Posts Tagged ‘It’s A Beautiful Day’

A Baker’s Dozen From 1971, Vol. 3

June 11, 2011

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.

Random Sort, Ceramic Heat & ‘White Bird’

May 17, 2011

Originally posted October 29, 2007

When I listen to the RealPlayer on random, I generally start off by sorting the 19,000 mp3s by their running times. Why? It seems to me that after a few truly random selections, the software settles into a pattern, rotating between three or four places on the long queue of songs. In other words, were the songs sorted by title, the program might happen on “Shadows” by Gordon Lightfoot and then go elsewhere for two or three songs, only to return to that spot for “Shadows on my Wall” by the Poppy Family and then, two or three songs later, play “Shadows Where The Magic Was” by James Hand.

That particular run would not be so bad, but when the player gets stuck in an area of multiple versions of the same song – for example, I have thirteen versions of “Key To The Highway” and, as mentioned another day, twenty-one versions of “The Weight” – then a pattern based on titles can be monotonous. The same holds true if the songs are sorted by artist or album or – to a lesser degree – by year.

So I sort by running time. The only drawback to that is that the program tends to stay in the middle of the road, playing neither the extremely shorts tracks nor the extremely long ones. So I rarely hear my Hamm’s Beer jingle from 1953 or “Her Majesty,” the little joke that closes the Beatles’ Abbey Road. Nor, more importantly, do I hear the longer tracks, generally concert performances or the various tracks that are full albums – or albums sides from the days when LP’s ruled. Among those are things a little more desirable to hear than “Her Majesty,” things like Sides One and Two of Johnny Rivers’ Realization, the “Mountain Jam” from the Allman Brothers Band’s At Fillmore East, long suites by Chicago or Shawn Phillips and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

It was that last that brought the neighborhood of long songs, suites and entire albums to mind the other evening. On our way home from some Saturday errands, the Texas Gal and I stopped at a local big box store to replace her blow dryer. While she was sorting out the options – which included something that a blurb on one of the boxes called “ceramic heat technology” – I poked my head into the media section. I rarely find anything of interest there in this particular store; it’s usually current mainstream music at mainstream prices. But in the budget rack, I spotted the prism and rainbow of Pink Floyd’s 1973 masterpiece.

I’m on my third vinyl copy of Dark Side of the Moon, but I’d never owned the CD; the mp3 track I had was ripped from the public library’s copy of the album. So I grabbed the CD and went back to the hair care aisle, where the Texas Gal had decided to try the blow dryer that offered ceramic heat technology (left dismally unexplained by the information inside the box, as we learned later). Late that evening, I ripped the CD into one long mp3, pulled it into the RealPlayer and put the headphones on.

As the album played, I sorted the tunes by running time; Dark Side of the Moon clocked in at 42:57, the longest file of the more than 19,000. Next came “Mountain Jam” and then the two sides – as originally released – of Mike Oldfield’s 1973 album Tubular Bells. And I wondered if, having been started at the extreme end, the player’s random selection function would come back to that extreme after a few changes. Or would it revert to the safer, shorter middle of the road?

Four selections later, I had my answer. We were in the land of shorter pieces. So, casting about for an idea for today’s share, I decided that the next time the program selected a track more than six minutes long, I’d rip and share the album the track came from, as long as the CD wasn’t in print. Six selections later, the player settled on “White Bird,” the haunting and melodic opener to the 1969 self-titled debut of the late-1960s San Francisco group It’s A Beautiful Day.

As I wrote last summer when I shared a track from the album, it’s hippie music: flowing and soaring longer pieces featuring distinctive sounds: the violin and vocals of David LaFlamme and the vocals of Patti Santos. There’s sometimes some crunch, as in “Wasted Union Blues,” and “Time Is” has portions that are less than lyrical, especially its drum solo. But for the most part, the group’s first album flows gently like an earth mother’s long dress. It’s an album that’s one with its time, as much an artifact of its era as any album can be. (And it seems to be difficult to find new, if not formally out of print.)

White Bird
Hot Summer Day
Wasted Union Blues
Girl With No Eyes
Bombay Calling
Time Is

It’s A Beautiful Day – It’s A Beautiful Day [1969]

Saturday Single No. 19

April 23, 2011

Originally posted June 30, 2007

We’re halfway through the year today, and I wish I had something profound or at least interesting to say. But I don’t think I do. And I don’t have much time to figure it out, as the Texas Gal and I are joining some friends for a trek to an Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Paul. I imagine we’ll spend a few hours wandering the fair, looking at lovely old books and wishing we could buy them. It should be fun.

Even though I’m short of things to say right now, I can’t let a Saturday pass un-noticed, especially the one that marks the half-way point of the year, as we turn for the long slide to the end of December.

So I tried to find something distinctive for this week’s single: I ran a search for the word “hot” through the RealPlayer. One of the results I found was an album track from a late-Sixties group that, as I think back, listeners either loved or hated. It’s A Beautiful Day was a progressive-psychedelic band from San Francisco that was anchored by leader David LaFlamme’s violin and the vocals of Pattie Santos. The group’s sound was distinctive, immediately recognizable and frequently a little bit eerie. It was, to use affectionately a term often used derisively, hippie music.

The title of the track seemed appropriate for the mid-point of the year, at least here in the Northern Hemisphere. (Those in the Southern Hemisphere can close their eyes and dream of December.) So here’s “Hot Summer Day,” the second track from It’s A Beautiful Day’s self-titled debut, today’s Saturday Single.

It’s A Beautiful Day –“ Hot Summer Day” [1970]

A Baker’s Dozen from 1970

April 18, 2011

Originally posted April 11, 2007

I’ve been dithering back and forth for a few days, trying to decide what year to feature in today’s Baker’s Dozen. I spent some time sorting out the tunes from various years on the RealPlayer (in the process realizing that I might need to beef up the number of tunes for some of the years prior to the British Invasion and for the 1980s) trying to decide.

I was thinking about 1969 and about 1970 but I couldn’t make up my mind. Finally, as the Texas Gal was pulling on her coat to leave for work this morning, I gave her the choice between those two years and 1966. Without hesitation, she chose 1970. So I looked at my list of love songs that I sometimes use as a starting point. Two were from 1970: “It Don’t Matter To Me” by Bread and “Long, Long Time” by Linda Ronstadt.

Without telling her which songs they were, I asked her to choose between Love Song No. 1, Love Song No. 2 or a random start. And she chose a random start.

And I think we came up with a pretty good set of songs for the year, which is truly one of my favorite years for music, as it was the first full calendar year when I was listening consistently to pop and rock. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my first two album purchases with my own money – as opposed to gifts – were the Beatles’ Let It Be and the double album with the silver cover that was labeled simply Chicago and has since come to be called Chicago II.

By the end of the year, the collection had grown to include albums by the Bee Gees, by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Band as well several more LPs by the Beatles. I also spent a lot of time listening to Top 40 radio; looking at a list of the year’s major single releases in Norm N. Nite’s Rock On Almanac is like looking at a roster of old friends.

So here are thirteen old friends:

“Arizona” by Mark Lindsay from Arizona

“Please Call Home” by the Allman Brothers Band from Idlewild South

“Heavy Church” by Three Dog Night from Naturally

“The Mob” by the Meters from Look-Ka Py Py

“Blue Boy” by Joni Mitchell from Ladies of the Canyon

“Built for Comfort” by Howlin’ Wolf from The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions

“New Morning” by Bob Dylan from New Morning

“Casey Jones” by the Grateful Dead from Workingman’s Dead

“Sunny Skies” by James Taylor from Sweet Baby James

“Down Along The Cove” by Johnny Jenkins from Ton-Ton Macoute!

“Let It Be” by Aretha Franklin from This Girl’s in Love With You

“Do You Remember The Sun” by It’s A Beautiful Day from Marrying Maiden

“Upon The Earth” by Illustration from Illustration

A few notes about this Baker’s Dozen:

Mark Lindsay, as you might know, had been the frontman for Paul Revere and the Raiders, which had thirteen Top 40 hits – four in the Top Ten – during the 1960s. I’ve always thought that “Arizona” was one of the last gasps in the Top 40 of the hippie sensibility with its references to San Francisco, rainbow shades, posting posters and Indian braids. And “Arizona” was a perfect self-adopted name, in an era when hippie children called themselves Sunshine and Harmony and Wavy Gravy and Heloise and Abelard.

I’ve thought for years that “Please Call Home,” a Gregg Allman original, was nearly the perfect blues song, and it’s still surprising, almost forty years after the fact, to realize that when it came out, the Allman Brothers Band had been together for only a year or so (although all of its members had been woodshedding in other bands for years).

The Meters, as All-Music Guide says, “defined New Orleans funk, not only on their own recordings, but also as the backing band for numerous artists,” including Allen Toussaint, Paul McCartney and Robert Palmer. Look-Ka Py Py was the second album by the group headed by Art Neville.

Howlin’ Wolf’s “Built For Comfort” comes from the sessions recorded in London in 1970. The Wolf, who was not healthy, brought along his long-time guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Joining them in the studio were such British luminaries as Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones. Former Stones pianist Ian Stewart pitched in, and a dummer credited only as “Richie” but better known as Ringo Starr came by for a track or two. Blues purists don’t care much for the resulting album, but I think it’s fine. Highlights include Clapton quietly asking the Wolf to demonstrate to the players how he wants the opening to “The Red Rooster” to go, and a rousing version of Big Joe Williams’ classic “Highway 49.”

“Down Along The Cove” was originally intended to be part of a Duane Allman solo album that never came to fruition after the creation of the Allman Brothers Band. The backing tracks already in the can were presented to Jenkins for Ton-Ton Macoute. That’s Duane on guitar here, and fellow Allman Brothers Butch Trucks, Jaimoe and Berry Oakley also worked on the sessions.

The boys from Muscle Shoals provide the backing for Aretha on This Girl’s In Love With You, and the saxophone solo comes from King Curtis.

Illustration was a horn-rock band fronted by Bill Ledster, and “Upon The Earth” was the opening cut from the group’s self-titled debut on the Janus label. (The group also released Man Made in 1974 on Good Noise.) According to the website of band member John Ranger, the group was formed at the Fontain Bleu in St. Jean, Quebec in 1969. You can listen to both of Illustration’s albums – and a few other things – at Ranger’s website.