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.”
|Carole King||A Natural Woman|
|Joe Walsh||Midnight Moodies|
|Joe Walsh||Happy Ways|
|Stephen Stills||The Loner|
|Manassas||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.