Posts Tagged ‘El Chicano’

A ‘What If . . . ?’ From 1975

June 20, 2012

Originally posted May 13, 2009

I won’t spend much time here today: I’m worn out. And I have things to get done and an appointment this afternoon.

But I had one more thought to share in connection with Monday evening’s Springsteen show. As we were driving home, while Monday turned into Tuesday, the Texas Gal and I were reviewing our favorite parts of the show.

I’ve mentioned in this space at least once that I came late to all things Springsteen. I was aware of him in 1975, when Born To Run garnered an incredible amount of publicity and attention, but I didn’t really dig into his work until Tunnel of Love came out in 1987.

And the thought occurred to me as we rode through the Central Minnesota darkness: If I had bought Born To Run when it came out, as I was tempted to do, my life would have been much richer. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it was an interesting idea to chew on as we drove through the dark toward home.

And here’s a generally random selection from 1975, the year I didn’t buy Born To Run.

A Six-Pack From 1975
“Song For The Fire Maiden” by Hot Tuna from Yellow Fever
“Don’t It Feel Like Heaven” by Brewer & Shipley from Welcome to Riddle Bridge
“Big Mac” by the Staple Singers from Let’s Do It Again
“Midnight Flyer” by Three Dog Night from Coming Down Your Way
“(To Say The Least) You’re The Most” by Tower of Power from Urban Renewal
“Primavera” by El Chicano from The Best of Everything

Hot Tuna began in 1969 as an offshoot of Jefferson Airplane, a place for Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassady to explore their acoustic and blues inclinations. But by the time of Yellow Fever, acoustic blues were a small portion of the group’s work. “Song For The Fire Maiden” is a relatively soulless piece of mid-Seventies boogie and not the best place to go looking for the original spirit of Hot Tuna.

By 1975, Brewer & Shipley were polishing the country-rock hybrid they’d been exploring for more than five years, the same inclinations that brought them a hit in 1970 with “One Toke Over The Line,” a No. 10 hit that’s often dismissed – inaccurately – as a novelty record. “Don’t It Feel Like Heaven” is a sweet tune, and the album it comes from, Welcome to Riddle Bridge, is pretty nice, as well.

Let’s Do It Again was a Curtis Mayfield-penned soundtrack that the Staples Singers took on. It brought them their last hit in the title tune (No. 1 for one week) and an album that’s a good audio postcard from the time when funk/R&B was still a vital genre, even though alert listeners could hear the beginnings of its mutation into disco.

“Midnight Flyer” is a pleasant if inconsequential album track from a group that was finding itself irrelevant. From 1969 into 1975, Three Dog Night had been a hit machine, putting twenty-one records into the Top 40, eleven of them in the Top Ten. The last of those, “’Til The World Ends,” had come from Coming Down Your Way, but had gone no higher than No. 32. And while the group’s first nine albums had all made the Top 40, Coming Down Your Way was the second Three Dog Night album in two years to fall short.

Urban Renewal might be the best album that Tower of Power ever put together (although I imagine some folks might put their money on Back to Oakland). And “(To Say The Least) You’re The Most” shows off singer Lenny Williams and one of the tightest and funkiest horn sections to ever record a tune. Just nice stuff.

By 1975, El Chicano was another group that was past its peak, and The Best of Everything (not a hits album despite the title) was a little limp. Still, “Primavera” is a nice tune with a little bit of that Latin tinge that made El Chicano memorable.

El Chicano & Malo

July 18, 2011

Originally posted July 3, 2008

Having had El Chicano pop up on yesterday’s Baker’s Dozen, I wandered off to see what might be found at YouTube. Happily enough, there’s a clip from a televised concert – another listing at YouTube says it’s from 1971 – showing the band performing “Viva Tirado – Part I,” which went to No. 28 nationally in 1970. In the clip, the band member who introduces the song seems to indicate that it went to No. 1, which was likely a reference to either a local chart or perhaps a Latin chart. (During the clip, there is clear evidence of either technical difficulty with the visuals or else of the technical director trying for a freaky cool effect. I lean toward the latter.)

As I watched El Chicano, I noticed another listing on the same page for a song called “Suavecito,” so I clicked the link and found a televised performance by Malo, the Latin band led by Jorge Santana, Carlos’ brother. (Love the music, but oh, that sweater vest!)

The clip came from the June 21, 1972, episode of a CBS television series called Rollin’. That show – which ran from 1971 to 1973 – was an offshoot of a November 1970 television special, Rollin’ On The River, which starred Kenny Rogers & The First Edition. (If you’re interested, a DVD set of performances from Rollin’ is available here.)

We’re Moving!

July 18, 2011

Originally posted July 2, 2008

Well, it’s begun: Two bookshelves have been emptied into about eight boxes, stacked in the living room. Twenty or so empty boxes clutter the kitchen and the entryway. And the catboys – who distrust any alteration of their environment – are a little upset, stopping by occasionally to complain to the Texas Gal or me that they don’t like change.

We’ve moving!

The owner of the apartment complex where we’ve lived for almost six years was looking for tenants for a house he also owns and offered it to us. We looked at the place a couple of times, asked a few questions and got satisfactory answers. And we took into consideration two things: First, we have badly outgrown our two-bedroom apartment both for storage and with stuff we use everyday. (That happens when collections are of things that are bulky, as are books, records, CDs and fabric. Were we both stamp collectors, we might not be so crowded. But we’re not, so . . .) Second, the house offers at least two-and-a-half times the space we now have with only a small increase in rent.

There was a third consideration: We like our neighborhood here on the East Side. I grew up no more than six blocks from the apartment, and the Texas Gal likes the area, too. Luckily, the house in question is on a wooded lot adjacent to the apartment complex, no more than thirty yards away. It’s close enough that were we younger, we’d likely just haul stuff over ourselves when the time comes, recruiting friends to help with the heavy lifting. But being where we’re at chronologically, we’re going to hire movers to do the hauling come September 1.

We will, however, do the packing. That will also, we’ve decided, include some winnowing. You know how it is: Stuff accumulates for no other reason than its own existence. Greeting cards from several years pile up in a basket; magazines you intend to really read someday huddle on the coffee table; and all those recipes and coupons to restaurants you want to try sometime create a fire hazard by the toaster. So we’ll be sifting as we pack, separating the chaff of almost six years’ living from the grain we’ll move.

It was easier back in 1976, when I made my first move, from my parents’ home to the drafty house on the North Side. I moved a twin bed and a dresser, a writing table and a chair and some bricks and boards (the bricks salvaged from a pile created when Murl and I knocked down the chimney of the house we moved). I moved some books – about forty, I’d guess, not nearly as many as the Texas Gal and I have now – my clothes and various other items necessary for day-to-day living. I was done in just a few trips of my Ford Falcon and with one trip (I think) by Murl’s truck, to move the bed and the dresser.

This will be the twentieth time I’ve loaded up my stuff and moved. (It’s my twenty-first move, but I doubt I did much loading during the shift from Riverside Drive to Kilian Boulevard here in St. Cloud when I was three.) The Texas Gal has moved a few times, too. There’s one thing that makes this impending move different: When we moved from the Twin Cities to St. Cloud in late 2002, we’d been sharing living quarters for a little more than a year, and the things we used for daily life – from the couch to the can opener, the fan to the frying pan we used for Sunday bacon – had either been hers or mine. So many things like that have become “ours” in these nearly six years here. Even as I survey the incredible amount of stuff that needs to be packed, there is comfort in that.

And here are some songs from the year of that first, so very easy, move:

A Baker’s Dozen from 1976, Vol. 3
“Outward Bound” by Wishbone Ash from New England

“Out of Control” by the Flying Burrito Brothers from Airborne

“Lost Without Your Love” by Bread, Elektra single 45365

“Satisfied ‘N’ Tickled Too” by Taj Mahal from Satisfied ‘N’ Tickled Too

“Innocent Times” by Eric Clapton from No Reason to Cry

“Race of the Computers” by Pete Carr from Not A Word On It

“Blinded by the Light” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Warner Bros. single 8252

“Got To Get You Into My Life” by the Beatles, Capitol single 4274

“Pyramid (Of Love And Friends)” by El Chicano from Pyramid, 1976

“Smokin’” by Boston from Boston

“Night Moves” by Bob Seger, Capitol single 4369

“Turn the Beat Around” by Vickie Sue Robinson, RCA single 10562

“More, More, More” by the Andrea True Connection, Buddah single 515

A few notes:

Classifications are tricky things, but Wishbone Ash in the Seventies was considered hard rock, and the group rocked pretty well, by standards of the time. It’s true that Wishbone Ash on occasion allowed its folk inclinations to temper its rock, and that shows on New England, but the album also rocks nicely in spots, too. Listening to the group today, though – after thirty-some years of increasing toughness, roughness and incivility in music – Wishbone Ash sounds a lot less tough than it used to.

“Lost Without Your Love” was the title song to Bread’s last album, a reunion album released in 1977. (The album was the group’s first since 1972.) While this single’s hook didn’t sink in quite as deeply as those of earlier hits — I think of “If,” “It Don’t Matter To Me” and “Baby I’m-A Want You” in particular – it was still a nice piece of popcraft. “Lost Without Your Love” entered the Top 40 in the first week of December and peaked at No. 9 in early 1977. It was Bread’s twelfth Top 40 hit and the group’s fifth to reach the Top Ten. (“Make It With You,” the group’s first hit, was its only single to reach No. 1.)

No Reason To Cry was an album that saw Eric Clapton surround himself with lots of prominent friends: Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Billy Preston, Ronnie Wood, Jesse Ed Davis, Carl Radle, Georgie Fame and more. Sometimes it sounds more like an album by The Band than it does one by Clapton, which doesn’t bother me too much. Dylan takes a vocal turn on his own song, “Sign Language.” The lead vocal on “Innocent Times” came from Marcy Levy, who co-wrote the song with Clapton.

I’m certain there’s a story behind Apple Capitol Records releasing the Beatles’ “Got To Get You Into My Life” as a single in 1976, six years after the band’s last release and seven years after the four Beatles last recorded together. But I don’t know what the story is. Anyone out there? The single went to No. 7 that summer. (That wasn’t the Beatles’ last Top Ten hit, though; “Free As A Bird,” the “reunion” single that some thought ghoulish, went to No. 6 during the winter of 1995-96.)*

El Chicano was one of the numerous Latin rock groups that popped up in the early 1970s after the ascendance of Santana. The group hung around longer than most of its contemporaries, recording either seven or eight albums (All-Music Guide’s listing is unclear) between 1970 and 1976. The single here came from the 1975 album, Pyramid, which was the group’s last album for a major label.

“Night Moves” might be the greatest single ever written and recorded about growing up in the age of rock ’n’ roll. If it’s not the greatest, it’s pretty darn close to the top. Nominations, anyone? The song’s best line – “Strange how the night moves . . . with autumn closin’ in.” – is probably not the line I’d have chosen thirty-two years ago.

*As was pointed out by, I believe, reader and pal Yah Shure shortly after this entry was originally posted, the release of “Got To Get You Into My Life” as a single was related to Capitol’s release of the two-LP anthology, Rock ’N’ Roll Music, which itself went to No. 2 on the Billboard albums chart. Note added July 18, 2011.

From A Muscle To The Junkyard

June 12, 2011

Originally posted February 22, 2008

As some cliché writer once said, there’s a first time for everything. I’m still not sold on the “everything” in that, but I do seem to have cataloged a “first time” that I don’t believe I’ve ever thought about.

I’ve been fighting a cold for a couple of days, and last evening, while sneezing, I pulled a muscle in my ribcage. I never knew one could do that. But I did, and one of the results is that I’m not very comfortable writing. So I’m not going to do much of that today, beyond a short introduction and some comments about some of the songs that pop up.

Several of the online outlets where I buy CDs have had sales and promotions lately, so there is an appreciable pile of CDs waiting to be logged into our collection here. Most of them are albums from the 1960s and 1970s, as I continue to fill gaps. In an effort to fill one such empty space, I finally picked up last week Wanted, the first album by the country-rock group Mason Proffit. So we’ll start today’s walk through the junkyard with “Two Hangmen,” the Vietnam-era protest song dressed up as a Western morality play. In the year it came out, I used to hear it through whispers of static on KAAY in Little Rock.

A Walk Through the Junkyard
“Two Hangmen” by Mason Proffit from Wanted, 1969

“Kid Charlemagne” by Steely Dan from The Royal Scam, 1976

“Wolves In The Kitchen” by John Stewart from Lonesome Picker Rides Again, 1971

“Hurt So Bad” by El Chicano from Viva Tirado, 1970

“Everything Is Gonna Be OK” by Dino Valente from Dino Valente, 1968

“Stranger Than Dreams” by Lowen & Navarro from Scratch at the Door, 1998

“Keeping the Faith” by Billy Joel from An Innocent Man, 1983

“I Just Want To Make Love To You” by Muddy Waters, Chess single 1571, 1954

“Poems, Prayers & Promises” by John Denver, RCA single 0445, 1971

“So Easy” by Aztec Two-Step from Aztec Two-Step, 1972

“Love at the Five & Dime” by Nanci Griffith from Last of the True Believers, 1986

“That Girl Could Sing” by Jackson Browne from Hold Out, 1980

“One Fine Day” by Carole King, Capitol single 4864, 1980

“Out In The Country” by Three Dog Night from It Ain’t Easy, 1970

“Moses” by the Navarros, GNP Crescendo single 351, 1965

A few notes:

I’ve learned from conversations and correspondence with radio folks that “Two Hangmen” is one of those songs that brings a buzz when it is aired: The phones light up as listeners have questions, comments and just plain gratitude for being able to hear the song one more time.

Steely Dan’s sound was unique and so consistent from album to album that sometimes the group’s body of work can blend into a whole. While the Dan never released a truly bad album, there were a couple that weren’t as good, and I think The Royal Scam was one of those.

I’m not sure if Lowen & Navarro were as popular elsewhere in the 1990s as they seemed to be in Minnesota. Every two or three months, it seemed, the duo would stop by Cities 97 for a live-in-studio performance. Their acoustic folk-pop was well-done, and I enjoy the couple of CDs I have, but there never seemed to be much change or growth: the songs on 1998’s Scratch at the Door could easily have fit into Walking On A Wire, the duo’s 1991 debut CD.

I have seven LPs and three CDs of Billy Joel’s work in my collection. I’m not sure I need that much. That said, An Innocent Man is a good album, and if “Keeping the Faith” isn’t the best track on the record – I think that title goes to “Uptown Girl” – it’s nevertheless a good one. Maybe someday I’ll write a post examining why I’m not all that fond of Joel and his work, and maybe by the time I’m finished with that post, I’ll understand the ambivalence he brings out in me.

Aztec Two-Step was a folk-rock duo that released four albums during the 1970s and a few more sporadically since then, including 2004’s Days of Horses. Their self-titled debut in 1972 created some buzz, but by the time the duo recorded 1975’s Second Step, folk-rock was falling out of favor. The first album is the best, though all of their work is pleasant.

I’ve noticed that whenever I post a Nanci Griffith song among either a Baker’s Dozen or a Junkyard, it almost always has fewer hits than the other tracks posted that day. Do yourself a favor: Listen to “Love at the Five & Dime.” I think that if I were to make a list of the one hundred best songs in my mp3 collection – which now numbers around 23,600 – “Love at the Five & Dime” would be one of them. I know that Nanci Griffith is not as well known as other artists whose recordings are posted here. I know that her delivery can be quirky. But the woman can write a song, and this one is most likely her best, from where I listen.

The Carole King track was the single pulled from Pearls: Songs of Goffin and King, a 1980 record for which King recorded some of the songs she and her then-husband, Gerry Goffin crafted during the Brill Building days in the early 1960s. I’d call the album a must-have.

The Navarros’ “Moses” is not quite a novelty record, but it comes close. I almost skipped over it when it popped up at the tail end this morning, but then I decided it’s a good day for a little bit of a chuckle.

A Baker’s Dozen From 1973, Vol. 3

June 11, 2011

Originally posted February 13, 2008

The first time I saw Billy Preston, he performed in an open-air concert at Selke Field on St. Cloud’s East Side. Selke’s stone walls date from the 1930s and enclose an entire city block. Until not too many years ago, about a third of the space was used for a football field and a surrounding running track. The rest of the area was open space for whatever uses the university might have.

And on a Saturday afternoon in May 1973, its use was as a home for the day for the legendary keyboard player and singer. I recall that my parents had no problem with my going to the concert – I was nineteen. I’m sure, however, that they had some concerns about my companion for the day. Let’s call her Sunny. She was twenty-six, divorced with two kids, in fragile recovery from an addition to at least one illegal substance, and was paying her way through college and feeding her children by dancing in a strip joint.

I’d met Sunny at The Table at school, and I have to give my folks credit: Mom and Dad never really said anything as I spent a few months seeing Sunny at school and then spending a fair amount of time at her apartment during evenings and weekends. My memory tells me that Sunny might even have come over to our home for dinner at least once, an encounter that would have shown my parents that she was actually pretty self-effacing, quiet with a sweet smile and a nice laugh and not at all the rough woman that they might have feared meeting, given only a description.

But I could tell all through the spring that my folks had their concerns, and looking back, that was reasonable. Between Sunny and me lay vast gaps in age and experience, gaps that scared me a little bit, to be honest, as I spent time with her and got closer to her during the spring and early summer.

We never were lovers. I would have happily accepted that role had it been offered, but I didn’t push for it. During the time that we spent hanging around her home or various drinking establishments, there were a few other men who came and went. Several times when I left Sunny’s home in the evening, there were men there who clearly would not be leaving until morning. Did that bother me? Yes, but given my utter inexperience in that aspect of life, it also brought me a sense of quiet relief. I never pushed for more.

I was happy spending time with her and her friends – they were a wide-ranging and fascinating group of people – and also spending time with her kids. I’ll call them Luke and Bethy, and they were eight and six, respectively. We went on picnics, played mini-golf once, I think, and the four of us – augmented more than once by one or more of Sunny’s lady friends and very rarely by one of the men she knew – would go shopping, ending the outing with a stop at a burger joint.

She was good to her kids, tried to be a good mom, from what I knew about the mom biz when I was nineteen, and she seemed – looking back – to be doing well at walking the slender bridge of recovery. I only recall one time when I truly questioned her judgment: In May, the four of us drove to St. Paul with tickets to see the Doobie Brothers. Along the way, we picked up a man she knew, a stop I’d not been told about, but that was okay. At the show, however, Sunny and her guy went dancing in the open space in front of the stage, leaving her two children sitting in the front row, scared and overwhelmed by the crowd and the spectacle and the sounds booming from the ten-foot-tall speaker not all that far away. For most of the concert, I sat between the kids, an arm around each one, very angry.

The academic year ended, and I stayed on campus for the summer, working half-time as a janitor and half-time for Learning Resources. I saw Sunny a few times early in the summer, as I got ready for my time in Denmark. Later, in August of 1973, she was one of those who arranged a surprise going-away party for me at the Grand Mantel, our favorite place for drinks. She sent me off with a kiss.

The night I got home from Denmark, in late May, 1974, I went down to the Grand Mantel to meet Sam, who’d left a note on my car to that effect a day or two earlier. He couldn’t make it that evening, it turned out, but I called him and we arranged to meet the next day on campus. While we were talking, I asked him quickly about some of our mutual friends. All seemed fine until I asked, “And Sunny – how’s she doing?”

There was a silence. “That,” said Sam, “is a sad situation.” He paused before telling me more. She’d gone back to drugs and dropped out of school. He thought the county had taken the kids away from her. And he wasn’t sure, but he didn’t think she was in St. Cloud anymore.

One of the next few days, I drove past the apartment where Sunny and her kids had lived when I left town. It was empty. I never saw her again.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1973, Vol. 3

We’ll start with a song that Sunny and I danced to during that May 1973 concert, and then go on to a song that often makes me think of her. And we’ll go random from there.

“Will It Go Round In Circles” by Billy Preston, A&M single 1411

“Too Late For Prayin’” by Gordon Lightfoot from Sundown

“I’m Just A Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like A Man)” by Hall & Oates from Abandoned Luncheonette

“Mind Games” by John Lennon, Apple single 1868

“Page 43” by Graham Nash & David Crosby from Graham Nash/David Crosby

“The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd from Dark Side of the Moon

“Tumbling Dice” by the Rolling Stones, Brussels, Belgium, October 17

“Final Theme” by Bob Dylan from Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

“Clever Girl” by Tower of Power from Tower of Power

“You Got To Reap Just What You Sow” by Joy of Cooking from Same Old Song And Dance (unreleased)

“Let It Ride” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Mercury single 73457

“If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” by the Staple Singers from Be What You Are

“Together” by El Chicano from El Chicano

A few notes:

The Hall & Oates tune is one of the great tracks from an album that I think gets ignored when talk turns to great records. The album was released in 1973, and “She’s Gone” went out as a single for the first time in 1974, but neither the album nor the single went anywhere until 1976, when they both reached the charts. But both the album and the single soon became afterthoughts to the duo’s more current work at the time. “She’s Gone” survives in the Oldies rotation, but Abandoned Luncheonette deserves a better fate than it got.

The year of 1973 falls smack-dab in the middle of John Lennon’s so-called “Lost Weekend.” His albums might have been fuzzily thought out at the time – Mind Games especially has always seemed erratic – but he could still find great singles inside himself. And the title track to that erratic album was one of them.

Among the various combination of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young, the duo of Crosby and Nash produced some of the best music. Graham Nash/David Crosby was the best of the albums the duo recorded, and “Page 43,” Crosby’s brief and sweet exploration of the purpose of life, is the best track on the album: “ . . . and you should have a sip of it, else you’ll find . . . it’s passed you by.”

It’s difficult to pull individual track from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon without pulling the music entirely out of context. “Money,” which opened Side Two of the original vinyl, worked. “Time” from Side One, and “Us and Them,” from Side Two, worked a little less well. But “The Great Gig In The Sky,” which closed Side One, somehow manages here to stand on its own. If I have my Pink Floyd lore correct, Clare Torry provides the swooping vocals.

I don’t often offer soundboard recordings/bootlegs here. The Muddy Waters recording with the Rolling Stones the other day was an exception. So, too, is the Rolling Stones’ version of “Tumbling Dice” today. Supposedly recorded for a live album, the Brussels show gives a good look at the Stones when they were truly “The Greatest Rock & Roll Band In The World,” and to me, it’s a reminder of how they sounded when I saw them in Denmark thirteen days before they played this show in Brussels.

Of the final four groups in today’s list, the only one you seem have a chance of hearing on Oldies radio is Bachman-Turner Overdrive and its seven Top 40 hits, and that’s too bad. Joy of Cooking, as readers know, is one of my favorite forgotten groups of those years when the Sixties blended into the Seventies, but the group never hit the Top 40. The Staples Singers had eight Top 40 hits between 1971 and 1975, including two No. 1 songs (“I’ll Take You There” in 1972 and “Let’s Do It Again” in 1975), but I don’t recall the last time I heard them on any of the Oldies stations I listen to. The same holds true for El Chicano, which wasn’t nearly as successful reaching the charts as BTO or the Staples but still did have two Top 40 hits, including the sweet “Tell Her She’s Lovely” (No. 40 for one week!) in 1973.