later section changes direction a bit while still giving room for harmonies to fully shine along with some great electric guitar licks. “Teach Your Children” is a pure, steady country tune by Graham Nash, featuring exquisite harmonies throughout. This track also has some impressive pedal steel by guest Jerry Garcia, who made this signature arrangement in return for the CSNY teaching members of the Grateful Dead how to effectively harmonize for their upcoming 1970 albums.

“Almost Cut My Hair” is a bluesy, hippie anthem by David Crosby, featuring a triple guitar attack by Crosby, Stills, and most especially Young on lead guitar. This track is also the most ‘live’ sounding on the album and features no harmonies, with Crosby alone supplying the soulful lead vocals throughout. The album again changes direction with Young’s “Helpless”, where Neil plays acoustic, electric, piano, and harmonica along with the lead vocals. This track was originally recorded by Young with Crazy Horse in early 1969. The album’s first side concludes with “Woodstock”, a song written by Joni Mitchell as a folk song but adapted by CSNY as a rocked out version with potent, electric guitar motifs and exceptionally harmonized counter-melodies during the choruses. Mitchell did not play at the actual Woodstock festival, but wrote the song based on accounts from then-boyfriend Nash, and recorded her own version for the album, Ladies of the Canyon.

Crosby Stills Nash Young

Side two of the album contains five more fine tracks, although not quite at the level of the first side. Crosby’s title track, “Déjà Vu”, may be the oddest song on the album, as it slowly works its way into an acoustic groove for the intro section but then abruptly breaks into a slow, bluesy rock for the duration. Nash’s “Our House” is a very British pop, piano love tune, unlike anything this band had done before or since. The song simply portrays a day in the life of Nash and Mitchell verbatim. “4 + 20” is a short acoustic folk tune by Stills, followed by Young’s “Country Girl”, a loose medley with a waltz-like beat, deep organ textures in the background, and slight harmonies. The album concludes with “Everybody I Love You”, the only collaboration on the album (between Stills and Young), which seems like the least finished track on the album overall.

Within a year after the successful release of Déjà Vu, each of the four members recorded solo albums — Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name, Stills’ self-titled debut, Nash’s Songs for Beginners and Young’s After the Gold Rush, all four of which reached the Top 20 on the charts. However, there would not be another CSNY studio album by all four until American Dream in 1988, nearly two decades later.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1970 albums.

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Chicago II

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Chicago II by ChicagoOfficially titled Chicago, the second double-length album by the group with the same name saw their full immersion into mainstream success while still building on their fusion of rock, funk and jazz. This album also saw expanded participation by many of the seven group members, in composing the songs and suites. While the album is interesting and entertaining, it is not without some filler and flaws as at times the group tries too hard to forge messaging, which sometimes comes off awkwardly or forced.

Then known as Chicago Transit Authority, the group released their self-title debut double LP in the Spring of 1969. That album was critically acclaimed for its groundbreaking musical approach but did not spark much initial interest on the radio. After its release, the actual city of Chicago transportation department claimed the name as proprietary and threatened a lawsuit, so the group shortened their name to simply, Chicago.

The album was recorded in less than a month during August 1969 for an early 1970 release. Like the opening album, the compositions are once again mainly provided by guitarist Terry Kath and keyboardist Robert Lamm. However, Chicago II also features a seven-part suite by brass arranger James Pankow as well as the first composition by bassist/vocalist Peter Cetera, who would provide a growing role in the group’s sound as the 1970s progressed.

Chicago II by Chicago

Released: January 26, 1970 (Columbia)
Produced by: James William Guercio
Recorded: Columbia Studios, New York & Hollywood, August 1969
Side One Side Two
Movin’ In
The Road
Poem For the People
In the Country
Wake Up Sunshine
Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon
Side Three Side Four
Fancy Colours
25 or 6 to 4
Memories of Love
It Better End Soon
Where Do We Go From Here
Group Musicians
Terry Kath – Guitars, Vocals
Robert Lamm – Keyboards, Vocals
Peter Cetera – Bass, Vocals
James Pankow – Trombone, Brass Arrangements
Lee Loughnane – Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Vocals
Walter Parazaider – Woodwinds, Vocals
Danny Seraphine – Drums, Percussion

Chicago II is a bit top-heavy with some of the best material on the first two sides. Side One starts with Pankow’s celebratory horns of “Movin’ In”, which crams in plenty of jazz-style improv sections on this fine opening track. Kath’s “The Road” starts with a complex riff pattern before settling into a funky ballad led by Cetra’s vocals. “Poem For the People” starts with deliberative solo piano by Lamm, who composed the song. When it fully kicks in, it is a soulful song with nice, mellowly picked guitar interludes and a core meaning. The side concludes with “In the Country”, which may be the first example of an extended filler as the track gets very repetitive and quite corny as it goes along.

The second side starts with “Wake Up Sunshine”, a direct, happy-go-lucky track by Lamm which could’ve been (and should’ve been) a hit for the band, This is one of the most accessible and pop-oriented as well as one of the shorter tracks and ends with a cool, industrial-like organ part. Pankow’s multipart suite, “Ballet for a Girl in Buchannon” follows, starting with the classic single “Make Me Smile”, which bookends the medley. This features driving acoustic, funky bass, good vocals throughout and animated drums by Danny Seraphine. Next comes “So Much to Say, So Much to Give”, a waltz-like bridge section with lead vocals by Lamm. “Anxiety’s Moment” and “West Virginia Fantasies” are a couple of horn-drivren instrumental sections before the music cleverly dissolves into “Colour My World”, a simple but brilliant tune sung by Kath and featuring a long rotating, piano riff. The section ends with flute solo by Walter Parazaider and would go on to be a hit single on its own. The piece concludes with the bass-driven “To Be Free” and the reprise section “Now More Than Ever” and a military-like drum march by Seraphine to the end.

Side Three starts with “Fancy Colours” starts with percussive chimes and a long, psychedelic organ. After slow slosh through the first verse, song breaks into a Broadway-like 6/8 with plenty of flute parts for the main hook of this track. “25 or 6 to 4” is one of the most indelible Chicago tunes, with a rock oriented core bass, drums, and guitars. The horns play a reserved but effective role, led by the trumpet of Lee Loughnane. The nin-plus-minute suite “Memories of Love” contains orchestral arrangements by Peter Matz, who co-wrote the crooning love song with Kath.

The fourth and final side starts with another extended suite, this time a rock/jazz fusion called “It Better End Soon”, co-written by Lamm, Kath, and Parazaider. The track seems to have been intentionally built for live shows and was kind of manifesto for the group’s political viewpoints. The album concludes with “Where Do We Go from Here”, the first track composed by Cetera and is a more pleasant and uplifting track than its predecessor while still being a bit preachy on world affairs.

Chicago II was an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching the Top 5 in the US and the UK. Followed by their third consecutive double album, Chicago III in 1971, the band would release about one album per year through the seventies and had continued commercial success through most of that decade.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1970 albums.

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Cosmo’s Factory by
Creedence Clearwater Revival

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Cosmo's Factory by Creedence Clearwater RevivalIf nothing else, Cosmo’s Factory is a unique and unconventional album in its structure and approach, as it starts out oddly and packs all its pop/rock firepower towards the back end. That being said, this still ranks as one of the finest albums by the prolific Creedence Clearwater Revival and captures the band near their peak musically and creatively. The album was also a worldwide success commercially as it topped the album charts in six nations and was certified Gold less than six months after its release.

The fifth studio album over a span of just two years, Cosmo’s Factory follows a prolific year of 1969 which saw three albums released by CCR. Recording for this album actually began in late 1969 with the first of three “Double-A-Side” singles which came out ahead of this album, with each one reaching the Top 5 on the US pop charts. Each of these successful singles were written by guitarist and lead vocalist John Fogerty while four out of the remaining five non-single tracks are cover songs.

The album’s title comes from a warehouse in Berkeley, CA which the group used as rehearsal space early in their career. Drummer Doug Clifford (whose nickname was “Cosmo”) called this practice space “The Factory” because they practiced every day, like going to a regular job.


Cosmo’s Factory by Creedence Clearwater Revival
Released: July 25, 1970 (Fantasy)
Produced by: John Fogerty
Recorded: Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco, Late 1969–June 1970
Side One Side Two
Ramble Tamble
Before You Accuse Me
Travelin’ Band
Ooby Dooby
Lookin’ Out My Back Door
Run Through the Jungle
Up Around the Bend
My Baby Left Me
Who’ll Stop the Rain
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Long as I Can See the Light
Group Musicians
John Fogerty – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Sax, Harmonica
Tom Fogerty – Guitars
Stu Cook – Bass
Doug Clifford – Drums

For all the hits on Cosmo’s Factory, the listener has to wait nearly a quarter of the album’s running time to get to one. The seven-minute-plus “Ramble Tamble” was the last song composed for the album and the only Fogerty original not released as a single. It starts with quasi-funky beat which quickly changes to a hoe down rhythm by guitarist Tom Fogerty and bassist Stu Cook. After some short vocal sections, the song enters a long musical rock intermediary which builds in intensity as it goes along and, when it finally breaks, it returns to the main beat by Clifford and one more quick verse. Next comes “Before You Accuse Me” a pure blues cover of a song originally by Bo Diddley, with this version having a little of the CCR “swamp” attitude on top.

Incredibly, CCR toured constantly while recording their five albums between 1968 and 1970. “Travelin’ Band” portrays this side of the band as a pure, fifties style rocker with Fogerty’s vocals conjuring Jerry Lee Lewis and/or Little Richard in the hyper scream mode. The song reached the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. “Ooby Dooby” is a Roy Obison cover that seems odd and out of place this early in the album, although its fifties style does fall in place with the previous track. Starting with “Lookin’ Out My Back Door”, the album gains momentum and continues to improve right to the end. On this return to the traditional sound of CCR, the dual guitars of the Fogerty brothers are a highlight along with its great melody which delivers the colorful imagery of the lyrics.

 
“Run Through the Jungle” has a psychedelic beginning with well treated guitars, piano and kick drum. The song’s body features the best bass performance by Cook thus far on the album, a cool rock riff throughout, and a later distorted harmonica lead which gives it a live, blues-club feel. “Run Through the Jungle” and “Up Around the Bend” were featured as the second Double-A single in April 1970. This later track is the most straight-forward, direct pop/rock song on the album, complete with cool guitar riffs and a fantastic hook. “My Baby Left Me” follows as an upbeat R&B track, which seems to fit better with the CCR sound than the cover tracks on the first side of the album. Here there are great guitar sounds and animated symbol-centric drums.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

The album finishes with Fogerty’s two finest originals wrapped around an extended version of the Marvin Gaye classic “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. On this eleven-plus-minute jam the group does a decent job at being cohesive yet spontaneous with the main section featuring a “spooky” sounding bass by Cook and strategic rolls by Clifford. the pure folk “Who’ll Stop the Rain” adds yet another dimension to this very diverse album, with a potent message, simple riff and structure and another great melody by John Fogerty. “Long as I Can See the Light” is a bluesy, electric piano ballad with very soulful vocals by Fogerty. It starts with a steady drum beat, which betrays the overall tone of this Motown-inspired track that features some sax behind the verses and then a full-fledged solo later. This excellent closer puts a bow on this album perfectly.

Cosmo’s Factory only grew in stature and commercial viability throughout the years, eventually selling over four million copies. However, it was later revealed that internal tensions began within the group during these sessions and, after two more years and two more albums, Creedence Clearwater Revival disbanded leaving a short, but potent, legacy.

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The Guess Who 1970 Albums

Buy American Woman
Buy Share the Land

The Guess Who 1970 albumsThe year 1970 saw the apex of popularity for The Guess Who as well as the initial cracks in their band unity. The two albums they released that year, American Woman and Share the Land showed the progression of their sound from the strictly pop-oriented output of the late sixties to their more diverse fusion sound of the early seventies. In between these albums, founding guitarist Randy Bachman left the group and some studio recordings were abandoned as the group started over with two new guitarists.

The Guess Who started as Allan and the Silvertones in Winnepeg, Canada way back in 1958. Bachman, bassist Jim Kale, and drummer Garry Peterson were all on board from the jump and this original incarnation of the group released several singles through the early sixties but with minimal success. In 1965 the group adopted the name “Guess Who?” and added then 18-year-old Burton Cumming as lead singer and keyboardist. The late sixties saw the group find Top 40 success in Canada and beyond, due in part to their extended run as house band on a CBC radio show. The group’s 1969 albums, Wheatfield Soul and Canned Wheat, primed The Guess Who for the rock mainstream.

Peaking in the Top 10 of the album charts, American Woman is the most commercially successful album ever put out by the group. In part influenced by the sound of Led Zeppelin’s 1969 albums, a harder-edged rock sound was introduced on this album, led by Bachman’s fuzz-tone guitars and Cummings’ ever more dynamic and bluesy vocals. This album also included a few suite-style medleys as well as slight forays into prog rock.

Share the Land saw the arrival of guitarists, Kurt Winter and Greg Leskiw and slightly richer overall arrangements. Recording began almost immediately after Bachman’s departure, but producer Jack Richardson found a cohesive sound for the now five piece band. Being how it was so quickly written and recorded, the group was pleasantly surprised when Share the Land reached the Top 20 on the album charts and spawned a few successful singles.


American Woman by The Guess Who
Released: January, 1970 (RCA Victor)
Produced by: Jack Richardson
Recorded: RCA Mid-America Recording, Chicago, August-November, 1969
Side One Side Two
American Woman
No Time
Talisman
No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
Cumberland 969 (The Oldest Man)
When Friends Fall Out
8:15
Proper Stranger
Humpty’s Blues/American Woman (Epilogue)

Share the Land by The Guess Who
Released: October, 1970 (RCA Victor)
Produced by: Jack Richardson
Recorded: RCA Mid-America Recording Center, Chicago, 1970
Side One Side Two
Bus Rider
Do You Miss Me Darlin’?
Hand Me Down World
Moan For You Joe
Share the Land
Hang On to Your Life
Coming Down Off the Money Bag
Song of the Dog
Three More Days
Group Musicians
Burton Cummings – Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar, Flute, Harmonica
Jim Kale – Bass, Vocals
Garry Peterson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Randy Bachman – Guitars, Vocals (American Woman only)
Greg Leskiw – Guitars (Share the Land only)
Kurt Winter – Guitars (Share the Land only)

 

The opening title track of American Woman starts with an acoustic blues intro before stopping completely and re-starting as a droning, hard rocker, led by Bachman’s distinctive riffs. The song would go on to be one of the most popular and distinct in the Guess Who library. “No Time” is actually a remade version of a song originally released on Canned Wheat the previous year. This version starts with the distinct drum beat of Peterson and features call and response with backing vocals during the verses and great harmonies throughout. The 1970 single of “No Time” peaked at #5 in the U.S. and topped the charts in Canada.

American Woman by The Guess WhoThe album drastically changes up with “Talisman”, a pure folk song by Cummings and Bachman with dark acoustic elements and traditional English folklore-like vocal melodies. The medley “No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature” may actually be more like a two part suite. It is acoustic throughout with an introductory riff starting each section. Kale’s bass sets the rhythms for each of these sections with a slight variation between each and Cummings’ piano makes an appearance during the “New Mother Nature” section. The lyrics morph from those of regret in “No Sugar Tonight” to a quasi-party theme during “New Mother Nature”.

The second side of American Woman contains more obscure material. Bachman’s double-track guitar rock instrumental “Cumberland 969” later morphs into a jazzy, Jethro Tull-style flute solo by Cummings before returning to the strong rock elements to complete the track. The album’s second remake, “When Friends Fall Out”, dates back to a 1968 release as a marching pop track with repetitive verses and a psychedelic ending. “8:15” is a funky rocker with deep Hammond organ and a unique vocal approach by Cummings, while “Proper Stranger” somewhat returns to the vibe of the first side with duo acoustic, sharp bass notes and animated rhythmic drumming later accompanied by electric riffs and lead. The closing “Humpty’s Blues/American Woman (Epilogue)” starts as slow blues with crying guitars and heavy harmonica before the song dissolves awkwardly into a reprise of the intro section of “American Woman” to encapsulate the album in a thematic way.

Share the Land saw Kurt Winter step up as a primary composer in his new band. The opening track “Bus Rider” was penned by Winter as a fifties-style rocker with seventies-style rock riffs to make it overall fun musically, albeit a bit trite lyrically. “Do You Miss Me Darlin’?” is a bit richer and deeper as a ballad with nice, whining guitar and soulful and dynamic vocals by Cummings, accompanied by rich harmonies between the verses and during the softer, piano driven mid-section.

Share the Land by The Guess WhoWinter’s “Hand Me Down World” is one of the most enjoyable tracks on the album with a descending electric guitar riff, bright acoustic chords, driving rhythms, and pleasant vocal melodies. The song reached the Top 20 as a single in The US. “Moan for You Joe” is a jazzy tune with odd timings and a an exceptional overall drumming performance by Peterson along fine guitar and piano work, especially an extended lead by Cummings. The title track “Share the Land” is a fine “hippie” anthem by Cummings featuring dual lead guitar riffs by Leskiw and Winter. This sing-along ballad features dynamic and soulful lead vocals with Cummings almost taking on a revival preacher role.

“Hang on to Your Life” is riff driven with frantic vocals during the rock-oriented verses while the chorus leans back slightly towards pop. An extended outro has guitar leads over the chorus hook before it breaks down in feedback backing with a spoken recital of the biblical Psalm 22. “Coming Down Off the Money Bag”/”Song of the Dog” is perhaps the most unique Guess Who song ever with the first section, written and sung by Leskiw, having an Americana/Country vibe with plenty of cool instrumentation. After a single verse, the song breaks into a rock interlude before morphing into the acoustic driven bluesy “Song of the Dog” by Cummings. Closing out Share the Land is the nearly nine-minute track, “Three More Days”. Led by Kale’s bass, this moderate blues rocker contains lyrics about death and the philosophy of a finite life and musically moves through different sections including a chant about “freedom” and a flute lead.

Although The Guess Who were still high on the pop/rock echelon at the end of 1970, further personnel shifts would undermine and ultimately dissolve the group. Leskiw left the group early in 1972, followed by Kale shortly after. Eventually, it was Cummings who grew weary of the band and departed himself to start a solo career in the mid seventies.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 45th anniversary of 1970 albums.

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