Home > Blues, Rock > One of rock history’s dumbest decisions.

One of rock history’s dumbest decisions.

album coer

Originally posted April 17, 2010.  Some edits/additions to content and a new playback link for “I Stand To Blame.”  and, as a bonus, “Colors.”  Note that some original CROW tracks, including “Colors” are available on iTunes, on the COLORS compilation.  Assuming that it is the artist making money from these, please go and support the artist by picking up the compilation!

Crow began life as a Minneapolis bar band called South 40 in the late 60’s, putting out at least two singles and one live LP on the regional Metrobeat label (which I don’t have, although I regret passing on the LP at Cheapo’s a few years back).  They were apparently successful enough that the national record companies came a-knocking.  Nothing unusual about that, except what happened next: they turned down industry heavyweight Atlantic Records in favor of the new label Amaret.

Now, if you’re not familiar with Atlantic, they are the most successful independent label in history.  They were pivotal (along with Motown) in bringing black music to a white audience.  They broke Ray Charles, Bobby Darin, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding (they distributed Stax Records until he died in ’67), and distributed Cream and a host of other British bands through a distribution agreement with Polydor UK.  Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones specifically signed with them because of the credibility of their roster of black artists.

Bringing this back to Crow (and, it should be noted, paraphrasing the band’s story that I recall from a K-TEL compilation I used to have and stupidly sold), Crow was being actively courted by Atlantic in 1969.  Instead of running headlong for what was their best shot at national stardom, the band’s management felt that Crow would be lost in the sauce at the “large” Atlantic.  (Never mind that Atlantic had the best A&R minds in the business and gobs of money for promotion.)

Crow signed instead with little-known Amaret Records, which proved to be a disaster for the band.  Amaret stands for “AMerican Association of REcorded Talent,” which sounds to me more like a lobbying group than a record label.  They allegedly weren’t much better operationally than nomenclatorially  – with the label unable to master even the basics of distribution, seemingly nobody could find Crow’s LP in a store after seeing the band live.  It’s no surprise, then, that Amaret went bankrupt, with MGM (no great shakes itself at the record business) halfheartedly picking up the pieces. Unfortunately Crow’s demise soon followed.

So remember – if you magically appear in 1969-1970 with a hit song in your hand, and can sign with Atlantic – don’t hesitate.

Crow put out a few singles, three LPs and a greatest hits collection, and their lead singer later put out an album called DAVE WAGNER D/B/A CROW, making history as the first cash-in on a band that wasn’t a success to begin with.  They are most famous, actually, for Black Sabbath covering “Evil Woman” on their first single for Fontana UK – which later appeared on the UK version of their debut album.

Today’s selection, which surely will be the first of several, is called “I Stand To Blame.”  It comes from Crow’s second album, CROW BY CROW, and I reproduce the back cover blurb here for your enjoyment:

“CROW is as a crow…savage!  CROW is tough, hard-driving, fast-paced.  The swift delivery is like a crow lighting on its prey.  The sound is undistorted [a couple of tracks are named here].  CROW can also become cautious and offering…[a couple more track names].  The sound is CROW, a musical informality that is easy to get into and hard to get out of!  “CROW BY CROW” is that total intercommunication of individuals[band member names and instruments], each contributing his talent…that is CROW!”

Bet you ten bucks the “writer” never heard the band.

Though by Cal Schenkel, who did design for Frank Zappa, the cover is also a bit literal for my taste.  I’m sure it’s Amaret’s fault.  The cover of the first album had a motorcycle photo shot in a dark alley – wonder what the A&R guy was trying to make up for.

“I Stand To Blame” should have been a huge hit.  It’s a kind of rolling boogie blues, and the singer has a really deep voice with bravado, except in the chorus, where he sounds more like Janis Joplin here than Howlin’ Wolf.  My inner producer would have made a slight alteration – killing the “Jailhouse Rock” break in the middle.  I can see how that would be entertaining live, but no way should that have made the studio version.  Might try to do an edit at some point.

Anyway, in spite of the inexplicable middle, I think it’s a great song.  If you’re wondering about provenance, I’ve recorded it to digital from my white label promo LP.  Enjoy!

I Stand To Blame: [audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24311235-ecb.mp3]

Colors: [audio http://www.divshare.com/direct/24311278-f59.mp3]

 

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Categories: Blues, Rock
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