Posts Tagged ‘Classic Albums’

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Captain Beefheart’s 1970 album Lick My Decals Off, Baby, is a classic album.  If you can imagine (for a moment) that ‘Trout Mask Replica’ never happened and the next in The Captain’s discography was ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby,’ the chasm between lovers and haters would be just as strong. For those who could palate ’Trout Mask Replica,’ the follow up album seems somewhat “commercial” but is still very much just as lyrically abstract and equally instrumentally adventurous. The production quality of the album is unquestionably superior to its predecessor. First, gone are the “field recordings” from the Beefheart house in Woodland Hills, CA. The entirety of this follow-up album was seemingly recorded in a proper studio…and was given enough of a budget to spend precious studio time to make sure it sounded much more than a hugger-mugger arrangement of demos/outtakes.

Perhaps it’s the simple and sublimely unique charm of it all, but the “fault” that I have discovered with ‘Trout Mask Replica’ is the fact that it feels more like a scrapbook of those nine months holed up in a claustrophobic house rather than a proper and cohesive autobiography of those times. Please don’t misinterpret those words to mean it is unworthy. After all, I am an ardent supporter and one of the faithful that applaud ‘Trout Mask Replica,’  that represents one of the most landmark recordings in Pop/Rock of the 20th century. As a matter of fact, I listened to it alongside The Mothers Of Invention ‘Uncle Meat’ in a single sitting and there is quite a bit of similarity regarding the structure of each album.

Obviously, the common denominator is Frank Zappa himself who informed the construction and flow of ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ He was able to more-or-less realize what HE THOUGHT The Captain was trying to achieve rather than allowing Beefheart to express what he truly wanted (perhaps that was impossible)…but that will never be known. However, the snippets of those “field recordings” and other shenanigans that were grooved into wax seem to be more of Zappa’s perverse nature than it does the overarching concept Beefheart had in mind.

That said, ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ has all of the raucous, cantankerous, obstreperous and demanding music of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ yet has a beauty, sheen and digestive quality that I don’t think Zappa ever wanted; he endeavored to make a difficult album even less surmountable by the masses…pushing the boundaries further than The Captain even wanted. ‘Lick…’ is just as free, unencumbered and freewheeling, but unlike its predecessor, possesses more structure, stability and accessibility. However, reflecting on Beefheart’s recorded output, ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby,’ is an album that (like ‘Strictly Personal’) is absolutely essential; equally as ground-breaking.

The immediate takeaway is that the songs are more succinct and the music (thanks to the production) is much more intense than the inconsistent sonics of ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ The ‘Trout Mask…’ graduates; John French (aka: Drumbo), Mark Boston (aka: Rockette Morton) and Bill Harkleroad (aka: Zoot Horn Rollo) were all on absolute FIRE for this recording. Despite all of the insanity that occurred during the recording of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ that prepared them to achieve the “cohesiveness” on ‘Lick…’ Those three (and no disrespect to Artie Tripp whose contribution is equally significant) were nothing short of telepathic at this point.

The solo guitar piece, ‘One Rose That I Mean’ is nothing short of virtuosity. ‘Peon” is an absolute sublime bass/guitar duet that illustrates a performance between players that have spent an immense amount of time playing (fantastic and unconventional material) together. The soprano sax excursion in ’Japan Is A Dishpan’ is just as “Coltrane” as John Coltrane himself during those years where he was “searching” for something he was not able to harness within the normal bookends of traditional harmony. Well, The Captain seemed to distill that searching in the matter of just shy of three minutes.

I didn’t ever think that I would have so much to say with regard to specific tracks, but the vocals, are “in your face.” This is Beefheart at his absolute most pointed, direct, intense, focused and determined. ‘The Smithsonian Institute Blues (or the Big Dig)’ should have been the theme song to the ill-fated civil engineering disaster labeled ‘The Big Dig’ in Boston, MA as a way of expanding roadways in and out of the city to ameliorate perennial vehicle congestion. ‘The Buggy Boogie Woogie’ is absolutely an answer to our current zeitgeist.

Much like the “now assumed” controlled chaos of ‘Trout Mask Replica,’ ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ is the Pop/Rock album that is chaos perfected. The music contained therein confirms the so-called “randomness” of the former and cements it by reproducing it to amazing detail. It ossifies that “controlled chaos;” it is thoughtful, repeatable and unable to repeat the sentiment that ultimately created the art.

‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’…’ requires and demands as much a close analysis as its predecessor (not to mention it sounds a whole lot better) and is bereft of much (if not most) of the “filler” that consumes ‘Trout Mask Replica.’ If newcomers to the Beefheart camp need to warm their toes into his most fruitful/experimental period before diving-in head first, listen to ‘Strictly Personal’ and ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby’ before attempting the glorious miasma that is ‘Trout Mask Replica.’

PS – I know this sentiment might rival a lot of opinions but I appreciate having the ability to compose and share my thoughts in an open forum…all reactions welcome!

words all written by Brent Rusche July 2020.

Albert King live wire/blues power

If you want to understand what makes Albert King such a much loved guitar player and purveyor of the blues then look no further than “Live Wire/Blues Power” his 1968 release. Recorded live at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in June 1968 it is a record that is full of King’s searing guitar and his unique vocals.

King was a regular at the Fillmore, playing there probably more times than any other blues artist. He played three nights at the gig from 25th to 27th June , with support from Loading Zone and Rain. Loading Zone was a local band who released their debut album in 1968, but they never rose above the role of a support band; Rain have been lost to the mists of time.

The opening number is a cover of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man’ that Albert turns into a funky fanfare for what is to follow. It’s followed by one of King’s defining numbers, the soaring Blues Power which features some of his finest searing guitar, accompanied by a trademark homily; Stax released it in edited form as a single. This is one of the four self penned numbers on the record and not to be confused with the song of the same name written by Eric Clapton and Leon Russell.

‘Night Stomp’ that follows is co-written by King, Raymond Jackson and Al Jackson Jr. Al produced the album and was the drummer and a founding member of Booker T & The MGs. Raymond, no relation to Al, was also from Memphis and wrote many songs for Stax Records.

‘Blues Before Sunrise’, another King original, is the epitome of a slow blues burner, full of fire and ice, one of those numbers to play people who may have some lingering doubt that the blues are for them. A cover of BB King’s ‘Please Love Me’ follows, with its traditional, ‘dust my broom’ riff. Throughout the band of Willie James Exon-Guitar, James Washington-Bass, Rooselvelt Pointer-Bass, and Theotis Morgan-Drums support King in the perfect way, giving him the space to play.

The set closes with King’s ‘Look Out’ with it’s fast ‘walking bass’ line it shows why Albert King was so beloved by the San Francisco rock crowd who adored Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger service, The Steve Miller Band and the Dead…all of them took influence from the blues and Albert King was the real deal.

There’s not a blues guitarist that has not copped King’s licks and fallen under his spell, in part because this became Albert’s first album to make the Billboard chart on 16 November 1968; it only made No.150 but that’s not the point.

Play it LOUD and relish a night with Albert King at the Fillmore.

benefit

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Jethro Tull’s third studio album, ‘Benefit’.

The album featured pianist and organist John Evan for the first time and was the last to include bassist Glenn Cornick. As with its predecessors, it was recorded at Morgan Studios in London. Speaking about the album, Ian Anderson described it as much darker than ‘This Was’ and ‘Stand Up’.

For some reason Jethro Tull are never spoken of in the same hushed tones of awe as Led Zeppelin or King Crimson. Or Deep Purple and Yes. Or Wishbone Ash…

Quite why that is may be down to the fact that their style was very difficult to pigeon hole and emulate, therefore no one has been obviously influenced by them. You never hear of any up and coming bands naming Tull as an influence, they never got name checked by the likes of The Mars Volta or Tool. Tull weren’t embraced by younger generations like the majority of their peers were and perhaps they never will.

“Benefit” was not the huge leap forwards that Stand Up had been from This Was, but what it did was consolidate Tull’s position as one of the best rock bands in the world. It’s a far more moody and darker album than anything they had recorded previously, relying on sweaty riffing and studio trickery to create the ambiance. Unlike a lot of Tull’s albums there’s little in the way of good humored material, with only the satirical “Son”, the strangely poppy “Inside” and the reflective “For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me” doing anything to lift the mood slightly.

On the flip side that means that the album is liberally studded with unsung riff-rock, the best example here is the glorious “To Cry You A Song”, and the album closes with one of it’s best tracks, the acoustic “Sossity; You’re A Woman”.

Musically the band is on form throughout and were playing as well as ever. They temporarily recruited keyboard player John Evans, who actually stuck around for the next decade or so, which broadened their sound somewhat, but the keyboards here act as a compliment to the rest of the music and they are utilised only when absolutely necessary.

Ian Anderson said that Benefit was a “guitar riff” album, recorded in a year in which artists like Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin were becoming more riff-oriented. Anderson also noted that Benefit is “a rather dark and stark album and, although it has a few songs on it that are rather okay, I don’t think it has the breadth, variety or detail that Stand Up has. But it was an evolution in terms of the band playing as ‘a band.'” Overall, Anderson considered the album “a natural part of the group’s evolution”.

According to Martin Barre “To Cry You a Song” was a response to Blind Faith’s “Had to Cry Today”, “although you couldn’t compare the two; nothing was stolen … The riff crossed over the bar in a couple of places and Ian and I each played guitars on the backing tracks. It was more or less live in the studio with a couple of overdubs and a solo. Ian played my Gibson SG and I played a Les Paul on it

In many ways Benefit is Jethro Tull’s forgotten album, book ended as it is by two of the band’s most popular albums on either side. I get the increasing feeling though that its relative obscurity will (oh dear) benefit it in the end though, because it’s often obscure albums like this that catch the ear of younger generations.

Jethro Tull doing ‘Teacher’ from the ‘Benefit’ album, 1970. On Beat-Club was a German music program that ran from 1965 to the end of 1972. It was broadcast from Bremen, Germany initially on Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen, the national public TV channel. Beat-Club was replaced by the programme ‘Musikladen’ in 1972.

By April 1970, Jethro Tull had already released a pair of studio albums, but their career-defining fourth LP, Aqualung, wouldn’t arrive until March of the following year, at which point it would almost overshadow its predecessor, the underrated Benefit.

On the one hand, group members Ian Anderson (who provided vocals, flute and acoustic guitar), guitarist Martin Barre, bassist Glenn Cornick and drummer Clive Bunker were somewhat at odds with their record company, and worn out by extensive touring. On the other, they were enjoying a rare moment of lineup stability (though future keyboard player John Evan was already unofficially on hand), and the success of the previous year’s Stand Up had given them the confidence to carry on experimenting, moving ever further from their Brit-blues roots of 1968’s tellingly named This Was …

So for Benefit, “transition” may indeed have been the operative word, as the band unveiled an eclectic set containing a little bit of the old, a little of the new and some things that would never be repeated.

‘Benefit’ is guitarist Martin Barre’s favourite Jethro Tull album.

John Evan, who played piano and organ on the album “for our benefit”, and subsequently joined the band for ten years, was actually named John Evans. His missing ‘s’ was a deliberate hangover from the pre-Jethro Tull group The John Evan Band, because it sounded ‘cooler’.

Michael Collins, name-checked in the song For Michael Collins, Jeffrey And Me, was the member of the Apollo 11 space-mission who stayed in the main capsule while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon.

Second Helping Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Second Helping”, was the record that contained their biggest hit single and perhaps greatest rock theme tune of all time, ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ was released on 15th April 1974.  An answer song to Neil Young’s “Alabama” and “Southern Man”. Skynyrd’sfan base had continued to grow rapidly throughout 1973, largely due to their opening support slot on the Who’s Quadrophenia tour in the United States.Second Helping features Ed King, Allen Collins and Gary Rossington all collaborating with Ronnie Van Zant on the songwriting.

After the success of their debut album, 1973’s Lynyrd Skynyrd (pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nérd), the Second Helping LP was recorded chiefly at the Record Plant in Los Angeles. That was apart from that signature hit, which the band laid down in Doraville, Georgia. Recording sessions started in June 1973, a matter of weeks after they had signed off on the one before. Their producer, as with the first album and 1975’s third release Nuthin’ Fancy, was Al Kooper, whose notoriety already stretched back some 15 years to his teenage success with the Royal Teens. Kooper’s association from the mid-1960s with Bob Dylan was augmented by appearances with hundreds of other artists, not to mention his own recordings from 1969 onwards.

Kooper was also one of the musicians on Second Helping, singing and playing piano on two tracks. ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ featured the vocals of Merry Clayton, Clydie King and others. Clayton, famously the powerful female voice of ‘Gimme Shelter,’ was not the only Rolling Stones alumnus on the Skynyrd album. Saxophonist Bobby Keys played on ‘Don’t Ask Me No Questions’ (the first single from the set, before ‘Alabama’) and Skynyrd’s cover of JJ Cale’s ‘Call Me The Breeze.

Second Helping outdid its predecessor, which had peaked at No. 27 in the US, by peaking at No. 12. It was certified gold by September 1974 and went both platinum and double platinum on the same day in 1987. “A vast improvement over their first album,” ruled Billboard in their original review at the time, “and a tribute to the combination of skill and good taste.”

On this day in history First released February 4th, 1983) Echo and the Bunnymen released their 3rd album “Porcupine” featuringthe tracks The Back Of Love and favorite, The Cutter, it became the band’s highest charting release.

This album was produced by Ian Broudie, who later went on to form The Lightning Seeds.

Ian McCulloch’s comments, I think Porcupine was a classic autobiographical album, the most honest thing that I’d ever written or sung. I found the material from it really heavy to play – like, really oppressive. That’s the only reason why I didn’t like the album. The songs were great but it didn’t make me happy. A lot of songs are about coming to terms with the opposites in me.

When presented with the finished album, WEA Records rejected it as “too uncommercial”. The band agreed to re-record the album, despite Sergeant’s complaints. Using the original version of the album as a blueprint, the follow-up recording sessions went more smoothly. Drummond brought Shankar back to add strings to the other tracks on the album. It was these sessions that produced the band’s next single, “The Cutter”, which was released in January 1983 and went on to become the band’s first Top 10 hit.

A better listen than its predecessor, Heaven Up Here. Songs are intriguing and elaborate, often featuring swooping, howling melodic lines. Arrangements here owe a lot to 1960s psychedelia and feature lots of reverb, washed textures, intricate production touches, and altered guitar sounds. Ian McCulloch’s vocals are yearning, soaring, and hyper-expressive here, almost to the point of being histrionic, most notably on “Clay,” “Ripeness,” and the title track. Listen to the epic neo-psychedelia of ‘My White Devil’ or ‘Heads Will Roll’ as examples ,

Driving bass and drums lend the songs urgency and keep the music from collapsing into self-indulgence. Parallels between the group’s U.S. contemporaries

The recording session for “The Back of Love” went well, but the relationship between the band members was strained, with them either not speaking to each other or, when they did, arguing.Their manager Bill Drummond was aware of the tensions within the band and so arranged a tour in Scotland for April 1982. This was done in an effort to make the band work harder, write some songs, and to communicate with each other. Drummond’s plan failed to work as following the tour there was still tension between the band members.Two other album tracks – “Clay” and “My White Devil” – were first played during the tour of Scotland.

Echo & the Bunnymen
  • Ian McCulloch – vocals, guitar, piano
  • Will Sergeant – lead guitar
  • Les Pattinson – bass
  • Pete de Freitas – drums

Porcupine deserves a place in the canon of classic rock albums that are regarded as ‘great art’.

See the source image

Fanny was founded by guitarist June Millington and her sister, bassist Jean, who had been playing music together since they moved from the Philippines to California in the early 1960s. After playing through several variations of the band, they attracted the interest of producer Richard Perry who signed them to Reprise Records in 1969 as Fanny. The band recorded four albums together before June Millington quit the group, leading to the original line-up splitting. Following a final album, Fanny disbanded in 1975. The Millington sisters have continued to play music together since the split, and with a former drummer, Brie Howard Darling, formed the spin-off group Fanny Walked the Earth in 2018.
Photo ( clockwise from left ): Jean Millington; June Millington; Alice de Buhr and Nickey Barclay.

Stella Mozgawa, Warpaint:Fanny were pioneers, one the first rock bands to feature all women, and the second ever to be signed to a major label when they signed to Reprise in 69. The album was produced by Todd Rundgren. They featured two sisters by the name of June and Jean Millington. They came from California and played dirty rock’n’soul. David Bowie called them the great lost band of the 70’s. This album is filthy, with a really dirty sound.”

With the release of Fanny’s 1973 album Mother’s Pride, Real Gone Music concludes its reissue campaign of the groundbreaking female rock group’s classic Reprise catalog. And while there might be some argument as to whether or not we have saved the best for last . All four Reprise albums the band put out have their champions among Fanny followers there is no question that we have saved the biggest for last, as this expanded edition clocks in with no less than eight bonus tracks! Indeed, Mother’s Pride is perhaps the most controversial entry in the Fanny catalog, as Todd Rundgren agreed to produce the album on the condition that he and he alone oversee the album mix. The result was a record that cemented Fanny’s popularity in the U.K. but failed to make a dent in the charts here in the States. Like our previous Fanny reissues, this release features track-by-track annotation from the band as well as rare photos. Another seminal ’70s rock record from everybody’s favorite “forgotten” all-female rock group, supplemented with rare demos and lost tracks!

The album “Family Entertainment” followed on the heels of Family’s Music in a Doll’s House with the band’s first incarnation: Roger Chapman (harmonica/tenor sax/vocals), Rick Grech (violin/cello/bass guitar/vocals), Rob Townsend (percussion/drums), John “Charlie” Whitney (guitar/pedal steel guitar/keyboards), and Jim King (harmonica/keyboards/soprano sax/tenor sax/vocals).

Family Entertainment was the second album by the British progressive rock band Family, released in March 1969. The cover of the album was a takeoff from the sleeve of the Doors’ second album, Strange Days, Family admitted.

While not totally dismissing their psychedelic leanings, much of the material bears a stronger acoustic influence, in much the same manner as Fairport Convention and Traffic were also exploring. The jazzy sitar lead of “Face in the Cloud” and the even more prominent Eastern-flavored “Summer ’67” somewhat date the affair, and are contrasted by the beautifully noir and trippy “How-Hi-the-Li” and the upbeat “Hung Up Down,” sporting Grech’s unmistakable violin as it wafts over the rural and slightly surreal lyrics.

These sides are set against the edgy “Weaver’s Answer,” which immediately establishes a broader spectrum of styles, most notably given Chapman’s commanding if not slightly intimidating vocals. Guitarist Whitney blistering fretwork yields bite to the Grech-penned “Second Generation Woman,” while “Emotions,” another full-tilt rocker, is infused with an apparent R&B homage.

The first song from the album ”Family Entertainment” that came out in 1969.

This extended version is live from the Beat Club (Hamburg) in 1970. Roger Chapman – Vocals / Percussion John ”Charlie” Whitney – Guitars / Organ Jim King – Piano /Saxophone / Vocals Ric Grech – Bass / Violin / Vocals Rob Townsend – Drums / Percussion Nicky Hopkins – Piano

Family Entertainment was the last album from the group’s original lineup.

Family’s momentum was almost derailed by the departure of bassist Ric Grech for Blind Faith two months after Family Entertainment’s UK release, which caused their first U.S. tour to founder, and Jim King only worsened the situation with his departure later in 1969.

Interested parties should note that Family Entertainment and Music in a Doll’s House were issued in a double-disc package featuring a commendable 24-bit digital remastering rendering all other versions useless — especially the early-’90s pressing on the German Line label. Not only are both LPs included, but the 45s “Scene Through the Eye of a Lens” and “Gypsy Woman” are finally brought into the digital domain. The accompanying 40-page liner booklet is likewise a feast for the eyes.

reDiscover Captain Beefheart’s ‘Doc At The Radar Station’

As the 80s rolled around, many iconic artists from the 60s would struggle to find their place in the decade. Captain Beefheart, however, though boasting a 60s discography that re-wrote what was possible for a mere three-minute song, came back revitalised. The punk and new wave scenes of the late 70s and early 80s had embraced his creative freedoms, while Beefheart himself, after seemingly turning his back on boundary-pushing music, unleashed a late-period Magic Band that asserted his credentials as one of rock’s true visionaries. They super-charged themselves for 1980’s “Doc At The Radar Station”, his penultimate album. Portentously, it boasted an artwork painted by Beefheart himself – the final album to feature his own work on the sleeve, as if signposting Beefheart’s eventual decision to retire from music and pursue painting in the middle of the decade.

The line-up that made “Doc at the Radar Station”, the penultimate studio album from Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, recorded in June 1980. In this photo, left to right: Robert Arthur Williams, Don Van Vliet, John French, Eric Drew Feldman, Jeff Moris Tepper and Bruce Lambourne Fowler. Photo by Michael Kent Rothman.

Image may contain: 6 people

In this photo, left to right: Robert Arthur Williams, Don Van Vliet, John French, Eric Drew Feldman, Jeff Moris Tepper and Bruce Lambourne Fowler. Photo by Michael Kent Rothman.

Doc At The Radar Station marked the first Magic Band credit for New York art-rock icon Gary Lucas – continued evidence of Beefheart’s influence on NYC’s downtown art scene (it’s an influence that never left: the album’s opening track, ‘Hot Head’, is a clear ancestor to Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ early outings). Further youthful bite came courtesy of Eric Drew Feldman, a multi-instrumentalist who had joined the fold for 1976’s Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), and who would go on to perform with Pixies and PJ Harvey – two artists who wore their Beefheart influences openly.

A nod to Beefheart’s hallowed Trout Mask Replica-era band came with John French’s return since his defection in 1972. French picked up marimba, slide guitar, bass and drums across ‘Ashtray Heart’ and ‘Sheriff Of Hong Kong’, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that both boast the deceptively unhinged mania that marks much of Beefheart’s 60s output, but with an extra heft thanks to the new blood involved.

This melding of old and new is arguably what makes Doc At The Radar Station such a success: some of the material dates back to the Trout Mask era, while other outings (‘A Carrot Is As Close As A Rabbit Gets To A Diamond’,’ Flavor Bud Living’, ‘Brickbats’) received initial try-outs during the shelved Bat Chain Puller sessions of 1976. With such a forceful Magic Band attacking top-tier material with gusto, there was no way Doc At The Radar Station could fail.

Indeed, in their review Rolling Stone lauded “music of such heat, strength and passion that many listeners will get trampled”, though also noted that the songs “rarely shatter into headlong chaos without first showing the comely, formal compositions they might have been”. It was an astute observation. Beefheart might have divided his fanbase with his outwardly commercial 70s outings Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans & Moonbeams, but it’s true that Doc At The Radar Station also makes clear the genuine songcraft that goes into even his most outlandish material.

It had taken almost two decades, but perhaps the world had finally caught up with him. Rolling Stone reasonably pointed out that, really, the man Don Van Vliet was “bugged by the same things that plague us all: bad relationships, bad technology, bad government”, while The New York Times was sufficiently moved to hail album closer ‘Making Love To A Vampire With A Monkey On My Knee’ as “probably the most extravagantly original and perfectly realised creation of Beefheart’s career”.

Almost three decades on, as a penultimate salvo, Doc At The Radar Station still warrants such positive diagnoses.

The_Smashing_Piumpkins-Gish

On May 28th, 1991 The Smashing Pumpkins released their debut album ‘Gish’. Billy Corgan performed nearly all of the guitar and bass parts on the record.  They had been an active band for the 3 years before the release of this album, playing small shows here and there in their hometown of Chicago, Illinois.

Upon its release, it was quite positively acclaimed. This was, of course, in May of ’91.

Arriving several months before Nirvana’s Nevermindthe Smashing Pumpkins‘ debut album, “Gish”, which was also produced by Butch Vig, was the first shot of the alternative revolution that transformed the rock & roll landscape of the ’90s. While Nirvana was a punk band, the Smashing Pumpkins and guitarist/vocalist Billy Corgan were arena rockers, co-opting their metallic riffs and epic art rock song structures with self-absorbed lyrical confessions. Though Corgan’s lyrics fall apart upon close analysis, there’s no denying his gift for arrangements. Like Brian May and Jimmy Page, he knows how to layer guitars for maximum effect, whether it’s on the pounding, sub-Sabbath rush of “I Am One” or the shimmering, psychedelic dream pop surfaces of “Rhinoceros.”

Such musical moments like these, as well as the rushing “Siva” and the folky “Daydream,” which features D’Arcy on lead vocals, demonstrate the Smashing Pumpkins‘ potential, but the rest of Gish sometimes falls prey to undistinguished songwriting and showy instrumentation.

The album’s sessions, lasting 30 working days, were brisk by Pumpkins‘ standards, largely because of the group’s inexperience.The recording sessions put an intense strain on the band, with bassist D’arcy Wretzky later commenting that she did not know how the band survived it, and Corgan explaining he suffered a nervous breakdown

Regarding the album’s thematic content, Corgan would later say,

The album is about pain and spiritual ascension. People ask if it’s a political album. It’s not a political album, it’s a personal album. In a weird kind of way, Gish is almost like an instrumental album—it just happens to have singing on it, but the music overpowers the band in a lot of places. I was trying to say a lot of things I couldn’t really say in kind of intangible, unspeakable ways, so I was capable of doing that with the music, but I don’t think I was capable of doing it with words.

“Gish” went platinum 8 years after its release. As far as debuts go, this one is a masterpiece. You’ll love this album;

The band:  Jimmy Chamberlin – drums, Billy Corgan – vocals, lead guitar, bass, keyboards, piano, production, James Iha – rhythm guitar, vocals, D’arcy Wretzky – bass, vocals, lead vocals on “Daydream”, layouts

In 1967, when the still-teenaged keyboardist Steve Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group (for whom he’d sung lead on hits like “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man”) to start a new band with guitarist Dave Mason, few observers thought their idea of blending pop, rock, and jazz would work. Immediately, though, Traffic scored giant hits with Winwood’s east-meets-west “Paper Sun” and Mason’s acid-jazzy “Hole in My Shoe”. Between those songs, the smoking-guitar driven title track, the swinging instrumental “Giving to You” and the haunting ballad, “No Face, No Name, No Number”, Traffic’s debut established both players as elite members of the new guard of late 60s British rock.

“I knew it wasn’t just a good piece or a good track for a record,” Traffic drummer and lyricist Jim Capaldi once said of their song “Dear Mr. Fantasy” the pseudo-title-cut from the band’s kaleidoscopic debut LP. “I knew it was going to be a real milestone-type piece.” His hunch was spot-on.

The British quartet never cracked the pop charts with the spiraling psych-rock song. (In fact, they never even issued it as a single.) But the six-minute long “Fantasy” was designed more as a deep, mind-expanding bong hit than a quick joint puff: Steve Winwood’s bluesy howl and the group’s live-in-the-room exploration tapped into the same jam-sprung freedom flourishing at that time from America’s West Coast.

Fittingly, since much of Traffic’s early repertoire reveled in whimsy, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” originated from a doodle. “I’d drawn this character playing a guitar, with puppet hands instead of his own hands,” Capaldi recalled in a video interview celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mr. Fantasyin 2017. “I wrote a letter next to it: ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy, play us a tune.'”

At the time, the band Capaldi, Winwood, multi-instrumentalists Dave Mason and Chris Wood were holed up at Sheepcote Farm, a rural cottage in Berkshire, England, owned by baronet Sir William Pigott-Brown, a friend of Island Records founder Chris Blackwell. Experimenting with weed and LSD, and living among the filth of their own dirty dishes and laundry, the young men cooked up much of Mr. Fantasy at this ragged sanctuary.

“There was no running water, there was a well and no electricity,” said WinwoodBlackwell took the gamekeeper’s cottage down the lane so he could make sure we rehearsed and wrote material. It was a place where we could make as much row as we liked – and we certainly did.”

During one ordinary vice-filled afternoon, “Fantasy” emerged.

“I was asleep upstairs in the cottage, and I heard this nice little bass line going and some guitar,” Capaldi said “I woke up, went down — we’d jam all time of the day, and we’d all take breaks, do whatever.”

“[I] found that they’d written a song around the words and drawing I’d done, I was completely knocked out by it. Chris wrote that great bass line. We added some more words later and worked out a bigger arrangement too.”

“Dear Mr. Fantasy” “was done on impulse with practically nothing worked out, because it was almost jammed,” Winwood told Rolling Stone in 1969. “The initial spirit of the whole thing was captured on record — which is very rare. That was one of the things, because it’s not specifically an outstanding melody or an outstanding chord sequence or anything. It’s basically quite simple. They’re very simple lyrics and they’re repeated three times. … It wasn’t half so strong after we’d done it. It was time that gave it a lot of meaning.”

Armed with a batch of songs that sprawled from psych to blues to soul to Beatlesque Indian nods, Traffic eventually moved to London’s Olympic Studios with producer Jimmy Miller, with whom Winwood had collaborated as part of his previous band, the Spencer Davis Group.

Miller was crucial in capturing the song’s free-flowing vibe on tape, which they only achieved after scrapping the traditional recording booths and tracking as a live four-piece: Winwood on electric guitar and vocals, Mason on bass, Wood on organ and Capaldi on drums. A surprise fifth member was Miller, who augmented the groove by rushing from the control room to lay down some extra percussion.

“We were in the middle of a take and there’s a part where the tempo changes it jumps and I look around, and Jimmy Miller’s not in the control room,” by the side of engineer Eddie Kramer. “The next thing I see out of the corner of my eye is Jimmy hauling ass across the room, running full tilt. He jumps up on the riser, picks up a pair of maracas and gets them to double the tempo! That, to me, was the most remarkable piece of production assistance I’d ever seen. They were shocked to see him out there, exhorting them to double the tempo. Their eyes kind of lit up. It was amazing.”

“Fantasy” thrives on that anything-can-happen energy: Capaldi’s thumping kick drum accents and tumbling fills, the double-time grooves, Winwood’s Jimi Hendrix-like solo, that tempo-shifting finale. From 1967 onward, it became a staple of Traffic’s live show performed more than any other song in their catalog.

And kindred spirits followed suit onstage. Grateful Dead introduced a faithful cover in 1984, a showcase for keyboardist-singer Brent Mydland, and continued to perform it up through 1990. (Jerry Garcia even joined Traffic for a version during their 1994 reunion tour, documented on the live set The Last Great Traffic Jam.) Several other rock legends have paid tribute, including Hendrix, Crosby, Stills & Nash, mid-’90s Fleetwood Mac (featuring a briefly tenured Mason), Peter Frampton and Eric Clapton (alongside Winwood).

“Dear Mr. Fantasy” “was done on impulse with practically nothing worked out, because it was almost jammed,” Winwood told Rolling Stone in 1969. “The initial spirit of the whole thing was captured on record — which is very rare. That was one of the things, because it’s not specifically an outstanding melody or an outstanding chord sequence or anything. It’s basically quite simple. They’re very simple lyrics and they’re repeated three times. … It wasn’t half so strong after we’d done it. It was time that gave it a lot of meaning.”

  • Steve Winwood – guitar, lead vocal
  • Dave Mason – bass guitar, harmonica, backing vocal
  • Chris Wood – organ, backing vocal
  • Jim Capaldi – drums, backing vocal
  • Jimmy Miller – maracas