“Yancey Special”: Prog Reggae II

Keith Emerson would captivate me as a grade schooler with the deep, heavy Moog sounds he conjured for “Lucky Man” — the final track, fittingly, on a 4-LP box set from 1973 that got a lot of mileage in our household growing up, Superstars of the Seventies, one of the earliest titles in the Warner Special Products series.

Superstars of the 70s-a“Lucky Man,” from Emerson, Lake & Palmer‘s 1970 debut album, derives much of its appeal from being a “power ballad” that builds to an explosive solo, and yet Aerosmith would get all the credit for having created this new rock subgenre, even though “Dream On” did not hit the record racks until 1973.

Dig the ’70s earth tones, man

Superstars of the 70s-xAfter Emerson, Lake and Palmer went their separate ways in 1979, Emerson would arrange a reggae-tinged take on a Meade Lux Lewis boogie instrumental, “Yancey Special” for his 1981 solo album Honky:

“Yancey Special”     Keith Emerson     1981

Most fascinatingly, Emerson’s first solo album post-ELP global fame would be released on an independent Italian label, Bubble, aimed at the “Italo-Disco” progressive dance market. Honky would find release two years later in the UK on Emerson’s imprint, Chord RecordsRock and Roll Paradise asserts Italy to be the only country where Honky was a hit album.

Keith Emerson - bubble This review in Vintage Rock would note —

“Emerson, on an extended vacation in the Bahamas, rounded up a crew of local musicians and exploded with a wild variation of calypso and reggae tunes—foreign substances to the legions of ELP fanatics who were expecting something less whimsical and more monumental.  But really — you can’t blame him for turning his back on the “legendary” noose around his neck and indulging seafaring gems like ‘Hello Sailor’ and ‘Rum-A-Ting.’  And the irresistible boogie woogie of Meade Anderson ‘Lux’ Lewis’ ‘Yancey Special’ shakes the manacles off completely”

Keith Emerson LPAccording to the liner notes, “honky” was a nickname used by children of the island and, thus, appropriated by Emerson for the album’s title.  “Yancey Special” would hit the airwaves two years after Rick Wakeman‘s cod reggae version of “Swan Lake,” the featured instrumental in Zero to 180’s January, 2015 piece, “Prog Rock Reggae.”

Keith Emerson:  One of The Best (Literally)

BB Chronicles offers a 1990 soundboard recording of a little-known (and short-lived) supergroup named The Best that once included Keith Emerson, along with John Entwistle (The Who), Joe Walsh (James Gang/Eagles), Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter (Doobie Brothers), and Simon Phillips (er, Toto).

           Keith Emerson & the skunk                        Emerson & the ox & the skunk

Keith Emerson & the skunk-xKeith Emerson & the ox & the skunk-x

Emerson’s spirit, sadly, would leave us this past March. – his obituary from the March 13, 2016 edition of The Guardian.

Pop-Up Record Albums

Until fairly recently, I had a Tuesday Morning “close-out retailer” store within 2 miles of home.   In an age when we’re lucky to have just one large national bookstore chain, I was grateful to have a quirky home goods store that also offered the oddest assortment of book fare, the overwhelming majority of which can not be found in Barnes & Noble, Politics & Prose, and other “respectable” reading establishments.

This piece, therefore, is a tribute to the former Silver Spring location of Tuesday Morning for allowing me to purchase the ingeniously-crafted Country Music Pop-Up Book, a $45.00 retail value (as the price tag states) for only $14.99.  This delightful pop-up book I first mentioned two years ago last December in a classic “road” story about Waylon Jennings as told by Kinky Friedman.

Country Music Pop-Up Book-aaCountry Music Pop-Up Book-a

The closing of our local Tuesday Morning has me looking at this sumptuous movable book once again — I just re-read Steve Earle‘s funny essay about life as a struggling songwriter in Nashville working on “The Graveyard Shift” in which we learn that, when “Steve Martin led the entire audience down Ellison Place and bought everyone a Krystal hamburger, [Earle] was at the front of the line.”

When it comes to pop-up record albums, Jethro Tull‘s elaborate gatefold sleeve for their sophomore release — 1969’s Stand Up, with the pop-up art of the four band members — single-handedly rules the roost (one has to wonder, then, why the title of this piece is plural).  The concept was “based on ideas from Terry Ellis and John Williams and printed from woodcuts by New York graphic artist, Jimmy Grashow [whom you may visit on Facebook].”

Jethro Tull Pop-Up LP

One song I remember hearing on 1970s FM radio was Jethro Tull’s adaptation of a popular Bach lute piece (Bourrée in E minor).  Although Stand Up would reach the US Top 20, Island’s release of “Bourée” b/w “Fat Man” would fail to chart, except in Germany (#37) and the Netherlands (#5):

“Bourée”     Jethro Tull     1969

Jimmy Grashow would also design the artwork used for the French 45 picture sleeve:

Jethro Tull 45-aJethro D’oh!

Did You Know…Jethro Tull’s very first single release – their one and only on the MGM label – would find find the group identified as Jethro Toe!  In fact, 45Cat emphatically states that any copies of “Sunshine Day” b/w “Aeroplane” with the band’s name as ‘Jethro Tull’ are bootlegs — click here to check out the many interesting comments about this 7-inch equivalent of the postage stamp with the bi-plane flying upside down.

“Jethro Toe”:  a fire-able offense?

Jethro Toe-bJethro Toe-a

A rare beige/taupe 45 would sell at auction in 2009 for £500 ($800)!

Jethro Toe-c

“Swan Lager”: Prog Rock Reggae

Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman’s beery take on Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” became the A-side of a 45 released by A&M in 1979:

“Swan Lager” also served as side two’s closing track for 1979 double album, Rhapsodies.

How interesting to see one of the leading exponents of progressive “art rock” flirt with reggae rhythms on a track that Billboard, in its June 30 1979 edition, would identify in its list of recommended LPs as one of the album’s best cuts.  It would appear, unfortunately, that this attempt at classically-infused reggae failed to chart.

bowie producer, Toni Visconti, twiddles the knobs

Rick Wakeman 45Link to companion piece, “Yancey Special:  Prog Reggae II

“Small Beginnings”: Shorter vs. Longer Version?

Early Yes guitarist, Peter Banks, and vocalist, Colin Carter, formed prog rock ensemble – Flash – in Summer 1971, signing with Capital subsidiary, Sovereign, and recording their first album in November (with early Yes member, Tony Kaye on keyboards).  By 1972 the group had a Billboard Top 40 hit right out of the gate with debut single – “Small Beginnings” (#29) – and album, Flash (#33).

Flash - publicity shot

“Small Beginnings” was also included – in edited form – on several hits anthologies, including 1972 K-Tel compilation, 22 Explosive Hits Volume 2:

Small Beginnings (K-Tel mix) – Flash

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “Small Beginnings” (K-Tel mix) by Flash.]

K-Tel's 22 Explosive HitsApparently, the difference in song length between the album version of “Small Beginnings” and the mix offered by K-Tel is not insignificant — here, for purposes of comparison, is the full-length album version:

Q:  Which version do you prefer?