Sampler Daze: WB/Reprise Loss Leaders, Part 3
After the big 1970 triple-disc blast with Looney Tunes-Merrie Melodies, our buddies in Burbank must have been tired: only one two-LP sampler in 1971 and two single-disc’ers. I am not quite sure of the order in which these things were released, so let’s start with the double album Hot Platters.
Done up like an old roadhouse menu, the packaging on this sampler is superb. You gotta hand it to the Warners crew, they went all out on these albums – and still only two bucks! Hot Platters continued in the eclectic vein of its predecessors, serving up hard rock (Deep Purple), blooze-n-boogie (John Baldry, Redeye), pop-rock (Beach Boys, Kinks) and WB’s trademark rootsiness (Ry Cooder). Folkie John D. Loudermilk is on hand to provide the definitive version of his “Tobacco Road,” Ronnie Milsap begs “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends” to show us what would become “countrypolitan” in coming years, while Paul Stookey and Randy Newman are veteran singer/songwriters.
The first of the single-disc samplers from ’71 is Non-Dairy Creamer, and it features Little Feat putting “Snakes On Everything,” Brownsville Station rockin’ on “Rumble” and, fresh from his stint in Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green. Green is one of rock and roll’s tragic tales: a gifted writer and musician who was permanently damaged (at least in part) by psychedelic drugs. Green started Fleetwood Mac as a blues band in 1967, he was its lead guitarist and main songwriter, penning rock classics like “Oh Well,” “Albatross” and “Black Magic Woman,” which was later covered with mucho success by Santana.
However Green had trouble dealing with success, and apparently even more trouble with drugs: after he discovered LSD about 1969 or so, he went through radical personality changes and finally quit Fleetwood Mac in 1970. He was diagnosed with severe schizophrenia, and Green spent time in and out of mental hospitals. He occasionally recorded a solo album and today he seems to have made a bit of a rebound – “Hidden Depth,” which appears on Creamer, is from his first solo LP The End of the Game. All of the songs are actually edited from one or two long studio jams, and take a listen – it’s really out there.
Another meteoric rocker appearing on Non-Dairy Creamer is guitarist Tommy Bolin, fronting his first band Zephyr (with the Janis-esque lead singing of Candy Givens). Bolin of course went on to play with the James Gang (1973-74) and he later replaced Richie Blackmore in Deep Purple (1975-76). He recorded some highly regarded solo albums including Teaser (1975), but Bolin died one night after a show in 1976, apparently the victim of poor health and some really hard partying.
The third compilation from 1971 was Together, also a single-LP offering and the last of Warners’ one disc samplers. This one had Mary Travers (from Peter, Paul and Mary), a new group the Doobie Brothers, British singer/songwriter Jackie Lomax (who first recorded on the Beatles’ Apple Records) and good ol’ Faces. This one rocked a bit more, with Long John Baldry covering “Burn Down The Cornfield,” written by Randy Newman, Alice Cooper doing “A Long Way To Go” and a youthful Earth, Wind and Fire getting all brotherly with “Help Somebody.”
It also featured a cut from the first album by Crazy Horse, a band best known for backing Neil Young on his second and third solo LPs. Led by guitarist/singer Danny Whitten, Crazy Horse started as a trio with Ralph Molina on drums and Billy Talbot on bass. They used the notoriety gained after recording with Young to sign with Reprise and for their first album they added a couple of stellar new members: Jack Nitzsche, a noted producer/arranger, and guitarist Nils Lofgren, from Grin. Whitten wrote (or co-wrote) most of the material for Crazy Horse’s eponymous first LP, including “Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown,” co-written with Neil Young, and the ballad “I Don’t Want To Talk About It.” This one was later covered, with mucho success, by Rod Stewart and Rita Coolidge, among others.
After the first Crazy Horse album Lofgren and Nitzsche departed, and Whitten started having trouble with drugs. But where Peter Green just suffered a mental breakdown, Whitten actually overdosed on heroin and died in 1972. Molina and Talbot would carry on as Crazy Horse, and with some new members, continue to back Neil Young on rockin’ projects today. All of Crazy Horse, including Lofgren and Nitzsche, would pay tribute to Whitten in 1975 on Tonight’s The Night, Neil Young’s best album.
Next: Count em, four big samplers in 1972! Coming this weekend!