Conventional wisdom dictates that if you set out to form your basic Ajax Acme Do Good B-flat rock and roll outfit, about all you need is a guitar, a bass, and some drums. Okay, a singer might be good and maybe somebody on keyboards or saxophone but after that you start getting into weird territory. In other words, there’s a reason you’ve never heard of a rock band with a lead bassoon or a xylophone. But the founding members of McKendree Spring weren’t discouraged by that sort of narrow thinking. In 1969 they formed a drummer-less quartet with a violin up front and they played everywhere from Fillmore East to Radio City Music Hall and they shared those stages with everybody from Frank Zappa to Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jew Boys. And they weren’t alone. When you talk about violins in rock, twenty-five years before the Dave Matthew’s Band, anyway, you have to mention Seatrain with Richard Greene and Sid Page with Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. And of course Charlie Daniels plays a pretty mean fiddle too. But we’ve only got half an hour so we won’t get to hear from everybody.
Still, today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl flips the power on the electric violin. Jean Luc Ponty steps away from the Mahavishnu Orchestra to take us on an “Imaginary Voyage.” David LaFlame rosins up his bow with It’s a Beautiful Day. The late, great Papa John Creach flies in on the Jefferson Airplane and the track “When the Earth Moves Again.” But the focal point of the set is a composition by McKendree Spring’s violin player, Michael ‘Doc’ Dreyfus. “God Bless the Conspiracy.” An eight-and-a-half minute epic from their third album. It consists of several movements of differing moods and tempos with a bed of psychedelic sound effects in the middle. I broke “God Bless the Conspiracy” into six parts then reassembled them into one of our favorite sets ever. Pay particular attention in the middle of the set as we play Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice” over those psychedelic sound effects for an extended mix that’s astounding. Bill Graham said they were “one of the best unknown bands in the world.” So, from the Way Back Studios, here’s McKendree Spring.
|God Bless the Conspiracy (part 1)
|Jean Luc Ponty
|Imaginary Voyage (part iv, excerpt)
|God Bless the Conspiracy (part 2)
|Soul Sacrafice (part 1)
|God Bless the Conspiracy (part 3) with Santana (part 2)
|Soul Sacrafice (part 3)
|McKendree Spring / Santana
|God Bless the Conspiracy (part 4) with Santana (part 4)
|God Bless the Conspiracy (part 5)
|It’s a Beautiful Day
|Hot Summer Day (part 1)
|When the Earth Moves Again
|It’s a Beautiful Day
|Hot Summer Day (part 2)
|God Bless the Conspiracy (part 6)
That’s Michael “Doc” Dreyfus with what the Village Voice at the time called “the most original use of the electric violin we’ve heard.” From 1972 — McKendree Spring with the finale to “God Bless the Conspiracy,” a song we broke into six parts and hand mixed with several other electric fiddlers along with one from Santana, just because it sounded so cool. The bulk of “God Bless the Conspiracy” was written by Dreyfus while the Overture and Finale are credited to his band mates, Fran McKendree and Martin Slutsky. McKendree Spring released seven albums and played all over the world but never had huge commercial success. I read on some website that before he joined the band Dreyfus earned degrees in physics and medicine, taught anatomy, and, I’m not making this up, did research into limb regeneration in newts. Sounds like a lyric from a Frank Zappa record. And speaking of Frank, earlier in the set we heard an excerpt from Part 4 of Jean Luc Ponty’s “Imaginary Voyage.” Ponty was a violinist on the leading edge of jazz-rock fusion, having played with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. He also spent a lot of time with Frank Zappa, playing on several of his albums including Hot Rats and Overnight Sensation. In fact Ponty did an entire album of Zappa covers, the centerpiece of which is a track called “Music for Electric Violin and Low Budget Orchestra.”
In the middle of the set, a Latin surprise. While I’d planned to do a batch of songs all featuring electric violin, when I heard those sound effects in the middle of “God Bless the Conspiracy” I just knew it needed some percussion. Grabbed Santana’s first record and came up with that mix with “Soul Sacrifice.” Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Then we returned to the theme of the set with “Hot Summer Day” from It’s a Beautiful Day. That’s David LaFlamme on electric violin. And in the middle of that, we mixed over to Papa John Creach fiddling around with Jefferson Airplane from the “Bark” album. Papa John went on to play with Jefferson Starship and Hot Tuna and released several of his own albums on the Airplane’s Grunt label. Well, we’ve fiddled away all our time for today, thanks for listening. I’m Bill Fitzhugh back next time with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl, and I hope you’ll join us, right here, in the Deep Tracks.
Once upon a time there was just rock ‘n’ roll. Then those pesky artists started mixing different kinds of music to create hybrids. And before we knew it there was country-rock, progressive-rock, folk-rock, psychedelic-rock, blues-rock, and jazz-rock, to name just a few. Jazz-rock fusion has taken as many forms as the number of artists who have tried to mix the two. From the Mahavishnu Orchestra and what the Penguin Guide to Jazz called the “gigantic torso of burstingly noisy music” of Miles Davis and “Bitches Brew” to the more accessible branch on the tree with the big horn bands like Blood, Sweat & Tears, Ballinjack, and Chicago. Further complicating matters in the mid 70’s, FM rock radio opened the door for another type of fusion, the jazz-R&B records of Ronnie Laws, Grover Washington, the Crusaders, and others. In the meantime, artists like Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell were seamlessly integrating jazz elements into their songs. And perhaps the band most adept not only at creating a true jazz-rock fusion but in creating popular music at the same time was Steely Dan.
Having said all that, what about Spirit and Blind Faith? Probably not the first bands that come to mind when you think of jazz-rock fusion. But these two very different bands had one thing in common. Both of their drummers had jazz on their resumes. Before Ed Cassidy helped form Spirit, he’d been in rhythm sections behind legends like Cannonball Adderly and Thelonious Monk. And before joining Blind Faith, Ginger Baker came from a string of traditional jazz bands in the UK. So today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl takes a stab at showing the various forms that jazz-rock fusion can take. We’ll hear from Spirit, the Crusaders, and the L.A. Express, without Tom Scott. From Blind Faith, we’ll hear an excerpt from Ginger Baker’s composition, “Do What You Like” followed by Ronnie Laws and wrapping up with Steely Dan. From the Way Back Studios, here’s some fresh fusion.
|Fresh Garbage (part 1)
|Stomp and Buck Dance
|Fresh Garbage (part 2)
|Do What You Like (excerpt)
|Mis’ Mary’s Place
|Your Gold Teeth II (excerpt)
If you joined us somewhere in the middle of that set you may have found yourself wondering, ‘what’s with all the saxophones?’ The answer, they reveal, life is unreal. Just throw out your gold teeth and see how they roll. Steely Dan wrapped up that jazzy little batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl from their album Katy Lied, as fine an execution of jazz-rock fusion as you’re likely to find. The fusion of those two forms being the whole point of that set. Joining Becker and Fagen on “Your gold teeth II” were Larry Carlton and Wilton Felder, who stepped out of The Crusaders long enough to do studio work for countless other bands, including Steely Dan. Near the top of the set we heard Carlton and Felder with The Crusaders doing “Stomp and buck dance” from their 1974 album Southern Comfort. And in the middle of the set, from their debut without Tom Scott, The L.A. Express, produced by and featuring Wilton Felder, we heard “Midnight Flight.”
At the top, on either side of the Crusaders we looked beneath the lid to see the things we didn’t quite consume. Spirit’s “Fresh Garbage” done in two parts for your listening enjoyment. In the middle of the set, we took a slice out of Blind Faith’s fifteen minute “Do What You Like” lifting the part that proved the point I was trying to make in the first place. Then, during the bass solo, we slipped over to Ronnie Laws so smoothly, you didn’t notice. From his album Pressure Sensitive, produced by Crusader, Wayne Henderson, we heard “Mis’ Mary’s Place.” Which brings us to the question of who are these strangers who pass through the door, who cover your action and go you one more in the Way Back Studios? I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. We’ve to the set lists and show commentaries posted on billfitzhugh.com, so drop by and check ‘em out if your curious. I’ll be back next time with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl, and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.
Let’s say this is your first trip to the Way Back Studios. You might be wondering what’s it’s all about, Alfie? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s a reminder of the possibilities long ago forsaken by terrestrial rock radio. It’s about playing with the music and with your musical expectations. Sometimes it’s a complicated mash-up of the familiar and the exotic. Other times it’s just about finding the right sequence, Kenneth, or the frequency which is superior to amplitude modulation, sound-wise speaking. In other words it’s like FM versus AM from back in the day when you had to get a third class license from the FCC just to spin records. And after Big Daddy Tom Donahue showed us the way, there was no turning back. And now that the satellites are in geosynchronous orbit and the consultants have been locked away, we just do it on principal. We simply refuse to leave well enough alone.
Today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl is a perfect example and a great place to start if this is your first time. The first half of the set rides in on some spicy south-of-the-border horns augmented by the sequencing and the momentum you can gain from doing it right. And best of all it answers the question: Is it possible to build a coherent set featuring Los Lobos, Doug Sahm, Johnny Cash, and The Steve Miller Band? (Here’s a hint: yes.) The tricky part was getting to the second half of the set, which revolves around a classic from the Moody Blues. So you’re probably asking yourself how do you get from mariachi horns to progressive art rock without pulling an ear muscle? It’s a good question of balance, as it were. And we found the answer on Catch Bull at Four. After that, we break the Moody’s track into three parts, inserting Simon and Garfunkle in one and another track from Cat Stevens in the other to come up with something new. So take your protein pills and put your sombreros on because “I got to let you know.”
|I Got To Let You Know
|Ring of Fire
|Question (part 1)
|Simon and Garfunkle
|Question (part 2)
|Question (part 3)
The story goes that Justin Hayward had parts for two different songs but he couldn’t finish either one. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem but the Moody Blues were scheduled to record the songs the next day. So Mr. Hayward did what anybody might, he took the parts from the two songs and assembled them into one, which explains why it sounds like two songs stitched together with guitar strings. We broke the song back into the original parts and inserted Simon and Garfunkle’s “ America” in the first break, and Cat Stevens’ “Bitterblue” into the second. The first half of the set was all mariachi horns and Tex-Mex melodies. Starting with Los Lobos, from their must-have album How Will the Wolf Survive, a song called “I Got to Let You Know.”
After that, the late, great Doug Sahm, with half of Creedence Clearwater Revival. We heard “La Cacahuata” from one of the lost gems in the Deep Tracks, an album called Groover’s Paradise. Doug Clifford produced and played drums while Stu Cook handled the bass. The horns were courtesy of Link Davis, Jr. and they led us naturally into that “Ring of Fire” with Mr. Johnny Cash. A song co-written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore, and first recorded by June’s sister, Anita. After hearing it, Johnny said he had a dream where he heard the song with these Mexican horns, so he did his version. After that, keeping with that flavor, The Steve Miller Band served up a bowl of “Hot Chili” from the Number Five album. Then it was Cat Stevens’ “Angelsea” whose upbeat acoustic guitars with the Spanish overtones helped bridge the two halves of the set. Now, if you’ve ever wondered why we never get an answer when we’re knocking at the door to the Way Back Studios, it’s probably because I’ve got my headphones on. Or I’m busy posting the set lists and show commentaries on the website, bill Fitzhugh.com. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. I’ll be back next time with another batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you’ll join us. Right here in the Deep Tracks.
In an effort to keep things interesting for listeners we do our best not to fall into ruts here in the Way Back Studios. Like to throw a change-up now and then just to keep people guessing. Might do a jazzy set one week and rock hard the next. Sometimes we’ll put together a veritable Rube Goldberg contraption of segues, breaking songs apart and inserting parts of other songs where you least expect them and generally wreaking havoc with the music. Other times I’ll just find a group of songs that happen to line up real nice next to each other. And today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl is one of those. I was down at the far end of the record collection one night, I could see Warren Zevon from where I was, but instead of grabbing the excitable boy, I grabbed The Youngbloods along with some nearby Neil Young. So it looked like we’d be leaning toward singer-songwriter and country rock which is always fine with me.
As I rolled toward the other end of the alphabet looking for another slide guitar, I paused in the M’s long enough to pull one from the Belfast Cowboy before continuing to Greg Allman’s “Laid Back” which itself wasn’t far from where J.J. Cale keeps “The Sensitive Kind” on Number 5. Then I went looking for a curve ball, just to keep you on your toes, and, as long as I was in the C’s, I grabbed Chicago III. Sure, a big jazz-rock horn band might not be where you’d normally look for a slide guitar but there it is right on “Flight 602,” though I never could find out who played it. There are no credits on the album, the CD, All Music Guide, nothing. Drop me an email if you know. As for the Mink DeVille at the end of the set, hey, it’s my show. I can do what I want. Besides, it works. Well, like rust, he never sleeps. From Comes a Time, here’s Neil Young.
|Four strong winds
|I Wanna Roo You
|J. J. Cale
|Can’t Do Without It
“Can’t do without it.” Mink DeVille from the album Cabretta, which I highly recommend. It was produced by the great Jack Nitzsche who was a long time producer and collaborator with Neil Young, who started that set for us. We heard “Four Strong Winds” from Neil’s 1978 album Comes a Time. Among the guitarists playing on that album, though not that particular song, was J.J. Cale. We heard his “Sensitive Kind” just before the Mink DeVille. Greg Allman was in there too, from his first solo album, the classic Laid Back, we heard the moodier version of his song “Midnight Rider” that the Allman Brothers did on Idlewild South. And we had Van the Man snowbound in his Woodstock cottage with Janet Planet, his wife at the time, and all he wanted to do was roo.
Before that, the Youngbloods whose biggest hit was “Get Together” which came out in 1967 but only reached #62 on the charts before disappearing. But two years later, the song was used in a television public service announcement for the National Conference of Christians and Jews, after which it re-entered the charts and went all the way to #5. I mention that because in this set we heard the song “Sugar Babe” which had a similar story. It’s from their album Earth Music which didn’t yield any hit singles. But a couple of years later, “Sugar Babe” was featured on the soundtrack of the film “Zabriski Point” after which it became an international hit. Which just goes to show, you never know what’s going to happen in this life or in the Way Back Studios. I’m Bill Fitzhugh. Thanks for listening. If you want to drop me an email, I’d love to hear from you. You’ll find an email link on billfitzhugh.com or you can track me down on one of those popular social media sites. I’ll be back sooner or later with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.
Before we get started, take a moment and try to imagine what it might have sounded like if Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had written a Broadway musical about a serial killer along the lines of Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. But instead of setting it in 19th Century London, they put it in 20th Century Boston. Of course there wouldn’t be any meat pies in their story. Just some lunatic whose gonna smash down your plate glass windows and put a fist through your steel plated doors. Actually, you don’t have to imagine what it would sound like, all you have to do is listen to the first track in today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl. “Midnight Rambler” takes the point of view of a roving murderer who jumps the garden wall and leaves his footprints up and down your hall. And right in the middle of the crime, where they bring the song down to a hush, that’s where Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks come creeping in wearing that black cat cloak and singing a song of sadness, sweetened with some of their signature Texas swing. It’s enough to make the “Evening Breeze” cry. See, Dan Hick’s problem was that he knew she was leaving and he still let her get away, which goes a long way toward explaining why his song is one of sadness, even if it is upbeat.
Ian Hunter, on the other hand, says he knows what she wants, just a lick of your ice cream cone. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to the lyrics. It’s all in there. This one’s a heavy package of death, sex, and heartache. And that’s not all, so don’t answer yet. We also have fat cats driving around in jeeps through the city wearing big diamond rings and silk suits. But you ain’t no pimp, you ain’t no hustler. And how would I know? Because a pimp’s got a Caddy and lady’s got a Chrysler but I think you saw that coming. What I’m trying to say is that today’s set grabs you like a judo hold on a black man’s bones. Like a knife stuck down your throat. And it hurts as good as it sounds. Listen, along with that serial killer, we got corrugated tin shacks full up with kids, a girl breaking hearts and making clean getaways, and old man Tyler crashing his car down on Fortune Highway. I got three words for you. Let it Bleed.
|Midnight Rambler (part 1)
|Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks
|Midnight Rambler (part 2)
|Mott the Hoople
|Young Americans (part 1)
|Middle of the Road
|Young Americans (part 2)
There’s that slinky vagabond. Our thin white duke with his blue-eyed soul and David Sanborn on sax doing the title track from Bowie’s long player from 1975. You might have noticed that, in the middle of that break where Bowie asks (insert) we jumped over to the “Middle of the Road” with our plans behind us. From the great Pretenders album Learning to Crawl. Before those “Young Americans” showed up we were “Jerkin’ Crocus” with All The Young English Dudes, from Mott The Hoople’s classic glam album. I have no idea what “Jerkin’ Crocus” means. Pulling flowers? You tell me. At the top of the set, like breaking a neck, we took the “Midnight Rambler” and snapped him in two. In the middle, we mixed over to “Evenin’ Breeze” from Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, from their first LP, Original Recordings. Then we got back to the second half of “Midnight Rambler,” a song inspired (if that’s the right word) by the exploits of the so-called Boston Strangler. Guy named Albert DeSalvo confessed to the murders of 13 women in Boston in the early 60’s but doubts remain as to his guilt. But the song rocks.
As a side note, while doing today’s show I suddenly realized I’d inadvertently put together a set with a case of six degrees of separation. Try to follow me on this: Tommy La-pooma who produced Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, also produced David Sanborn who played sax on Young Americans for David Bowie, who produced Mott the Hoople’s All The Young Dudes and who recorded “Dancing in the Street” with that Mick Jagger guy from the Rolling Stones, who had several of their shows in 2002 opened by The Pretenders. Whose original guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott, had played in a group called Cheeks with Verden Allen one of the founders of Mott the Hoople. Like the guy said, it’s a tangled web we weave here in the Way Back Studios. If you’re looking for more information, you can track me down on Amazon or drop by your favorite independent book store. They’ll explain the whole thing. I’m Bill Fitzhugh. Thanks for tuning in. I’ll be back sooner or later with another batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you can join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.
Someone once said that in the taxonomic scheme of rock and roll, where lines are drawn and artists are painted with broad brushes we are attempting to find order where there may only be chaos. This system of classification, however artificial it may seem, consists of a hierarchical structure composed of types and subtypes and gives us a shorthand to organize and understand and talk about the music. For example — Southern rock’s a subtype of hard rock. Thus while all Southern rock bands are hard rock, not all hard rock bands are Southern. In other words a band needs more constraints to be considered a particular subtype of a larger type. This is what keeps us from thinking someone might be talking about a group like Lynyrd Skynryd when they’re actually talking about, say, Black Sabbath.
In today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl we take one of my favorite species of rock and put it under the microscope for a closer look at two of its subspecies. Huddling under the larger umbrella that we call Horn Bands are at least two subtypes, jazz rock and funk rock. When we talk about jazz rock horn bands, the first to come to mind are Blood Sweat and Tears and early Chicago. Look a little deeper into the jazz rock tracks and you’ll find Chase and Ballinjack. Well, as it turns out, all four of these groups have a seat at today’s table. Over on the funk rock side of the Horn Band equation we’ve got the likes of Tower of Power and Earth, Wind, and Fire. Again, looking deeper, you’ll find a band out of Brooklyn called Mandrill, a very cool group formed by brothers Rick, Lou, and Carlos Wilson in 1968. Mandrill blurred the lines of funk, jazz, and R&B and we’ll hear a great example of that at the end of the set with the “Fat City Strut.” Now it’s hard to articulate the differences between jazz rock and funk rock but to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart from the majority opinion in that famous obscenity case, I know it when I hear it. If I had to narrow it down to one thing, and I’m sure Justice Stewart would agree with me here, that one thing would be dance-ability. If it makes you want to shake your booty, it’s funk. So Hi-de-ho and Open Up Wide, here’s Earth Wind and Fire.
|Earth, Wind, and Fire
|Open Up Wide
|Blood, Sweat, and Tears
|Tower of Power
|Maybe It’ll Rub Off
|Fat City Strut
|Tower of Power
Wrapping up that horny little set, that’s the “Oakland Stroke” from Tower of Power. Actually, that’s the second of two versions of that little instrumental, both on Back to Oakland. They do a slightly shorter version to open the album and that’s the version that closes it. Before that, from Just Outside of Town, we heard Mandrill doing “Fat City Strut” a cool little bit of Latin jam sandwiched between some seriously funky horns. And, as I’m sure you know, sixteen years after that came out, Schooly D sampled that one for his track, “Am I Black Enough For You?” Before that, a bit of Urban Renewal from Oakland’s Tower of Power, we heard “Maybe It’ll Rub Off.” In the middle of the set, out of Seattle, Ballinjack, some old pals of Jimi Hendrix. From their debut album, we heard what is probably their best known rock radio track: “Super Highway.” Before that, we drew a little Blood, Sweat, and Tears covering the Carol King / Gerry Goffin composition, “Hi-De-Ho.”
Elsewhere we heard Chicago from their second album, with “Movin’ In.” At the top of the set another horn band out of Chicago: Earth, Wind, and Fire doing “Africano.” From their album That’s the Way of the World, which was also the soundtrack to the long forgotten film starring Harvey Keitel as a renegade record producer who turns his back on the white pop music industry in order to save his artistic soul. On the heels of Earth, Wind, and Fire, we heard Chase. A band formed by the late trumpet virtuoso Bill Chase who had played with Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd before starting his own jazz-rock outfit. We heard his composition, “Open Up Wide.” Now Chase was a horn band with a difference. If you listen to Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Ballinjack (what the All Music Guide fairly characterizes as the White Horn Bands) you’ll hear a mix of saxophones, trombones, woodwinds, and flugelhorns. But the Chase horn section was four trumpets blowing like a storm and nothing else, except perhaps the set lists and show commentaries which you can find at billfitzhugh.com along with unrelated paraphernalia, unindicted co-conspirators, and unspecified charges to which we will no doubt plead not guilty. From the Way Back Studios, I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. I’ll be back next time with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl, and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Six musicians walk into a bar. A draft dodger, the child of a Broadway star, and a cranky Canadian, followed by a Memphis hustler, an unreliable narrator, and an albino Scientologist. When the Canadian orders a Flaming Blue Jesus, the Scientologist leans over to the Memphis Hustler and says, I sure hope you have a punch line for today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl is a study in mood swing and non-sequiturs. A cheap-thrill ride on a roller-coaster of tempo and emotion. Graceful and sad as the Southern sun at one end, it’s a gospel-choir searching for someone to “Save the Planet” at the other. Along the way we’ll hear tawdry testimony from Larry Raspberry and the High Steppers, talking about the time that woman came down to the bar room with a .44 in each hand. Was told she could find Larry in a booth in the back talkin’ trash to some hussy drives a red Cadillac. Lucky he survived to tell the tale.
Also, a man who ain’t got the time to trifle with trash like you. Mr. Randy Newman in the nervous hospital, telling the doctor about how his sister was a dancer up in Baltimore? Ran off with that Negro from the Eastern shore, then went down to Mobile in a railroad train before she learned the truth about him? Turns out to be a story of true love as only Randy can tell it. But first, let’s get in touch with our acoustic side. Songs populated with dreams of thunder and lighting-like desire. Characters on a wagon rutted road, weeds tall between the tracks, lookin’ at that old John Deere specked with dirty cotton lint. Writers whose songs put us in the place at the time their hearts ached. Who tell us how it felt. Who made us feel the desire, the loneliness, and the urgency, because it was ours too. All that longing and confusion somehow turned into music by the likes of Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, Jesse Winchester, and Dan Fogelberg.
But first, let’s get in touch with our acoustic side. Songs populated with dreams of thunder and lighting-like desire. Characters on a wagon rutted road, weeds tall between the tracks, lookin’ at that old John Deere specked with dirty cotton lint. Writers whose songs put us in the place at the time their hearts ached. Who tell us how it felt. Who made us feel the desire, the loneliness, and the urgency, because it was ours too. All that longing and confusion somehow turned into music by the likes of Neil Young, Bonnie Raitt, and Jesse Winchester.
|Looking For A Lady
|Mississippi You’re on my Mind
|Angel from Montgomery
|Love in Mind
|Back on my Feet Again
|Larry Raspberry and the Highsteppers
|Save the Planet
A choir branded by the southern cross, their horns shone like sun, their money was gone, the trains kept moving the laughter, pain, and hard living of Edgar Winter’s White Trash. That’s an excerpt from the poem written by Patti Smith on the back of the White Trash album, with Edgar Winter trying to “Save the Planet.” Before that, Larry Raspberry and the High Steppers doing “Road Blues.” The High Steppers were one of the only white acts ever signed to Stax Records. Unfortunately just as their debut album, High Steppin’ and Fancy Dancin’, was being released, the label went into bankruptcy, botching distribution and forever relegating this great album to the status of Lost Gem. Good news is Larry bought his master tapes back at the bankruptcy sale and you can get everything on CD these days at their website. But we played it off the original vinyl.
In the middle of the set, Randy Newman doing “Back on My Feet Again.” Before that, a guy who got bored driving down the middle of the road, so he headed for the ditch where he said the ride was rougher but the people were more interesting. We heard Neil Young’s “Love In Mind” from 1973. A year later, Bonnie Raitt was covering John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery,” on her album Street Lights. Before that, Jesse Winchester, who, in 1967, decided to move to Canada instead of Vietnam so he could live to sing about it. Of course he couldn’t sing about it in the U.S. until 1977 when President Carter granted amnesty to all the war resisters. Winchester’s self-exile informed a lot of his music, but none more than “Mississippi You’re On My Mind.” And we started the set with Dan Fogelberg’s “Looking For a Lady” from his debut album Home Free where the fields are lined with rusty barbed wire fences and beyond them sits an old tar paper shack a lot like the Way Back Studios. If you’ve got questions or comments about what goes on here, you can find the answers and the email address at billfitzhugh.com. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. I’ll be back next time with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.
Here in the Way Back Studios, we’re all about the sequencing. Putting songs in just the right order for maximum effect and musical momentum. Looking back at the old days, the analogue ways, through the vinyl haze, we see the song sequence on albums was immutable because there was no ‘random button’ on the turntable. The song sequence on an album was something sweated over by the artist and the producer. They wanted us to hear the songs in a specific order for a reason. George Martin liked to start Beatles albums with what he called a real pot boiler. And he liked to end both sides with something that was hard to follow. There was a point to the sequencing. It was about controlling pace and mood so that the whole album was greater than the sum of its parts. Songs were typically separated by a few seconds of silence. But as albums became more conceptual and recording artists and techniques became more sophisticated that changed. Artists began to create their own segues with one song slipping into the next. The Moody Blues Question of Balance, for example, where every track slides straight into the next one. Or Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, where all but one of the transitions is a segue.
Today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl got started when I turned on the Deep Tracks and heard “Happy Ways” by Joe Walsh. At first I thought it was Steve Stills doing “The Loner.” When I realized it wasn’t, I knew we had a good segue. So I pulled The Smoker You Drink off the shelf and dropped the needle at the top of the song. Well, it turned out that Joe and his producer, the legendary Bill Sim-zik, had done their own segue from the preceding song “Midnight Moodies” into “Happy Ways.” Fine with me. I just let them do some of the work. Then I found a couple more natural segues on side one of the Manassas album where “Anyway” slips right into “Both of us (Bound to lose)” a song showcasing Stills’ fondness for Latin rhythms which always seems to lead me to Carlos Santana, so that’s where we’ll end up. But back to “Midnight Moodies” for a second. It’s perhaps the only song in the Joe Walsh cataloge that sounds like part of Carole King’s Tapestry album. So, here she is, making you feel like “A Natural Woman.”
|A Natural Woman
|Both of Us (Bound to Lose)
There’s bound to be a great segue for coming out of that cold ending, but we don’t have time to look right now, maybe later. That was a little something from Santana’s third album, a track with an oddly French name for something so Latin sounding. Before that, Stephen Stills with Manassas. And that’s not the first time we’ve caught Stephen doing the segue with Santana, but that shouldn’t come as a big surprise since Stills spent some formative years in Panama and Costa Rica surrounded by Latin rhythms. As I mentioned at the top, that set came about because of the natural segues you sometimes find on albums in the Deep Tracks. The starting point, which ended up in the middle of the set, was that segue from Joe Walsh’s “Happy Ways” into the Steve Stills version of Neil Young’s, “The Loner,” both of which are powered by essentially the same guitar riff. But it turned out I couldn’t just play “Happy Ways” because on Joe’s album, The Smoker You Get The Player You Drink, “Happy Ways” segues out of the song before it, “Midnight Moodies” which meant if I wanted one, I had to take the other. The same thing happens on side one of Manassas, where “Anyway” segues on its own into “Both of Us (Bound to Lose).”
All of which gets us back to what we were talking about earlier: song sequencing and albums that do their own segues. In the day of the turntable, you could hear the songs only in the original, intended sequence. Once they digitized the tunes and fixed the CD players so you could play them in random order, things changed. And with albums that used segues, like the ones above, they changed for the worse. The random button turns albums like the Moody Blues finely tuned Question of Balance into a badly mixed and awkward collection of otherwise good songs. My point is that friends don’t let friends push the random button on certain cds. That’s all I’m saying. Still, if you’re looking for more, you can track me down on billfitzhugh.com or Amazon or drop by your favorite independent book store. They’ll explain the whole thing. I’m Bill Fitzhugh. Thanks for tuning in. I’ll be back sooner or later with another batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you can join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.
All right, girls and boys, sharpen you number two pencils. It’s time for another Way Back Studios Pop Quiz. First, a few fill-in-the-blanks. Ready? #1 Larry Raspberry and ___? The correct answer is The Highsteppers. All right, number two: Root Boy Slim and _____? That’s right, The Sex Change Band. And finally, Brian Auger and _____? Ahh, that’s a trick question. If you answered The Oblivion Express, you’d be right . . . most of the time. But he also recorded with another group under the name Brian Auger and the Trinity. And no name could be more appropriate, given the first three songs in today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl.
Here’s the back-story: One Sunday a couple of years ago, around Christmas, I was sitting at home watching an NFL game. Anchoring the network’s prime time schedule that night was a made-for-TV movie about the life of Jesus, aptly titled “Jesus Christ.” Now the game’s play-by-play announcer was obligated to promote the movie throughout the three-and-a-half-hour broadcast and he started out with great enthusiasm: ‘Tonight, after the game, the network premier of “Jesus Christ.”’ Every now and then, for a change of pace, he’d give the promos a more reverent reading: ‘Following the game, stay tuned for the season’s most anticipated motion picture event, “Jesus Christ.”’ Well, the poor guy had to do these promos about six times an hour and the longer the game went on, the more irritated he sounded. By the end of the game he’d lost the ability to sound either enthusiastic or reverent about the movie. Somewhere around the two minute warning, after having read the promo card about 20 times, the guy sounded like he’d lost all faith when he said, ‘Tonight, after the game, “Jesus Christ.”’
Well, I’m sure the Lord will forgive him just as he’ll forgive me for deconstructing one of rock’s most famous songs with His son’s name in the title, if for no other reason than the quality of the segues, some of which are downright miraculous. So get on your knees and give thanks because not only is Jesus on the main line, He’s just all right with me.
|Jesus on the Mainline
|Jesus Children of America
|Jesus is Just Allright With Me (part 1)
|Brian Auger and Trinity
|Listen Here (part 1)
|Treat (part 1)
|Jesus is Just Allright With Me (part 2)
|Treat (part 1)
|Jesus is Just Allright With Me (part 3)
|Brian Auger and Trinity
|Listen Here (part 2)
Recorded in London in 1969, that’s Brian Auger and The Trinity doing the Eddie Harris composition, “Listen Here.” According the album’s liner notes, it was an experiment with four drummers. The idea was to split the beat and give each part (cymbal rhythms, snare rhythm, bass drum rhythm, and fill-ins) to each drummer to play with his whole kit. Somewhere in the middle, each of the drummers plays a four bar break in this order: Mickey Waller, Barry Reeves, Clive Thacker, Mickey Waller and Barry Reeves again, then Colin Allen, and finally an ensemble fill to kick them into the extended organ solo. It was done in one rehearsal and one take because Auger wanted the thing as fresh as possible. In the liner notes he says, “The groove…gets a bit ‘elastic’ here and there but we had a ball doing it and as an experiment it doesn’t come off too badly at all!” Can’t argue with that, but of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone either, so we broke the song into two parts and inserted Santana’s “Treat” also broken into two parts and mixed them with the three parts of The Doobies. If you’re not paying close attention, you can’t even tell where “Listen Here” ends and “Treat” begins.
The set opened with a trinity of songs of the less-than-secular variety. We heard Ry Cooder’s take on the traditional “Jesus on the Mainline” followed by Stevie Wonder with “Jesus Children of America,” and hanging on Toulouse Street in 1972 covering a song first recorded in 1969 by the Byrds. The Doobie Brothers did ‘Jesus is Just Alright.’ I don’t care what they may know. I don’t care where they may go as long as we end up in the Way Back Studios, it’s alright with me. If you’re looking for the set lists or show commentaries, you can find them on billfitzhugh.com. I’m Bill Fitzhugh. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back sooner or later with another batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you can join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.
I assume you’ve heard about the tres hombres from down around La Grange? Trio of sharp-dressed men from deep in the heart of the Lone Star. Just three of them, right, but making more noise than a grand damn fandango. Well, nostalgia being what it is, even down there, these three decided to pay homage to those old border-blaster radio stations from the far shadows of their own lives. Only take a couple of minutes they said. Might even be a hit. Maybe you “Heard It On The X.” Three power chords and the truth about these radio renegades blasting illegal wattage from tall transmitters somewhere south of the border, and just outta the iron fist reach of the FCC.
Well today’s batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl salutes those lunatic deejays from across the Rio Grande who thumbed their noses with one hand while turning the juice way up with the other, blasting that rock ‘n’ roll halfway across the U.S., damn near melting the antennae in the process. All that power just blowing other stations out of their path like leaves in the wind. And though the song in question is great just as it is, it’s short and it has a couple of holes in it. Well, as you know, here in the Way Back Studios, we have rules about that sort of thing. When we find a hole in a song, we stick something in it. First up, Savoy Brown with “Tell Mama.” A great track that also has a hole in it, as does Wet Willie’s “Red Hot Chicken.”
By the time we’re done, we’ll hear seven songs done in eleven parts. And as long as we’re down south with Wet Willie, we’ll take the “Memphis Train” with Buddy Miles and see if we can’t catch some Larry Raspberry and the Highsteppers, maybe drop by the Renezvous for some ribs while we’re in town. Then it’s down to Jacksonville where we’ll contract a bad case of “Road Fever” with Blackfoot. Oh, and Jimi Hendrix is in there somewhere. Overall it’s a rockin’ bunch of Delta based boogie, rhythm, and blues. And remember, you heard it on the Sirius-X…M.
|Heard it on the X (part 1)
|Tell Mama (part 1)
|Heard it on the X (part 2)
|Red Hot Chicken (part 1)
|Red Hot Chicken (part 2)
|Larry Raspberry and the Highsteppers
|Tell Mama (part 2)
|Heard it on the X (part 3)
Do you remember back in 1966…country, Jesus, hillbilly blues, and no Stevie Nicks. ZZ Top singing about those border blaster radio stations where they learned their licks. Stations like the infamous X, the home of Howlin’ Wolfman Jack. Stations also immortalized in Wall of Voodoo’s classic “Mexican Radio.” Those stations are all gone now of course, but you can still hear them from as far away as. . . your imagination . . .or your nearest Sirius XM radio.
Just before the end of the ZZ Top, we heard “Road Fever” from Blackfoot, a band out of Jacksonville, Florida that was intertwined with Lynyrd Skynyrd, but they never really took off as a Southern Rock band which was how they started. So they kept tinkering with their sound until they were really more of a general hard rock outfit, and then they hit it. Elsewhere we took the Savoy Brown classic, “Tell Mama” and broke it in two, and in between the parts we had one from Jimi Hendrix, “Freedom” from Cry of Love and we took Wet Willie’s “Red Hot Chicken” and cut it in two, with Buddy Miles driving that “Memphis Train” of his right up the middle.
Then that “Jive Ass” Larry Raspberry showed up, High Steppin’ and Fancy Dancing. And if the price was right, baby you’d burn out both your eyes. After that we got back to the second part of the Savoy Brown and eventually the coda of the ZZ Top, that little old band from The Way Back Studios. If you wanna see the set lists and show commentaries, they’re posted at billfitzhugh.com where you can also find an email link if you wanna drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you. I’m Bill Fitzhugh, thanks for listening. I’ll be back sooner or later with a fresh batch of All Hand Mixed Vinyl and I hope you’ll join us, right here in the Deep Tracks.