Rock Steady, July 28, 1983
This week’s column could be titled “Great Albums That I Have Lost” — despite the fact that some of these discs weren’t great by any stretch of the imagination. Each either is or will be a classic or collector’s item (although some will qualify for that honor because they are so bad they are good).
None were the victims of burglaries or other catastrophies (with one exception noted); all simply disappeared from my collection. (Any readers who have moved a number of times and had a variety of roommates will understand the phenomenon.) Classically good or notably awful, I wish I had them all back — even the Iron Butterfly album.
Sergio Mendes-Brazil ’66 — Does anybody remember this group (or its later incarnations, Brazil ’67, ’68 etc.)? They took pop tunes, orchestrated them to a South American beat and sold bunches of albums. To some, this one probably qualifies for the “so bad it’s good” label, but I was hooked on it in ’67 and “The Look of Love” still runs through my head every once in awhile. I was shamed out of listening to this stuff by a friend who insisted Iron Butterfly was where it was at.
“In A Gadda Da Vida,” Iron Butterfly — What can I say about this justly-neglected relic. It was sort of the opening in the popularization of “acid rock” or psychedelic music or whatever you want to call it (call it a cab, please), although a lot of that genre was superior musically.
That isn’t saying much. The title cut was interesting, being basically the first extended piece of its sort, but the rest of the album is simply dreadful.
Mercifully, IB faded fast after this album — but not before I had the unfortunate experience of seeing them live in ’69. The drum solo, 15 minutes or so on the record, was tortured out to more than half an hour — even though the shorter version was enough to expose Ron Bushy’s lack of talent.
The rest of the band was nearly as bad, and only the opening act (would you believe a youthful REO Speedwagon?) and the master of ceremonies (Larry Lujack, the legendary DJ at WLS in Chicago) kept that night from being a crashing bore.
“Retrospective,” Buffalo Springfield — This one is the flip side of the previous entry, featuring the group that gave us Steve Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay and a bunch of ’70s groups. It’s a greatest hits album (but not to be confused with their album of that title) and includes the Top 40 hit “For What It’s Worth.” I’d ransom this one to get it back.
“Bless Its Pointed Little Head,” Jefferson Airplane — A rare (I’ve never seen it in the racks in the past 15 years) live album by that late, great San Francisco band. It includes radically different versions of “Three-Fifths of a Mile in 10 Seconds” and other familiar tunes, plus at least one cut that never appeared in any other Airplane discs.
This one didn’t disappear; I loaned it to a friend, who left it in his car, which got warm in the sun — well, you know what happens then. Attempts to press the ripples out of it reduced it to shards. Alas.
Vanilla Fudge — I don’t even remember the name of this album, probably because of the fact that it was so bad; whoever borrowed it probably did me a favor, since it was wretched. A live album by a band that sounded marginal on studio recordings, it featured one full side as an extended jam session — more endless, horrid drumming (by Carmine Appice, who still is doing solo albums — and still has hands like clubs).
“Disraeli Gears,” Cream — This one is sorely missed, being perhaps the best effort by the first of the supergroups (actually, it was a toss-up between them and Led Zeppelin). Contains the Top 40 hit “Sunshine of Your Love” (a prerequisite for every Beginning Bass Guitar class) and “Tales of Brave Ulysses.” Definitely a classic.
Soup — This untitled album (it even came in the proverbial “plain brown wrapper”) was the first of two (as far as I know) by an Appleton band that played around Madison a lot in the 1969-71 period. The group featured one Doug Yankus, a pyrotechnic guitar wizard who crashed and burned long before he could gain the national prominence that he was (possibly) capable of.
The album included the live, extended version of their rave-up “I’m So Sorry” and several other underground classics. It’s not something I’d listen to every night, but it would be a collector’s item — and would take me back to the days when I listened regularly to the likes of Oz, Tayles, Segal-Schwall, Tongue, Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang and Spectre.
“The Band,” the Band — I miss this one the most of all. The second album by Bob Dylan’s former backup band, this release turned pop music on to Southern music again (for the first time since Elvis, probably). From “Up on Cripple Creek” to “The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down,” it’s one good tune after another. I keep saying I’ll buy another copy, but the album, the money and I never seem to be in the same place at the same time.
Of course, the reverse of this “vanishing disc” act has occurred; I’ve ended up with The Grateful Dead’s “American Beauty,” “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” by Traffic and the Beatles’ “Let It Be” by the same process. I might trade any two of those for either The Band or the Buffalo Springfield albums, though.