Posts Tagged ‘Mother Earth’

Staying At Home

April 9, 2020

As events came down this late winter and early spring, and the prospect of having to stay home almost all of the time became more and more real, I thought “Big deal. I’ve been staying home pretty much all of the time since the summer of 1999.”

And that’s true. Since I left the workforce late that summer, most of my days have been spent at the computer in three different apartments, one house and now, one condo. And I came to like that, which was a change for me. Still, if I needed to or wanted to, I could go out without having to weigh heavy questions of health and wellness (there was some of that, as I learned how to deal with the malady that had rerouted my life) or equally heavy questions of public obligation.

But the heaviness of those questions – along with the burden of the mostly doleful news from around the nation and around the world – make this stay-at-home time much different. And it’s affecting me: I’m not sleeping well, waking up each morning at about six a.m. no matter how late I might have gotten to bed the night before. My chronic depression seems to have adjusted its default setting – the level attained if I take my medication regularly – to a slightly more unhappy level than had been the case two months ago. I’m a little fidgety. And I’m definitely more short-tempered than usual.

I’m finding things to fill my hours: Sorting and tagging the stock of mp3s I’ve stuck in folders and set aside over the past twenty years; doing the groundwork for and beginning a new season – the twenty-fifth – for my eighteen-team tabletop baseball league; pondering new music for the keyboard (something I need to move from simply pondering to actually playing); binge-watching television with the Texas Gal (we loved both Interrogation and One Dollar, offered by CBS All Access); and more things that don’t come to mind at the moment.

I’m not complaining. I’m just observing that sheltering in place – staying home and having to plan carefully to limit excursions to the essential – is harder than I expected. But if this is what I have to do to play my part in the societal attempt to limit the impact of the corona virus and COVID-19, so be it. My parents’ generation had to deal with far worse, what with the Depression and World War II. I can handle today’s burdens for the duration.

And here’s a tune that came to mind this morning: It’s “(Staying Home and Singing) Homemade Songs” by Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth. It’s from the 1972 album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth.

Stocking Up & Staying Home

March 13, 2020

As more and more institutions have closed and events have been canceled over the past couple days because of the coronavirus, we’ve taken some precautions here. We spent a couple hours at one of the bigger box stores yesterday getting some things that we honestly should have had before – an electric lantern to light at least one room in the case of power failure, along with several flashlights and a good supply of batteries – and stocking up on canned goods, pasta and dried beans (as well as some meat for the freezer and a few other things).

As has been reported in many other places, toilet paper was gone from the shelves, but our need for that – and for other paper products – was filled a little earlier in the week. And the store was crowded but at base sane. There were, however, some grocery items that were obviously in short supply. There were no corn tortillas (unless I was looking in the wrong place), and the supply of some types of dried beans was limited, just to note two.

There were a few things at the big store that we could not find, so on our way home, we stopped at our neighborhood market and picked those up. And then headed home.

So far (as of last evening), there are nine cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, one here in Stearns County. I’m betting, though, that there are far more people infected with the virus, so we’re going to be prudent and pretty much self-quarantine from now on. There are a few things that need to be done, like dropping by the nearby hardware store for a new supply of furnace filters. And I need to refill a few prescriptions.

In addition, I am committed to playing piano at our fellowship Sunday. We’re a small congregation, averaging thirty-five or so people each week, but the greater majority of us are past sixty, and I’m not sure how wise it is for us to keep gathering each week. The fellowship leadership is, I know, weighing factors, but the Texas Gal and I are thinking that after this Sunday, we may withdraw ourselves from activities for the last six weeks of the fellowship year.

Beyond that, we have tickets for a musical performance the first week of April, in a small theater. We don’t know what we’ll do. Perhaps by then, most gatherings will be discouraged, if not actually barred by officials. We’ll see.

As readers can no doubt tell, I’m concerned, perhaps even shaken by how fast things are happening. And the Texas Gal and I are both older than sixty, which we have to take into account. So, with very few exceptions, we’re going to stay home. The Texas Gal added to her stock of yarn yesterday so she can continue to crochet as we watch television, and I stopped by the public library and added seven books to my reading pile. And I’ll no doubt find plenty of time to sit at the other keyboard and dig into my pile of music books old and new.

And here’s a fitting tune: “(Staying Home and Singing) Homemade Songs” by Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth. It’s from the 1972 album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth.

Back To Sipping Wine

October 5, 2016

A couple of interesting comments showed up on older posts here late last month. We’ll look at one today and the other later this week. The first was from Shane Valcich, adding a thought or two to a couple of posts from a little more than a year ago

In those posts – they’re here and here – I looked at a seeming contradiction – or mistake – in the titling and crediting one of my favorite tunes from the 1970s. I first knew the tune as “Sip The Wine,” written by Rick Danko and included on his self-titled 1977 album, and I wrote about how that tune and that album had provided some evening comfort and a sense of home for me as I settled into a couple of new apartments in Columbia, Missouri, in the late summer of 1990:

One of the tracks from Danko’s album that’s most evocative of those evenings is “Sip The Wine.” It’s a love song, and for the most part, it had no bearing on my life at the time, but I remember hearing the closing repetitions of “We must sip the wine” and nodding in agreement. The wine I was sipping wasn’t as sweet as that quaffed by the lovers in the song, but that was okay. I still found comfort in the song.

A couple of days later, after the random function on the RealPlayer alerted me, I wrote about the same song being released in 1972 – five years earlier than Danko’s release – by Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth under the title “I Want To Lay Down Beside You.” Credited to musician and songwriter Tim Drummond, the track was on the album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth:

Digging into the contradiction, I made the assumption that Drummond was the songwriter and some type of error resulted in its being credited to Danko in 1977. But in the comment Shane left at the second post, he noted that it might have been the other way around. Here’s his comment, edited slightly.

Just a theory but I wonder if the error isn’t on the 1972 album.

Seems more likely that Rick wasn’t paying attention, didn’t care or gave away the song credits to Tim Drummond for the 1972 release. Rick was busy and highly successful in the early 70s with the Band and touring with Bob Dylan in 1974.

Seems less likely that Tim Drummond would get credit for playing bass on two tracks on Rick’s [1977] album while losing out on the higher paying writing credits for “Sip the Wine” on the same album, all while in a far less hectic time period when these musicians were all starting to decline in popularity and were looking for credit and royalties. Also he is properly credited for tons of writing and performing.

But inversely, maybe Tim’s success resulted in him giving the credit to Rick for his debut album seeing that Rick’s popularity may have been in more jeopardy than Tim’s. Or he was so busy he didn’t care or notice.

I will just have to head down to visit Rick’s grave in Woodstock and ask him while I smoke a joint with his spirit.

If Danko has any guidance for Shane from beyond the veil, I hope Shane shares it here.

Who Sipped Whose Wine?

August 14, 2015

So what brought to mind Rick Danko’s “Sip The Wine” earlier this week? Well, like many things in life, it was random.

Sometime last week, I was puttering online, checking out my Facebook timeline or maybe reading emails from some of the folks from my Denmark group who were having a fine time at a reunion. (It’s the only reunion I’ve missed since we started having them regularly twenty-some years ago; the logistical challenges of traveling to Montana, where one of our fellows owns a ranch, kept me away.)

Anyway, as I puttered, the RealPlayer bounced around the 84,000 mp3s in its repertoire, and I noticed in the back of my mind as it settled on a track that started with a gentle strummed guitar followed by the voice of a young Tracy Nelson with Mother Earth:

The song was familiar, but I didn’t pay much attention until the 3:44 mark, when Nelson sings, “We must sip the wine . . .” That got my head up, and I wondered how Mother Earth had come to record Danko’s tune. Because Mother Earth was out of business by 1977, when Danko released his self-titled album that offered “Sip The Wine.” That meant this recording pre-dated Danko’s, which puzzled me.

I checked the RealPlayer and saw the track was titled “I Want To Lay Down Beside You” and was included on the 1972 album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth. I pulled the LP from the stacks and took a quick look: The song was credited to Tim Drummond, a name I knew vaguely and knew I had heard recently. That was likely, Wikipedia informed me, because he passed on in January. He’d been a bass player and a songwriter who played with folks ranking from Mile Davis and B.B. King to Bob Dylan and Conway Twitty (and many others in between). His co-writing credits, in the brief examples listed at Wikipedia, included “Saved” with Bob Dylan and “Saddle Up The Palomino” with Neil Young.

And he’d obviously written the song that Rick Danko offered as “Sip The Wine” on 1977’s Rick Danko, where Danko was credited as the writer. Hmm.

I checked the Rick Danko jacket. Drummond was around for the those sessions, credited as playing bass on “Brainwash” and “Java Blues.” There’s no clue on the jacket as to how “I Want To Lay Down Beside You” became “Sip The Wine” and how the writing credit transformed. It’s obviously Drummond’s song, and I’d like to think that the errant credit was an honest mistake. But I don’t know, and the only place I’ve found that acknowledges the error is the page devoted to “Sip The Wine” at the semi-official website devoted to The Band.

Well, it’s a hell of a song. Danko’s performance of it is lovely. Both Rick Danko and Tim Drummond are gone, and we’ll likely never know what happened. So let’s just sip the wine.

‘Long Gone’ Three Times

May 18, 2011

Originally posted November 9, 2007

I’m battling a flu bug this week, and today it feels as if I’m losing the battle, so I won’t be posting an album or writing anything today.

However, while wandering the wilds of the ’Net last evening, I came across a link to a reference on someone’s Yahoo! 360 page to Cold Blood, the late Sixties/early Seventies bluesy band from the Bay Area. The page owner was looking for Cold Blood’s version of the Boz Scaggs’ song “I’ll Be Long Gone.”

So I thought that instead of leave this place entirely blank today, I’d post the three versions I have of that song, which has always been one of my favorites.

Boz Scaggs – “I’ll Be Long Gone” from Boz Scaggs [1969]

Mother Earth – “I’ll Be Long Gone” from Bring Me Home [1971]

Cold Blood – “I’ll Be Long Gone” from Thriller [1973]

Enjoy, and have a fine weekend!

A Baker’s Dozen From 1969

April 18, 2011

Originally posted April 18, 2007

As I began to write this morning, I started the file with the date, as I always do, and as I typed “April 18,” I was sorely tempted to revisit 1975 for this week’s Baker’s Dozen.

Why? Because of this:

“Listen my children and you shall hear
“Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
“On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
“Hardly a man is now alive
“Who remembers that famous day and year.”

Of course, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was referring to a different “Seventy-five” – 1775 – when he wrote “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” And because I ran a Baker’s Dozen from 1975 just a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d hit a few other years before I begin repeating, as I am sure I will do at some point. So with the Texas Gal already off to work before providing any guidance, I’m going to choose 1969 and start with one of my favorite recordings of all time. 

There was an old hotel not far from the Mississippi River in downtown St. Cloud when I was growing up, the Grand Central. Historical rumor had it that it had been a stopping place for numerous famous people over the years, including Buffalo Bill Cody (a rumor that I believe was verified by a guest register discovered during the building’s demolition). It may have been a truly grand establishment at one time, but by my first year of college, it was pretty much a flophouse, and its first floor retail spaces were filled with small and generally short-lived shops that sold used records, posters, and equipment and accessories for pharmaceutical recreation.

It was in one of those shops in the spring of 1972, just a few months before the hotel came down and the lot was paved over for a lot for city bus service, that I pawed through a stack of records and found Joe Cocker’s self-titled 1969 album, in decent shape for a reasonable price. I grabbed it and went off to one of the college dorms, where I dropped in on some friends to share my find.

It’s a good record, with several songs that have become Cocker standards: “Delta Lady,” “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window” and “Dear Landlord” come quickly to mind. But the best cut on the album – I thought on first hearing and still think today, more than thirty years later – is Cocker’s take on John Sebastian’s “Darling, Be Home Soon.” With a feel of gospel-powered celebration, Cocker gives the song a joy that neither Sebastian nor anyone else has ever found in it. It thrilled me, even though I have to confess that at 18, I did not grasp the entire meaning of “the great relief of having you to talk to.”

I do now, and the song remains a favorite of mine and is the starting point for this random Baker’s Dozen from 1969:

“Darling, Be Home Soon” by Joe Cocker from Joe Cocker!

“Wild Child” by the Doors from The Soft Parade

“Songs To Aging Children Come” by Joni Mitchell from Clouds

“That Old Sweet Roll (Hi-De-Ho)” by Dusty Springfield, Atlantic single 2637

“Will You Be Staying After Sunday” by the Peppermint Rainbow, Decca single 32410

“Gentle On My Mind” by Elvis Presley from From Elvis In Memphis

“The River Is Wide” by the Grass Roots, Dunhill single 4187

“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” by Linda Ronstadt from Hand Sown . . . Home Grown

“Goodbye” by Frank Sinatra from Watertown

“I’m Easy” by Boz Scaggs from Boz Scaggs

 “Hey Joe” by Wilson Pickett, Atlantic single 2648

“What Are You Trying To Do” by Mother Earth from Make A Joyful Noise

“Dirty Old Man” by Delaney & Bonnie from Accept No Substitutes

I chuckled when the Doors’ “Wild Child” popped up right after “Darling, Be Home Soon.” It’s quite likely that when I took my Joe Cocker album to the dorm that long-ago Friday evening, “Wild Child” – or at least The Soft Parade – was playing on the stereo in my friend’s room; it was one of his favorite albums, and that specific song was to some extent an anthem for our freshman year.

Despite that, I also cringed a little at “Wild Child.” For some time, I’ve believed that the Doors were the most over-rated of all the well-known bands of their time, and much of The Soft Parade, in particular, is difficult to listen to with much pleasure these days.

There are two versions I like of Joni Mitchell’s “Songs to Aging Children Come” – this one, and the one by Tigger Outlaw in the 1969 film Alice’s Restaurant. Mitchell’s version – the original – is probably more accomplished, but there is an awkward earnestness in Outlaw’s version that is somehow endearing. Check it out if you get the chance.

The Sinatra tune, “Goodbye,” is from Watertown, a song cycle that’s one of the more idiosyncratic recordings of Sinatra’s long career. The songs on Watertown came from Bob Gaudio – writer of many of the Four Seasons’ hits – and Jake Holmes, the singer-songwriter/folk-rocker who was also the composer of “Dazed & Confused,” which Led Zeppelin appropriated as its own work. The album is, as All-Music Guide notes, Sinatra’s “most explicit attempt at rock-oriented pop.” It’s also a rather depressing piece of work, as the mood throughout is one of unrelieved (and unrelievable) sadness.

Elvis Presley’s version of “Gentle On My Mind” comes from his sessions in Memphis in 1969, which were regarded at the time as some of the best work he’d done in years. That was likely true, but, to me, “Gentle On My Mind” was one of the lesser efforts from those sessions. The best-known songs from those sessions, of course, are the three hits: “In The Ghetto,” “Kentucky Rain” and “Suspicious Minds.” For my part, the best performance from those sessions is the King’s take on “True Love Travels On A Gravel Road.”

“I’m Easy,” the Boz Scaggs tune, comes from his self-titled solo debut, which was recorded at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. Probably the best-known cut on the album is “Loan Me A Dime,” which features – as do a few other cuts – Duane Allman.

“Dirty Old Man” features the classic line-up behind Delaney and Bonnie: Leon Russell, Bobby Whitlock, Carl Radle, Jim Price, Bobby Keys, Jim Keltner, Rita Coolidge and a few others.

A Baker’s Dozen from 1968

April 18, 2011

Originally posted March 21, 2007

While I was puttering around last evening, visiting blogs and boards and seeing what music some of my on-line friends had decided to share, I was pondering what type of Baker’s Dozen I would post today.

I’ve had it in my head for a while to post a collection of the 13 love songs/love laments that touch me the most deeply, with some of them, honestly, moving me to tears in almost any context. But that would be a remarkable concentration of firepower in one place, pretty much a case of overkill. And I do like doing something random with the Baker’s Dozen.

So I thought I would combine the two ideas, in a way. I’d take one of the songs from that list of love songs and use it as the starting point for a random Baker’s Dozen from the year of its release. Let’s start with some songs from 1968.

We’ll open the list with the Vogues and “Turn Around, Look At Me,” which reached No. 7 that summer. Now, about half of the songs on the list of love songs aren’t related in my mind with any one person; they’re just songs that moved me. The rest are indelibly linked with various girls and women who were important to me along the way. And “Turn Around, Look At Me” will always bring memories to mind of a certain long-ago young lady. I’m sure she never knew.

“Turn Around, Look at Me” by the Vogues, Reprise 686 .

“Goodnight Nelba Grebe, The Telephone Company Has Cut Us Off” by Mother Earth from Living With The
Animals
.

“Unlock My Door” by Fever Tree from Fever Tree.

“This Wheel’s On Fire” by The Band from Music From Big Pink.

“I’ve Lost My Baby” by Fleetwood Mac from Mr. Wonderful.

“Me And My Uncle” by Dino Valente from Dino Valente.

“Memphis Train” by Rufus Thomas, Stax single 250.

‘The Christian Life” by the Byrds from Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

“Brother Where Are You?” by Johnny Rivers from Realization.

“Over You” by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, Columbia single 44644.

“Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf, Dunhill single 4138.

“Jump Sturdy” by Dr. John from Gris-Gris.

“Flower Town” by Rose Garden from The Rose Garden.

A Double Baker’s Dozen From 1971

April 17, 2011

Originally posted March 6, 2007

There’s a new fellow in Texas Gal’s office, and as kind of a “Welcome to the Funny Patch” gift, she asked me to put together a CD of songs that originated during the 1971-72 academic year, which was his senior year of high school. So I did, and I was pretty amazed at the quality of the music available from the period. Of course, since that time frame was my first year of college, and I seem to have focused a lot of my collecting – many people do likewise, I am sure – on the years of my youth, the sheer volume of stuff available should not have surprised me.

(A quick check on RealPlayer shows that there are 856 songs from 1971 and 720 songs from 1972 in the collection here.)

And Steve’s CD ended up with a pretty good list of songs from those months:

1. “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart
2. “One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse
3. “Imagine” by John Lennon
4. “Life Is A Carnival” by The Band
5. “Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes
6. “Two Divided By Love” by the Grass Roots
7. “Clean-Up Woman” by Betty Wright
8. “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green
9. “Levon” by Elton John
10. “Precious and Few” by Climax
11. “Heart of Gold” by Neil Young
12. “Doctor My Eyes” by Jackson Browne
13. “Taxi” by Harry Chapin
14. “Suavecito” by Malo
15. “Diary” by Bread
16. “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers
17. “Conquistador” by Procol Harum
18. “Too Late To Turn Back Now” by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
19. “Tumbling Dice” by the Rolling Stones

Texas Gal said he liked it a lot and that he was amused and pleased by the ringer I hid at the end: “Geek in the Pink,” by Jason Mraz, hidden there because he said he’d liked the song when he heard a contestant perform it on American Idol last week.

And I thought, as I am fighting a cold and don’t have the energy to rip an LP today, I’d present a random double baker’s dozen from 1971. (The only rule was to have no more than one cut from any one album, and I did skip one cut from the Mimi Farina-Tom Jans album I posted Monday.) It was a fun year musically for me, and I hope you’ll enjoy the tunes!

“Volcano” by The Band from Cahoots.

“Lullaby” by Leo Kottke from Mudlark.

“Down My Dream” by Joy of Cooking from Joy of Cooking.

“Ecology Song” by Stephen Stills from Stephen Stills 2.

“It Ain’t Easy” by Long John Baldry from It Ain’t Easy.

“A Case Of You” by Joni Mitchell from Blue.

“Don’t Cry My Lady Love” by Quicksilver Messenger Service from Quicksilver.

“Nobody” by the Doobie Brothers from The Doobie Brothers.

“Rock Me On The Water” by Brewer & Shipley from Shake Off The Demon.

“Sweet Emily” by Leon Russell from Leon Russell & The Shelter People

“Vigilante Man” by Ry Cooder from Into The Purple Valley

“I Saw Her Standing There” by Little Richard fromThe Rill Thing.

“The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King from Live In Cook County Jail.

“January Song” by Lindisfarne from Fog On The Tyne.

“Hats Off (To The Stranger)” by Lighthouse from One Fine Morning.

“Levon” by Elton John from Madman Across The Water.

“Let Me Be The One” by Paul Williams from Just An Old Fashioned Love Song.

“Down In The Flood” by Bob Dylan from Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.

“Soul of Sadness” by Mother Earth from Bring Me Home.

“Pick Up A Gun” by Ralph McTell from You Well Meaning Brought Me Here.

“A Song For You” by Donny Hathaway from Donny Hathaway.

“That’s All Right” by Lightnin’ Slim from High & Low Down.

“Let Your Love Go” by Bread from Manna.

“Freedom Is Beyond The Door” by Candi Staton from Stand By Your Man.

“Younger Men Grow Older” by Richie Havens from Alarm Clock.

The Search For Mother Earth

April 17, 2011

Originally posted February 19, 2007

Mother Earth came to me in a cardboard box.

In the last years of the 1980s, I was just beginning to expand my interest in and awareness of rock music beyond what would now be called classic rock. I had my Bob Dylan set pretty well completed. I had enough Van Morrison, Eric Clapton and Springsteen for the time being, and I had enough Led Zeppelin and other metal to satisfy me. I also had the mainstream archives: The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Chicago and all the rest. And I had a good supply of the quirky, having always loved one-hit wonders.

I was living in Minot, N.D., at the time, and one Saturday in February of 1989, I wandered out to the flea market at the state fairgrounds. A record dealer from Bismarck – from whom I’d bought a few things during my two years in Minot – was at the market and was selling off his inventory, a box for $10. No mixing – you took the boxes as they were. So I laid down my $10 and took a box of about sixty records home with me.

I dug into the box. A few of the things I found were by Boston, McCartney, Stevie Nicks, Billy Joel, the Steve Miller Band, Nilsson, the Strawbs, Thin Lizzy, Todd Rundgren – a lot of mainstream stuff that I hadn’t gotten around to yet. There was a lot of odd stuff, too, only a few of which I still have.  And there was an LP on the Mercury label: Make a Joyful Noise by Mother Earth, a group I’d never heard of before. I cleaned it, dropped it on the turntable, and was entranced. It was one of the best things I’d heard in a long, long time, and I knew nothing about the group at all.

I had so much fun that Saturday evening, and the records turned out to be in such good shape, that I went back to the flea market the next day and bought the guy’s last box.  I got some Argent, some Quicksilver Messenger Service, Robin Trower, Manfredd Mann, Ian Lloyd and a number of other things I have on the stacks to this day. No more Mother Earth, though.

But I was intrigued enough by Mother Earth – and by the records by other groups that I’d heard of but knew little about – to go out and buy my first copy of the Rolling Stone Record Guide in the next week. And I began to change from a casual purchaser of used records to a collector.

From my record guide, I learned only that Mother Earth was a San Francisco area band, formed by its lead singer, Wisconsin native Tracy Nelson in about 1968 and that the group’s two first albums – Make A Joyful Noise and Living With The Animals – were superb but at the time, out of print. So I put Living With The Animals on my list. Eventually, during my time in Minneapolis during the 1990s, I found four more Mother Earth albums and five by Tracy Nelson as a solo act, all of them worth more than casual listening.

In its overview of the group, All-Music Guide describes Mother Earth as being a “blues-rock” group. But the sound is so much more complex than that, bringing in elements of R&B, country and gospel. As I think about it, Mother Earth is one of those groups that is so difficult to describe that at most times and places, I doubt that it would ever have gotten a major label deal. In the San Francisco of the late 1960s, however, record companies were seemingly giving deals to any group that could show up for a meeting with a demo tape.

Mother Earth was far better than that, of course. I’m not sure the group ranks with the royalty of the San Francisco scene of the time – the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver and Janis Joplin, to name a few – but I don’t think Mother Earth was all that far from that level, either. The group wasn’t a San Francisco group for very long, as it turned out. The debut record, Living With The Animals, was recorded while the group was based there, but in 1969, Nelson moved the band to Nashville.

The album shared here is Bring Me Home, a 1971 release that was the next-to-last record released by Mother Earth. AMG says: “Not really deviating from a formula which was modestly successful for Mother Earth, the band takes the adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ to heart with Bring Me Home. Staying in form with the blend of R&B, gospel, folk and soft rock, this-nine song session remains a vehicle predominantly for the group’ s siren, Tracy Nelson. The band delivers constantly solid performances backing Nelson’s impassioned vocals in a very complementary fashion, but really doesn’t set itself apart from the majority of the group’s output.”

I agree that the record is very much of a type with the rest of the group’s work. What makes this album stand out for me is two things: First, Nelson’s rendition of the Boz Scagg’s song, “I’ll Be Long Gone,” which is one of my favorite tunes. Second, the work the group does on Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road,” a tune later popularized by the Eagles on the 1980 live album. I prefer Mother Earth’s version.

(This album is one of the rare records I will share that is still in print. If you like it, go to Amazon.com or your own favorite retail site and purchase it, please. The bulk of Mother Earth’s catalog has been reissued in the past few years. It’s work that deserves an audience!)

Mother Earth – Bring Me Home [1971]

A Long, Strange Trip Indeed

April 13, 2010

Not all that many years ago, as these things can be measured, I met someone while I was working at St. Cloud State. This was years before I had an inkling of the Texas Gal’s existence, and I was trying to fill the empty place. It worked, for a while.

That someone and I spent a brilliant summer together and then a few less-than-brilliant months sliding slowly apart before we realized that what we had found instead of a life-long romance was a lasting friendship, a rare enough commodity itself. That friendship endures today, as do the memories, most of them dear and a few of them not so happy.

Among the most fascinating memories – from this side of the fence, anyway – are the evenings we spent tracing our steps through the separate lives we’d led in the years before. Many times metaphorically and two or three times literally, one of us had left a room bare moments before the other entered. At least twice, we were at the same event among crowds small enough that we could have found the other, had we been aware there was someone to find.

We did many more things that summer than plot our movements over the years, of course, but we lazed into the topic frequently as the records or the radio played in my apartment or hers. And one evening, as the campus radio station provided the soundtrack, we were musing over where we had been and dreaming about where we might go. The strains of the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’” came from the speakers in the corner.

Then Jerry and the boys got to the tag line: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” And she and I looked at each other and laughed and then nodded, and for the rest of that summer, there were moments when one or the other of us would quote the line in amusement, wonder or resignation.

“Truckin’” was never “our song.” The Dead’s saga of chemical enlightenment, crash pad paranoia and the rest was too, well, too something to be the romantic touchstone that both of us needed “our song” to be that summer. For that purpose, we found a song, and another and another and then more, stacking those tunes in a kind of sweet hierarchy, like a series of 45s stacked on a portable record player. The Grateful Dead’s song, on the other hand, served as a reminder of how remarkable our meeting was and of how close we might have come to not meeting at all.

Months later, aware in sorrow that the long, strange trip would continue as two separate voyages, I tried to reframe the song as a reminder that companions and destinations find us, not the other way around.

This is the version from the 1974 anthology Skeletons from the Closet, and I think it’s the same as the 1970 album track from American Beauty. According to The Grateful Dead Family Discography, an edit of the album track was released in 1971 as a single, Warner Bros. 7464, with an edit of “Ripple” from the same album on the flip side. The same edit of “Truckin’” was also released on singles twice more, first as the B side to a live version of “Johnny B. Goode” in 1972 and then in 1974 as an A side, backed with “Sugar Magnolia.” I have no idea how well the single did in any of those three iterations, except that it did not make it into the Top 40.

A Six-Pack from the Ultimate Jukebox, No. 12
“Truckin’” by the Grateful Dead from American Beauty [1970]
“Theme from Shaft” by Isaac Hayes, Enterprise 9038 [1971]
“I’ll Be Long Gone” by Mother Earth from Bring Me Home [1971]
“Waking Up Alone” by Paul Williams from Just An Old Fashioned Love Song [1971]
“Walk On The Wild Side” by Lou Reed, RCA 0887 [1973]
“Second Avenue” by Tim Moore from Tim Moore [1975]

I checked this morning, and this is the only weekly selection from the Ultimate Jukebox that plants itself entirely in the decade of the 1970s. There didn’t have to be one, I suppose, and I imagine there could have been more, but this is the way the random sorting worked itself out.

I know I’ve had some things to say in the past about the Hayes, Williams and Moore selections. Obviously, all three remain favorites, and I’d have to put “Waking Up Alone” and “Second Avenue” high on the list of best post-romance songs ever, the first in the category of “It Happened Long Ago” and the second in the category of “It Happened Recently.” Both still can tug at my heart, but the best moment in the two of them combined has nothing to do with the lyrics or the stories told thereby. It’s the saxophone that comes in late on “Waking Up Alone,” hanging around long enough to take a nice solo and then walk us home. The two sad songs also fall into the category of records that should have been hits.

“Theme from Shaft was a hit, of course, sitting at No. 1 for two weeks in the autumn of 1971. The record earned Hayes an Academy Award, two Grammys and the undying gratitude of anyone who wanted to hear something funky and slinky coming out of their radio speakers.

This is the second time Boz Scaggs’ tune “I’ll Be Long Gone” has shown up in this list: Scaggs’ original version was listed here some time ago. As I was trimming the list of songs in the Ultimate Jukebox, I never could decide which of the two versions I wanted to include, so I kept both of them. The similarity in arrangement bothers me a little, but that’s redeemed by the vocal reading from Mother Earth’s Tracy Nelson. (I did trim, with some reluctance, another very good version of the same tune by Cold Blood and Lydia Pense.)

“Walk On The Wild Side,” Lou Reed’s incredibly catchy sketch of transvestite bliss in New York City, always brings me a chuckle. The record went to No. 16 in the late winter and spring of 1973, and I don’t recall hearing it then at all. The next autumn, when I was in Denmark, another American guy and I would spend evenings with my American girlfriend and the Danish girl with whose family my gal was living. We’d lounge on the floor of Ulla’s room, and Ulla would keep the record player spinning with her 45s. Whenever she’d cue up “Walk On The Wild Side,” we three Americans would glance at each other as Ulla sang along, phonetically perfect but linguistically unaware of a good deal of what she was singing about. “A hustle here and a hustle there . . .”