In Your Eye

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1971 Week

Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil

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DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.

Exile (noun): a situation in which you are forced to leave your country or home and go to live in a foreign country.

Gilberto Gil & Caetano Veloso in London

Gilberto Gil & Caetano Veloso in London

Between late 1969 and early 1972, Brazilian superstars Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil found themselves sharing a house in London with their families, forced out of their native land because of the trouble they’d stirred up as part of the Tropicália movement. Tropicalismo’s blending of social disobedience, art, and youth culture was reflective of similar movements going on all over the world, but Brazil was still a dictatorship at the time and arranged to have the two luminaries booted after short prison sentences in Brazil. For a sense of how big a deal this situation was imagine the U.S. booting Bob Dylan or Joan Baez at the height of their early stardom.

To say the least, England suited them poorly, a longing for Brazil never far from their thoughts, but the forced stay in London did fabulous things for the music of these two pivotal 20th century artists, the psychedelic revolution (sonically and pharmacologically) and cosmopolitan play of ideas and styles in London putting a happy zap on their creative imaginations. However, the first fruits of these fresh influences reflected a fair amount of homeward longing and alienation in their forcibly adopted new country.

Both released their first (and in Gil’s case only) English-language albums [Veloso made one more, 2004’s cover tunes set A Foreign Sound] in 1971. Both self-titled and featuring somber cover photos, the records are rather un-Brazilian outside of the delicate percussion, occasional bursts of Portuguese, and the thick accented English of the singers. Mostly, both sets explore ground similar to Richie Havens, Bill Withers and Terry Callier with a lovely scoop of solo Syd Barrett – flowing folk-pop uplifted by fits of electricity, grey-tinged humor, compact experimentation, and a pervasive sense of wonder and melancholy. Each reflects the intersection of Brazil’s 60s musical flowering and what was happening in England’s swinging capital, and friends, it’s an exciting, seductive collision.

”Don’t waste your time in looking for sorrow. I’m as sure of the past as I’m certain about tomorrow.”

Veloso's 1971 Eponymous Album

Veloso’s 1971 Eponymous Album

Veloso’s offering is the more despondent of the two, opening by announcing that his exile has him “a little more blue” than his prison time or the day Carmen Miranda died. Things lift a bit – literally to the skies with a peculiar reference to flying saucers – on “London London” before the tuneful but pointedly sad note to his sister (and fellow musical celebrity still in Brazil) “Maria Bethania,” who he claims “has given her soul to the devil and bought a flat by the sea.” Things grow more poetic and abstract on “If You Hold A Stone” and the romping ”Shoot Me Dead” before holiday super-bummer “In The Hot Sun of a Christmas Day” and Portuguese closer “Asa Branca,” which translates as:

When your tears wet the dry land/ And spread the green of your eyes/ Over the dead trees/ I promise you that/ Then I’ll be back, dear.

But as seemingly forlorn as Veloso’s album may be there’s palpable musical excitement, the swirl of busy London crashing into Caetano’s battered spirit and producing some of his most resonant work.

”We let our moments become what they really had to be. Develop our photographs as simple dreams that will come true.”

Gil's 1971 Eponymous Album

While Gilberto Gil’s eponymous ’71 record contains a sighing cover of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” the overall mood is less bleak and more open to play in his exiled circumstances. Drugs may have been a positive factor for Gil, as evidenced on the sweetly speculative “The Three Mushrooms,” which begins, “The first mushroom makes room for my mind/ To get inside the magic room of Dionysus’ house.” – groovy, man. There are still plenty of jabs at the state of being in their chilly U.K. environment including “Babylon” and the mad-but-very-charming disconnection of “Crazy Pop Rock.” Time and memory, perception and reality are puzzled over, and conclusions are few and far between. Gil’s guitar work is superlative throughout, clearly sparked by seeing Jimi Hendrix in action [further confirmed by a great live cover of “Up From The Skies” that’s a bonus track on the wonderful 2007 CD reissue of the album from SF’s Water label]. There is tenderness and turbulence to this song cycle refracted by Gil’s ever-intriguing voice and guitar.

While both Veloso and Gil hightailed it back to Brazil as soon as the powers that be allowed them to, their London years lingered prominently in the music they made throughout the 70s and beyond, heard in the great openness of both artists to dance with any mood, style, instrumentation, etc. that struck their fancy. Being up close to The Beatles, Cream, Hendrix and countless others and bringing their Brazilian sound to the English masses at festivals during those years rubbed off on this pair in positive ways – musically if not personally.

Ravings

The Beatles Go To 11: Jeff Massey's Picks

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The Impound is asking our favorite musicians to pick their eleven favorite Beatles songs in an effort to offer Fab-u-lous insights in our shared love of the greatest rock band of all-time. The latest entry comes from Jeff Massey, guitarist-singer-songwriter with one of DI’s fave-o-rite working rock bands, Chicago’s The Steepwater Band, who just get ALL the fundamentals right and rock with such obvious sincerity and natural capacity for the genre it brings a tear to our eye. If you ain’t familiar with ‘em then it’s time you get on it!

The Steepwater Band’s Jeff Massey’s 11 Favorite Beatles Songs

[No Stated Order]

I, Me, Mine

Beatles_I_Me_Mine

This song is one of Harrison’s finest moments. What a perfect combination of a sorrowful waltz mixed up with straight bluesy rock n roll. The contrast between the mood of the verse and the chorus is such an amazing flow of effortless songwriting. Melancholy blended into an uplifting frenzy of a jam!

Lyrically it stands timeless as an ode to people who are completely unconscious from what life is about. Without love and sharing you really never see any light At least that’s what I hear in the message. Yet another wonderful aspect of the Beatles is the room they leave for interpretation of a lyric.

The killer guitar tones don’t hurt the song any either. I know there has always been question as to what George played and what Paul played. Unless I’m mistaken Paul played some of the key guitar parts including the solos on the early material, but I’m guessing by this point in time this is George laying it down. (LISTEN)

Dear Prudence

Beatles_DearPrudence

Lennon’s mournful vocal is almost too much to take in if I’m in a fragile listening mood. This song is the epitome of intensity. It cuts through an emotional bone like butter. Dark folk music which, like George’s “I, Me, Mine,” shifts between sorrow and joy both musically and lyrically.

I love the way the intro descends into a hypnotic drone that sucks the listener in for the remainder of the song. It’s that haunting pulse of repetition that makes this song so mesmerizing.

No other vocalist can be as haunting as Lennon at times. Lennon is a master of imagery who easily switches from yearning to commanding with the flick of a switch.

The chaotic crescendo rises perfectly into a drumming frenzy and melody overload!

The Beatles are such a powerful influence on everything musically that came after. I hear everything from Pink Floyd to Wilco in this song. Where would be without The Beatles! (LISTEN)

Michelle

Beatles_Michelle

Only McCartney can turn such a sappy lyric into a joyful journey of the heart. A wizard of bass melody, or perhaps a tone cut guitar, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference with Paul.

My struggle over which is my favorite Beatle will never cease, they are all four beyond a standard talent in their own right, but to me McCartney is the master of melody and range. The shift between French and English lyrics only adds to the mystique and feeling of sitting in a café somewhere in Southern France as young Paul serenades his love. The simple lyric compliments the music and the melody wrapping it all up in a beautiful piece of sophisticated ambient genius. One of my favorite Beatles songs. (LISTEN)

Octopus’s Garden

Beatles_Octopus

Just when you thought a particular Beatles record might be getting too serious, well, here comes Ringo!

Man, I love Ringo! I hate when Beatles fans rag on Ringo. The average music listener might not understand what a great talent someone like Ringo Starr really is. It’s that backbeat that makes all that great early material swing! No need for a bunch of pointless drum noodling – it’s that beat man!

Not to mention he played with three other guys who are just a bit more talented than the average bear, so grabbing attention from the others isn’t so easy. Again like George and the guitar, there are a few rumors floating around in the cosmos about Paul handling drums on certain songs, but ya still got to have some Ringo on board!

Anyway, “Octopus’s Garden” is such a creative little twist on country twang music. The nursery rhyme quality is hard not to sing along to. Once again another Beatles rumor that good ol’ Bob Dylan wrote these words for Mr. Starkey. Who knows? Rumors aside I had to give the man props on at least one Beatles cut. Go Ringo ! (LISTEN)

I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

Beatles_IWantYou

Geoff Emerick wrote an amazing book titled Here There and Everywhere about the many Beatles sessions he worked on as an engineer including Abbey Road. This is probably what I’m basing all the previously mentioned rumors on. I remember him discussing in the book how Lennon fought with the others about this particular ending. The short abrupt closed door really catches the listener off guard, and isn’t that part of the great collective genius that is the Beatles: The unexpected musical turns that keeps the listening journey exciting and unknown.

The Beatles are masters of the blues among many other musical styles, and this song is a radical interpretation of minor blues. You can hear this influence in things like Zep’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” as one example. The Beatles undeniably influence just about everyone who came after and this song in particular is beyond innovative.

Like many of the aforementioned songs it shifts between minor blues, jazz swing, and builds into yet another hypnotic powerhouse riff before that ever so surprising door slams shut. Lennon is a master of tension Songs of this nature stick with me when I pick up a guitar. I have a tendency to drift towards that minor key vibe a lot, and songs like “I Want You” are uncontrollably etched in my musical subconscious
As Nigel Tufnel says, ‘’D minor: the saddest of all keys.’’ (LISTEN)

Tomorrow Never Knows

Beatles_TomorrowNever

If any song is going to capture color with sounds it’s “Tomorrow Never Knows.” I can’t help but to ‘’see’’ the melody! A circle of swirling colors dance through my brain and drift into unknown consciousness even without any influence of chemical substance. Yes!

It’s rock’ ‘n roll hypnosis, which one might consider the birth of psychedelic music, the worldly influence of rhythm and beat unknown to rock music before this track emerged. I love music that sounds like it comes from another planet, music that stands timeless and mysterious even after it’s heard for so many years.

Also if I’m not mistaken this might be one of the earliest attempts at drum looping, which is such a standard and abused necessity in popular music of today.

I can’t help feeling so otherworldly and surreal when I’m listening to this song. It’s a complete escape from reality and that is why I love it so much. This song demands your attention. Nothing against “Twist and Shout” but it’s amazing that they developed into a songwriting machine that could manipulate music into something so new for the time and so everlasting against the test of time itself. (LISTEN)

Blackbird

Beatles_Blackbird

Paul’s tale of a slave gone free is to me one of the most heartfelt and powerful songs of all time. Not to mention it’s rewarding to play on the guitar with such a rich combination of chord and melody. It strikes me for some reason as a song Paul might have written very quickly and spontaneously. It has that shot of inspiration to the sound that cannot be forced.

This composition always stands out among the so many amazing Beatles compositions. I’m lucky enough to have witnessed Paul perform this in Chicago a few years back and it was really an incredible thing to see and hear. (LISTEN)

A Day In The Life

Beatles_Day

The same intensity that I spoke of with “Dear Prudence” but recorded a bit earlier in the Beatles career for the groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper’s record. Probably the most haunting Lennon melody ever.

I’m realizing as I make this list that I lean towards the darker, surreal aspect of the Beatles catalog when I speak of my favorites.

What a perfect blend of McCartney/Lennon with Paul’s lighthearted lyric about waking up and grabbing the day! I especially love the line, ‘’Dragged a comb across my head’’. The ending had to be another Lennon idea. Epic!

Lennon was the guy that frustrated George Martin the most because he would explain his musical ideas in such an abstract manner. He would say things in the studio like, ‘’I want the song to sound green with a touch of the moon!” (I made that up but I’m guessing he would say something to that effect). Paul on the other hand would say something like, ‘’ I need a clarinet to come in on the sixth measure and the tambourine should fade towards the end of the first bridge.’’ (again, I made this up but Paul seemed more practical). Obviously, the two genius minds could come together to create masterpieces such as “A Day In The Life.” (LISTEN)

Get Back

Beatles_GetBack

Ah yes, the bluesy record with Phil Spector’s over the top production. Unless of course you prefer the version that was released with Spector’s handy work basically removed.

It’s well documented that The Beatles were not in the best of relations during this period but this track would indicate otherwise. Having a special guest like Billy Preston come in for a session seemed to put The Beatles on their best behavior according to Paul.

Besides leaning towards the surreal aspect of their music, my favorite thing is when they hit the blues-based numbers. Preston’s now legendary workout with the Fender Rhodes piano on this song is enough to suck me in and get the ol’ foot tapping. And as with every Beatles song, the vocals are strong and infectious! (LISTEN)

Eight Days A Week

Beatles_Eight

It took me awhile to appreciate the earlier work as opposed to the latter but when I hear it these days it is really groundbreaking in its own way. What a masterful work of simple chord changes and melody and the always incredible vocal range that was so prevalent throughout the Beatles work. This is just rocking!

One thing that gets under my skin is when musicians of today call The Beatles a boy band comparing them to today’s bad thrown together corporate boy singing groups. The naïve ignorance of such a statement should be obvious when hearing compositions such as “Eight Days A Week.” The vocal performance alone is a testament to the talent involved in the work. As a vocalist if you ever try singing the early material you might find an even greater appreciation for the strength of Paul and John’s vocals. (LISTEN)

Something

Beatles_Something

This is one of my favorite George compositions – a heartfelt lyrical statement amidst that swirling Leslie speaker inspired guitar. I love the bridge in this song and the way it elevates to an even higher musical place only to land into one of my favorite George guitar solos ever! Simple and melodic guitar playing like George is known for.

I even like Elvis-esque borderline corny lounge version and, of course, McCartney still does this live on the ukulele as an ode to he and Georges love for that particular instrument. It’s common Beatles fan knowledge that George was all about busting out the ukulele around the house to entertain band mates and guests.
I don’t what else I can say accept when George sings a ‘’love’’ song it takes on a deeper meaning and feel than most other performers could ever achieve. (LISTEN)

In Your Eye

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1971 Week

John Martyn

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DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.

“Time after time I held it just to watch it die/ Line after line I loved it just to watch it cry.”

Year1971_Martyn

When the Impound discovers that someone is unfamiliar with John Martyn it pains us. To our perspective, a life without John Martyn is like a life without bacon, air or some other essential. Originally part of the late 60s British folk-rock boom, Martyn always stood a bit outside of the pack, singular from the start, a voice simultaneously youthful and eerily wise as if he’d lived several lifetimes before meeting us. There is tremendous power and mystery to Martyn’s dazzling, innovative guitar playing, timeless-minded songcraft, and spliff ‘n’ whiskey cured voice, a low, gripping rumble filled with love and its terrible cousins riding deeply natural yet curiously angled musical currents, sounds pleasing and profound snatched from behind the curtain of general consciousness and forged into music by this singular artist.

Perhaps the best jumping on point for neophytes is Martyn is 1971’s Bless The Weather, a truly transporting listening experience that deftly melds folk directness and subtle jazz sophistication – an artistic teeter-totter, occasionally punctuated by rock sharpness, that Martyn bounced on throughout his career. Emotionally, Bless The Weather steps lightly between growing despair, earnest affection, and qualified hopefulness. Martyn, even in his early years, had a way of digging into life as it’s really lived, the hard patches and tough-to-face reflections as relevant as the moments of contentment and dreams of connection and peace.

Aided by players of incredible feel and imagination like Danny Thompson (double bass), Roger Powell (future Utopia keyboardist), Richard Thompson (electric guitar) and then-spouse Beverley Martyn (backing vocals), Martyn begins to reveal the expressive wizardry that fully emerged during the 70s and 80s. The title track is haunting and yearning, and it’s joined by the hard-nosed lover’s benediction “Head and Heart,” a cheeky cover of “Singin’ In The Rain,” an early Echoplex experiment (a trajectory Martyn took to full fruition two years later on Inside Out), and a series of melancholy reveries that both fit the times and transcend it. Bless The Weather is Martyn’s first essential release but certainly not his last.

In Your Eye

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1971 Week

David Crosby

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DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.

“And I thought that I’d found the light/ To guide me through my nights and all this darkness/ I was mistaken, only reflections of a shadow that I saw.”

Year1971_Crosby_MyName

The solo output of the Crosby, Stills & Nash has been a mixed bag – sometimes trapped in the production of a particular era, artistic self-indulgence, or just simply not as hefty as their combined mojo. There are fine moments on every single album these crazy talented musicians have put out but few feel as fully formed and organic as the two albums that will forever form the spine of their catalogues – Déjà Vu and their self-titled 1969 trio debut. However, there is a striking exception to this streak: David Crosby’s stunning 1971 solo debut If I Could Only Remember My Name….

An album lush with mysteries and inspired, intuitive playing, If I Could Only Remember My Name… beautifully bridges the feeling of volcanic 60s promise and the new decade’s rising ennui, sometimes snaring these feelings in pure sound – there’s a cut titled “Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)” that’s as lovely and melancholy as any lyrical stab at those same ideas. The juxtapositions are pointed but not as sharp as one might think with pretty, hippy-ish opener “Music Is Love” giving way quite naturally to the gnarly, electric guitar-basted “Cowboy Movie,” which mingles rock’s enduring association with outlaw culture with CSN’s now-legendary personal drama, particularly as regards the bed hopping of various lady friends. But every piece here is drawn in a way that’s open to multiple interpretations, poetic leaps encouraged and possibilities embraced, firm notions skirted and clear lines blurred.

Interior Gatefold Montage

Interior Gatefold Montage

At times, the album lets out a great, collective sigh, be it the druggy late night stroll of “Tamalpais High (At About 3)” or more explicitly the enlightened disappointment of “Laughing,” which is simply one of the greatest tunes Crosby ever wrote and produced, a meeting of many major talents including amazing pedal steel from Jerry Garcia and haunting backing vocals from Joni Mitchell. Luminaries, particularly from the Bay Area scene, are all over this record, including Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner, Jack Casady and Grace Slick, Grateful Dead rhythm beasts Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, Santana’s Gregg Rolie and Michael Shrieve, CSNY chum Neil Young and a host of other talented folks. But Crosby, the album’s producer and clear architect, doesn’t dissect things track-by-track so we only know that these varied craftsmen and freaks had some hand in things but specific fingerprints are wiped away. It’s a strangely “Summer of Love” kinda move that speaks to the collective nature of the early 70s rock scene around San Francisco and Marin (and their invited compatriots), the rogues gallery of photos inside the album bespeaking the cool creative environment that birthed this album.

Not Album Shot But You Get The Idea

Not Album Shot But You Get The Idea

However, that group shot is balanced by a picture of a stone-faced, shirtless Crosby, smoking curling around his head, his Old West ready moustache curling downwards, and most strikingly an American flag folded to form a gun which he’s pointed at his head. It’s a loaded image – in several respects – that nicely sums up the 60s counter-culture as it ran headlong into the mainstream of a country still enmeshed in the Vietnam War, major social rights upheaval and other major challenges. On “Traction In The Rain,” Crosby sings, “You know it’s hard for me to find a way to get through another city day without thinking about getting out.” It’s a cold splash on a gently flowing tune but a necessary one, both at that moment and today in the rush-rush-rush 21st century. Without being preachy or programmatic, Crosby distilled a timeless classic in If I Could Only Remember My Name…, where folks with big hearts, wild natures, and oodles of talent went divining for truths that last more than a day or even a year.

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Lansdale Station & Grayson Capps

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With many of DI’s readers based in the SF Bay Area, we wanted to hip y’all to a sweet show this coming Friday, September 6, at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, CA. One local favorite, Lansdale Station featuring primo singer-songwriter Lauren Murphy and hubby/vocal delight Judge Murphy of Zero fame, reemerges after a long stretch of personal struggles to kick up some dust with Lauren’s old pal and one of the talented, earthy singer-songwriters to emerge in the past 20 years Grayson Capps. The pairing is almost too good, and one thing the Impound can assure you is you’ll hear a WHOLE bunch of terrific songs delivered with resounding heart and professional acumen by people utterly in love with making music. If your tastes run towards vintage John Prine, Little Feat, a Southern dipped Fairport Convention, Patterson Hood, and Americana with guts then you best make your way to Mill Valley to see this rare pairing. Pick up your tickets HERE, and check out a sampling of these artists in action.

In Your Eye

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1970 Week

Brinsley Schwarz

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DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.

“Now all you London ladies, wonder where you’re at trying to make a country boy like me. I do declare that they think I’m a star, although I told them all I do is play guitar.”

1970 Debut Album

1970 Debut Album

If Brinsley Schwarz had been part of the great late 60s San Francisco rock flowering nearly everyone would know their name. But as it is, this exceedingly talented quartet spearheaded by a young Nick Lowe hailed from Tunbridge Wells, England, and perhaps might have lacked their lurking bittersweet character if they’d emerged in the California sunshine. Even so, Brinsley Schwarz – Lowe (bass, guitars, vocals, songwriting), Brinsley Schwarz (guitar, vocals), Bob Andrews (keyboards, vocals) and Bill Rankin (drums) – produced two albums in 1970 that match or better anything coming from Jefferson Starship, Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger and the like during the same period.

Their self-titled debut gives some credence to the U.K. hype that Brinsley Schwarz were the isle’s answer to The Band, a concise pleasure filled offering with rich, CSN tight harmonies, songs that straddle 60s optimism and 70s ennui, and a musical & lyrical maturity well beyond their years. They emerge a touch jaded, already weary of groupies before they’ve rightly scored any on “Rock And Roll Women (And Super-Straightmen)” but balancing that vibe with inducements to “Shining Brightly.” The balance is a mixture of curious miniature jams, distinctly West Coast rock grooving (zero problem imagining them opening for the Grateful Dead at The Fillmore), and pleasurably wistful character studies that’s not too far off from where Steely Dan arrived on their 1974 debut, a well-tempered buzz of mayflies and has-been beauty queens that’s held up remarkably well over the decades.

Year1970_Brinsley_Despite

Despite It All arrived a few months later in December and leans hard into a country-rock mood with the band more assured and polished than the debut – Brinsley Schwarz evolved quickly. Opener “Country Girl” is a near-perfect bit of AM gold that never found a home on American airwaves, and closer “Old Jarrow” could be a lost Randy Meisner gem from an early Eagles session. In between there’s the easy sway of “Funk Angel,” the Andrews’ penned “Piece of Home” and “Star Ship,” which declares, “You can stay on your starship, baby, but don’t be unkind to me” – a different time indeed. Perhaps loveliest of all is “Ebury Down,” which skips with melancholy dexterity foreshadowing Lowe’s intricately delicate solo work in the 2000s.

Lowe, as anyone paying even the slightest attention to rock in past four decades can tell you, went on to great work, including one of the finest debuts in rock history (his first solo full-length Jesus of Cool), one of rock’s greatest what-ifs (Rockpile), long running creative sparring with Elvis Costello (who covered the Brinsley Schwarz tune “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love & Understanding?” to good effect), and much more. The others have drifted in and out of music after Brinsley Schwarz, which soldiered on with some degree of success, a primarily U.K. known quantity, through the mid-70s before calling it quits. While associated with the 70s Pub Rock scene, Brinsley Schwarz clearly had more Trans-Atlantic ambitions coming out of the gate, and while little known, their first two albums remain some of the most enjoyable, well-crafted artifacts of the period.

A few keepers from these early albums.

In Your Eye

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1970 Week

Trapeze

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DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.

“I’m a citizen of nowhere/ The sky’s above my head/ I wonder where the grass grows/ Looking through the sunshine/ ‘Til my judgment day.”

Year1970_Medusa

Medusa might be the best 70s hard rock album you’ve never heard. The second release from the newly minted Trapeze in 1970, listening to Medusa today loudly affirms its prescient vision, which mixes up the haymaker wallop of peers Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath with psych-tinged R&B reminiscent of The Sons of Champlin and Small Faces.

The trio of Glenn Hughes (bass, piano, vocals), Dave Holland (drums) and Mel Galley (guitar, vocals) are a seamless rush of tasty chops, dramatic singing, and sharp songwriting. Their take on heavy rock is largely fat free despite at least one track stretching past eight minutes, and the melodies as memorable and voluptuously appealing as anything Page & Plant mustered on their 1970 offering Led Zeppelin III. The vocals are downright sexy, right in line with what Paul Rodgers was doing in Free or Steve Marriott was up to in Humble Pie, and the production has presence and pop.

When Hughes started working with Black Country Communion a few years back it seemed like he’d finally gotten around to the unfinished business of Trapeze, which only lasted a few years (and a brief reunion in 90s) with this classic lineup. Swing, strut and substance is what Trapeze, particularly on Medusa, is all about, and if you’ve never experienced this under-heralded winner you’re in for a major revelation, children.

In Your Eye

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1970 Week

John McLaughlin

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DI takes its role as edutainers seriously, and in that spirit we’re spotlighting great albums and choice cuts from 1970-1999 to edify our readers’ musical breadth of knowledge. Each week will focus on a single year and some of the sweetmeat it produced.

Year1970_Devotion

By 1970, rock had infiltrated the jazz world pretty rampantly, the overwhelming global cultural dominance of rock seeping into jazz both as an influence or as a force for the genre to define itself against, evident in the hard-nosed bop of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and the high-minded later work of Duke Ellington and other members of the old guard but equally prominent in the befuzzed jamming of Miles Davis and much of the Atlantic Records jazz roster at the time. However, the marriage of jazz chops and rock thinking rarely achieved such sublimely heady fruition as John McLaughlin third solo album, Devotion (1970), where the psychedelic revolution runs headlong into serious musical muscle and sincere spiritual attitude.

With Haight-Ashbury-esque song titles like “Don’t Let The Dragon Eat Your Mother,” “Purpose of When” and “Marbles,” Devotion is unabashedly cosmic, an Electric Kool-Aid ambience prevailing as these top drawer musicians jettison norms and explore with impunity and groove consciousness. McLaughlin is joined by Band of Gypsies drummer Buddy Miles, bassist Billy Rich (who was invited to play with Gypsies and later played with Taj Mahal and Paul Butterfield) and organ/electric piano player Larry Young, who make an intense, strangely beautiful racket together. It’s the kind of music that can induce involuntary flashbacks in acid aficionados, the world both more colorful and a touch more menacing as one swims in this sound.

That some of Hendrix’s last recordings include Young and carry echoes of this set is little surprise. Despite his demigod status now, Jimi Hendrix was very aware of the other major players on his instrument, expressing his admiration for folks ranging from Buddy Guy to McLaughlin to Chicago’s still-under-appreciated Terry Kath (legend has it that after seeing Chicago Transit Authority Jimi remarked to the band, “You know your guitar player is better than me, right?”). Devotion, with its blend of tradition and tradition-breaking, represents one of the trails Hendrix would likely have blazed if he’d survived. As it was, he passed away the same month as this record was released, and neither he nor McLaughlin ever ventured very far down this intriguing path. Still, there is the electricity and crashing invention of Devotion to stimulate our earholes and imaginations.