Genre: Progressive Rock
Preceded by: This Was (1968)
Followed by: Benefit (1970)
Related to: not available yet
Old bearded men playing endless symphonic compositions and singing about all kind of mystical themes: progressive rock. A genre in music history which is praised as many times as it’s feared. I myself am a big fan; Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake &Palmer, King Crimson, Yes and even Genesis, I loved it all from the start. Somebody once asked me which ‘prog’ album I would recommend him as he wanted to learn to know the genre. The guy liked bands like The Beatles, The Who, The Kinks, The Doors,… and I could only come up with one album that could soothe the transition from that world of music into one including all the achievements of progressive rock: Stand Up.
Progressive rock originated in the late sixties, heavily influenced by psychedelic rock from the US. Bands like Procol Harum (with it’s hit ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’) and The Moody Blues (with it’s album Days of Future Passed) started to incorporate elements from classical music into their work. Other (mainly British) bands followed by going beyond the standard verse-chorus based song structures with complex instrumental ‘songs’. They frequently brought these songs together on so called concept albums, with all lyrical contributions treating a specific theme or telling stories with epic proportions.
In contrast with bands like Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull didn’t have its origins in psychedelic rock but in blues rock instead and that’s exactly what makes Stand Up such an accessible prog album. Tull’s debut basically was a mediocre blues album featuring a flute. Singer Ian Anderson decided to start playing this instrument after he realized he couldn’t outbid Eric Clapton as a guitar player so he picked an instrument no rock star had played before to become the world’s best at it. Together with this new instrument he started to put in all kind of new influences into the group’s sound after taking full control of the band. He wrote all the tracks on the album, which pushed Tull in the direction of progressive rock.
The first track on the album (with awesome artwork) is the raw, bluesy ‘A New Day Yesterday’. Together with ‘Nothing Is Easy’ (track 6 on the album), these songs are juiced with some solid guitar riffs and sound like the hard rock of Cream, completed with some energetic flute loops. The album also delivered Tull’s first classic: ‘Bouree’. It’s a very jazzy reinterpretation of the classic composition ‘Bourrée in E minor’ by Bach, with Anderson’s flute replacing the piano. Also noteworthy is the delicious bass solo in the middle of the song.
The album continues with ‘Back to the Family’, a song which Anderson must have written to prove that he also had a great voice besides his capabilities as flute player. Moreover, guitarist Martin Barre performs a great solo towards the end, something he repeats in an even better way on the next track, the ballad ‘Look Into The Sun’. But just like last week’s album, the best songs are saved for the second part. ‘Fat Man’ reinvents blues by inserting eastern instruments like the sitar and the notorious balalaika. But it even gets better.
For me personally, the last three songs of the album are the best ones. The most melodic of them all is ‘We Used To Know’, on which Anderson performs the best melancholic vocals I’ve prolly ever heard. It’s chord progression and even the guitar solo in the end was used later by the Eagles for their monster hit ‘Hotel California’, as they liked the song very much while supporting Tull on their tours in the seventies. ‘Hotel California’ might have become the greatest hit, ‘We Used To Know’ is the real stuff. Make your own judgment on that one. The song gets a melancholic sequel on ‘Reasons For Waiting’, a love song which blends the acoustic guitar and the flute beautifully together.
The album doesn’t fade out after this one because you’ll be shaken completely around again by it’s final piece: ‘For A Thousand Mothers’. Anderson’s flute is more aggressive than ever on this uptempo track and just when you think the storm has ended he strikes back one more time with a solo. Certainly check out the album if you don’t know it because if you like it, there’s a lot more waiting for you.
Preceded by: –
Followed by: Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 (1990)
Related to: not available yet
Time for a musical intermezzo this week, as we jump right into the eighties. However, the album of the week has nothing to do with the typical sound of that century. Instead, we’re talking about another supergroup here: the Traveling Wilburys, a band full of stars from the sixties and seventies, who released an essential album for your record collection in 1988: Vol. 1.
The whole project was initially set up by former Beatle George Harrison. He returned to making music again in 1986, after being out of business for a while. He asked Jeff Lynne to co-produce his album Cloud Nine, which became Harrison’s great comeback. In need for a B-side for one it’s singles he contacted Lynne, who was also producing stuff for Roy Orbison at that time. They proposed to do a recording together with the three of them, but there was no studio available. Harrison contacted Bob Dylan, knowing Dylan had a home studio, but forgot to pick up his guitar at Tom Petty. Tom Petty came along and suddenly they were recording a song (‘Handle with Care’) with the five of them, supported by drummer Jim Keltner.
Those guys quickly realized this song was way too good for a B-side, and Harrison wanted to record another nine songs and release it as an official album. Their name would be the ‘Traveling Wilbury’s’, a concept of alternate identities Harrison was familiar with after releasing Sgt. Pepper’s with The Beatles. This time their real names wouldn’t even be on the album, replaced instead by pseudonyms like Lucky Wilbury (Bob Dylan) and Nelson Wilbury (George Harrison), all half-brothers of the fictional Charles Truscott Wilbury, Sr.
The album became a brilliant collection of cheerful songs, an excellent recipe against a heavy hangover. Of course the album started with the hit single ‘Handle with Care’, which immediately makes clear what happens if five musical geniuses gather in a studio: one of them notices a box labelled ‘Handle with Care’ and five hours later they’ve got a massive hit. The beauty of the song is the combination of Harrison’s and Lefty Wilbury’s (Roy Orbison) voices. What follows is Dylan’s ‘Dirty world’, sounding raspier than ever, and the fifties rock ‘n roll song ‘Rattled’. ‘Last Night’ is a song from Charlie T. Wilbury, Jr. (Tom Petty), but especially noteworthy is the bridge from Orbison.
But the real strength of the album is the second part in my opinion. Beginning with ‘Not Alone Anymore’, a song Otis Wilbury (Jeff Lynne) wrote especially for Orbison. His voice really sounds outstanding on this song, making it a real gem. ‘Congratulations’ is a weird mix of sad lyrics and joyful tunes, preceding the upbeat ‘Heading For The Light’ (Harrison), one of my personal favorites with it’s happy guitar intro and great sax work. The real masterpiece of the album however must be ‘Tweeter and The Monkey Man’. Dylan tells us a story like he did on ‘Hurricane’, with a bombastic chorus where the other guys join in. The song is also considered as an homage to Bruce Springsteen, as the lyrics include many Springsteen songs like ‘Thunder Road’, ‘Stolen Car’, ‘Mansion On The Hill’ and ‘Lion’s Den’ (with the latter being released after the Wilburys album), while the story is situated in New Jersey, Springsteen’s home state.
The album closes with Harrison’s ‘End of the Line’, telling us everybody will be all right in the end. It’s video became a tribute to Orbison, who died shortly after the release of the album because of a heart attack. This immediately meant the end of the original band, one of the reasons there never came a Wilburys Tour. The remaining four members recorded a follow-up album in 1990 (Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3), but it missed Orbison’s voice. Enjoy the party.
Genre: Southern rock
Preceded by: Bayou Country (1969)
Followed by: Willy and the Poor Boys (1969)
Related to: The Band – Music From Big Pink
Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) probably is my favorite classic rock band together with The Beatles and Pink Floyd. That’s partly why it’s already the second album of this band that I write about while still exploring the ‘basics’. It’s also the second album of their famous 1969 trilogy, preceding Willy and the Poor Boys which I treated last time. Talking about trilogies: the album was succeeded by Abbey Road on top of the Billboard 200, which as we know was kicked off his throne by Led Zeppelin II.
CCR had their decisive break-thru earlier in January 1969 with their album Bayou Country and it’s monster hit single ‘Proud Mary’. But instead of getting distracted by hours lasting psychedelic jams like virtually all other Californian bands of that time, they plunged back into the studio and released the single ‘Bad Moon Rising’ a few weeks later, followed later by ‘Green River’. The rest followed in August, brought together on the album Green River.
Green River managed to refine the characterful sound of Bayou Country, opening with the title track, one of my all time Creedence favorites. Fogerty brings a passionate ode to the rural south, supported by a brilliant and simple guitar riff. ‘Green River’ by the way actually was the brand of some drink. Next track is the single’s B-side ‘Commotion’, which instead ridicules the crowded city life. Another personal favorite is ‘Tombstone Shadow’, about a man drenched in bad luck, with Fogerty’s voice being so convincing that you really start to feel bad for the guy he sings about.
Side two of the album contains the other single ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and it’s B-side ‘Lodi’, which became a massive radio hit. The first one (Sonic Youth called an album after it in 1985) kind of differs from the traditional Creedence sound, having a typical rockabilly rhythm. Lyrically the track warns us for what’s about to come on Willy and the Poor Boys and following albums, as Fogerty sings about the danger at the times of Vietnam and Nixon. The second one is a ballad about an artist ending up in the small Californian town Lodi. Although it’s close to Fogerty’s hometown, he never visited it before writing the song and just chose it because he liked the name. Decide for yourself if you want to go there some time after having listened to the song.
The final track on the album is ‘Night Time Is the Right Time’, another remake of one of their favorite fifties songs (having covered ‘I Put a Spell on You’, ‘Susie Q’ and ‘Good Golly Miss Molly’ on earlier albums). The Nappy Brown song became a highlight of the band’s live gigs. One of those famous gigs CCR played was on Woodstock, shortly after releasing this album. It was never recorded because The Grateful Dead jammed all night long and far past schedule, but luckily the album is still there.
Top Tracks (thank God other live performances were filmed^^):