Tag Archives: Woodstock

Guitar Legend Alvin Lee: Dead at age 68…


745px-Alvin_LeeI hate to write another homage to another dead musician, but Alvin Lee, the legendary Blues Guitar player and founder of the band Ten Years After, died last week due to complications from a routine surgery.  I have to write about him.  He was too great to let this moment pass.

These things run in threes.  There are those that call this anomaly a “Trifecta” .  Somewhere in heaven there is a rehearsal studio and Alvin Lee, Van Cliburn, and Reg Presley are all jamming together.

Alvin Lee was an extremely underrated Guitar player.  He rose to prominence in 1969 when Ten Years After was featured in the documentary film “Woodstock”  His incendiary 11 minute jam on “I’m Goin’ Home” brought the house down.  I never get tired of hearing it.

Ten Years After had 12 albums in the Billboard top 200.  Although they only had one top forty hit, “I’d Love To Change The World” from their great album A Space in Time.  I have always loved this album and since it contains Alvin Lee’s biggest hit, I thought I would post this album to my blog and share it with anyone who hasn’t heard it before.  It’s a great one to own on vinyl.  It sounds great, it’s kind of psychedelic, and it’s just great music.

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Here is “A Space in Time” in it’s entirety.  All of the songs on this album  were written by Alvin Lee except “Uncle Jam” that was co-written by the entire band.

Side 1

One of These Days

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 The music fades in and the Blues begin.  Great harmonica on this song in addition to Alvin Lee’s great blues guitar work

Here They Come   Spacey is all you can call this tune.  I can hear the “space in time…”  

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I’d Love to Change The World  The year is 1971.  The Vietnam War is raging.  There is enormous disenchantment with the way the world is heading.  The feelings are global.  Protest songs are everywhere.  That’s one reason I love this song.  Everyone else was trying to claim they had all the answers.  Alvin Lee had the courage to say “I don’t know what to do…so I’ll leave it up to you…”

The technique of using electric and acoustic guitars in this song and the previous song shows the influence of Led Zeppelin.  But still there is a lot of originality here.  This song is the only Alvin Lee composition to make it into the top forty.  It was #40 in 1971.

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Over the Hill-Baby Won’t You Let Me Rock N Roll You

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 These last two songs merge into each other.  This song sounds so much like a lot of rock music that is coming out of Indie bands.  What’s old is new again… Then side one ends with a classic rocker.

Side 2

Once There Was a Time

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 I love this acoustic blues intro of this song.  It sounds ancient, like it came from one of the original Mississippi Delta Blues players.

Let The Sky Fall

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 This song has a typical R&B bass line and yet it is not typical in any other way.  It also continues the “Spacey” sound of the record.  There is a great “Trippy” guitar solo from Alvin in the middle of the song.

Hard Monkeys

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This  song also got some good airplay.  It is a song about drug addiction.

I’ve Been There Too

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 This song has a great sound and when Alvin Lee sings “I’ve been there too…”  I believe him.  The power chord chorus is great, as well. This song also gives you insight into how great a guitar player Alvin Lee was.

Uncle Jam

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 The intro is almost jazz.  This is exactly what the title implies…A  Jam.  There is some really great piano playing on this cut.

So Alvin has left us, like Van Cliburn, and Reg Presley.  He leaves behind his wife and daughter.  My deepest sympathy for your loss.  The sudden nature of his death could not have been easy.  His music lives on and his memory should be preserved.

 

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Posted in Life Events, Rock Music, Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Canned Heat “Living The Blues”

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Imagine if you will, a couple of guys setting around the house smoking pot and listening to blues records.  The year is 1965. They get the idea to put together a jug band and jam in the garage. Two short years later they are playing at The Monterrey Pop Festival. Then in 1969 they performed at Woodstock in front of half a million people! Kind of cool,eh? That is the story of Canned Heat.

Canned Heat was founded by Alan Wilson and Bob Hite in Los Angeles, California. They took the name from a 1928 blues song by Tommy Johnson called “Canned Heat Blues.” What do you think this song is about? It’s about a man who has such a bad drinking problem that he is now drinking Sterno!  Now that’s a blues song…

This album was their 3rd release.  This album “Living The Blues” came out in 1968. It contains their most famous song:  “Going Up The Country”.   The line-up is considered the “classic” line-up of this band:  Bob “The Bear”Hite, Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, Henry “Sunflower” Vestine (a.k.a Harvey “The Snake” Mandel), Larry “The Mole” Taylor, and Aldolpho “Fito” De La Parra.   The album was produced by Canned Heat and Skip Taylor.  Bob Hite and Alan Wilson new more about blues and the history of the blues than anyone else in the world and they used their knowledge to their advantage.    So let’s get to the music.

Side 1

Pony Blues

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Pony Blues was written in 1929 by Charlie Patton.  It was a ‘standard” of the Mississippi Delta region.  It sounds ancient from the very first note.  This song is typical of their “Boogie, Blues” style.

My Mistake

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This song starts with that loose string blues sound just like the first cut on the album.  My Mistake is an original song written by Alan Wilson.

Sandy’s Blues

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Sandy’s Blues was written by Bob Hite.  Very cool, slow blues crawl.  It reminds me of the Segal –  Schwall Band.  I recorded this LP on the Friday of Memorial Day week-end.  I was enjoying listening to it so much I posted what I was doing on Facebook. Almost immediately after I put it on the world wide web, the phone rang.  It was a good friend of mine who will remain nameless.  He said “I smoked a lot of pot listening to Canned Heat when I was in college.”  I’m sure you were not alone my friend.  “It’s the Blues now…”

Going Up The Country

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This is the song that really got famous from the movie “Woodstock”.  Although, Canned Heat played at Woodstock their performance did not appear in the original movie.  The producer used Going Up The Country for the Opening sequence of the film and the song became a kind of anthem for the Back To Nature movement.  This song made it to #1 in 25 countries but reached #11 in the United States.  The song is a reworking by Alan Wilson of the song “Bull-doze Blues” by Henry Thomas.  The song originally came out in about 1928.  In the original version Henry Thomas performed the solo on a type of Pan-Flute that is called The Quills by old blues musicians.  The Henry Thomas quill solo was performed note for note on the flute by Jim Horn on the Canned Heat version.

Walking By Myself

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This is an old Jimmy Rogers song.  It was originally released in the early 50’s on Chess Records.  The song has a very obvious Chicago Blues sound.  It features the harmonica playing of Alan Wilson.  The original featured Little Walter on harmonica.

Boogie Music

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This song features Dr. John on piano.  The song was written by someone named L.T. Tatman III.  I can’t find anything on the guy.  If you know anything about him I’d love to hear from you.  More Boogie Blues and then at the very end a sample of very old original Delta Blues ends the side.

Side 2

One Kind Favor

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One Kind Favor is also credited to Tatman.  The one kind favor is to keep his gravestone clean.  This is a great blues song.

Parthenogenesis

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This is a highly experimental song.  Yes, I spelled the name of the song right.  This song is a medley of nine different segments.  The segments are titled as follows:  Nebulosity, Rollin’ and Tumblin’, Five Owls, Bear Wires, Snooky Flowers, Sunflower Power, Raga Kafi, Ice Bag, and Childhoods End.  This cut was the brain child of Skip Taylor (the Producer of the album).  The writing credit is shared by the entire band.  Remember, it was the 60’s and they did a lot of drugs…I think it is a very interesting cut. Notice that several of the sections titles allude to the nick names of the band members.  Those sections then feature that band member.  (Example:  Bear Wires features Bob “The Bear” Hite)  It’s kind of trippy. I really like the boogie woogie piano part. What do you think?

Side 3 & 4

Refried Boogie Part I and II

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This may be the longest song I have ever seen on a rock album.  It takes up all of side 3 and 4.  The song is recorded live at The Kaleidoscope in Hollywood, CA.  It is a monster jam and I present it in it’s entirety.  I had to split it into two tracks because there is no way around having to turn over the record without stopping the music.  This is a great example of some of the psychedelic jams of the 1960’s and 70’s.  Enjoy….
So there you have it. Canned Heat living the blues.  So what happened to Canned Heat?  Well they are still around.  Henry Vestine was the first to leave the band. He had an on stage fight with Larry Taylor at the Filmore West in 1969.  Larry Taylor left the band in 1970 and Joined the John Mayall Blues Breakers. Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson died of a drug overdose in 1970.  He was found on a hill behind Bob”The Bear” Hite’s Topanga Canyon home.  No one knows for sure why…He was only 27.  Just a few weeks later Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix also died.  In 1981 Bob Hite passed out on stage at the Palamino in L.A.  he had overdosed on Heroin.  Later that evening he was found dead at the home of band member De La Para’s home.  Harry Vastine died in Paris, France of Lung Cancer.  De La Para continues to tour with a band call Canned Heat, but he is the only survivor from the glory days.  With 3 of the band members taken by drugs and cigarettes, it only goes to show that you shouldn’t drink Sterno and if you play with fire you might get burned.  Even by Canned Heat…

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Posted in Blues Music, Rock Music, Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

It’s Natures Way of Telling You That Spirit’s Great…


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Finally, I am back to blogging about Vinyl!  This LP is one of the gems I pulled out of the garage sale mother lode.  I think it is a real treasure.

Let’s go back to Los Angles California in 1967 to experience the spirit of Spirit.  Spirit was formed by Guitarist Randy California and Drummer Ed Cassidy (a.k.a. Mr. Skin).  Ed Cassidy was actually the Step Father of Randy California.  Ed Cassidy had been a major jazz drummer and had played with Cannonball Adderly, Gerry Mulligan, Roland Kirk, Thelonious Monk, and Lee Konitz.  In addition he had played with blues musicians like Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder.  Right before Randy California formed Spirt with his step father he had been playing with Jimi Hendrix in a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.  (circa 1966). Additional members of the band were Bass player Mark Andes, Lead Vocals, percussion player Jay Ferguson, and keyboard player John Locke.  

Their self titled first LP was released in 1968.  It contained two hits that are on this “Best of” LP.   The first hit they had was “Mechanical World.”  Their first LP also contained their biggest hit “I Got a Line On You.”  “Mechanical World” reached #31 on the Billboard 200 and “I Got a Line On You”.  The album was a huge hit and stayed on the charts for over eight months.  Their second Album was called “The Family That Plays Together”  Their third album was released in 1969 and it was entitled “Clear”.  Due to Randy California’s personal connection with Jimi Hendrix the band was offered the spot before Hendrix at Woodstock.  Their record company executives advised them not to participate because the festival was not going to be significant and so it would benefit the band more to concentrate on their own tour and promoting their new album.  I can’t help but think that this band would be so much more well know if they had played Woodstock instead!

This band was heavily influential to so many other musicians.  Many guitarist held Randy California in high regard.  Jimmy Page worshiped the ground Randy California walked on.  Led Zeppelin was the opening act for Spirit at the beginning of their 1969 tour.  Randy California introduced Jimmy Page to the Theremin.  The Theremin was synthesizer that reacted to heat and the motion of the body.  You may recall seeing Jimmy Page use this on stage with Led Zeppelin in the movie “The Song Remains the Same.”  Jimmy would wave his hand through the antenna area of the Theremin and make all kinds of strange noises with it.  Randy California had one that he mounted to the amplifier of his guitar.  During the 1969 tour of Led Zeppelin they even did a medley of songs by Spirit that included the hit song on this “Best Of” LP called “Fresh Garbage”.    Spirit is considered to be one of the chief architects of Psychedelic Art Rock.  Their masterpiece album is considered to be Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.  It is as revered as Pink Floyd’s  Dark Side of the Moon.  This album contains my favorite song by Spirit Nature’s Way.  Spirit also was one of the earliest bands to use brass and strings in their music.  You can hear how they influenced bands like Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Chicago, Earth, Wind and Fire, War, The Animals, and the list could go on and on and on.

So listen to the music and then I will wrap up the strange ending to Randy California and the amazing band Spirit.

Side 1:

1.  1984:  This song never appeared on a Spirit album until this onePrior to the release of “The Best of Spirit” in 1973 the song was only available as a single.  The Band had challenged Randy California to write another hit like I Got a Line On You.  At first it looked like he had done it and the song rose up the charts.  But it stagnated at #69 on the Billboard chart.  It’s still a really great song.  I had forgotten all about it till I heard it again.  The song is almost symphonic.  It has that very dramatic opening.  It’s a great cut to start their “Best of ” LP with.  It also features a great psychedelic lead guitar solo by Randy California.


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2. Mechanical World:  This is the song that started it all for Spirit.  It was released in 1968 and got to #31 on the charts.  It was a very long song for radio at that time.  It clocks in at over 5 minutes when most songs that made it on the radio at that time were only 2 to 3 minutes.  This song sounds like it could have been a song by Jim Morrison and The Doors.  It underscores a great gift of this band.  They had a great ability to make lyrics an integral part of each song.  Note the strings in this song.  It is interesting that they were used so successfully on their first album but they never went back to that sound on any other LP they ever made.  Great Fuzz guitar work again on this cut.  Also, great keyboard work from John Locke.  Jay Ferguson is probably the most under appreciated lead vocalist in Rock n Roll history.


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3. Natures Way:  This is one of my favorite songs.  I love everything about it.  The use of Tympani Drums by Ed Cassidy is brilliant.  It creates a highly dramatic effect.  This song echos the great song by Ten Years After “I’d Love to Change the World…” The quite guitar starts out, then the tympani come in, next the cow bell.  There is the eerie sound of Randy California’s distorted guitar.  The uneasy sound of the overlaid vocal lines as they reprise the message and build to the climax “…it’s natures way of telling you somethings wrong…”  The only problem with this song is it’s too short.


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4.  Animal Zoo:  This song is also from “Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus.”  What a very 70’s sounding song.  This song was released as a single but never made it past #69 on the charts.  Note the use of the Moog Synthesizer.


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5. Fresh Garbage:  This song is from Spirits first album.  This is one of the songs that Led Zeppelin used to cover.  The lyrics are part of the overall theme that used to permeate a lot of their songs.  Environmentalism.  They were pioneers in the use of music to promote environmental issues.  I can hear how groups like War, Santana, The Animals, The Doors, Chicago, etc… all were influenced by this great music.  I love the jazzy keyboard solo in this song.  It’s kind of Ray Manzarek like.


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Side 2

1. I Got a Line on You:  This is the best known song of all of Spirits great music. It originally appeared on their second album called “The Family That Stays Together”   I love it too.  It immediately takes you back to the early 70’s.  Can’t you just hear this song blaring out of an A.M. radio?  I know I can…I know I did…  This song just rocks and makes you want to dance!  What else needs to be said?

 

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2.  Prelude – Nothing to Hide:  This was the first song on the album “Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus”.  Thus the reference to Prelude.  This is the prelude of a concept album.  Spirit was one of the forerunners of this type of album rock.  The song features a wild guitar solo from Randy California.

 

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3. Uncle Jack:  This was the second cut on the first Spirit album.  It has a very progressive art rock sound.  No one sounded like these guys back then.  After they made this record a lot of bands started sounding like this.  Spirit actually invented a kind of L.A. sounding rock.


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4. Morning Will Come:  This song was the 11th cut on “Twelve Dreams”.  It almost sound like Glam Rock.  I love the horns in the background.  It just has a great jazz influenced rock sound.  Randy California again has a great solo in this song.

 

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5. Dark Eyed Woman:  Dark Eyed Woman was the first cut on their album called Clear. It has a moody atmospheric opening.  I love Randy’s guitar sound.  This should have been a big hit.  It is a tightly constructed multi part song.  It is somewhat experimental for it’s time. Again this song is too short.

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6. Mr. Skin:  Mr. Skin is the nick name of Drummer Ed Cassidy.  He was famous for his shaved head and, like Johnny Cash; he was famous for wearing black.  (Note the two Photos of the Album).  Mr. Skin was the sixth cut on “Doctor Sardonicus”.  It has great horns on it.  It also features great percussion from “Mr. Skin”.  This is a very cool sounding song.  It swings and is very easy to listen to.


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And now the rest of the story…

After the tour in 1973 to promote “Doctor Sardonicus”  Ferguson and Andes left the group and formed  Jo Jo Gunne.  The band went through a lot of personnel changes.  Solo projects ensued.  And things began to com apart.  The band disbanded in 1973.  Randy California moved to Hawaii.  There were some attempt to reunite in the late 70’s.  At a concert in Santa Monica California, Randy California punched out an inebriated Neil Young and the keyboard player (John Locke) said “that’s enough” and walked off stage.  That was pretty much  it for Spirit.  They reformed again in the early 80’s with some minor success but again they all went their separate ways.  On January 2, 1997 Randy California was surfing in Hawaii with his son when they both got caught in a rip tide.  Randy was able to push his son out of the tide to safety but he could not save himself.  John Locke also died in August of 2006 from complications of lymphoma.  Ed Cassidy is still playing the drums and performing.  He is also an actor.  Maybe you know him from his time on General Hospital?  Isn’t life ironic…

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Posted in Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sometimes I feel like a Motherless child…

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Richie Havens at Woodstock 1969

I am now a Motherless child. My Mother died December 22, 2010 in Lubbock Texas. She was sick with cancer for a long time but it doesn’t make it any easier to have lost her. She was as good a Mother as a child could ever have. She helped make me who I am today. She could do anything she had to. She never saw roadblocks. She was talented and creative. She loved music and art and crafts.

Her memorial service was held in Lubbock on January 15th, 2011. For most of her life she was a Ministers Wife. So she spent her life in service to others. Because my Mom and Dad were in a religion called “The Church of Christ”, there was only “Acapella” singing at the service. This is a core belief of ‘The Church of Christ”: No musical instruments in the church building. Acapella is Italian for “in the manner of the Chapel”. In the earliest known history of organized religion all singing was vocal only. They sang without instruments. It really can be quite beautiful. The vocal singing at my Mother’s service was not the best I’ve ever heard, but the feelings were very strong and very real. Here’s a list of the gospel songs that were sung at my Mom’s memorial service:

“How Beautiful Heaven must Be”

“Earth Holds No Treasure”

“The Lord’s Prayer”

“In the Sweet By and By”

The service was a great tribute to an amazing person. My Mother had a difficult life and had to overcome a lot of adversity. Some of the things she had to overcome would have easily defeated the average person. Even though her life was hard, she always remained positive and always figured out how to move forward. She is an inspiration to me. I think it’s odd that she died on 12-22-10. It’s almost like a binary code. I’ve thought about translating the numbers into notes and building a musical composition from it. It makes for an interesting motif.

I spent the afternoon after the service with my family and my relatives. Later that night some of us went out to eat. It was a Saturday night and the restaurant was busy. We had to wait a long time for a table. By the time Pam and I got back to the hotel it was very late. I really needed to unwind so I made myself a Vodka Soda and turned on my i Pod. I have a running joke with my wife that the i Pod has mental telepathy and can read our thoughts and pick music that fits the moment. The very first song that played was “Hard Times (Who Knows Better Than I).” The performance was by Eric Clapton from the album “Journeyman.” The song was actually written and recorded by Ray Charles and Mitch Mitchell in 1961. (I’m not sure this is the same Mitch Mitchell that played drums in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Does anybody out there know? Ray Charles got his musical start in Seattle Washington where Hendrix was born. Hmmm….) It sounds like it could be much, much older. Who knows? Here’s the lyrics and here’s the song covered by Eric Clapton:

Hard Times (Who Knows Better Than I?)

My mother told me
‘Fore she passed away
Said son when I’m gone
Don’t forget to pray

‘Cause there’ll be hard times
Lord those hard times
Who knows better than I?

Well I soon found out
Just what she meant
When I had to pawn my clothes
Just to pay the rent

Talkin’ ’bout hard times
Lord those hard times
Who knows better than I?

I had a woman
Who was always around
But when I lost my money
She put me down

Talkin’ ’bout hard times
Hard times
Yeah, yeah, who knows better than I?

Lord, one of these days
There’ll be no more sorrow
When I pass away

And no more hard times
No more hard times
Yeah, yeah, who knows better than I?

05 Hard Times

I talk to my friend Jim last night. He asked about my mom’s service. I told him all about it. I told the i Pod story. He had a much better explanation for the irony of the song choice the i Pod made. Jim said ‘It was just your Mother talking to you.” Thank you Jim.

Thank you Mom. I will always love you.

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