Steppenwolf – The Second

Artist: Steppenwolf
Genre: Rock, Psychedelic rock
Title: The Second
Released: 1968
Label: Dunhill
Format: Vinyl
Musicians:John Kay – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica, Michael Monarch – lead guitar, Goldy McJohn – organ, piano, Rushton Moreve – bass, Jerry Edmonton – drums, backing vocals
Producer:Gabriel Mekler
Engineer: Bill Cooper & Richard Podolor

From wikipedia: Steppenwolf is a Canadian rock band that was prominent from 1968 to 1972. The group was formed in late 1967 in Toronto by lead singer John Kay, keyboardist Goldy McJohn, and drummer Jerry Edmonton (all formerly in Jack London & The Sparrows from Oshawa, Ontario). Guitarist Michael Monarch and bass guitarist Rushton Moreve were recruited by notices placed in Los Angeles-area record and musical instrument stores. Today, John Kay is the only original member, having served as the lead singer since 1967.

I’ve often wondered about a parody of this group. I’d change the name to “Stepped In Wolf” and would have song titles such as: “Bottom Of My Shoe”, “What’s That Smell”, “Can’t Get It Off”, “Watch Your Step”, etc. Ok, now that I’ve had my little joke, let’s get on with it.

The name change from The Sparrows (The Sparrow) to Steppenwolf was suggested to John Kay by Gabriel Mekler, being inspired by Hermann Hesse’s novel of the same name.

The Second is the second studio album by Canadian-American rock band Steppenwolf,featuring a style that incorporates psychedelic music and hard rock, released in October 1968 on ABC Dunhill Records. The album contains one of Steppenwolf’s most famous songs, “Magic Carpet Ride”. The background of the original ABC LP cover was a shiny “foil”, in contrast to later (MCA Records) LP issues and the modern CD sleeve. My copy is the foil one.

Side one
“Faster Than the Speed of Life” (Mars Bonfire) – This track is just awful in my opinion. Structure is sloppy and the vocals are horrid.
“Tighten Up Your Wig” – Effects were added to this track to simulate a house party or similar, but only made for poor sound. At least it is better than the first track in my opinion.
“None of Your Doing” (Kay, Gabriel Mekler) – Again, a poorly structured song in my opinion.
“Spiritual Fantasy” – This song sounds like it was supposed to be hip, but it is just a poor ballad. That said, the lyrics are well written in this song. It is about false spirituality and such.
“Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam” – Another sloppy and disturbing song in my opinion.

Side two
“28” (Mekler) – This track sounds very similar to the first track on side one.
“Magic Carpet Ride” (Kay, Rushton Moreve) – This is the only hit from this LP and happens to be the best song on the album in my opinion. The single version differs noticeably from the album version with a different vocal take by Kay used for the first verse of the song and differing instrumental balances, most notably the introduction feedback. The single version is also much shorter than the album version, with a running time of 2 minutes and 55 seconds. (The album version is 4 minutes and 25 seconds long.) From wikipedia:The lyrics “I like to dream, right between my sound machine” were inspired by a hi-fi home stereo system John Kay bought with royalties from his first album. *Editor’s note:How appropriate is that?!
“Disappointment Number (Unknown)” – While this song and the following are listed separately on the album jacket, this is actually a suite of songs. It starts out with birdsong and then adds steel blues guitar and blues style vocals, then about a minute or two in it jumps to more of a pop style.
“Lost and Found by Trial and Error”
“Hodge, Podge, Strained Through a Leslie”
“Reflections” (Kay, Mekler)

I had to give a low rating to the music on this LP. It just doesn’t grab and hold me at any point.


Alternatives – Various Artists

Artist: Various
Genre: Rock
Title: Alternatives
Released: 1970
Label:Warner Bros
Format: Vinyl
Artists: Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, James Taylor, Grateful Dead, John Sebastian, Mothers Of Invention, Gordon Lightfoot, Arlo Guthrie, Jethro Tull, Joni Mitchell, Small Faces, Tim Buckley, Graham Bond, Van Morrison

Here we have another various artists LP. What can I say? These things just attract me, although I am somewhat choosy in the ones I pick up. This LP is on the revered Warner Bros “green” label and the sonics are excellent as expected.

The standouts for me start with the first track on side one: Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze. This is the first time I have ever heard a good pressing of any Jimi Hendrix song on vinyl. That is at least as far as original pressings go, I don’t know about the expensive reissues of late. I have heard several Hendrix LPs and all of them has horrible sound quality no matter what system they were played on. Somehow, the folks at Warner Bros back in 1970 were able to make a good pressing here.
I have the first LP from James Taylor where this song “Suite for 20G” appears. (You can find my write up of that here:
The version on this compilation LP is different from the original version and I read someplace that this song was redone after appearing on his first LP. I like the version here better.

Pay attention to the guitar riff in the Small Faces song on here, it is a twin image of a Led Zeppelin riff of which song I am having trouble recalling, but you may figure it out.

Side One:
1 –The Jimi Hendrix Experience -Purple Haze
2 –Neil Young With Crazy Horse* -Cinnamon Girl
3 –James Taylor -Suite For 20 G
4 –The Grateful Dead -New Speedway Boogie
5 –John Sebastian -Rainbows All Over Your Blues
6 –Mothers Of Invention* -Directly From My Heart
7 –Gordon Lightfoot -Minstrel Of The Dawn

Side Two
1 –Arlo Guthrie -Creole Belle
2 –Jethro Tull -Reasons For Waiting
3 –Joni Mitchell -Woodstock
4 –Small Faces -Around The Plynth
5 –Tim Buckley -Happy Time
6 –Graham Bond -Neighbour Neighbour
7 –Van Morrison -Into The Mystic


Paul Kanter & Grace Slick – Sunfighter

Artist: Paul Kanter & Grace Slick
Genre: Rock
Title: Sunfighter
Format: Vinyl
Musicians:Paul Kantner – vocals, rhythm guitar, Grace Slick – vocals, piano
Jack Traylor – guitar, Jerry Garcia – guitar, Papa John Creach – electric violin, Craig Chaquico – lead guitar, Bill Laudner – vocals, Jack Casady – bass, Spencer Dryden – drums, David Crosby – vocals, Jorma Kaukonen – lead guitar, Graham Nash – Arp, vocals, Chris Wing – drums, Pat Gleeson – moog, piano, John Vierra – synthesizer, keyboards, Phill Sawyer – sound effects, Peter Kaukonen – guitar, mandolin, Shelley Silverman – drums, Joey Covington – drums, Edwin Hawkins Singers (Edwin Hawkins, Walter Hawkins, Tramaine Davis Hawkins, Elaine Kelley, Norma J. King, Barbara Gill, Ruth Wyons, Daphne Henderson, Shirley Miller, Eddie Bayers) – vocals on “Sunfighter”, Steven Schuster – flute, saxophone, horn arrangements, Tower of Power (Greg Adams, Mic Gillette) – horns
Producer:Paul Kanter, Grace Slick
Engineer:Pat Ieraci & Phill Sawyer

Sunfighter is a 1971 album created by Paul Kantner and Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane and judging by the musicians it is basically Jefferson Airplane as nearly all members of the Airplane are involved. The album is the second record released on the Airplane’s own Grunt label, backed by RCA. The album features a picture of their baby daughter, China Wing Kantner on the cover. Many big name Bay Area musicians perform on the album, including members of the Grateful Dead (Jerry Garcia), Crosby, Stills, and Nash (Graham Nash & David Crosby), and the horn group, Tower of Power. This album was also the first that Jazz guitarist Craig Chaquico performed on; he would become the lead guitarist for Jefferson Starship.

The album originally came with a booklet and I was lucky enough to get a copy of the LP with the booklet still included, an amazing thing seeing that it was a $2 used copy.

The sound of this LP seems to have been recorded at a low-level and guitars seem a bit thin. The record itself is also amazingly thin, like one of those records that used to come in cereal boxes or the kind you sent away for as a kid back in the sixties or something. I don’t know that it has anything to do with the sound though, usually not. That detraction said though the instrumentation and musicianship is top-notch, which is not that surprising considering the fact that Jefferson Airplane consisted of highly skilled musicians and adding the other big names to the list here.
All the songs were written by Paul Kanter and or Grace Slick with the exception of “Titanic”, “Earth Mother ” and “Universal Copernican Mumbles”

Side One:
1. “Silver Spoon” – This strong opener with Jack Cassady’s feed-back bass and Papa John Creach’s electric violin drive, that show cases Grace Slick’s vocals to the hilt. This song has to be considered among some of her best work. Strong lyrics too.
2. “Diana” – This 52 second ditty features Grace’s vocals with acoustic guitar and piano.
3. “Sunfighter” – The obvious title track here features Grace on lead vocals along with the Edwin Hawkins singers. Great instrumentation on this cut.
4. “Titanic” Phill Sawyer – This is one of the songs, if you can call it that, not written by Paul Kanter or Grace Slick. This two and half-minute ride of torture opens with the sound of ocean waves and then goes into a ships warning with synth that runs the entire track and nothing else. A rather unfortunate inclusion on this LP in my opinion.
5. “Look at the Wood” – This great song about a woodworker starts with acoustic guitar and vocals with electric guitar and drums, etc. coming in later. Good song.
6. “When I Was a Boy I Watched the Wolves” – This suspected “filler” song is a bit more interesting with the time change in it.

Side Two
1. “Million” – There is an interesting electric guitar effect in this song, which also includes piano, acoustic guitar and synth. I think it’s a song about the level of awareness that was back in the late sixties and related things. That’s my interpretation of it anyway.
2. “China” – This song is about Paul Kanter and Grace Slick’s daughter, China. It’s kind of a jazz ballad featuring piano, bass and acoustic guitar with drums coming in later. Once again Grace’s vocals are showcased here.
3. “Earth Mother” Jack Traylor – Who didn’t see the one coming? This is a good folk rock song with good lyrics as well about guess what.
4. “Diana 2” – This is just a reprise of the 52 second song from side one.
5. “Universal Copernican Mumbles” Pat Gleeson, John Vierra, Kantner – This is another song like Titanic with piano and Synth and not much better than Titanic either.
6. “Holding Together” – As the longest song on the LP at over 7 minutes, it is ironic that it is not one of the better songs in my opinion.


Silver Spoon: