Archive for the ‘ Country Rock ’ Category

Rick Nelson & the Stone Canyon Band “Rick Sings Nelson”

Rick Sings Nelson, Rick Nelson’s first studio album with the pioneering Stone Canyon Band, really does deserve the reputation of “stone-cold classic”. Expanding tenfold upon the razor-sharp music and harmonies of the Stone Canyon’s debut record, In Concert, Rick Sings Nelson was actually the singer’s first album of wholly original material (hence the title). It’s unbelievable that it took him this long start laying his songs on the public like this, because they’re pretty great, and certainly miles above lots of the crud he had been running through for the preceding decade or so of his career.

One of the principal strengths of Rick Sings Nelson is that, though brimming with Southern California pop, it never strays too far from earthier roots. Former Buckaroo Tom Brumley proves to be one of the band’s strongest assets in this regard, always anchoring the music in Bakersfield country whether he’s laying down weeping leads on “Anytime” or conjuring up rolling rhythm figures on “Sweet Mary”. The layered interplay between him and Stone Canyon guitarist Allen Kemp really reaches some soaring highs here, and though they were never really given all that much room to stretch out and jam in the studio Brumley has been quoted as saying that his years spent in the Stone Canyon Band were the most enjoyable of his career.

If there’s any clunker on Rick Sings Nelson it’s in “Mister Dolphin,” which illustrates Nelson’s penchant for writing the occasional awful song. Any cut opening with the line “I just talked to a dolphin the other day” is going to be a little hard to take, and when said dolphin tells Rick sagely to “open up your mind” and love everyone, well…let’s just say that if he had really been dead set on including a cosmic dolphin song here he may have been better served cutting Fred Neil’s folk-rock standard “Searching For the Dolphins” and leaving things at that (or hell, throw us a studio recording of one of those beauties off In Concert like “Easy To Be Free” and keep the album title intact).

All things considered though, Rick Sings Nelson remains a landmark collection in the history of country rock, and even though it failed to offer up any hit single it’s loaded down with memorable songs. The record has been reissued by Beat Goes On Records alongside it’s follow-up, Rudy the Fifth, which is best known for its pair of Dylan covers, but which also includes many other Nelson-penned jewels.

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“Sweet Mary”

:) Original | 1970 | Decca | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2002 | BGO |2fer | buy here ]

Chip Taylor “This Side of the Big River”

Chip Taylor’s This Side of the Big River is probably one of the best underground country albums you’ve never heard. Though the record plays things pretty straight for its genre, it also boasts some pretty solid underground credentials. Not only is Chip Taylor the songwriter behind such Troggs classics as “Wild Thing” and “Any Way That You Want Me” (not to mention “Try,” the great kozmik soul shouter made famous by Janis Joplin), but he’s also the brother of the Midnight Cowboy himself, actor Jon Voight. In addition, three cuts on Big River feature Chip’s friend Sandy Bull on oud, which makes the album about as hip as Nashville could get back in the days of ’74.

As previously stated, however, the music here is country music, no matter how you cut it. Taylor never emphasizes his rock and roll background, instead letting his warm and introspective lyrics drift across lazy, pedal-steel-driven arrangements. One could say that this is the thinking man’s honky-tonk music, which may not be too far from the truth despite the unwelcome elitist connotations that label implies. At times Big River is definitely reminiscent of folks like John Prine or Billie Joe Shaver. In fact, there are a lot of signs that Taylor knew his music – some of his singing on the R&B-influenced “I’ve Been Tied” is straight out of the Gram Parsons handbook.

As an album This Side of the Big River is actually pieced together from assorted studio recordings and tracks cut live on a New Hampshire radio broadcast, though you’d hardly notice the difference without the occasional light applause. Of the latter, Taylor’s cover of Johnny Cash’s rollicking “Big River” is a highlight, despite the occasional presence of an extremely annoying electric piano. Apparently this take on the song impressed its author enough to persuade him to personally promote the album to radio stations – albeit to little avail.

 

As the story goes, Warner Brothers Records had originally signed Taylor as a rock and roll artist, so when he started recording country they had no idea what to do about promotion. Hell, up until his first record for the label, Chip Taylor’s Last Chance, they didn’t even have a proper country music division! Fortunately for us though, the beautiful people over at Collector’s Choice Music have given the album a well-deserved second chance and reissued it with some insightful liner notes by noted music scholar Richie Unterberger.

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“I’ve Been Tied”

:D Reissue | 2007 | Collector’s Choice | buy here ]
:) Original | 1975 | Warner Brothers | search ebay ]

Hardwater “Hardwater”

These pages are overflowing with tales of bands that came within a whisker of making it big in the halcyon years of rock: bands for which talent, originality and a fine first album wasn’t enough to propel them into the commercial big-time and which subsequently fell by the wayside. Few came closer than Hardwater; only their timing probably let them down.

Their back pedigree was immaculate; guitarist Richard Fifield and bassist Robert McLerran had been members of the Astronauts, the Boulder-based surf outfit who’d released a string of nationally successful singles and albums on RCA between 1962 and 1968 and garnered an enthusiastic following in Japan. Relocating to LA and recruiting full-blooded Apache drummer Tony Murillo and bilingual guitarist Peter “Pedro” Wyant, they were signed rapidly to Capitol as Hardwater – the name being hippie argot for ice – assigned to illustrious house producer David Axelrod and directed to record in Capitol’s famed Records Tower studios with all its near-limitless resources. Axelrod was also a top-notch composer and arranger, and Hardwater’s situation could be compared to a new but well-qualified UK outfit being assigned to George Martin and recorded at Abbey Road. Success seemed inevitable.

There was no distinctive lead singer, but effortless three-part harmonies carried the songs which were comparable with those of Buffalo Springfield and Moby Grape, although the band members themselves claimed to have been heavily influenced by Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. In other words, definitive West Coast folk/country/acid rock that couldn’t have come from any other area or any other era. Liberally sprinkled over the tight, taut rhythm tracks was Wyant’s remarkable lead guitar, whose unique style juxtaposed rippling Eastern raga scales with aching pedal steel simulations via a volume swell. His sound was and remains revolutionary, especially since he favoured an unfashionable hollowbody Fender Coronado guitar with low-powered DeArmond pickups. The rockin’ leadoff medley “My Time / Take A Long Look” sets out the store, while the subsequent tracks vary from the unassuming folk-rock of “City Sidewalks”, and the good-timey two-step of “Plate Of My Fare” built around a sinuous Wyant guitar riff, through the dreamy acid-folk of “Monday” and the complex, contrapuntal acoustic guitars of “To Nowhere” to the funky finisher “Good Luck” with its popping bass and eleventh chords reminiscent of the Fabs’ “Taxman”.

No problems in the execution, then, and the album should have been a biggie. The problem was that Capitol had signed and recorded a glut of top-quality acts around that time, notably the Band and the Steve Miller Band, and subsequent record label effort was overwhelmingly directed towards these other acts. Hardwater’s eponymous debut was six months delayed in release, there was no record company-sponsored tour, and like so many other praiseworthy offerings in those prolific days it failed to sell and duly disappeared, the disillusioned band fragmenting. Of its members, Wyant had the most high-profile subsequent career, having impressed Axelrod sufficiently to appoint him his house guitarist and feature him on Axelrod’s own highly-successful quasi-orchestral recordings and on the ersatz Electric Prunes’ infamous Mass In F Minor. He has since enjoyed a long and varied career whose details can be found at his website.

The CD reissue on Cherry Red’s subsidiary Tune In is brief but excellent, augmenting the original running order of around thirty minutes with the very different re-recording for a projected single of “Plate Of My Fare”. Axelrod’s production standards were as good as it got at the time and still sound good today if you don’t mind the sweeping stereo separation fashionable back then, with guitars and drums widely spaced across the plane. The accompanying booklet with historical perspective by Wyant is exemplary.

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“Medley: My Time / Take a Long Look”

:D Reissue | 2011 | Tune In | buy here ]
:) Original | 1968 | Capitol | search ebay ]

Cowboy “5’ll Getcha Ten”

Cowboy were a country-rock group usually remembered for their associations (The Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton) rather than the fine body of music they produced in the early 70s. 5’ll Getcha Ten was Cowboy’s second LP, released by the Capricorn label in 1971.  Never released on cd, this is arguably Cowboy’s finest moment and indeed one of the best forgotten country-rock albums from the late 60s/early 70s.  It’s worth mentioning that one of Cowboy’s key members, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Tommy Talton was formerly in the great Florida garage rock group We The People.  Scott Boyer, Cowboy’s other key member, played guitar and co-wrote many of group’s songs.

Fans of Crazy Horse, Poco, and CSNY will want to own this fine album.  Cowboy’s sound is similar to Poco but instead of rocking out Talton and Boyer prefer a more relaxed, introspective back porch sound.  Only on the excellent “Seven Four Tune” does Cowboy truly let loose and rock out.  Every track on 5’ll Getcha Ten features transcendent harmonies (perhaps the group’s greatest asset), terrific songwriting, and strong musicianship – these boys can play.  If it’s any consolation as to the quality of the music here, Eric Clapton chose to cover Cowboy’s bluesy country-folk number “Please Be With Me” on his classic 461 Ocean Boulevard album.  Other great tracks include an upbeat number with electric sitar titled “Right On Friend,” the introspective “Innocence Song,” and “The Wonder,” a superb track that recalls Crazy Horse circa 1971.   Duane Allman playing dobro/guitar on 5’ll Getcha Ten adds a little star power and credibility to the proceedings but don’t let this be the reason you purchase this album (vinyl originals can still be found for cheap!). In their own right, Cowboy were a talented group of musicians who made great music.  5’ll Getcha Ten is a classic roots rock album that deserves a lavish LP or cd reissue.  Also, Cowboy’s debut, Reach For The Sky and their 1974 album, Boyer & Talton are great records worth seeking out.

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“The Wonder”

:) Original | 1971 | Capricorn | search ebay ]

Delbert and Glen “Delbert & Glen”

Delbert and Glen were a country-rock group that was founded by two Texas musicians, Delbert McClinton and Glen Clark. Prior to that, McClinton, a musician’s musician, had began his career in the late 50s, playing harmonica on Bruce Channel’s classic 1961/1962 hit single “Hey! Baby.” After touring with Channel in England, McClinton went on to form his own mid 60s folk-rock group, the Rondells. The Rondells kicked around the Fort Worth scene, recording some material (but never an official album), most famously, the orignal version of “If You Really Want Me To, I’ll Go” (covered by the Sir Douglas Quintet). When McClinton relocated to LA, he met up with Fort Worth musician Glen Clark. These two musicians recorded two very good Texas-style country-rock albums for Atlantic affliate Clean Records.

Delbert and Glen was the first of these efforts, released in 1972. Songwriting credits are split evenly between the two artists but McClinton’s harmonica playing and hoarse, soulful vocals were the highlight of this LP. Delbert and Glen differentiated themselves from the twangy country-rock crowd by crafting a unique mixture of ballsy, intimate texas music: greasy blues, hillbilly country music, gospel, raucous rock n roll, and funky Southern-style jive. The 1972-1973 era was a prolific time for both musicians as they served up a handful of lost Americana classics. Songs such as “Old Standby,” “I Received A Letter,” “Here Come The Blues,” “I Feel The Burden,” “Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday,” and “Ain’t What You Eat But the Way That You Chew It” are wonderful examples of the genre. My hit picks are the gorgeous, soulful pop of “Everyday Will Be A Holiday,” the tough rocking album opener “Old Standby” (what a great track!) and the underrated country tune “All Them Other Good Things.” Alternative country and country-rock fans cannot miss this gem and are urged to track down these recordings – they are essential. Also, check out the duo’s worthy swan song from 1973, titled Subject To Change.

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“Old Standby”

:D Reissue | 2005 | Koch Records | buy here ]
:) Original | 1972 | search ebay ]

The Rondells (1965): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVBKm8xo2rI

Hill, Barbata & Ethridge “L.A. Getaway”

Anybody familiar with L.A. canyon-rock circa 1970 should be familiar with the name Chris Ethridge. Having more or less made his debut as the R&B-minded bass player with the Flying Burrito Brothers, the man soon went on to become one of Americana’s most in-demand session players, serving with everyone from Phil Ochs to Ry Cooder to Judy Collins. There’s a good chance that you can find him on more than one of your favorite records. A less recognized part of Ethridge’s career, however, is his time served as a member of Hill, Barbata & Ethridge, a tight congregation of musicians who had until the band’s formation only really been seen working the sidelines of the nascent country rock movement. John Barbata probably had the highest profile of any of them, having spent several years manning the kit for sardonic folk rockers The Turtles, while singer Joel Scott Hill had only cut a couple of solo sides for small independent labels out of the west coast.

So it was really only with L.A. Getaway that these three really got a chance to shine on their own. Hill, perhaps the largest unknown quantity here, turns up positively mind-blowing on cuts like “Old Man Trouble,” where he takes Otis Redding’s classic heart breaker and wrenches out one of the most satisfying blue-eyed soul performances I’ve ever heard. Ethridge, whose bass work has always lain somewhere between Stax and McCartney, finally gets a chance to work out his R&B tendencies, having heretofore been confined mostly to country and folk-rock music. I should also mention the cast of supporting players here, if only to emphasize the weight these cats held in the world of Los Angeles rock and roll. Hammering the piano and Hammond organ are none other than the holy quadrumvirate of Leon Russell, Spooner Oldham, Booker T. Jones, and Mac Rebennack. Clarence White throws down some trademark guitar solos.

If there is any part of this record which disappoints, it is in the fact that the band here relies so much on other people’s material. Though songs like Dr. John’s swampy “Craney Crow” and Allen Toussaint’s woozy closer “So Long” are given strong and inspired readings, the most memorable moments come with Ethridge’s numbers, such as the barnstorming “It’s Your Love,” which could have been a radio staple had fortune only dealt more cards in their favor. His laconic vocal drawl on the twangy title track, a wry kiss-off to the smoggy city, makes one wish he had gotten a chance to record more of his own material in this way. Otherwise, the band’s treatment of rock and roll standards like Chuck Berry’s “Promised Land” and Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Eyesight To the Blind” are fun, but not remarkable.

It’s a shame that L.A. Getaway didn’t get the chance to develop further than this one album. All three musicians would go on to other high-profile ventures, though I would argue that their sum was greater than their parts. John Barbata would serve time in many different bands through the seventies, from Jefferson Airplane to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, while Hill joined up with Canned Heat for a couple of years. Eventually, him and Ethridge were reunited in a latter-day incarnation of the Flying Burrito Brothers, though the recordings they made under that name, including 1975’s Flying Again, are a solid disappointment, especially in regards to Hill’s vocal performances.

L.A. Getaway did in fact see a compact disc reissue in 2004, courtesy of Water Records, but it has since fallen back out of print. At this point it’s probably easier to track down an original vinyl copy, though if the word gets around one hopes that this long-neglected classic will soon be made available again.

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“It’s Your Love”

:) Original | 1971 | Atco | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2004 | Water | get it here ]

Roger Morris “First Album”

Roger Morris’ First Album, released by Emi/Regal Zonophone in 1972, stakes a claim as one of the most American sounding British-folk albums of the seventies. Along with the painfully obscure solo album by Ernie Graham, First Album is one of a handful of rustic singer-songwriter lps of the era that landed unjustly under the radar. Owing much to the back-to-the-roots sound and vibe of The Band, Bobby Charles, and Hungry Chuck, and falling somewhere in between the British folk of the late 60s, the British country-rock of the early 70s, and the pub rock renaissance that would follow several years later, this album features contributions from a host of talented British musicians, including: the popular De Lisle Harper; Glen Campbell of Juicy Lucy and The Misunderstood; Family’s John Weider; Rod Coombes of Strawbs and later, Stealer’s Wheel; Chris Mercer; Terry Stannard of Kokomo; and Bruce Rowlands of the Greaseband. Obviously, the playing on this album is top notch. Furthermore, Morris comes across as a surprisingly accomplished songwriter.

On album opener “Taken for Granted” Morris mourns the loss of past loves to the tune of a folky country-rock number that calls to mind the early work of Help Yourself, as well as Ian Matthews. “Golightly’s Almanac” has a funky Bearsville ragtime feel, complete with a Tuba holding down the low end and a catchy horn part, sounding very similar to The Band’s “Rag Mama Rag” or Hungry Chuck’s “Hats Off America.” Morris’ vocals, which can sometimes be hit or miss, really excel on “Showdown”, one of the standout tracks of the set.  “Northern Star” features some tasty pedal steel and fiddle riffing courtesy of talented multi-instrumentalist John Weider, while “Livin’ On Memories” sounds similar to “Orange Juice Blues” off of The Basement Tapes, with Morris taking a cue from Richard Manuel’s vocal phrasing.

Morris’ account of one man’s experience in the years after the Civil War ,“All My Riches,” is his equivalent to The Band’s epic “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Morris’ tune, while not a total failure, never comes close to reaching the heights of The Band’s legendary song. If there’s any complaint to be made about First Album, it would be that Morris’ influences are worn right on his sleeves. However, this was in fact his first album, so you’ve gotta give the guy a break for letting his influences show a little bit.

Needless to say, First Album is essential listening for fans of the rustic Americana The Band perfected on their first three records, as well as fans of Silver Pistol era Brinsley Schwarz, early McGuiness Flint and Help Yourself, and Matthews Southern Comfort. Simply one of the best obscure British folk/Americana flavored singer-songwriter lps of the era, this one is worth tracking down. Although this, his first lp, was virtually ignored upon its initial release, Roger would later find his audience when he went on to achieve international recognition as the guitarist in The Psychedelic Furs. In 2009 Bella Terra Presents released a tastefully remastered limited edition cd reissue featuring four previously unreleased bonus tracks that were recorded just a year after First Album, as well the original album artwork and a lyric sheet insert. That same year Lilith Records released a version pressed on 180 gram vinyl. Take your pick!

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“Showdown”

:) Original | 1972 | Regal Zonophone | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2009 | Riverman | get it here ]

Judee Sill “Judee Sill”

Judee Sill’s self-titled debut hit the shelves in 1971, the first release on David Geffen’s Asylum Records. Unjustly lost amongst the sands of time, and out of print for many years until it’s reissue a few years ago, Judee Sill is one-of-a-kind, an essential album, a defining example of West Coast canyon country, a hauntingly beautiful record by an extremely delicate soul and one of the 70’s most talented singer-songwriters.

Sill had been playing musical instruments of various kinds since her troubled childhood on the West Coast, which she spent dreaming of being a singer, a songwriter, and a star. An even more troubled young adulthood spent dabbling in hard drugs, armed robbery, and prostitution had landed her stints in reform schools and jail cells. After a near fatal overdose and a brush with the law that left her kicking heroin in a county jail cell, as well as the death of her brother and mother, Sill–who was increasingly drawn to metaphysical topics and occult, religious imagery–began taking her songwriting seriously. Her first big break came after landing a gig writing songs for Blimp Productions in Los Angeles when The Turtles decided to record a version of her song “Lady-O.” It was immediately clear to those around her that Sill had developed a lyrical style as distinctive as her achingly beautiful crystal-clear-as-a-mountain-stream singing voice. The time was ripe for Sill to make her “country-cult-baroque” vision a reality.

Opening with Judee’s fingerpicked guitar and a lone French horn, “Crayon Angels” is a beautifully evocative song, an honest prayer for heavenly hands matched with a gently breezy pastoral vibe perfectly suited to Judee’s delicate voice. Next up, “The Phantom Cowboy” lets Judee’s dirt road roots show through a little more while introducing the archetype of a traveling mystic ridge rider that appears frequently throughout Judee’s body of work. “The Archetypal Man” has even more of a laid-back Topanga-folk vibe with weeping pedal steel combined with baroque orchestral flourishes. “The Lamb Ran Away With The Crown” is an absolutely beautiful tune that kicks off with just Judee’s softly reassuring voice and lilting guitar, perfectly expressing Judee’s belief in the possibility of goodness in the world. The lushly orchestrated “Lady-O” goes miles beyond The Turtles recording of the song, showing just how unassumingly evocative Judee’s vocal delivery can be. Similarly, Judee’s performance of “Jesus Was A Cross Maker” is the definitive version of the song, which is perfectly suited to her crystalline vocalizations and the gospel piano inflections that she learned while leading the church choir as a teenager in reform school. Produced by Graham Nash, the song was a last minute addition to the album, obviously in high hopes of a hit.

“Ridge Rider” further fleshes out Judee’s vision of a bohemian saint who rides the rough road to salvation despite its perils, complete with tasty pedal steel and the sound of hoof beats carrying along the chorus. “My Man On Love” is an enchanting folk song full of Christian imagery. “Lopin’ Along Through the Cosmos” plods along at a pace just a bit slower than the rest of the album as Judee again pleads for the gift of peace. “Enchanted Sky Machines”, a song about salvation by UFO, quickly picks up the pace, beginning with another groovy gospel piano part that’s soon accompanied by brassy horns and upbeat drums. The beautifully orchestrated “Abracadabra” closes the album on a tender note and a major key.

Despite it all, Judee Sill didn’t sell as well as the troubadour and her friends had hoped. Nevertheless, she soldiered on to record and release 1973’s Heart Food, an equally outstanding album, which made even greater use of both her gospel influenced keyboard playing and her talent for orchestral composition. Sadly, Heart Food sold even fewer copies than the first album and Judee’s life began to gradually deteriorate. After a handful of auto-accidents in the late seventies Judee once again began turning to codeine, cocaine, and heroine in an attempt to numb the pain she suffered from so greatly.  Judee’s life was cut tragically short the day after Thanksgiving 1973 1979, when she died after overdosing on codeine and cocaine. She was 35 years old.

Who knows what heights Judee and her music may have reached had she lived long enough for more people to pick up on her gentle genius? Both Judee Sill and Heart Food rank right up there with the best from giants like Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Sandy Denny, and Carole King, as well as releases by other unsung souls like Collie Ryan, Karen Beth, and Vashti Bunyan. Forty years later there still isn’t anything than can truly compare.

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“Crayon Angels”

:) Original | 1971 | Asylum | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Taos “Taos”

Here’s an unusual jewel, released on Mercury Records in 1971. The band Taos was actually a quintet pieced together by a group of young men who had moved to the legendary Taos commune in the early 1970s, namely: Jeff Baker on guitar and vocals, Steve Oppenheim on keyboards and vocals, Albie Ciappa on drums, Burt Levine on guitar and banjo, and Kit Bedford on bass, with the occasional intermixing of instruments going on in between cuts. If the band’s commune connection leads you into expecting some sort of stoned, improvisational musical meanderings, however, you’re in for a surprise: their sole, self-titled record is pop music all the way.

Indeed, the band itself is surprisingly together, tempering mildly eccentric diversions into psychedelia and country music with a solid foundation in 1960s rock and roll. If there’s one band to which Taos owes its biggest debt, I’d say it would have to be The Beatles. Kit Bedford’s warm, melodic bass work channels Paul McCartney all the way, while the group’s vocal harmonies show a tendency to lean more towards the ragged schoolboy charm of the Four than the choirboy constructions of American groups such as the Byrds, or the Mamas and Papas. This influence is not to say that Taos lacks an identity of its own, however. On the contrary, they manage to take this influence in surprising directions, whether it’s the lonesome cosmic cowboy pastiche “After So Long” or the phased psychedelic boogie of “Twenty Thousand Miles In the Air Again”.

Despite the general cohesiveness of the album, however, there are the occasional faults, such as the unnecessary, repeating theme “The Day Begins,” which should have simply been turned into a full-fledged song rather than left as fragmentary interruptions in the tracklist. Every now and again the musicians also reveal a slight weakness in the vocal department, as the slightly squirrely lead on “Morning Sun” illustrates. Lastly, the song lyrics aren’t really worth shedding too much ink over – there’s certainly no metaphysical contemplation or social commentary going on here, whatever other Sixties sensibilities the record may boast. These latter complaints border on quibbling, though, because the music here is almost too much fun to criticize. Again, this is pop music, and should be enjoyed for what it is. I think that Taos is certainly consistent enough that, if you’re digging the tracks below, you’re gonna like what you hear the rest of the way through.

Unfortunately, Taos is currently unavailable digitally. Yeah, there had to be a bum note at the end of all this. It looks as if you all are going to have to search this one out on vinyl, though at the time of writing this article it looks as though there are at least a few copies haunting eBay for around ten or fifteen dollars apiece, which certainly ain’t bad. And speaking of the vinyl, this record comes adorned in a really great gatefold sleeve, with pictures of the band rehearsing and bumming around Taos. I’m almost tempted to imagine the psychedelic, southwestern Hard Day’s Night bouncing around in these kids’ heads.

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“After So Long (So Long)”

:) Original | 1970 | Mercury | search ebay ]

The Beau Brummels “Bradley’s Barn”

By the time Bradley’s Barn (Warner Brothers – 1968-) recording sessions commenced, the Beau Brummels had scaled down to the duo of founders Ron Elliott (guitarist) and Sal Valentino (vocalist). Nashville session pro contributions (guitarist Jerry Reed and drummer Kenneth A. Buttrey) tend to overshadow the strong batch of Elliott/Valentino/Durand originals written for this classic LP. Some 40 years after it’s release date, Bradley’s Barn is still considered one of the very best country-rock records. Instead of taking their cues from Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Sr. and The Louvin Brothers (see The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers), the Brummels created their own unique fusion of rock and roots music that’s arguably more original and less reliant on the C&W masters.

Highlights run across the board, making it really tough to single out individual performances. Elliott’s guitar work is nimble, Lenny Waronker’s arrangements/production sparkle (Waronker was a real wild card and major influence during these important sessions) and Valentino’s vocals are rich and expressive. There is no pedal steel guitarist on these recordings but session men used dobros, banjos, keyboards, marimbas and any other instruments they could find in the studio to create a mystical, backwoods vibe. If you think Poco rocked hard, check out the awesome “Deep Water.” “Deep Water” along with “Love Can Fall A Long Way Down”, find the group locked in and at their best – these are country-rock classics. Other key tracks such as “Turn Around” and “Cherokee Girl” have a unique spiritual feel without losing their rock underpinnings. “Bless You California,” a Randy Newman original, recalls the roots/psych fusion of the Beau Brummels 1967 masterpiece, Triangle. Other great cuts: “The Loneliest Man In Town” is the Brummels most traditional country offering while “Jessica” and “Long Walking Down To Misery” progress into excellent songs.

Vinyl originals are easy to find and inexpensive. Check out Rhino’s new double disc reissue (with plenty of great bonus cuts) of this landmark recording while those on a budget might want to consider the Collector’s Choice disc. Records such as Triangle, Bradley’s Barn and earlier material from the group’s jangle folk-rock phase, Volume 2 and From The Vaults, should be part of any serious rock n roll collection.

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“Long Walking Down To Misery”

:D 2cd Reissue | 2011 | Rhino | buy here ]
:) Original | 1968 | Warner Bros | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]