Posts Tagged ‘Wizards From Kansas’

Saturday Single No. 224

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Off we go on a six-tune random journey for a quiet Saturday morning!

First up comes a performance from Bob Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder tour. With Scarlet Rivera’s sinuous violin line wandering in and out, Dylan declaims the tale of “One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below),” originally found on that year’s Desire album. It’s a rather foreboding sound to have as a start to a Saturday morning.

We move on to “No More,” a tune by the Cowboy Junkies from their 2005 effort, Early 21st Century Blues. A friend recently provided me with a few bits and pieces of the Cowboy Junkies canon, so I’m still absorbing this. But like much of the group’s work, “No More” is based on a languid guitar and Margo Timmons’ expressively weary vocals. This, too, is a bit foreboding, and I begin to wonder what kind of day I’m going to have.

Ah, sweet lunacy! The RealPlayer dumps me back into 1968 and finds an indelibly bad single: “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly. The story I’ve heard many times – and at the remove of forty-three years, does it matter it if it’s true? – is that Iron Butterfly’s lead singer was so chemically compromised during the session that he was unable to coherently sing “In the garden of Eden,” resulting in the unique and more memorable title for the song. The single – which went to No. 30 – is okay, nothing spectacular or memorable except as a marker of its time, and it’s over in the tidy time of 2:55, as opposed to the album track, which, of course, noodles along for more than seventeen undistinguished minutes.

Stop Number Four brings us another languid piece, this one courtesy of the San Francisco group, It’s A Beautiful Day. “Time,” from the 1973 album It’s A Beautiful Day…Today, is pleasant, but its main lyric, “Time . . . takes a long time to know,” somehow doesn’t scan very well. Still, there’s some nice instrumental work here – especially by Fred Webb on piano – and the track is a nice stop along the way.

Talk about foreboding! Our fifth tune this morning is Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues,” recorded on a November Friday in 1936 in a hotel room in San Antonio, Texas. The legend of Johnson selling his soul to the devil at that crossroads is deeply entrenched in our culture, and the lyrics of what is likely his most famous song do tell the tale of one who is troubled: “I believe to my soul now, po’ Bob is sinkin’ down.” As we listen, though, it’s good to keep two things in mind: First, if there were a blues singer named Johnson who bartered his soul, it was most likely Tommy Johnson of “Canned Heat Blues” fame, and second, there were more imminent reasons than Satan for a young black man to be worried about being alone after sundown at an isolated southern crossroads in 1936. Whatever the truth behind the fear, the recording is still good listening almost seventy-five years after its genesis.

And our last stop this morning comes from the only album recorded by The Wizards From Kansas, their self-titled album from 1970. The group is described by All-Music Guide as an “obscure country-psych rock group,” and that’s probably accurate enough.  I once featured their excellent cover of Judy Henske’s “High Flying Bird,” and if today’s offering from the group isn’t quite on that level, it’s still pretty good, if you like things that sound very clearly like 1970. I do, of course, and so the brief “Country Dawn” is a nice bit of listening this morning, and it’s this week’s Saturday Single.