Today I was running into lots of lovely locals that I know, if you spend enough time in a town, you get to know people, obviously. But people are different, I’m one of those people that says hello to strangers, exchanges the time of the day, “Afternoon, lovely day”. This can lead to conversation and conversation can lead to interesting revelations, new angles, new ideas, what could be wrong with that? Then there’s always the danger of not being able to escape, but it might be worth it for every other fruitful exchange. The social distancing and the lockdown has had people craving communication, human connection, engaging in conversation, sharing stories, having fun together, sharing a drink. It seems that in America the desire to do these things has turned into an issue of freedom. I was talking to Salim tonight in Texas where the pandemic numbers have seriously risen and he was telling me that in Austin people were protesting about wearing masks. It’s like trying to stop a screaming child run out into the road.
Here in Penzance, mask wearing is sporadic, most people don’t wear one, but then we were never ordered to. Is it the being told? What happened to erring on the side of caution? Especially if you don’t know for sure what actually is the truth. You can’t guess at the truth. You either know it or you don’t, suspecting you are right isn’t knowing the truth. We are lucky to be in this little town by the sea where the pandemic has barely been to visit and it looks like we’ll have to stay here for a good while longer. The thing about being a musician is that we are always in lockdown when we’re in the studio and at the moment I am always in the studio, working on musical projects in person or online. The other interesting thing about being a musician is the huge difference between writing and recording in the studio and travelling and performing live – it’s chalk and cheese.
Walking around town you can hear the seagull chicks and their high-pitched squeaking as they wait for the parents to bring the shopping. Sometimes you can’t see them as they are up on high roofs, but there’s a couple of buildings near the Morrab Gardens where the roofs are low and you see them waiting. They’re not really cute, they’re ugly grey nagging fluff balls and sometimes you see the parents say, “alright, already”. They grow so quickly, soon they’ll be almost full size with feathers instead of fluff, able to fly but still hassling the parents. At some point their baby feathers begin to change and they turn into adults and so life continues. You might be surprised to know that the herring gulls have a lifespan of around 30 years!
I had a sesh with Terje in Norway today, always interesting to talk to a man who reads, creates, teaches and lives above the Arctic circle. After that I spoke to Ahad about what we had done with our drummer Ed on his album and tried to express how it all went, but after 13 songs recorded in 3 days, they all tended to blur into one. We’ll get back into assessing the basic shape, the drums and the bass in the coming days and send Ahad the latest. Then, it’s the guitars. After that the vocals and who knows what quarantine and this damned pandemic will allow us to do and when.
Last but not least, two interesting stories in the news today from America, one that the Supreme Court had stopped the Louisiana abortion law and two that Tramp might pull out of the race if the polls point to a disastrous result. It seems to me that if things start to go wrong for him, it’s about time as he seems to escape every scandal like a slippery eel. The fact Justice John Roberts, a G. W. Bush nominated conservative judge has voted with the liberals on the gay rights in the workplace issue, the DACA issue and now the abortion issue, is a victory for common sense, in my humble opinion. One other thought on Tramp, isn’t he going to be in big trouble when he doesn’t have the benefit of office to protect him?
Music today was a bit of a smash and grab. I have a whole lot of records to put away, records that had been hiding in a shelf because they needed listening to to authenticate their genre. So I picked up the first Chango album (1975). It’s Salsa Rock a la early Santana. If you like early Santana you will like this. I read a dumb review of it on AllMusic, calling it good, but plagiarism. Every era has bands that sound like their era, every genre has bands that sound alike within their genre, it doesn’t mean it’s plagiarism. Did you ever listen to Metal bands? Punk bands? Reggae bands? Jazz, Blues, really it’s nuts to call it plagiarism. It’s great, it’s like Santana and it’s great. The only reason the reviewer called it plagiarism is because there were fewer bands in this genre.
This led me to the first Blood, Sweat & Tears album, Child Is Father To The Man (1968), with its disconcerting cover art. The band was formed after The Blues Project members Al Kooper and Steve Katz formed a band that had horns and incorporated Jazz, Blues, Soul, Psychedelia, Rock, you name it. It’s a great debut album but Al Kooper left after its release as Katz and drummer Colomby wanted to get a stronger lead singer. Kooper had famously played on the legendary Dylan sessions and went on to make solo albums and produce. They could not however have guessed that after his departure and with the inclusion of David Clayton-Thomas on vocals that they would become absolutely massive, but that’s another story. This album that includes Tim Buckley’s Morning Glory, Nilsson’s Without Her and Randy Newman’s Just One Smile plus six Al Kooper songs is an absolute must have for your collection.
Blood, Sweat & Tears led me to the debut album by Chicago, Transit Authority (1969). It’s another classic incorporating brass into a rock band. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes Psychedelic, sometimes soulful, sometimes Rock. It features Terry Kath on guitar, allegedly Jimi Hendrix’ favourite guitarist. (Wait till you hear Free Form Guitar.) It’s a double album, as was Chicago II (1970) and Chicago III (1971). Their fourth album was a quadruple album, Live at Carnegie Hall (1971). It wasn’t until their fifth album, Chicago V (1972), that they released a single album. The debut features the classic single Does Anybody Know What Time It Is? that reached No. 7 on the US charts. Interestingly it wasn’t released as a single until two songs from their second album, Make Me Smile (No. 9) and the brilliant 25 Or 6 To 4 (No. 4) had become hits. This album also features Steve Winwood and Spencer Davis’ I’m A Man…and there’s Side 4, an amazing debut album. On a sad note allegedly Terry Kath’s last words were, “What do you think I’m going to do? Blow my brains out? Don’t worry. It’s not loaded…” before accidentally shooting himself.
Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield had played together on Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. Kooper had left Blood, Sweat & Tears and Bloomfield was leaving Electric Flag. Kooper booked two days at the studio and invited Bloomfield down to jam. Day 1 went swimmingly with three tracks credited to the two of them, one to Curtis Mayfield and another to Mort Shuman and Jerry Ragovoy (Ragovoy wrote Time Is On My Side made famous by The Stones and Piece Of My Heart made famous by Janis Joplin). Shuman co-wrote Sha-La-La-La-Lee for The Small Faces and Little Children for Billy J. Kramer. He co-wrote Here I Go Again with Clive Westlake for The Hollies. He also did the translations of the Brel songs recorded in English by Scott Walker.
So it was a successful day in the studio but the next day Bloomfield failed to show up. So he called Stephen Stills who had just left Buffalo Springfield and that’s why this album has Bloomfield on one side and Stills on the other. They recorded Dylan’s It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry, Donovan’s Season Of The Witch, Bluesman Wille Cobbs’ You Don’t Love Me and Harvey Brooks’ (the bass player on the album) Harvey’s Tune. You may wonder who Harvey Brooks is. Well look here and be impressed. Both he and Barry Goldberg were members of the Electric Flag at the time. The drummer was session man Fast Eddie Hoh. The album did extremely well much to the disappointment of Mike Bloomfield who had apparently put a lot of faith and work into the debut Electric Flag album, A Long Time Comin’ (1968). It was recorded over six months and reached No. 31. Super Session was recorded over two days and reached No. 12 going gold.
Song Of The Day may very well have appeared before, but New Scientist from Noctorum’s Honey Mink Forever (2011) seems appropriate today in the wake of Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago’s Transit Authority, that is, me doing Psychedelic solos on my 1966 Rickenbacker with jazzers.
(Willson-Piper / Mason / Bowie / Hadley)
Noctorum – Honey Mink Forever (2011)