In the bygone days before multinational corporate mergers and acquisitions left the record industry a smoldering husk of its former self, Warner Bros. Records launched a series of bargain-priced label samplers dubbed Loss Leaders: available via mail order for two bucks or less, these remarkably generous compilations often featured B-sides and other non-LP tracks, but what’s most notable is the sheer consistency of the listening experience — Warner and its affiliated labels housed a veritable murderers’ row of rock & roll legends, and only rarely does a disappointing track squeak into the mix. The Big Ball represents the first Loss Leaders release of the 1970s, and it’s a corker, spotlighting a veritable who’s who of legends including Van Morrison (the heart-stopping “Caravan”), Neil Young (“The Loner”), Joni Mitchell (“Big Yellow Taxi”), and the Grateful Dead (“Turn on Your Lovelight”) alongside cult favorites like Randy Newman (“Mama Told Me Not to Come”) and Tim Buckley (“Happy Time”). This is music that celebrates the creative spirit at its most daring and realized — and proves a stinging reminder of how calculated and tame major-label rosters have become in the decades since.
The copy I have is on the Warner Bros olive green label, which is noted for being good pressings and this one is no exception.
From inside the jacket: “We’re proud and happy to introduce our third double sampler album. Our ulterior motive behind these samplers, as we’ve confessed many times before, is the profit-motivated desire to instill in you, through these introductory tracks, the compelling urge to rush forth and buy the full albums by the artists you want to hear more of and from….it goes on, but suffice it to say, now you know partly why I like these things.”
Record one, Side one: (More notes from the LP and my own descriptions)
1)The Fifth Avenue Band- Nice Folks = This is a jazz/pop, positive, feel good song. The Fifth Ave Band were a six piece group who’s debut LP was produced by The Lovin Spoonful. Their music was all group written.
2) John Sebastian- Red-Eye Express = Title track from the LP of the same name. John Sebastian used to be the lead singer and writer, autoharpist and rhythm guitarist with The Lovin Spoonful.
3) The Beach Boys- This Whole World = For some reason I never was much for The Beach Boys despite the fact that my aunt dated Mike Love for two years back in the day. This song is taken from the LP Sunflower.
4) Geoff* & Maria Muldaur -New Orleans Hopscop Blues = You have probably never heard of this artist(s), well, neither have I until I picked up this record. This is one of the fun things about purchasing sampler or various artists records like this, you discover stuff. It’s also educational. This song is taken from the LP Pottery Pie. Geoff & Maria were a twosome that used to be integral parts of Jim Kweskin’s noted Jug Band. (Yeah, never heard of that either). Geoff used to be called Mole and Maria used to be acclaimed as two of the best vocalists in contemporary music (according to the liner notes).
5) Arlo Guthrie -Coming In To Los Angeles = This song taken from the LP Running Down The Road was popular for a time and still occasionally gets air play. This song is obviously about drug running and was part of a soundtrack to a film of the same name as the LP.
6) Eric Andersen- I Was The Rebel, She Was The Cause = This guy actually had 16 albums, but again, I never heard of him. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Andersen Eric Andersen is an American folk music singer-songwriter, who has written songs recorded by Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt, the Grateful Dead and many others. Early in his career, in the 1960s, he was part of the Greenwich Village folk scene. After two decades and sixteen albums of solo performance he became a member of the group Danko/Fjeld/Andersen. Since the late 1990s, he has resumed his solo career. Andersen is still recording and performing live in Europe, Japan and North America. This song typical country song while written in 1970 sounds more like what is supposed to pass for Country music today, unfortunately, with the same distasteful subject matter such as being a trashy anti-women song. It is claimed though that this song was just Eric Andersen having a bit of fun.
7) Norman Greenbaum- Jubilee = If I never hear his song “Spirit In The Sky” again, I will be the better for it. Fortunately, while taken from the LP of the same name, this is not that song.
8) Savage Grace – Ivy = Yet another group I have never heard of until I got this LP. Savage Grace hailed from Detroit who mostly toured bars and church basements and if this song is what was the usual, it is not hard to see why. This is a standard rock song that was poorly recorded and is not all that good either.
1) Van Morrison-Caravan = I was never that much for Van Morrison,but of course I do respect his art. Van Morrison was originally with the band,Them. He was also the composer of the song “Gloria”, which has been performed by,….well, everybody. He is also famous for composing “Brown-eyed Girl”, both songs which can be easily and officially known as rock classics.
2) Fleetwood Mac -Oh Well = This track is 9 minutes in length here and it is mono as opposed to stereo. It is one of the better songs on the LP. What is another point of interest in this track is that it is an entirely different version than the one they settled on for radio. It is a harder rock version, quite interesting. Fleetwood Mac was originally a blues group later they would be known for bone-rattling blues rave ups (which I have not heard yet) and the three chord rock stuff and fragile melodic stuff.
3) The Pentangle*- Sally Go Round The Roses = This is another band in likes of It’s A Beautiful Day and Lighthouse, only more acoustic.
4) Jethro Tull- Nothing Is Easy = Hardly needs introduction, it’s Jethro Tull.
5) Small Faces- Flying = This is the group Rod Stewart was in before going solo. This is almost a prog-rock style song, but isn’t.
6) Family – No Mule’s Fool = While I have never heard of this group, they were touted as a progressive rock group. Judging by this track though, I would have to say that someone has a funny idea of what Prog-Rock is. They sound far closer to Folk-Rock to me. They do have an interesting, unpredictable sound though.
7) The Kinks*- When I Turn Out The Living Room Light = This previously unreleased track in mono again has some funny lyrics and is fun to listen to.
Record Two, Side Three
1) The Everly Brothers- I’m On My Way Home Again = I was never a fan of The Everly Brothers, but this song is ok in my opinion.
2) Tim Buckley- Happy Time = While I had never heard of this artist, I find this song somehow relaxing.
3) Joni Mitchell -Big Yellow Taxi = Ok, show of hands who have never heard of Joni Mitchell, just as I thought, no hands. This song from the LP “Ladies Of The Canyon”, is one of many hits she wrote.
4) Neil Young- The Loner = Equal in popularity is Neil Young. This is one of many of my favorite songs by him.
5) Gordon Lightfoot -Approaching Lavender = Another Canadian singer/songwriter and whom brought us “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald. I have a nice collection of his LPs, but this rather good song is not on any of them. Supposedly it is from his album titled, “Sit Down Young Stranger”, which I do not have.
6) –Randy Newman -Mama Told Me Not To Come = You may be familiar with the Three Dog Night version of this song, but it was penned by Randy Newman. I will say though that I like the Three Dog Night version better.
7) –James Taylor -Fire And Rain = Don’t tell me you are not familiar with this one.
8) –Dion – Sit Down Old Friend = I was never a fan of Dion in his early rock days and as a folk artist he is just ok in my opinion.
Side Four really only has three tracks, but is listed as many songs. However, they are not songs, but rather bizarre spoken word, too bizarre to give much of a listen to in my opinion.
1 –Ed Sanders- The Illiad
2a –GTO’s- Kansas And The BTO’s
2b –GTO’s- The Captain’s Fat Theresa Shoes
2c –Captain Beefheart -Ella Guru
2d –GTO’s -The Original GTO’s
2e –The Mothers Of Invention*- WPLJ
2f –Wild Man Fischer -The Taster & The Story Of The Taster
2g –Pearls Before Swine -Footnote
3 –The Grateful Dead- Turn On Your Love Light
Fleetwood Mac -Oh Well (both parts) https://youtu.be/uBH3kPfDq4k