Posts Tagged blues-rock
The Allman Brothers Band paid tribute to departed brother Duane when they released Eat A Peach on February 12, 1972. Duane Allman had died in a collision between his motorcycle and a flatbed lumber truck (not a peach truck as legend suggests) on October 29, 1971, and the double album included a mixture of studio tracks recorded before his death, live cuts from the Fillmore East concerts in early 1971 that were not included on the terrific Live At The Fillmore collection from July 1971, and a handful of new songs completed in the studio by the band in the weeks following Duane’s death. (For a 25 song playlist of the best of the Allman Brothers, visit Dr. Rock’s Playlist Vault here).
By mixing live jams and studio tracks, Eat A Peach creates the quintessential Allman Brothers Band collection. From boogie-rock (“One Way Out”) to jazz-rock instrumental interplay (“Les Brers In A Minor”) to inspirational piano-guitar rock (“Blue Sky”) to plaintive folk-rock (“Melissa”) to acoustic simplicity (“Little Martha”), the album highlights the exceptional range and capabilities of the ABB as a tight-playing group and as individual artists. Duane’s slide guitar virtuosity is showcased on “Mountain Jam,” a 2-side, 33-plus minute rendition of the ABB’s take on Donovan’s “First There Is A Mountain.” Although it’s quite long for casual fans of the band, “Mountain Jam” is a great track that’s even better when compared to the less polished version the band released in 1991 on the Live At Ludlow Garage 1970 retrospective CD.
I previously opined (on April 23) that Sticky Fingers was one of the greatest rock albums of all time. Add Exile On Main Street (released May 12, 1972) to that list. The double album includes tracks the Rolling Stones recorded over four years, some from the Sticky Fingers sessions in England (early 1970 to ‘71), some from a trip to Los Angeles in early 1972, a few leftovers from as far back as 1968, and many from over six months of drug- and liquor-induced work at guitarist Keith Richards’ chateau-turned-party-house in southern France starting in mid-1971.
Exile On Main Street owes a good part of its existence to British taxing authorities. For reasons beyond this scope, the Stones accumulated more taxes than they could pay in the U.K. by early 1971. Choosing to flee across the Channel (and still further south) and start afresh, they reconnoitered at Richards’ vacation palace on the French Riviera. Of course, buried below the booze and stash in their baggage was their unparalleled ability to create the best hard rock, raunchy blues-rock and pure rock ‘n roll music the world has known. After several months on the Riviera scene, the result was one finished track (“Happy”) and a box of raw takes that would become Exile On Main Street when the Stones resumed recording in L.A. in early 1972.
Exile On Main Street is ragged and frayed and gloomy – pure Stones from the 70s. It’s a masterful blend of rock ‘n’ roll, blues, country and soul, fueled by booze and drugs and life in the fast lane. Downloads for mp3 players and CD purchases are on Amazon, and iPod downloads are on iTunes. Two Stones’ playlists are in the Playlist Vault.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s #2 LP, the aptly titled Second Helping, was served up on April 15, 1974. It’s now widely considered a first-tier 70s Southern rock album, right up alongside the several releases by the god-band, Georgia-based Allman Brothers Band. But Skynyrd cooked up a grittier, harder-edged platter of Southern blues-rock. Many will argue that they were the real Southern rockers (even when Allman fans chime in). Whatever your bend, Southern rock peaked about the same time Second Helping. It is unquestionably a showcase album.
For a young-but-bar-scene-seasoned band, Skynyrd explored the edges with “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Workin’ For MCA.” The former’s a now-classic retort to Neil Young’s self-righteous condemnation of southern American history (sings Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant: “we don’t need him around, anyhow”). The second’s a thinly-veiled shot at their growing dissatisfaction with the music business (guys, aren’t you biting the hand that feeds you?). Add the spunky “Don’t Ask Me No More Questions,” the rocking drug-fest of “Needle And The Spoon” and a Dr. Rock-favorite in the rollicking “Call Me The Breeze,” and Second Helping’s everything is billed to be – first-rate, kick-ass Southern guitar rock.
Like its predecessor (Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd), Second Helping was produced by Al Kooper, the terribly under-appreciated but still-legendary blues-rock god (founder and leader of The Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears) and producer for the 60s pop-rockers The Zombies, among others. Kooper coaxed the best out of Van Zant and his bandmates. The result really is one of the best Southern blues-rock albums of all-time.
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours was released today in 1977 (click here for my FM playlist). Coming 18 months after 1975’s eponymous Fleetwood Mac, the album completed the transformation of the band from a late-60s, moderately successful British blues-rock outfit to a juggernaut, pop-rock phenomenon. Within months of its release, the LP shot to the top of the charts and spawned four U.S. Top 10 singles (“Dreams,” “Don’t Stop,” “Go Your Own Way” and “You Make Loving Fun”). It’s full of classic 70s vocals and jingle-jangle guitar licks, not to mention thinly-disguised references to the romantic inner turmoil that was beginning to pull the band apart. Original (and the lone remaining) founder Mick Fleetwood was enduring a messy divorce, caused in part by his affair with new singer Stevie Nicks, whose relationship with guitarist Lindsey Buckingham was unraveling, and bandmembers John and Christine McVie were separating and headed for divorce as well.
The rock star version of Peyton Place didn’t stop Rumours from quickly becoming the one of the best-selling albums of all-time. To be a part of the amorous sub-plot, you’ll find Rumours available as a CD or individual mp3 downloads on Amazon (click here) and as $.99 download tracks for iPods and mp3 players on iTunes (click here).
Spirit was one of the more adventurous groups to emerge from the Los Angeles psychedelic rock scene in the late 60s. Over 20 years and more than a dozen albums they presented a quirky, amorphous blend of psychedelia, jazz, blues, hard-, folk- and art-rock that benefited first from the emerging, album-oriented FM radio of the late 60s and later from a devoted fan base during the early 70s progressive rock era.
Spirit’s 1968 eponymous debut was released on January 22, 1968 with songwriter/guitarist Randy California and his stepfather, drummer Ed Cassidy leading bandmates Mark Andes (bass), Jay Ferguson (percussion and vocals) and John Locke (keyboards). The album includes the heavy, thumping “Mechanical World,” which was pressed as a single but never caught on. Two better choices for chart action might have been “Uncle Jack” (pop-rock harmony vocals) or “Fresh Garbage” (a rocker in the vein of several contemporary Doors tunes). Two modest hits would come over the next few years with “I Got A Line On You” and “Nature’s Way,” both of which are now staples on the few classic rock radio stations that dig deeper into the period.
The revolving door of personnel changes doomed Spirit to remain a might-have-been band and a venue for California and Cassidy’s eclectic genre experimentalism. In 1971 and 1972, Ferguson left for Jo Jo Gunne and a solo career (remember 1977’s “Thunder Island”?), Andes went to Jo Jo Gunne and then Firefall, and Locke left for Nazereth. The two originals kept at it through the 80s and 90s with several decent art-rock LPs, but with California’s untimely death in 1997, Cassidy called it quits and Spirit’s long-run ended.
Spirit spent more than six months on the Billboard album chart through the summer of 1968, peaking at #31. It is available as downloads for iPods and mp3 players on iTunes (click here) and can be purchased as a CD or mp3 downloads from Amazon (click here).
No other rock band can match ZZ Top’s record for longevity and consistency (click here for Dr. Rock’s playlist). They’ve been playing and recording for over four decades with the same line-up: Billy Gibbons (vocal and guitar), Frank Beard (percussion) and Dusty Hill (bass and keyboards). Since forming in Houston in 1970, the band has kept their sound firmly rooted in pounding, Texas-baked blues-rock with occasional updates to match the changing decades and musical tastes. Theirs is a remarkable test of time and critical and commercial success.
After seven straight-ahead blues-rock albums between 1970 and 1981, ZZ Top layered in New Wave synthesized backing sounds and a bit of MTV glamour to their trademark. There followed three Top 10, multi-platinum albums – Eliminator (1983), Afterburner (1985) and Recycler (1990) – that brought the band a level of success unmatched by even their best 70s discs. For their eleventh studio album, Antenna (released on January 18, 1994), the boys returned to the hard edge of Tres Hombres (1973 and Fandango! (1975) but maintained just enough synth-pop to keep the music relevant. Antenna is not their best, but it’s quite good and worth a long listen for its two Top 10 singles, “Pin Cushion” and the slow-burning “Breakaway,” the searing guitar on “Lizard Life” and the growling pump of “Fuzzbox Voodoo.”
ZZ Top has scheduled a concert tour of South America in mid-2010 and is expected to release a 15th studio album later in the year. Those events will kick-off the fifth consecutive decade for the “little ol’ band from Texas”. Antenna is available for download on iTunes (click here) and can be purchased as a CD or mp3 downloads from Amazon (click here).
The original (and many believe still the best) heavy metal band, Led Zeppelin (click here for my LZ playlist) was formed in mid-1968 by ex-Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page, who recruited John Bonham, John Paul Jones and Robert Plant to his band when his dream of a supergroup featuring himself, Jeff Beck, Keith Moon and John Entwistle failed to materialize. By summer’s end they’d played several dates in Scandinavia as The New Yardbirds, then changed the band’s name and secured a recording contract and fat advance from Atlantic Records.
Led Zeppelin’s debut album was recorded in a total of 36 hours in several sessions during October 1968 and released on January 12, 1969. It’s a great blend of different styles and moods, with most of the songs coming from the band’s set lists from the just-completed Scandinavian tour. Notable tracks are two decent Willie Dixon blues covers (“You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby”), a longer, tougher blues-rock original by Jimmy Page (Dazed And Confused”), the frantic, punk-precursor “Communication Breakdown,” a sweetly folksy acoustic instrumental “Black Mountain Side” and the rolling “How Many More Times.” The lone single, “Good Times Bad Times” reached #80 on the U.S. Billboard charts in the U.S. and is #19 on my 25 Best of Led Zeppelin playlist.