Archive for Larry Knechtel

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Bread

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , on October 23, 2010 by 30daysout

1972 was a year of hard-rockin’: the Rolling Stones cut their classic Exile On Main Street, the Allman Brothers invited everyone to Eat A Peach and Rod Stewart promised Never A Dull Moment.   The Band, Led Zeppelin, the Kinks and Creedence Clearwater Revival still walked the earth.  But when it came to rockin’ the top of the pop charts, there was really nobody like Bread.

You might consider Bread to be some mellowed-out schmaltz for old hippies, but back in the day those mellifluously rockin’ hits could sink their sharp little hooks in your soft fleshy parts.  So get ready – today we’re spinning Baby I’m-A Want You, Bread’s fourth and most commercially successful album.

Bread was made up of four members who happened to be virtuoso musicians, and most of the lead vocals were handled by David Gates and James Griffin, who also wrote the lion’s share of the group’s songs.  In 1971 original bassist Robb Royer left and was replaced by another virtuoso, Larry Knechtel (who played the piano on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”).  This foursome started the Baby I’m-A Want You LP with a guitar rocker, “Mother Freedom.”   This is safe, middle-of-the-road rock: everything is very tastefully played and sung.

Then comes the title song, written and sung by Gates.  Today, as then, you could hear the enormous influence that Paul McCartney had on Gates’ work.  “Down On My Knees” doesn’t resemble the Beatles as much it does Badfinger; nevertheless, you can see the place Bread filled in the era’s pop music.  “Knees” is sung by Griffin, and it’s listed as a co-write between him and Gates.  There was some tension between the two, because Gates’ songs were usually chosen for the A-sides of the singles and those were the tunes that became big hits.

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Psychedelic Two-Fer!

Posted in Rock Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2010 by 30daysout

This week we’re going to double up our reviews of old records and run a few more of these features than usual, all to help promote Record Store Day, which is Saturday.  Independent record stores are dying on the vine, on this day (at least) go on out and show ’em that you love them by purchasing some vinyl.  A few of us are lucky enough to live in a place where there are a handful of record stores – the one I’m going to on Saturday (Houston’s Cactus Records) is the place where I bought many LPs back in the 1970s.

I didn’t buy either of these albums at the record store, but I dug ’em up out of my big sister’s bedroom.  She always was a dedicated follower of fashion, and once a pop group had a hit single or album she usually jumped on the bandwagon.  So in many cases she has the album that came out after the big hit … which is pretty fascinating in itself, I guess.

Like today’s entry: II X II by the Cowsills, released in 1970.  Many people consider this album to be one of the group’s finest, even though it was a so-called “experimental” album (which in those days, meant “psychedelic.”)  You know the Cowsills: they were a singing family from Rhode Island complete with Svengali/manager dad, singing mom etc., and they’re best known for a handful of pop hits including “The Rain, The Park and Other Things” (1967), “Indian Lake” (1968), “Hair” (1969) and so on.  They were the real-life inspiration for the TV series “The Partridge Family,” and they were actually going to play themselves on TV until the clan learned producers wanted to replace the singing Cowsill mom with actress Shirley Jones.

As with all pop groups, the gig got a bit old when the hits stopped comin’, and around 1969 everyone was listening to albums anyway.  Now unlike the TV Partridges, the Cowsills could actually play their own instruments.  Brothers Bill and Bob Cowsill wrote the bulk of the band’s material, which kind of fit a lightly rockin’ folk-rock groove.  When it came time to record II X II, everyone in the band felt it was time to break away from the pop image with material that was a bit more mature and introspective.  So here you go: the title song which kicks off the album, is a kind of sci-fi Utopian fantasy that puts the Noah’s Ark concept on a groovy starship going to another planet to start a new peaceful civilization, or something.

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Review: “Live 1969,” – Simon and Garfunkel

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on March 10, 2009 by 30daysout

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By the time Simon and Garfunkel recorded this concert in the fall of 1969, the end was near. Garfunkel wanted to act and Simon wanted to venture out and try new sounds on his own. Years of sniping and bickering would follow, but before they called it quits, they recorded this 17-track gem titled Live 1969.

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