Song of the Week – Black and White, Flash

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

At the height of the prog rock era in the early ‘70s was a British group called Flash that was a poor man’s Yes. Not only did Flash imitate Yes style arrangements and Jon Anderson’s high register vocals, but they also featured former Yes musicians Tony Kaye (keyboards) and Peter Banks (guitar).

Flash released three albums in 1972-73, but bad vibes between Banks and the rest of the band led to a break up by the end of ’73.

Today’s SotW is “Black and White” from their middle album – In the Can.

“Black and White” is a showcase for Banks’ stellar guitar work. At 12 minutes, the cut risks becoming boring – but that never happens. The playing, singing and thematic changes keep it interesting throughout.

Keith Gordon posted this description of the song on his blog — That Devil Music: classic rock & blues remembered… – in 2013:

A wildcat reading of “Black And White,” from Flash’s sophomore effort In The Can, opens with Hough’s spry drumbeats atop which Banks layers on swirling, prog-psych guitar textures. A twelve-minute opus, the song is the perfect showcase for both the band’s individual talents and immense chemistry. The odd man out may be vocalist Colin Carter, who is too frequently (and unfairly) compared to Jon Anderson of Yes when, in fact, he has his own distinctive style. “Black And White” is as much a display of Carter’s impressive vocal gymnastics as it is for the guitar or percussion and, at nearly a quarter-hour of playing time, there’s a lot of virtuoso sounds emanating from the grooves.

Flash also produced a couple of noteworthy LP covers that would not fly today given the current sensitivity to the #MeToo movement. One showed a woman’s panties and another displayed hair falling over a shoulder, barely concealing a naked breast. (Both were far more provocative when the gatefold was opened!)

Enjoy… until next week.

LINK: Scottish Pop at the National Museum

There’s a show about Scottish pop music showing up at National Museum of Scotland. If you were there, why wouldn’t you see it?

And if you’re not there, why wouldn’t you listen to the music? Which has always been really good.

So, go the museum. You certainly should. Or enjoy this:

 

Or this:

The Guardian is on it. Read this. 

What I’ve Been Listening To Lately: Between The Buttons

In 1967 I turned 11, and my aunt Dottie’s present was a copy of The Rolling Stones Between the Buttons.

It may be my greatest present ever, though I’m sure that’s a reckless statement. I’ve been gifted a lot, thank you totally.

The thing about Between the Buttons is it is not a Rolling Stones blues record. Though the blues are played, for sure. I’m terrible at these historical things, but the record seems to represent the apotheosis of Brian Jones. His influence is everywhere, and the music benefits from odd instrumentation and challenging harmonies.

It’s not like the 12×5 Stones were underachievers, but in many ways the Between the Buttons cuts are wilder and more creative than the more extravagant Beatles experiments at the same time. The Stones didn’t ever, I think, get totally absurd in their posture (even considering Gomper), while the Beatles got pretty mental in their days. In any case, Between the Buttons is an album of pop songs, some influenced by psychedelic experiences and styles of the time.

When I decided to write about this I had an “neglected elpee” angle, but everybody gives it five stars. Everyone considers Between the Button a masterpiece. So what I have to share are some clips, in case you didn’t know about masterpiece it is (it wasn’t really conceived as an album).

 

My two cents. These Stones are Brian Jones Stones. This is incredible music, orchestration, songs. The Stones went from great bluesimitators to pop meisters like the Beatles and the Kinks. Brian Jones was in charge of that.

We always think of Jagger and Richard, but this was a band that was led by Brian Jones, in the first part, and Mick Taylor in the classic part. And when Ron Wood came in the live magic didn’t end, but the songwriting and arrangements did.

Between the Buttons may be the high mark of the Brian Jones era. It’s a high mark indeed.

 

 

 

 

Song of the Week – Somebody Help Me, Jackie Edwards, Spencer Davis Group, Everly Brothers

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

Today’s SotW is another installment of the “Evolution Series.” The subject song is “Somebody Help Me.” It was written by Jackie Edwards, a Jamaican ska artist that was popular in the early ‘60s. He was an early “discovery” of Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records.

Edwards’ release of “Somebody Help Me” was on a 1966, UK album called By Demand. It has a big band sound, complete with a strong horn arrangement.

Blackwell signed The Spencer Davis Group to Island in 1964 and introduced them to Edwards’ songs. They released “Keep On Running” and “Somebody Help Me,” both #1 hits in the UK. In the US, “Somebody Help Me” only reached #47 in mid ‘67. But it shoulda been a bigger hit here too!

This take is more rock oriented and features guitar, organ, and percussion to emphasize the rhythm.

The Everly Brothers picked up on the cut and released their own take on their album Two Yanks in England (1966). This one also relies on power chords from the guitars but also highlights the Brothers trademark close harmony.

All three versions maintain the spirit of the song, yet each also highlights the unique personality of its recording artists.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Pale Blue Eyes, Velvet Underground

IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED

It’s coming up on 5 years since Lou Reed passed away. When he died, many of my readers were asking me to pay him a tribute with a SotW selection. At the time, Reed received so much press that I didn’t feel like I had anything new or worthwhile to add to the coverage.

With the distance of time, I’m ready to weigh in by sharing my passion for a beautiful song that Reed wrote for the Velvet Underground’s third, self-titled album (1969) – “Pale Blue Eyes.”

The song has a very sparse arrangement – an organ lingers on long notes, simple bass figures, an electric guitar strums simple chords (and bends a few strings) and a tambourine keeps time with single shakes on the 2 and 4.

The delicate music is a perfect complement to the lyric about a passionate relationship that sounds like it’s ending. But the kicker comes in the last verse where Reed reveals the person he loves and wants to keep so badly is married.

It was good what we did yesterday
And I’d do it once again
The fact that you are married
Only proves you’re my best friend
But it’s truly, truly a sin

The influence of “Pale Blue Eyes” is justified through many great bands that have covered it. R.E.M. gave us a version on their 1987 rarities album, Dead Letter Office. (DLO also had 2 other VU songs on it – “There She Goes Again” and “Femme Fatale.”) A diverse group of other artists has performed the song live, including Patti Smith, Hole, Alejandro Escovedo, The Killers, and Crowded House(!).

“Linger on…”

Enjoy… until next week.