Frank Gutch Jr: Classic Rock— Not As Classic As You Might Think; Plus, In Keeping With the Theme, Notes of a Classic Nature

 

I would love to gather all of the music directors of so-called Classic Rock radio stations in the Roman Coliseum and turn the lions loose.  I was around long before the term Classic Rock was even phrased and as big a fan of rock radio as there was and I learned to hate everything radio tried to do after big money came in with all of their ideas to make radio “better.”  I suffered through a number of formats from the time of “Boss” radio to the present, the only one being worth a shit (to my mind) being Underground.  Ah, the days of underground.  I remember returning from the Army to Eugene and radio station KZEL and being floored with evening sets by The Wasted Potato (I think his name was Gary Parmentier) like War/Four Cornered Room, The Temptations/Masterpiece, and Funkadelic/Maggot Brain, back-to-back-to-back.

I mean, if that ain’t classic, nothing is.

That’s the thing.  Good radio is all about the music and, seriously, haven’t we all heard Stairway To Heaven and Free Bird and Dream on to the point of physical revulsion?  I mean, I liked them at one time, but after the ten-millionth listen, they began to pale.  Actually, they began to make me want to go postal.  So I tossed my Zeppelin and Skynyrd and Aerosmith albums on the scrap heap and dug deeper (as if that was possible) into what they now call deep tracks.  No more acceptance of the so-called “tried and true.”  No more Hit shit.  Time for good music.  So I began formulating my own version of Classic Rock.  I had been formulating it for some time, I realized, as I dug album after album out of the racks to produce a modicum of “road tapes,” something you might relate to as mixtapes.  You want to know what classic is?  Let’s take a little trip through my collection, track-by-track.  It will be fun for me, guaranteed, and you might well find music to soothe your savage beast (or is it breast?  I never could get that one straight.

Keef Hartley Band—  If the late-sixties and early-seventies did nothing else, they brought rock music family trees into prominence.  Music at that time was a seething hotbed of ants, musicians moving constantly and sometimes very quickly from one band to another.  Hell, Zig Zag Magazine built part of their reputation on them, placing a two-page centerfold in many of their issues, following musicians from band to band to band, and sometimes even into oblivion.  Keef Hartley took a prominent position in a few of those trees, having spent time with The Artwoods, John Mayall, and others.  He hit a peak with his own band for awhile, fronting a horn- and rock-infused gathering of like-minded artists, most notably a guitarist and vocalist by the name of Miller Anderson.  My roommate The Duck introduced them to me, along with Colosseum, another band fronted by a drummer, Jon Hiseman.  The Hartley Band recorded a number of albums, all of them good, but my favorite has always been the one The Duck put the needle to— The Ballad of Northwest Six.  A note: Hartley played Woodstock.  Got to count for something……

I think every Classic Rock station I ever listened to would slip in a lot of Deep Purple— always the mid-version— Smoke On the Water time.  They were huge at the time of Live In Japan.  Huge!  But they had had earlier successes (okay, one success— the charting of Hush):

That earlier period was my favorite, partially due to the voice of Rod Evans, who left the band before Smoke.  That early band put out three albums on Tetragrammaton Records, none of them striking gold, but they did okay.  Later albums like Deep Purple In Rock would gain classic status almost out of the box, but to get my kicks, I always relied on the first three.  To my ears, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Speaking of Evans, he would go on to join ex-Iron Butterfly’s Lee Dorman and Larry Reinhardt (Rhino) and drummer Bobby Caldwell (Johnny Winter) in Captain Beyond.  Now if there is a band which deserves to be called classic, it is them.

You can talk Australia all you want but the band that caught my eat down under was Daddy Cool.  These guys were not only cool, they were retro when retro was out of style, playing covers like That’ll Be the Day and Baby Let Me Bang Your Box in between excellent originals like Eagle Rock and Please Please America (Hear My Plea).  I loved these guys and still do but they tanked faster than a heavy stone in water.  What a band, though!  And classic as hell.

Country rock can be classic, can’t it?  I always thought so.  There are only a handful of bands/artists which I considered good enough to transcend the genre— Cowboy, Uncle Jim’s Music, Pure Prairie League, Robert Thomas Velline (Bobby Vee playing under his actual real name), and Heartsfield.  Velline’s Nothin’ Like a Sunny Day album is among my “why-isn’t-this-album-a-classic” choices and Heartsfield was one of those bands you had to see live to appreciate just how freaking good they were (on record, they were impressive as hell too, but live…).

This Heartsfield track has some of the rockin’est, sweetest guitar work I have ever heard.  Turn it up!

My friends and I have argued a lot over the years over who does the best version of Goin’ Down (just as we argue about the various versions of Hey Joe).  Here’s my choice, hands down.  Did I mention that it’s a classic?

Everybody seems to love Nick Lowe these days.  Many have gone out of their way to cover his songs or to become involved in projects which are tributes to the singer/songwriter side of him.  I, myself, prefer the Nick Lowe who was more band member than solo artist, and I consider Rockpile more of a solo act with backing musician than I do a band.  I go back to the days of Brinsley Schwarz when it comes to Lowe, and of those albums, prefer the first two.  If these aren’t classic, nothing is.

I’m pretty sure UK band Siren had little if any chance of turning heads in The States, which is unfortunate because their brand of semi-blues should have hadmajor impact.  There was something in the way the band approached music which could have opened up the blues to many people who didn’t quite get it.  Both US releases arehock full of outstanding songs— maybe not air-worthy at the time, but prime to open a mind or two.

A little rock ‘n’ roll, anybody?

You might not belve this, but there was a time that Brewer & Shipley dominated Underground Radio and, for a short time, AM, thanks to the success of their singles, One Toke Over the Line.  Swear to God, you could not walk down the streets of Eugene, Oregon without hearing B&S blaring out windows and screened doors.  One hell of a group and some of the best classic rock ever written.

There were two versions of Jackson Browne‘s Rock Me On the Water before I heard Browne’s version.  This was the second.

This was the first.  And I love these versions every bit as much as I love Browne’s.  Johnny Rivers‘ came in the form of what this video calls “The Jackson Browne Suite.”  While I have never heard of it referred to it as such, it totally fits.  This was indeed an excellent period for Rivers, his own songs reflecting the back-to-the-earth feel of Browne’s.

I can’t think of another musician who bridged the gap between rock and jazz better than Brian Auger, who cracked the egg wide open with his and Julie Driscoll‘s mindbending version of Season of the Witch.  Here is written the history of the early phase of Auger, which ended in the formation of The Trinity:

Brian Auger began his music career as a jazz pianist in the early 60s, playing in clubs around London. However by 1964 he had got himself a Hammond organ, and formed a new group called The Trinity with bassist Rick Brown and drummer Micky Waller, both previously of Cyril Davies’ R&B All-Stars. This group saw greater success, playing harder R&B styled material. In 1965 they became part of The Steampacket, with singers Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry and Julie Driscoll, plus guitarist Vic Briggs. The Steampacket were an early ‘supergroup’ of sorts, but unfortunately never recorded a proper album and soon broke up. Auger then retained Brown, Driscoll and Briggs, and formed a new version of The Trinity with drummer Clive Thacker. Brown and Briggs left before long, and so when they came to record in 1967 the band consisted of Brian Auger (organ/vocals), Julie Driscoll (vocals), Gary Boyle (guitar), Roger Sutton (bass) and Clive Thacker (drums).

Open was released in 1967, credited to Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity. It turned out to be a very interesting, experimental record, mixing jazz, R&B and rock style, the band augmented with a horn section. The first side (labelled ‘Auge’) featured the band without Driscoll, and was mostly instrumental except for one track which Auger sang (one of the tracks was also a solo piano performace from Auger). On the second side of the record (labeled ‘Jools’), Auger took a backseat and Driscoll sang. It included some excellent covers of The Staple Singers’ “Why (Am I Treated So Bad)” and Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch”.

Despite being such an interesting release, Open did not sell well initially, probably because most people couldn’t quite work out what to make of it. However in 1968 the band had a #5 hit with a cover of the Bob Dylan / Rick Danko classic “This Wheel’s On Fire”, which became the best-known version of the song in Britain. Subsequently the album sold much better.

Auger would go on to record an album titled Befour which completely fried my brain because of the mix of R&B and jazz.  My entry into the netherworld of music.  I played this song so much I had to replace my album twice.

When Auger pieced together his next band, Oblivion Express, it took me further into the mixed genre.  All it really took was this version of one of my favorite all-time Marvin Gaye songs which did more to bridge the race gap than anything I could see— during The Viet Nam War, anyway.  Funny how love of music gives you common ground when sometimes there is none.

I became an If fan because of Brinsley Schwarz, I believe.  Both were signed to Capitol Records in the US and the label put together an ad campaign for what they called “pub rock.”  Both If and Schwarz supposedly played it, whatever it was, and after hearing Schwarz, If became an automatic.  What I found out after getting that first If album home was that the bands were nothing alike.  Schwarz was rock with small flashes of country and psych; If was jazz with splashes of prog.  Not that I didn’t like them both.  In fact, I learned to love each band for what they were.  You certainly would not mistake Schwarz for songs like I’m Reaching Out On All Sides, but after a few lustens, I didn’t care.

By their fifth album, If had created their own backwash, but it wasn’t selling in The States, so they placed the classic album Waterfall on the sinking Metromedia label.  The label did what they could, especially when it came to the album artwork, but the album faltered.  I love all four of those first four albums, but I think my favorite track is the title track from Waterfall.

There is an alternate version of Quicksand by The Youngbloods that I have been searching for for years.  It is either real or a figment of my imagination, but I swear that the 45 on the jukebox at the Student Union at the University of Oregon was not the album track.  It was more electric, more vibrant.  If anyone out there knows of maybe an edited version, please let me know.

I came across the band through an ad in a copy of Billboard Magazine back in the late sixties.  I remember it well because it was a two-sided hit as far as I was concerned.  I begged my mother to stop by Thompson’s Record Mart when it was released and when I got to the dorm, kept flipping it over and over until the guys begged me to stop.  I fell madly in love with Tears Are Falling, enthralled by the voice of Jesse Colin Young.  It would not be until the next album, Earth Music, that I would gain appreciation for Jerry Corbitt, but when the fever hit, it really hit.  They are known these days for Get Together, and they did an outstanding version of that song, but what they did on their own songs was what made me a fan for life.

Does anyone remember how good these guys were?  You never hear anyone talk about them anymore.  Sigh.  I’m getting old.  Maybe that’s what classic is anymore…

My point is, classic rock does not have to be successful to be classic.  We all have our favorites, which automatically classifies them so.  For instance, Randall’s Island.  Few know that this band was the backing band with the first road tour of Jesus Christ Superstar.  Both of these tracks are from their second album, Rock and Roll City.

Now, what say we take on some music of…

Notes…

A message from Charlottesville, in case you have forgotten.  ‘Nuff said.

I don’t think Courtney Marie Andrews has ever recorded anything I didn’t like.  It’s almost like she writes song just especially for me.

Finding Leah Abramson was no easy task.  There was some kind of Lilith Fair thing going on up in Canada and they had posted a series of songs by artists in the various provinces to give upcoming artists a chance to perform.  The Abramson SingersFools Gold was one of the songs posted.  One listen and there was no looking back for me.  That was a few years ago.  The last few days I have been made aware of an impending release by Abramson.  The one track I have heard thus far has made me a bit anxious to hear more.  Just for reference sake, here is what she was doing four years ago.

And a few years earlier…

Most of us missed Ginger Ale & The Monowhales back in 2015.  They are still going and I, for one, am soooo glad.  I love this band!

And I know I am repeating myself, but this is the new video… again.

And from 2016… How are these guys not internationally famous?

Recently released… album by Gill Landry titled Love Rides a Dark Horse.  Again, I am impressed.

You gotta love a band calling themselves Low Cut Connie, and dig the attitude!

Gallows Pole from a different perspective.  That of Willie Watson.

I am right on the cusp of really digging this song.  I think I do.  There is something about the slightly rough quality, you know?  It is recorded live, or so they say.  Ramona Rose.

The Alternate Routes.  God, music is coming out of the woodwork.  I’m really digging this too.

Seems like everyone these days is talking JD McPherson.  I think I now know why.

Jesse Morris is no longer with us, but Karen Lovely has not forgotten him.  A tribute to “Punk Rock Johnny Cash.”

My God!  My fingers hurt just watching these guys crank out Spoonful.  It is painful even to watch!  Musically extremely pleasant, though, I must admit.  Likho Duo.

Speaking of outstanding songs and videos, here is Sophia Marshall.  Very intriguing video, as well.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7Frank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at Frank bottle capone time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

One Response to “Frank Gutch Jr: Classic Rock— Not As Classic As You Might Think; Plus, In Keeping With the Theme, Notes of a Classic Nature”

  1. […] Frank Gutch Jr. – Classic Rock Not as Classic as You Might Think […]

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