Musical Monday – Captain Beyond

Captain Beyond’s eponymous debut album featured a 3-D design

Captain Beyond has often been referred to as a supergroup because it’s members came from three great classic rock bands, Deep Purple (vocalist Rod Evans), Iron Butterfly (guitarist Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt, bassist Lee Dorman), and the Edgar Winter Group (drummer Bobby Caldwell, who later appeared on Rick Derringer’s All America Boy).

The thing is however, that Rhino never appeared in the “classic” Iron Butterfly lineup that came out with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (Dorman did) and Deep Purple fired Evans very early on (because guitarist Richie Blackmore was a dick).

These details don’t alter the fact that Captain Beyond was a very good, often overlooked, hard rock outfit. There are several reasons they didn’t achieve the same degree of success as many of their contemporaries, like the aforementioned Deep Purple, or Free, Hawkwind, Foghat, Thin Lizzy, Mountain, Judas Priest, et al.

One reason is they signed with the wrong record label. Rhino was good friends with Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers and upon Duane’s recommendation, Capricorn Records signed Captain Beyond.

It quickly became apparent that Capricorn, a southern rock record label, had no idea how to market Captain Beyond’s brand of space rock and ended up pretty much ignoring it.

Another issue was Captain Beyond’s eponymous debut album, released in 1972, was not radio friendly. The songs aren’t broken down into neat little 3 or 5-minute units. In fact, there is essentially only one real break and that’s to enable the vinyl record to be flipped. Otherwise, one song morphs into the next and melodies reprise, fade out, and return creating essentially one extended cohesive composition.

Without much radio play or a hit single, the band struggled to make a name for themselves.

Captain Beyond, their first album however, is still an excellent album, sounding as fresh today as it did back in 1972, with tightly written songs and great guitar riffs.

Rhino was one of rock’s true guitar wizards (he passed away on January 2, 2012 at the far too young age of 63). Rhino had a great tone and his solos were very precise. Depite his talent, his career was spent in relative obscurity.

Captain Beyond released their second album, Sufficiently Breathless, in 1973. Despite breaking this album up into more radio-friendly fare and getting some radio play, success still eluded them.

Bobby Caldwell had left the group to be replaced by Brian Glascock on drums and Guille Garcia on congas, timbales, and percussion. The producer didn’t like Glascock, and he was replaced by Marty Rodriguez on Garcia’s recommendation.

They also added a keyboardist, Reese Wynans, to the lineup that produced their second album (he quit after one show).

Despite the fact that Dorman, Rhino, and Evans wrote the material, the songs on Sufficiently Breathless are jazzier and smoother, having lost much of the hard edge that defined Captain Beyond’s sound.

This YouTube video contains both Captain Beyond’s first two albums:

The band broke up at the end of 1973, but reformed in 1976. Caldwell returned, but because they couldn’t contact Rod Evans (he had essentially retired), vocalist Jason Cahune took over, but was soon replaced by Willy Daffern.

It is said that among those to try out for the band was one Steve Perry, who went on to fame and fortune as Journey’s vocalist. One can’t help but wonder if the addition of Perry might have turned Captain Beyond’s fortunes around.

In 1977, Captain Beyond released their final album, Dawn Explosion on the Warner Brothers label. Unfortunately, the switch to Warner Brothers couldn’t save this lackluster effort, though it was still better than a lot of music that came out then.

The band broke up again. The band attempted to reunite in the late 1990s, putting out a four track EP, Night Train Coming, but the band broke up again in 2003.

In 1999, a tribute album to Captain Beyond called Thousand Days of Yesterdays was released on the Swedish label Record Haven.

In 2017, a compilation album of alternative recordings to previously released tracks and one never heard before song was put out titled, Lost & Found 1972-1973 by Purple Pyramid records.

Here is that previously unreleased track, “Uranus Expressway.”

It’s sad that a band with so much potential disappeared so quickly because of poor marketing, but at least we have their three studio albums, as well as some bootleg live albums, to listen to while we ponder what might have been.

Maybe Captain Beyond would have been remembered for songs such as, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” “Lights,” and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.”

Or not.

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Musical Monday: Farewell Nokie

Sad news. Nokie Edwards, the lead guitarist for The Ventures, passed away on March 12, 2018. He was 82.

He had a fluid picking style that defined the surf sound of the 1960s.

The Ventures first hit was “Walk, Don’t Run,” which charted in June of 1960, but Edwards played bass. Shortly after, The Ventures’ lead guitarist at the time, switched instruments with Edwards, acknowledging Edwards’ superior playing ability.

With Edwards leading them, The Ventures went on to dominate the surf scene with many of their brilliant guitar instrumentals.

They even went on to rerecord “Walk, Don’t Run” with Edwards on lead guitar and the song again charted.

Edwards was elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Here are several songs by The Ventures to enjoy as we say goodbye to one of the overlooked guitar greats.

Perfidia:

Wipe Out:

Apache:

Pipeline:

They were even successful remaking television themes, like Hawaii-5-O:

And Batman (I even owned the album pictured. Not sure what happened to it):

And I leave you with an hour of The Ventures 45th Anniversary. It starts of with Walk, Don’t Run. Enjoy.

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Trombone Tuesday

In last week’s Trombone Tuesday, I hinted that the trombone is the Rodney Dangerfield of musical instruments. It gets no respect.

But it should. From Trombone Technique by Denis Wick: “The trombone has been described as the only perfect wind instrument.” That “claim refers to its capacity for perfect intonation by means of the infinitely variable tube length of the slide.”

Today, I’d like to present a little history. Don’t worry. It won’t hurt and there won’t be a quiz.

Throughout the history of popular music, there have been gifted musicians who were able to elevate their instrument from simply sharing duties with their section in the band to bringing it front and center, thrilling audiences, and influencing generations of players to come.

The fiddle had Nero, for example, who didn’t merely bring the house down when he played, but all of Rome. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

The trumpet had Louis Armstrong, the saxaphone had Sydney Bechet, the guitar had Django Reinhardt, the piano had Franz Liszt (seriously, Lisztomania was a thing long before Beatlemania, replete with screaming women tearing at his clothes), and the trombone had Jack Teagarden.

Teagarden is called the Father of Jazz Trombone and is regarded as one of the most innovative jazz trombone stylists of the pre-bebop era.

Largely self-taught, he developed a widely imitated style that featured unconventional alternative positions and unusual special effects. He was also considered one of the best white male jazz singers of the era, with a singing style as improvisational as his trombone playing.

His career spanned the Swing era of the 1920s and the New York Jazz scene until shortly before his death in 1964.

His music might be much too old school to be appreciated today, but Swing was the music of the kids of that day; it was their rock & roll.

Here is a wonderful sample of his innovative style, a solo from the song, “Lover,” complete with transcription. See if you can follow along:

And here is a great example of what Swing was all about, a lively rhythm that gets the feets to tappin’ and the heads to noddin’.

Teagarden’s style had a huge influence on popularizing the trombone and raising it to lead status.

Without him, we probably wouldn’t have James Pankow (how’s that for a seque?).

Who? Someone asked.

James Pankow, one of the most enduring trombonists in rock music. He’s a founding, and long-tenured, member of Chicago and has played with such acts as Toto, Three Dog Night, Earth Wind and Fire, The Doobie Brothers, and Bee Gees.

He has composed most of the brass arrangements for Chicago and wrote many of their songs over the last 50+ years, including such hits as “Make Me Smile,” “Just You ‘n’ Me,” “Colour My World,” “Old Days,” “(I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long” and “Alive Again,” and he co-wrote (with Peter Cetera) the popular hit, “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day.”

Here’s a random sample of songs from Chicago.

Here is “Beginnings” that features a short solo by Pankow beginning around 4:15.

Here is “Wake Up Sunshine” live from someone’s cellphone. Pankow has a solo that begins around 1:39.

And lastly, “Liberation.”

Another brass rock band that also formed in 1967 was Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Dick Hallogan played trombone on their first album, but when lead singer and bandleader Al Kooper left, Haalogan abandoned the trombone and switched to keyboard and flute. No accounting for taste.

Here’s an example of their sound from that first album.

And here, just to throw an unrelated curve, is a clip from the Foo Fighters.

“Wait,” I hear someone say, “There are no trombones in the Foo Fighters.”

That you know of! Watch this!

If Dave Grohl thinks trombones are cool, who are we to argue?

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Musical Monday – 70s disco

Let’s talk disco.

Wait. Don’t run away. I know what you’re thinking. “Disco sucks.”

And I agree with you. Most of it did suck. But as someone who was dragged to a few discos in my time by friends who thought that was how you met women — destroying your hearing with loud, monotonous rhythms and messing up your equilibrium with bright, flashing lights — I’ve heard more than my share of horrible songs, but I’ve heard a few interesting ones, too.

And it’s those songs I’d like to share with you.

The first song is very short, especially compared to the extended epic lengths of most disco songs. It only runs about two and a half minutes.

It’s by Funkadelic, who were a funk act led by George Clinton (they started out as a simple backup band to his other band, Parliament). The song isn’t a typical disco song, but was played in clubs.

The outstanding feature of the song is the uncredited, yet fantastic, extended guitar solo. Even George Clinton didn’t know who the guitarist was, although a Paul Warren, who was a Detroit session musician, claims he played it.

The Spinners (aka Detroit Spinners or Motown Sponners) are an R&B vocal group that formed in 1954. This song spent three weeks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

“The Rubberband Man” may at first blush just seem like any other disco song, but what separates it from usual dredge is The Spinners are just having fun. It’s a silly, upbeat song and they aren’t taking themselves too seriously. Instead of disco, I’d put this song in the novelty category with songs like “Happy ” and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Santa Esmeralda was a French disco group that had it’s best success with Leroy Gómez, an American singer. Their first album, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” is the only disco album I’ve ever owned.

Their remake of, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” originally done by Nina Simone, has a lively Latin, flemenco and salsa arrangement to it that I enjoy, bit it’s the Spanish guitar that really made me enjoy this song.

As you probably know, disco spread like a disease, infecting even some of the staunchest rock acts, from David Bowie, to Rod Stewart, to the Rolling Stones.

It’s probably no surprise that KISS did a disco song, they were mostly about making money, after all.

Here is the extended version of “I Was Made for Loving You.” Feel free to skip it. I’m only including it to show disco’s influence. It is not a song I particularly like and honestly, I had outgrown KISS long before this came out.

On the other hand, I’ve read that this next song, by a band you’d never think of wither disco or dance, was considered a disco song. At least the single version, if not the album version. Their producer, Bob Ezrin, wanted a single, but Pink Floyd wasn’t a singles band, or a dance band. They played rock for sitting and listening to.

They envisioned this next song as a simple seque into the song that followed at only about 1:14 in length. Bob Ezrin talked them into the disco beat, then duplicated the track to lengthen it, added a children’s chorus, and released it as a single. It became Pink Floyd’s only number one single.

If you made it this far, thanks for listening. Aren’t you glad I didn’t include “Disco Duck?”

But here’s Ernie singing, “Rubber Ducky,” just because.

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There was a time

There was a time when television united us. It was a communal experience. Before that, it was radio.

It was said that back during the peak of radio, on a warm summer evening, a person could walk down the street of any community in America and listen to an entire, uninterrupted episode of “Amos ‘n’ Andy” as it wafted out of the open windows of all the homes.

That’s what I mean by a communal experience. The next day, you could stop anyone on the street and ask, “Did you hear last night’s show?” and strike up a conversation about it.

The same could be said for movies, to a lesser degree. It was a shared experience.

When television took over, it became the dominant form of entertainment and everyone watched Uncle Miltie on “Texaco Star Theater.” They watched “Gunsmoke.” They talked about the Ponderosa and the Cartwright family on “Bonanza.”

All the kids at school talked about “Howdy Doody,” “Captain Kangaroo,” “the Mickey Mouse Club.” Family entertainment included “The Wonderful World of Disney” and “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” hosted by Marlin Perkins.

As a child of the 1960s, if I were to run into someone else who also grew up then, no matter what part of America they grew up in, we have television to unite us. Shared communal memories of “Lost in Space,” “Leave it to Beaver,” “My Three Sons,” “Rawhide,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Combat!” “The Addam’s Family,” “The Munsters,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and possibly even shows from the 1970s, like “Mary Tyler Moore,” “Carol Burnette,” “Dean Martin,” “All in the Family,” to name a few.

(As a sidebar, the same thing could be applied to music. In the 1960s — and before — music was fairly unified. Pop music was nearly universal. The radio played rock ‘n’ roll and British Invasion right along side Motown and country. In the space of an hour a person could hear the Beatles, Stones, Troggs, Elvis, Fifth Dimension, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, the Supremes, Kenny Rodgers, and Johnny Cash. Music was communal until they opened up the FM band, allowing more stations and more splintering of tastes.)

But in the 1970s television began to see a splintering of viewer-ship. Instead of just three major networks on VHF, more independent stations appeared on UHF. HBO started up, beaming into homes via these ugly metal antenna on a few homes. Then, cable started becoming wired into neighborhoods. More channels meant less communal viewing, a splintering of the audience.

Sometimes a show came along that encouraged communal viewing, like “Cheers.” But those were becoming fewer and fewer.

Today there are very few communal shows. Not everyone gets HBO or ShowTime, so although shows like “Game of Thrones” are popular, only a few really see them. Similarly, shows like AMC’s “Mad Men” or the BBC’s “Doctor Who” seems wildly popular, but really only cater to a specialized audience and are hardly universal.

And this situation will only grow more fragmented because today’s younger generation are abandoning cable for web-based services like Netflix and Hulu that cater to their desire to see the shows they want when they want for a lot less than cable charges.

Some will argue choice is a good thing, that we’re not a homogeneous peoples, but a collection of free-thinking individuals able to seek out their own form of entertainment instead of marching lockstep, following the herd.

Which is true. We are all individuals, but we’re also social animals who often seek commonality in order to understand, communicate, and associate. We need to relate to each other and without having a shared communal experience how can we possibly ever understand each other? Television once gave us those shared memories, but those have faded over the last few decades.

When the Internet and the world wide web burst upon the scene, many saw it as a great way to universally connect with people all over the world. It has, but unfortunately, it has also become a catalyst in increasing our distance from each other as more and more sites dedicated to each and every taste imaginable, good or bad, has sprung up. Instead of sharing our lives, we’re becoming more isolated.

The closest we come today to any shared communal thoughts are within politics where people identify themselves as either liberals or conservatives (or independents). And although the people within those groups do share common beliefs, the real problem is the bitter divide between one group and another.

Many people used to see television as a negative influence upon society, but now it appears it was what unified us, brought us together. Without its communal influence, we’ve seen a rise in anger, bitter animosity, and violence. There is a demonization going on and we’ve stopped seeing each other as fellow humans. Instead we’ve reduced each other to a faceless, derogatory name: neocon, libtard, teabagger. We’ve lost the capability to empathize, to care, to share experiences, and without this capacity to see our similarities that television brought to us, the senseless violence of today will only grow worse.

For those of us who grew up on Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek” and his futuristic vision of a unified Federation of Planets where all mankind (and most alienkind) lived together in peace and harmony, then the Present, with all its splintered hatred and fragmented ugliness, sucks.

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Musical Monday – Bands you never heard of: Dust

In the early 1970s, the hard rock scene was dominated by British bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, and Uriah Heep. But America wasn’t devoid of it’s entries. One such American hard rock band was Dust.

The band consisted of bassist Kenny Aaronson, drummer Marc Bell, and guitarist Richie Wise. The producers were Kenny Kerner, who also wrote the lyrics, and Richie Wise.

Honestly, they only put out two albums before moving on to other projects. Aaronson went to play in the band Stories. He also toured with Edgar Winter, Joan Jett, and Billy Idol. Bell went on to join Richard Hell and the Voidoids before becoming Marky Romone. Kerner and Wise went onto produce the first two albums for Kiss. Obviously, lessons learned with Dust helped them launch Kiss to stardom.

Dust Hard Attack

Dust’s main claim to fame had little to do with their music, but the fact that their second album, Hard Attack, sported a cover done by the great fantasy artist Frank Frazetta, making it somewhat of a collector’s item for Frazetta geeks. In fact, to tell the truth about it, I snatched the album up solely based on that cover when I saw it on the rack back in 1972.

That isn’t to say the music was bad. Give a listen to a few songs from their second album.

Pull Away/So Many Times

Walk in the Soft Rain

Suicide

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short sampling of a band that, although unknown, influenced such diverse bands as Kiss and The Ramones.

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Musical Monday: The Lighter Side of Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath formed in the 1960s, in 1969 to be precise, the same year Woodstock was celebrating peace, love, and all the other hippy, Age of Aquarius values. Whereas other bands of the day were making upbeat, optimistic music, Black Sabbath hit the scene like a ton of bricks with their dirge-like metalized blues containing lyrics about death, doom, and pessimism. In 1970, Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut album was a shock to the system. They were the godfathers of heavy metal, both traditional and doom metal, and probably influenced everyone who ever detuned their guitar several steps.

But there is also a lighter side to Black Sabbath. It began with their second album, Paranoid, which was released a mere seven months after their debut album. Amidst all the heavy riffs, growling bass, and pounding drum beats, there was one song that stood out because of it’s total lack of those qualities.

“Planet Caravan” was a strange tune with soft bongos, Ozzy’s vocals distorted with some odd effect, and Tony Iommi playing a very haunting melody on acoustic guitar. The song is rather spooky and unlike anything else Black Sabbath did.

Their next album, released 10 months later, was Master of Reality and it followed Paranoid with a similar sound and songs that might have been written in the same session. This time out, there were two short instrumentals, “Embryo,” a 28 second interlude to “Children of the Grave,” and “Orchid,” presented here, was another instrumental, that is a short, but beautiful guitar piece, which was an interlude to “Lord of This World.”

Also on Master of Reality was “Solitude,” another piece reminiscent of “Planet Caravan” if only because it was so much softer than the rest of their repertoire. Again, Ozzy’s standard scratchy screech has been softened to almost a soft croon. It was rumored that Bill Ward, the drummer did the singing for this song, but that belief is unfounded. This song too has an eerie sound unlike their normal fare.

Fourteen months later, Black Sabbath was hitting their heavy metal stride with Vol. 4 and it too has some slow pieces. In fact, one song, “Changes,” was a complete departure for even Black Sabbath’s soft side. There were no guitars, no drums, instead, the song featured Ozzy on vocals and Iommi on piano and melotron.

Also on Vol. 4 Tony provided us with more acoustic guitar magic. This is “Laguna Sunrise,” a hypnotic multi-tracked melody.

Released in 1973 (the band had put out 5 incredible albums in 3 years) Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath rounds out what many consider the essential Black Sabbath catalog. This one had a different sound from their previous efforts with some fuzz effects on the guitars and an increased use of synthesizers (Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman even lent a hand because they were recording in the next studio). Their soft side is again show in an acoustic piece, “Fluff,” which has a Bach-like feel to it. Maybe the melody is borrowed, but Tony puts his own stamp on it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the softer side of Black Sabbath. Next time someone turns up their nose at the name Black Sabbath because it’s too heavy for them, turn them on to a few of these.

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