Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32. No. 25. October 9, 1969
Eclectic as four Bobby Darins
Eclectic as four Bobby Darins
Remember those old movie clips of early attempts to build a flying machine? A man stands atop a high cliff waving large artificial batwings attached to his arms—black oil cloth held together by wooden frames. After a dramatic gesture to the crowd he leaps into the air, flaps his wings madly and falls two hundred feet to the bottom of the cliff. Splat! Thus it has been in this year of rock. 1969, apart from "Tommy" and minor joys like "Oh Happy Day" and Spirit—strictly the year of the Super-Sell, the super snow job.
The man on the cover of the Chicago Transit Authority is right in saying "the printed word can never aspire to document a truly musical experience". but baby, it can sure aspire to sell one. Apart from none-events like John and Yoko and the rediscovery by Blood. Sweat and Tears of Stan Kenton, we've suffered through all these super-groups ( like Blind Faith. Crosby. Nash, etc.) and super-freaks like Johnny Winter, and. saddest of all. Bob Dylan's trip back into the kind of sentimental slush that he rescused us from originally, in the dim dark days of Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon and the Peppermint Twist. All the talk has been taken as indicative of the importance of rock to Western Culture, etc., etc., and I guess the promotion people reason that supergroups need super-hype (or how else we gonna get back those 300.000 advances) but for the record buyer it's meant simply the emergence of a new law. to whit, "that the quality of a record varies inversely to the amount of bull-shit that preceded it". Accordingly, this column covers some of the people you may have missed among all the heavies going down recently.
Most obvious comparison for the Chicago Transit Authority (SBP473676) is Blood. Sweat and Tears, the same big (seven piece) lineup, the same brassy, jazzy overtones, the s ame label and engineer, and the same producer, boy-wonder James Guercio. Main difference is that it's better. Guercio and the group have a whole double album here to stretch out on (priced generously at $7.95) and the result feels a whole lot looser and less contrived than the B.S.&T. session, the home especially taking full use of the extra solo space. Oh sure, there are moments of excess, Hendrix is still the only rock musician to have made full use of four sides; here it's the lead guitar all alone on a seven minute nightmare called "Free Form Guitar", "performed on a Fender Stratocaster through a Shannon amplifier equipped with a twin 15 bottom using a Borgan P.A. amplifier"; sounds like the whole 25 Club kicking it over down at the Taranaki Street lights. Otherwise Chicago Transit is into hard driving, brassy rock, including a Knockout version of the "I'm a Man" song Stevie Win-wood wrote in his Spenser Davis period.
Most of the guys on the cover of the latest Don Ellis LP Autumn (SB473661) are wearing these neat gold suits, which just show you what an unpredictable, progressive sort of group we have here, because when I saw them two years ago at the Monterey Jazz Festival they were all wearing outasight red suits. The music, however, is as bombastic and empty as ever, with lots or tricksy, cutesy time changes (5/4. 7/4. 9/4. 32/8!!) and shrieking Maynard Ferguson type climaxes. As a bonus, gang, you get that far out weirdie rock musician. Al Kooper, writing the liner notes, which come on in pure "Downbeats": "The audience had themselves quit a time that afternoon in Palo Alto", yeah, and 23-skidoo, kid Trouble is, Ellis makes fat money out of this "jazz meets rock" shuck, while musicians like Roland Kirk and Charles Lloyd, who've been giving rock musicians contact highs for years, just keep on. comparatively scuffling".
The Fairport Convention (Polydor-184173) looks very folky. songs by Dylan and Joni Mitchell and a beautiful cover photo of the group sitting round a table under an old lampshade with a photo of the Marx Brothers up front, a sort of English Stone Poneys. But inside is a rock group and a really good one; despite the folky trimmings, the group sounds best on the upbeat numbers like "Time Will Show the Wiser" and their instrumental piece "Portfolio" The repertoire ranges from a very jazzy Harvey Brooks song "One Sure Thing", through their own mod piece "The Lobster" (which features some very fine Bert Jansch guitar from lead Richard Thompson") to a typically sensitive Jon Mitchell number. "I Don't Know Where I Stand" to a rocking "Jack O'Diamonds", a Bob Dylan song from last year. Since this LP, the Fairport Convention have been through changes; they've had a Top Twenty single, their second album is currently in the Top Five in England, girl singer Judy Dyble has been replaced, and drummer. Martin Lamble has been killed in a car smash, which makes the simulated wreck on the final cut here. "M I Breakdown" a little grimly prophetic, as they used to say about the Jim Reeves classics. The second LP will be even better, but pick up on the Fairport Convention now, they're that good.
Fat Mattress (Polydor-583056) is Noel Redding's new group formed as a par-time thing about the time of Jimi Hendrix' heroin bust, but now it's full time with his break from the Experience finalised. Hendrix is currently working with a six or seven piece outfit and talking about forming his Electric Church, a commune-type arrangement of indeterminate size. Traces of the Hendrix influence show up on "All Night Drinker" and the Traffic feeling is Strong throughout —track one actually features an old Traffic hand. Chris Wood. Fat Mattress is as eclectic us lour Bobby Darins, but the whole thing is so unpretentious and low-key that no-one gets mad. The harmonics the band gets out of its three vocalists are its strongest point and they work best on "Bright New Way", one of those moments where everything falls together, lyrics, vocals, acoustic backing, lazy rhythm and the sort of melody you can get inside and lose three minutes and not know a thing.
"One day there will be no pain/and we never will again
know the sorrow of an aching heart/just be thankful you can feel . . .
as the night time steals the day/we begin out bright new way."
Nothing heavy, just good old Top 40 stuff, but this time the term doesn't refer to IQ levels; if you're in the store and want to hear the rock side of Fat Mattress, try "Everything's Blue", a little heavy perhaps for the Brian Hudson Show, but . . .
Footnote: while Blood. Sweat and Tears are currently putting finishing touches to their new LP already hyped like the Second Coming. Chicago Transit Authority are playing the instruments on the latest Three Dog Night album. And finally. Canned Heat has booted out lead guitarist Henry Vestine and replaced him with Harvey Mandel, the crystal redemptor from Charley Musselwhite's old band. Everyone's going through changes, as the swami said.