Friday, July 24, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 14 - Hindenburgs Rising!

Closing in now on the end of the our look back at the end of the 60s, and no music better signaled the end of the 60s than the emergent strands of in-your-face punk and metal that surfaced in 1969.

Obviously, Led Zeppelin, who hit with both their self-titled debut and the even more crowd-pleasing follow-up II, were the 800-pound Gorilla on the metal side of this equation, as were The Stooges and MC5 on the proto-punk side, but what's most interesting is how much those three acts were the outliers in their efforts to push music to previously unexplored extremes, with almost every other act here falling in line with the Deep Purple/Steppenwolf Hush/Born To Be Wild organ-heavy template established over the preceding two years.

I'm sure most of you with an interest in early metal are familiar with bulk of these tunes, but a couple of mostly forgotten standouts I have to mention before beginning.  Spooky Tooth's Evil Woman, found in our encore, may be the greatest over-the-top cheeseball heavy song I've ever heard. It's to die for in its own unique way, and essential listening.

The other act not sleep on here under any circumstances is Mott The Hoople. They would go on to be more associated with glam in the years that followed, but their self-titled debut, a weird mix of Dylan and hard rock influences, gets my vote for the most underrated album of 1969.  It's aged remarkably well, and the three songs included here, their covers of Sonny Bono's Laugh At Me and The Kink's You Really Got Me, as well as original Rock 'n' Roll Queen, are not to be missed.

Now, with that straighten up, let's get rocking.  Here's the Spotify link.

Set 1 (Power-Chord Plunderers)

1. Rambin' Rose - MC5 (4:15)
2. Communication Breakdown - Led Zeppelin (2:28)
3. You Really Got Me - Mott The Hoople (2:54)
4. The Painter - Deep Purple (3:52)
5. No Fun - The Stooges (5:16)
6. Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman) - Led Zeppelin (2:40)
7. Walk In My Shadow - Free (3:30)
8. The Kettle - Colosseum (4:25)
9. In Need - Grand Funk Railroad (7:55)
10. Heartbreaker -  Led Zeppelin (4:14)
11. Don't Cry - Steppenwolf (3:07)
12. Futilist's Lament - High Tide (5:19)
13. Hello L.A., Bye-Bye Birmingham - Blue Cheer (3:27)
14. Waitin' For The Wind - Spooky Tooth (3:45)
15. Evil Woman Don't Play Your Games With Me - Crow (4:23)
16. Ramble On - Led Zeppelin (3:49)
17. Laugh At Me - Mott The Hoople (6:29)

Set 2 (Molten-Metal Marauders)

18. Plynth (Water Down The Drain) - Jeff Beck (3:07)
19. Good Times Bad Times - Led Zeppelin (2:46)
20. Rock Me - Steppenwolf (3:39)
21. Down Man - Brainbox (2:33)
22. Real Cool Time - The Stooges (2:32)
23. Why Didn't Rosemary? - Deep Purple (5:04)
24. What Is And What Should Never Be - Led Zeppelin (4:44)
25. The Hunter - Free (4:15)
26. Ain't That The Way (Love's Supposed To Be) - Blue Cheer (3:16)
27. Motor City Is Burning - MC5 (6:05)
28. What Would You Do (If I Did That To You) - Steppenwolf (3:23)
29. Heartbreaker - Grand Funk Railroad (6:35)


30. Your Time Is Gonna Come - Led Zeppelin (4:35)
31. I Wanna Be Your Dog - The Stooges (3:09)
32. Evil Woman - Spooky Tooth (9:09)
33. Rock And Roll Queen - Mott The Hoople (5:08)
34. Bring It On Home - Led Zeppelin (4:20)

About the Ascendent Axemen on this mix:

MC5: We open this proto-metal, proto-punk mix with two selections from the album that most straddles the essence of both emergent genres, MC5's Kick Out The Jams.  While sonically more of a nascent metal album, the raggedness, rough but so compelling anti-harmonies, and unpolished urgency would go on to inspire a whole generation of punks in the decade to come. Having already tapped the album's title track in our Vol 2 - Best Of The Best mix, here we profile raucous opener Ramblin' Rose and the band's protest take on the '69 Detroit riots Motor City Is Burning.

Led Zeppelin: The Band, The Stones, and The Velvet Underground may have produced the three best albums of 1969, but no 1969 artist had a bigger impact on the musical direction of the next decade than Led Zeppelin with the arrival of their first two gonzo albums I & II.  Debut Led Zeppelin (Highest Recommend) laid down the format - thundering, monolithic riffs, punishing drums, plagiarized, spaced-out blues covers devoid of soul but musically stunning nonetheless, and mystical 'roided-up detours into folk - and while not quite the iconic hit parade that II would prove to be, in many ways it displays greater musically variety and has a higher intangible factor than the juggernaut that followed.  From this landmark, we're culling several of the best moments - Communication Breakdown, Good Times Bad Times, and the relatively relaxed by comparison Your Time Is Gonna Come - no Dazed And Confused though, it's an excellent song and for many critics the best track on the album, but it has always been a little to dirge-like for my tastes to promote over the album's other standouts.

On follow up Led Zeppelin II (Highest Recommend), things got a bit more streamlined, but in the process, arguably even more exciting. From the opening moments of all-time metal classic Whole Lotta Love (already featured on Vol 2 - Best Of The Best), to the closing refrains of Bring It On Home, the album is a non-stop assault of legendarily iconic guitar riffs, quite possibly the second greatest collection of iconic riffs ever assembled in rock after Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced?. And while it would be crazy to include every one of the album's tracks here, we're featuring several, What Is And What Should Never Be, Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Women), Heartbreaker, the aforementioned Bring It On Home, and my personal fav from the album, Ramble On.  Hell, if the drum solo to Moby Dick were just a little shorter probably would have included that song, too. Bottom line, no matter how you slice it, Led Zeppelin II, while not the band's single greatest album, is a stone-cold classic that laid down the heavy metal template for thousands of recordings to follow, and is an essential part of any serious heavy metal collection. 

Mott The Hoople: As mentioned above, I consider Mott The Hoople's eponymous debut (Strong Recommend) the most underrated album of 1969. Not yet associated with the glam genre, the Mick Ralphs/Ian Hunter-fronted English outfit's debut was instead a marvelous blend of Dylan-esque phrasing and nascent proto-metal instincts. Cover heavy (the first original doesn't hit until final song of album side one), but oh what covers they were: A blistering instrumental rendition of The Kink's You Really Got Me, a potent remake of Doug Sahm's At The Crossroads, and an unbelievably moving, and ultimately rocking, take on Sony Bono's nerd/hippie anthem Laugh At Me. Top everything off with the band's first phenomenal original, the Zeppelin worthy Rock And Roll Queen, and it all adds up to one of my favorite albums represented on this mix, and one of the best (though not THE best) albums in the band's under-appreciated discography. If you explore one new album from the selections presented on this mix, make it this one.

Deep Purple: Having already profiled two of Deep Purple's self-titled third album's (Strong Recommend) best progressive numbers on Vol 5 - Prog Gods, Krautrock Kings, and Canterbury Chaps, here we listen to two incendiary rockers that display the band's emerging shift towards organ-drenched Heavy Metal, fan-favorite Why Didn't Rosemary? and the fantastically jammy The Painter (one of my personal favs on this mix).

The Stooges: One of the most unique debuts of all time, the Stooges' John Cale produced self-titled debut (Highest recommend), was in Iggy's own words, their Soupy Sales album, the album so committed to primitivism the band determined to limit the lyrics of every individual song to "twenty-five words or less."  Having already profiled personal favorite 1969 on Vol 2 - Best Of The Best, we're tapping the album's three most notorious songs for this mix, No Fun, Real Cool Time, and the one-of-a-kind exercise in submissive, subversive sexual thinking I Wanna Be Your Dog

Free: Another heavy metal outfit making a fine introduction in 1969 was the Paul Rodger-fronted Free with their debut outing Ton Of Sobs (Solid Recommend). Recorded and released before a single band member had reached the age of twenty, it is a remarkably assured first salvo nonetheless, full of slow burner blues rockers that really churn, especially the awesome chugger Walk In My Shadow, and the band's positively blistering cover of blues standard The Hunter

Colosseum: Having already explored the thrilling progressive side of Colosseum's Valentyne Suite (Strong Recommend) on Vol 5 - Prog Gods, Krautrock Kings, and Canterbury Chaps, here we touch base with the album's considerable proto-metal charge with pounding album opener The Kettle. Fans of this should also want to check out the album's other metal track, The Machine Demands A Sacrifice.

Grand Funk Railroad: Adored by fans, reviled by critics, one of rock's first bonafide jam band's, the hugely popular Flint, Michigan born Grand Funk Railroad burst into the public conscious despite limited airplay through incendiary live shows and their first two albums. Debut On Time (Solid Recommendset the template with it's heavy metal upgrade to Cream's approach and sound, and is for my money, though less popular, the slightly better of the two '69 efforts with standout tracks like Are You Ready, T.N.U.Cthe Hendrix-y Into The Sun (feature on Vol 9 - Jam On... And On... And On... And On), and best song Heartbreaker featured here.

Follow up Grand Funk (Mild Recommend), commonly know as "The Red Album" amongst fans, was more of the same and found a wider audience, but while still tons of cheesy hard-rocking fun with songs like Got This Thing On The Move and High Falootin' Women, put the band's conceptual limitations on clearer display, best exemplified by their epic cover of The Animal's Inside - Looking Out which became one of the band's live standards, but for all its amplified pyrotechnics, never comes close to matching the visceral potency of The Animal's original. Here we're going with the likable In Need and it's splendid closing jam as representative track. 

Steppenwolf: Having become a regular on the album and singles charts with their first two albums, Steppenwolf continued the trend one more time with their first release of 1969 At Your Birthday Party (Mild Recommend).  Fueled by fan favorites like Don't Cry and Jupiter's Child, both the album and another one of its many singles, Rock Me, peaked within the top ten. 
But several changes were afoot by the time the band set out to record its second 1969 release, Monster (Solid Recommend).  Guitarist Michael Monarch departed, replaced by Larry Byrom, and the band was beginning its move out of psychedelia and into a harder rocking, more politically outspoken niche.  The band's first foray into protest songs, Monster has taken its critical lumps over the years as one of the band's clumsiest albums, both musically and lyrically, but if I'm being straight, I find it the more engaging of the band's two 1969 releases today.  Yes, the lyrics are lacking in nuance, but time and again on tracks like Draft Resister, Power Play, Move Over and funkiest number What Would You Do (If I Did That To You) featured here, Monster presents a band that still knew how to rock a serious groove

High Tide: With lead singer Tony Hill's Jim Morrison croon, and Simon House's turbulent violin, High Tide were amongst the heaviest of the first wave prog/metal outfits to emerge out of England in 1969, not to mention one of the first rock groups to ever fully incorporate the violin into their band's sound, and Futilist's Lament, our selection from the band's proper '69 debut Sea Shanties (Mild Recommend) presents the band at their absolute sludgiest.

Blue Cheer: Slicker and a tad more laid back than the punkier efforts that had come before, San Francisco psychedelic hard rockers Blue Cheer's eponymous fourth album (Mild Recommend) is nonetheless a very competent and lively nugget for an album reduced to cut out bin fodder decades ago, highlighted by a casually appealing cover of Hello LA, Bye Bye Birmingham, and upper tier jamming originals like Fool and Ain't That The Way (Love's Supposed To Be).

Spooky Tooth: Never super successful during their original run, Carlisle, England's Spooky Tooth's sophomore effort Spooky Two (Solid Recommend) has come to be viewed years as a pinnacle of maximal 60s blues-rock heaviness, and that heaviness was rarely displayed as maximally as on our two selections here, organ-drenched album opener Waitin' For The Wind, and the thrillingly over-the-top Evil Woman, one of the very best hard rock/psychedelic numbers of the entire decade.

Crow: A year later, Black Sabbath would turn Minnesota proto-metal outfit Crow's Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games With Me) into their very first single and one of the most popular numbers in the band's discography, but for now, we honor the frankly superior Steppenwolf/Deep Purple-is original from the band's hard-rocking debut Crow Music.

Jeff Beck: Beck's second outing with his original, Rod Stewart-fronted, Ron Wood-backed band, Beck-Ola (Mild Recommend), though a fan favorite and a definite proto-metal landmark at the time, didn't strike me when I returned to it this last year (I much prefer this line-up's less heavy 1968 debut effort Truth).  But the album's best song, the driving, idiosyncratic Plynth (Water Down The Drain) still wows, which is why we've chosen it to open Set 2 here.

Brainbox: Down Man was the debut single for Brainbox, a very popular (in the Netherlands) Dutch progressive blues-rock outfit founded by future Focus and jazz guitar virtuoso Jan Akkerman.

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