Archive for the Rock Classics! Category

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Arlo Guthrie & an “Alice’s Restaurant” cornucopia

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags on November 18, 2011 by 30daysout

Editor’s Note: From a blog post appearing originally in 2010. This is a classic! The album, not the blog post.

We have dusted off some of our own all-time favorite albums from our own collection, and today we want to share one that’s perfect for the Thanksgiving holiday – Alice’s Restaurant, from Arlo Guthrie.

The title song is of course an American classic – and a song played by many radio stations on Thanksgiving Day.  It’s a true story about a 1965 Thanksgiving when Arlo, the son of legendary songwriter and folksinger Woody Guthrie, and his friends were arrested for littering.  He eventually turned the tale into a story-song that ends with a timely protest sentiment, and … well, I’m sure you have heard it.

Guthrie debuted “Alice’s Restaurant” at the Newport Folk Festival, then he played it on NYC public radio station WBAI in the spring of 1967.  The station was flooded with requests for replays of the song and played it more often than anything else – later, during their annual fundraiser, station personnel promised to play it if a certain amount of money was pledged and later, to NOT play it if a certain amount was pledged.

Anyhow, Guthrie himself tinkered with the format of the song and even occasionally performed a “sequel” – titled “The Alice’s Restaurant Multi-Colored Rainbow Roach Affair,” he played it a few times live on WBAI.  Reprise Records officially released the LP Alice’s Restaurant in 1967 with the original “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” recorded live someplace.   The song clocks in at over 18 minutes and takes up the entire Side One of the record.  Even though hip FM stations played it, Reprise inexplicably released a shorter version on single.  Titled “Alice’s Rock and Roll Restaurant” and produced by Van Dyke Parks, this one took a few verses from the song and placed it over a generic blues-rock beat and completely changed the feel and intent of the song.

Flip over the album and there are six songs that are if not more conventional, at least they fit the folk rock style of the era.  “Chilling of the Evening” is a ballad with instrumentation more typically found on an album by any of the then-current pop singers of the day, like maybe Glen Campbell or Jim Nabors.  “I’m Going Home” and “Highway In The Wind” are both songs with a Byrds-like feel, and “Ring Around A Rosie Rag” is a bit of hippie jug-band nonsense but good fun nevertheless.   And of course, there’s the first chapter of “The Motorcycle Song,” which had its own sequels (including one on the 1968 followup LP Arlo).

Shortly after Guthrie appeared at Woodstock in 1969, he showed up in the Arthur Penn-directed movie Alice’s Restaurant.  None of the performances on the original Alice’s Restaurant album were in the movie, but the film and the ensuing soundtrack featured a full-length studio version of the title song.  In 1995, Guthrie re-recorded the entire Alice’s Restaurant album, complete with an updated (and even LONGER) version of the title song.

Guthrie only occasionally performs “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” live these days, but on Thanksgiving Day you can almost certainly find a radio station playing that original version.

So let’s enjoy some of the other incarnations of “Alice’s Restaurant” as well as a couple other tunes off the original album.  Now Arlo has been nice enough to record many versions of his most famous song – we are thankful for that and don’t want to be greedy on Thanksgiving … so we’re going to stream most of ’em.  That way you can hear them all!

Listen: The original “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” (1967)

MP3: “I’m Going Home”

MP3: “Ring Around A Rosie Rag”

MP3: “Highway In The Wind”

HOLIDAY BONUS: A harvest of “Alice’s Restaurant” versions and sequels!

MP3: “Alice’s Rock and Roll Restaurant” (1967 single)

MP3: “The Alice’s Restaurant Multi-Colored Rainbow Roach Affair” (1967 radio performance)

Listen: “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” (studio version) (1969)

MP3: “Alice’s Restaurant (30 Years Later)” (1995)

Listen: “Remembering Alice” (2004)

Listen: “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree (40th anniversary)” (2005)

Arlo Guthrie, remembering “Alice’s Restaurant” on NPR’s “All Things Considered”

YouTube: The Group W bench from the movie Alice’s Restaurant – The official Arlo Guthrie website

Blog tributes

The great music blog Aquarium Drunkard pays tribute to “Alice’s Restaurant”

Wow, That’s A Good Song: Arlo Guthrie – “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” from the blog How’s My Living?

Vinyl Tap Radio reviews the 1967 album

Squidoo has an illustrated version of the original “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”

Marketing Calls has the printed lyrics

Hippie Chick tells the story in great detail

Suite 101 gets to the truth behind the story of “Alice’s Restaurant”

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Comedy Albums! (NSFW alert)

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , on November 20, 2010 by 30daysout

The holiday season begins in a few days, and it’s going to be the same old blur of unnerving family members, unappetizing meals and unwanted gifts … and that’s just Black Friday!  There are a couple more holidays in there someplace, so today we’re going to give you something to share – excerpts from some of our favorite comedy albums of the late 1960s-early 1970s!  Now I can tell you these are fine to share with grandma and the kids, but I would be lying: in fact, these are EXTREMELY not safe for grandma, work or children.  You will be warned again!

In the 1960s, comedians reached their audiences in the night clubs but the bigger names were given recording contracts so they could cut albums of their material.  People like Allen Sherman, Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby and even Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen were all committed to vinyl, mostly performing the same stuff they did in stand-up.  But with the onset of freakiness in the mid-60s came new comedians, reflecting counterculture sensibilities and a sense of social outrage against racism, war and modern times.

The Firesign Theatre came out of Los Angeles in 1966, and their comedy was a free-form blend of Lewis Carroll, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett swirled through a prism of LSD and pop culture.  Their primary medium was the long-playing album, where the Firesigns’ could multi-track masterpieces of storytelling and comedy that hold up to repeated listenings.  One of those masterpieces was Everything You Know Is Wrong (1974), a spoof of UFO/aliens mania that swings everything from late-night TV to New Age nudists and even Nazis into its paranoid gunsights.

The Firesign Theatre (Phillip Proctor, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Philip Austin) are certainly the American answer to Monty Python, but they dwarf their British counterparts in terms of surrealistic, stream-of-consciousness comedy.  Everything You Know Is Wrong is the comedy X-Files of its time: aliens walk among us, Nino Savant sends telepathic messages and daredevil Rebus Cannebus jumps into the sun in the center of the earth.  We piece the story together as channels flip past on the TV, and we catch fragments of a crazed paranoid fringe in between newscasts, ads for car lots and “Bear Whiz Beer.”

MP3: “Happy Hour News”

MP3: “Bear Whiz Beer”

MP3: “Army Training Film”

NOTE: NSFW material after the jump – proceed at your own risk!

Continue reading

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Flo & Eddie

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , on October 3, 2010 by 30daysout

It’s been a rough work week, so I sneaked into my sister’s bedroom and dug deep in her record collection … and came up with Flo & Eddie, the 1974 album from, uh, Flo and Eddie.

Flo and Eddie were the Phlorescent Leech and Eddie, who were really Mark Volman (Flo) and Howard Kaylan (Eddie), both founding members of the 1960’s group the Turtles.  The duo were pretty much the leaders of the group, doing all of the vocals and writing most of the band’s hits (except for the Turtles’ biggest hit, “Happy Together”).  Even though the Turtles broke up in 1970, they were still contractually obliged to their old record label so they couldn’t use the Turtles name, or even their own names, in performing music.  So Volman, Kaylan and Turtles bassist Jim Pons joined Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention as the Phlorescent Leech & Eddie.  They recorded a few albums with Zappa and appeared his film 200 Motels.

When Zappa was injured in a 1971 stage accident (he was actually attacked by the angry boyfriend of a female fan), the Mothers went on hiatus so Volman/Kaylan and the rest of the band cut The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie (1972) and then, two years later,  Flo & Eddie.  By this time Flo & Eddie had gained a little credibility on their own, and they were opening for Alice Cooper on his “Billion Dollar Babies” tour.  The duo cut this album to help promote that (or the other way around), and it was produced by Bob Ezrin, who was also Alice Cooper’s producer.

The album consisted mainly of Kaylan/Volman originals, including the Turtle-esque “If We Only Had The Time” and some choice covers, including Ray Davies’ “Days” and the Phil Spector/Ronettes classic “The Best Part Of Breaking Up.”  Some of the trademark Zappa/Mothers weirdness surfaces in “The Sanzini Brothers,” a circus-themed goof with more funny voices and sound effects than music  – in fact the song itself doesn’t kick in until about halfway through the three-minute selection.

“Another Pop Star’s Life” is a slice of rock and roll torn from Alice Cooper’s playbook – it’s a wonder they didn’t give it to Alice to record.  The acoustic strum of “Just Another Town” recalls one of Stephen Stills’ more earnest efforts but it’s really a lament about being a rock performer “on the road.”   The seven-minute-long “Marmendy Hill,” which closes the album, is apparently a leftover from the Turtles days but it gets an epic treatment here.  After a ponderous opening, the song settles into a nice pop groove for a minute or two then the strings and high concept all swirl into an overreaching mess.  This would’a been a nice tune, cut down to about three minutes or so.   In some way this song presages the sort of thing that would make Meat Loaf famous a few years later.

Flo & Eddie would continue to cut albums through the 1970s and the duo also made a number of backing-vocal appearances on other artist’s records, like T. Rex (“Bang A Gong”), Keith Moon, Steely Dan, Bruce Springsteen (“Hungry Heart”), The Ramones, John Lennon and many more.  In the 1980s, they recorded music for children’s shows like the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake, and began hosting their own radio show on KROQ in L.A. and WXRK in New York.   In 1984, Kaylan and Volman legally regained the use of the Turtles name, and began touring as The Turtles Featuring Flo & Eddie.  And that Turtles music has been featured on just about every commercial imaginable.

MP3: “If We Only Had The Time”

MP3: “Best Part of Breaking Up”

MP3: “The Sanzini Brothers”

MP3: “Marmendy Hill”

The Turtles Featuring Flo & Eddie official website

Repost: On the Trail of the Hellhound

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2010 by 30daysout

(Editor’s Note: Recently John Mellencamp has been in the news, promoting his new album No Better Than This, which comes out in August.  He recorded a couple of songs for the new album in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson supposedly recorded some of his greatest songs.  We’ve been told repeatedly that nobody knows where the recordings really took place, and there is no explanation in the press material for the album how they identified this particular room.  But who cares, really – here’s our original post from 2008.)

Perhaps no musician is as influential as the bluesman Robert Johnson.  Supposedly he sold his soul to the Devil so he could play his guitar like no one else.  And maybe he did – his songs “Cross Road Blues,” “Love In Vain,” “Sweet Home Chicago” and “Dust My Broom” are part of the bedrock of American music.  Johnson’s songs have been covered by the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin, among many others.

His music comes from the heart of the Mississippi Delta where Johnson lived and played until he died in 1938 under mysterious circumstances.  However, his entire catalog was recorded in Texas, during two short sessions in San Antonio and Dallas.  The San Antonio sessions produced some of the songs listed above.  Writer Dave Marsh once said, “Has there been any other single recording session that produced music so beautiful, so tortured, … so historically resonant?  No.”

Johnson first recorded in November 1936 at San Antonio’s Gunter Hotel, located just a few blocks from Alamo Plaza.  Now called the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, it has a few more floors than it did in Johnson’s day but it is still a nice place.

Some years back, I decided to stay a few nights in the Gunter close to where Johnson cut some of his most famous songs.  I had long since replaced the hellhound on my trail with two rugrats on the back seat – so I took my family.

Continue reading

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Ten Years After

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , , on May 27, 2010 by 30daysout

It’s always cool to hear artists perform songs that you’ve always known from listening to records.  I remember once seeing the Who in the Houston Astrodome, and when Pete Townshend hit those familiar chords to begin “Pinball Wizard,” I literally got goosebumps because this was a song I’d heard thousands of times on the radio and on record.   It’s even better when an artist or band plays a song you had completely forgotten about.

This was the case last year at the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, held at the Bethel Woods Center in New York.  Ten Years After took the stage, and although Alvin Lee is no longer their frontman/guitarist, the band is still pretty good.  They were doing some of their familiar blues-rock things (and saving Woodstock highlight “I’m Going Home” for last) when one of the band asked, “Anybody like psychedelic songs?”  It was an introduction to the song “50,000 Miles Beneath My Brain,” from the 1970 album Cricklewood Green – which is the record we’re spinning today.

Woodstock happened in 1969, and the band’s performance of “I’m Going Home” at the festival and in the subsequent movie made them huge stars.  Ten Years After, led by fiery guitarist Alvin Lee, formed in 1966 – ten years after the first appearance of Elvis Presley, who Lee idolized.  TYA was a blues-rock band, in the style of the early Rolling Stones, and before the Woodstock watershed they made a minor name for themselves by touring Europe and the United States.  Their 1969 album Stonedhenge found them turning a little more experimental, but not really “psychedelic” (despite what the title implies) – the album featured some jazz and classical touches.

But when Cricklewood Green came out in 1970, TYA could now be considered a truly psychedelic outfit.  The eight songs that appear on the original LP were all written by Alvin Lee, but bandmates Chick Churchill (keyboards), Ric Lee (drums) and Leo Lyons (bass) apparently had a lot of input in the final sound of the entire record.  The result is a more comfortable and assured set than its predecessor, mixing the trademark blues workouts (“Me and My Baby”) with some songs featuring diverse styles (the rock shuffle “Working On the Road,”, the almost country-ish  “Year 3,000 Blues” and the ballad “Circles”).  Most likely, it’s the best album of the Alvin Lee years.

Continue reading

Ronnie James Dio – between Heaven and Hell

Posted in Rock Classics!, Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 19, 2010 by 30daysout

Remembering the late, great Ronnie James Dio, who died Sunday of stomach cancer.  It’s almost doing him an injustice to say he was a great metal singer – he was a powerhouse rock singer, period.  Our friends at WFMU radio in Jersey City have a great post today on their Beware of the Blog about Dio’s early years as a duck-tailed rock and roller.

At one time or another, he was lead singer of the Vegas Kings, Ronnie and the Rumblers, Ronnie and the Redcaps, Ronnie Dio and the Prophets and finally, the Electric Elves.  That takes us into Dio’s more familiar territory, as the Elves became simply Elf in 1969 and that’s where Deep Purple guitarist Richie Blackmore first heard Dio’s vocals.

The rest, of course, is history – when Blackmore left Deep Purple he recruited Dio and other members of Elf to become Rainbow.

Dio’s given name was Ronald James Padanova and he took on Dio in 1961 after Mafia member Johnny Dio.  The great post on Beware of the Blog – written by Dave the Spazz, presumably after a mafioso named “Spazz” – also has a few songs from Dio’s early rock and roll career.  I have lifted one to include here … but please go by Dave the Spazz’s great blog post and pick up the others.  Thanks Dave, and thanks to Ronnie James Dio. \m/

MP3: “Love Potion No. 9” by Ronnie Dio and the Prophets

Ronnie James Dio official website

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Peter Frampton

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , on May 18, 2010 by 30daysout

We have uncovered an album by a guy who was in a lot of big sisters’ bedrooms during the 1970s – Peter Frampton.  But our album today is Wind of Change from 1972, the first solo album by the British rocker after he left the group Humble Pie.

Humble Pie was, of course, the English band formed by Frampton and blues-rock belter Steve Marriott (previously from the Small Faces).  By 1971 Frampton was ready for a split, despite the successes that year of the Humble Pie studio set Rock On and the live Rockin’ The Fillmore.  At that point Humble Pie was being torn apart by the different directions its two main players seemed be taking: Marriott obviously preferred bloozy-boogie tunes, contrasting sharply with Frampton’s more melodic sensibilities.

So Frampton went to work on Winds of Change, encasing his songs in lush, mostly acoustic settings.  The title song is a good signpost: it starts with an chiming acoustic figure that sounds a bit like the gentle underpinnings of Led Zeppelin III (“Tangerine”).  “All I Want To Be (Is By Your Side)” is a pop/rock ballad that recalls a bit of Steve Winwood’s Traffic, and “The Lodger” puts it all on the table with the lyrics “I’ll play the songs I should be singin’.”

But Frampton also liked to rock out: “It’s A Plain Shame” has an electric guitar edge and the album closer “Alright” showcases Frampton’s always-great guitar playing.  (Guest stars Ringo Starr, Klaus Voorman and Billy Preston play on “Alright”).  Even the cover of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” manages to catch fire, despite the goofy horn section which drags the song down a bit.  But here you have a British guitar slinger, a pretty decent singer and songwriter, who seems to know where he’s going despite leaving a commercially successful band.

Continue reading

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Black Sabbath

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , on May 2, 2010 by 30daysout

You sorta knew we were gonna get here, didn’t you?  Today we sail into heavy metal seas with our friends Black Sabbath and their 1975 release Sabotage.  Believe it or not, when Black Sabbath first appeared in 1970 they were universally recognized as one of the better imitators of peers Led Zeppelin.  But after their debut Sabbath went in a completely different direction, and along the way invented heavy metal.

Sabotage came at an interesting juncture for Ozzy Osbourne and Co.  Sabbath had already become world famous (thanks to Paranoid and “Iron Man”), they experimented with progressive rock (Vol. 4) and became recognized riff-meisters (thanks to guitarist Tony Iommi’s work on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath).   So on Sabotage, their sixth album, the newly evolved Black Sabbath retrenched a bit to their meat-and-potatoes headbanging with killer riffs and (slightly) more mature lyrics.

Osbourne has never been much of a singer, but he presides over everything here with his trademark earnestness.  That goofy cluelessness is just a put-on – Ozzy’s actually a pretty shrewd showman.  “Thrill Of It All” is a perfect place to jump in on Black Sabbath: it has one killer riff after another, and just enough extra filigree (subtle synth shading) to make it sound up to date (for 1975).  Iommi’s solos aren’t too far removed from Jimmy Page’s, and he helps himself out by providing some fine rhythm guitar backing.

“Megalomania” is also pretty decent, despite its nearly 10-minute length.  Here drummer Bill Ward shines – and when you get to the multi-tracked guitar assault from Iommi toward song’s end you realize this is the beginning of the path that would eventually lead us to Metallica and Megadeth.  Likewise with “Symptom Of The Universe” – but you don’t have to wait eight minutes to get those crunching riffs.  Iommi begins “Symptom” with a volley of warning shots that’s only a harbinger of the fun to come.  Actually, I think Ozzy turns in one of his best-ever vocals on this song.

Continue reading

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: The Youngbloods

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , on April 26, 2010 by 30daysout

Diggin’ around in my sister’s record collection today, I found a forgotten classic by one of the best bands of the 1960s.   The album is Elephant Mountain, from the Youngbloods, which came out in 1969.  The Youngbloods were the folk-rock band from California that many people compared (then and now) to the Lovin’ Spoonful – a likeable rock group with strong, radio-friendly songs.

The ‘Bloods came out of the Northeast in 1967 with a self-titled debut that contained the song “Get Together,” the well-worn hippy-dippy brotherly love anthem.  Upon its initial release, it only struggled to about No. 62 on the pop charts.  Two years later, the Youngbloods were a trio after founding member Jerry Corbitt left, and the band had moved its base of operations to the Bay Area.

Jesse Colin Young was the band’s lead singer, bass player and main songwriter, Lowell “Banana” Levinger was a multi-instrumentalist who mainly played guitar and piano and drummer Joe Bauer could play jazz.  After lead guitarist Corbitt left in early 1969, Levinger moved over to electric guitar.

The songs on Elephant Mountain put a polished pop-rock sheen on the jam-till-you-drop vibe shared by many of the era’s Bay Area bands.  Young knew his way around a hook, and one grabs you right off with the great “Darkness, Darkness,” which opens the album.   Opening with the ominous strains of a fiddle over an acoustic guitar, “Darkness” is probably the Youngbloods’ best moment on record.  The song certainly is a Sixties classic, perhaps because many soldiers in Vietnam shared the song’s sentiments of hope fighting off fear by embracing the darkness.

Continue reading

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Paul Revere & the Raiders

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , on April 19, 2010 by 30daysout

Hope you enjoyed Record Store Day.  Where we live (in Houston) people were camped out at 5 a.m. to be the first to get their sweaty hands on the exclusive vinyl available.  So needless to say, if you showed up an hour or so after 10 a.m. all the good stuff was long gone.  The early bird, and all that … But by afternoon you could always go home and download it for free, or purchase the same records off eBay for jacked-up prices.

We did find some nice old vinyl, however – including today’s selection, Goin’ To Memphis, a 1968 album from the Oregon hitmakers Paul Revere and the Raiders.  With three years of big hits and garage rock classics behind them, the Raiders were ready for a departure of sorts.  I don’t know why it didn’t occur to them to go psychedelic, as their pop music peers did (see The Cowsills and Jan & Dean) but with songs like “Just Like Me” and “The Great Airplane Strike” maybe they were already a little freaky for the pop charts.  Nevertheless, at that time the Raiders were Columbia Records’ top-selling rock group and some of the original members had left.

The band’s road manager was from Memphis, and he suggested the Raiders do an album there with legendary producer Chips Moman.  Moman was already a legend, having produced classics like “The Letter” and “Angel of the Morning” at American Recording Studios.  Moman agreed to produce the album, but he would do it only if he could use his own house band, which included Gene Crispian on drums, Mike Leech on bass, Tommy Cogbill and Reggie Young on guitars, and “Spooner” Oldham on acoustic piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, and a Vox Jaguar organ.

Continue reading