Posted tagged ‘1973’

After the thunder, after the lightning

May 31, 2013

As she moved past “Thunder and Lightning,” the hit single everyone remembers, Chi Coltrane in 1973 gathered an all-star group of session players as she recorded “Let It Ride,” her second LP for Columbia.

Merry Clayton and Clydie King were among the backing singers, Jim Gordon and Jim Keltner among the drummers, Klaus Voorman and Emory Gordy among the bass players, and Lee Ritenour and Larry Byrom, who’d just left Steppenwolf, among the guitarists. The horn section consisted of Jim Horn, Jim Price and Bobby Keys. It didn’t get much better than that.

All that talent, led by Coltrane singing and playing the piano with a rare combination of elegance and thunderous force. She wrote all but one of the 10 songs, arranged all 10 and produced the record. A remarkable accomplishment for someone just 24 at the time.

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“Who Ever Told You,” “Myself To You,” “It’s Not Easy,” “Feather My Bed” and “Forget Love,” Chi Coltrane, from “Let It Ride,” 1973. This is Side 2. It runs 16:58. The LP is out of print, though some of the songs are available from Coltrane’s website, either digitally or on CD.

This side shows Coltrane’s considerable range. “Who Ever Told You” and “It’s Not Easy” are gospel-flavored rave-ups. “Feather My Bed” is a little bit of roadhouse swing. “Myself To You” and “Forget Love” are love songs, the former fairly standard pop and the latter chock full of high drama, almost a classical piece.

“Let It Ride” was recorded in part at Mama Jo’s Recording Studio (now revived as Dave’s Room) in North Hollywood, California. Coltrane, who was born in Wisconsin and learned her craft in the clubs of Chicago, settled not far away. The year after this LP came out, she bought a home in the Hollywood Hills. Over the last 40 years, her neighbors in Bronson Canyon have included Chuck Berry, Robert Redford, Chick Corea and Madonna. The guy who used to live next door? That was Axl Rose.

You rarely see Chi Coltrane records while digging.

The deeply spiritual Coltrane wasn’t into promoting herself or her records. After “Let It Ride,” she recorded sporadically and is said to have struggled financially after being mismanaged. In 1977, she moved to Europe, where she found a more passionate following and released several records. Her last LP of new material was “The Message” in 1986. She returned to Los Angeles in 1993, where she is said to have built a recording studio and done social work.

Coltrane, now 64, resumed performing four years ago, mostly in Europe, where she remains popular. Her most recent release is a live recording of her 2009 comeback concert in Vienna, where she’s said to have played before a crowd of 100,000 people.

Her first song that night is the first song emerging through the sweet blue haze of time on The Midnight Tracker tonight.

One side, one song

March 12, 2013

There are few things more quintessentially ’70s than an album side with one song on it.

One band that leaps to mind for doing so is Rare Earth. They did it three times in five years. “Get Ready” was that song twice, on the 1969 LP of the same name and on “Rare Earth In Concert,” the 1971 live LP. Both times, it was Side 2.

Tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we have the third one.

Almost 40 years ago, in April 1973, Rare Earth released “Ma.”

Critics and fans loved the record because Motown legend Norman Whitfield’s influence was all over it. He produced it and wrote or co-wrote with Barrett Strong all five of its cuts.

Yet Rare Earth lead singer and drummer Peter Rivera doesn’t share that enthusiasm. He saw Whitfield’s involvement as the beginning of the end for the band. In a fine interview with music writer Ray Shasho last fall, Rivera explained why:

“When (the) ‘Willie Remembers’ (LP) came out (in 1972), it didn’t get any promotion at all, and that’s when they said the only way to save a dying ship was to bring Norman Whitfield in.

“Motown thought the only redemption to our career was Norman Whitfield because he had, ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone,’ ‘Ball Of Confusion,’ ‘Just My Imagination’ and he was Norman Whitfield of Motown. Norman was a great guy, a great producer, and rest his soul, but the political side of it back then was … they just didn’t trust anybody except in their own stable of people. So Norman came in and we did the ‘Ma’ album. I always called it the Norman Whitfield album played by Rare Earth. And you didn’t get the essence of Rare Earth. As a result, ‘Ma’ got just a little bit of attention but nothing serious, and we didn’t have the hits, so things just started getting worse. So after ‘Ma’ came out that was pretty much it. man.”

Later in the interview, Rivera added this:

“I think where Motown made a mistake, was when they panicked and they brought in Norman Whitfield, and once you’re not selling records with the company, it’s like nobody wants you anymore. And then we were having internal problems with jealousy and there were drugs involved and stuff like that, and everybody was acting crazy and it just kind of went away.”

“Ma” produced three singles — the title track, “Hum Along And Dance” and “Big John Is My Name,” but none broke the Top 100.

“Ma” the album-side-length title track features Rivera’s tremendous vocals and the muscular jamming we long ago came to expect from Rare Earth. But as always, you be the judge.

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“Ma,” Rare Earth, from “Ma,” 1973. This is Side 1. It runs 16:42. The CD is still in print, but this cut isn’t available digitally.

Peter Rivera is billed on the LP under his real name, Peter Hoorelbeke.

Listen up, Buster, and listen up good

February 1, 2013

Sorry to miss the usual end-of-the-month target for a fresh post, but yesterday was our son’s 18th birthday. Pretty big day.

When I turned 18 in the summer of 1975, that was the drinking age in Wisconsin. That I could go out to an old tavern and be introduced to John Prine’s music by a friendly, long-haired folk singer on a tiny stage, well, that’s just one of my great memories.

The drinking age is 21 now, but I’m sure Evan will have plenty of coffeehouse and rathskeller and student lounge performances to explore when he goes off to college in the fall. Maybe he, too, will learn of the wonderful Chicago folk singer John Prine in that manner. In fact, the only time I saw John Prine was on the UW-Green Bay campus, where Evan will be going.

This was the record I bought into when I started learning about John Prine. It’s been one of my favorites all these years.

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I dug it out a couple of weeks ago when Pauline Phillips, the woman who wrote the “Dear Abby” column, passed away.

Prine wrote a typically irreverent, light-hearted song about Dear Abby in the early ’70s. It’s one of the songs on one of my favorite album sides, the one shared here tonight on The Midnight Tracker.

“Sweet Revenge,” “Please Don’t Bury Me,” “Christmas In Prison,” “Dear Abby,” “Blue Umbrella” and “Often Is A Word I Seldom Use,” John Prine, from “Sweet Revenge,” 1973. This is Side 1. It runs 19:17. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

A guy could learn a lot from John Prine, especially a college guy.

“Dear Abby, Dear Abby/Well I never thought/
That me and my girlfriend/Would ever get caught”

Yeah, let’s hope we don’t hear that anytime soon.

People deeply love Purple

December 31, 2012

When I wrote last month at AM, Then FM, about Deep Purple’s “Burn,” a record I used to have and would like to have again, my friend Kurt said:

“I loved Deep Purple in HS and thus far have not parted with my DP vinyl, including ‘Burn.’ It’s part of my DNA, I think.”

Then, last week, I mentioned on Facebook that I was ripping a Deep Purple record. I didn’t mention which one. Even so, that unleashed a flood of fond memories from other friends, most of whom grew up in the ’70s as I did.

“Burn? Stormbringer? Come Taste the Band? one asked.

No.

“Machine Head?” another asked.

No.

“I know every word on ‘Machine Head.’ Proud of it, too!” my friend eagerly confessed. Now there is a rock chick for you. We went to high school together.

“Made in Japan?” another asked.

No.

The one I ripped is the one with “Woman From Tokyo” on it.

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I’ve had Deep Purple’s “Who Do We Think We Are” for almost 40 years. I hadn’t listened to it for a long time, but I still knew almost every line. In the early ’70s, I didn’t have a lot of records, so I played it a lot. It’s part of my DNA, too.

“Woman From Tokyo” (spelled “Woman From Tokayo” on the album jacket) was the single and probably is the only cut anyone remembers off this record. So tonight on The Midnight Tracker, that side of that record emerges from the sweet blue haze of time.

“Woman From Tokyo,” “Mary Long,” Super Trooper” and “Smooth Dancer,” Deep Purple, from “Who Do We Think We Are,” 1973. This is Side 1. It runs 17:01. (The buy link is to a remastered 2002 CD release with extra tracks. It also is available digitally.)

Turns out this record remembered so vividly was something of an afterthought. In the latter part of 1972, a worn-out Deep Purple was hurled into studios in Rome and Frankfurt after a year and a half of touring. They slammed out this LP, which has only seven cuts. It was released in January 1973, during my sophomore year in high school.

This is the first Deep Purple lineup I knew — Jon Lord on keyboards, Ritchie Blackmore on guitar, Ian Gillan on vocals, Roger Glover on bass and Ian Paice on drums — so to me, it’s the classic lineup. They’re all great, even if this record apparently wasn’t.

Gillan, who was unhappy with the band’s direction at the time, recorded most of his vocals after the others had done the backing tracks. He quit Deep Purple for a decade after this record came out.

The request line is open again

October 1, 2012

A couple of months ago, the very existence of this rather lightly traveled blog helped me reconnect with a friend from our hometown.

Bill was a year ahead of me at our high school in central Wisconsin in the mid-’70s. We didn’t know each other well, but I knew through mutual friends that he was a fairly cool guy. Long story short, Bill came across The Midnight Tracker on the web and got in touch.

Back then, “The Midnight Tracker” was a late-night program on our local FM radio station, the one that was Top 40 by day and free-form by night. We both listened to it. Bill has a special fondness for the program, but we’ll share that story another time.

I asked Bill whether he had any requests for The Midnight Tracker. He responded with a rather formidable list of early ’70s rock albums. Tonight’s selection on The Midnight Tracker, materializing through the sweet blue haze of time, is one.

“Sweet Sweet Surrender,” “Why Should I Care,” “Lose Myself With You,” “Living Alone” and “I’m So Proud,” Beck, Bogert & Appice, from “Beck Bogert & Appice,” 1973. This is Side 2. It runs 18:51. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

Rock, soul and blues come together on this side from the early ’70s supergroup. It’s mellow at the start, then gets all crunchy and raved up (the third and fourth cuts are originals), then wraps up with a mellow Curtis Mayfield cover.

British guitar great Jeff Beck had long wanted to work with bass player Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice, a couple of New Yorkers who had been in Vanilla Fudge and then Cactus. He started noodling with the idea of forming a power trio as early as 1969, but it didn’t happen until three years later.

The career arc of Beck, Bogert & Appice is a bit like a shooting star, burning brightly for a short time but fading quickly.

They started playing live gigs in the fall of 1972. They recorded their first (and ultimately only) studio album that winter and released it in the early spring of 1973. They kept touring for much of 1973 and released a live album that fall. They finished the tour in January 1974 and started recording a second studio album. They split up before summer arrived.

Three guys, one group, two years, two albums. The second studio album never saw the light of day, save for one cut that appeared on “Beckology,” a 1991 retrospective of Beck’s career.

It happened so quickly that I never had a proper introduction to them. Bill has remedied that, almost 40 years later.