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Four Albums From Past Provide Insight To Muscal Tastes Of A Hero From Childhood

Updated on September 8, 2019

The Voice That Earned This Street Name Was Not Even With The Band On Its Debut

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Four Albums Stayed Virtually Unplayed Until Last Week

Mark, being seven years older than us, was for a time our hero. He appeared to us as the quintessential hippy, long hair extending well beyond the collar that rested below a beard not unlike the one often depicted on Christ.

The few times we ever saw inside the room he rented above somebody's garage we immediately noted that, instead of a regular chair, Mark had for a seat a tie dye toilet. We had entered with the intention of checking out his posters of popular rock musicians, but the sight of the toilet made us forget to even look on the walls.

When he decided to get married and buy a home with his bride, he handed my friend and me four record albums that he no longer wanted. They were not really of any bands we liked, including two we had never heard of.

For some reason I have kept those albums, even through five different homes, a fire! and a flood. When I saw Mark's name in the obituary section of the newspaper last week, I dug out those four records and gave them a listen.

What struck me overall from spinning those records, now five decades removed from when I received them, was the diversity. Although I did not realize it at the time, Mark as a young adult must have had a somewhat eclectic taste in rock.

The one I recall as having enjoyed the most way back then was Paranoid by Black Sabbath, which contained the two songs with which my friend and I were most familiar in "Iron Man" and the title track.

Ozzy and his band did little for me once I reached adolescence and matured as a music aficianado, so Paranoid never left the bottom of my record collection. In my revisit last week I was struck by the content of that album, especially the anti-Vietnam tracks "War Pigs" and " Fairies Wear Boots. "

Since my friend and I had liked the single "From the Beginning" , we had played the Trilogy album by Emerson, Lake and Palmer the second most of the quartet Mark had given us. Unfortunately, we had seldom played any other track, thereby missing the gem I now recognize as "The Sheriff" in addition to some great instrumentation on side one.

The third album was the self-titled debut of REO Speedwagon, which my friend and I had quickly dismissed after just one listen. Ten years later, when that band was ruling the pop charts, I still cared little for their sound.

When I put REO Speedwagon on the turntable last week, I was pleasantly surprised that it sounded nothing like the band that had enjoyed such popularity in the late Seventies or early Eighties. In fact, lead singer Kevin Cronin was not even in the group on that first album, which featured vocalist Terry Luttrell and a much more blues-based and country blend. I was particularly taken by "Prison Women" and "175 Riverside Drive."

The final of Mark's four albums turned out to be the most enjoyable, and I have spun it a dozen times since rediscovering it last week. It is the sophomore effort titled Bite Down Hard of Jo Jo Gunne, a band fronted by Jay Ferguson of the hit "Thunder Island."

Its entire first side is captivating, starting with "Ready Freddy" and "Roll Over Me." Especially attractive is Ferguson's work on the electric keyboards, which give the songs a timelessness not found on most music created in the early Seventies.

Bite Down Hard was by far the most pop-sounding of the records, which makes my image of my late childhood hero even more reverential. Mark obviously had a taste for numerous genres of rock, such the prog of ELP or the country blues sound of early REO Speedwagon or the metal of Black Sabbath.

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