Stand Up by Jethro Tull

Stand Up by Jethro Tull

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Stand Up by Jethro Tull 1969’s Stand Up is an early classic by Jethro Tull. The album was produced in the wake of a splitting of musical directions, as the band’s original guitarist Mick Abrahams left the group due to differing musical philosophies with Jethro Tull’s lead vocalist and primary composer Ian Anderson. The band’s 1968 debut album, This Was, was primarily blues-rock based, which Abrahams wanted to continue but Anderson was moving towards folk, jazz, and classical fusions of rock and roll. Stand Up would strike a nice balance of both musical directions as well as strike a chord with music fans, as it went all the way to #1 on the UK album charts.

The origin of the band dates back to the early 1960s in Blackpool, England, when several future members of Jethro Tull were involved in a a seven-piece Blue-eyed soul band. In 1967 Anderson and bassist Glenn Cornick migrated to London and joined forces with Abrahams and drummer Clive Bunker to form the group which named itself after an 18th-century agriculturist. A long time guitarist, Anderson reportedly pursued the flute as a rock instrument out of frustration that he couldn’t play as well as Eric Clapton. After a single album where Anderson and Abrahams were co-equal musical visionaries, Anderson found himself in full control of the music and lyrics on Stand Up.

To replace Abrahams, the group first turned to guitarist Tony Iommi, then from a group called Earth, which would later rename themselves Black Sabbath. Iommi performed with Jethro Tull during The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus television show in late 1968, but soon returned to his former band. After auditioning several more guitarists (including future Yes guitarist Steve Howe, who failed his audition), Anderson eventually chose Martin Barre as Abrahams’ permanent replacement on guitar. While Jethro Tull has had over 20 band members through their long career, Barre has remained with the group consistently (as of 2014), making him the second longest-standing member of the band after Anderson.

Prior to releasing Stand Up, the group recorded “Living In the Past”, which was Barre’s first recording with the band. This became one of Jethro Tull’s best known songs while originally issued only as a single. Notable for it’s 5/4 time signature, this melodic tune driven by a catchy melody became the band’s first Top 20 hit, peaking at #11 in the US and #3 in the UK.


Stand Up by Jethro Tull
Released: August 1, 1969 (Island)
Produced by: Ian Anderson and Terry Ellis
Recorded: Morgan Studios, London, April 1969
Side One Side Two
A New Day Yesterday
Jefferey Goes to Leicester Square
Bourée
Back To the Family
Look Into the Sun
Nothing Is Easy
Fat Man
We Used to Know
Reasons for Waiting
For a Thousand Mothers
Band Musicians
Ian Anderson – Lead Vocals, Flute, Guitars, Keyboards
Martin Barre – Guitars
Glenn Cornick – Bass
Clive Bunker – Drums, Percussion

A doomy blues rocker, with an almost psychedelic vibe, “A New Day Yesterday” works the same riff over and over. Anderson adds harmonica licks through the verse sections and a flute lead later on, but the song is dominated by the rock rhythms provided by the other players along with reverb and panning effects throughout. Probably influenced by Cream, this song is atypical for Jethro Tull and fresh–sounding. “Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square” is the second in a series of songs which play tribute to Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, a once and future band mate of Anderson’s who would become Jethro Tull’s future bassist. The song features guitar and bass riff leads to folk-style verse melody in an odd and asymmetrical song.

The lone instrumental on the album, “Bourée” is also the only track not composed by Anderson. Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach centuries earlier, the piece influenced a popular French folk dance called a bourrée. While the flute takes the lead throughout, the bass by Cornick is the real highlight of the track, which breaks into a jazzy rock jam near the middle before two overdubbed flutes in final section make for great effect to close the song.

With a slight and slow intro and more great bass riffs, “Back to the Family” contains laid back verses which are sub-divided by more straight-forward rock in the bridge sections that each conclude with flamboyant flute leads by Anderson, with Barre joining in on guitar later in the second one. The fantastic first side concludes with the acoustic ballad “Look into the Sun”. A true folk ballad with fine guitars throughout by Anderson and instrumentation added throughout, such as electric blues riffs and bass guitar spurts.

Jethro Tull 1969

“Nothing Is Easy” is a big time rock jam, especially towards the end. Bunker’s drumming burns with rudiments between jamming verses and solos. A lead by Barre in the middle is soon interrupted by Anderson’s flute, as the group may have tried a little too hard to be progressive with multiple parts, but nonetheless a great jam song. “Fat Man” contains Indian musical elements with sitar and hand percussion, while “We Used to Know” is another great acoustic ballad by Anderson. This latter song builds on repetitive chord pattern sections for lead instruments, including a couple of great leads by Barre where he chops out some great sonic motifs.

While certainly not as strong as the first side, side two does have its share of brilliant moments. “Reasons for Waiting” may be the best overall song on the album, with a fantastic melody and tone. Pretty much a ballad throughout with slight sections of rock tension thrown in after the choruses, Anderson’s dual flute lead is accompanied by strings provided by David Palmer, which persist throughout the second half of the song. “For a Thousand Mothers” starts with a slight drum intro by Bunker before the song kicks in with much the same style and sonic intensity as the opener “New Day Yesterday”, together paving way for emerging “heavy metal” music which would proliferate in the 1970s. After a grandiose false stop, Bunker restarts the tune for a closing instrumental section laced with about 30 seconds more of intense jamming to close the album.

Following the release of Stand Up, the group recorded and released “Sweet Dream” and “Witches Promise”, both of which rose to become Top Ten non-album singles as Jethro Tull entered the 1970s with great momentum.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1969 albums.

Crosby, Stills and Nash

Crosby, Stills & Nash 1969 album

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Crosby, Stills and NashCrosby, Stills & Nash is an extremely rich and influential debut album from the “super group” of the same name. The trio of vocalists / guitarists which forged this group each came from successful 1960s pop/rock acts. David Crosby was from The Byrds, and Stephen Stills played in Buffalo Springfield, both Southern California folk/rock groups, while Graham Nash was from the British pop group The Hollies. Together, the group put an original twist on folk, country, blues, and rock topped by their masterfully blended three-part harmonies. Many credit this album for helping spawn the prolific soft rock groups of the 1970s which dominate many of the pop charts through that decade.

Crosby was dismissed from The Byrds in late 1967 due to internal conflicts, while Buffalo Springfield broke up a few months later, leaving Stills without a permanent gig. The two met informally during a jam with Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner. Crosby knew Nash from a UK tour in 1966 featuring The Byrds and The Hollies. The three members first performed together at a private party in July 1968 where they instantly realized they had a unique vocal chemistry. This sparked Nash to depart from The Hollies and use their surnames as the title of a brand new group.

The debut album was co-produced by Bill Halverson, in collaboration with the three members of the band. Musically, Stills took the lead role by providing most of the lead guitars, bass, and keyboards along with his vocal parts. Crosby and Nash each added some acoustic and/or rhythm guitar along with their vocals, with Dallas Taylor providing drums. The simple, improvised album cover features the three members sitting on a couch in front of an abandoned homes just days before that dwelling was torn down.


Crosby, Stills & Nash by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Released: May 29, 1969 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Bill Halverson, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash
Recorded: Wally Heider’s Studio III, Los Angeles, June 1968-April 1969
Side One Side Two
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
Marrakesh Express
Guinnevere
You Don’t Have to Cry
Pre-Road Downs
Wooden Ships
Lady of the Island
Helplessly Hoping
Long Time Gone
49 Bye-Byes
Group Musicians
Stephen Stills – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals
David Crosby – Guitars, Vocals
Graham Nash – Guitars, Vocals

The seven and a half minute “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is a true suite in every way. Stills wrote this about his former girlfriend, folk singer Judy Collins. It is an early example of truly progressive music built on acoustic rhythms and harmonies throughout it’s four distinct sections. The first section is a traditional pop song, with the second, slower section focused on three-part harmonies, concluding with a brief acoustic lead by Stills. A unique percussion is played during the third part with a full drumbeat introducing the climatic ending part, which features some Spanish lyrics accompanying the famous “doo-doo-doo-da-doo” vocals. The song actually preceded Nash’s involvement in the group and was the very first recorded once he joined in mid 1968.

“Marrakesh Express” is a short but pleasant pop song by Nash, written while he was still with The Hollies but originally rejected by that group. It features an unforgettable, well-treated lead guitar by Stills and less harmonizing than on the opening song. The song was a pop hit, reaching the Top 10 on the Billboard charts. Stills’ guitar riff floats over the song in a way reminiscent of the sitar. Crosby’s initial contribution, “Guinnevere”, is much darker song than preceding two songs. Very soft and hypnotic, the song never picks up the pace or the intensity and features strange tuning and time signatures.

Side one concludes with Stills’, “You Don’t Have to Cry”, a pleasant country-influenced song with more fine three-part harmony and some pedal steel, and Nash’s “Pre-Road Downs”, which features really cool pedal effects on the lead guitars and cool, funky bass. The second side begins with “Wooden Ships”, a song which dates back to the original jam of Crosby, Stills, and Kantner (who co-wrote the song and did his own version with Jefferson Airplane), and is the only songwriting collaboration on the album. The song was written from the point of view of the few survivors of a post-apocalyptic world, with Crosby using his boat to set the scene.

Crosby Stills and Nash in 1969

Next comes a couple of pure folk tunes, “Lady of the Island” is nearly all Nash, with Stills adding some laid-back harmonies in a duet reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel. “Helplessly Hoping” returns to the rich harmonies with some beautifully done, picked acoustic providing the sole backing throughout this quintessential Crosby, Stills, & Nash song.

“Long Time Gone” is a cool 1960s pop/rock song with Stills playing a great funky bass, organ, with lead guitar licks throughout the verse and fantastically strong harmonies in rock context during the chorus. Crosby wrote it the night Bobby Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan. The album concludes with the fine, “49 Bye-Byes”, a rock waltz led by choppy organ and more great multi-part vocals. The song breaks into some interesting sections (almost its own mini-suite) and really rocks in its own way while never getting too intense.

Crosby, Stills, & Nash peaked at #6 on the Billboard Albums chart. After its release, the group played some high-profile shows, including the famous Woodstock Music Festival. Later in 1969, the group joined up with Neil Young, expanding the trio to a quartet as the new decade began.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1969 albums.

Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones

Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones

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Let It Bleed by The Rolling StonesThe middle release of the three greatest Rolling Stones albums, Let It Bleed finished the decade of the 1960s with a mostly solid blues/rock effort which contains a pop/rock gem. That song has been said to symbolize the demise of the “swinging sixties”, but can also lend meaning to many other situations, large and small. Closer to home, the Rolling Stones had lost their original leader and musical visionary Brian Jones to a drowning accident earlier in 1969, making this a true transitional album dividing the early and later periods of the band’s most productive years. Let It Bleed did reach the top position on the UK charts as well as #3 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart in the US.

Jones performed minor roles on two of the album’s nine tracks, while his replacement, Mick Taylor, plays guitar on only two tracks. This left a lot of space for Keith Richards to fill with various electric, acoustic, and steel guitars making this his finest output of his long career with the Stones. The dichotomy of order turning to disarray is portrayed in the carefully orchestrated cover image of several diverse items being supported by a record spindle, following into a chaotic state on the back cover of the LP.

A song recorded during the sessions for Let It Bleed but not included on the album was the popular hit, “Honky Tonk Woman”. Here Richard’s electric riff drove the song to number one on the singles chart during the summer of 1969, shortly after the death of Jones. A fiddle-laced earlier version of the song called “Country Honk” (on which Jones played) did appear on the album, complete with weird ambiance at the very beginning and very end. This version doesn’t have quite the spark of the single version, especially when it comes to the rhythm section, but it does show the group in a legitimate country stomp.


Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones
Released: December 5, 1969 (Decca)
Produced by: Jimmy Miller
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, November 1968-November 1969
Side One Side Two
Gimme Shelter
Love in Vein
Country Honk
Live With Me
Let it Bleed
Midnight Rambler
You Got the Silver
Monkey Man
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Band Musicians
Mick Jagger – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Keith Richards – Guitars, Vocals
Mick Taylor – Guitars
Brian Jones – Congas, Autoharp
Bill Wyman – Bass, Vibes
Charlie Watts – Drums, Percussion

The true gem on Let It Bleed (and perhaps the best Stones song ever) is the closer, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. While a most adequate way for the Stones to conclude their sixties work, the song was actually recorded a year earlier in November 1968, before their previous album, Beggars Banquet, was even released. A mature song with fantastic content and sound, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, starts with a choral arrangement which morphs into a straight-forward acoustic folk ballad with French horn solo played by Al Kooper, who also played piano and organ during the later funk/rock sections. Lyrically, the song contains poetic lyrics most especially the classic extended verse;

I went down to the Chelsea drugstore, to get your prescription filled, I was standing in line with Mr. Jitters and man, did he look pretty ill
We decided that we would have a soda, my favorite flavor’s cherry red / I sang my song to Mr. Jitters and he said one word to me and that was death

This lyric gives a rather pedestrian story to the otherwise rock star lifestyle and you can see this song’s influence on future hybrid songs such as “American Pie”. During the fade, the London Bach Choir reenters for an extended outro which finishes the song and album nicely.

The album begins with “Gimme Shelter”, starting with a lot of sonic style with a sound that is distant and slightly doomy. Richard’s hammer-on guitar notes bed the ethereal singing of Mary Clayton, who trades vocal jabs with lead vocalist Mick Jagger through the apocalyptic lyrics of impending doom. Jagger and Richards wrote the original material on Let It Bleed, with Robert Johnson’s “Love in Vain” being the only cover. With nice overall acoustic and slide guitar effects, this was indicative of the group’s turn towards acoustic country blues, complete with mandolin by Ry Cooder.

Rolling Stones 1969

“Live With Me” is a forgotten classic – funk influenced throughout and a forward-looking towards the Stones’ seventies sound. Beginning with cool bass riff by Bill Wyman, this definitive group number displays the group hitting on all cylinders during their prime. The title track “Let It Bleed” is a unidirectional song where a simple acoustic diddy builds throughout with new instruments gradually added. Jagger provides good vocal melodies and drummer Charlie Watts builds some good rhythm on this great tune to wrap up the first side, even if the song does linger a bit too long.

Side two begins with “Midnight Rambler”, a pure blues track which harkens back to the group’s earliest work musically with consistent, overdubbed harmonica by Jagger throughout its nearly seven minutes. With Brian Jones on congas, the song works into a frenzy before coming to a complete stop and builds up once again for the second half. “You Got the Silver” is more acoustic blues with cool electric riffs treated with reverse echo near the beginning of each verse and a subtle Hammond organ section before the song breaks into a full band arrangement during the final minute. It is also the only song on the album on which Richards sings lead vocals. Another song laced great sound effects, “Monkey Man” begins with cool piano, jazzy bass, and bluesy guitar expertly mixed. Richards’ guitar may be intentionally too loud in the mix for further effect, as the song’s style sets the stage for the material on their next album, Sticky Fingers.

By the end of the sixties, the Rolling Stones music had tones that were both textually dark and musically clear. This was further symbolized just one day after the release of Let It Bleed, the group played the infamous Altamont concert where a man lost his life during a riot as the band performed.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1969 albums.

Tommy by The Who

Tommy by The Who

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Tommy by The WhoIf any humble reader seeks to be enlightened to the ways of spiritual rock and roll I’d suggest they start with Tommy. The fourth studio album by The Who is a masterpiece that seamlessly blends both music and storytelling. It is far more developed than the Who’s 1967 concept album, The Who Sell Out, and more immediately accessible than their 1973 classic, Quadrophenia. Like all of the group’s late 1960s works, the album was produced by manager Kit Lambert and composed by guitarist Pete Townshend, whose writing was inspired by Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master who had passed away earlier in 1969.

I first encountered this album in its movie form of the same name. That movie starred lead singer Roger Daltry along with a star-studded cast, and could easily fill up its own review based on musical arrangements and cultural importance. I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old at the time but it somehow drew me right in. The impression of the film lasted into my years of teenage angst when I would rediscover the film and album by extension. This would lead me to my ultimate transcendental knowledge of The Who in all their magical glory. Now I will lead you my dear reader on the beginning of your own journey into the Who, or if you already know their might, perhaps you will simply enjoy reviewing this jewel of rock opera!

Rock opera you ask? Musically, Tommy includes many throwbacks to classical opera. The album starts with a broad overture that includes themes that will appear later in the album. This is a staple of opera to this day. It dates back to at least the 17th Century but the Who were the band that brought it into 20th century progressive rock. Later in the album there is a track called “Underture” but this is not connected to classical opera as far as I know. It is an invention of Townshend’s, which essentially acts as a dividing instrumental in the album. Nevertheless, it adds to the album’s operatic vibe. Each character that appears in the album has their own song associated with them that gives the listener a good feeling for their essence portrayed both in music and lyrics. But on the subject of character I suppose we should move into this opera’s narrative.


Tommy by The Who
Released: May 23, 1969 (Polydor)
Produced by: Kit Lambert
Recorded: IBC Studios, London, September 1968-March 1969
Side One Side Two
Overture
It’s a Boy!
1921
Amazing Journey
Sparks
The Hawker
Christmas
Cousin Kevin
The Acid Queen
Underture
Side Three Side Four
Do You Think It’s Alright?
Fiddle About
Pinball Wizard
There’s a Doctor
Go To the Mirror!
Tommy Can You Hear Me?
Smash the Mirror
Sensation
Miracle Cure
Sally Simpson
I’m Free
Welcome
Tommy’s Holiday Camp
We’re Not Gonna Take It
Group Musicians
Roger Daltrey – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Pete Townshend – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
John Entwistle – Bass, Horns, Vocals
Keith Moon – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

Tommy is a young boy born to Captain Walker and his wife prior to World War I. During the war, Walker goes missing and his wife takes up with another man. This leads to disaster, when Captain Walker returns from the war alive confronting and killing his wife’s lover. The parents tell young Tommy not to speak of the murder, which he witnessed, causing him to go into a catatonic state (deaf, dumb, and blind) for the majority of the album. He goes through various trials and tribulations as his parents cope with, and try to cure, his condition. During this time, the world catches wind of him as sensational pinball player. Finally, he regains awareness near the end of the album and attempts to spread what he learned from the experience only to find most people less than receptive to his teachings. It is a fairly straightforward plot and most listeners should have no problem following Tommy on his journey through the album, even if they have to refer to the song’s titles for guidance occasionally.

Musically, the album varies but it is very hard to take individual songs and separate them from the larger narrative. “Pinball Wizard” is a rare exception to this, as it stands fairly easily on its own as a singular song. Also, the song “Christmas” developed a life of its own, even being included on my countdown of the Top 12 Christmas Rock Songs of all time on BigBlueBullfrog.com. It perfectly captures the spirit of children on Christmas while it also concerns Tommy’s parents worrying over their son’s inability to accept Christianity into his life.

“1921” has some amazing vocal work and is the true start of the album as it is where Tommy’s parents tell him to “never tell a soul” of what he saw. The best singular song on this album is “Sally Simpson” even though it is something of an anomaly on the album, as it does not directly concern Tommy nor is it told from his point of view. Instead, the song provides a side story involving a young woman who becomes infatuated with Tommy on a superficial school-girl level. She pays for the crush when she gets knocked out by security for rushing the stage. The song seems to be a warning against becoming obsessed with a cult of personality and carries a much clearer moral lesson than other tracks on the album.

The Who in 1969

The Who utilized a variety of new musical arrangements and sounds throughout Tommy. Keith Moon‘s drums seem somewhat subdued on most of the album but when they show up, you definitely know it. As he had in the past, bassist John Entwistle added brass instrumentation in strategic points on the album, even in a somewhat unnerving effect on “Fiddle About”, a song about Tommy being molested by his “wicked” Uncle Ernie. But Townshend is the true driving force behind the album, first recording the entire album with an acoustic guitar, giving it a somewhat lighter touch and organic feeling than many of the other Who albums. This also adds a sense of weight when the electric guitar shows up in songs like “Go to the Mirror”. Townshend also adds piano, which serves a large role throughout most of the album. It is prevalent in the short song, “There’s a Doctor”, (a role amusingly played by Jack Nicholson in the film).

Tommy serves as a keystone for The Who’s career, successfully bridging their earlier work and their more serious and musically ambitious later works, and is certainly a classic of rock and roll being released in the famed year of 1969. At Woodstock, the group performed songs from the album, which some said were the highlight of that classic festival. Serendipitously, the sun rose as Daltrey sang, “See Me, Feel Me”, leading Entwistle to joke that, “God was our lighting man”. For his next project, Townshend would attempt another Baba-influenced rock opera called, “Lifehouse”, which never quite worked out as intended, but morphed into the fantastic 1971 album Who’s Next.

Tommy is a must hear for music enthusiasts, is historically significant to the annals of rock and roll, and is immensely satisfying to both your ears and your mind.

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1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1969 albums.

 

Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II double album review

Led Zeppelin’s 1969 Albums

Buy Led Zeppelin I
Buy Led Zeppelin II

Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II double album reviewWhile there have been many fine debuts in rock history, it can be argued that no band ever made such a game-changing splash than Led Zeppelin did in 1969. The group released two albums, Led Zeppelin (I) near the beginning of the year and Led Zeppelin II in the Fall of 1969. Both of these albums were produced by guitarist Jimmy Page and fused together hard core American blues with English folk and added to the mix indelible guitar riffs, jazzy bass rhythms, thundering drum beats, and majestic lead vocals with just a touch of psychedelia to forge a new hard rock direction which would sustain for decades.

Led Zeppelin originated from the latter days of the British group The Yardbirds, which Page joined in late 1966 while they recording their, “Roger the Engineer” , album. Page wanted to form a supergroup with fellow guitarist Jeff Beck and a few members of The Who but only one song resulted from that project, “Beck’s Bolero”, written by page but released on Beck’s solo album, Truth. In that recording session was bassist-keyboardist John Paul Jones, a seasoned and respected London session player. After the Yardbirds split for good in July 1968, Page maintained the group’s name in exchange for promising to perform at committed concerts in Scandinavia. Scrambling to find a group, Page was referred to Robert Plant, lead singer for the Band of Joy. Plant accepted and, in turn, suggested drummer John Bonham, a childhood friend. Jones completed the quartet, which was initially named “The New Yardbirds”.

After completing the Scandinavian tour, the group entered the studio to record their first album in September. Incredibly, after being together barely two months the group was able to record and mix the album in nine days. With no recording contract in place, Page and manager Peter Grant financed the recording costs themselves, with Page firmly in control of all production duties. After the recordings were completed, the band changed their name to Led Zeppelin when former Yardbirds members threatened legal action. The name was suggested by The Who drummer Keith Moon who had suggested the original supergroup with Page and Beck (which he was part of) would go down like a “lead balloon”.

In November 1968, the group signed with Atlantic Records, a label which traditionally courted blues, soul and jazz artists, but had made a concerted effort to court progressive rock acts. Arriving with “tapes in hand”, the terms of the new contract were favorable to the band, granting much autonomy to Led Zeppelin over the content, design, and promotion of each album.

Beginning in late 1968, Led Zeppelin completed a total of eight separate tours of the US and the UK. Still, they used any available time to develop and record new material for a second album. Unlike the first album recorded in one London studio over a short time, Led Zeppelin II was recorded in various North American studios including New York, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Vancouver. Each song was separately recorded and overdubbed, making it all the more amazing that the finished product sounded so cohesive.


Led Zeppelin I by Led Zeppelin
Released: January 12, 1969 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Jimmy Page
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, September–October 1968
Side One Side Two
Good Times, Bad Times
Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You
You Shook Me
Dazed and Confused
Your Time Is Gonna Come
Black Mountain Side
Communication Breakdown
I Can’t Quit You Baby
How Many More Times

Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin
Released: October 22, 1969 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Jimmy Page
Recorded: Various Studios, Europe & North America, January–August 1969
Side One Side Two
Whole Lotta Love
What Is and What Should Never Be
The Lemon Song
Thank You
Heartbreaker
Livin’ Lovin’ Maid
Ramble On
Moby Dick
Bring It On Home
Band Musicians (Both Albums)
Robert Plant – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Jimmy Page – Guitars, Theremin, Vocals
John Paul Jones – Bass, Organ, Vocals
John Bonham – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

According to Page, the first album is mainly a live album, with sparse overdubs on top of core tracks recorded live with much natural room ambience used to enhance the texture of the sound. The opener “Good Times Bad Times” displays the group’s compositional inventiveness within the first 15 seconds, turning the metronome-like intro into an inventive riff. Starting from the second verse of the song, Jones really stands out and makes a presence on bass, with out-front fills added between parts. For the guitar lead, Page fed his guitar through a Leslie speaker to create a swirling effect. Overall, the song was far ahead of its time and set the stage for much more excellence to come.

Led Zeppelin IThe band immediately shows its other side on “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”. Page’s finger-picked, acoustic guitar pattern of the verses is first separated by a Spanish-like acoustic interlude, but later replaced by a full-fledged electric onslaught once described as the Zeppelin dropping its first bomb. It is an excellent sonic effect driving a fine song with the only downside being the repetition after the 3:30 mark, which unnecessarily stretches the track to nearly seven minutes long. However, the song does recover with the quiet and melodic folk ending, a marked change following the myriad of heavy rock. Written by Anne Bredon in the 1950s, this would be one of many songs on the first two albums to be controversial due to lack of proper songwriting credits.

No such controversy with “You Shook Me”, rightfully credited to Willie Dixon from the start. However, Jeff Beck did have an issue with its inclusion, as he had previously recorded the same track for his Truth album with Rod Stewart on vocals, and he accused Page of stealing his idea. But there is no doubt that the Zeppelin version is far superior as this song can make a blues man out of any rock fan. Page’s space-like guitar is real treat here, mocking Plant’s vocals through the verses. Another highlight is the triple middle solos – all excellent, starting with Jones’s soulful organ, Plant’s bluesy harmonica, and Page’s other-worldly guitar. The concluding section includes some brilliant backwards echo, which Page used on Plant’s vocals.

Side one of the first album ends with “Dazed and Confused”, one of the most famous tracks from Zeppelin’s early years. The doomy and hard rock of this track forged a template for Black Sabbath and several more of the “darker” rock bands of the 1970s, then simply known as heavy metal. Although Page claimed compositional credit, the song was actually written by Jake Holmes as a folk song in 1967. Holmes opened for The Yardbirds at a gig in New York and Page instantly began adapting the song for a rock arrangement. Two years later, the Led Zeppelin version featured long instrumental passages and a unique, bowed guitar in the middle. After the release of Led Zeppelin I, the group continued to develop the song live, gradually extending its duration to well over a half hour and being a staple of Led Zeppelin’s concerts.

“Your Time Is Gonna Come” starts with Jones’s long church organ intro seems superfluous at first, until it breaks down into the upbeat waltz of the main riff. Bonham then thunders in with an unapologetic drum thump, accompanying Page’s folksy acoustic guitar in beautiful melodic contrast. From here, it is a totally pleasant pop song with Page adding a pedal steel guitar for a country effect during the choruses and the second verse. “Black Mountain Side” is an acoustic instrumental, which seems out of place on this part of the album, While certainly a mesmerizing tune, the unsettled un-smoothness never quite jives together. Drummer and sitarist Viram Jasani played tabla on the track, adding a slight Eastern flavor.

“Communication Breakdown” is a pure, hard rocker, with Plant’s vocals hyper and desperate in the highest of registers, complemented by Bonham’s drumming, which seems as amped up as Plant. In contrast, Page and Jones play at rather steady pace (with the exception of Page’s blistering lead), and this is one of a few songs  on which Page sang a backing vocal. A second Willie Dixon cover, “I Can’t Quit You Baby” follows, but is much less interesting than the earlier track. While Page is playing his bluesy best throughout and Plant tries his best to wail (but falls just short), Jones and Bonham are unfortunately relegated to basic rhythms on this track.

Led Zeppelin

“How Many More Times” is the absolute climax of the album, tieing together the previous elements introduced on Zeppelin’s fine debut. The various sections of this complex tune are extraordinarily polished and performed perfectly for such a young band together for such a short amount of time, a really tribute to Page’s brilliant producing. The middle section of “How Many More Times” contains complex, almost ceremonial drum fills and another brilliant bowed guitar. The song keeps getting ever more intensive before building towards the marching section and the musical climax launched by Plant’s extended wail and then the final verse where Bonham goes absolutely nuts on the drums and Plant screams himself senseless. Any listener is left wanting more at the end of this brilliant debut.

And more they got later in 1969. Starting with the sexual-laced “Whole Lotta Love”, Led Zeppelin II makes an immediate impact due to the maturation of Plant’s voice (as well as the overall sound of the band). With a definite seventies sound, the song was born out of a live improvisation during one of the band’s many 1969 tours, with Plant accompanying Page’s riff with slightly improvised lyrics based on Muddy Waters “You Need Love”. The studio track also included a rather psychedelic mid section built on Bonham’s jazz drumming and Page’s use of a Theremin. Without the band’s consent, an edited version of “Whole Lotta Love” was released as a single in the US and it climbed to #4 on the pop charts in early 1970. This would be the group’s highest charting single, as they were hesitant to release many more singles throughout their long career.

Led Zeppelin IIThe sophisticated and excellent “What Is and What Should Never Be” alternates from soft sixties jazz verse to a rock hard seventies chorus and is a true showcase for all band member’s talents. Jones off on bass tangents while rest of the group is calm and direct, Bonham and Plant are majestic and dynamic, and Page provides a brilliant middle solo which perfectly mirroring the two vibes of this song, climaxing with a very bluesy second half of the solo. The coda part also adds an asymmetrical aspect to the song, making it totally original. Reportedly, The lyrics and song title for this song reflect a romance Plant had with the younger sister of his future wife.

“The Lemon Song” is an underrated classic, recorded live in the studio much like the material from Led Zeppelin I. This hodge-podge of many blues classics borrows from Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor”, Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues” and Albert King’s “Cross-Cut Saw”, and it surpasses the best blues efforts on the first album as this track is totally mesmerizing and awe inspiring. During a long mid section, Jones bass playing is at its absolute peak, adding a funky element unheard on previous Zeppelin tracks. “Thank You” is the original “power ballad”, and the song is pretty good until after the second verse when it gets a little bit tacky. Page lays down a great acoustic lead and Jones plays a sweet keyboard outro, but Zeppelin would wisely decide to leave love ballads for other bands after this.

The second side returns to raunchy rock with “Heartbreaker”, but also continues the trend of multi-section, complex rock songs. A song which would have sounded right at home on the future Led Zeppelin IV. With a memorable guitar riff by Page and a later true, unaccompanied solo, the track has been lauded as one of the best guitar songs of all time. “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)” is a fun little pop/rocker, written as an ode to an older groupie who amused the band in their early days of debauchery. Due to Page’s dislike of the song, it was never performed by the band in concert, although Plant did resurrect it for a solo tour decades later.

“Ramble On” is one of the best Led Zeppelin songs ever. A totally moody and chord-striking original tune, this is a song of youth and change, adventure and excitement. While the lyrics borrow heavily from J.R.R. Tolkien, they are used more as parables for travel and adventure, which naturally fit the mood of the constantly touring musicians in 1969. The intro acoustic, bass and percussion set the mood for the adventure, later enhanced by Page’s overdubbing magic. Every member of the group is at their absolute best on this track, even Bonham, who puts down the sticks during the verses but drives the rocking choruses. During the outro, Plant’s overdubbed improvised lines seem like they can go on forever but cease too quickly.

“Moby Dick” is an instrumental, bookended by riffs and containing a percussion and a Bonham drum solo in the middle. Although a little awkward in this studio form, this grew as a centrepiece for Bonham’s formidable percussive skills, methodically building from an established rhythmic foundation and employing his trademark bare-handed attack. “Bring It On Home” is not quite the powerful closing climax of “How Many More Times” on Led Zeppelin I, but a fine track nonetheless to finish Led Zeppelin II. Plant’s fine harmonica in the intro section and Page’s overdubs and Jones’s bass in the song proper continue the Zeppelin excellence in this song with a homage to the Sonny Boy Williamson to finish their second album.

Some estimates calculate that Led Zeppelin’s debut album has grossed about 2,000 times as much as originally invested. Led Zeppelin II was an even greater commercial success and reached number one in both the US and the UK. Although these albums were recorded under very different circumstances, they form a collective foundation which launched the career of one of rock’s greatest acts.

~

Led Zeppelin online

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Buy Led Zeppelin I
Buy Led Zeppelin II

1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1969 albums.

 

Blind Faith

Blind Faith

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Blind FaithRising from the ashes of two defunct English rock bands, Blind Faith lived a very short life as a “super group” in 1969. Despite being together for less than one year, they manageg to release one eponymous album which captured lightning in a bottle by aptly displaying the immense talents of the members of this quartet which seemed to effortlessly jive together as a group. Beyond the heap of well-deserved critical praise, the album was also very successful commercially. Blind Faith reached the top of the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic and sold more than half a million copies within the first month of its release.

The group began in the summer of 1968, when the band Cream broke up shortly after the release of their album Wheels of Fire. Guitarist Eric Clapton began jamming in his basement with keyboardist Steve Winwood of the group Traffic, who had also taken a hiatus at the time. The two had had previously collaborated on a project called “Powerhouse” in the mid 1960s and while Clapton was somewhat hesitant to start a new group, Winwood was enthusiastic to move forward. He enlisted bassist Ric Grech, formerly of the band Family, and Clapton’s Cream band mate Ginger Baker on drums. When Clapton finally relented, he gave the new group the name “Blind Faith” as a cynical reference to his outlook on the project.

By early 1969, the band entered Olympic Studios in London under the supervision of producer Jimmy Miller, who tried to keep them focused on developing solid material rather than just loose jams (although there was plenty of that). By this time, buzz about this new group began to circulate among fans and the press. In June, the group released a limited edition promo single called “Change of Address”, which immediately sold out despite the fact that the group’s name and band members were omitted from the label. This was an early indicator of the coming success of Blind Faith.


Blind Faith by Blind Faith
Released: August 1969 (Polydor)
Produced by: Jimmy Miller
Recorded: Olympic Studios & Morgan Studios, London, February–June 1969
Side One Side Two
Had to Cry Today
Can’t Find My Way Home
Well Alright
Presence of the Lord
Sea of Joy
Do What You Like
Band Musicians
Steve Winwood – Lead Vocals, Piano, Organ
Eric Clapton – Guitars, Vocals
Ric Grech – Bass, Violin, Vocals
Ginger Baker – Drums, Percussion

Winwood composed most of the original material on the album, starting with “Had to Cry Today”, which proves to be a good showcase for all the individual talents of the quartet. Starting with a straight-forward hard rock riff and later morphing to a more complex arrangement during the verses and choruses, the song showcases Clapton’s versatility of multiple guitar styles along with Winwood’s moody and fantastic vocal crooning. The song does break down and become a little unfocused in second half, but is otherwise a great album starter. An even finer Winwood composition is “Can’t Find My Way Home”, one of the most indelible moments on this album. This is a soft and melancholy foray into Celtic folk with contemporary lyrics that act as a spiritual ode to young rockers at the hung-over end of the swinging sixties. The ballad gets a bit more intense during the slightly improvised outro, where Clapton’s acoustic picking is joined by Baker’s jazzy drum beats.

The Buddy Holly cover “Well All Right” is a fun rocker, driven mainly by Winwood’s piano and organ throughout, with Clapton playing a much more minor role with just an opening and recurring riff. Much like the upcoming music of the re-formed Traffic of the early seventies, the song dissolves into a funky jam with Grech and Baker providing great rhythms. Clapton’s lone composition, “Presence of the Lord”, is the best song on the album. Almost like a fusion Gospel/rock ballad through the verses and choruses with Winwood playing R&B electric piano, the song enters a fantastic bridge interlude. Here Clapton does some of his best guitar work ever, wailing through a wah-wah laced jam which carries over into the final verse, the finest moment on the album. The lyrics reflect a period of personal turmoil for Clapton and act in concert with the supergroup’s name.

Blind Faith

The second side contains only two tracks, starting with  “Sea of Joy”, an underrated classic on this album. Well ahead of its time, the song contains elements of hard rock, folk, and country along with pleasant vocals by Winwood and a violin solo by Grech. Baker’s “Do What You Like” contains a groovy backbeat in the vein of Santana. But at fifteen and a half minutes, the song is ridiculously long and proves to show that Blind Faith falls about one song short of being an absolute classic. While the jams on this song are all respectable, when a long chanting section gets more disorganized and dissonant, it is clear the group is just filling in the time to make this an LP.

The lack of a full catalogue of songs, caused Blind Faith’s few live shows to become partial tributes to Cream and Traffic, which led to Clapton’s quick departure and the group’s demise. Following Blind Faith, Steve Winwood began a solo project which morphed into a re-formed Traffic in 1970, this time with Ric Grech added as the bassist for the band. Baker formed the fusion Ginger Baker’s Air Force before moving to Nigeria, where he lived from 1970 until 1976. Clapton continued his incredible workload, recording both his debut solo album and one with Derek and the Dominos in 1970. While the group parted suddenly, all members have looked back favorably on Blind Faith and the rock world is certainly richer because of it.

~

1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1969 albums.

 

Classic Rock Review 1968 Album of the Year

The Kinks Are the
Village Green Preservation Society

Classic Rock Review 1968 Album of the Year

Buy The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society

The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation SocietyAlthough it barely made a ripple critically or commercially upon its release the concept album The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society would go on to become one of the most influential in rock history. Like many great works the album was born out of a series of “happy accidents”. The band’s composer and front man, Ray Davies, had originally wanted to do a concept album about life in London but after a trip to rural Devonshire, England he decided to work on the “village” concept instead. Also, by 1968 the Kinks had begun to experience diminished chart success with pop singles, so they made a concerted change  towards more substantial musical art. While most bands of the era were into their psychedelic phase and experimenting with newfangled sounds, the Kinks went back to their English roots and thoughtfully reflected on the loss of rural England to the modernization of the swinging sixties. They composed songs that blended the best of their rock and roll sound with various ethnic instrumentation and the result is a masterpiece that sits at the crossroads of rock history. So, despite the plethora of great albums during the year of 1968, we chose this Kinks work as our 1968 Album of the Year.

Personally, I take credit for The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society becoming Classic Rock Review’s Album of the Year for 1968. As an avid fan of the group’s 1981 album Give the People What They Want, I decided to explore further Kinks songs in my father’s vast music collection. I listened to a few tracks from this album and, what really ingrained the piece in my head was when I watched Edgar Wright’s film Hot Fuzz a day or so later. It contains two tracks from this album, and they fit perfectly into the film. So suddenly reminded of the album, I endeavored to listen to it again and I found myself no longer liking it but loving it!

The Kinks were one of the most prolific bands of the sixties producing an album every year from 1964 onwards, producing yearly releases through the mid seventies. The album immediately prior to the Village Green was 1967’s Something Else by The Kinks which was the last time the Kinks worked with American producer Shel Talmy, clearing the way for Ray Davies to explore with more creative freedom. Prior to 1968, concept albums were not known to be commercially successful and The Kinks knew this better than most, as their earlier concept album Face to Face did not do well on the market, but Davies was driven to give it another try.

The concept of the album is a nostalgic look back at rural English life. Each song deals with a particular part of that life gone by. I will discuss what I believe each song is saying a bit farther down. The album is the last to include the original four members of The Kinks, as bassist Pete Quaife left the group in early 1969. Due to the arrangements of these songs, Quaife’s role was diminished on this album.Now onto the individual songs!

The title track is a call to arms to preserve the rural English way of life. Which brings up the question would the album be better suited if the title track was the last song on the album instead of the first, seeing as it’s a sort of culmination of the themes on the album. That said, there are really no other lingering questions I have about this album.


The Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks
Released: November 22, 1968 (Pye)
Produced by: Ray Davies
Recorded: Pye Studios, London November 1966–October 1968
Side One Side Two
The Village Green Preservation Society
Do You Remember Walter?
Picture Book
Johnny Thunder
Last of the Steam-Powered Trains
Big Sky
Sitting by the Riverside
Animal Farm
Village Green
Starstruck
Phenomenal Cat
All of My Friends Were There
Wicked Annabella
Monica
People Take Pictures of Each Other
Band Musicians
Ray Davies – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Harmonica, Sccordion, Flute, Horns
Dave Davies – Guitars, Vocals
Nicky Hopkins – Keybopards, Mellotron
Peter Quaife – Bass, Vocals
Mick Avory – Drums, Percussion

 

The opening title track is also perhaps the most entertaining song on the album. The song opens with a fairly simple but catchy melody involving a guitar, flute and drums. The lyrics are a call for preservation;

God save little shops, china cups and virginity…”

This gave rise to fans shouting “God save the Kinks” in the years following the album’s release. Despite my wondering how the song would work closing the album out; it does a wonderful job of drawing the listener in and establishing the themes and tones of the album. The second track, “Do You Remember Walter?”, was recently mentioned by Edgar Wright on twitter as basically describing Gary King, the main character of the film The World’s End;

The song is about a man who was very popular in his young years but who has obviously not achieved much in life beyond having a good amount of fun in his younger years. The singer laments the fact that he and Walter wouldn’t even know each other if they met in the modern day. The song ends on the line, “People often change but memories of people can remain,” this is similar to the lines in a later track called “People Take Pictures of Each Other”. Musically the piano intro almost sounds like ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky” for a moment before the drums and Dave Davies‘ guitar rolls in. Despite the slightly melancholy subject matter of a person growing up and becoming little more than a cog in the wheel of the world, the song remains fairly upbeat.

After this comes “Picture Book”. Mick Avory‘s drums in this song have an almost garage band feeling to them and it’s wonderful. It stays connected to the albums theme of looking back at the past as “Picture Books” are obvious ways in which we categorize and view the past. It’s a really fun song that I could easily see being played over a commercial for cameras. Even though cameras are slowly dying as their inclusion on cell phones has rendered them all but obsolete. Strangely that makes the song work even better for the album in some ways. “Johnny Thunder” seems to be a about a man who escaped his small town and spent the rest of his life on the go. “Old Johnny vowed that he would never / Ever end up like the rest / Johnny Thunder rides the highway”. The acoustic guitar introduction to the song has an exciting quality and Ray Davies’ vocal pitch changes when the backing vocals come in and are a fun musical aesthetic that is almost never heard in music anymore.

The best part about the next track is that the way it builds up ‘steam’ seems to mirror the songs title “The Last of the Steam Powered Trains”. A harmonica is employed in the song as well. It’s both a nod to vagabonds riding trains and a somber sort of sendoff for the dying technology. The drums are steady but increase in speed and you can almost visualize them as the train’s wheels turning faster and faster. The song just gets better and better as it builds steam. It adds in a few more instruments and even some clapping. As the song reaches its climax you can picture a train mounting a hill and building energy as it does only to crest the hill and coast for a second before it starts to power itself again. The song paints a wonderful visual picture with music and is an absolute joy to listen to. On “Big Sky”, Ray Davies does a sort of narration throughout the song instead of singing. I’m not completely sure what the song is saying. I believe it’s essentially commenting on the fact that all of our human problems are essentially pointless when faced with something as big and majestic as the sky but that is just my guess.

The Kinks, 1968

One of my many favorite tracks on this album is “Sitting By the Riverside”. It’s a completely different type of song from the first six songs on the album. It has a similar theme to “Big Sky” as it conjures the image of a person relaxing on a riverside and enjoying the beauty of nature. I also tend to think of Gondola boat drivers singing in Italian to their passengers when I listen to the song. It’s interesting that at two separate points in the song it feels like it’s about to go in a radically different direction musically but quickly returns to the main flow of the song. It’s amazing to listen to how much of this song is done with Ray Davies’ vocals. “Animal Farm” is after this and it has a completely upbeat tempo throughout. The song seems to comment on the idea that rural life is simpler and more peaceful than city life. The whole song seems like an optimistic and idealist view of a farm from the perspective of someone who longs to live on one. I believe the mellotron makes its first real appearance in the background of this song.

My favorite track on the entire album is “Village Green”. This was the earliest song, recorded during the sessions for Something Else, and set the theme which inspired everything on the album. A large amount of wind instruments create a stirring, slightly melancholy beginning to the song. The character of the song first describes the town he came from and his past happiness there with a woman named Daisy. He then spends the rest of the song lamenting leaving it as it has become a tourist trap and “Daisy’s married Tom the Grocer boy”. The wind instruments really lend a sort of sad vibe to the song that allows you to slip right into the feeling of it. Conversely, I’m not really sure how “Starstruck” fits into the albums concept. My guess as to how this really connects is that big cities have a tendency to chew up innocent people from small towns. Musically, Avory’s drums take center stage through most of this song.

The album goes through a radical music change with “Phenomenal Cat”. The song starts with what sounds like a wood flute solo that reminds you of something you’d hear in a forest. The entire song has a dream like fairy tale mood to it. It seems to be touching on small town’s penchant for myths that spring up around certain characters, people or even animals that reside inside of them. The ‘la la la’ sections of the song sound like the vocalist was inhaling helium before takes but it helps to add to the strange quality of the song.

The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society continues to change as the next song starts off with an accordion dance number. “All of My Friends Were There” reminds me a lot of the Pennsylvania Polka but that’s just because I’m used to hearing the accordion within it. It’s only fitting that an album about rural England would contain an accordion number as that was long known as the instrument of common rural Europeans. The lyrics themselves point to the embarrassment that can come from standing out or performing in a small town where you know every member of an audience. Ray Davies even sings as if he is covering a European folk song.

“Wicked Annabella” returns the album to its more rock oriented roots but it still has some tricks up its sleeve. Dave Davies is the lead vocalist on this track and there is an echo on Davies’ voice to give it a spooky impression. The guitar on the album is heavily distorted to add to the spooky nature of it. The lyrics deal with a woman who is the town black sheep and because of her reclusive nature she has become the town witch and boogey man who people tell their children about to scare them into falling asleep at night. Every small town does seem to have someone like this.

Once more the album does a ‘180’ with the next song, “Monica”. The character of the song’s title is the complete opposite of Wicked Annabella so it makes sense that the song would be completely different. Monica is the girl every guy wants to marry in the town. The song has a Latin jazz feel to it which fits perfectly with the idea that everyone wants to love the character of Monica.  I love the fact that all of the characters in this album seem to be representations of people every small town has. “People Take Picture of Each Other” is a fun ending to the album that sort of blends “All of My Friends Were There” with some of the albums other influences such as “Do You Remember Walter?”. It is a pretty literal song as it is about people taking picture of things to remember them. It might not be the albums strongest act but it holds up when compared to the rest of the album.

Upon its original release, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society only sold about 100,000 copies and, 45 years after its release, it has yet to reach Gold record status. The Kinks continued to be an extremely dynamic band that adapted to three decades of rock and roll changes, constantly evolving and doing what they wanted to do. In 1973 and 1974, the group released the albums Preservation Act 1 and Preservation Act 2 respectively, which Ray Davies later acknowledged as sequels to this album, when he referred to the three as his “Preservation trilogy”. In many ways, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society stands out in 1968 for innovating via the use of classic sounds and instruments. Along with that the Kinks presented a clear concept album which contains themes and messages that should be clear to anyone who comes from a small town even up to the modern day. This wasn’t something that was done a lot as many of rock and roll’s first forays into concept albums were a bit confusing and disjointed. Unfortunately in a strange twist of fate this Kink’s album has become something that needs Preservation itself. It has been dubbed a ‘cult classic’ but anyone with ears should be able to hear it’s simply a classic. People should discuss the Kinks as one of the great bands up there with the Beatles, and the Stones. So let this be the first act in the movement that will bring about this album’s very own Preservation Society!

God save the Kinks, china cups and virginity!

~ J.D. Cook

1968 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1968 albums and our Album of the Year.

 

Beggars Banquet by Rolling Stones

Beggars Banquet by The Rolling Stones

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Beggars Banquet by Rolling StonesReturning to their blues-based roots rock following the psychedelic pop of their 1967 album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, Rolling Stones hit their true artistic stride with Beggars Banquet. While most critics heralded this album as a “return to form” due to the predominance of blues-based roots rock, it was also a significant leap forward. This album began the group’s highest quality musical era, followed by Let It Bleed in 1969 and Sticky Fingers in 1971, which expanded the musical formula established on this album. Still, with a solid slate of compositions and top-notch production by Jimmy Miller, Beggars Banquet may be the group’s finest album ever.

The album’s production saw a major shift in responsibilities. Miller described guitarist Keith Richards as “a real workhorse”, co-writing most of the material and often recording multiple parts on each track. This was mostly due to the infrequent presence of group founder Brian Jones, who had been a major influence on the sound of past albums but had begun to behave erratically due to his drug use and emotional problems. Jones could never really be relied on and would show up when he was in the mood to play, often being more of a distraction than an asset.

Although the album was not released until December 1968, much of it was recorded in the early part of the year. These sessions also resulted in the non-album single “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, one of the group’s most popular and recognizable songs. Written by Richards and lead vocalist, Mick Jagger, the song employs an infectious riff and opaque lyrics which may have been inspired by William Blake’s poem The Mental Traveller. Released in May 1968, the song previewed the sound of the upcoming Beggars Banquet album.


In Search of the Lost Chord by The Moody Blues
Released: December 6, 1968 (Decca)
Produced by: Jimmy Miller
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London, March–July 1968
Side One Side Two
Sympathy For the Devil
No Expectations
Dear Doctor
Parachute Woman
Jigsaw Puzzle
Street Fighting Man
Prodigal Son
Stray Cat Blues
Factory Girl
Salt of the Earth
Band Musicians
Mick Jagger – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Keith Richards – Guitars, Vocals
Brian Jones – Guitars, Mellotron, Sitar, Tamboura, Vocals
Bill Wyman – Bass, Percussion, Vocals
Charlie Watts – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

The tribal rhythms signify from the start that this is album is a unique listen. Largely a Jagger composition, the lyrics are a first-person narrative from the point of view of Lucifer, traversing infamous historical moments right up to the (then) present day with the line “I shouted out ‘Who Killed the Kennedys?'” put in just days after Robert Kennedy’s assassination in June 1968. This is all backed by an intense rock arrangement, which builds on the percussive rhythms with piano by Nicky Hopkins and a repeated chorus yelps of “woo woo” by group members and several studio guests.

“No Expectations” is a simple and beautiful acoustic blues song, which sets the table for future Stones ballads such as “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Wild Horses” and “Angie”, Jones plays an acoustic slide guitar above the strumming by Richards in this melodic quasi-tribute to Robert Johnson. This is followed by “Dear Doctor”, an almost farcical attempt at blue grass which, despite its use of authentic instrumentation, feels really forced and out of place.

“Parachute Woman” is pure blues with simple rhythm topped by distant electric guitar and a raw and murky atmosphere led by Jagger’s mumbled sexual lyric and intense harmonica playing. “Jigsaw Puzzle” bookends the first side of Beggars Banquet with another extended rock highlight. The music is led by the very strong rhythm of drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman, who are joined in turn by Richards’ slide guitar, Jaggar’s strummed acoustic, and Hopkins’ honky-tonk piano. It constantly builds in intensity though its six minute duration with Dylan-esque lyrics and vocal patterns.

Rolling Stones in 1968

The second side begins with “Street Fighting Man”, the point on the album where Jagger shines brightest, with this great melodic journey throughout interpreting some politically controversial lyrics. The tune is a basic rock song built on a cassette recording of Richards on acoustic guitar and Watts on a 1930s toy drum set. However, it does morph a bit towards a more psychedelic feel near the end, with Jones performing a distinctive sitar and tamboura. Robert Wilkins’ “Prodigal Son” is the only cover on the album and it never relents from its acoustic drive and has a great sound right down to Jagger’s hickish vocals.

Compared to the other fine material on side two, “Stray Cat Blues” is a rather ho-hum rocker, aside from the interesting and intense outro with Watts’ fine drumming. “Factory Girl” works well as an ethnic jam with a three chord, piano-driven pattern. It is similar to an Appalachian folk tune in its minimal approach and features guest Ric Grech on fiddle. “Salt of the Earth” provides a melodramatic conclusion to the album as another acoustic ballad. The highlight of the song comes at the bridge, which is followed by the first full rock arrangement. Although this track contains some production flaws, it is still a great ending to the album.

Beggars Banquet reached the Top 5 on charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Within days of its release, the band filmed the full television production of Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus where they performed several songs from the album. The show also featured several contemporary guests such as The Who, Jethro Tull, John Lennon, and Eric Clapton, and was originally meant to be aired on the BBC. However, the Rolling Stones withheld it because they felt their own performance was substandard and it wasn’t released in any form until 1996.

~

1968 Images

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

 

In Search of the Lost Chord by Moody Blues

In Search of the Lost Chord
by The Moody Blues

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In Search of the Lost Chord by Moody BluesIn Search of the Lost Chord is a deeply philosophical album by The Moody Blues, built around the concepts of quest and discovery. Musically, the album builds on the rich arrangements of Days of Future Passed with the exception being the lack of use of a full orchestra. The members of the group played the approximately 33 instruments themselves, exploring eclectic sounds from the Indian sitar and tambura to the orchestral oboe, flute, harp, and cello. But at its core In Search of the Lost Chord is still a rock album, accented by the same mix of British pop, psychedelia, and spoken-word poetry that the Moody Blues used on their previous album.

Bringing together these vast worlds was the mellotron of keyboardist Mike Pinder, a device which could mimic dozens of instrumental sounds. Pinder had worked at the company which developed the instrument in the early 1960s and later introduced the mellotron to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, who used it on the Beatles’ 1966 single “Strawberry Fields Forever”. The long and dreamy notes of this instrument perfectly fit the psychedelic mood of this album with songs about Timothy Leary, the astral plane, and philosophical “lost chord”.

While the album’s approach seemed to be an experiment to see how far the group could go with any instruments they could find, the production of Tony Clarke kept it sounding more cohesive than many of its thematic cousins of the era. This was accomplished by focusing on the simple nearly as much as the complex, which keeps it from falling into a haze of obscurity.


In Search of the Lost Chord by The Moody Blues
Released: July 26, 1968 (Reprise)
Produced by: Tony Clarke
Recorded: Decca Studios, London, January – June 1968
Side One Side Two
Departure
Ride My See-Saw
Dr. Livingston, I Presume
House of Four Doors (Part 1)
Legend of a Mind
House of Four Doors (Part 2)
Voices In the Sky
The Best Way to Travel
Visions of Paradise
The Actor
The Word
Om
Band Musicians
Justin Hayward – Guitars, Keyboards, Sitar, Vocals
Mike Pinder – Piano, Mellotron, Harpsichord, Cello, Harp, Tambura
Ray Thomas – Flute, Saxophone, Oboe, French Horn, Vocals
John Lodge – Bass, Cello, Vocals
Graeme Edge – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

A dramatic rising sound behind poetic spoken word “Departure”, gets more and more desperate and intense before climaxing at the end. Written and recited by drummer Graeme Edge, the 48 second piece acts as an intro to “Ride My See-Saw”. Perhaps the most commercially known track on the album, “Ride My See-Saw” is a straight forward rocker with rhythmic motion and great bass by John Lodge, who was also the song’s composer. The song was released as a single but failed to chart initially (the song went to #3 on the UK charts when re-released in 1972). “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume” comes in as a bouncy English children’s song but soon matures to a more complex rock arrangement during the “we’re all looking for someone” refrain, which is sandwiched by two interesting guitar riff intervals. This song was written by multi-instrumentalist Ray Thomas and explores several historical figures along with the missionary explorer, Dr. David Livingstone.

Lodge’s “House of Four Doors” is a two-part, mellotron-infused, psychedelic ballad with rich vocal harmonies and creaking door effects, which each bring the listener through a different era of development in European music. The first features an acoustic and flute section and seems to preview some of the pastoral music of the future band Genesis, especially on Selling England by the Pound. Next is chamber music, led by a harpsichord and cello, followed by classical music featuring Pinder on piano, and finally the passage to the “futuristic” music of “Legend of a Mind”. One of the most creative Moody Blues tracks ever, “Legend of a Mind” is vocally and lyrically intriguing with contemporary lyrics about Timothy Leary, a Harvard professor and LSD enthusiast;

He’ll fly his astral plane, Takes you trips around the bay
Brings you back the same day, Timothy Leary…”

The song is also musically excellent, moving from soft acoustic verses to a more upbeat chorus to the guitar riff interludes to the fast waltz of the bridge before settling in with a long flute section by Thomas, who also composed the song and sings lead vocals. “House of Four Doors” (Part 2) is a short reprise led by the drum beat of Edge, to complete the mini suite and the first side.

Moody Blues

Side Two begins with three absolute gems. Hayward’s pleasant and mellow “Voices in the Sky” is one of the most melodic songs on the album, with exquisite melodies during the verses. This simple acoustic song contains just enough musical splashes of flute, mellotron, and bass to give it a slight edge but is otherwise almost as straightforward and romantic as the previous year’s “Nights In White Satin”. While Pinder’s “The Best Way to Travel” goes in the opposite direction, it is just as interesting. It comes like an overloaded country song but with strong bass, reverb effects, and steady, droning drums. This Pink-Floyd influenced song suddenly halts for a middle organ section before the whole arrangement returns in a long, cosmic fade-in for the resolving conclusion. “Visions of Paradise” is a Hayward and Thomas collaboration, which features little else than Thomas’s flute riff and Hayward’s softly picked acoustic. Apparently resuming the drug-trip theme, this song may be even further “out there” than “The Best Way to Travel” with a surreal perception of paradise.

The deep, rich and sleepy arrangement of “The Actor” is driven by rather upbeat acoustic riff and Lodge’s accompanying bass. This is followed by Lodge reciting Edge’s second poem “The Word” with a naked vocal that interprets the album title’s meaning;

Two notes of the chord, that’s our full scope / But to reach the chord is our life’s hope / To name the chord is important to some…”

So they give it a word, and the word is “Om”. The final track by Pinder is canvased by very calm Eastern music for the vocals, solo during verses and deeply harmonized during choruses. Beyond the very interesting beginning, the rest of this six and a half minute track is more soundscape than song, including a deeply harmonized hummed reprise of “Ride My See Saw” at the very end of the song and album.

In Search of the Lost Chord peaked at #23 on the US album charts and #5 in the UK. 45 years later it continues to be highly regarded as a gem from the psychedelic/space rock era. Space exploration would go on to become the theme of the Moody Blues’ next album in 1969, To Our Children’s Children’s Children, dedicated to the Apollo 11 mission.

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1968 Images

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

 

Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix Experience

Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix Experience

Buy Electric Ladyland

Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix ExperienceWhile Jimi Hendrix is an undeniable rock legend on his own, the group Jimi Hendrix Experience were a formidable power trio for a short but important period. Electric Ladyland was the last of three albums by the Experience and this double LP was their creative and musical apex. The only album to be produced Hendrix himself, the recordings spanned over a year in duration and were made on two continents using different (4 track/8 track) technologies. Naturally, this resulted in a very eclectic album that pivots on Hendrix’s vast talents and unique interpretations ranging from folk to pop to psychedelic blues.

The initial material for this third album was produced by Bryan “Chas” Chandler and recorded before the release of the group’s second album, Axis: Bold As Love, in December 1967. That album was a Top Ten commercial success on both sides of the Atlantic and set the stage for Electric Ladyland in mid 1968. Following those first recordings in London, production resumed during the Spring of 1968 at the brand new Record Plant Studios in New York City. During this time, Hendrix fell out with Chandler and assumed production responsibilities himself.

The result is an album of interesting compositions and unequaled sonic coloring. Splitting time between sixties psychedelic epics and timeless blues jams led by one of the greatest rock guitarists ever. Further, many of the tracks on the album expand beyond the traditional sound of the power trio by featuring collaborations with a range of outside musicians playing an array of instruments.


Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix Experience
Released: October 25, 1968 (Reprise)
Produced by: Jimi Hendrix
Recorded: Olympic Studios, London & Record Plant Studios, New York, July 1967-August 1968
Side One Side Two
…And the Gods Made Love
Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)
Crosstown Traffic
Voodoo Chile
Little Miss Strange
Long Hot Summer Night
Come On (Part I)
Gypsy Eyes
Burning of the Midnight Lamp
Side Three Side Four
Rainy Day, Dream Away
1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)
Moon, Turn the Tides…Gently Gently Away
Still Raining, Still Dreaming
House Burning Down
All Along the Watchtower
Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Primary Musicians
Jimi Hendrix – Guitars, Keyboards, Percussion, Lead Vocals
Noel Redding – Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Mitch Mitchell – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

A totally freaky use of backwards masking, tape loops, and sound effects make up the experimental opener “…And the Gods Made Love”. In an interview, Hendrix explained the choice of this track to open the album saying, “we knew people will jump on to criticize (this track), so I put it first to get it over with.” The smooth and soul-influence, yet odd-timed “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” follows as the default title song. The song comes complete with Hendrix overdubbing high-pitched harmonies and doing a bang-up job.

“Crosstown Traffic” is one of the earliest tracks on the album, recorded in London and on a four track machine. Beyond the tight, funk-influenced arrangements, this track features a compressed piano fed through miniature, hand-built Leslie speakers for a totally unique vibe. Featuring Traffic’s Dave Mason on backing vocals, “Crosstown Traffic” was released as a single and reached the Top 40. Mason’s band mate, Steve Winwood, plays organ on “Voodoo Chile”, a 15 minute bluesy tune a real live club feel, despite being recorded in a New York City studio. This song stays steady until the very end when it becomes frantic in a climax before breaking down into faux live sounds to end the first side.

The second side begins with “Little Miss Strange”, the most unique song on the album. Written by bassist Noel Redding, who also plays acoustic guitar and sings lead vocals, This British pop-oriented track does contain overlain and harmonized electric guitars by Hendrix, and great drumming (along with additional vocals) by Mitch Mitchell. “Long Hot Summer Night” sounds a lot like something from the contemporary group Cream, contains great riffs through the verses and features guest Al Kooper on piano. The first cover song on the album is Earl King’s “Come On (Part I)”, as a great rock version of pure blues song with a sound right out of the future (the seventies).

“Gypsy Eyes” is another great track of rudiments and riffs, a pure Hendrix classic. The song is infamous as an example of Hendrix’s studio perfectionism, as he and Mitchell recorded well over 50 takes, while Redding got fed up and abandoned his bass duties, leaving Hendrix to overdub that instrument himself. This was an early indicator of the upcoming break up of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The very psychedelic but extremely interesting and musically fruitful “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” features an over-the-top harpsichord and a great backing vocal ensemble. Featuring imaginative lyrics and released as a single from the album, the song builds to a crescendo towards end, completing the fine second side.

Unfortunately, the third side is far less rewarding albeit interesting because of sheer uniqueness. “Rainy Day, Dream Away” sounds cool and loose with a long warm up, but when it finally kicks in to the song proper, it feels unfocused and asymmetrical, fading out too fast during the second verse. “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” is a thirteen and a half  minute progressive which seems to deliberately take up space, with the exception of the middle improv section which includes an intense drum roll by Mitchell, breaking through the otherwise calm and serene setting. The song features a third member of Traffic, Chris Wood on flute. “Moon, Turn the Tides… Gently Gently Away” has more sound effects rotating in and out, but is really not very substantive.

Jimi Hendrix Experience

The final side begins with the reprise “Still Raining, Still Dreaming”, a slightly more upbeat of song which starts side three, almost like a do-over, but still very loose and unfocused. The album recovers with “House Burning Down”, a wild, upbeat psychedelic funk with a marching rock beat during the verses. Perhaps a bit too acid-y with the pan effects, but still an enjoyable listen with a wild ending.

Although a cover of a Bob Dylan song from late in 1967, “All Along the Watchtower”, is perhaps the best Jimi Hendrix recording ever. It is sonically superior to anything else on the album, with a dark mood set perfectly and just the right amount of musicianship and effect. The lyrics echo lines in the biblical Book of Isaiah and the music features wild overdubs above the core acoustic chords along with some of Hendrix’s finest vocals ever. Hendrix had received advanced tapes from Dylan and began recording “All Along The Watchtower” less than a month after it was released on Dylan’s album John Wesley Harding. Rolling Stone Brian Jones provided some percussion on the song. One of the most popular opening riffs in rock and roll breaks into the droning rock beat of the closer “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”. The funky guitar sits beneath a pure psychedelic Delta blues riff which ends the double album on a high note.

Electric Ladyland reached #1 on the US album charts as well as #6 in the UK. After the dissolution of Jimi Hendrix Experience in early 1969, Hendrix formed the short-lived Gypsy Sun and Rainbows to perform at Woodstock that summer before forming the Band of Gypsys, with whom he would record one studio album. That album was recorded at Electric Lady Studios, which Hendrix opened in Greenwich Village, New York City.

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1968 Images

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