Neil Young has released a new video, titled “Children of Destiny” that urges Americans to unite and “resist the powers that be.” This new song is Neil’s response to the current political vibe in the US, and juxtaposes typical patriotic images of the American flag waving with scenes of war and protest. Neil’s voice is unusually subdued for him, as he worries about the future of the country and the world.
Backing Neil on Children of Destiny are a 56 piece orchestra, and rockers Promise of the Real including Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas.
The video is visually and lyrically moving with lines like;
“when money matters most/and war is good for gain”
“The children hide/somewhere inside/while the bombs fall in the rain.”
Neil has been a political activist ever since his days with Buffalo Springfield and the song “For What it’s Worth”, to “Ohio” with Crosby Stills and Nash, to his “Living With War” album released in 2006. Neil’s last album “Peace Trail” released in December is another political statement.
Kathy Bates and Chuck Lorre team up to get high in a comedy series for television due this August.
Twenty episodes have been ordered by the online entertainment company Netflix.
The American Horror Story veteran and star of other frightening film roles plays a lifelong advocate for legalization, who is finally living her dream as the owner of an L.A.-area cannabis dispensary.
It seems Ruth has been a lifelong advocate for the legalization of marijuana, and she finally realizes her dream when she opens up Ruth’s Alternative Caring, a cannabis dispensary. Of course, Ruth partakes in a bit of the product herself.
Kathy Bates serving up her own head in homage to one of her many roles on American Horror Story.
Show creator Chuck Lorre (along with David Javerbaum who wrote for the “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report”) is sure to entertain the stoner in all of us with such show titles as Helium Dream, Donna Weed, Schrodinger’s Pot, Blue Dream, Eve’s Bush and 4/20 Fantasy.
The Surrealistic Summer Solstice will be held June 21 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in front of the Conservatory of Flowers. JFK Drive will be closed that day to accommodate the vendors. Dusk to midnight. Free, but tickets are already gone.
Good news for some, but there is sour grapes brewing in the City of Love by the Bay.
Having been there, and done that, I have a few memories of the time known as the Summer of Love.
From the far distant future, 50 years later, it seems music was the most important thing to me then.
My mind was also exploring that year, it being the psychedelic era. My artistic creations of the time were mostly paisley patterns in wild colors and three dimensions with found objects. My poetry was pretty tripped out also. I had tried pot the year before and was known to nip more than a bit of table wine at dinner. In school I created a stir when asked to write a story for English class on any subject. I wrote a long piece about what I had read about people using LSD and the profound changes it had on their lives. That got me sent to the counselor and a rather severe scolding from Mom.
My defense was that the New York Times had reported Paul McCartney stating on May 1st that all four members of the Beatles have “dropped acid”.
And then I used some birthday money to buy two copies of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band at the local Caldor department store. Cousin Brucie on WABC out of New York City had played the entire album upon release June 1st. It was my friend’s birthday on June 4th so I brought it wrapped as a gift when I went to visit. I swear we nearly wore out the needle on that disk that day, endlessly replaying Sgt. Peppers until his Dad or someone complained.
But what an impression that album made!
1967 was so musical it seems every family had a garage band playing rock and roll and so many musicians seemed to reach a peak of genius that year.
In the month of May we had Electric Music for the Mind and Body from Country Joe and the Fish, Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Headquarters from The Monkees, and Absolutely Free by Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention – a taste of the stuff to come that summer to our ears – and minds.
June saw the momentous release of not just Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, but also amazements such as David Bowie’s eponymous first album, Moby Grape with Moby Grape, Flowers from the Rolling Stones and Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space.
In the News in June: The Six Day War in the Middle East begins, Two Moby Grape members are arrested for contributing to the delinquency of minors, Loving v. Virginia: The United States Supreme Court declares all U.S. state laws prohibiting interracial marriage to be unconstitutional.
June 16-18 was also the Monterey Pop Festival in California, which brought us acts from “The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Byrds, The Association, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company w/ Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix…55,000 are in attendance. Ravi Shankar is among the performers at the festival.” – Wikipedia
June 25 – 400 million viewers watch Our World, the first live, international, satellite television production. It features the live debut of The Beatles’ song “All You Need Is Love”.
June 27 – The world’s first ATM cash machine is installed in a Barclays Bank in England.
July got interesting with Bee Gees’ 1st from the Bee Gees, Little Games by The Yardbirds, The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion by The Incredible String Band. Canned Heat brought us the vibes of summer with Canned Heat, and Let’s Live for Today from The Grass Roots certainly voiced the spirit of the time. Of course there was the trippily inscrutable Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry, Reach Out from the Four Tops, and Triangle by The Beau Brummels.
Summer was very hot that year, and brought us more than great music, it brought riots. The Newark riots, Plainfield NJ riots, a prison riot in Jay Florida, destructive race riots in Minneapolis, and there were the 12th Street Riots In Detroit, one of the worst riots in United States history: 43 are killed, 342 injured and 1,400 buildings burned. The 1967 Milwaukee race riots lead to a ten-day shutdown of the city. In August the riots spread to DC. where they finally end that Fall.
Social change was very much on people’s minds that year, here in the US and around the world.
In August Pink Floyd released The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Zappa created Lumpy Gravy, Big Brother and the Holding Company‘s first album was released, Joan Baez sang to us on Joan, The Electric Prunes released Underground, and Vanilla Fudge was making a scene.
September of 1967 was highly creative if you know what I mean, with the Kinks’ Something Else, Strange Days by the Doors, Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant, Procol Harum got totally psychedelic on danceroom floors, and Eric Burdon and the Animals brought us The Winds of Change.
Jim Morrison gets the Doors banned forever from the Ed Sullivan Show for singing the word “higher” during a performance of “Light My Fire” despite promising being asked not to say such a drug-referenced word.
And suddenly summer was over, and the reality of the Vietnam War took hold of the consciousness of America, and the world. Once again the media changed our viewpoint. We went from happiness and love to thoughts of war with reporting by Walter Cronkite and others on the nightly news. Film footage of people being killed and burned alive was the antithesis of the hippy era and the end of the Summer of Love.
As the Haight emptied out, a mock funeral called “The Death of the Hippie” was held on October 6, 1967, with the organizer Mary Kasper explaining “we wanted to signal that this was the end of it, to stay where you are, bring the revolution to where you live and don’t come here because it’s over and done with.”
Hippies listened and spread forth to conquer the world! Many moved to communes outside the cities, and some are still living there! The Hippie Movement lives on in the spirit of many hippies old and young. Society is still absorbing the Summer of Love experience, as it slowly evolves into a more loving and inclusive world.
June 1, 2017 saw the re-release of the album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles, remixed and brought to hi-definition surround sound stereo.
San Francisco celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love on September 2, 2007, when over 150,000 people attended the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love concert, held in Golden Gate Park in Speedway Meadows. Performers included Country Joe McDonald, Taj Mahal, The Chambers Brothers, It’s A Beautiful Day, Ray Manzarek and others. White doves were released at 4:20 pm. It was spectacular!
Read my list of events for San Francisco this summer, 2017 by clicking here.
Solar Panels and Windmill at Solar Living Center
The Solar Living Center in Hopland, California is a fun place to explore the realities and possibilities of living off the grid, and living well.
“Promoting sustainable living through inspirational environmental education.” – John Schaeffer
John Schaeffer had recently graduated from UC Berkeley in 1978 when he started the first Real Goods store in Willits, CA. They sold the first retail solar panels in the United States.
Over the years the company grew, and he reinvested in his dream of back to the land living with the purchase in 1994 of a 12-acre property for the SLC in Hopland, CA, which grew into the Solar Living Institute (SLI) with educational workshops and solar training.
Now the place is thriving with many visitors every day to the bucolic setting along Highway 101 in Northern California’s Mendocino County. A new Observation Bee Hive has been installed in the Real Goods store and a pollinator garden was also created to help save bees from colony collapse disorder.
The Real Goods store here is filled with everything you might want to explore in the realm of living off the grid. From solar power to gardening and a treasure trove of books filled with information, this is an educational experience all unto itself, and great for the kids.
You can freely walk about the 12 acres of gardens and exhibits on a self-guided tour, visit the store, and spend some time absorbing knowledge from the many interpretive sugns and displays. Along the way you’ll see the tiny house guest cottage, and the car forest is unforgettable!
In the center of the property, by the lake under the cool shade of the Willow trees, you will find a great place to hangout with your family and friends to enjoy some peace and quiet.
2016 saw the opening of Emerald Farms Cannabis Dispensary on the site, with services for medical marijuana patients. Outside is also a nice place to get high swinging in a hammock.
But wait! There’s more!
It truly is a Solar Living center where you can see many applications of solar power, including electricity and solar water pumping.
“The electrical system for the facility comprises 10 kilowatts of photovoltaic power and three kilowatts of wind generated power. The Institute is also home to Solar 2000, one of northern California’s largest grid-tied solar arrays. Solar 2000 allows the Solar Living Institute to sell more than 160,000 kWh of clean renewable energy back into the grid annually.”
The gardens are 80% edible or useful plantings with a diversity from around the globe. Different zones represent ecosystems of other places and show how you can live sustainably through all four seasons.
Camping and RV spaces are available for visitors, and there are always volunteers, interns and students living on site year-round. In the past the Sol Festival was quite an event, but grew too large to handle at the location so it has been scaled back to a Harvest Festival which is a popular local scene.
Next time you’re driving north on the 101 in California, be sure to make the stop, it’s just before you cross the bridge and enter the tiny town of Hopland. Restrooms are unique and always open; snacks and drinks are available in the Real Goods Store during business hours.
And oh yes, they sell biodiesel fuel here!
Visit the Real Goods Store online
The institute offers IREC and NABCEP approved solar training courses from beginning to advanced levels.
The Scorpions, for many, will give one guaranteed nightmares of ’80s pop metal and cheesy anthems as “Rock Your Like a Hurricane”. But the band has a history that predates that song (or the album in question, 1984’s Love at First Sting) by almost two decades. They actually formed around 1965, but wasn’t until around 1971 that they got a chance to record. No matter who was in the band, or how the band’s sound changed through the years, it was always vocalist Klaus Meine and guitarist Rudolf Schenker.
But things were way different in 1972 when the band released their debut album, Lonesome Crow (which was released on the Brain label, and the first ever release on that label). This album featured Rudolf Schenker’s younger brother, Michael Schenker on additional guitars (Michael was just 16 when this album came out) and is truly a very different album than what you expect from these guys. No cheesy heavy metal anthems to be found here, you won’t find anything remotely resembling “Rock You Like a Hurricane”. Instead you get treated with psychedelia, jazz, early hard rock, prog rock, even some Krautrock! “I’m Going Mad” is a fantastic opening piece with strong ’60s psychedelic overtones and great guitar playing from Michael Schenker! “It All Depends” has a stronger hard rock feel with some bluesy overtones, while “Leave Me Alone” has some bizarre sound effects and more of that great psychedelic sound you certainly don’t associate the Scorpions with! Plus this piece then later rocks with some heavy guitar solos. “In Search of the Piece of Mind” has a surprisingly folk-influenced sound, complete with acoustic guitars. The music then changes to more hard rocking territory where Klaus Meine shrieks. “Inheritance” starts off mellow, but then they get rocking more for a short time, then a really wonderful atmospheric passage with an almost Pink Floyd-like feel! Then the piece goes back to how it return. “Action” is a rather surprisingly jazzy piece, even the drummer at the time, Wolfgang Dziony provides some rather jazzy drumming! I can’t believe the Scorpions actually did stuff like this! Then comes the lengthiest piece, the title track. Starts off rather mellow, and then the music starts including lengthy guitar solos, and through several changes, and then eventually the music slows down near the end.
But of course, Michael Schenker left after this album to join UFO, and the Scorpions would witness many lineup changes (including Ulrich Roth, and future Eloy drummer Jürgen Rosenthal, plus many others), not to mention switching from Brain to RCA (and later on Harvest in Germany and Mercury in America when they changed to the arena act people associate them with).
What more can I say about Lonesome Crow? I never stop being amazed listening to this album. Even if you’re a non-fan or even run at the thought of them, I very much highly recommend this album if the description of the album sounds good to you!
– Klaus Meine: vocals
– Michael Schenker: guitars
– Rudolf Schenker: guitars
– Lothar Heimberg: bass
– Wolfgang Dziony: drums
Birth Control was a German group that was only considered marginally progressive, much of the time they were in the Deep Purple or Uriah Heep vein, lots of heavy guitar and organ work, although a lot of their music often had prog tendencies. I have to admit they made their share of great albums, 1972’s Hoodoo Man being perhaps their finest from their earlier, more hard rock phase. By 1975, the group consisted of drummer/vocalist Bernd Noske, bassist/vocalist Peter Föller, keyboardist Zeus B. Held, and guitarist Bruno Frenzel. At this time, they released the album Plastic People which found the group dropping most of the hard rock for full-on progressive rock. “Rockin’ Rollin’ Roller” off that album does harken back to their more hard rocking days, while “This Song is Just For You” is a horn-driven rock song not unlike Chicago, while the rest is full-on prog rock. The prog rock was taken to an even higher degree with their following album, Backdoor Possibilities. The band switched from CBS to Brain, and this album ended up as one of the final releases on the green Brain label (after that, the label changed to the orange label). You’d find it hard to believe this was the same band that gave us albums like Operation (1971) and Hoodoo Man (actually, the only members in common to Plastic People and Backdoor Possibilities to those earlier albums were Bernd Noske and Bruno Frenzel). No more reminders of Deep Purple or Uriah Heep, instead strong reminders of Gentle Giant, with complex instrumental and vocal arrangements.
Backdoor Possibilities is a concept album regarding a New York businessman named Adam Striver who meets Death (aka. Mr. Scheleton, that is Skeleton, but spelled “Scheleton” in the album lyrics included in the LP gatefold) in the subway, who plays him flashbacks to his childhood and tells Mr. Striver that his yuppie life was pretty much meaningless. Basically, I get the impression the lyrics were regarding about the lost childhood innocence during adulthood as Mr. Striver becomes a bureaucratic businessman. The album’s concept was rather half-sketched, but I was able to get the message still the same (many Birth Control albums and songs often had strong social messages in their lyrics). Also the album cover art depicts scenes that hardly look like any place in New York, or America in general, but much more like Europe. I guess I can’t be totally surprised, given Birth Control was a German band, but even in Germany, people are familiar with how New York looks even if they never been there. The album consisted of a bunch of suites demonstrating that there was going to be little in the way of straightforward material. And you’ll know that right away from hearing “One First of April” which you’ll notice that Gentle Giant influence right away, with lots of compex instrumental and vocal arrangements. Zeus B. Held’s keyboard work was heavily influenced by Kerry Minnear at this point, with lots of Minimoog, clavinet, Hammond organ, string synths and electric piano. Drummer Bernd Noske used not only drums, but tons of percussion at his disposal, so a lot of the album used all sorts of percussion. “Beedeepees” starts off rather calm, with dominant string synths, but then gets rocking in a Gentle Giant-like manner, before the second second part kicks in (called “Childhood Flash-Back”) with an extended drone on string synths, the sounds of children playing, and great vocal arrangements showing that Birth Control was able to pull off a lot of the same things Gentle Giant were also doing. “Futile Prayer” is generally a mellower piece, with lush string synths and nice use of Moog. “La Cigüena de Zaragoza” is a three piece suite, and the album’s only instrumental piece that has some jazzy sections, including use of sax, as well as some nice synth passages. “No Time to Die” is a great closing piece, especially those vocal harmonies as well as those mellow lush passages.
OK, this is probably the least typical Birth Control album you’ll ever hear. If you want a more hard rocking Birth Control, Operation or Hoodoo Man would be your best bet. For adventurous progheads who don’t mind another band trying their stab at the Gentle Giant sound, then Backdoor Possibilities would be more up your alley. The album has been frequently slagged, many people even call it a disappointing followup to Plastic People but I hardly see that myself. It’s that the band was doing something way more ambitious than ever before. This album really does require a few listens to let it sink in (but then so does Gentle Giant). And I actually find myself humming parts of this album (especially “No Time to Die”), so the band actually didn’t abandon melody amidst the complex arrangements. Aside from Canada’s Et Cetera, I really think this is one of the finest examples of another band trying their stab at the GG sound. Unfortunately, Birth Control never repeated this experiment again (can’t be too surprised, Gentle Giant themselves were starting to record straightforward material starting with The Missing Piece, and the fact the second half of the ’70s wasn’t as so prog friendly to begin with). I really think Backdoor Possibilities is one of the most underrated albums I have ever heard in a long time, and comes highly recommended by me!
– Bernd Noske: drums, percussion, vocals
– Peter Föller: bass, vocals
– Zeus B. Held: keyboards, vocals
– Bruno Frenzel: guitars, vocals
Warm Dust was one of those obscure progressive rock bands that slipped through the cracks, but released three albums. This was an early band featuring Paul Carrack before he earned his fame with Ace (“How Long”), Sqeeze (“Tempted”), and of course Mike & the Mechanics, not to mention the solo albums he did in the ’80s. Now I understand the name Paul Carrack might make many of you run like hell, but what he’s done in Warm Dust is nothing like those groups I mentioned.
In 1970, they released their debut album And It Came to Pass, and like Chicago when they were still Chicago Transit Authority or the Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out, is one of the rare examples of a double album debut. Aside from Paul Carrack, the group also featured vocalist/guitarist Dransfield “Les” Walker, John Surgey on wind instruments (flute, sax, oboe, clarinet), Alan Salomen on additional wind instruments, Terry “Tex” Comer on bass and guitars, and Dave Pepper on drums and percussion. Frequently this band was described as Chicago meets Caravan, but they really weren’t a brass rock band like Chicago, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and such British counterparts as The Greatest Show on Earth or IF, but musically they could also bring to mind such groups. For one thing, Warm Dust wasn’t really a horn rock band, but sax and flute, on top of Paul Carrack’s Hammond organ was what made up this band’s sound. If anything, they remind me a bit of Web/Samurai (Dave Lawson’s bands prior to Greenslade that had a sound dominated by wind instruments).
Cuts like “Turbulance”, “Achromasia” and “Circus” are full of pleasant use of sax, flute, and organ, often in a jazzy and bluesy manner, with some psychedelic overtones. “Keep on Truckin'” really is out of place on this album, a more boogie-oriented number, but the album goes back to familiar territory with the epic title track, which is in the vein of the first three cuts. It’s my opinion the second disc (the last five cuts) is even better. “Blues For Pete” is the perfect example of the band exploring the blues in a rather interesting way, while “Washing My Eyes” for some reason reminds me a bit of what the German group Birth Control did on “This Song is Just For You” off their 1975 album Plastic People, especially the organ work, although it’s a wonderful, extended piece. They also do a cover of the much covered Richie Havens song “Indian Rope Man” (that Julie Driscoll with Brian Auger & The Trinity and the German group Frumpy had also done) and did it in style with funky organ work and great use of wind instruments.
Given what Paul Carrack had later involved himself musically, he finds Warm Dust an embarrassment from his youth (he was just 18 when they recorded And It Came to Pass), and strongly encourages everyone to avoid Warm Dust like a plague. I’m sorry I can’t agree with him on this opinion, this is perfectly good progressive rock, it’s his only real foray into this kind of music (Mike & the Mechanics hardly counts despite the Genesis connection, they were simply a pop group, much like Genesis was at that point). The great thing about listening to a Warm Dust album is you get completely no reminders of “How Long”, “All I Need is a Miracle” or “The Living Years” whatsoever, which is a good thing.
The reason Warm Dust didn’t get much notice was it was released on a small label called Trend, meaning they probably didn’t have the means to promote the band properly (even those little known British horn bands like IF and The Greatest Show on Earth had the benefit of being on major labels like Island and Harvest).
Even if Paul Carrack gets you running, but you enjoy groups like Web/Samurai, IF, The Greatest Show On Earth, and the likes, you really can’t go wrong here!
– Dransfield Les Walker: lead vocals, g
Chicago was a band that really threw their credibility in the crapper with those cheesy ballads. Peter Cetera obviously laying a lot to blame, many of their cheesy hits, if they were not necessarily written by him, they were sung by him.
You can be thankful in the early ’70s Chicago had so much better to offer. Although it’s easy to get scared off even by these early albums mainly because they all sport their cheesy trademark logo (Chicago Transit Authority aside, although you can still see elements of what would become their trademark logo). I really felt as Chicago later went the route of Genesis or Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship, each group had major success in the mid ’80s, receiving lots of money, but sacrificing creative credibility to do it. 1969’s Chicago Transit Authority proves that the group had plenty to offer without the commercial restraints that would later bind themselves into with an often aggressive bluesy sound on many of their songs, with Terry Kath allowed to stretch on his guitar, sometimes showing that Hendrix influence (Kath openly admired Hendrix and he never hid that fact). Their second album, just called Chicago (1970) (after a shortened name change to just Chicago after some legal wrangling with the real Chicago Transit Authority, the city’s public transportation system) was a mellower album over all, more emphasizing the horns and less of Terry Kath, with some experimentation with classical, and giving us three popular hits with “Make Me Smile”, “25 or 6 to 4” and “Colour My World” (strange an American band would spell the British way, again, spelled that way on “Fancy Colours” off the same album).
Next year comes yet another double album, Chicago III, and proved that Chicago still had plenty to offer, and avoiding those cheesy ballads that the band was later famous for. They went for a more eclectic approach (meaning they were all over the place), some of the cuts you might have a hard time believing it’s Chicago! There’s an often more experimental approach as well, and Terry Kath gets more time than their predecessor, and even the blues influence of Chicago Transit Authority had returned. “Sing a Mean Tune Kid” has a rather funky feel, with an extended solo on electric piano and guitar, with a rather jazzy feel. Robert Lamm’s “Loneliness is Just a Word” is a fantastic jazzy piece, showing Lamm’s organ work, and no denying it’s not played in 4/4. Peter Cetera’s “What Else Can I Say” has a country feel, complete with steel guitar, but it’s more country rock. Strange for Chicago. Then comes Robert Lamm and Terry Kath’s “I Don’t Want You Money”, which is a blues song, with Chicago’s trademark horns dominating, but giving it sound more that of a British blues band (like what Savoy Brown did on their 1970 album Raw Sienna, they incorporated Chicago-like horns with their British blues sound on that album). I wouldn’t be surprised if they were inspired by very early Jethro Tull or Raw Sienna-era Savoy Brown on “I Don’t Want Your Money”. Next is “Travel Suite” divided into several movements. “Flight 602” finds Chicago sounding much more like Crosby, Stills & Nash than you can ever imagine, right down to Graham Nash-like vocals. The lyrics deal with homesickness and the difficult life on the road. Drummer Danny Seraphine gives us “Motorboat to Mars”, which unsurprisingly is a short drum solo. Next is “Free” which is probably the most familiar song, as it received some radio airplay. It’s a rather short piece, but a highlight for me. Terry Kath, Robert Lamm, and Walter Parazaider gives us the highly experimental “Free Country”, featuring Parazaider’s flute work, plus use of vibes, and musically it reminds me a bit of King Crimson’s more experimental work (it’s almost like Chicago’s own “Moonchild”, but nowhere as lengthy). Lamm’s own “At the Sunrise” has a more pop-oriented feel, while “Happy Cause’ I’m Going Home” (also written by Lamm) has a rather extended us of electric piano, this song does overstay its welcome a bit, but hardly weakens the album. That ends “Travel Suite”. “Mother” is another fantastic highlight, showing Chicago at their best with great horn and vocal arrangements. “Lowdown” is the other song (besides “Free”) to receive radio airplay, unsurprisingly more pop-oriented, but has some interesting twists so not to be like later Chicago. Terry Kath gives us “An Hour in the Shower” suite, which is basically “A Hard Risin’ Morning Without Breakfast”, “Off to Work”, “Fallin’ Out”, “Dreamin’ Home”, and “Morning Blues Again”. This all has an oddly Southern rock feel, having more in common with the Allman Brothers than Chicago. Told you how this album was all over the place, and how this group succeeded with flying colors. Then come the side-length instrumental suite “Elegy”. Starts off with some spoken dialog, some medieval-like fanfare on the horns, before starting off with some mellow flute-dominated passages, then the sounds of horns blowing like the sound of Chicago (the city) traffic, and some highly experimental passages, before Terry Kath starts giving some guitar solos, as well as horn solos from James Pankow and Lee Loughnaine.
Really, this is probably Chicago’s most underrated and overlooked of their early albums, but full of great material, and certainly one of their finest, in my opinion!
– Robert Lamm: vocals, organ, piano, ele
The Pentangle sure wasted no time following their great debut with a followup album, in fact, their second album was released later the same year (1968) as their self-entitled debut, and they went way further than you expect a band that barely got started. This second album, Sweet Child was a double album, the first have being a live album, recorded June 29, 1968 at the Royal Festival Hall in London, and the second half a studio effort, recorded at IBC Studios in London, August 1968. This ends up being a rather diverse album, showing the folk, jazz, and blues influences. On many cuts, it’s just vocalist Jacqui McShee with guitarist Bert Jansch, or Bert Jansch with guitarist John Renbourn, or a stand-up bass solo from Danny Thompson, and of course, full group interaction. It’s without a doubt their most daring album and I remembered having to listen to it a few times to “get it”.
OK, let’s start with the live half. Well, it’s common belief that their 1970 album Cruel Sister was their first album to use electric guitars (from John Renbourn), even I stated that in my review of that album on this site. Well, no, it was Sweet Child, as several cuts on the live half of this album features some unmistakable electric guitar from Renbourn, including the opening song, “Market Song”, where Bert and Jacqui share vocals. “No More My Lord” is a great cover of a spiritual, done in a rather nice bluesy fashion with Jacqui’s heavenly voice! “Turn Your Money Green” is the group doing a blues song, showing a more humorous side of the group. Danny Thompson takes on his version of a Charles Mingus song, “Haitian Fight Song”, which is largely a bass solo from Thompson, although drummer Terry Cox is there. Bert Jansch does “A Woman Like You”, perhaps one of the finest songs The Pentangle did without McShee’s voice. I can’t but be failed to be amazed whenever I listen to this! Another Charles Mingus cover is next, “Goodbye Pork-Pie Hat”, which, unsurprisingly, is jazzy, where John Renbourn and Bert Jansch duel on guitar. “Three Dances” are a collection of Renaissance-era songs played on guitar, with Terry Cox on glockenspiel. These three songs are “Brenzel Gay”, from 16th century French composer Claude Gervaise, a 14th Century Italian estampie called “La Rotta” (a song I am quite familiar with from a cover done by a Swedish psychedelic/prog act called Älgarnas Trädgård), and 16th composer William Byrd’s “The Earle of Salisbury”. This latter piece sounds familiar like I’ve heard it somewhere else, whatever the case, it sounded like it was originally intended for lute, but works just great on guitar here. “Watch the Stars” is John and Jacqui singing an American children’s song, which has a rather lullaby feel. Jacqui does an unaccompanied Scottish traditional song, “So Early in the Spring”, and I find it just as stunning as “When I Was In My Prime” from Cruel Sister, proving she can hold her own without any band interaction. Bert and John does a remake of a song that appeared on their 1966 album Bert and John called “No Exit” which is obviously a duet. All the live material is brand new, aside from “No Exit”, and most importantly, “Bruton Town”, which appeared on The Pentangle’s self-entitled 1968 debut. This is a traditional English folk song, and it’s a highlight here live, just like it was the highlight on the studio original from their previous album.
Now comes the studio half. The band is back to being all-acoustic, but still being quite eclectic, starting off with the title track, with Bert and Jacqui singing, and John taking lead acoustic guitar. Bert shines on the Scottish traditional “I Loved a Lass”. This ain’t exactly a happy song, because the lyrics don’t have a happy ending, but it’s quite effective. The band experiments with three-part counterpoint, with Bert and John taking on guitar, with Danny Thompson bowing his double-bass this time on “Three Part Thing”. There’s a couple more great covers of traditional English folk songs, including “Sovay” and “The Trees They Do Grow High” with Jacqui’s great and lovely voice. “Moon Dog” is Terry Cox’s number, a percussive piece with him doing vocals. The album closes with an instrumental piece, an instrumental take on Ewan McColl’s “The Big Hewer” which they entitled “Hole in the Cole”, which has a rather jazzy feel and a nice way to end this album.
The gatefold of the original LP includes photos of the band members, including whatever kids they have, or who they’re married to. Danny Thompson is with (I presume) his wife, and a (then) 5-year old son named Danny Thompson, Jr., this Danny Thompson, Jr. would be known for Hawkwind fans as being a drummer for that band in the mid to late ’80s on such albums as The Chronicle of the Black Sword (1985) and The Xenon Codex (1988) (nice to see father and son pursue musical paths, even if they were drastically different).
The back of the LP gives a description of each and every song, making my review all that much easier.
It’s truly a wonderful collection of songs, to demonstrate that The Pentangle was not an ordinary folk act, to say the least!
– Jacqui McShee: vocals
– Bert Jansch: guitars, vocals
– John Renbourn: guitars, vocals
– Danny Thompson: double bass
– Terry Cox: drums, glockenspiel, vocals