Six from the Vault – Volume Five

I‘ve been blogging long enough now that I’ve pumped out a lot of tunes. The ones I like best wind up on massive Spotify playlists. I’m still enjoying the shit out o them so why shouldn’t you? So herewith, we open the freaking vault and take a trip down memory lane. And to save myself anything even remotely approaching work, I will just quote myself.

In 1972 Procul Harum released an album called Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. It’s been ages since I heard the whole thing. But I still frequently listen to the song “Conquistador.” This song totally rocks and it has that “when will the band and orchestra hurtle off the cliff?” urgency. This is textbook for the way a rock band and orchestra should play together. (YouTube starts at about :50).

Conquistador there is no time, I must pay my respect
And though I came to jeer at you
I leave now with regret

And though you came with sword held high
You did not conquer, only die

In 1985 R.E.M. released Fables of the Reconstruction which was recorded during a cold winter in England where the band came close to breaking up. Neither fans nor the band loved it but it’s grown in reputation over time.

I love this song, “Can’t Get There From Here.” For when the world is a monster:

In 1970, Curtis Mayfield released his first solo album, Curtis. This album predated Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin’ On by at least a year. Filled with socially conscious lyrics about race relations, the song “Move On Up” is clearly talking to African-Americans. And besides that, it is just a funky good party tune. Curtis liked to have it both ways.

This is the long version with some nice sax work. This is my favorite Curtis Mayfield tune. I couldn’t possibly love it more and I could listen to it all day:

By 1980, Los Lobos were opening for Johnny Rotten’s latest band, Public Image Ltd. Slowly but surely in the time-honored way of bands everywhere, they built a following. They got better-known, opening for bands like U2 and the Grateful Dead. (They do a nice version of the Dead’s song “Bertha.”)

By the time I first heard of them, on their 1984 album, How Will The Wolf Survive, they had already become Angeleno favorites and won a Grammy for Best Mexican-American/Tejano music performance.

None other than the ubiquitous T-Bone Burnett produced Wolf, plays on it, and co-wrote this smokin’ tune, “Don’t Worry Baby.” The guys who share lead vocals and guitar duties in the band are David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas:

Wishbone Ash formed in 1969 in Torquay, Devon, UK. And they are, apparently, still very much around. But their heyday was clearly in the Seventies. Here in the States, I wouldn’t say they were anywhere near massively popular. But my friends and I dug them and they had some level of following.

Like the Allman Brothers, they had a twin-guitar sound, in this case, Andy Powell and Ted Turner. But that’s pretty much where the similarities ended. Where the ABB were blues and jazz-based, Wishbone Ash leaned more towards prog-rock. (I barely knew who the Allmans even were at the time, frankly.)

This tune, called “Sometime World,” is from their mega-popular Argus album. It just takes off at one point and despite the great, fierce guitar playing, I found myself getting off on Martin Turner’s bass. Try to sit still when this one gets going:

Last but certainly not least is the amazing Blue Oyster Cult. Even though all the guys play guitar, the band’s ace is guitarist Donald Roeser, AKA Buck Dharma. Their manager wanted the guys all to have cool stage names. Most of them resisted, Buck dug his. It stuck. He rocked. This was the era when guitar was king. (Please let it come back.)

Buck wrote a song called “Then Came The Last Days of May,” supposedly a true story about a drug deal gone horribly wrong. I find this song to be sad and at the same time, understated and beautifully evocative:

32 thoughts on “Six from the Vault – Volume Five

  1. Wishbone ash are one of my all time favorite bands, and ‘Argus’ is one of my top five albums of all time… WA are still touring (pandemic permitting) with Andy Powell still leading the band.

    The current line-up is phenomenal – see them if you can…


    1. Way ahead of you. I’ve seen them twice. Once as recently as about 1 1/2 years ago. And prior to that, in the longest gap in the history of live music, back in ’71 opening for Elton John at the Fillmore. Elton’s second American tour. Wrote about both. And yes, they are still great and have rabid fans.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you and I were on adjoining tables at the Bull Run a few years ago for WA… Before Rich introduced us.

        I have tickets for Londonderry, but it is now a 2022 date, so I have given them to a colleague as I am likely to be living in Spain by then…


        1. Heh! Ironically that’s my Allmans count. 1971 till they broke up in 2014. Oddly I haven’t missed live shows as much as I expected to. I went to a lot pre-COVID and just started burning out on the experience. The only big show on the horizon is Roger Waters, postponed now till next year. We saw The Wall so I might just gift the tix to my son.


  2. I think I have all these songs in my library except the Blue Oyster Cult – and I do like Don’t Fear the Reaper so I should probably check them out.

    I was reading recently how Procol Harum’s ‘In Held Twas I’ is considered to be the first prog rock epic.


  3. Love the picks, especially early BOC. I always think of Tull’s “Dharma For One” when I hear Buck Dharma, and it amuses me that that song features drums rather than the guitar. In any event, Jethro Tull & Blue Oyster Cult make a pretty powerful combo.


    1. I once saw BOC with Slade. My ears are still ringing. “Last Days of May is sad, tragic.” But there were a lot of dope deals by naive amateurs back then.


  4. These are all great picks, Jim. Coincidentally, I had earmarked “Move On Up” for my next “Sunday Six” after I had listened to it again earlier – just an incredible groove and sound. Sometimes I can get impatient with very long songs – not this one!

    I didn’t know that R.E.M. tune. It’s got a bit of a funky groove – cool!

    I immediately recognized the cover art of the Wishbone Ash album, though I don’t know their music. Really like that track as well.

    Los Lobos and BOC are great!

    Need to check out that Procol Harum album. Combining a rock band with a symphony orchestra and make it work well isn’t an easy thing to do. At first, I was a bit skeptical when I found out that’s exactly what The Who did during their 2019 “Moving On” tour. I saw them at Madison Square Garden in May that year. But they also managed to pull it off very well.


    1. You should do “Move On Up” anyway. What the hell. It’s a great song that shouldn’t be forgotten and deserves the widest audience possible. As to Procol Harum, yeah they pulled it off and with not much rehearsal as I understand. The Boston Pops brings rock bands in periodically. Not sure how that sounds. The other rock/orchestra thing I can think of that worked well was Yes’ ‘Time and a Word album.

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  5. Now that’s a pretty good set. The PH is just a fantastic piece of music. A epic tune. REM ‘s is when I got into them and where I still go to listen. Curtis is one of my go to guy in that genre. I have that Lobos record. I jumped on them same time as the Blasters. They were pals. They rock. I dive into both Ash and Cult. It feeds a certain craving. Ive been listening to some Zappa (go figure) and the little DJ in the Spot gave me some Cult yesterday. Never sounds bad.


    1. Usually I start my ‘Vault’ ones out with or two ideas and then just plow through my Spotify lists. (The vault is where I keep my spare glasses) I was bummed I couldn’t get some of the ladies onto the list but I’ll make up for it next time.

      Things are starting to open up here. There’s a summer music series up in Lowell. It’s outside, totally chill, small space. Los Lobos is gonna be there. Check out this list. You told me about one of them a while back. I would go see any of these people, even if only to just sit on the lawn and hang out. The expensive VIP seats are bullshit. You can see and hear just fine from anywhere. I figure CB can make his way down from the North Pole or wherever the fuck he lives in less than a day.

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      1. Yeah some good names there. Thompson, Hiatt. Los Lobos.
        VIP seats? Yeah thats crazy. Not my style. We’ll sit off to the side and enjoy the tunes. VIP seating? Kinda defeats the whole outside vibe.


        1. Yeah I think that’s new. From the stage to the sidewalk is maybe a couple hundred feet. You get there early, plunk your chairs down, leave then come back. We’ve seen some good people there – Buddy Guy, Joan Armatrading. Supposed to see Gregg Allman but he kept canceling ‘coz he had Hep C.

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        2. BTW. Rhiannon Giddens is good. Follies. First heard about her on that Lost Dylan basement tapes thing from a few years back. He’ll, I wanna get out of the house badly enough I’ll get my funk on to Tower of Power.

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        3. Huh! Now I gotta go listen to them and see what they’re all about. I could say, “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.” But I’ll refrain.

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  6. Some great stuff here for sure. Mayfield, BOC, Lobos, and Wishbone Ash are all in my collection in some form. The Lobos album was my introduction to them properly and it’s became a real favourite over the years – you picked one of the highlights.

    I got into Wishbone Ash about 20 years ago. Long story short, I saw them live cause a guy I knew had put on the gig. His favourite band and it was his birthday. Free entry. I knew pretty much nothing about them, but I was completely blown away.


    1. Funny how many people know Wishbone Ash. If you see any of the other comments, one guy – a Brit I happen to know through a personal connection – has seen them 20 times. We saw them live at the same show maybe 1 1/2 – 2 years ago but didn’t know each other. Hey, now if R.E.M isn’t in your collection in some form or another….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hah! Yeah, R.E.M. is there too… I guess I missed mentioning them cause they’ve been with me since I was a teenager!


        1. I lost interest in them after Up. Seemed like diminishing returns after New Adventures… but I definitely dig them and listen to them more often now that they’re not around.

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