Sampler Daze: WB/Reprise Loss Leaders, Part 7

hardgoods deepear

By 1974, radio’s hard rock trend was going strong – Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Humble Pie dominated the FM rock airwaves.  Appropriately titled for the time, Hard Goods arrived in mailboxes with freshly minted rockers like Montrose, covering Roy Brown’s “Good Rocking Tonight” and Foghat, offering its cover of Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day.”  Ted Nugent and his Amboy Dukes show up, and the perfect marriage between glam and hard rock emerges in the then-new KISS (Casablanca Records were distributed by Warner Bros. until about 1976).

The Doobie Brothers were still rockin’ behind guitarist/vocalist Tom Johnston and they were fresh off their 1973 triumph The Captain and Me.  The Doobies’ new “Pursuit On 53rd Street” had a guitar crunch similar to the monster single “China Grove” but behind the scenes, Johnston’s health was becoming precarious.  He was able to stick with the Doobies through late 1974 even as new personnel were added, most notably ex-Steely Dan guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.  Finally in early 1975 Johnston had to quit the band, and a replacement was found in another Steely Dan alumnus, Michael McDonald.  The Doobies quickly became McDonald’s franchise, and everyone’s heard the rest of the story – with more than 30 million albums sold, the Doobies are still an active touring band with a rejuvenated Tom Johnston at the helm.

Hard Goods also featured the redoubtable Frank Zappa growling through “Cosmik Debris,” Todd Rundgren offering “Heavy Metal Kids,” and appearances from Loss Leaders regulars Van Morrison, Seals & Crofts, and Neil Young.  Young is represented here by the single “War Song,” which he cut a few years before with Graham Nash – in 1974 the only place you could find it on an album was on Hard Goods, but it has since emerged in shimmering digital form on Neil Young’s new Archives box set.

Little Feat, another Warner’s staple, anchored the second 1974 sampler Deep Ear.  Led by Lowell George, this California outfit rolled a lot of influences into its good-time rock.  Dixie Chicken, from 1973, was among the Feat’s best, yielding the classic title song (heard on the Appetizers sampler).  The Feat would roll on a few more years until Lowell George’s untimely death in 1979.  But you can’t keep a good group down – Little Feat would resurrect itself in 1986 under the guidance of guitarist Paul Barrere and keyboardist Bill Payne, and with former Pure Prairie League vocalist Craig Fuller up front.

Deep Ear was well-traveled, featuring New Orleans sounds from The Meters, Texas music from Doug Sahm’s Tex Mex Trip, a trip to Jamaica with Jimmy Cliff and the Peter Ivers Band taking a ride to “Alpha Centauri.”  Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Arlo Guthrie and Maria Muldaur all had new offerings, and singer/songwriter Jesse Winchester turns up with “Wake Me.”  Winchester was a bit of a traveler too: he was basically a self-exile.  A Vietnam war resister, he lived as an expatriate in Canada.  When President Jimmy Carter pardoned Vietnam resisters in 1977, Winchester was able to tour his native country again but he didn’t move back to the States until 2002 or so – he still writes and performs today.

John Hartford is perhaps best known as the banjo-playing dude who was a regular on the popular TV variety shows headlined by the Smothers Brothers and Glen Campbell.  But Hartford was a great songwriter – he wrote Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind,” and had a prolific recording career for nearly three decades.  He recorded some songs for the Grammy-winning soundtrack to the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Hartford died of cancer in 2001; he turns up here with the uncharacteristic goof “Boogie,” which unbelievably garnered some radio airplay back in the day.

Take a look at that cover for Deep Ear – WTF?  And check out Jesse Colin Young’s “Light Shine” … compare it to the Allman Brothers’ or Govt. Mule’s much more recent “Soulshine.”  Just sayin’.

MP3: “Pursuit On 53rd Street” by the Doobie Brothers (from Hard Goods)

MP3: “Cosmik Debris” by Frank Zappa (from Hard Goods)

MP3: “Good Rockin’ Tonight” by Montrose (from Hard Goods)

MP3: “That’ll Be The Day” by Foghat (from Hard Goods)

MP3: “Strutter” by KISS (from Hard Goods)

MP3: “War Song” by Neil Young & Graham Nash (from Hard Goods)

MP3: “Spanish Moon” by Little Feat (from Deep Ear)

MP3: “Groover’s Paradise” by Doug Sahm & the Tex Mex Trip (from Deep Ear)

MP3: “Light Shine” by Jesse Colin Young (from Deep Ear)

MP3: “Wake Me” by Jesse Winchester (from Deep Ear)

MP3: “Jungle Man” by the Meters (from Deep Ear)

MP3: “Boogie” by John Hartford (from Deep Ear)

Inside the WB/Reprise Loss Leaders at Dustbury.com

30 Days Out’s series on the WB/Reprise Loss Leaders

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