Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Talking 'bout an Evolution...

The mid-sixties were like VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), willy-nilly in their stabilly. The Beatles dismissed touring because they couldn't hear themselves think and found their Genius within the sheltered confines of the studio. Tommy James and the Shondells were bubble gum staples until they went psychedelic with "Crimson and Clover" and "Crystal Blue Persuasion." Brian Wilson just stayed home. 

As rock went from teenage angst to protest and drugs it swept every loose band along with it. One need look no further than the 1st Edition's "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In)" featuring Kenny Rogers. This is the "Ruby" guy we're talking about, right, the one who knows when to hold 'em? Yeah, well in 1967 he was "holding" a tab of lysergic acid diethylamide 25.

The evolution from Radiohead's Pablo Honey to A Moon Shaperd Pool is jarring and perfunctory, but fabulous – there's no question that child was father to the man. Talk Talk morphed from 80s techno to 90s art rock without a hiccough. The BeeGees reinvented their folky-psychedelia with disco, and I for one, despite the incredible hits of the early years, there is still indeed something electric about "Stayin' Alive" that makes you want to strut through Bay Ridge like Tony Manero, even if disco makes you cringe).

But the Genesis that stemmed from the Beatles walking off stage or Brian filling his living room with beach sand was an element of its time. 1965 was the Big Bang of rock. Don't bother to look beyond the "Go Now"-plus-fluff-LP that was The Magnificent Moodys. Like many bands of the time, even The Beatles, the debut LP was rampant with covers – even its smash hit, "Go Now." Of course for the Moodys, a new lineup would alter the heart of the band for decades to come. Denny Laine (Wings) and Clint Warwick would leave by the end of '65 and the shift from The Magnificent Moodys to Days of Future Past (AM10) is nothing but phenomenal.

Fleetwood Mac formed in the mid-60s as an offshoot of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, with key members Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Peter Green. They had a miss with "Black Magic Woman" (soon to be a hit with Santana), and remained, through the early 70s, a British blues band. Mick Fleetwood, interested in a new recording venue (Sound City in Van Nuys, California), asked producer Keith Olsen for a sample of what the studio could offer. Fleetwood was so impressed with the guitarist on that recording – Lindsey Buckingham – that when singer Bob Welch bailed, he asked Buckingham to join the group. Buckingham agreed, but only if his Buckingham Nicks partner, Stevie, could also join. Led by the duo's mainstream rock style, Fleetwood Mac ditched the blues and became mega-stars, with Rumours (AM10) going on to sell more than 40 million copies.

Based on the jazz-fusion influence of guitarist Mick Abrahams, Jetho Tull’s debut, This Was, despite the clearly defined presence of Ian Anderson, sounded like nothing Tull would ever sound like again. Indeed, NME said of the LP, "They play jazz really, in a soft, appealing way, and have a bit of fun on the side with tone patterns and singing." The metamorphosis from This Was to Stand Up was as extreme as that of the Moodys.

Others on the list: Deep Purple, a progressive jazz band not unlike Soft Machine would flip it around with Deep Purple in Rock (AM7); The Renaissance of Keith Relf was another blues concoction (formed from what was left of the Yardbirds) until Annie Haslam entered the cloister redefining the sound into something unheard of until that time: a female vocal backed by elements of progressive rock, classical, folk and jazz; lastly, not what I would call evolution but the error of its ways, we find Electric Light Orchestra. This isn't devastating, but a sad one for me; not because the pop end of things was so dismal - it wasn't - but because it detracts from the legacy of albums like Eldorado, On the Third Day and Face the Music. The ever wise critics of rock were quick to morph their  album's title Discovery (1979)into the oh so depressing Disco Very. I'm at peace with it now, but I was so angry at the time.

David Bowie would evolve in and out of brilliance for 40 years; Joni would go from folk to jazz; and Tom Waits from a rough and tumble jazz singer to - I'm not even sure. It's that's kind of evolution that punctuates rock's legacy. Rock, like God, is not dead; we only need to sit tight for the next chapter.