First Edition, Fourth Album

Technically, this is the official first album released by The First Edition to be credited to Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, the first three albums listing the group as simply The First Edition. Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town dropped in 1969, and features the ensemble’s rendition of the Kris Kristofferson-written classic, Me and Bobby McGee. A brief recording history of this song… Roger Miller was the first to record it in ’69, followed by Gordon Lightfoot, then arguably most notably by Janis Joplin in ’70, just a few days before her death. The track is number two on side A, and is a great one-two punch following this album’s title track.

Smash it Up

My first actual, experience if you will, with The Jimi Hendrix Experience was with this 1969 compilation, Smash Hits. It was played, quite frequently, at Jr. High dances some 25 years ago. Smash Hits is exactly what it sounds like. 12 of The Experience’s best-known hits: Foxey Lady, Stone Free, Manic Depression, Hey Joe, The Wind Cries Mary, All Along the Watchtower, and of course, Purple Haze. Not that anyone should, but if someone needed a one-stop-Jimi-shop, Smash Hits would certainly do the trick.

Swing Hits

The latest acquisition to the family library is this swingin’, 6-LP Reader’s Digest box set, Swing Hits. Featuring Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and of course, Glenn Miller, this amazing gift was a thoughtful and welcoming gesture from the in-laws, and was actually owned by my wife’s grandfather. Many thanks for this great gift set! Rest assured, she’ll be well taken care of. Here’s to a swingin’ weekend, kids!

R.I.P.

So, I’ve wanted to transcribe the back cover to The Zombies’ (now legit) follow-up to Odessey and Oracle as I felt the band’s own explanation of what R.I.P. is will better suit those needing to know than me trying to piece together any sort of sloppy, half-baked narrative. So, without further ado, here is, in its entirety, the explanation of The Zombies’ R.I.P.

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America’s love affair with The Zombies began in September 1964 with the release of, “She’s Not There,” and has more or less ebbed and flowed ever since. The song found almost immediate popularity on US regional radio charts and in October reached the national Billboard singles chart, rising to #2. In their homeland, the disc had peaked at #12 and The Zombies quickly earned the distinction of being more popular in the States. As proof, their follow-up release, “Tell Her No,” registered similarly, reaching #6 in the US and #42 in the UK. It would be their last UK chart single, leaving little room to redress the balance of their American popularity.

Despite radio and television appearances, two stateside visits and a slew of impressive singles on Parrot label, The Zombies also hit a commercial wall in America by the end of 1965. in 1966, they no longer bothered to invade the colonies and throughout 1967 they focused on recording an impressive long player, Odessey And Oracle. By 1968, they quietly disbanded due to the continued lack of interest in their fine recorded and live work.

As for their stateside record released, they seem to be well and truly buried. Following one single on Columbia (#Care Of Cell 44″), The Zombies’ new material was moved to the Date label. This seemed like the bitter end until a third single from the album, “Time Of The Season,” began picking up regional airplay in October 1968, long after it had been forgotten by the band and their label. Through the winter of 1968, it rose from the dead and by March 1969 had reached #3 nationally. As a result, Odessey & Oracle was also reissued in a revised album jacket and crept into the album charts the same month (reaching a high of #95).

Behind the scenes, The Zombies’ key songwriters, Rod Argent & Chris White, had made significant progress during 1968 to demo new material and were on the verge of launching a new band when this success lit up their phone lines. The Date label wanted a follow-up and fast. Despite the demand, it was unlikely that the original Zombies could be revived given that the other members had quickly moved on from music. Vocalist Colin Blunstone worked in insurance, guitarist Paul Atkinson focused on computers and drummer Hugh Grundy tried auto sales. Meanwhile, in the United States a group of imposters assuming the name of The Zombies toured the country, shamelessly riding on the success of “Time Of The Season.”

“We would never get together again,” remarked lead vocalist Colin Blunstone in February 1969, “we’ve all agreed on that. It was  put to us, but we decided not to. There would be complications with contracts if we wanted to reform. it was not a case of me not wanting to join them, it was a mutual decision.”

However, no contractual issues prevented Argent & White from returning to the studio to record new material under the name The Zombies. At Morgan Studios in December 1968, they taped six new masters (“Imagine The Swan,” “Conversations Off Floral Street,” “Smokey Day,” “She Loves The Way They love Her,” “Girl Help Me” and “I Could Spend The Day”) and subsequently dusted off outtakes from past Zombies sessions spanning 1967-1966 with engineer Gus Dudgeon.

“Well,” explained Colin Blunstone in a rare interview with the UK music paper Top Pops published in March 1969, “CBS (Columbia/Date) wanted an album for America, so we used old tracks which had never been released. I sing on one side of the L.P. We brought the tapes up-to-date by adding certain things and taking away others. It sounds very complicated, but I think it turned out well.”

The “certain things” added where orchestration, backing vocals, additional keyboards and, in the case of “Walking In The Sun,” a new lead focal from Colin (who was now coaxed out of retirement and poised for a comeback under the name Neil McArthur with the revamped revival of “She’s Not There”). This album – evenly split between the new and the old – was given the clever title of R.I.P. and delivered to Date in early 1969.

Sadly, this project met its demise through commercial indifference, after a couple of pilot singles – “Imagine The Swan” and “If It Don’t Work Out” – failed to excite buyers (despite some snazzy cartoon promo ads). Although it undoubtedly features some of their finest recordings, this is the first legitimate issues of the R.I.P. album as it was originally intended in the United States. And so it seems that The Zombies, one of the finest groups to emerge from the 1960s, have gone on to an even more beautiful afterlife.

– Andrew Sandoval

Electric Eclectics

moogBy far the best late 60s Moog record I’ve ever heard, Dick Hyman’s 1969 insta-classic Moog – The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman offers two parts satisfying melody, equal parts goofball, and a twist of the unexpected. I imagine the Moog to be like the zither for those who aren’t keen on the distinct sound, but for those in the mood (the Moog mood?) for a cheerful listening adventure, The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman are just a needle drop away.

 

5

5One can never turn down a Motown presentation, especially when its offered up by Diana Ross. 1969 saw a lot of things, and among them was the first studio release from The Jackson 5, Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5. I won’t got into details so much as to say, this is essential listening material for both historical, and pleasure purposes.

From Life to the Moon

totheprintedmoonWas flipping though a November, 1969 issue of Life magazine last night, you know, the one with “The Rough-cut King of Country Music” on the cover, aka Johnny Cash, and I came across this amazing full page ad for Time Life Records’ 6x LP box set, To the Moon. I’d acquired this piece of Americana at my brick and mortar about a year ago (the box set, not the magazine… I have my wonderful folks to thank for that one), and I’ve been a bit obsessed with it after the reissue announcement of the Voyager Golden Record box set (Kickstarter), so let’s just say I was a bit beside myself and had to do a double take upon its random discovery in the Life magazine that had been sitting on our living room table for the better part of three years. Man can step foot on the Moon, but I can’t discover a 47 year old record advertisement sitting beneath my nose. For shame.

Anyway, have a read, then head over to Discogs to nab this essential box set for next to nothing. She’s currently $7.50 for the full set (that’s 6x LPs and a 192 page, hardcover book, kids), and if you’re feeling REALLY interplanetary, back the Voyager Golden Record on Kickstarter. You’ll thank me later.

(my) Tom

TommyI used to love the Who. I used to love grape Nerds, tight-rolling my jeans, and collecting Rickey Henderson baseball cards. I can’t necessarily pinpoint when my love affair with the Who lost its passion, but I’ll never forget their fourth album, 1969’s Tommy. Rock operas aren’t my bag, to say the least, but Tommy, well, he’s a hard (rock) shell to crack, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t tested their endurance in a while to give it a solid shot.

A River of Green

GreenRiverCreedence came on at work yesterday and I was taken back to my grade school years when all I listened to, for what seemed like years, was Bad Moon Rising. I overdid it a bit on that track, and have since bypassed that track all together. Green River, Creedence’s third record, and album vehicle with which Bad Moon Rising came, is a non-stop roots rock trophy of classic Creedence. One of those albums that could easily be a greatest hits, Green River includes Cross-Tie Walker, Lodi, Wrote a Song for Everyone, Commotion, and Tombstone Shadow, among, obviously, Bad Moon Rising and the title track. Creedence is like the Kinks in that, once you start down the rabbit hole, it’s several months until you’re allowed to escape. Not a bad problem to encounter, to be honest.

The Turning Point

TurningPointMy first John Mayall album, The Turning Point was, for me, indeed just that. Recorded live on July 12th, 1969, The Turning Point featured Eddie Kramer at the recording engineer helm (of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix fame), with Mr. Mayall acting as producer, album art director, and a stellar offering on keyboards, tambourine, slide guitar, harmonica, and vocals. The multi-hat-wearing Mayall kills the harmonica blues sound for what feels like a room of 10,000 eager fans, and should be deemed necessary listening material for any fan of modern blues rock. The Turning Point may not be the best place to start, given Mayall’s extensive library, but it sure is a damn entertaining ride.

Abbey Ave

roadIs it weird that I’d rather house quarter of a brick of cheese than a thin slice of chocolate cake? I kind of feel my musical intake follows this same allusive guideline, in one form or another. Anyway, nothing to do with that, here is a picture of my latest 8-track snatch. $10 at a brick and mortar up in Ventura, County. She was purchased untested, but plays perfectly fine on the Hitachi home stereo system. This Friday was one for the books… more to come, when I have time. Happy listening weekend!

The 1969 Warner-Reprise Record Show

Record ShowIn 1969, Warner-Reprise released a pretty badass 2-LP comp titled, The 1969 Warner-Reprise Record Show. The Kinks, The Mothers of Invention, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Fugs, The Dead, Tull, Neil Young, and Fats Domino all make their prominent appearance. It’s a pretty solid comp; mixing well-known with mysterious obscurity. We paid $0.33 for this double LP, and she’s well worth every last dime.

Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Play The Beatles

FiedlerModern contemporary conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, Mr. Arthur Fiedler tackles The Beatles with his 1969 album, Play the Beatles. This is EXACTLY what you’d think it would be from the master composer at age 75. 12 classical-pop interpretations of Penny Lane, Hey Jude, Eleanor Rigby, With a Little Help from My Friends, among others, done the only way Mr. Fiedler and the Boston Pops knew how… straight fucking forward. The only provocative part about this record is the album cover, which in no way represents the contents within. That certainly does not, however, make for a tedious listen. If your expectations are high, and I’m not exactly sure why they would be, pass this one up, but if you’re in the mood for a middle of the road take on British pop songs you’ve heard a thousand times, check out Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Play the Beatles.

( )( )

IIWithout question, (yet still, arguably), the WORST back cover to any major album release of any, and all time. Now, there is certainly room for judgment and viable speculation, but k’mon! No track listings… no suggestive band photos… no credits… no nothing! “Look within” I suppose was the point, as well it should have been, but once that (now obvious) objective has been made, the art for Zeppelin II’s album ass is forever implanted (ass humor) in Groove history, or at the very least, made known to the casual passers by in a leisurely, and nonthreatening manner.

Argent

ArgentI was excited to rather recently discover that Rod Argent had continued his music career after the disbanding of The Zombies. Having written the serene The Way I Feel Inside, the colossal hit She’s Not There, the catchy Tell Her No, and the masterpiece Time of the Season, expectations are certainly high for 1969’s Argent. Having not heard anything by Argent (the band, not the man), I’m confident tonight’s spin will be an advantageous one, or should I say Argentageous? No, no I shouldn’t.

Another Day, Another Town, Another Post

CrocesSame album, different covers, same track listing, same catalog number, 2x art options, because with Jim and Ingrid Croce, options are a-plenty. Likely the Croce-head cover is a reissue of the train track melodies original, but with the same cat. number and zero indication of an identifying year, it’s really anybody’s guess.

Not that any of this matters, because at the end of the day, it all comes down to the music, and beneath both covers is a substantial collection of riveting folk-rock full of country themes, hard time, and beautiful lyrics. Ingrid gets as much, if not more mic time than Jim, (and she kills it), but that’s not to say James Joseph Croce ever takes a backseat, or really, that he ever could. From Vespers to Big Wheel to the emotionally cleansing closer, Spin, Spin, Spin, Another Day, Another Town is a monumental collection for anyone looking to tap square into late 60’s Americana, and with anything Croce related, she comes HIGHLY recommended.

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