Adding a horn section to your rock and roll outfit doesn’t make you a jazz combo any more than adding strings makes you a chamber orchestra. But when groups like The Electric Flag, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, and Chicago showed up with their big, honking horn sections, the rock press had to call them something and they decided to call them jazz-rock. Hey, the guy was blowing a saxophone, he said to his editor. Still, it was a misnomer since, with few exceptions, the groups didn’t really stray into the compositional or improvisational territory of true jazz. You want jazz rock? Try Bitch’s Brew by Miles Davis or something by Soft Machine or John McLaughlin.
So what do we call today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl? Well, let’s just say it’s a big load of brassy rock, mixed with some rocky funk, and spiced here and there with some Latin flavors. We’ve got six tracks broken into eight parts and, quite by accident, it turns out that seven of the eight come from the West Coast. Chicago being the odd fellow in the set. First, we’ve got Tower of Power out of Oakland, then, it’s across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco where we’ll hear from Cold Blood, Santana, and Donna Jean and the Tricksers, then it’s up the coast a bit, to the Emerald City, one of my favorite bands from one of my favorite towns, Ballinjack, an outfit formed in Seattle in 1969 by some guys who were childhood pals with Jimi Hendrix. Ballinjack recorded a couple of really good records for Columbia and Mercury and why they didn’t break through to a larger audience is another one of life’s great mysteries. In the second half of the set, from Ballinjack’s debut album, we’ll hear “Hold On,” a song that provides a great little drum segue into Chicago’s “Free” and back again, so keep your hearing holes open for that. But to get things started, let’s just head on down to the nightclub and hope it doesn’t show while we’re driving down the road that we had too much to drink.
|Tower of Power||Down to the Nightclub|
|Cold Blood||Down to the Bone (part 1)|
|Donna Jean and the Tricksters||Weight of the World|
|Cold Blood||Down to the Bone (part 2)|
|Ballinjack||Hold On (part 1)|
|Ballinjack||Hold On (part 2)|
Formed in Seattle in 1969, that’s Ballinjack from their debut album on Columbia records. The next year they were on the road, opening for their childhood pal, Jimi Hendrix on his Cry of Love tour. We just heard Ballinjack’s “Hold On” done in two parts with Chicago’s “Free” segued into the middle, using all those drum licks from Daniel Seraphine and Ronnie Hammon. The first half of the set was a Bay Area sample platter featuring bands and players who moved around so much it’s impossible to explain all the overlaps, but we’ll give it a shot. We started with Tower of Power, a band formed in Oakland by Emilio Castillo. We heard their funky classic, “Down To the Night Club” from their second album, Bump City. Tower of Power’s first album was on Bill Graham’s San Francisco Records. That’s the same label that signed Cold Blood. And, over the years, you’ll find more than a few members of Tower of Power playing with Cold Blood who we heard doing “Down to the Bone” instead of the nightclub, a track featuring percussion by Pete and Coke Escovedo who were with Santana at various points in time.
And in the middle of the set we heard a track called “Waiting”; it was the first song on the first side of the first album from Santana, an album featuring Tower of Power on horns; that came out in 1969. Thirty-nine years later, Donna Jean Godchaux , the only woman allowed on stage with another Bay Area band, The Grateful Dead, showed up with Tricksters. We heard one of the many great tracks from their debut album in 2008, a song called “Weight of the World.” And that, my friends, is all we have time for today. If you’re looking for the set lists and show commentaries, I’ve got ‘em posted my website along with scandalous photos, notions, toiletries, and cosmetics. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. I’ll be back some day with another batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.