I bought “Back to the Roots” as a cutout in late 1972 and for a number of years it was one of my favorite albums. In 1973, I was scouring the cutout singles at F.W. Woolworth in the Eastland Shopping Center and I picked up a single on Janus Records with a familiar name – Harvey Mandel. Being that I knew him from John Mayall’s band, I took a chance on buying it.
The “A” side was “Baby Batter” – the title cut to his fourth solo album. Released in 1970, “Baby Batter” was an instrumental as was its flip, “Midnight Sun,” and all of the other cuts on the album. I preferred the single’s “B” side, and at 6:15 it was a long cut for a single. Neither side charted. In Billboard’s review of the album, they announced that “This LP is very strongly jazz oriented, but the jazz structures break down (or perhaps build upon) progressive rock concepts with musical touches of blues and rock.” Whatever the heck that means.
By April ’71, Billboard reported that the album was breaking in Pittsburgh and perhaps that is the reason that the local stores were carrying the single. The album was re-released twice. Initially, it was rebranded as “Electric Progress” and later it was reissued with the original title with a new cover.
Although Mandel’s first stint with Canned Heat only lasted a year, he rejoined the group from 1996 through 1999 and again beginning in 2008 and continuing as the band’s guitarist through the present. “Midnight Sun” fulfils double duty today – it’s part of our Fourth Week Label Feature and our Friday Flipside all rolled into one.