Friday, July 24, 2020

McQ's Best Of 1969 Vol 6 - Psychedelic Fade

By 1969, the music world's infatuation with the psychedelic soundscape that had emerged just three years earlier was quickly fading in mainstream prominence, abandoned/reshaped as artists moved on to the newer, more enticing musical pastures of country rock, progressive rock, big brass soul raves, and heavy metal.

But some first wave artists, most notably The Jefferson Airplane, cult favorite LA regional act Love, and the Beatles (when their eclectic mood struck them) stuck to their guns, and were joined by a cadre of late-to-the-party second wavers, most not at the level of the genre's first wave, but some - especially Santana, the Peter Frampton-fronted Humble Pie, and the instrumentally exciting if lyrically silly Spirit - still delivering first rate takes on genre in their own right. 

All of them and many more are collect here in our look back at some of the best from 1969's psychedelic hanger-ons. 

Here's the Spotify link. Enjoy!

Set 1 (Righteous Reefer Warriors)

1. Desperation - Humble Pie (6:28)
2. Come Together - The Beatles (4:20)
3. We Can Be Together - Jefferson Airplane (5:48)
4. Hair - The Cowsills (3:30)
5. I'm With You - Love (2:46)
6. Badge - Cream (2:45)
7. Dark Eyed Woman - Spirit (3:07)
8. Barabajagal - Donovan w/ The Jeff Beck Group (3:20)
9. China Cat Sunflower - Grateful Dead (3:42)
10. Cold Turkey - John Lennon (5:03)
11. Belda-Beast - Iron Butterfly (5:47)
12. The Devil Came From Kansas - Procul Harum (4:35)
13. Jingo - Santana (4:21)
14. White Bird - It's A Beautiful Day (8:20)
15. Stand Out - Love (3:01)
16. Hey Frederick - Jefferson Airplane (8:33)
17. Theme From An Imaginary Western - Jack Bruce (3:28)

Set 2 (Twilight Flashbacks)

18. I Don't Know That You Don't Know My Name - Ten Years After (2:06)
19. Get Back - The Beatles (3:12)
20. Children Of The Sun - The Misunderstood (2:40)
21. Singing Cowboy - Love (4:42)
22. Turn My Life Down - Jefferson Airplane (2:58)
23. Gypsy Women - Tim Buckley (12:19)
24. Living - Alice Cooper (3:12)
25. Book Of Moses - Alexander 'Skip' Spence (2:42)
26. Space Cowboy - Steve Miller Band (4:56)
27. Nothing - Love (4:49)
28. 1984 - Spirt (3:37)
29. Bang! - Humble Pie (3:24)
30. Hangman Hang My Shell On A Tree - Spooky Tooth (5:50)
31. The Star Spangled Banner (Woodstock Performance) - Jimi Hendrix (3:47)


32. I Want You (She's So Heavy) - The Beatles (7:47)
33. Wooden Ships - Crosby, Stills & Nash (5:26)
34. Spirit In The Sky - Norman Greenbaum (4:00)
35. Give Peace A Chance - The Plastic Ono Band (4:50)

Meet the Brothers and Sisters of the Psychedelic Fade Family:

Humble Pie: Humble Pie, one of the many supergroups to form late in the decade that would go on to have considerable success in the early 70s, broke out in 1969 with the release of their debut album As Safe As Yesterday Is (Mild Recommend) and their separately released hit single Natural Born Bugie. Centered around the singing/songwriting talents of The Small Faces' Steve Marriott, but also featuring Herd's Peter Frampton and Spooky Tooth bassist Greg Ridley, the band initially strove to hit a somewhat heavier take on the loose, eclectic feel of Traffic's fantastic self-titled '68 release, and for the most part they succeed, though not to the memorable level of that Traffic classic. Still, it's a likable album throughout. Highlights include Stick Shift, Buttermilk Boy, the races Bang? and a killer cover of Steppenwolf's Desperation with which we open this mix here. 

The Beatles: We're tapping three of The Beatles many amazing 1969 tunes for this psych-leaning mix.  The first two are the obvious psychedelic no brainers from Abbey Road (Highest Recommend, McQ's #5 album in 1969), Come Together, one of the edgiest hits of the band's career, and the so heavy I Want You (She's So Heavy), a song so heavy they had to put "so heavy" in the title. 

Then, closing out our Beatles selections is the premier A-side to one of the Beatles' greatest (but not the greatest) double A-sided singles, Paul McCartney's smooth-rolling Get Back

Jefferson Airplane: Having already profiled the hit title track from the Jefferson Airplane's best album, Volunteers, on Vol 2 - Best Of The Best, here we try to present the album's broad eclecticism with three strikingly different numbers, proggy album opener We Can Be Together, the Grace Slick written trippy jam Hey Frederick, and Marty Balin's indelible folk-rock gem Turn My Life Down

The Cowsills: A popular, Rhode Island-based, all-sibling vocal act of the time, the Cowsills came upon Hair via Rob Reiner, who fed-exed them a copy of the musical's soundtrack, thinking it would be funny for the squeaky clean bubblegum act to do a hippied-out performance of the song for a television show he was producing on counter-culture style The Wonderful World Of Pizzazz. The group obliged to an extent, replacing all biblical references from the song, but their cover would go on to become a huge hit, peaking at number two in the charts, ironically blocked from the top spot by another cover from the musical, The Fifth Dimension's Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In which opens our Vol 8 - Grade A Schmaltz mix. 

Love: Following the release of Love's '67 psych pop masterpiece, Forever Changes, the original incarnation of the band fell apart.  Secondary songwriter/ Alone Again Or penner Bryan McLean departed on his own accord, most likely to pursue his pending solo deal, and Lee then summarily fired the rest of the band, who all subsequently quit the biz and/or fell on very hard times. In their stead Lee brought in a new trio of more blues-rock oriented musicians, and Love's harder-rocking and less-appealing second phase was born.  The new lineup released two album's in 1969, neither holistically successful but both peppered with impressive highlights. First out of the gate was Four Sail (Mild Recommend), which finds Lee straddling the old and new directions of the band, with every harder charging, jammier effort like August or Singing Cowboy balanced out by a near equal number of breezier tracks in the original lineup vein like the marvelous I'm With You and almost as good Nothing.

Second '69 outing Out There (Mild Recommend) veers more completely to the band's new-found jammier stance, and is highlighted by the tight single Stand Out and the 11 minute psych freak-out Love Is More Than Words Or Better Late Than Never

Cream: Deciding to call it quits 1969 after just three years, Cream decided to go out with a proper farewell for their fans, committing to one last tour, and releasing on last, very slender album Goodbye (Mild Recommend). As with their previous, much larger release Wheels Of Fire, Goodbye's material was split between live performances on Side 1, and three originals, one by each band member, on Side 2. And while there are no live cuts nearly as impressive as Wheels' Crossroads, the originals are all quite strong, especially the fantastic Clapton/George Harrison collaboration Badge included here. 

Spirit: Adventurous California psych-rockers Spirit's1969 full-length release Clear (Mild Recommend), a rush job assembled between tour stops, isn't as good as the band's two 1968 albums that preceded it, and not even on the same-planet as the amazing, eternally underrated, Radiohead-anticipating 12 Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus that followed in 1970, but it does contain a few marvelous moments, including end-of-the-year prog-fest single 1984 that's been included with each repackaging of the album, and the fantastic Santana-ish opener Dark-Eyed Woman, proud possessor of one of the better guitar solos of the entire decade.

Donovan: Equal parts folk album and psychedelic pop gem, we're splitting our look at Donovan's breezily enjoyable 1969 release Barabajagal (Solid Recommend) between this mix and Vo1 12 - Conventioneers, and boy, do we have a great forgotten-little-number for you to take in here, with the album's irresistible title track, where Donovan is ably and funkily backed by The Jeff Beck Group, one of multiple collaborations between the artists on this record.

Grateful Dead: While the 60's encapsulating Live/Dead (Strong Recommend) was the far more significant Grateful Dead release of 1969, the band also produced a notable studio effort in Aoxomoxoa (Mild Recommend), which we are profiling with fan favorite China Cat Sunflower (in part because we're using the live rendition of Aomomoxoa's even bigger fan favorite, St. Stephen, on our Vol 9 - Jam On... And On... And On... And On).

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band: We're featuring the two biggest '69 singles from John Lennon/Yoko Ono's nascent side-project The Plastic Ono Band. First up is the later release, Cold TurkeyRecorded just days after Lennon had privately informed his fellow Beatles he was leaving the band, and featuring Plastic Ono Bandmate of the moment Eric Clapton on guitar, Cold Turkey feels even more ominous today in its historical Beatles context than it does in its highly agitated sound. 

But prior to that end-of-an-era harbinger, Lennon and Ono's main focus was on using their collective to champion the ongoing anti-Vietnam war effort, codified in their "to-endure-in-documentaries-forever" peacenik anthem Give Peace A Change, recorded live at their second staged bed-in in May of 1969. 

Iron Butterfly: While far from a standout release of 1969, I couldn't fathom doing a '69 psychedelic mix without including at least one Iron Butterfly song from their more commercially successful follow-up to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Ball (mild recommend). The album, which charted a more melodic approach than its predeccessors, peaked at #3 on the album charts, and also sported two top 100 singles, Soul Experience and In The Time Of Our Lives, but for this mix, I opted for personal fav from the record, Belda-Beast.

Procul Harum: As said already in our write ups for three earlier mixes, Procul Harum's underrated classic A Salty Dog (Highest Recommend)was possibly, along with Abbey Road, 1969's most eclectic release.  Here we profile one of the album's most psychedelic numbers, The Devil Came From Kansas.

Santana: We'll be profiling Santana's magnificent debut to a greater degree on Vol 9 - Jam On... And On... And On... And On, but we did want to throw a bone to their roots in the San Francisco psychedelic scene with the debut's (surprisingly failed) lead single Jingo.

It's A Beautiful Day: One of the most talented San Francisco psychedelic acts to not make it big, It's A Beautiful Day were on occasion the victims of brutal pure chance, as when, having just released their self-titled debut album and seeing chart success with their lead single White Bird (featured here), promoter Bill Graham convinced Woodstock organizer Michael Lang to add another San Fran up-and-coming act along with the Grateful Dead for the festival lineup.  Graham played selects from two acts for Lang, Lang loved both and couldn't bring himself to decide, so they flipped a coin. The loser; It's A Beautiful Day. The winner, Santana, whose electrifying Woodstock performance catapulted them onto the national scene.

Jack Bruce: Having already explored the bluesier side of Cream bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce's solo debut Songs For A Tailor (Solid Recommend) on Vol 3 - B. B.'s Badass Bluesdown, here we check out the album's more psychedelic side, with the original version of Bruce's very Procol Harum-ish ballad Theme For An Imaginary Western, which we be covered time and again in the ensuing years, most notably by the band Mountain, who would perform their version to ecstatic cheers later in the year at the Woodstock.

Ten Years After: While most of Ten Years After's 1969 release Ssssh (Mild Recommend) is loaded with incendiary blues covers and warped acid-rockers, one of it's finest moments is the light as a feather sitar-accented psychedelic folk gem we're featuring here, I Don't Know That You Don't Know My Name.

The Misunderstood: Here we pay homage to one of the more star-crossed bands of the sixties, the Irvine, California-born, London-based early psych-rock pioneers The Misunderstood, whom by 1969 existed in name only, having been torn about by the US draft among other things, but whom still had a few unreleased recordings from some 1966 recording sessions that finally saw the light of day in 1969, most notably Children Of The Sun featured here, which was their intended follow-up to their 1966 single I Can Take You To The Sun

Tim Buckley: Tim Buckley released two albums in 1969, and while I feel the singer-songwriter's mellower other release, Blue Afternoon stands as the better overall listen from today's perspective, Happy Sad (Mild Recommend) is without question the more varied, expansive, weirder and more adventurous of the two, featuring the epic narrative Love From Room 109 At The Islander (On Pacific Coast Highway), and my personal favorite, the twelve minute hippy jam Gypsy Woman included on this mix here, probably the best harbinger in Buckley's early career of the mind-blowing descent into madness that would be 1970's drugged-out masterpiece Starsailor. 

Alice Cooper: As with the 1969 debuts of David Bowie and Elton John, Alice Cooper's Pretties For You (Mild Recommend) is the work of a soon to be fantastic band that hasn't yet found their niche between proto-metal, psych-pop, and glam. Most of the album is fairly forgettable, if energetic, but a few songs, especially The Beatlesque Living include here and the rocker Reflected, rise above the chaff.

Alexander 'Skip' Spence: One of the weirdest albums of the 1960's, ex-Jefferson Airplane drummer and Moby Grape singer/guitarist Spence recorded his only solo effort Oar (Strong Recommend) just months after having spent six-months in Bellevue psychiatric hospital recovering from a delusional period that culminated in him trying to kill Moby Grape bandmates Don Stevenson and Jerry Miller with a hotel hallway fire axe. Not surprisingly, the album has developed a cult-reputation (similar to Big Star's Third and Wilco's A Ghost Is Born) as one of the great shattered-psyche recordings, but despite it's slow, baritone rhythms, unusual dial-tweaking mix aesthetic, and scattered lyricism, Oar has undeniable eureka-type power, growing more compelling with each subsequent listen.  We'll be featuring two tracks from the album in this collection, one on our upcoming country-rock manifesto Vol 13 - Creedence and Friends, and the more apocalyptic Book Of Moses here. 

The Steve Miller Band: We already touched on The Steve Miller Band's third release Brave New World in our Vol 3 - B.B.'s Badass Bluesdown, but since the album is a nifty straddle of the psychedelic, blues and emerging country-rock aesthetics of the era, we thought it would be good to represent TSMB's more psych-oriented numbers on this mix as well with one of their all-time most popular songs - Space Cowboy!

Spooky Tooth: Another very talented but now sadly little remembered late 60s/early 70s bands to emerge as the psychedelic movement was morphing into progressive rock and metal, Carlisle England's Spooky Tooth successful delivered in all three genres, but with an emphasis on heaviness at all times. We'll get to that maximal heavy factor on their second and best album, 1969's Spooky Two, on our upcoming proto-punk/proto-metal mix Vol 14 - Hindenburgs Rising, but for this mix here, wanted to give the band's folksier, more psychedelic side its due with the fine Hangman, Hang My Shell On A Tree.

Jimi Hendrix: A cheat.  The Woodstock Movie Soundtrack wasn't actually released until 1970. But Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner performance, one of the most iconic moment's in rock history, was such a landmark, I had to included it here to draw attention to the 1969 festival.

Crosby, Stills & Nash: We'll spend a lot more time checking out tracks from Crosby, Stills & Nash's magnificent self-titled debut (Highest Recommend) on our upcoming country-rock collection Vol 13 - Creedence & Friends and pop exploration Vol 10 - Poptimists And Operatics, but here wanted to bend an ear towards CS&N the album's psychedelic side with the band's version of Crosby and Still's writing collaboration with Jefferson Airplane rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner Wooden Ships, a heady, abandoning-a-dying-earth science-fiction epic of which a separate, Grace Slick-led version was also included on Volunteers the same year.

Norman Greenbaum: Though he's viewed by most as a one-hit wonder today, Massachusetts' Norman Greenbaum actually landed several albums on the Billboard charts in the early 70s, but there's no denying that the awesome, generically spiritual psych-rocker Spirit In The Sky, which sits in the penultimate position on this mix, is the song for which he will always be remembered. 

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