A Baker’s Dozen From 1971, Vol. 3

Originally posted February 6, 2008

I know some bloggers plan and write ahead. My friend caithiseach, over at The Great Vinyl Meltdown, has his posts planned for the entire year, if I’m not mistaken, and he likely writes months ahead. I’m sure many other bloggers also have their post topics planned and thus know what they are going to comment on ahead of time. Well, that’s not I.

Given the general structure of the blog, I know what types of posts I’m going to make: albums, generally, on Mondays and Fridays, a cover song on Tuesdays, a Baker’s Dozen (focusing on either a year or a topic) on Wednesdays, a video on Thursdays and a single of interest on Saturdays. If I’m stuck for an album on either Monday or Friday, I’ll substitute with a Baker’s Dozen or a Walk Through the Junkyard (which is a random draw from all my music from the years 1950-2000). So there is that much structure, at least.

But I never know what I am going to write, and most of the time I have no idea of the topic until I put my fingers on the keyboard sometime after the Texas Gal heads off to work, between seven-thirty and eight o’clock. Then I let my fingers loose and see what I think that morning. It has always been thus.

During my best years in newspapering, when I was at Monticello in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and then when I was at Eden Prairie during the 1990s, I frequently wrote a column, with the topic ranging from sports to social commentary to politics to life in a small town or an urban area to memoir to whimsy. Both papers were printed on Wednesdays, with the last writing generally needing to be completed around nine o’clock that morning. For most of my time at both papers, I’d sit down to write my column at, oh, eight o’clock on Wednesday morning. And there were times when I had no idea what my column would be about when I put my fingers on the keyboard.

My boss at Monticello didn’t seem perturbed by that, but I think that kind of high-wire writing is something I developed there, and he saw it grow, just as he saw the rest of my skill set grow during my first years as a reporter and writer. By the time I got to Eden Prairie, I was confident in my ability to come up with a readable column pretty much on demand, but I think it took some time for my editor there to trust that. By the time I’d been there a year or so, however, he would often come into my office on Tuesday after looking at the space available in the paper and at the amount of copy we needed to fill that space.

He’d ask, “Got time for a column tomorrow?”

I’d nod. “About 650 words?” I’d ask, that being the length he usually counted on when he did his planning.

He’d nod, and I’d go back to writing, beginning the internal – and generally subconscious – process that would bring me a column topic by the next day. And in the morning, I’d get to the office before seven, finish my late sports writing and then start my column and learn what it was I wanted to say that day.

I generally approach this blog that way, too. Of course, the stakes were higher in the world of weekly newspapers than they are here. If I failed to come up with something at least readable – good storytelling was my aim and eloquence and insight were frosting – then there was a space that would end up being filled with an ad for our own newspaper or something like that. I think that happened once during the nearly ten years I was at those two newspapers.

The consequences of not finding anything to write about here are much less. So, if I fail to come up with something that I think is readable – again, I hope to tell a good story and if I find eloquence and insight, that’s a bonus – I will simply make my excuses and post the music and some commentary about it. (If I’m not writing because of my health – and that has happened and will happen at times – I will simply say so; if I’ve found nothing to say, well, I’ll say that too.)

Now, on to the music:

A Baker’s Dozen from 1971, Vol. 3
“You’ve Got A Friend” by Carole King from Tapestry

“Questions and Conclusions” by Sweathog from Hallelujah

“Dust Filled Room” by Bill Fay from Time of the Last Persecution

“Let Me Go” by Batdorf & Rodney from Off the Shelf

“Lonesome Mary” by Chilliwack, A&M single 1310

“The Road Shines Bright” by John Stewart from Lonesome Picker Strikes Again

“On The Last Ride” by Tripsichord Music Box from Tripsichord Music Box

“Anytime” by It’s A Beautiful Day from Choice Quality Stuff/Anytime

“Too Late, But Not Forgotten” by Joy of Cooking from Joy of Cooking

“Eugene Pratt” by Mason Proffit from Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream

“Let Your Love Go” by Bread, Elektra single 45711

“Beware of Darkness” by Leon Russell from Leon Russell & The Shelter People

“1975” by Gene Clark from White Light

A few notes:

Carole King’s Tapestry was, of course, inescapable during the warm months of 1971. It reached No. 1 in the middle of June and stayed there until October. Its songs remain fresh and vital to this day, which is remarkable, considering how familiar even the album tracks have become over the years. It’s one of the truly great albums, and almost certainly in my Top 30 of all time, if I ever take the time to put together a comprehensive list.

“Questions and Conclusions” from Sweathog has the punchy, vibrant sound that made the group’s only hit – the title track from Hallelujah – reach No. 33 in December. The whole album is similar and a pretty good listen, and the sound was a good one for the times – maybe kind of a Steppenwolf Light –and I wonder why Sweathog never had any greater success. The horns at the end of the song work nicely, but are uncredited, as far as I can tell.

The enigmatic “Dust Filled Room” by Bill Fay is of a piece with the bulk of the album it comes from, Time of the Last Persecution. While maybe more of a period piece than something one might listen to often these days, the British folk-rocker’s second album is noteworthy for its brooding tone and apocalyptic stance and for the effective guitar work – sometimes bluesy, sometimes just suitably noisy – by Ray Russell.

By the time Tripsichord Music Box – don’t you just know it was a San Francisco group from the name alone? – released its only album, the group was calling itself simply Tripsichord. But the copy I got used the group’s original name as its title, and I’ve kept the tags that way. It’s not a badly done album. If you’re into the late ’60s hippie vibe, you’ll like it, as I do, at least one track at a time. The whole album at once, well . . . The best summation of the music comes from All-Music Guide: “It isn’t bad, and not too indulgent. It’s just pretty derivative, with the characteristically angular S.F. guitar lines, folk-influenced harmonies, and lyrics hopefully anticipating a new order of sunshine and possibility.”

The Mason Proffit track, “Eugene Pratt,” is an over-earnest anti-war, anti-draft song that nevertheless sounds good. Better known for “Two Hangmen” from the Wanted! album, Mason Proffit is often cited as one of the best bands of its time never to make it big. Any of the five country-rock albums the group released between 1969 and 1973 is a good listen, although the earlier ones are perhaps a shade more inventive.

Gene Clark was the lead vocalist and one of the chief songwriters for the Byrds from 1964 to 1966 and again briefly in 1967, but his greatest contribution to pop music came after that, as one of the founders of country rock. His work with the Gosdin Brothers and with Doug Dillard provides some of the foundations of that branch of rock, and his solo work often followed in that vein. White Light is an album that finds Clark presenting a set of songs that are intense and sometimes surprisingly intimate.

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