Archive for March, 2012

Revolving Jones

Posted: March 30, 2012 in Music
Tags: , , ,

Like the great Moby Grape, we’re the punch line to a joke.

Our band name, that is. Come see us, and we’ll probably tell it.

OK, about Revolving Jones:

Ray Margiotta has been playing guitar in bands since the ’70s, when he was growing up on Long Island. He’s the guitarist for the Four Townsmen Show Band, built around the vocal group that started in Canonsburg, PA, way back in 1959. (Ray wasn’t with them at the point, as he was a toddler.)

Rich Held also has been playing in bands since the ’70s, with his bass the chosen instrument. A native of New Jersey and a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, he has a keen musical sense and gets the most out of his fellow Jonesians.

Rob Green decided about a decade ago that he’d like to pursue his lifelong dream of playing drums in a band. He put together a group, the Basements, with Ray to play the type of music they grew up with in the ’60s and ’70s. Rob’s a native of the Buffalo area and is a recently retired MD.

Harry Funk (yours truly) is a self-taught guitarist whose dream also was to play in a band. He (me) joined the Basements as a bass player and later teamed with Rob and Rich as guitarist in that band’s successor, the Cellar Dwellars. When Ray rejoined, that’s when Revolving Jones was born.

Ray and Harry also have an acoustic duet, the Notorious Flying Chipotle Bros., that has entertained at Peters Township (PA) Community Day, the Canonsburg Oktoberfest and the Main Street Farmers’ Market in Washington, PA, and has opened for Jinx, a band that plays classic rock like nobody’s business. (Guitarist Barry Koehler … well, let’s just say you HAVE to see him in action!)

As for the Revolving Jones joke … we’ll tell ya in person.

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“The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” by Pink Floyd (1967)

The decline and fall of Roger “Syd” Barrett (1946-2006) stands as one of rock’s great tragedies.

Some stories have vaguely similar plot lines. Roger Kynard “Roky” Erickson and the late Alexander “Skip” Spence, both contemporaries of Barrett, also suffered drug-induced breakdowns that stunted their musical careers. But neither of the bands they were members of at the time – the Thirteenth Floor Elevators and Moby Grape, respectively – could hold a candle to the long-term success of the group Syd was instrumental in creating.

In fact, two albums in Barrett’s collection, by Georgia bluesmen Pink Anderson (1900-74) and Floyd “Dipper Boy” Council (1911-76), prompted Syd to call his band the Pink Floyd Sound.

By the time Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and the late Richard Wright recorded their debut single, the tale of the cross-dressing “Arnold Layne,” in February 1967, the “Sound” had been eliminated and the group was at the vanguard of London’s psychedelic scene.

Just a year later, Syd had effectively been booted from his own band, leaving as his Pink Floyd legacy three singles and a solitary album.

“The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” named for a chapter in Kenneth Grahame’s early 20th-century children’s book “The Wind and the Willows,” bears almost no resemblance to the darkly themed, technologically advanced albums that made Pink Floyd a household name in the ’70s. The debut instead reflects Syd’ relatively whimsical worldview, or beyond-this-world view; songs titled “Astronomy Domine” and “Insterstellar Overdrive” gave birth to the sub genre space rock, which still has it’s practitioners.

The former opens “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” with band manager Peter Jenner reciting the names of various planets and stars through a megaphone as the instrumentalists lurch into what remained as a Pink Floyd concert favorite long after Barrett’s departure. In fact, his replacement, David Gilmour, opted to open 1994 shows during Floyd’s final tour with “Astronomy Domine.”

“Piper” continues with Lucifer Sam, which features a minor-key riff reminiscent of the scores for the various secret-agent movies and TV shows that were popular at the time. Despite the rather menacing musical tone, the lyrics turn out to be about a Siamese cat.

“Matilda Mother” and “Flaming” both delve into Grahame’s type of fantasy world. The latter, which was released in the United States as a (flop) single, makes references to “sitting on a unicorn” and “traveling by telephone” among other fanciful pieces of imagery.

“Pow R. Toc H.” is basically an instrumental driven by Wright’s piano and organ, but differentiated by some of the strangest voice-generated noises to come out of the psychedelic era.

Waters’ sole songwriting contribution to “Piper” is the rapid-fire, somewhat atonal “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk,” which represents the opposite end of the spectrum from his later, better-known compositions such as “Money” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”

“Interstellar Overdrive” is the song on which the early Pink Floyd built its original reputation, as a vehicle (no pun intended) for Barrett’s free-form, feedback-driven guitar. The album version features two takes of the song dubbed on top of each other, in a primitive but effective attempt to capture the ambiance of the stage show.

“The Gnome, “Chapter 24,” and “The Scarecrow” are comparatively sedate, with Barrett returning to a fairytale-like songwriting motif to create pastoral characters and settings.

By the time “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” was released in the summer of ’67, Barrett was beginning to “give every indication of having been launched into a permanent LSD orbit,” the late Nicholas Schaffner wrote in his Pink Floyd biography, “A Saucerful of Secrets.”

Syd’s state of mind at the time seems to ring through loud and clear on “Bike,” the final track on “Piper.” More a series of fragments than a cohesive song, “Bike” concludes with a collage of clock, bell and duck sounds that Schaffner labeled “diabolical and demented.”

He also quoted early Pink Floyd producer Joe Boyd about his encounter with Barrett prior to a June 2, 1967, performance:

“I greeted them all (band members) as they came through, and the last one was Syd. And the great thing with Syd was that he had a twinkle in his eye … And he came by, and I said, ‘Hi, Syd!’ And he just kind of looked at me. I looked right in his eye and there was no twinkle, no glint. It was like somebody had pulled the blinds – you know, nobody home.”

Wright had this to say about Barrett’s deterioration: “Certainly acid had something to do with it. The point is, you don’t know whether the acid accelerated the process that was happening in his brain or was the cause of it.”

Pink Floyd, meanwhile, soldiered on and recorded four more Barrett-penned songs. “Apples and Oranges,” released as a follow-up to the British hit “See Emily Play,” failed to make the charts; “with each manically sped-up verse set to completely different music, (it was) hardly the recipe for a pop smash,” Schaffner wrote.

“Jugband Blues” made it onto Pink Floyd’s second LP, but it’s even more of a disjointed effort than “Apples.” Jenner has described “Jugband” as “possibly the ultimate self-diagnosis on a state of schizophrenia.”

“Vegetable Man” and “Scream Thy Last Scream” have yet to be released legitimately, and the chances of them doing so grow slimmer with each passing decade.

Onstage, Barrett was no better as 1967 progressed: “He might just play the same song for 40 minutes, and the same note all the way through it,” Jenner recalled.

Finally, the other members of the band asked Gilmour to join. Syd stayed on for a while, “until the day when the others decided not to bother to fetch Barrett for their performance,” Schaffner wrote.

“Syd never really understood that,” Jenner explained, “because he always thought of them as his band.”

For one inspired and inspiring album, they effectively were.

“Safe As Milk” by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band (1967)

Antelope Valley High School in Lancaster, Calif., must have been an interesting place in the late 1950s.

Two of the school’s students went on to become legendary in the music industry, one ending up posthumously in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the other ensuring his place among the truly distinctive artists in the medium. As Frank Zappa (1940-93) recalled in “The Real Frank Zappa Book”:

“I spent more time with Don (Captain Beefheart) Van Vliet when I was in high school than after he got into ‘show business.’ He dropped out during his senior year, because his Dad, who was a Helms Bread truck driver, had a heart attack and ‘Vliet’ (as he was known_ took over his route for a while – but mostly he just stayed home from school.

“His girlfriend, Laurie, lived in the house with him, along with his Mom (Sue), his Dad (Glen), Aunt Ione and Uncle Alan. … The way Don got his ‘stage name’ was, Uncle Alan had a habit of exposing himself to Laurie. He’d piss with the bathroom door open and, if she was walking by, mumble something about his appendage – something along the lines of: “Ahh, what a beauty. It look just like a big, fine beef heart.'”

OK, some of that might explain what the late Don Vliet eventually recorded, most notably the Zappa-produced “Trout Mask Replica” (1969). My college roommate, Mike, once played that for his 3-year-old cousin, who absolutely loved it; otherwise, we used to put it on the stereo to clear people out of the room.

I, of course, purchased “Trout Mask Replica” as soon as it was issued on compact disc, to replace the dubbed-cassette version off Mike’s LP. It’s a true work of art, just not one that’s going to appeal to anything resembling a mass audience.

But I prefer the debut by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, “Safe As Milk.” While it lacks the field-recording ambiance of “Trout Mask Replica,” it’s infinitely more accessible as a rock album.

The Captain actually broke in as a fairly straightforward act, recording a dynamic cover version of Bo Diddley’s “Diddy Wah Diddy” for Herb Alpert’s fledgeling A&M Records (produced by future Bread front man David Gates, believe it or not). The follow-up, Vliet’s original “Moonchild,” was decidedly more out of the ordinary, and the label dropped the band.

Enter Buddah Records, which had made a mint on the Lovin’ Spoonful and decided to sign some more rock acts. The Captain fleshed out his Magic Band with a 20-year-old guitarist named Ry Cooder, and everyone was ready to record.

The result was “Safe As Milk,” easily Don’s most accessible album during his 16-year recording career. A mix of straightforward blues-rock and the individuality for which the Captain became immortalized, the project presents a musical aggregation that could have fit right in with the late-’60s recording industry had different circumstances prevailed.

As it was, the album failed to make the charts, although John Lennon placed two of the album’s promotional bumper stickers on a cabinet in his home. (I’ve seen the photographic evidence.)

“Safe As Milk” opens with Cooder’s slide guitar ushering in “Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do,” a tune that puts the Captain’s braggadocio on display with lines like “Hey, hey, hey all you young girls, whatever you do/Come on by and see me, I’ll make it worth it to you.”

The album alternates between blues-based songs, proto-metal, ballads and a few tunes that start to put Don’s unique performing style on display. One of those is “Electricity,” which features a theremin “played by Sam Hoffman, who is supposed to have been a friend of Dr. Theremin, the instrument’s inventor.” At least, that’s according to the liner notes for the 1999 re-release.

“Electricity” also is notable as the song during which “Beefheart’s vocal literally destroyed a $1200 Telefunken microphone,” Langdon Winner wrote in a 1970 article for Rolling Stone. “Beefheart’s voice simply wouldn’t track at certain points. Although a number of microphones were employed, none of them could stand the Captain’s wailing “EEEE-Lec-Triccc-ittt-EEEEEEEE” on the last chorus. This, incidentally, can be heard on the record.”

Much of the cohesiveness of “Safe As Milk” compared with later Beefheart material can be attributed to Cooder, whose “role in all of this was to translate the Captain’s wilder notions to the rest of the band and generally act as musical director,” the liner notes state. Cooder went on, while still in his early 20s, to work with such musical luminaries as Randy Newman, the Rolling Stones and Little Feat before launching his solo career with Warner Bros.

As for Don Vliet, he went on to work with high-school pal Zappa and make some of the most distinctive music in the history of sound. The Captain’s recording career ended in 1982 with an album called “Ice Cream for Crow,” as he opted instead to concentrate on his painting. Unfortunately, he suffered from multiple sclerosis and used a wheelchair the last two decades of his life.

Like his classmate Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart left a musical legacy that never will be even remotely duplicated.

“Truth” by Jeff Beck (1968)

For anyone who gets nauseous at the thought of leisure-suited lunkheads lurching around under a disco ball to the strains of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?: Rod Stewart once knew how to sing rock ‘n’ roll with the best of ’em.

He’d kicked around in the early ’60s, literally: His ambition was to become a professional soccer player. When that didn’t quite work out, he worked as a gravedigger and at a funeral parlor. Deciding that wasn’t his lot in life, either, he started singing and playing harmonica, joining a band called the Ray Davies quartet. (Yes, that Ray Davies.) He later performed with group called Steampacket and Shotgun Express, and as a solo artist, during which time he gained the nickname “Rod the Mod.” But none of those efforts caught on commercially.

Meanwhile, guitarist Jeff Beck was tearing it up as Eric Clapton’s replacement in the Yardbirds, blazing new trails in the sounds he was getting from his Gibson Les Paul. That already-successful band seemed to be headed for new heights when another esteemed guitarist, Jimmy Page came aboard. But Beck abruptly quit and started his own solo career, scoring a hit U.K. single with a song called “Hi-Ho Silver Lining.”

Beck sang that tune, but he was more comfortable sticking with the guitar. So he hired Stewart as vocalist and, for good measure, a youngster from a London band called the Birds named Ron Wood. (Yes, that Ron Wood.) Together with drummer Mickey Waller, they formed the first Jeff Beck Group.

When it came time to record an album, the band drew heavily from Beck’s blues-infused background, with his guitar-playing skills featured prominently throughout. But “Truth” turned out to be a launching pad for Stewart’s phenomenal success, whatever you might think of his discography as a whole.

Recorded in four days’ worth of sessions in May 1968, “Truth” serves a blueprint for hard-rock albums to follow; not more than one critic has noticed its resemblance to the debut album by Page’s post-Yardbirds band, known to the world as Led Zeppelin.

“Truth” leads off with a sledgehammer reworking of the Yardbirds’ hit “Shapes of Things,” with a slowed-down tempo and Stewart’s scratchy voice supplanting the more dulcet tones of the other band’s singer, the late Keith Relf. Beck somehow manages to make his middle-eight guitar solo as memorable as his triple-tracked fretwork in the original.

“Let Me Love You” is credited, more or less, to Beck and Stewart but bears more than a slight resemblance to a Buddy Guy song. At any rate, it represents blues played in a much heavier manner than had been heard previously, with producer Mickey Most turning up the volume on every available instrument.

The mournful sound of bagpipes opens “Morning Dew,” perhaps a suggestion from Stewart with memories of his grave-digging days. Bonnie Dobson’s folk song about nuclear annihilation is given appropriate treatment by Beck, whose stinging guitar evokes the sounds of shots being fired.

Willie Dixon’s “You Shook Me” follows, with Beck dueling it out with late pianist Nicky Hopkins and an organ player. You’re probably familiar with the same song on “Led Zeppelin,” and the two versions sound fairly similar, perhaps because the organist on “Truth” happens to be John Paul Jones.

Stewart’s empathetic voice is the highlight of the Broadway standard “Ol’ Man River,” from “Show Boat.” Notable is the beat of the timpani played by a musician credited as “You Know Who”; the late Keith Moon couldn’t be listed for contractual reasons.

Beck shows off his acoustic prowess with a sterling rendition of “Greensleeves.” According to Jeff in the liner notes: “Played on Mickey Most’s guitar which by the way is the same as Elvis’.”

“Rock My Plimsoul,” another composition attributed to Beck and Stewart, is a close match to the blues chestnut “Rock Me, Baby.” Again, the vocalist and guitarist combine for a memorable performance.

The instrumental “Beck’s Bolero,” based loosely on Ravel’s classical composition, actually dates back to Beck’s Yardbirds days. He recorded it with Page, who is credited as composer, along with Jones, Hopkins and Moon in what might have been the all-time dream band had those five stayed together for more than a one-shot deal! Listen closely for Moon emoting just before the bridge in one of rock’s all-time-great screams.

“Blues De Luxe,” the final Beck-Stewart song on the album – this one sounds a heck of a lot like B.B. King’s “Gambler’s Blues” – suffers slightly from the pretentiousness of overdubbed audience noise. But Stewart, Hopkins and especially Beck redeem themselves with another solid workout.

“Truth” closes with another Dixon song, most closely identified with Howlin’ Wolf: “I Ain’t Superstitious.” Probably the album’s most familiar song, it prompted Beck to admit in the liner notes: “This number is more or less an excuse for being flash on guitar.”

“Truth,” indeed.

“re-ac-tor” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse (1981)

Around 1990, I read a profile in a magazine – I can’t recall what it was – about Neil Young, focusing on his comeback after a series of a relatively weak and low-selling releases during the ’80s.

The writer included ratings for each of Young’s albums to date, with 10 scoring highest and 1 the lowest.

The usual suspects appeared on each end of the spectrum – “Rust Never Sleeps” and “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” near the top; “Trans” and “Everybody’s Rockin'” near the bottom – but one album deviated for the normal type of rating: The writer gave it a 1 AND a 10.

The writer’s explanation: Listeners either love or hate “re-ac-tor,” with no middle ground.

I wasn’t surprised to read about the “hate” factor. After “Rust Never Sleeps” and its companion “Live Rust,” Neil explored a variety of musical tangets, none of which seemed to click with fans or critics. Later he revealed he was preoccupied with caring for his son Zeke, who is autistic.

But at the time, people were scratching their heads over his output, including David Geffen, who signed Young to a record deal in 1981. As Don McLeese explains in a Rolling Stone article:

“Neil Young is the only artist in the history of modern recording to be sued for refusing to be himself. The suit, filed by Geffen Records, Young’s label for much of the ’80s, charged that he was violating his contract by recording ‘unrepresentative’ albums. In other words, Neil Young wasn’t making Neil Young music.”

Young and Geffen eventually shook hands and settled, but Neil didn’t regain his relevance until re-signing with his original label Reprise and releasing “Freedom,” which included two versions of his anti-George H.W. Bush anthem “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Just before he left Reprise, Young turned in “re-ac-tor,” with Crazy Horse backing him instrumentally. At the time, the album received a warm response; Rolling Stone’s reviewer gave it four stars and complimented it as exhibiting something along the lines of combining the distortion of Blue Cheer with the tightness of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

I was a sophomore in college, and we certainly enjoyed “re-ac-tor,” which is reminiscent of the electric half of “Rust Never Sleeps.” It became a near-constant play in our apartment the last few months of ’81.

But time certainly has not been kind to “re-ac-tor.” Reprise didn’t bother to put it on compact disc until 22 years after its initial release, and by then it was generally considered as one of Young’s definite low points. William Ruhlmann’s review on allmusic.com, for example, calls it a “half-baked effort” and accuses Neil of “sounding like second-rate Talking Heads.”

I guess you just had to be there …

For those who enjoy Young’s rocket-fueled collaborations with Crazy Horse, believe me when I say “re-ac-tor” won’t disappoint. From the riff that opens “Opera Star” to the feedback that closes “Shots,” the band doesn’t let up whatsoever, resulting in probably the hardest-rocking album of Neil’s career.

“Opera Star” tells the story of a working-class type whose girlfriend from ran off “with some highbrow from the city light,” but that’s OK with the guy, who decides instead to “stay out all night gettin’ fucked up in that rock and roll bar.” With any luck, he’ll find a new lady who shares his musical interests.

Musically, “Surfer Joe and Moe the Sleaze” rides a two-chord riff that melds into a minor-chord progression for the verses, which deal with a pair of characters from the beach. Some catchy Young guitar carries the chorus: “Come on down for a pleasure cruise/Plenty of women, plenty of booze.”

When critics take aim at “re-ac-tor,” they usually single out the song “T-Bone,” the lyrics of which consist, in total: “Got mashed potatoes/Ain’t got no T-bone.” For nine-plus minutes. But what’s important is the jam that occurs between Young, guitarist Frank Sampedro, bass player Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina, who tear through the song with the gusto of a heavy-metal band.

“Get Back On It” is a relatively straightforward, modified 12-bar-blues song about a trucker who may have something underhanded going on: “I may be late comin’, though/I got some things I gotta do.” Maybe something similar to Lowell George in “Willin'”?

Fans of “Powderfinger” on “Rust Never Sleeps” might also enjoy “Southern Pacific,” the tale of a railroader who reaches the end of the line: “I rode the highball, I fired the Daylight/When I turned 65, I couldn’t see right/It was, ‘Mr. Jones, we’ve got to let you go/It’s company policy, you’ve got a pension, though.'”

“Motor City” laments the decline of the American automotive industry and the influx of Japanese imports: “There’s already too many Datsuns in this town.” Anyone who experienced what came out of Detroit during the ’70s will identify with Neil’s assessment of the situation.

The title of “re-ac-tor” seems to have its roots in the song “Rapid Transit,” which refers to “meltdown” and “containment,” two pertinent words in the wake of the near-disaster at Three Mile Island. Frankly, I’m not sure what they have to do with what seems to be the overriding theme of the song, a swipe at a type of music that was popular at the time: “No wave rockers/Every wave is new until it breaks.” In “Cinnamon Girl” fashion, Young plays a one-note guitar solo that actually works as such.

If one “re-ac-tor” tune gets a begrudging nod, it’s usually the anti-war “Shots,” in which Young makes his guitar sound like gunfire while using his high-pitched voice to effectively convey the album’s strongest set of lyrics. Molina’s rapid-fire drumming provides the song a military-like cadence as Neil reminds the listener, “I keep hearing shots.”

I wouldn’t rate “re-ac-tor” at 10 out of 10; perhaps the original Rolling Stone assessment is more like it. But anyone who veers toward 1 is going on reputation alone, rather than giving the album an objective listen.

“The Who Sell Out” by The Who (1967)

Unfortunately, the title of The Who’s third album proved to be prophetic. Anyone who saw Phil Collins as Uncle Ernie during the 1989 comeback tour can attest to such.

As of 1967, though, The Who was one of the most innovative bands in the business, on the verge of superstardom after gaining popularity in the United States on the strength of an incendiary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival and the Top 10 success of the single “I Can See for Miles.”

Unlike most Who singles of the period, that song was included on “The Who Sell Out,” an early example of guitarist-composer Pete Townshend’s penchant for extended concepts that began with “A Quick One While He’s Away” and culminated with “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia.”

“The Who Sell Out” pays homage to the so-called pirate radio stations that operated offshore to counter the broadcasting monopoly of Britain’s BBC. As such, the album is peppered with “commercials,” including some that appear as more or less full-fledged songs.

A radiolike recitation of the days of the week leads into the opening “Armenia City in the Sky,” which represents The Who’s most determined foray into psychedelia. Written by Townshend’s former roommate and chauffeur, the late John “Speedy” Keen – he later wrote the U.K. hit “Something in the Air” for his band Thunderclap Newman – “Armenia” is loaded with backward taping of guitars and horns, enhancing the otherworldliness of Keen’s lyrics: “The sky is glass, the sea is brown, and everyone is upside-down.”

“Armenia” segues into John Entwistle’s horn-driven “Heinz Baked Beans,” a minute-long tribute to the popular Pittsburgh product. Somehow the song hasn’t found its way onto the playlist over the PA system at Heinz Field …

The Who recorded several versions of Townshend’s “Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand,” and one prominently featuring acoustic guitar appears on “Sell Out.” The song’s theme is best summarized by the line, “What she does to a man with those shaky hands.”

“Odorono” fits the album’s concept as a “commercial,” but at more than two minutes becomes a song in its own right. It tells the story of a singer who hopes to make a good impression on a talent agency, but fails because “her deodorant let her down.”

One of Townshend’s most impressive uses of wordplay is “Tattoo,” about two siblings who decide to get their arms inked. The rhyming schemes are brilliant in such commentary as: “My dad beat me ’cause mine said, ‘Mother’/But my mother naturally liked it and beat my brother/’Cause his tattoo was of a lady in the nude/And she thought that was extremely rude.” Or the chorus: “Welcome to my life, tattoo/I’m a man now, thanks to you/I expect I’ll regret you, but the skin-graft man won’t get you/You’ll be there when I die.”

The LP’s first side rounds out with the melodic “Our Love Was” and “I Can See for Miles,” which still holds up well as a “classic rock” radio play after – whoa! – it’s been 45 years now.

Townshend sings lead on “Can’t Reach You,” which presages the type of material he’d end up recording on his solo debut, “Who Came First.” Following is another “commercial,” the late John Entwistle’s “Medac,” about an acne treatment that produces this result: “Face is like a baby’s bottom.”

Townshend and usual lead singer Roger Daltrey share vocals on “Relax,” an upbeat song that features a brief but stinging guitar solo. The band used that as a basis on which to build an extended jam in concert, as evidenced by a 1968 performance at New York’s Fillmore East; unfortunately, “Relax” seems to have been dropped from the repertoire shortly afterward.

Entwistle’s minor-key tale of a miser, “Silas Stingy,” is followed by “Sunrise,” which basically is solo Townshend on vocal and acoustic guitar.

The album wraps up with “Rael,” which seems to be about the rescue of the protagonist’s homeland: “Rael, the home of my religion/To me the center of the earth.” The song incorporates musical themes that later turned up in much more familiar fashion on “Tommy.”

Later CD releases tacked on the original ending to “Rael,” which ended up on the cutting floor in 1967. The lyrics make for an apparently positive conclusion: “What I know now is all I’ve known, that has been good while I have grown/Bless the thoughts that made me sail and the God who made Rael.”

The original LP actually ends with a jingle for Track Records, The Who’s own company, repeating endlessly in the lock groove until the needle was lifted from the record. You’ll remember that the Beatles had done something similar with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” earlier in 1967.

The Who may have eventually sold out – many fans contend the decision to stay in business after Keith Moon’s death represented such – but “The Who Sell Out” is an essential part of the catalog of one of the handful of true rock giants.

“The Gilded Palace of Sin” by the Flying Burrito Brothers (1969)

No one should write anything about the late Gram Parsons without citing former Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres’ definitive biography, “Hickory Wind.” And so:

“Gram, whose soulful but sometimes frail voice evoked a broken heart, and who wrote songs as if he had one, never had any luck with his recording career, with the International Submarine Band, the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers or on his own. But through his efforts – sometimes ragtag and botched; other times brilliant but too far ahead of their time – he became identified as a pioneer, perhaps the pioneer, of country-rock. Although he did champion the idea of hippies playing country music for a rock-and-roll audience, and of bringing longhairs and rednecks together without barroom brawls, he was never comfortable with the phrase.”

Perhaps some of the most successful acts that followed – the Eagles come immediately to mind – wouldn’t have achieved their heights without the seeds that were sown by the man who was born Cecil Ingraham Connor.

“The Gilded Palace of Sin” was Gram’s third album, with as many different groups, following “Safe at Home” by the International Submarine Band and “Sweetheart of the Rodeo,” recorded during his short stint with the Byrds.

Gram resurrected the name Flying Burrito Brothers from a previous, unrecorded band and reunited with one if its members, bass player Chris Ethridge. When Chris Hillman also quite the Byrds, he, too joined the Burritos. Then came perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle: pedal-steel guitarist “Sneeky” Pete Kleinow, who had sat in during the “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” sessions.

The pedal steel contributes mightily to the sound the band crafts on “The Gilded Palace of Sin,” the culmination of Gram’s “vision of country being performed by long-haired guys with a rock-and-roll consciousness,” to quote Fong-Torres. The ISB had hinted at the possibilities, while Roger McGuinn wasn’t quite ready to turn the Byrds completely over to the concept.

The Burritos, however, were glad to follow Gram, from posing in custom-made getups for the “Gilded Palace” album cover – Kleinow looks downright irritated to be donning such garb – to embracing Parsons’ songwriting efforts. He co-wrote nine of the 11 tunes, mostly with Hillman, and five of them stand among Gram’s most brilliantly crafted compositions.

Those include the first two songs on the album. “Christine’s Tune” – written about a “devil in disguise that actually was the late Christine Frka, a member of the groupie-group the GTOs – is indicative of how a woman can control a man’s soul; “Sin City,” referring to Los Angeles, is about how money can do the same. “Wheels” is an ode to riding motorcycles, a relevant anthem in the “Easy Rider era.

Showing Gram at the top of his game are two songs he wrote with Ethridge, which “they lazily titled ‘Hot Burrito #1’ and ‘Hot Burrito #2,'” in the words of Fong-Torres.

Gram’s plaintive voice comes ringing through loud and clear in the former, a plea to a girl who lost his virginity to him: “I’m the one who let you in/I was right beside you then.” (Elvis Costello covered the song as “I’m Your Toy” during his “Almost Blue” phase.) “Hot Burrito #2” is more assertive, telling the subject, “You’d better love me, Jesus Christ.”

Also included are countrified versions of a couple of ’60s soul standards, “Do Right Woman” and “The Dark End of the Street,” as well as some originals that are in keeping with the times, with the draft-dodging sentiments expressed in “My Uncle” and the spoken-word tale of woe in “Hippie Boy.”

Unfortunately, the listening public apparently wasn’t ready for country rock, as “The Gilded Palace of Sin” sold poorly. Gram pretty much bankrolled a supporting tour with his trust fund, and it turned out to be an epic party more than a showcase for the band’s talents.

In case you don’t know the Gram Parsons story, it ends tragically, with him overdosing in September 1973 at age 27. Actually, it doesn’t even end there: Friend Phil Kaufmann stole Gram’s casket and burned the body in Joshua Tree National Park, as part of a pact the two had made.

By that time, country rock was playing regularly on Top 40 radio … with a notable exception of music by the man who started it all.