There are many different kinds of records. Some latch onto you almost immediately and either stand the test of time or else slip away as easily as they came. Randy Holland’s 1972 album Cat Mind is the other kind; those unusual and sometimes uneven records that take more than one listen to fully appreciate. Released on the independent Mother Records label, it can probably be said that Cat Mind never had a chance at real commercial success. But hell, we’re not interested in the commercial success here – we’re after good records, wherever they ended up and in whatever condition. And Cat Mind is a good record.
Looking at that stark, black and white cover shot you’re probably expecting a good deal of grit here, and the opening cut doesn’t disappoint in that department. The off-kilter flower child stomp of “Bless the Naked Days” also wastes no time introducing the listener to Holland’s rough and nasally voice; a voice which he tends to push to the limits, and often far beyond. Depending on where you’re coming from, I reckon this could either be an acquired taste or a real attraction.
Following this first number, “Colors of Sad” is bizarrely saccharine, and it’s this vivid contrast between wildness and melancholy which perhaps defines this record more than anything else. Holland tilts mercilessly between incisive, jagged rock and roll numbers and melodramatic country cuts, with very little sense of transition or artistic compromise. His uncredited backup band really shines, especially on the former, where they lay down some of the most righteous country-stained rock this side of
Wray’s Shack Three Track. The hot swamp growl of “Muddy Water” is a real highlight, as is the weird title track, graced with scorching Davie Allan-style guitar work and an insistent rhythm section. Holland’s forays into the tamer side of Americana are more hit-and-miss, giving us both the warm and gentle “Ladybug” and an unfortunately overwrought reading of Mickey Newbury’s “Remember the Good”.
Fortunately, however, even the most underwhelming cuts are outweighed by the grittier numbers, and the overall quality and unique character of Cat Mind really does warrant it the kind of reissue treatment afforded so many other lost jewels of the period, such as Vernon Wray’s Wasted. As it stands, it isn’t all that hard to track down a used copy for a decent price. And what ever happened to Randy Holland? From what it looks like, he retired his attempts at making it in the music scene not long after cutting this record and moved to Las Vegas, where he opened an art gallery and devoted the rest of his days to painting and poetry. He passed away a few years ago, truly making this his one and only album.
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