for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

The 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees have been announced. The artists being considered are a mixture of worthy choices, maybes and what-the-hell-were-they-thinking. Well, here's what I'm thinking...

The most worthy candidates. Odd that the two songs of theirs you're most likely to hear on the radio these days (Why Can't We Be Friends and Low Rider) are novelty tunes. But these guys cooked, mixing R&B, funk, rock and Latin music. Their short association with Eric Burdon produced the cool drunken rap of Spill the Wine and a smokin' version of Tobacco Road. They had a slew of funky 45s on their own: All Day Music, The World is a Ghetto, The Cisco Kid, Me and Baby Brother, Southern Part of Texas and Gypsy Man to name a few. Plus you gotta love a band with a Danish harp player. I vote yes on whether they should get in - and I'm willing to go to war with anyone who objects.

Did they pioneer the girl group thing? Not really. There were The Supremes before them, The Andrews Sister waaaay back when and long-since forgotten Fanny in between. Like Joan Jett (see below) they may be getting recognized for their gender rather than their talent, but unlike Ms. Jett, Ann and Nancy really have chops, especially Nancy who did the lead vocal on their biggest hit, These Dreams. She can also play a mean guitar. Ann's Robert Plant-like decibels occasionally threaten to shatter the ear drums, but Heart rocks as hard as any guy band and can deliver a stirring ballad to boot. I say with all my heart, vote Ann and Nancy Wilson in.

Unless you're familiar with Grand Funk's song We're an American Band, it's a good bet you have no idea who Freddie King was. ("Up all night with Freddie King, I got to tell you poker's his thing.") Freddie may have been a good card player but he wasn't a memorable blues man...and this is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Sorry, the King doesn't get crowned.

I don't think I'm being two faced (sorry) when I point out that these were really two different groups with some of the same personnel. The Small Faces were a mid 60s psyche/mod/rock band with a bit of attitude courtesy of their aggressive, diminutive lead singer, Steve Marriott, who bellowed with the soulful authority of Ray Charles. When Marriott departed to form Humble Pie, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood stepped in and the tight ditties of the Small Faces turned into the sloppy pub music of The Faces. I'm splitting my vote here. Yes to the Small Faces and no to The Faces, despite Rod Stewart's presence, because rowdy Roddie kept the best stuff for his solo career anyway.

Again, this is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Please pack up your disco ball and do not pass go. I know Donna worked hard for the money and she's hot stuff, but let's dim all the lights on admitting her.

A phenomenal song writer who penned a lot of hits for other artists, including Eli's Coming (Three Dog Night), And When I Die (Blood, Sweat & Tears) and  Stoned Soul Picnic and Sweet Blindness for The Fifth Dimension, plus Barbara Steisand's only tolerable foray into rock, Stoney End. She was, however, a somewhat somnambulistic singer with a wispy, blasé voice. If I had a vote it would be no, but I have a feeling Nyro gets in out of respect and remorse, which would make sense - she was overlooked during her career and died young. 

About time the Sunshine Superman was recognized. The Scottish folk singer had ten top 40 hits in the U.S.: Mellow Yellow (with Paul McCartney singing background vocals), Sunshine Superman, There Is a Mountain, Hurdy Gurdy Man, Atlantis and Balabajagal (Love is Hot) (recorded with the Jeff Beck Group) to name a few. Donovan not only preached love they neighbor, he believed in it. How good was he? Future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham played on his records. How influential? When the Beatles went off to see the Maharishi, Donovan went with them, teaching John and Paul some new acoustic guitar techniques they'd use on The White Album. I'm soft on hippies, so I say vote Donovan in.


There's no cure for these guys. Close to You made good use of Robert Smith paranoia pop sensibilities and neurotic vocals, but no. Into the mosh pit with you.

Say it with me, ya'll... It's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When the Rap Hall of Fame opens up these guys should be elected to the Board of Directors; then they'll have the right to hip hop to the podium. In the meantime, no, bro.

I admit that I have a soft spot for the bouncy silliness of The Rubberband Man. Could it Be I'm Falling In Love and I'll Be Around are easy, breezy soul classics. If they insist on putting R&B bands in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame then these guys aren't a bad choice. I vote yes.

As their own song says: "Tell me something good." Tell me they're not getting in.

gr.jpgGuns and Hoses front man Axl Rose sings like a cross between Ethel Merman and Edith Bunker on E-Lax. Slash's 'do was so big he couldn't see his toes and he played like he couldn't see his strings. That aside, these hard rock hack hedonists were handed the keys to the city and choked. Just because you have a reputation for being a rebel doesn't mean you have to act like one, especially if you can't handle it. Their music was as grungy and unwashed as their personal lives. It took Axl Rose 15, count 'em 15 years to make Chinese Democracy. Ineptitude on such a grand scale shouldn't be rewarded.

Jett's original band, the Runaways has been heralded as historic; that's because they were jailbait teenagers playing rock and roll in clubs when they should have been home in bed. They were loud, proud and sloppy. As for Jett, she can thank songwriter/producer Kenny Laguna for giving her better material than her former band mates, although the only things she had to say were "I love rock n' roll" (a song she stole from Gary Glitter) and the apropos "I don't give a damn about my bad reputation." Joanie made a lasting impression on me in concert. She had a nasty attitude (which was expected, this was the punk era), but she didn't have to prove she was tough by spitting out a loogie that covered everyone in the first two rows. For that alone I spit on her nomination. 

No they're not. They're smart enough to have a bassist named Flea whose propensity nudity distracts the audience from figuring out they can't play. Hold the chili.

Hard to believe that Yes and the Moody Blues aren't in, but the Hall of Fame has shown a decided reluctance to induct English acts. The real tragedy here is so not much who won't get in in 2012, it's who might get in.
for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

Looks like Amy Winehouse shouldn't have said no, no, no to rehab after all. The recent passing of the overindulgent chanteuse brings to mind a slew of rock and rollers who lived full-throttle and ran out of gas young. Like Winehouse, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan and Janis Joplin went to rock and roll heaven at age 27 (ed. note: also Kurt Cobain and Brian Jones). Hmm...does that mean if you don't join "the 27 Club" you're gonna be okay? Nah. John Lennon (40), John Bonham (32), Steve Marriott (44) and Elvis (42) were called to that great concert hall in the sky at a relatively young age. Here are some other lesser known but no less important musicians that left us too soon:

Chris Wood (Traffic)
Fellow Traffickers Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi called Wood the heart and soul of the band. Well, by 1974 that soul was wearing down. Wood, who had aversion to flying, started drinking to relax. Then he started drinking in order to perform, then he started drinking in order to fall asleep, then he started drinking to...well, you get the picture. Self taught on the sax and flute, Wood's genius for improvisation began to evaporate. Toward the end of Traffic's final tour he lurched about on stage, fell off the stage or wasn't on stage at all. He once spent half a concert arguing with a fan while the rest of the band played on. Traffic's demise was in part due to Wood's erratic performances. He tried to record a solo album, Vulcan, but drugs and alcohol kept him from finishing it. He died of pneumonia on July 12, 1983, age 39. 

Richard Manuel (The Band)
Manuel sang like a tortured soul. He was. His vocal for the Depression era saga "King Harvest (Has Surely Come)" was impassioned; his faltering falsetto for "Whispering Pines" was a desperate cry from a lost man wallowing in the throes of insecurity and depression. Whether he was frustrated that his skills as a composer had deserted him or tired of being on the road, he partied like a condemned man. After The Band played their Last Waltz concert in 1976, Manuel dried out, eventually touring with the reconstituted group in 1983. But the demons returned and Manuel slowly slipped into his old habit of singing only as well as his sobriety allowed. When alcoholism proved to be to slow (he drank eight bottles of Grand Marnier per day and snorted enough Peruvian marching dust to bury a village), Manuel hung himself on March 4, 1986. He was 42.

Paul Kossoff (Free/Back Street Crawler)
Guitarist Paul Kossoff was all of 20 when Free scored a worldwide top ten hit with the iconic "All Right Now." Despite his wailing, expressive style, "Koss" was insecure. He stood a gnome-like 5' 2" and was playing in a rock band without the approval of his father, actor David Kossoff. When 18-year old bassist Andy Fraser began to exert more control over the group adding keyboards and showing Kossoff how to play his parts, Kossoff stepped up his use of Mandrax to ease his troubles. Downs and alcohol seldom mix well on stage; Fraser left the band when Kossoff's addiction made a mess of their performances. Free was finished soon after. Kossoff did solo album, played on Jim Capaldi's first solo album, Oh How We Danced and formed his own group, Back Street Crawler. But Kossoff's performances began to mirror those of his party buddy, Chris Wood, leading to a bet among Island Records staffers whether Kossoff or Wood would die first. Kossoff won the bet, but it wasn't easy. He O'D'ed on his way to New York and was clinically dead for nearly forty-five minutes. Given a second chance at life, Kossoff, admittedly lost without his Free band mates, accelerated his drug use. He suffered a heart attack on a flight from Los Angeles to New York on March 19, 1976. This time he was dead for sure, age 25.

Terry Kath (Chicago) 
File Kath's death under accidental stupidity. A brilliant guitarist with an earth-shattering, guttural singing voice, Kath was one of the axe men admired by Jimi Hendrix (others were the equally tragic Paul Kossoff and Randy California of Spirit). A founding member of jazz/rock giants Chicago, Kath voiced their signature songs "Free," "Make Me Smile," "Out in the Country" and "Colour My World." By 1978, Kath was planning a solo album, but had also fallen into substance abuse to ease his boredom. On January 25 while attending a party at a roadie's home, Kath began playing Russian Roulette with a pistol. His final words to concerned onlookers were, "Don't worry, it's not loaded." He was 31.    

Pete Ham and Tom Evans (Badfinger)
With hits like "Come and Get it," "No Matter What," "Day After Day" and "Without You" (Harry Nilsson's cover of "Without You" went to #1), the members of Badfinger should have been set for life. Instead, when guitarist/vocalist Pete Ham tried to write a check to cover his mortgage, he discovered he only a few dollars in the bank. He and the rest of the band had been swindled out of millions by their manager, Stan Polley, who had convinced them to leave the safe confines of The Beatles record label, Apple for Warner Brothers. Embroiled in a law suit with his new record company, unable to provide for his family, Ham hanged himself on April 25, 1975 at age got it, 27. 

Tom Evans had never been a tower of strength and when his best friend committed suicide, he wanted to join him in the next world. After an argument with band mate Joey Molland over royalties, Evans went out to his garden and hanged himself. His son found the 36-year old guitarist the following morning on November 19, 1983.

Duane Allman and Berry Oakley (Allman Brothers)
It wasn't a thirst for drink or drugs that did in guitarist Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley. It was speed - and not the pharmaceutical kind. At 24, Duane Allman's signature high-pitched slide guitar work for Aretha Franklin ("The Weight"), Boz Scaggs ("Loan Me a Dime") and Wilson Pickett ("Hey Jude") and his recordings with the Allman Brothers and Derek and the Dominoes had already made him a legend. On October 28, 1971 during a break from recording the next unnamed Allman Brothers album in Macon, Georgia, Allman took a motorcycle ride. He saw a peach truck attempting to make a turn in front of him. Inexplicably, the truck stopped in mid-turn at an intersection. Allman tried to stop, but lost control of his bike. He was thrown from the bike and died from internal injuries. The Allman Brothers next album, dedicated to Duane, was called Eat a Peach.

A little over a year later on November 11, 1972, bassist Berry Oakley was riding his bike
three blocks from where Allman had died when he hit a bus. Like Allman, Oakley was also thrown from his bike. He landed on his head, but he walked away from the accident and refused medical treatment. Suffering from a severe headache he went to a hospital a few hours later, but it was too late - he died as a result of a fractured skull. Like Allman, Oakley was 24.

Felix Pappalardi (Mountain) 
A ripple of surprise went through the music world when 43 year-old Mountain bassist and Cream producer Felix Pappalardi was shot dead by his wife and collaborator, lyricist/graphic artist Gail Collins on April 17, 1983. But those that knew the couple weren't all that shocked. Pappalardi had a roving eye and Collins knew it.

As Cream's producer, Pappalardi often recorded with the trio, adding unusual instrumentation associated with classical music. Along with fellow bass players Jack Bruce, Andy Fraser and Rick Grech, Pappalardi's full-bodied sound helped popularize the instrument. But after three albums with gargantuan guitarist Leslie West in Mountain with West turning his amp up to 11, Pappalardi started to lose his hearing, forcing him into semi-retirement. That meant he could do interesting side projects like 1976's Creation with a Japanese rock band by the same name, but it also meant too much time for groupies and girlfriends. Collins and Pappalardi maintained they had an open marriage...and Pappalardi apparently tested their claim.
Collins, who served two years of a four year sentence for criminally negligent homicide, maintained the shooting was an accident. Commenting on Pappalardi's death, the never subtle West said, "Buy your wife a diamond ring, some flowers, a pushup bra. Don't buy her a gun."

Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (Grateful Dead)
The Dead's bluesman was a drinker in a group that ate acid like Pez. His taste in the blues and his taste for booze made him the odd man out, although he excelled when he was given the spotlight to wail "Turn on Your Lovelight," "Hard to Handle" or "Big Boss Man." When keyboard player Tom Constanten took over Pigpen's spot on keyboards at live gigs Pigpen appeared less on stage, diving deeper into the bottle. McKernan developed a form of cirrohis of the liver and was advised to stop touring and warned that if he didn't stop drinking he'd simply stop. With a bottle in his hand, Pigpen accompanied the Dead on their Europe '72.  He died from a gastrointestinal hemmorage on March 8, 1973 having packed a lot of living into his 27 years. 

Others gone too soon include Tammi Terrell, Marvin Gaye's singing partner (24, brain cancer), T. Rex founder Marc Bolan (car accident at age 29...One headline read "T. Wrecks"...ouch), Queen's flamboyant front man Freddie Mercury (AIDS, 42) and folkie Tim Hardin, composer of "If I Were a Carpenter" and "Reason to Believe" (39, heroin overdose). (ed. note: I can't leave off Gram Parsons, age 26, overdose of morphine or Otis Redding, plane crash)

maccartney.jpgPaul McCartney
(First Solo Album, 4 out of 5 stars)
McCartney II
(1 ½ out of 5 stars)
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

It's a big Mac attack! Two of Paul McCartney's solo albums, his self-titled 1970 debut and its 1980 techno sequel, McCartney II, have been turned into 2CD/1 DVD treasure troves with bonus tracks, rare in-studio footage, interviews and videos.

The four Beatles began working on solo projects even as the group's last two albums, Abbey Road and Let it Be were being prepared for release. Recorded in his home studio, McCartney's first solo album was finished in March 1970. The others asked McCartney to delay the release of the album until Let it Be was out; they even sent Ringo Starr to his house to make a personal request. (Uncharacteristically, the normally diplomatic McCartney kicked the affable drummer out.) Macca not only put the album out, he also made a public statement saying he was leaving the Beatles. Macca's announcement drove a stake through the Beatles' heart, but within days of its release, Paul McCartney was headed to #1 in the U.S.

Paul McCartney was packed with Beatle rejects (just as Lennon and especially Harrison's solos were), but just about any song The Beatles cut from their canon still qualifies as a classic. (It's the Beatles, kids, not Brownsville Station.) "Teddy Boy" had been earmarked for Let it Be; "Junk" had been written while The Beatles were navel gazing with the Maharishi in India in 1968 and "Maybe I'm Amazed," inspired by Paul's wife, Linda, was composed while the group was breaking up. 

Some of the songs like the forty-two second "Lovely Linda" or the instrumental "Valentine Day" (a mere 1:40) are unfinished ideas or snippets (much like side two of Abbey Road). In retrospect, what makes Paul McCartney an amazing effort is that a) despite and probably because he was so prolific, Macca seldom reached such heights again; b) he played all the instruments himself, and c) the songs that are fully realized are among his best.

Forty years down the road "Maybe I'm Amazed" is still Macca's masterpiece. McCartney's chest busting vocal is saturated with sincerity (you can't say that about his "Mary Had a Little Lamb" or "That Girl is Mine"). His guitar solos are biting, yet melodic and the arrangement builds to a dramatic peak riding atop a pounding piano and a hallowed organ undercurrent.

"Every Night" is the album's other song you'll want to play every day, a swaying acoustic ode that's actually an ode to domestic bliss ("But tonight I just want to stay in and be with you.")

Lyrics were never McCartney's meat (that was Lennon's legacy) but with Linda chirping along, the repetitive "Man We Was Lonely" bounces merrily along like a carriage ride in the country. "Oo You" is macho Macca, a growling tribute to his wife with Paul breaking out his Little Richard yelp ("Eat like a hunger Ooooo!") McCartney lacks Starr's subtlety as a drummer, but his raw enthusiasm gives "Oo You" an extra dose of dynamics.

"Teddy Boy" is the story of a mamma's boy told in the fable-like style of "Rocky Raccoon." McCartney's progression from folk to a gentle shuffle mid-song is a neat trick, as is ability to harmonize with novice vocalist Linda. "Junk" is melancholy without being to maudlin, with Macca comparing the debris in our hearts to the useless processions we collect.

Paul McCartney successfully launched the ex-Beatle's solo career, which continued even after Macca did the unthinkable by forming another band. 

Bonus Mac

The second Paul McCartney CD has 24 minutes of bonus audio, including outtakes, demos and live performances. 

"Suicide" was actually that elusive five seconds you first heard at the end of "Glasses/Hot as Sun." At its full 2:46, it's a peculiar piano based 30-ish piece of irony that recalls "Honey Pie" or one of Harry Nilsson's dark, pretty-on-the-surface tunes. "Nothin' doin' I call it suicide." All in all, Paul was right in leaving it off, there's nothin' doin' here.

Two sedate versions of "Maybe I'm Amazed" are included, the first, from the documentary One Hand Clapping, the second recorded live at Glasgow in 1979. Other Glasgow cuts include "Hot as Sun," which perks up thanks some Madi Gras horns. "Don't Cry Baby" is actually "Oo You" without the lyrics, which will give you a chance to listen to Paul's raw guitar work and snare-happy drumming; the previously unreleased "Woman Kind" won't make women's right's supporters very happy.

The archive footage is a forty-year old scrapbook and includes the origin of the baby in the jacket cover photo, the music video for "Maybe I'm Amazed" and film of Paul, the kids and his true love Linda in Scotland wrapped around a touching string ensemble version of "Junk." 

The DVD's live performances of "Every Night" and "Hot as Sun" recorded at the Concert for the People of Kampuchea in 1979 have a little more energy than the audio takes on the second CD; "Singalong Junk" and "That Would Be Something" hail from an MTV unplugged performance in 1991. Nice to see Denny Laine (the guy who sang "Go Now" for the Moody Blues") and Hamish Stuart (singer/guitarist for the Average White Band) strumming away with Paul in their respective segments.

And Then There Were II

McCartney's puzzled "Say What?" expression of the cover of 1980's McCartney II says it all. McCartney II was a lark, a way for Macca to play around in the studio without pre-conceived material, which unfortunately means scattered ideas, toying around with 80s synthesizers and lame lyrics. As a result, it is a startlingly bad album for someone who was once a member of the world's greatest and most important band.

With its muted trumpets, mechanical vocal and waka-waka guitar, "Coming Up" is the album's best track. Too bad it's also the first; McCartney II is a marathon of bad judgment after that. The durable drumming in the bluesy "On the Way" shows that Macca paid close attention to Ringo's style. "Summer's Day Song" is short on words ("Someone's sleeping through a bad dream, tomorrow it will all be over for the world will soon be waking to a summer's day") but has a soothing synth as a string section backing.

"Bogey Music" is a good idea gone very bad thanks to too many special effects. And it's not called "boogie music" as you might suspect; Macca pronounces it "bogey music," like Humphrey Bogart's nickname. As they say in golf, Macca takes a bogey with this one.

Paul's cloying vocal, the garbage can beat and hornet's nest synths make "Temporary Secretary" permanently unemployable and "Nobody Knows" is drunken hillbilly music. Ironically, "Waterfalls," the one song McCartney wrote beforehand, is one of the worst: "Don't go jumping waterfalls, please keep to the lake. People who go jumping waterfalls can sometimes make mistakes." Indeed, Sir Paul. 

McCartney II's value is enhanced by 47 minutes of extra audio (that's more than the length of the original album), although I'll never again waste ten minutes sitting through the synthesizer stank of "Secret Friend" or the egregious equestrian atrocity "All You Horse Riders." And why, for Tiny Tim's sake, did he include yet another version of that heinous holiday lump of coal "Wonderful Christmastime?" Well, at least you also get "Blue Sway," an orchestral film noir instrumental that should have replaced some of the smegma on the original release, plus "Check My Machine," which sounds like Frankie Valli  in cahoots with the Parliament Funkadelic (which somehow works) and the live version of "Coming Up" we've come to cherish.

There's 52 minutes of bonus film, including three versions of "Coming Up." It's still a great inside joke to see Paulie sporting a Hitler moustache doing an imitation of Sparks' Russell Mael (look up Mael and you'll see) and describing the other rock icons he plays in the video. There's a 25-minute interview in which Macca admits that Paul McCartney II was a "mess around" that was made up as he went along that he didn't intend to release. Well, he got the mess right.

McCartney II may not be worth listening to, but the extras make it worth looking at. That would be something if two of Macca's best solo releases, Ram and Wings' first effort, Wildlife, get the same treatment. In the meantime, Oo you will be amazed with the remastered version of Paul McCartney.

  John Barleycorn Must Die - Deluxe Edition

  5 out of 5 stars
  Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

Traffic's classic fourth album, John Barleycorn Must Die, has been given the Legacy Edition treatment - it's been remastered and expanded to 2CDs with alternate takes and live tracks. 

The first disc restores John Barleycorn to its original 6-track running order. The second disc, compiled by surviving group member Steve Winwood, contains alternate mixes of "Stranger to Himself" and "Every Mother's Son," as well as the group's first attempt at "John Barleycorn Must Die." The real treat for fans is the addition of seven tracks recorded live at the Fillmore East on November 18 and 19 in 1970.

Traffic Jams...Then Crashes

One of the 60s and 70s most daring, innovative and eclectic bands, Traffic centered around multi instrumentalists Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood. Winwood, the most famous member or the group, had become a celebrity as a fifteen-year old fronting the Spencer  Davis Group, who'd scored hits with the organ-rich "Gimme Some Lovin'," the bass-thumping "Keep on Running" and the party-out-of bounds "I'm a Man" (with future Traffic members Chris Wood and Dave Mason singing in the background).

Frustrated by the group's focus on singles and R & B, Winwood spent his off hours jamming with Capaldi, Wood and Davis roadie turned guitarist Dave Mason at club's like the Elbow Room in London.

Quick-quipping, dapper, devilish drummer/singer Jim Capaldi had made his mark as front man for rockers The Hellions and psychedelic darlings Deep Feeling (which featured future Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grosvenor and future Family percussionist/flutist Poli Palmer).

Self-taught on sax and flute, former artist Chris Wood had been a member of Locomotive along with future Spooky Tooth drummer Mike Kellie. Although he wasn't a writer, Capaldi and Winwood credited Wood with providing the sonic atmosphere that Capaldi dubbed "40,000 headmen music."

Traffic's 1967 debut, Mr. Fantasy (4 out of 5 stars) (originally released in the U.S. as Heaven is in Your Mind) was a product of the day, sprinkled with sitars, energetic jams and quirky sound effects. Winwood, Capaldi and Wood were non-plussed when Mason's acid rock nursery rhyme "Hole in my Shoe" was selected as the group's second single. (Winwood/Capaldi's "Paper Sun" was the first, reaching #5 in the U.K.) 

Despite reaching #2 on the English pop charts, the selection of "Hole in My Shoe" deepened a riff between Mason and the others. Mason brought finished songs to the group, using them as back up musicians. Winwood, Capaldi and Wood preferred to create their material from jams, with Capaldi writing the lyrics. 

By the time Traffic was ready to tour the U.S., Mason was out. Some of his songs were cut from the American release and the group was picture as a trio. 

The trio only had enough material for half an album when they began recording their self-titled second disk, so a mellowed Mason was invited back. Released in October 1968, Traffic (5 out of 5 stars) contained the classic Winwood/Capaldi collaborations "40,000 Headmen," "Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring?" and "Pearly Queen," as well as Mason's penultimate composition, "Feelin' Alright." But the passive power struggle between Winwood and Mason doomed the group. Mason was out of the group by the time the album was released and Winwood quit after the follow-up tour. The group's posthumous third album, Last Exit (3 ½ out of 5 stars) was a collection of live tracks and A and B sides.

By 1970, Steve Winwood's career in music was uncertain. Traffic was at a standstill. Capaldi and Wood had joined forces with Mason and keyboard player Mick Weaver to form Wynder K. Frog, which disbanded after a few live gigs. Winwood formed Blind Faith, one of rock's first supergroups, with Ginger Baker, Rick Grech and Eric Clapton. But Clapton unwillingness to deal with the flood of publicity and hype and Baker's taste for heroin finished Blind Faith after one album. 

Winwood's stay in Ginger Baker's Air Force amounted to a handful of gigs and an overindulgent live album critics dubbed "Airfarce." Wary of working in another group, Winwood teamed up with quirky producer Guy Stevens and began working on his first solo record, the aptly titled Mad Shadows. It morphed into one of Traffic's most popular albums.

Among the songs Winwood recorded with Stevens were "Stranger to Himself" and a version of Bob Dylan's "Visions of Johanna." When Stevens suggested Winwood take a stab at Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire," he knew he was heading in the wrong direction. Eager to work with like minded musicians, Winwood began playing with Capaldi who provided the lyrics to his embryonic ideas and played the drums.
The nucleus of the band reunited when Chris Wood returned to England after touring with Dr. John, joining Winwood and Capaldi in the studio. Wood brought along a traditional song recorded by the Watersons, an English folk group. Winwood and Capaldi were so taken by the song's ethereal appeal that it became the title track of Traffic's fourth album.

Based on an olde English melody picked by Winwood on acoustic guitar, the quiet "Barleycorn" draws the bulk of its gentle appeal from Wood's darting, breezy flute solos and Winwood and Capaldi's understated harmonizing that tells a tale of mankind's battle against alcohol.

The rest of John Barleycorn Must Die is an alchemy of rock, jazz and folk. Winwood wrote the music, Capaldi provided the lyrics and Wood returned to his role as being the glue holding Traffic's sound together. 

The opening track, "Glad," is credited to Winwood, but validates Wood's role as a creative soloist. With the aid of Winwood's dexterous piano intros and Capaldi's steady drumming, Wood's bouncy electric sax propels the happy-go-lucky jam.

Wood's squatty sax quickly leads the charge into "Freedom Rider," a frantic song about rebellion. Winwood's intense vocal gives Capaldi's imagery a desperate edge: "Like a hurricane inside your heart, when earth and sky are torn apart. He comes gathering up the bits, while hoping that the puzzle fits. Freedom Rider." Wood breaks out a double-tracked flute solo at the song's midpoint that soars and scatters like a frightened bird, then returns to holding down the verses with his film noire sax solos.

The trio barely takes a breath before launching into "Empty Pages," a Traffic classic that's one of their funkiest tunes. Capaldi lays down a Stax-styled backbeat that compliments Winwood's fat bass line. Winwood's electric piano playing and his lung-stretching vocal recall his R & B days with the Spencer Davis Group when he was dubbed "the white Ray Charles." A pleasant surprise is the way Wood cocoons the melody with sweeping chords on Hammond organ.

"Stranger to Himself" is a one-man show for Winwood, who plays all the instruments, including drums. Capaldi, an accomplished singer in his own right, sings back up. Winwood introduces each verse with a crisp acoustic riff. His biting, fuzz-toned electric solos serve notice that one rock's most renowned keyboard players can also excel on the axe.

Capaldi and Winwood recorded "Every Mother's Son" while Wood was still with Dr. John. A mixture of soul and rock, the song's highpoint is Winwood's elongated, sweeping, gospel-inspired Hammond solo. Capaldi nails down the rhythm like a pile-driving steelworker.

Disc two of the Legacy Edition captures Traffic live at the Fillmore East, with Winwood, Capaldi and Wood joined by ex-Family/Blind Faith member Rick Grech who alternates between guitar and bass. The songs were originally intended for an album entitled "Live at the Anderson Theater." The album's release was suspended when drummer Jim Gordon and percussionist Anthony "Reebop" Kwaku Baah joined the band, expanding and completely altering their sound, thus making the "Anderson Theater" album obsolete. (Another live album, Welcome to the Canteen with Gordon, Grech and Dave Mason, returning for a third and last time, was released in 1971 to take its place.) 

The Fillmore set is Traffic with all their lovable warts, including Wood's occasional barking seal sax solos and Winwood muffing a lyric or two. "Medicated Goo" has the slow groove of the studio original with Wood busting out a funky accompaniment on sax. 

Winwood turns out a soulful electric piano solo for "Empty Pages." His solo turns in "Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring?" and "Every Mother's Son" show why he's considered a master of the Hammond organ. "40,000 Headmen" is Traffic perfection with Wood warbling wonderfully on flute and Winwood's mysterious vocal. "Glad/Freedom Rider" runs ten minutes and is highlighted by Wood's lung-busting sax solos. 

Ironically as the group began touring behind John Barleycorn Must Die and then expanded its ranks to include Grech, Gordon and Baah, Wood feel victim to alcoholism. He'd begun drinking heavily in order to combat his fear of flying and occasionally didn't leave himself enough time to sober up before performing. He passed away in 1983 at 39 from pneumonia due to complications from alcoholism. Capaldi died of stomach cancer in 2005 at age 60, leaving Winwood the remaining core member. (Mason still records and tours but he was never considered a full-fledged member by the others. Reebop Kwaku Baah actually appears on more Traffic albums than Mason.)

Forty years after its release, John Barleycorn Must Die remains a must have for any fan of rock, jazz, folk or R & B. And the best was yet to come. Now a six-man powerhouse, Traffic's nest album, 1971's The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys would be their crowing achievement.
by Mike Jefferson

There have been many fortuitous moments in rock, such as Mama Cass introducing Graham Nash to David Crosby and Stephen Stills. Among others...

Buddy Rescues the Band of Gypsys

Happy New Year! Jimi Hendrix and his new band, "The Band of Gypsys," with drummer/vocalist Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox, opened their second night at the Fillmore East with "Who Knows?" a bluesy jam written by Hendrix. But Hendrix snapped a string midway through the song - not a good omen. Recognizing "Who Knows?" was floundering, Miles began scat singing as Cox's bass rumbled in the background.

Miles kept riffing for several minutes, giving Hendrix time to restring his guitar. One of the Gypsys' best and most spontaneous cuts was captured for the band's subsequent live album. 

Emerson Tunes Up Lucky Man

On the last day of recording their self-titled debut album, Emerson, Lake and Palmer realized they were short one song. So Lake dusted off "Lucky Man," a ballad he'd written when he was twelve-years old. Lake was working on the song in one studio while Emerson was experimenting with a Moog synthesizer next door. Hearing Emerson's wailing, jabbing solos, Lake thought they'd provide an excellent and unexpected ending to his song. One of rock's earliest Moog solos, Emerson's frenzied feedback helped make "Lucky Man" ELP's signature song.

A Few Beatle Moments...

The Beatles decided to take a break from rehearsing John Lennon's "I Feel Fine," a catchy tune propelled by Ringo Starr's Latin-influenced drum pattern that Lennon nonetheless still lacked something. Lennon accidentally left his guitar on, leaning it next to his amp. The resulting feedback produced an elongated laser-like drone that immediately caught the group's attention.

The revolutionary sound was tacked onto the beginning of the song, paving the way for future guitarists like Pete Townsend, Alvin Lee and Leslie West to use feedback in their acts.

"Yer Blues" was a stripped-down Lennon tune recorded live for 1968's "White" album. The lyrics captured Lennon at his most poetic and paranoid. The bluesy jam was enhanced by Lennon's raw vocal, his grungy solo and Harrison's stinging comeback.

When his vocal mike failed prior to the third verse, Lennon continued singing, his vocal  picked up by one of the overhead mikes. As a result, Lennon sounded distant, echoed and pained, like the drowning man he was singing about. The group thought about re-recording the vocal, but were struck by its dramatic value and left it in.

Lovesick Eric

Eric Clapton wrote "Layla" about his unrequited love for Patti Boyd, George Harrison's wife. It was originally a ballad until guitarist Duane Allman heard it, adding the song's signature slide guitar riff.

A few weeks later, Clapton came into the studio while drummer Jim Gordon was playing a piano piece he intended to use for a solo track. Clapton asked Gordon if he could use it for the end of "Layla." Gordon intially refused, and keyboardist Bobby Whitlock wasn't pleased about Gordon taking over his role.

Clapton overdubbed acoustic and electric guitars, Whitlock pitched in on piano with Gordon, Allman added bird-like figures on slide guitar and producer Tom Down spliced together Clapton's original and Gordon's coda to create Derek and the Dominoes' classic song.

Sad Rag Doll

Bob Gaudio, bass singer and writer for the Four Seasons, was stopped in traffic in New York City in 1964 near Hell's Kitchen. As he waited for the light to change, a young girl dressed in tatters her face and hands covered in dirt, began cleaning the car's windshield.

Gaudio reached into his wallet to tip her, but found all he had was a $20 bill. He was so moved by the girl's desperate appearance he gave her the twenty. The girl's astonished expression left an imdelible impression on Gaudio. With the help of Bob Crewe, Gaudio composed "Rag Doll" about her.

"Rag Doll" went to number one in June, 1964.

While Capaldi naps, Wood and Winwood Create a Fantasy

The members of Traffic (Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason) lived together at a country estate in Berkshire, jamming together and creating material for their debut album. One night drummer/lyricist Capaldi scribbled down some words about "Mr. Fantasy," a mythical muse, then went to bed.

Winwood and Wood read Capaldi's lyrics and began laying down music to match Capaldi's imagery. The clamor woke Capaldi, who joined Winwood and Wood to finish the song one of Traffic's most beloved anthems.

Whitfield Rankles Edwards

Producer Norman Whitfield was instrumental in stoking The Temptations hit machine following David Ruffin's departure in 1968. Whitfield and Barrett Strong composed "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," a tough tale about children questioning their mother about their delinquent father's shady past.

Ruffin's easy-going replacement, Dennis Edwards, fumed when he read the opening line: "It was the third of September, a day I'll always remember, 'cause that was the day that my daddy died." Edwards' father had died on that date and he was convinced Whitfield, who liked to push his artists, had assigned him the line in order to aggravate him. Edwards' anger toward Whitfield intensified when the producer made him repeatedly rehearse the line.

Whitfield feigned ignorance of the date, but his prodding induced Edwards to give a scalding performance. The seven-minute single version went to #1 and won three Grammy Awards in 1973.

Fate can be cruelly ironic as well. Nick Drake, who albums sold in the hundreds while he was alive, became a star 30 years after his death when his song "Pink Moon" was used in a car commercial.

But for every Nick Drake, there's also an artist like Tommy James. Needing a catchy title and a chorus for a new song, James looked out of his apartment window, spying a large sign on the Mutual of New York building across the street.  He called the song "Mony Mony".

  Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson

A high-energy act from Boston, The J. Geils Band entertained fans through eleven riotous studio and live albums.

The band was comprised of guitarist John "J" Geils, bassist Daniel Klein, harp player Richard Salwitz (known as "Magic Dick"), drummer Stephen Jo Bladd, former D.J. turned vocalist Peter Blakenfield (who used the last name Wolf) and teenaged keyboard player Seth Justman.

Geils, Klein and Salwitz had formed an acoustic trio, Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels, in the early 60s playing in the Worcester area. In 1967 they recruited Blankenfeld and Bladd, formerly of the Hallucinations, forming the J. Geils Blues Band. Justman, a fan, joined a year later.

Wolf wasn't a great singer, but he was a hyperactive front man who rattled off jive gibberish faster than the roadrunner getting away from Wile E. Coyote ("We gonna mooga googa get it all down get it outta sight get it down baby!") and could spin around his mic like a pole dancer.

The band recorded many of the songs that became staples in their live act for their self-titled 1970 debut (3 ½ out of 5 stars), including "Homework," "First I Look at the Purse," "Cruisin' For Love" and "Serves You Right to Suffer." The diddy-bopping funk of "Wait" and "Sno-Cone," propelled by Bladd's Gene Krupa-like drumming, were other prime cuts.

The group's second album, 1971's The Morning After (3 out of 5 stars), was buoyed by the Top Forty success of their rowdy single "Looking For Love."

On Stage Electricity

The band became a popular live act, particularly at Detroit's Cinderella Ballroom where they recorded their third album, Full House (4 out of 5 stars), on April 21 and 22, 1972.

The crowd's enthusiastic reception to Wolf's rapid fire commentary, Magic Dick's lung-busting harp solos, Bladd's wall-crumbling drums, Justman's jaunty keyboards, Klein's steady foundation and Geils' gritty guitar makes it sound as if the band is performing in your living room.

Full House begins with the full-tilt workout frat house madness of "First I Look at the Purse." Their cover of Otis Rush's "Homework" mines the same bluesy arrangement utilized by Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac except with an added dash of bravado from Wolf. Magic Dick blows away the audience with the instrumental "Whammer Jammer," showing off his proficiency on the harp.

"Hard Drivin' Man" is propelled by Bladd's piston-like beat and Klein's bumping bass.  Justman injects a honky tonk piano solo, Magic Dick honks his harp like an out of control rig blasting down an interstate and Geils' adds some "chickin' pickin'" on guitar.

 "Serves You Right To Suffer" is a showcase for the soloists. Supported by Bladd's muscular manhandling of his kit, Wolf pulls out the stops, barking out his vocal like a Basin Street bogeyman gone bananas. Justman plays a plush organ solo and Geils tears at his guitar. Introduced by Wolf ("On the lickin' stick, Mister Magic Dick") the harpist plays a hearty Chicago-style blues solo.
Full House was certified gold, as was the follow up studio album, 1973's Bloodshot (3 ½ out of 5 stars --their second highest charting album reaching #10). Bloodshot yielded the pop to reggae single "Give it To Me" (#) and the riotous "(Ain't Nothin' But A) Houseparty."

Ladies Invited (3 ½ out of 5 stars, also from 1973), was the first album to feature tracks written exclusively by the team of Wolf/Justman, including the stomping "Did You No Wrong," R & B laced "I Can't Go On," crunching "No Doubt About It" and the galloping "Take A Chance On Romance."

The band's party sound took on darker undertones with 1974's Nightmares...And Other Tales From the Vinyl Jungle (3 out of 5 stars), which contained the throat-tearing "Look Me In The Eye," "I'll Be Comin' Home" (embellished with restaurant chatter and wedding-style accordion) and the Bladd focused closer "Gettin' Out." Yet it was the simplistic rocker "Must Have Got Lost" that provided the group with its biggest single to date (#12). An appearance by Borscht Belt comedian George Jessel (as the judge in a remake of "Funky Judge") kept the band's playful spirit alive.

Hotline (1975, 2 out of 5 stars) and the live Blow Your Face Out (1976, 3 out of 5 stars) followed. The band attempted to underplay its party boy persona with 1977's mature Monkey Island (3 ½ out of 5 stars), which featured the slick R & B of "So Good." Other stand out tracks included "Somebody," a tale of infidelity with a Geils solo so sharp it that sounded as if it was being run through a cheese grater, the sweet ballad "You're the Only One" sung by Wolf and Bladd, and a catchy doo wop remake of "I Do," which was supported by a legion of horns. ("I Do" recently reappeared as part of the "Little Fockers" soundtrack.)

The band temporarily changed its name to just Geils for Monkey Island and allowed guest musicians including Cissy Houston, Luther Vandross and the Brecker Brother to infiltrate their insular sound. Despite good reviews, Monkey Island only reached #51 and its dark follow up, Sanctuary (2 out of 5 stars), charted just two spots higher.

Returning to their horny adolescent image with 1980's Love Stinks (3 out of 5 stars), the band received generous airplay for the poppy "Just Couldn't Wait," the cynical title track ("I been through diamonds, I been through minks, but one thing's for stinks!") and a ear-catching remake of "Night Time" highlighted by Bladd's relentless pounding.

Eschewing blues and R & B altogether for a poppier sound, J. Geils finally reached #1 in 1981 with Freeze Frame (2 out of 5 stars). The single "Centerfold" also topped the charts; the title track hit #4 and Bladd's drum fireworks lit up "Flamethrower." But their success was short-lived. Wolf quit in 1983 following the release of their third live album, Showtime (3 out of 5 stars), citing artistic differences.

J. Geils recorded You're Getting Even While I'm Getting Odd (1 out of 5 stars) in 1984 with Justman taking over the writing and lead vocal duties. The album tanked at #80 and the band broke up.

The J. Geils Band reunited in 1999 (without Bladd) and played several one-off concerts in 2009. J. Geils formed the band Bluestime in 1992, releasing a pair of albums. Geils has also recorded several instrumental jazz albums, Jay Geils Plays Jazz (2003) and Jay Geils Toe Tappin' Jazz (2009).

Magic Dick has toured as part of the Legendary Rhythm and Revue. Klein fronts Danny Klein's Full House, a J. Geils tribute band. Wolf married actress Faye Dunaway in 1974 (they divorced five years later) and went on to record seven solo albums including Lights Out (1984) and Midnight Souvenirs (2010).



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