Though having been a member of the New Christy Minstrels and Modern Folk Quartet, and a replacement for Zal Yanovsky in the Lovinâ€™ Spoonful, Jerry Yester is known mostly for his behind-the-scenes work as a studio musician, arranger and producer. His album with then-wife Judy Henske, Farewell Aldebaran, and a follow-up collaboration as Rosebud, are both highly revered, but did little to establish Yesterâ€™s name commercially. A pair of 1967 singles on the Dunhill label were his only commercially released solo material, but he wrote and recorded at a variety of Los Angeles studios throughout the 1970s, and fifteen of those pieces are collected and released here for the very first time.
These are finished studio recordings, not songwriter demos, and their artistry, quality and polish are undimmed by the decades theyâ€™ve spent on the shelf. Yesterâ€™s collaboration with lyricist Larry Beckett yielded a wide range of material, with the former responding musically to the latterâ€™s words. The material covers pop, folk, bubblegum, country-rock, baroque and more. The lyrics, which were often inspired by real-life events, are filled with yearning, period detail and allegorical depth. The overdubbed harmonies of â€œBrooklyn Girlâ€ show what Yester could accomplish on his own, and the backing of the Manhattan Transferâ€™s Laurel MassÃ© on â€œDance for Me, Anna Leeâ€ shows off the artistic circles in which he traveled.
Yester repurposed a few of his earlier melodies, borrowed a few from Bach, and for the vocal intro of â€œBrooklyn Girl,â€ he deftly lifted the hook from â€œStop! In the Name of Love.â€ The latterâ€™s production of beautifully layered harmonies and harmonium combine to suggest the Tokens singing a Left Banke song. There are several songs of unrequited infatuation, and Beckettâ€™s lyric of marital dissolution, â€œThe Minutes,â€ echoed Yesterâ€™s split from Judy Henske. Although several of these songs were recorded by a reformed mid-70s MFQ, the originals remained on Yesterâ€™s shelf until now. Itâ€™s surprising that no one spotted the commercial possibilities of â€œAll I Can Do Is Danceâ€ or the FM potential of an album. Liner notes by Barry Alphonso and photos by Henry Diltz fill out a very special package. [Â©2017 Hyperbolium]