Song 28, Tuesday, 7/23/2013 -- Fresh Garbage by Spirit, written by Jay Ferguson. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video is just a still of the front cover of the first Spirit album, simply called Spirit, but it's an interesting montage of the faces of the band, so it's something intriguing to look at while you listen to a very good song. At the beginning of the 1970s there were a few really good radio stations in the Chicago area, although things degenerated pretty quickly, but for a couple of years you could hear all kinds of great stuff on the airwaves, and that included a few Spirit tracks. I knew of the band in a kind of distant way, and knew a couple of their songs, but then in mid-'74 one of my friends made a point to introduce me to the Dr. Sardonicus LP, and after that I had to not only acquire that record, but their earlier ones as well. This is the opening track on their first album, and what a fine beginning it was! I caught up to it 6 years after its release, but it became an instant favorite, and since then I've more than made up for lost time in listening to this song. In fact, I will admit that Jay Ferguson's line "The world's a can for your fresh garbage" might have had something to do with the line "For all the world is his garbage can" in my song Mark on the Land.
Song 27, Monday, 7/22/2013 -- Rock 'n' Roll Stew by Traffic, written by Ric Grech and Jim Gordon. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is just a still of The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys cover, but if you play the video, you will at least hear a really good song. This tune was all over the radio in the fall of 1971, along with a couple of other tracks from the album, and justifiably so. 4 decades later, and hundreds if not thousands of listens later, it sounds just as good as it did the first time. Lots of musicians have written songs about being on the road with a rock band, some of them pretty good and some not, but this might be the best one of the bunch, and it makes sense for a band that called itself Traffic to have a hit song about the road.
Song 26, Sunday, 7/21/2013 -- High Flyin' Bird by Richie Havens, written by Billy Edd Wheeler. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video is from a BBC TV appearance in 1969, and I'll admit that I can't tell if he's actually performing or lip-syncing, which performers often did (and still do) on TV broadcasts, but if this isn't live (and I usually can tell when it is and it isn't), then it's a bit of a different mix from the Mixed Bag track I have on my cassette. Either way, it really doesn't matter, because Richie Havens sounded pretty much the same live as on record. Before Woodstock, I hadn't heard of him, but in the fall of 1969 the entire Woodstock album was all over the radio in the Chicago area, and so I got to know that 2-record set very well, even though I didn't own it. Everybody came to know Richie Havens as the guy who opened the Woodstock concert with that signature strum style, and he applies that technique to this tune as well, to very inspired effect. Sadly, Richie died in April of this year, but he left behind a collection of truly memorable recordings. People who pay attention to folk songwriters from the era of Mixed Bag (1967) will probably recognize the name Billy Edd Wheeler, and may very well have seen it attached to other top quality songs of that period. There's a distinct possibility that another one of his tunes will show up on this list sooner or later.
Song 25, Saturday, 7/20/2013 -- Wasn't Born to Follow by The Byrds, written by Gerry Goffin and Carol King. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. Back to the LSESF 2 tape, after the usual Friday Friends Day break... The YT video visual is just a still graphic that includes the album cover for The Notorious Byrd Brothers, which contains the song, but if you play the video, you will at least hear a really good song. For a few years all I knew about The Byrds was the singles, most of which I really liked, but some time during the winter or early spring of 1970 I saw the film Easy Rider, which had this song as part of the soundtrack, and I really liked this one the first time I heard it. It took me a while to get the album, but it didn't matter much, because it seemed like everybody I knew had the Easy Rider album, so I got to hear this song a lot at the time anyway, and I enjoyed it every time I did. To this day, I often think of the Easy Rider scene that this song accompanies, and the appealing sort of back-to-the-land fantasy that it portrayed. It took me some time to figure out all the lines on this one, but they're really inspired and poetic, so the time spent listening and figuring them out was time well spent.
Song 24, Friday, 7/19/2013 -- Coal in the Riverboat by Bob Nichols, who also wrote the song. There is no YouTube video of the song, but you can hear it here. My old Berkeley housemate from the '80s, Bob Nichols, wrote this song, and actually had already made the recording by the time I moved into his house in Berkeley, in September of 1981. He had played it for me some time earlier, when he first wrote it, at a point where he and I got together and we played our new songs for each other. I thought it was a good song, but I wouldn't have called it a great one just then. A couple of months later I dropped by to visit him, at the house I would later be living in, and he was rehearsing the song with drummer David Rokeach, a truly talented player who later played drums for me on my recording At the Crossroads and then went on to play with the likes of Ray Charles. Anyway, hearing them rehearse the song, obviously Bob planned to record the song, and I thought Bob must have believed it was one of his best songs to be doing so, while I wasn't convinced it was that good at the time. When I heard the recording for the first time, though, I had to admit it sounded pretty good, and hearing it more and more, I decided that it was indeed one of Bob's best songs. Having heard it hundreds of times over the last 3 decades, I long ago decided that it is my favorite Bob Nichols song. He has some other really good ones, though, so his name might show up here again, on a Friday. I like all the lyrics on this song, but my favorite part is the ending bit, "Stop the rockets, stop the rain -- it's all the same." I think that's a pretty powerful lyric. Bob also told me that the recording included a couple of happy accidents. At the end of the fiddle solo, the fiddler and the guitar were supposed to play their parts at the same time, but the fiddle player screwed up, and Bob decided that indeed, it sounded better that way. Also, the backbeat echo on the ending part happened when the recording engineer hit the wrong button, and Bob told him he liked the effect, and they kept it. I'm glad they did.
Song 22, Wednesday, 7/17/2013 -- Ain't That Loving You Baby by The Youngbloods, written by Jimmy Reed. I couldn't find a YouTube video for this song, but you can find a video of the song here on what seems to be a Russian website. The video visual is just a still of the album cover, but if you play the video, you will hear a pretty good song. For a long time all I knew about the music of The Youngbloods was the album Elephant Mountain, which is a really good record, but some time in the mid-'80s I picked up their first album, called simply The Youngbloods, which has this song on it, as well as some other really good tunes. Jimmy Reed had a hit on the R&B charts with this song in the mid-'50s, and about 10 years later The Youngbloods did this really fine version of it for their first LP.
Song 21, Tuesday, 7/16/2013 -- Reasons for Waiting by Jethro Tull, written by Ian Anderson. You can find a YouTube video of the song here. The YT video visual is a bunch of stills of the band, many of them live shots, but it's at least more interesting to look at than a lot of these song videos, plus you can hear a really good song. I started my Jethro Tull collection with Benefit, their 3rd album, around the time of its release. I always thought I'd like the earlier 2 albums, and when I finally got around to adding them to the collection, I wasn't disappointed. This song comes from their 2nd album, Stand Up. Ian Anderson layered a few flute tracks in, to very nice effect, and the string section on this song doesn't overwhelm the understated romantic message of the lyric. If you like love songs, this is one I think you should know.