Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Heavy sounds

It's been such a long time since I listened to this album that I had almost forgotten how good it was. True, some snippets of the music still rolled through my mind once in a while but that was about all. Then it was two days ago that while rummaging through my long unheard albums, I came across Heavy Sounds again.

This was a rather unusual album for CBS. It showcased 11 of their most popular rock recording artistes of the Sixties at a time when performers were becoming more adventurous and experimental with their music. It was perhaps just after the cusp of flower power and psychedelia. For sure, music had taken a creative and most interestng turn.

So this album was unusual; it was as if CBS had come out with a promo album to bring these performers to the attention of a new audience. From my point of view, they succeeded. I took a risk when I purchased this album in the early 1970s. At that time, the only performers I was very familiar with from this album were Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears. Maybe, also Laura Nyro and The Byrds. The rest? No. From the risk of buying this album came a mind-opening adventure into music.

In my opinion, the first side of this record was, and is still, more interesting. The album opened with a near-nine minutes of heavy, electrified blues by the Big Brother & The Holding Company. There was no mention at all about their lead singer but the moment her voice emerged from the speakers, I knew that she was special. It was a voice that tore into me and evoked all sorts of pain and anguish. The singer? She was the late, great Janis Joplin. The song? Ball and Chain, from their Cheap Thrills album in 1968..

The very next song brought me back to earth, or maybe it was heaven. There they were, Blood Sweat & Tears, tearing me up with God Bless The Child from their eponymous 1968 album. I still get the shivers listening to this song as towards the end, the group's horn section sequed into a sequence that would have made any jazz trumpeteer truly proud. Breath-taking!

Killing Floor was taken from The Electric Flag's debut album in 1968 called A Long Time Comin'. I can't comment much about this track other than to say that it was gritty rock music, very soulful and peppered all through with a mean horn section.But I know now that the band's most famous members were Michael Bloomfield and Buddy Miles.

I was transported into a stupor the first time I listened to White Bird, the signature song by It's A Beautiful Day, from their 1969 album. The essence of psychedelia cannot be missed from this song which was about the rain, being caged up with nowhere to go. Basically, feeling miserable. I soared with the violin and was brought back to earth when the music ended. This was a track I could play again and again.

Laura Nyro was a songwriter of the late Sixties and this song, Sweet Blindness, was taken from her 1969 album, New York Tendaberry. I had been familiar with her music which had been recorded by bands such as Blood Sweat & Tears, Three Dog Night and Fifth Dimension. But Nyro was also a recording artiste and this song tells me why so many other artistes picked up on her songs.

I won't go into the other tracks other than to mention that monumental track, Albert's Shuffle, from the second side of Heavy Sounds. Albert's Shuffle, from the Super Session album which was released in 1968, was an Al Kooper-Michael Bloomfield jam session, a really incredible music excursion by two very talented musicians. It was also one of the tracks that I could play over and over again. Even today, I never got tired of listening to it.

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