Saturday Single No. 213

 I have, as has been noted here several times before, a fascination with the music of 1970. So I thought that this morning – with a planned shopping excursion and the Texas Gal waiting on the other side of this post – I’d look at the Top Ten for this week in 1970, and then do a six-song random jaunt through that year’s music in search of today’s single. (As you’ll see below, for technical reasons, this became a seven-song jaunt.)

The Billboard Top Ten in the last week of November was almost unchanged from the Top Ten a week earlier, a list we looked at last week. The order had shifted, and “Somebody’s Been Sleeping” by 100 Proof Aged In Soul had been replaced by Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All.” But it was a familiar list (with, as a commenter rightly pointed out last week, several iconic performances):

“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Gypsy Woman” by Brian Hyland
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Montego Bay” by Bobby Bloom
“Heaven Help Us All” by Stevie Wonder
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf

So what I’m going to do from here is sort out the 3,100 or so songs I have from 1970, arrange them in time order, and with “I Think I Love You” as my starting point, click on six songs at random and see where we end up.

Our first stop is “Movement5 (Beginning)” by Mandrill, a horn-laden Latin R&B band from Brooklyn. Starting with some guitar feedback, the piece slides into a percussion driven chant of “Peace! Love! Peace! Love!”  Sounds like 1970. Eventually, the percussion fades away, and the chanting runs through an echo chamber before finally fading away itself.

And we’re on to “You’d Better Be Ready” by a group named Magic Sand. Google has plenty of information about the scientific toy called Magic Sand but nothing significant about the group, which, according to the listing at All-Music Guide,  released only one album in its creative life. “You’d Better Be Ready” is bluesy with a heavy circular riff and a busy boogieing guitar solo that sounds very much of its time. So, too, do the slightly menacing vocals: “That fella you’ve been seeing can’t love you like me. Step over to my side. There’s no room for three.”

And we move into familiar territory: the rollicking and triplet-enhanced piano of Little Richard as he leads Delaney & Bonnie & Friends into “Miss Ann,” a selection from D&B&F’s album To Bonnie From Delaney. (That was, I believe, the first Delaney & Bonnie album I owned, and my first listening to it brought me my first knowing exposure to Little Richard’s flamboyant musicianship. As soon as the track was over, I stopped the stereo, moved the needle back and listened to “Miss Ann” once more.)

From rockin’ out with Little Richard we move on to a subdued folkish reading of a Gordon Lightfoot song by a fellow who did his share of rocking out over the years. Released as the last track on Ronnie Hawkins’ self-titled 1970 album, “Home From The Forest” gets a quiet, meditative reading, appropriate for the tale of an old man whose home was a rooming house and whose friend was a bottle. It’s a side of Hawkins not often seen, and it’s all the more effective for that. (The track also has a sad and sweet harmonica solo from none other than King Biscuit Boy.)

Fifth up this morning is a tune from Traffic, pulled from John Barleycorn Must Die. “Stranger To Himself” is a halting, shifting tune with intentional dissonance, instrumental and vocal. I’ve heard it so many times over forty years that it sounds normal, and I wish I could remember what I thought of it the first time I heard it. Now, it just sounds like the rec room in our basement circa 1973.

And we head to country rock territory, with weeping fiddles leading us into “The Image of Me” from Burrito Deluxe, the second album released by the Flying Burrito Brothers. The track, written by country writing legend Harlan Howard along with Wayne Kemp, seems to be your basic Burrito outing: good but not great, as least not when compared to the group’s previous release, The Gilded Palace of Sin. That came out in 1969, though, and we’re concerned this morning with 1970 and prepared to stop right here. Technical difficulties, however, at force us to move on one more step to a seventh song:

Ian and Sylvia Tyson were one of the most popular acts of the folk revival of the early 1960s, with Ian Tyson writing some of the most evocative songs of that era, including “Early Morning Rain” and “Four Strong Winds.” As 1970 came along, they’d been passed by for the most part, but soldiered on, heading into country rock and straight country music. Their 1970 release, The Great Speckled Bird, was produced by Todd Rundgren, and although it was not all that successful commercially, I’ve always enjoyed it. And “Smiling Wine” from The Great Speckled Bird is today’s Saturday single:

(Whoops! “Early Morning Rain,” as reader Randy points out, is Gordon Lightfoot’s tune.)


2 Responses to “Saturday Single No. 213”

  1. Randy says:

    As a dyed-in-the-wool Canuck, its nice to see a few Canadian acts get mentioned from time to time. I hadn’t listened to “Great Speckled Bird” in years and your mention of it prompted me to give it a spin. It really was a nice little album, but I can only stand so much of Sylvia’s vibrato at one sitting. I believe Ian Tyson used it as the name of his band after he and Sylvia split.

    I just couldn’t resist pointing out what I believe is an error on your part in crediting “Early Morning Rain” to Ian Tyson. It was written by none other than Gordon Lightfoot, one of my all-time favorite artists and a Canadian treasure. I don’t believe he was as popular in the States as he was up here, but to a gang of young guys of a certain vintage who loved the sound of a 12-string and drove themselves crazy trying to duplicate Red Shea’s accompaniment parts, he was a God. Not quite Canada’s Bob Dylan, but close.

    Thanks for another memory-massaging column. This blog is on my must-read list for all those little tidbits of life that so parallel my own. Keep it coming!

  2. whiteray says:

    Randy: You’re right, of course. “Early Morning Rain” is Lightfoot’s tune. Thanks.

Leave a Reply