Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Whatever happened to...

You know, it's funny. I learned something over the weekend that I would have thought I knew already. The DJ on the local radio station was regaling us listeners with some vintage Peter Frampton tunes, predictably from the 'Frampton Comes Alive' album from 1975. There are many who are quick to dismiss Frampton as a lightweight in the world of guitarists, but they would be so wrong in doing so. Many have only heard the truncated, AM or FM radio versions of his work. The man can play some serious guitar, with or without the voicebox.

Over the years, Frampton had not only done some serious session work with such heavyweights as George Harrison, David Bowie, Nilsson, Ringo Starr and others, but was in fact a co-founder of one of my very favorite bands of all time: Humble Pie. He teamed up with Small Faces member Steve Marriott for this effort in 1969 (the year of Woodstock).

In 1971 at the height of their American tour, Humble Pie played New York City's Fillmore East. The performance was recorded and the resulting album: "Humble Pie - Rockin' the Fillmore", was easily one of the top-selling albums of that year. The track: "I Don't Need No Doctor", received the mosty airplay of any of the tracks and became a virtual anthem.


I then started thinking about other groups from around that era. Bands Like Mountain and their 1970 album "Climbing!", which featured the inimitable Leslie West performing "Mississippi Queen". The late sixties and early senventies brought us a veritable bumper crop of "Guitar Gods". In 1969, Johnny Winter released his second album 'Second Winter'. On it, he did a groundbreaking cover of Bob Dylan's 'Highway 61 Revisited'. It still stands to this day, as one of the best slide guitar pieces ever played by a mortal. The album also contains Johnny's cover of the ol' Chuck Berry tune: 'Johnny B.Goode'.


In 1971, Johnny Winter did some live recording in several venues, including the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York and Pirate's World, in Dania, Florida. The resulting album was "Live Johnny Winter And", one of the best live concerts I have ever heard. There is an extension of the Stones' 'Jumping Jack Flash' and a stunning rendition of 'Johnny B.Goode'.


Another great band from that era was Savoy Brown. They weren't for everybody but they developed a large and retardedly loyal following. One of their very best albums ever released was the 1972 "Hellbound Train".


Still other highly influential bands of the day were the likes of King Crimson circa 1969. Their debut album; "In The Court of The Crimson King", was fabulous. I was fortunate enough to have caught them at the old Montreal Forum in 1972, if I remember right.


In 1970, Emerson, Lake and Palmer released their 1st album. Greg Lake (guitar, bass guitar and vocals) was fresh from King Crimson, while Keith Emerson (keyboards) hailed from the British band 'The Nice'. Carl Palmer (drums, percussion) was in fact the drummer at the time for the band 'Atomic Rooster'. They had initially approached Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but he was uninterested. He did pass on the idea of a collaborative effort to Jimi Hendrix himself, who showed an interest. Jimi however died before they could get together and so they pressed on as ELP...


They too developed a huge and loyal following. Their first four years were a creatively fertile period. Lake produced their first six albums, starting with Emerson, Lake and Palmer (1970), which contained the hit "Lucky Man". Their best known early performance had been a relatively modest show at the August 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, one of the last of the great Woodstock-era festivals. At the end of their set, Emerson and Lake lit two cannons either side of the stage.

Tarkus (1971) was their first successful concept album, described as a story about "reverse evolution". The March 1971 live recording (Newcastle, UK), of the band's next album Pictures at an Exhibition, an interpretation of Modesty Mussorgsky's work of the same name, was issued as a low-priced record, the success of which contributed to the band's overall popularity. The 1972 album Trilogy contained ELP's best-selling single, the understated: "From the Beginning".

Yet another of the most popular bands of this era was of course, The Moody Blues. They actually formed in 1964 in Birmingham, England. They were a virtual flagship band for the sixties era and were the constant companions of many, many stoners.


Another group which was symbolic of the times, was Pink Floyd. Formed in London in 1965 (that's 43 years ago, kids...), Roger Waters and friends have been keeping our brains ringing and our toes tapping for many, many years now. They seemed to surpass themselves, from one decade to the next. Their concerts were always a feast for the eyes and mind, as well as the ears.


Led Zeppelin were an English rock band formed in 1968 by Jimmy Page (guitar), Robert Plant (vocals), John Paul Jones (bass guitar, keyboards) and John Bonham (drums, percussion). With their heavy, guitar-driven sound, Led Zeppelin are regarded as one of the first heavy metal bands. However, the band's individualistic style draws from many sources and transcends any one genre. Their rock-infused interpretation of the blues and folk genres also incorporated rockabilly, reggea, soul, funk, classical, Celtic, Indian, Arabic, pop, latin and country. The band did not release the popular songs from their albums as singles in the UK, as they preferred to develop the concept of album-oriented rock.

Almost 30 years after disbanding following Bonham's death in 1980, the band continue to be held in high regard for their artistic achievements, commercial success and broad influence. The band have sold more than 300 million albums worldwide, including 111.5 million sales in the United States and they have had all of their original studio albums reach the U.S. Billboard Top 10, with six reaching the number one spot.

Led Zeppelin are ranked #1 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Rolling Stone magazine has described Led Zeppelin as "the heaviest band of all time" and "the biggest band of the 70s".


You will find no such artists of similar caliber nowadays. I fear the days of truly great music may be on the wane. Thank God we still have the likes of Carlos Santana, who made his premiere appearance as a young Chicano with his band at Woodstock. Rolling Stone magazine has named him as #15, in the world's top guitarist and deservedly so...


The list of absolutely stellar groups from this time in history is almost enldess, Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Blue Oyster Cult, Buffalo Springfield, The Greatful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Jimi Hendrix, the incredible Alvin Lee and Ten Years After, John Mayall, Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Jackson Browne, Steve Perry and Journey, Yes, Rare Earth, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), the Doors, Steve Winwood, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Canned Heat... where does one stop?

Why right here in Canada, our very own Myles Goodwyn (April Wine) and Kim Mitchell are reknown guitar virtuosos, who can hold their own with just about anyone else out there. And that is only the tip of the iceberg. Be prepared to be amazed when you scope out these other Canadian marvels:


Illustrious company indeed... True, there were legions of Brits and Americans who were guitar legends in their time. But we have kept stride with them, every step of the way.

No comments: