Friday, June 26, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Mix Collection


McQ's 1969 #1
1969.  What a year.  So many great works.  Maybe not an amazing year for fans of bright, melodic pop or psychedelic rock, both of which were quickly falling out of favor.  But an extraordinary, often groundbreaking year in country-rock, jazz, prog, soul, and nascent punk and metal.

It was also an unbelievable year in terms of off-the-charts prolificacy.

Truth be told, so many great acts came out with multiple great releases in 1969 that putting this retrospective collection together proved to be an unusually daunting task.

McQ's 1969 #2
Think about it, in this single twelve month period, just among those artists we're profiling here we've got Tim Buckley (2 1969 releases), Joe Cocker (2), The Beatles (2), Johnny Winter (2), The Temptations (2), Love (2), Led Zeppelin (2), The Moody Blues (2), Frank Zappa (2), The Grateful Dead (2), The Jefferson Airplane (2), Steppenwolf (2), Ten Years After (2), The Byrds (2), Miles Davis (2), The Guess Who (2), Fleetwood Mac (2.5), Creedence Clearwater Revival (3), Fairport Convention (3), James Brown (4).

So with that insane volume essential listening, I had no choice really but to throw out our typical 80 minutes per mix discipline, and the guard rails completely came off.

McQ's 1969 #3
Other than volumes 1 & 2, only one other mix in this set comes in under two hours, and several creep into three, even four hour territory. Way too much for one sitting.

So to help out, on the write-up pages (which you can access by clicking on the mix titles below,) I've broken mixes 3-15 into multiple set and encore chunks, just like at a long live concert.

Tackling them in this manner may prove easier , but hey, get after them any way you wish.  I just hope you'll take some time to dive in, because 1969 really was one of rock/pop/soul's greatest and deepest years and there is so much here worth hearing.

We'll be updating this central hub throughout the summer as more of the mixes and write-ups become available. But we've got a few up already...

So, without any further ado, here our the mixes in our 1969 retrospective collection. Enjoy!


Nancy's collection of her top favs from 1969 was just too much fun not to open with this year.  This 1969 installment nabs some of the best blues, soul, and psychedelic pop of that elite music year.




McQ's top-tier compendium to Nancy's Favorites, with the exception of a very significant early song from one David Bowie, this mix focuses exclusively on representative tracks of 1969's best albums (minus a few of 1969's great albums Nancy already touched upon).



1969 was an extraordinary for the blues and blues-based rock, and the first of our genre-specific mixes capture's much of the year's best here. 





The best of 1969's non-US/UK efforts get due here.  If you're a fan of late 60s reggae, tropicalia, or  euro-pop, you're going to find a ton of great stuff to revisit here. 





Three highly influential experimental rock genres that came of age in 1969 are presented here in this epic length mix. 





As with melodic Pop, Psychedelic rock was experience a rapid fade in popularity following its zenith just two years prior, but as most of their peers ventured into country rock and early metal, a few artists stuck with what the did best, and were supported by a bunch of lesser but game second-wavers eager to jump into the fray. 





1969 was a great year for adventurous, exploratory jazz, and we've got a small (but still quite long) sample of some of the best here. Includes revered classics from the likes of Miles Davis, George Russell, Don Cherry, Les McCann, and Pharoah Sanders, among several others





This year's guilty pleasure installment focuses mostly on those Soul, Pop, and Country singles that won our hearts but felt behind the times even back when they were released in 1969. 




1969 was nothing if not loose, exploratory and jammy.  This mix, designed something like a never ending Grateful Dead show of the era, captures that spirit and then some - celebrating much of the year's best extended, solo-heavy psychedelic, rock and experimental efforts in an epic four hour mix.




The sugar sweet harmonic pop that dominated the charts just a few years ago was, like psychedelic music, quickly fading from mainstream favor, but in it's wake, a new angle on album-oriented pop, the Rock Opera, emerged.  Features several selections from the year's two ground breaking rock operas, The Who's Tommy and The Kinks Arthur (Or The Decline Of The British Empire), as well as beloved tracks from the likes of The Beatles, Beach Boys, and Velvet Underground.





What a groundbreaking year for Soul Music in 1969.  Some of the year's edgiest and most forward-looking soul can be found here, including many efforts by the likes of Sly & The Family Stone, Isaac Hayes, The Temptations, and James Brown!




Anchored by three remarkable albums from the Richard Thompson/Sandy Denny-fronted Fairport Convention, British Folk Rock had one of its best years of the modern era in 1969. This mix captures much of the best of that, as well as a number of notable singer/songwriter efforts out of North America.




Country Rock had suddenly become almost the end all and be all in 1969, led by a remarkable three album surge from Creedence Clearwater Revival, but augmented by The Band, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt and a seemingly endless supply of Byrd's offshoots including Crosby, Stills & Nash, Dillard & Clark, and The Flying Burrito Brothers.




Proto, proto, proto, Baby!  Early punk and heavy metal really rounded into form in 1969, and we've got much of what was exciting about the early days of those movements here, including boatloads of Led Zeppelin, Stooges, Deep Purple, and Mc5. 



Volume 15 - Croony, Croon, Croon


Blue-eyed soul was a huge player in 1969 and we focus on two groups of practitioners, the old-style crooners - especially Elvis Presley, Scott Walker, and Dusty Springfield - and a new crop of usually brass-drenched rockers - including Joe Cocker, The Guess Who, and Blood, Sweat & Tears.



Volume 16 - The Next 100

In no particular order, here are the next 100 tunes I was considering for these 1969 mixes.




Friday, June 19, 2020

THE NEON SKYLINE - Andy Shauf (2020)

Canadian indie-singer/songwriter Andy Shauf possesses the very definition of the light touch, and that light touch - from his classically plaintive, twee vocals, to his preference for woodwinds over brass when he wants to amp the instrumental palette, to his tiny, intimate, conversationally told album-long tale of a guy who joins friends at a bar only to learns his old flame is back in town and about to join them - is on full display on his charming 2020 release The Neon Skyline.

But that light touch and the small scale of the narrative should in no way imply The Neon Skyline is a shallow, surfacy listen. 

To the contrary, with repeat listens, numerous humorous and emotionally impactful moments emerge, and Shauf's lyrical skill depicting conversation between friends - or their inability to effectively converse even while intuitively grasping each other's every predilection and foible - pays great dividends the more one digs in to the conversational nuances, and is as critical here to the album's effectiveness as in celebrated late-night conversation-dominated films like My Dinner With Andre or The Big Chill

A one man show (Shauf produced, engineered, and played every instrument), and consistent in its gentle tone, The Neon Skyline won't be of much interest to those who gravitate towards harder hitting rock, metal, or hip-hop, but those who like indie with a heavy dose of melancholic, self-deprecating intimacy should definitely check it out.

STATUS: Solid Recommend

CHERRY PICKER'S BEST BETS: Neon Skyline, Things I Do, Living Room, Dust Kids, Try Again.


Here's the official video for my favorite track from the album, Try Again, which occurs right when the narrator's ex joins the party.

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 11 - Stone-Buttered Psychedelic Soul

So far, in our look back at 1969, we've explored what a fantastic music year it was in the blues, progressive rock, conceptual pop, tropicalia, jazz, and jam rock.

But we're just getting started.

With our final themed mixes, we dive into the five sub-genres that pulsed with the most creative excitement in 1969, beginning here with our celebration of that year's incredible run of psychedelic soul.

James Brown, Sly & The Family Stone, The Temptations and Isaac Hayes were all on fire at this time: on the musical front, they could almost do no wrong.

And yet, even with these artists' sustained brilliance, their '69 works barely stand out here against our other inclusions from less well-remembered artists in songs like Edwin Starr's Twenty-Five Miles, Dyke & The Blazers We Got More Soul, and Donny Hathaway's The Ghetto

Which is a big part of the reason why 1969 is my favorite year in funk and soul ever. 

Doesn't hurt, either, that at this difficult moment in early June 2020, so many of these songs, sadly, still feel so vibrantly on point today.

So let's get started.  Here's the Spotify link.



Set 1 (Funky Chickens)

1. Walk On By - Isaac Hayes (12:00)
2. Stand! - Sly & The Family Stone (3:08)
3. Cloud Nine - The Temptations (3:32)
4. The Popcorn - James Brown (3:02)
5. Do the Funky Chicken - Rufus Thomas (3:18)
6. Sing A Simple Song - Sly & The Family Stone (3:56)
7. Time Is Tight - Booker T. & The M.G.'s (3:15)
8. Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud - Pts. 1&2 - James Brown (4:46)
9. Friendship Train - Glady's Knight & The Pips (3:50)
10. Hot Fun In The Summertime - Sly & The Family Stone (2:37)
11. Twenty Five Miles - Edwin Starr (3:18)
12. Message From A Black Man - The Temptations (6:02)

Set 2 (Little Groove Makers)

13. Today I Started Loving You Again - Bettye Swann (2:40)
14. Licking Stick - James Brown (2:52)
15. We Got More Soul - Dyke & The Blazers (3:20)
16. You Can Make It If You Try - Sly & The Family Stone (3:38)
17. The Chokin' Kind - Joe Simon (2:40)
18. Runaway Child, Running Wild - The Temptations (9:37)
19. The Nitty Gritty - Gladys Knight & The Pips (3:02)
20 & 21. The Little Groove Maker Me (Parts 1 & 2) - James Brown (5:18)
22. Is It Something That You've Got - Tyrone Davis (2:39)
23. Somebody's Watching You - Sly & The Family Stone (3:20)
24. Love Man - Otis Redding (2:19)
25. Don't Let The Joneses Get You Down - The Temptations (4:45)

Encore

26. The Ghetto - Donny Hathaway (6:54)
27. Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic - Isaac Hayes (9:37)
28. Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) - Sly & The Family Stone (4:51)

About these Stone-Buttered Psychedelic Soulsters:

Isaac Hayes: Disappointed in the dismal performance of his 1968 debut Presenting Isaac Hayes, the future soul icon/Shaft superstar was ready to ditch any pretense of making it as a performing artist, and get back to his already established career as a house songwriter and producer for Stax.  But then Stax lost its entire back catalog in a split with Atlantic, and label executive Al Bell ordered all Stax artists to immediately get to work on new material. Hayes agreed, but only on the condition that he was granted full creative control.  He got it, and the result was a game changer. Enlisting the help of the Otis Redding's crack backing outfit the Bar-Kays, Hayes's sophomore outing Hot Buttered Soul contained only four lengthy songs, but the music had such an epic, aching, mature, emotionally grounded sweep, it threw the rest of the R&B world into a tailspin and set soul music's course for the next decade.  As the All-Music guide so succinctly puts it, after the release of Hot Buttered Soul, "Motown suddenly seemed manufactured, and James Brown a bit too theatrical." We're including two of the album's incredible recordings here, the amazing opening cover of Burt Bacharach's Walk On By, and in our encore, funk fest Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic, with that one-of-a-kind mid-song piano-break that has to be one of the most frequently sampled funk moments in the history of hip hop. 

Sly & The Family Stone: There are few albums I've worn the grooves down on deeper than Sly And The Family Stone's most popular release and National Library Of Congress Registry member Stand!, easily one of my all-time favorite soul recordings.  We've already hit two of Stand's best known numbers with I Want To Take You Higher on Vol 2 - Best Of The Best and Everyday People on Volume 1 - Nancy's Favorites.  Here, we go real deep, tapping four more of the album's eight tracks - the title track, badass hit Sing A Simple Song, charming deep cut Somebody's Watching You, and one of my favorite upbeat graduation mix numbers You Can Make It If You Try.  Additionally, we're including the two of the Family Stone's three huge post-Woodstock '69 singles on this mix - Hot Fun In The Summertime, and the immortal Thank You (Fallettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), which closes this mix and was originally released as a double A-side single in December '69 with Everybody Is A Star.

The Temptations: We're featuring multiple cuts from each of the Temptation's direction-changing '69 studio releases on this mix. First out of the gate, and the first Motown release to shift the label towards the funkier sound established by Sly & The Family Stone, was Cloud Nine (Solid Recommend).  Very much a Bringing It All Back Home-designed record, side two of Cloud Nine was Temptation's business as usual, full of the high quality smooth soul fans had come to expect from the band, albeit without the brilliant-but-problematic David Ruffin, whom the band had fired a few months earlier and replaced with the huge-voiced but less unique-sounding Dennis Edwards. But Cloud Nine's stunning side one, containing only three songs - the nuclear-powered, controversial "pot-as-an-inner-city-coping-mechanism" title track ('69's Grammy winner for best R&B Song by a duo or group), a cool reworking of the Gladys Knight approach to I Heard It Through The Grapevine, and the nine-minute Runaway Child Running Wild - was something else entirely, and set the tone for every Temptation album to follow over the next half-decade. 


With studio follow-up Puzzle People (Solid Recommend), the band's principal songwriting/producing partner at the time, Norman Whitfield, moved things even further into the psychedelic/social messaging department. The end result was less consistent than Cloud Nine, but often more interesting, with classic hits I Cant Get Next To You and Don't Let The Joneses Get You Down and politically-pointed supporting tracks like the Say It Loud I'm Black And I Proud -riffing Message From A Black Man and epic closing track Slave sandwiched around covers of It's Your Thing, The Beatles Hey Jude, and old-school ballads like Since I've Lost You and Running Away (Ain't Gonna Help You).

James Brown: So yeah, James Brown was a busy, busy man in 1969. They don't call him the hardest working man in show business for nothing. We've already discussed his second release of 1969, his Dee Felice-aided side-step into jazz and orchestral pop standards, Gettin' Down To It, on our Vol 7 - D. Smalls Jazz Odyssey. Now we take a look at his three significant proto-funk releases of 1969.

First up was his iconic Say It Loud, I'm Black And I'm Proud (Solid Recommend), which in addition to the title track (that was first released as a single in 1968), also included fan-favorite Licking Stick, but surprisingly, given the assertive implications of the album's title, most of the remainder of the album skews more in the vein of Brown's earlier 60's pop stylings.

The real funk exploration would come with the near simultaneous late summer releases of Brown's It's A Mother (Strong Recommend) and its instrumental counterpart The Popcorn (Solid Recommend).  

It's A Mother is Brown's standout release of the year. His most aggressive foray into funk at that point in his career, it really isn't even a collection of songs, but rather, a fantastic collection of improvised-in-the-studio grooves. And yet, despite the unplanned nature, It's A Mother has a highly cohesive feel, with Brown's ace backing band confidently following the fearless funk-master wherever he chooses to explore. We're going with two-part mid-album standout The Little Groove Maker Me to represent the album here.

The Popcorn, represented by the the album's hit title track, hits many of the same funk sweet spots as It's A Mother, but here Brown slips into the background and lets his band take the lead in a slightly tighter, almost exclusively instrumental attack. Brown's vocal absence does drop the album down a notch from It's A Mother, but remains a fine listen in its own right.

Rufus Thomas: The second of many Stax-based artists to make this mix, multi-talented, singer-dancer-DJ-MC-comedian Rufus Thomas is best remembered today as the man who started a thousand dance crazes, and of them, the Funky Chicken, may be his silliest (and greatest) creation. So obviously, we're going with the single that started it all, Do The Funky Chicken, which would later anchor his 1970 album of the same name.

Booker T. & The M.G.'s: Probably best recognized today as the opening instrumental in the concert portion of the 1980 hit film The Blues Brothers, Booker T & The M.G's Time Is Tight was originally recorded by the Stax house band for another film soundtrack - Jules Dassin's 1968 film Up Tight - twice. Of the soundtrack's two versions, it is the down tempo, shorter version included here that became one of the biggest hits of The M.G.'s career, peaking at #6 in the '69 pop charts.

Gladys Knight & The Pips: After the Temptations, the Motown act quickest to up the funk factor had to be the irrepressible Glady's Knight & The Pips, who brought the new wave grooves big time with the title track and Friendship Train from their 1969 album Nitty Gritty.

Edwin Starr: Edwin Starr had already experience regional and US chart success as one of the top talents at Detroit's Ric-Tic records throughout the later half of the 60s, but 25 Miles, the title track to his second album and first effort for Motown after Gordy Berry purchased Ric-Tic and its entire stable of artists, was the song that launched Starr internationally, going top 10 in the US and doing almost as well in other parts of the world.

Bettye Swann: Louisiana-born, LA-based soulstress Bettye Swann is best remembered today for her '67 single Make Me Yours, but I've always loved her soul-reworking of Merle Haggard's Today I Started Loving You Again from her '69 release Don't You Ever Get Tired Of Hurting Me, so I'm including it here. 

Dyke & The Blazers: Though he would be murdered just two years later, and his touring band had already formed and dissolved twice, Arizona funk-master Arlester "Dyke" Christian continued to record (and had several of his biggest hits, like '69 charter We Got More Soul included here) under the Dyke & The Blazers moniker by enlisting a rotating group of Los Angeles studio musician (which at times included Bill Withers and future Earth, Wind & Fire guitarists Al McKay and Roland Bautista) to join in extended jam sessions, which would then be whittled down CAN-style into '45 singles.

Joe Simon: Truth be told, as the most old-school R&B number on this mix, I originally had Joe Simon's The Chokin' Kind (from the album of the same name) earmarked for our Vol 8 - Grade A Schmaltz mix, but the song is so structurally similar to country artist Joe South's even better Walk A Mile In My Shoes that I moved The Chokin' Kind here to allow both songs the chance to better individually shine.  Interestingly, even though Simon landed a remarkable fifty-one different songs on the Billboard pop and/or R&B charts from 1964 to 1981, The Chokin' Kind here was his first song to ever reach #1 in either weekly poll. 

Tyrone Davis: Another artist who, like Joe Simon, doesn't seem to be as well remembered today but was a monster on the R&B charts for almost two decades from the late 60s until the late 80s, we're representing the Mississippi soul man with this early single Is It Something That You've Got from his 1970 full-length release Turn Back The Hands Of Time


Otis Redding: Determined to keep Otis Redding's spirit alive (especially with the white counter-culture movement that had just begun to discover Redding around the time of his tragic late '67 death), Steve Cropper produced Redding's third posthumous album Love Man by mining the Stax archives for previously unreleased '67 material and bringing in his fellow MGs to flesh out the sound. The result, while not on par with Redding's phenomenal original recordings, is definitely one of the best of that seemingly never ending catalog of Redding posthumous releases. We're going Love Man's hit title track to represent the album here.

Donny Hathaway: Leading off our encore and closing out this write-up is the awesome, free form '69 lead single The Ghetto from Chicagoan Donny Hathaway's 1970 debut album Everything Is Everything. Similar to Isaac Hayes at Stax, Hathaway had already established himself as house songwriter and producer at Curtis Mayfield's Curtom Records before pursuing a career as an on-stage talent. Ironically, Hathaway co-wrote the single with his Howard college buddy, Leroy Hutson, who Curtis Mayfield would soon tap to take over as the new lead singer for The Impressions when Mayfield decided to leave the legendary vocal act in 1970 to pursue his own solo career. 



Thursday, June 4, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 3 - B.B.'s Badass Bluesdown

Kicking off our 1969 genre specific mixes with possibly my favorite of the bunch. Definitely right there with Croony, Croon, Croon for sheer good-time entertainment value.

Suffice it to say, led by veterans B.B. King and Wilbert Harrison, newcomers Koko Taylor and Johnny Winter, and a seeming endless pool of gifted, passionate blues-rock acts on both sides of the pond, the blues had a crazy great year in 1969, and we've got a good chunk of the very best right here.

Like all of our upcoming '69 theme mixes this year - because the year was just so damn deep - this mix goes much longer than our traditional eighty minute run time.

So, to help make listening more manageable, it's been broken down into two sets and an encore, but however you attack it, don't miss John Mayall's stunningly chill acoustic blues tidbit So Hard To Share or Boz Scagg's/Duane Allman's beyond epic encore number Loan Me A Dime.

Here's the Spotify link.  Enjoy!



SET 1 (Winter Is Coming)

1. Love You Like A Women - Koko Taylor (2:11)
2. Live With Me - The Rolling Stones (3:33)
3. So Excited - B. B. King (5:34)
4. Black Magic Woman - Fleetwood Mac (2:47)
5. Black Hearted Woman - The Allman Brothers Band (5:10)
6. I'm Easy - Boz Scaggs (3:08)
7. As Good As You've Been To This World - Janis Joplin (5:25)
8. Be Careful With A Fool - Johnny Winter (5:15)
9. I'd Rather Go Blind - Chicken Shack (3:17)
10. Kow Kow Calqulator - Steve Miller Band (4:27)
11. I Woke Up This Morning - Ten Years After (5:31)
13. So Hard To Share - John Mayall (7:04)
14. The Ministry Of Bag - Jack Bruce (2:48)
15. Hustled Down In Texas - Johnny Winter (3:31)
16. Oh Well (Pt. 1) - Fleetwood Mac (3:32)
17. Sissy Strut - King Herbert & The Knights (3:45)
18. Midnight Rambler - The Rolling Stones (6:53)

SET 2 (Lucille's Lullaby)

19. You're Losing' Me - B.B. King (4:53)
20. Juicy John Pink - Procul Harum (2:04)
21. Insane Asylum - Koko Taylor & Willie Dixon (4:24)
22. Got Love ' Cause You Need It - Steve Miller Band (2:27)
23. Stop Messin' Round - Fleetwood Mac (2:50)
24. Let's Work Together - Wilbert Harrison (5:36)
25. Whipping Post - The Allman Brothers Band (5:17)
26. Monkey Man - The Rolling Stones ( 4:11)
27. Highway 61 Revisited - Johnny Winter (5:07)
28 & 29. Cryin' Won't Help You Now/You're Mean - B. B. King (16:24)

ENCORE

30. Room To Move - John Mayall (5:02)
31. Loan Me A Dime - Boz Scaggs (12:32)
32. Little Bit Of Rain - Karen Dalton (2:37)


Now Meet The Bluesdown Players:



Koko Taylor: Tennessee-born blues belter Koko Taylor's 1969 eponymous debut (Strong Recommend) was one of the last hits for Chicago's Chess Records label, and is now only available digitally, but it is so worth seeking out.  We're featuring the album's knock-out opener Love You Like A Woman and the grippingly gritty Insane Asylum, Koko's duet with gruff-voiced producer/principal songwriter Willie Dixon, but many of the album's songs that we've left off this mix, Twenty-Nine Ways, I'm A Little Mixed Up, Don't Mess With The Messer, Yes It's Good For You, and the immortal Wang Dang Doodle, are every bit as impressive as what we've included. Featuring instrumental support from blues legend Buddy Guy and future Blues Brother Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Koko Taylor the album is a slice of 60s blues heaven and not to be missed.



The Rolling Stones: The Stones delivered one of their all-time greats, Let It Bleed (Highest Recommend) in 1969.  In fact, judged purely on the songwriting strength, it might be their best effort, but for me, the album's subpar production, with its muted, autumnal vibe, has always knocked the record a notch below the other members of big four (Beggar's Banquet, Sticky Fingers, and Exile On Main Street) in the same way the poorer production of Dylan's Blonde On Blonde knocks it a notch below Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing It All Back Home. That said, Let It Bleed still rates as McQ's second best album of 1969, and we're raiding it for three of its baddest, most blues-rocking-est deep cuts here - the Boston Strangler tribute Midnight Rambler, the so cool Live With Me, and the now forever-linked with a coked-out Ray Liotta jam Monkey Man

B. B. King: B.B.'s 1969 breakout Completely Well (Highest Recommend) is the album that made him an international superstar, and whatever the record may have lacked in terms of the grittier, tighter playing and deeper lyricism of his earlier works, it more than made up for in sheer jammy, rip-roaring catharsis. As album's title and B.B.'s smile and the beams of sunshine on the cover clearly imply, this is blues designed (even when The Thrill Is Gone) to make the listener feel "completely well." We're mining it heavily here, profiling its knock-out opener I'm So Excited, the almost as good You're Losing Me, and the epic "done-me-wrong" tandem  Cryin' Won't Help You Now / You're Mean


Fleetwood Mac: Yes, younger music fans, Fleetwood Mac was around in the 60s, but even though Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie (then Christine Perfect) were already part of the outfit back then, they were nothing like the platinum AM monsters they would morph into in the mid-seventies. In 1969, they were a straight-up, highly inventive, blues-rock juggernaut. And prolific as well. The band released two full-lengths stateside in 1969. The first, English Rose (Solid Recommend - pictured above) was basically a destructive repackaging of their 1968 UK Release Mr. Wonderful, which kept the best half of Wonderful's tracks - including Stop Messin' Round - and replaced the other half with five superior new numbers and their UK Hit single Black Magic Woman.


The band's second US release of 1969, Then Play On (Solid Recommend) was even wilder, an imperfect but adventurous exploration of near every nook and cranny in the blues rock spectrum. We're going with part 1 of Peter Green's hard-hitting Oh Well as Then Play On's representative cut here, but fans of 60s blues rock would be crazy not to check the album out in full if they haven't heard it before. 


The Allman Brothers Band: The Allman Brothers Band launched their career firing on all cylinders with their blistering, hard-charging first album, The Allman Brothers Band (Solid Recommend). Loaded with raging, no-nonsense blues-rockers that also incorporated significant touches of jazz, country and psychedelia, the record was a game changer that basically laid down the template for the Southern-Fried sound that would  dominant the American South's hard-rock scene from much of the 1970s. We're profiling two tracks here, the lively, take-no-prisoners Black Hearted Woman, and the original studio recording of what would become the band's definitive live track, Whipping Post

Boz Scaggs: We already touched on the crazy development story behind Boz Scagg's self-titled second release (Solid Recommend) in the write up for 1969 Vol 1 - Nancy's Favorites. Here, we focus on a two of Boz Scaggs the album's bluesiest jams, the laid-back, big-brass workout I'm Easy, and that simply off-the-charts collaboration with Duane Allman, Loan Me A Dime, one of the most epic sustained builds in all of blues-rock history. 

Janis Joplin: So we already touched upon Janis Joplin's impetus for making I've Got Dem 'Ol Kozmic Blues Again Mama (Solid Recommend) and it's searing track Try (Just A Little Bit Harder) on Nancy's Favorites.  Here, we dive a bit deeper into the album with, of all things, As Good As You've Been To This World, a Bee Gees cover - but one Janis has completely transmogrified in her own inimitable style. Love the minute and a half long instrumental introduction to this song.

Johnny Winter: Having landed the largest advance in recording industry history in 1968 after wowing the crowd (and record executives) in a guest cameo at a Mike Bloomfield concert, Johnny Winter roared into 1969 like a full-force Texas gale, making his presence felt with his first two studio releases, Johnny Winter (Solid Recommend) and the aptly titled Second Winter (Solid Recommend). Very much of a piece, both records featured tons of high energy covers, a few originals, ample support from brother Edgar, Johnny's extraordinary fretwork and his far less extraordinary singing. Johnny Winter pictured above was recorded with his original Progressive Blues Experiment Band, and featured future concert staples Good Morning Little School Girl and a standout version of B.B. King's Be Careful With A Full which represents the album on this mix here. 

Second Winter, recorded with Edgar and a new group of Nashville studio aces, has the odd distinction of being one of the few three-sided releases of the modern era. It was albino axeman's intent to cull his material down to a single record, but when push came to shove, he and Edgar couldn't part with anything they'd recorded, so the decision was made to group the covers on disk 1, and all the originals on disk 2's side three. We're including a song from each disk here,  Johnny's lively take on Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, and for my money, the best of his '69 originals from either album, Hustled Down In Texas.

Chicken Shack: A popular British blues act of the mid-late 60s that never really broke through in the states, their hit cover of Etta James I'd Rather Go Blind is most notable today as being one of the first US charting songs of lead vocalist Christine Perfect career. Perfect, who had been voted Melody Maker's best British vocalist for two years running, would, as we have already learned, leave Chicken Shack just months after this song took off to join new husband John McVie in Fleetwood Mac.

The Steve Miller Band: Following the departures of Boz Scaggs and Jim Peterman, Steve Miller strove to straddle the line on many of the day's popular genres with 1969's Brave New World (Solid Recommend) delivering a mix of songs near equal parts psychedelic-rock, blues-rock and country-rock. We're profiling one of those songs on our upcoming Psychedelic Fade mix, and two of Brave New World's bluesiest numbers here, including the backwood's flavored Got Love Cause You Need It, and the arrestingly unique Kow Kow Calqulator, one of my favorite deep cuts from any band in 1969.  And for those that want to dive even deeper, definitely check out album closer My Dark Hour, a loose jam Miller recorded with just Paul McCartney after McCartney had had a contract fight with his fellow Beatles in the same studio and needed to blow off steam. That jam would form the backbone of Miller's mega '76 hit Fly Like An Eagle

Ten Years After: Released right on the heels of the Alvin Lee-led outfit's fiery Woodstock performance, third full-length Ssssh was Ten Years After's first stateside smash and would launch a very successful half-decade for the psychedelic blues rockers.  As with most Ten Years After efforts, the lyrics on Ssssh are pedestrian at best, but the musicianship often wows, a dichotomy perfectly encapsulated in the album's hard-rocking bluesy closer I Woke Up This Morning included here. 

John Mayall: After losing yet another lead-guitar protege to another big-time act when Mick Taylor left to replace Brian Jones in the Rolling Stones, John Mayall decided to disband The Bluesbreaker, and pursue a quieter, more acoustic, less pyrotechnic (and lead-guitar heavy) direction.  The result, The Turning Point (Strong Recommend), recorded live in one night at the Fillmore East, was one a hell of a salvage job. Composed entirely of Mayall originals, The Turning Point is one of the best acoustic blues albums you will ever hear, highlighted by a pair of glorious tracks we're including here, the majestic So Hard To Share, and the "you know it even if you don't think you know it" classic Room To Move.


Jack Bruce: Tributed to one Cream's tailors, who had recently passed, Jack Bruce's 1969 solo debut Songs For A Tailor (Mild Recommend) was a much more varied beast than his efforts with Cream, exhibiting an appreciation for jazz, pop, and orchestral constructs that were just not part of the Cream lexicon.  But that doesn't mean the album was devoid of blues-rockers, far from it, and we're presenting my favorite bluesy number from the album, the hipster funk-fest The Ministry Of Bag, here.  



King Herbert & The Knights: Not much to say about Canadian R&B outfit King Herbert & The Knights. They had a minor hit with this super likable, superior cover of the Meter's Cissy Strut, then disappeared. But we thank them for this tasty little gem.

Procul Harum: Trapped amidst all the precise, gentle keys and harpsichords and twee literate orchestrated tales of old deck hands lost at sea was a future Hendrix-caliber axe-slinger just dying to get out, and for two-brief minutes smack dab in the middle of A Salty Dog(Strong Recommend), guitarist Robin Trower got his one chance to bust loose our one inclusion from the prog-classic here, the gloriously minimalistic Juicy John Pink.

Wilbert Harrison: Already deep into an R&B career that hadn't produced a hit since his #1 1959 cover of Kansas City, Wilbert Harrison dusted-off one of his most popular early 60s numbers, Let's Stick Together, cribbed a new set of slight altered lyrics, retitled the song Let's Work Together, and the most enduring song of his career (and one of my favorites on this mix) was born. The song would go on to be a hit for other artists as well, most notably Canned Heat and, reverting back to the Let's Stick Together version, Bryan Ferry.



Karen Dalton: After all the fireworks that have come prior, we close our Badass Bluesdown mix with the eccentric cool down track Little Bit Of Rain from the most unusual album represented here, Karen Dalton's mostly forgotten (except by Pitchfork, who recently ranked it as the 52nd best album of the 60s) blues-folk classic It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You The Best (Solid Recommend).  Driven by Dalton's highly idiosyncratic singing style, So Hard To Tell... is far from conventional listening, but a real grower and worth seeking out for fans of both the blues and 60s folk.