Archive for November 2007

More than a green-eyed lady

November 20, 2007

When you have been together for 28 years, as Janet and I have, the record collection becomes a blend of yours, mine and ours.

I’ve been going through the Christmas vinyl and have found a few surprises. We have Barbra Streisand’s 1967 Christmas album. It isn’t mine. Janet insists it isn’t hers. OK, we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say it belonged to her parents. We also have Reba McEntire’s 1987 Christmas album. That isn’t mine, either. Janet says it must have been a review copy that came to the paper. OK, I’ll go with that. I can’t imagine we would have bought it.

Tonight’s side on The Midnight Tracker also comes from one of Janet’s albums.

It was 37 years ago this fall that Sugarloaf came out of Colorado with a great single for the AM radio of the day — “Green-Eyed Lady.” Whiteray over at Echoes in the Wind reminded me of it the other day as he wrote about the radio chart from this week in 1970. Whiteray said:

“Green-Eyed Lady,” Sugarloaf’s jazzy and memorable single (I’m still not sure if I prefer the 3:40 concision of the single to the 6:50 running time of the album track or not) was in descent, falling from No. 15 to No. 25.

For all these years, all I knew of Sugarloaf was their two hits — “Green-Eyed Lady” and “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” in 1975.

Then, not too long ago, I dug out that old Sugarloaf album — their self-titled debut album from 1970 — and gave it a spin, curious to hear what was beyond “Green-Eyed Lady.” I enjoyed it.

Side 1, which we have for you tonight, starts with that longer version — which I prefer to the radio edit — then offers a couple of interesting covers.

The second cut is a cover of a cover, “The Train Kept A-Rollin’ (Stroll On),” from Tiny Bradshaw via the Yardbirds. It’s discussed in more detail over at AM, Then FM.

The third cut is a 9-minute instrumental medley of “Bach Doors Man,” a Bach-inspired original, and a cover of The Band’s “Chest Fever.” It’s classic ’70s jamming, led by keyboard player Jerry Corbetta.

There’s an interesting back story to how Sugarloaf’s big hit and debut album came to be. Former Sugarloaf guitarist Bob Yeazel shares the story on his web site, which has a wonderful history of the band in words and pictures:

I was sitting around (Denver) writing songs when Jerry Corbetta asked me to join Sugarloaf. They were unknown nationally but making good money locally without a record. They had just been signed to a record deal on United Artists and needed a songwriter.

When Sugarloaf’s first album came out, one song that barely got on the record became a huge hit. The song was called “Green-Eyed Lady.” I didn’t sing, write or play on that album because the record company wanted to release the demo tape as finished product. The band’s name was Chocolate Hair at the time, but the record company thought it was racially incorrect so the name was changed to Sugarloaf.

We didn’t get much airplay locally, but in Portland, Oregon, a disc jockey played it, people called in requesting it, and the record slowly became a hit in the Northwest area. Eventually the song became a huge hit nationally peaking at Number 3 on Billboard, and as a result we toured with and opened for many great acts.

Indeed, they did. Here, from Yeazel’s history of the band, is visual proof. And this is from when Sugarloaf was just getting going.

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(That $3.50 general admission ticket? Today, that would be a $19 ticket.)

So here you go, Side 1 of “Sugarloaf.”

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“Green-Eyed Lady,” “The Train Kept A-Rollin’ (Stroll On)” and “Medley: Bach Doors Man and Chest Fever,” Sugarloaf, from “Sugarloaf,” 1970. It runs 18:02.

Join hands, Brothers and Sisters

November 14, 2007

If you have made your way over here from AM, Then FM, welcome.

In the early ’70s, Grand Funk Railroad roared out of Flint, Michigan, and cranked out rock that fell somewhere between what has been described as metal (sorry, I don’t hear it) and hard (ah, maybe). They liked to play longer tunes favored by FM radio DJs. If you are of a certain age, you will remember “I’m Your Captain” as perhaps the best example of that.

It’s the last cut on tonight’s side, from their “Closer to Home” album, released in July 1970.

It was Grand Funk Railroad’s third album. To get a feel for the album in its time, check out producer Terry Knight’s liner notes:

“Indeed, Grand Funk has matured — and that’s what this album is all about. Their music is and has been clearly a reflection of the most aware, most matured generation in the history of the world — a world which they have inherited filled with violence, pollution and desperate dying elders. …

“And now with this, their third (album), they join hands with their millions of Brothers and Sisters and say, ‘This is me … this is where I am going.’

“They are three who belong to the New Culture setting forth on its final voyage through a dying world … searching to find a way to bring us all CLOSER TO HOME.”

OK, maybe that seems a little unnecessarily apocalyptic. But those were the times.

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“I Don’t Have to Sing the Blues,” “Hooked on Love,” and “I’m Your Captain,” Grand Funk Railroad, from “Closer to Home,” 1970. It runs 21:20.

Tracking in Baltimore

November 10, 2007

Here’s another great story of how local radio used to serve up album sides late at night.

It’s from our friend Vincent, who serves up lots of vintage soul, R&B and funk at his twin blogs, Fufu Stew and Fufu Snax.

I for one can vividly recall the good old days when the two main rock stations here in Baltimore played album sides. WIYY (aka 98 Rock) had “Six Sides At 6,” and WWDC (aka DC 101) had a weekly program called the “Sunday Night Six Pack,” where they featured six full-length LPs. Needless to say, I was in front of my boom box with blank cassettes in hand and a steady finger on the pause button.

Do you have a story like this from your town? If so, we’d love to hear it.

In the meantime, head over to Fufu Stew and Fufu Snax for a couple of lovingly crafted tributes to Minnie Riperton.

Made loud to play loud

November 8, 2007

That’s what it says on the flip side of this album.

No point in messing around. This is one of my favorite sides, ever.

This is the J. Geils Band, recorded at its peak as the great American show band of its time, Nov. 15 and 19, 1975, at Cobo Hall in Detroit and at their hometown Boston Garden.

We saw them live on a bitterly cold night in Milwaukee some six years later. This is what it was like. It got hot and sweaty on that bitterly cold night.

If you know J. Geils Band only from their MTV hits of the early ’80s, you need to listen to this. Testifyin’!

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“Where Did Our Love Go,” “Truck Drivin’ Man,” “Love-itis,” “Intro (Lookin’ For a Love)” and “(Ain’t Nothin’ But a) House Party,” the J. Geils Band, from “Blow Your Face Out,” 1976. It runs 16:45.

Tracking in Mobile

November 7, 2007

We suspected our town in central Wisconsin wasn’t the only place with something like “The Midnight Tracker” back in the ’70s.

That’s why we wanted to share this great comment from Steve:

Back in the 1970s, WABB-FM in Mobile, Alabama played an entire album each night at 10 p.m. I remember recording many albums on my 8-track recorder including Stevie Wonder’s “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” and Led Zeppelin’s “Presence”. I recall a DJ announcing on the radio for listeners to get their tape recorders ready. At the time, if I liked the music, I would go out and buy the album since I hated messing with the 8-track tape.

If you have a similar story from your town, send it along. We’d love to hear ’em.

Is it midnight already?

November 4, 2007

Back in the mid-’70s, in the days of vinyl and cassettes and 8-tracks, I went through high school and the first couple of years of college in Wausau, Wisconsin — a town of about 50,000 (after you add all the burbs).

Though there were more than two radio stations in town, we really only had a choice of two.

The AM station, WRIG, was top-40 pop. However, it inexplicably also chose to air “The National Lampoon Radio Hour,” an irreverent, sophisticated, cutting-edge comedy show that set the tone for “Saturday Night Live” — which hadn’t yet debuted. It also shared many of the same cast members.

The FM station, WIFC, was top-40 rock. Until 10 p.m. at night, that is. That’s when it became one of those free-form stations that seem to have passed into legend. After 10, the WIFC jocks played anything and everything. David Bowie and Uriah Heep followed by Gil Scott-Heron and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. This, in central Wisconsin, mind you.

At midnight, it was time for “The Midnight Tracker.” Nothing complicated about this. Drop the needle on a new album, play the first side, flip it and play the second side.

This went on for some time, until — the way I heard it — the record companies worked themselves into a tizzy about the prospect of people taping new albums off the radio!

OK, I confess. I did that. Here’s how it worked. I’d get out my portable tape recorder, pop in a blank 90-minute cassette tape, grab the microphone and hold it right up to the radio speaker. You can imagine the sound quality.

Things improved once I got a receiver and a tape deck and went to direct input. By then, though, “The Midnight Tracker” had been reduced to one side, not the whole album. The DJs winked at this change, often playing the other side on another night. So if you were patient, you might get the whole album. It wouldn’t take long.

In that spirit, we are delighted to revive “The Midnight Tracker” for your listening pleasure. We know you would never, no not ever, tape this off your computer speakers. That would be wrong.

Tonight’s offering: Side 1 of “El Rayo Live,” a six-song EP from David Lindley and El Rayo-X, released only in Europe in 1983. From what I can tell, it’s rare. I don’t know whether a 1990 CD release with the same name is the same thing.

Lindley was a highly regarded session player in the ’70s, most notably with Jackson Browne. Just check out his extensive resume. He put together El Rayo-X in the early ’80s, recording three delightful albums that “integrated American roots music and world beat with a heavy reggae influence,” according to his official bio.

It sounded good to me then, and it sounds good now.

The cuts, in order: “Wooly Bully,” “Turning Point” and “Talk to the Lawyer.”

The first and third cuts were recorded at Hop Singh’s in Marina Del Rey, California, on Dec. 11, 1982. The second cut was recorded at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, California, on Dec. 3, 1982.

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“Wooly Bully,” “Turning Point” and “Talk to the Lawyer,” David Lindley and El Rayo-X, from “El Rayo Live,” 1983. It runs 17:09.

Let me know what you think of “The Midnight Tracker.”

If you’re good, you might get Side 2 soon.