The 1968 self-titled debut by California based country rock group Southwind is a rather obscure little gem. The unique combination of country, psych, soul, funk, and just good old rock & roll turns this record into a stew of great listening, and really makes this record stand out.
The band’s origins can be traced back to Norman, Oklahoma, while members were attending the University of Oklahoma. Coming together first as a rockabilly-flavored band known as “The Disciples,” the group comprised John “Moon” Martin (guitar, vocals), Jim Pulte (bass, vocals), Phil Hope (organ), and Eric Dalton (drums). Soon after forming, the band scored an opportunity to play at several venues in Wisconsin to delighted audiences. In 1967, the band headed out for the musical promised land of Los Angeles, with The Disciples changing their name to the more contemporary-sounding “Southwind.” The newly-named band started incorporating psychedelic rock, country, blues, soul, and funk into their sound. After playing gigs in and around L.A. for a while, in 1968, Southwind were signed to the tiny MGM subsidiary Venture records, which was a label known for giving lesser-known soul/R&B acts a shot. Nevertheless, the band headed into the studio and laid down tracks for their debut.
The opening tune, the outstanding cover of Bob Dylan’s “You Been On My Mind,” is a blend of country-tinged pop with lush strings. The song features wonderfully beautiful and expressive vocals, and doesn’t sound too far from something an early Nitty Gritty Dirt Band may have cut. Next up is the rave-up soul flavored number “Get On Board The Train,” which asks the listener to get on board of the soul (love?) train before it takes off, undoubtedly leaving them behind in the dust. Track three is the rather dark “I’m Proud To Be,” and is a bit of a psychedelic mini-masterwork, containing very creepy sounding vocals and guitar playing. The last track on side one is also another stand-out, “Got To Get Myself Together,” a plaintive tune of love gone bad and the choice of finally moving on. To my ears, the best track on the album is on side two. “New Orleans (Mardi Gras)” is a song that was deserving of hit status, and was also recorded by Del Shannon for his “The Further Adventures Of Charles Westover” album. The song had the typical late ’60′s flower power sound, complete with very hallucinatory and vivid lyrics, and eerie and dissonant harpsichord and guitar work. The song gives off a definite “loss of glory and happiness of days gone by” vibe. This whole album is full of great tracks.
Southwind released this and a handful of singles before replacing organist Phil Hope with longtime pal Dugg (Fontaine) Brown as a full time member. The group left Venture records for the eccentric and now-legendary Blue Thumb label, releasing their second album “Ready To Ride” in 1970. Southwind’s final effort was the more blues-influenced “What A Strange Place To Land” album in 1971, and not long after the release, the group disbanded. John Martin (now going by his newly-adopted first name of “Moon”) went on to back artists such as Linda Ronstadt and later recorded several solo albums, all of which received little attention. Martin is probably best remembered for writing Robert Palmer’s huge hit “Bad Case Of Lovin’ You (Doctor, Doctor).” Jim Pulte made a couple of solo albums for United Artists, and virtually dropped out of radar. Little is known of the whereabouts of original organist Phil Hope or drummer Eric Dalton. Dugg (Fontaine) Brown has been in the music scene for years, and was at one time connected to music legends Del Shannon and Bob Seger. Brown still writes and records music today.
Sadly, no label to my knowledge has picked up this album to be reissued on CD. The two tracks provided for this review were recorded straight from my personal copy of the vinyl, so you may hear some pops and clicks in places. Search online auction sites such as eBay or scour your local record shops and thrifts in hopes of finding an original vinyl copy. I will say in full confidence that this is an album worthy of the reissue treatment, and it is definitely an album worthy of picking up if you can find it cheap enough. Not a disappointing moment on this record.
“You Been On My Mind”
Original | 1968 | Venture | search ebay ]