Mary Travers died yesterday. She was the incredible female voice of Peter, Paul, and Mary. I grew up hearing their songs because my older sisters played them, so even though I was a little young during their early-mid-60s heyday, I loved their music, and have continued to listen to it through all these years. People have sometimes asked me where my political beliefs came from, and if you follow the trail back through all the nooks and crannies of my life, you’ll eventually get back to Peter, Paul, and Mary, and their message of equality for all. They turned on a generation, and I tagged along like a bratty little brother. Mary Travers, rest in peace.
Carole King’s “Tapestry” – it has to be one of the most listenable albums ever made. 35 years old and still holding up so well.
Just because I like the song, and these versions…
You know how sometimes you walk around for years thinking you want to buy a particular CD (or album, if you remember those)? You’ll hear songs from that CD on the radio and think, “I’m gonna go buy that”. But you never do. Or you don’t for a long, long time. A year. 5 years. 10 years. In my case, it was 14 years. The CD was Marc Cohn’s first CD, “Marc Cohn“. Finally ordered it last week, and I wasn’t disappointed – it definitely lived up to my expectations. So, what music is on your long-time “gonna-buy” list?
BS&T was a band either ahead of, or behind, their time. They hit the scene in as 1967 was turning into 1968, with the release of “Child Is Father To The Man“. Al Kooper was the lead singer, and the group and sound was born out of his experimentation with early jazz-rock fusion. Many rock historians consider this to be one of the great albums of the ’60s. I’m not so sure – it’s good, but there’s only a couple of memorable songs – “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know”, and “I Can’t Quit Her”. The album seems to consist of a bunch of lab experiments by Kooper, and if he and the band had hung together, the result might have been very, very interesting. But Kooper split, and was replaced by David Clayton-Thomas (they also gave Stephen Stills and Laura Nyro a shot). DCT’s voice is probably what 95% of the general public who even remembers BS&T thinks of. The second album, “Blood Sweat and Tears“, was a monster hit, with Top 40 material all over it. But BS&T was now sounding more like a lounge group (although a very polished one) than a jazz-rock fusion band. They followed this album, and it’s success, with a wierd State Department-sponsored tour of Eastern Europe in 1970, which, given the mood among the rock public at the time, was apostasy. And the tour was followed by the release of “Blood Sweat and Tears 3“, which started hot but then saw falling sales as music fans just didn’t find much to hang on to. The album had little original material – they covered “Fire And Rain”, “Symphony For The Devil”, and “40,000 Headmen” – and only “Lucretia MacEvil” and “Hi-De-Ho” got any notice. “BS&T 4” was better, actually pretty listenable, but few people were paying attention, and David Clayton-Thomas left soon after it was released.
So, where is all this going? To the album that was released by the next rendition of BS&T. Jerry Fisher was the new lead singer, there were some new horn players and more guitar presence. And the album that they released, “New Blood”, was very different from the earlier albums. It was jazzier, funkier, and not nearly so smooth and commercial-sounding. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a big seller. It’s apparently no longer in print, and was never released on CD as far as I can tell. And that’s a shame, because in some ways it’s my favorite BS&T album. People who hated the post-Kooper BS&T would have liked this album, I think, if they’d listened to it. And one song, “Alone” was covered by Stan Kenton on “Stan Kenton Plays Chicago”, a version that is simply amazing. I dug my recorded cassette of “New Blood” out yesterday, and realized I had forgotten just how good it was. If you like jazz-rock horn groups, and haven’t heard this one, it’s worth checking the used record stores.