One of my favorite pastimes is to go to concerts featuring the bands of my youth. I mean, I can listen to albums all day and relive my youth but that leaves me with a very distorted view of life.
Let me explain. As I listen to Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks" I picture myself on stage with a young, wiry firestorm of energy, Robert Plant, heaving sexuality under a headful of blonde locks.
If "Love Me Two Times" is playing on my turntable, I envision rocking with twenty year old Jim Morrison oozing his lizard king demeanor and sporting the coolest bulging leather pants.
Or maybe I'm dancing with a cherubic Pat Benatar as she asks "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" or the sultry Linda Ronstadt as she tells me "You're No Good."
You see what I mean? When you listen to music you live in the time it was created. You can't help it. You may be old but the music will never be.
But, when you see a superstar band from the 60's, 70's or 80's live now the reality of life hits you in the face like the steel cowcatcher on a locomotive. The music is timeless. It sounds the same but the band looks like you.....old, wrinkled and graying.
It sucks that some of the greatest bands of our time who once filled 50,000 seat stadiums now play at small theaters and Indian Casinos. But you know what? I get it. Cheap Trick, The B-52's, War, Ted Nugent, Todd Rundgren, The Guess Who are our bands. They are our music. It would be unreasonable to think they could stay vital and on the charts for 30 or 40 years. Music evolves and so does the audience.
That being said, I believe we listened to the best. Whether it is the beautiful dance melodies of ABBA or the strange street stories from Frank Zappa our generation lived through the greatest era in music history. And it's still damn cool to see these bands going strong in their 60's.
In the past couple of years I have seen at least 20 different concerts and, for the most part, these bands still rock. In fact, they really rock. Most sound exactly like they did when I first saw them in the 70's and 80's.
What is interesting is after every show I begin to reminisce about other Baby Boomer bands I thought were exceptional and defined music for our generation but gained very little popularity in the US. There was so much music. Think about some of the more obscure, less mainstream bands of this time that you saw in concert or listened to on vinyl.
I bet there were quite a few.
Well, over the next few days I'm going to dust off some of my old albums and pick a handful of my favorite unsung bands of our youth and talk a little about each. Maybe, if I'm real lucky, I can expand your musical horizons and turn you on to some "new" sounds that are over 40 years old.
I'm not talking about one-hit "wonders" or "flash in the pan" sensations (wasn't there a band called Flash and the Pan that was a one hit wonder?) that hit the charts one day and were selling pencils on the street corner the next.
I'm talking about bands with some endurance and resilience that cut multiple albums and hung around the edges of the charts for years.
They are coming to mind now aren't they?
Let's have some fun and bring back a few lost brain cells at the same time.
There is no better place to start than with a band that had the most incredible pedigree but didn't chart a single song over their 40 year career.
Now here's a band that you are all probably real familiar with: Captain Beyond.
My guess is that most of you have never heard of this band.
Captain Beyond is considered a preeminent progressive hard rock band that formed in Los Angeles, California in 1971.
Its members were singer Rod Evans (from England), guitarist Larry Rheinhardt (“Rhino”), bassist Lee Dorman, and drummer Bobby Caldwell.
This band was born in rock and raised in metal. Evans was a former singer in Deep Purple and Rheinhardt and Dorman grew up in Iron Butterfly.
Caldwell came to prominence playing with Johnny Winter. Do the chops get any stronger than that?
This lineup launched the band’s first album, aptly titled "Captain Beyond."
With such a powerful line-up, these guys had be good, right?
Well, I consider the first two albums by these guys as "killer" and I don't use that term lightly.
The music was not completely hard rock but was heavy enough to be considered in that genre. The songs were fast paced, complicated, tightly woven and many times built on atypical time signatures. They defined the term "progressive."
The first album "Captain Beyond" included some highly cerebral songs like "Dancing Madly Backwards", and "Thousand Days of Yesterdays."
What really helped define their "cool" (and an important reason why I collect vinyl) was the artwork of their albums. Their first album jacket printed for U.S. release included 3-D artwork using lenticular printing.
That's that real mind expanding, wavy looking bubble wrap type of effect popular in the 70's. You just don't see this anymore.
Also, what makes the album even more essential to rock aficionados is the fact that is was dedicated to the memory of Duane Allman.
I consider "Captain Beyond" a hard rock masterpiece from start to finish.
Totaling only 35 minutes of music, this very short album consisted of 13 different tracks which is very unique for a rock album.
Many of the tracks segue into each other, narrowing the final “song” count to a mere 5
You could tell from this album that the band was growing together and heading in a new and unique direction. It is an excellent sophomore effort and should have been the groundwork for a long and successful career. Searing guitars, syncopated changes, tight vocal melodies and just enough hardness to keep you wanting more.
A couple of songs to check out are the title track "Sufficiently Breathless" and "Bright Blue Tango" but the entire album is very, very solid.
Unfortunately, the original lineup splintered after this album but in 1976 they reformed with Willy Daffern from the band "Hunger" on vocals. They returned to the studio to record their next album.
I agree it wasn't as forceful as their first two records but songs like "If You Please" and "Do or Die" still held on to their trademark prog rock roots.
Sadly, Captain Beyond basically called it quits soon after this release, never to release another full-length album ever again. Like many bands of our time, they continued to regroup, reform and tour periodically with new members but for Captain Beyond, the recognition they deserved was never reached.
In retrospect, Captain Beyond should have given bands like Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath a run for their money. They had the talent. They had the sound. They just didn't have that elusive "something" that gave these other classic bands staying power.
I have all 3 of their albums and am amazed at how "timely" the music still sounds almost 40 years later. If I need a boost of "rock n' roll" you will find me,quite often, cranking up one of these albums on my stereo.
Please share them with everyone in the comments below. Who knows, maybe they are one of my favorites too and I'll write a blog about them.
How about I tease you a bit with a couple of names I'm thinking about writing about next……Passport, 10CC or how about Marianne Faithfull?
You are saying…….."Whaaaaat, what's Jay talking about?"
Like Clark Weber used to say on WCFL in Chicago.......Stay tuned !!
If you found today’s blog helpful, interesting, or even funny, I bet your friends would too.
It's easy to tell them about it.
Forward it on to them or just email them my blog link at www.survive55.com.
The more Baby Boomers we can help; the better place we make this world !!!