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In December 1968, Blood Sweat & Tears released their eponymous 2nd album. In 1969, three singles – “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”, “And When I Die” and “Spinning Wheel” – each reached #2 on the Billboard singles chart and made the album ubiquitous. Eventually, this popular, horn-based disc won the Grammy for Album of the Year (1970).
That recording eclipsed the first BS&T album (Child Is Father to the Man), the Al Kooper brainchild that I discovered after BS&T, that I have come to decide is the much better record.
Around the same time, Chicago was breaking out. Chicago Transit Authority (1969), Chicago (1970) and Chicago III (1971) were all excellent albums that took Al Kooper’s idea to merge rock music with a horn section to another level… and “horn rock” became a thing.
Now let’s not argue about it. I’m well aware that horns have been used in popular music before BS&T or Chicago. But it was more common in the genres dominated by black artists. The early R&B hits of the ‘50s almost always had a sax, if not a complete horn section. The soul music on Atlantic, Stax/Volt, and Motown all relied heavily on horn arrangements. But this was less so in Rock, at least if you consider acts with the horn players as permanent members of the band.
Other horn rock acts include The Electric Flag (with the great blues guitarist, Mike Bloomfield), The Ides of March (remember “Vehicle”), The Sons of Champlin (popular here in the Bay area) and Chase (featuring the screaming high note trumpet of Bill Chase).
Another band, Lighthouse, recorded today’s SotW – “One Fine Morning.”
I’ll bet when a few of you hear this you remember the song but say to yourself “I always thought that song was by Chicago!” No surprise since the Canada based Lighthouse often makes lists of “one hit wonders.”
But you have to admit, this cut rocks. The vocals, the guitar and (of course) the horns are a rocket shot to the moon! And you have to love the way the band builds tension through to the ending.
If you have any interest in digging a little deeper into the history of horn rock, check out this article at the Music Aficionado website:
Also worthwhile are both of the recent Chicago documentaries that you can catch on NetFlix or on demand:
Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago (2016)
Chicago: The Terry Kath Experience (2017)
Enjoy… until next week.