Tag Archives: Folk Rock

Shawn Mullins: Soul’s Core Revival

A flash of inspiration turned into an essay of experience

Shawn Mullins was six years and four albums into his recording career when he waxed the 1998 breakthrough album Soul’s Core. He was at the point in a musician’s career when they start to wonder if they’ll ever break out of the artistically-rich but commercially-lean orbit in which they’ve been traveling. The pace of recording often turns studio sessions into snapshots of inspiration, with a long tail of discovery ahead as the album is toured. The initial writing and recording are coated in layers of experience as songs are contextualized in the flow of a live set, developed by a road band’s chemistry, reflected by audience reaction, and interpreted through the changing circumstances of the performer. Material with artistic depth is in a sense never finished.

Given the pivotal role that Soul’s Core played in Mullins’ career, it’s no surprise that many of the album’s songs have remained central to his live set, and that over time, his relationship to the material, and his perspective on its meaning has deepened. For this self-released double-CD, Mullins has re-recorded the album twice: once with his road band, and once in an acoustic solo setting. The former’s live-in-the-studio setting captures the band’s decades-long development of the songs as stage material, while the latter more deeply introspects the songwriter’s changes in personal relationship to his younger self. The band disc perfectly blends the tight playing of oft-played material with the stretching and exploration of songs whose core theses have become second nature; the solo disc gives Mullins an opportunity to look back twenty years on his own.

Mullins has doubled down on the soulfulness of these songs with both his singing and touches of organ and horns. His feel for the entirety of each song allows him to hang back at key points so as to emphasize others, exchanging the glow of the adolescent incarnations for versions steeped in the added details of nightly retellings. The spoken word intros to the acoustic renditions nominaly return the material to its songwriter roots, but as with the band versions, Mullins long-term relationship with his material yields a deeper connection than could have been captured at its genesis. This is a terrific gift to longtime fans of the original album, and an interesting entry point for new fans to capture both Mullins’ early years and his current state. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Shawn Mullins’ Home Page

The Rose Garden: A Trip Through the Garden – The Rose Garden Collection

Charming, but little-known mid-60s folk-rock band

You might be excused for thinking John Einarson’s fascinating, detailed liner notes for this reissue are an early draft of the script for That Thing You Do! Much like the fictional Wonders, the Rose Garden managed to catch breaks and side-step many of the pitfalls that line the path to fame, only to be pulled back to shore by the tide that grounded many of the bands that followed in the Beatles’ wake. They pulled together a band, worked hard to gain local notice, crossed paths with an artistic mentor, signed with well-connected managers, scored a major label contract with the Atlantic subsidiary Atco, recorded an album, had a hit single, toured on package bills, and appeared on American Bandstand. The group reached the Top 20 with “Next Plane to London,” but internal conflicts and two members awaiting disposition from their draft boards led to label disinterest, a stillborn follow-up single (“If My World Falls Through),” foundering and disbandment.

Had the Rose Garden been nothing more than a studio concoction, their epitaph would have been an endlessly anthologized needle drop of the hit single. But the group had more going for it than their brief brush with fame might suggest, and their album, augmented here by the post-album single and fourteen bonus tracks, provides a lesser-seen view of the culturally fertile mid-60s Los Angeles music scene. The Beatles and the Byrds may have been the group’s north stars, but influences also included the Seekers, Mamas & Papas, Lovin’ Spoonful, Beau Brummels and early Grass Roots. The group played nearly all the instruments on the album – unusual for the time – but didn’t write any of the material. The one song credited to the group, “Flower Town,” is a rewrite of Derroll Adams “Portland Town” that substitutes “flower” for “Portland” and elides the song’s most stridently anti-war verses. What the group did bring to the song is a new approach that turned the original folk vocal and banjo arrangement into a languorous, flute-lined flower-power tune.

Of specific interest to Byrds fans are two songs given to the band by Gene Clark: “Till Today” and “Long Time,” the former of which Clark recorded with the band as a demo that’s included among the bonus tracks. Additional material was drawn from Bob Johnston & Wes Farrell, and in an original arrangement, Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me.” John Noreen’s 12-string Rickenbacker lends a Byrdsian tone to many of the album’s tracks, but none more so than Pat Vegas’ “Coins of Fun,” with a terrific duet vocal from Jim Groshong and Diana De Rose. The wide range of writers from which the material was drawn, and the shuffling of lead vocal duties might have produced an album with no band identity, but the collection hangs together as it ranges through beat pop, sunshine harmonies and flower power. The band suggests that their instrumental abilities were shortchanged by their managers’ lack of production prowess, but the forward mix of the vocals is quite engaging.

The bonus tracks make this edition a must-have upgrade from earlier reissues of the album. Included are the group’s follow-on single (in both both mono and stereo), with backing harmonies on the top side and absent on the flip, suggesting that internal band conflicts might have already been taking their toll on the group’s harmony. Previously unreleased tracks recorded for an uncompleted second album include a cover of Neil Young’s “Down to the Wire,” the First Edition’s “Charlie the Fer De Lance” and Al Kooper & Bob Crewe’s “The World is a Great Big Playground.” Also included are five live tracks from August of 1967 that find the band singing their hit, covers of the Byrds’ “So You Want to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “She Don’t Care About Time,” Sonny & Cher’s “It’s the Little Things,” and Willie Cobbs’ “You Don’t Love Me.” The bonuses provide a nice coda to the career of a band whose talent and opportunity carried them far, but whose luck ran out before they could make an indelible commercial mark. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

The Rose Garden’s Archived Home Page

The Beau Brummels: The Very Best Of – The Complete Singles

The mono A-sides of the Beau Brummels, and more!

San Francisco’s Beau Brummels cast a long shadow with a surprisingly short chart resume. Their run in the Top 40 lasted two years, and amounted to only three hit singles, “Laugh, Laugh,” “Just a Little” and “You Tell Me Why.” From there, the singles dwindled down the chart, and ended with 1966’s “One Too Many Mornings.” But their sound – particularly their harmony arrangements – was unique, and their albums and non-album singles have retained an artistic currency beyond their commercial success. All six albums are on CD, along with best of and rarities collections, and a pair of deep vault explorations. Varese adds to the catalog a sixteen-track set that collects the group’s twelve original mono A-sides, a trio of Sal Valentino singles and the group’s 1975 reworking of “You Tell Me Why.” The 45-minute disc is accompanied by a twelve-page booklet of photos, liner notes by noted West Coast music historian Alec Palao, and song notes that Palao gathered from band members Ron Elliott, Sal Valentino, John Peterson, Ron Meagher and Don Irving, lyricist Bob Durand and producer Lenny Waronker. Those new to the group’s catalog may find a greatest hits collection to be a better overall introduction, but fans will really enjoy the original mono A-sides (and long for the B’s!). [©2017 Hyperbolium]

The Beau Brummels’ Home Page

The Searchers: The Very Best Of

searchers_verybestofThe Searchers’ US and UK hits in stereo!

The Searchers had seven U.S. Top 40 singles, highlighted by their covers of Jackie DeShannon’s “Needles and Pins,” the Orlons’ “Don’t Throw Your Love Away,” and the Clovers’ “Love Potion #9.” The band had even greater success in their native England, where they topped the singles chart three times, landed a dozen singles in the Top 40 and waxed more than a dozen albums. Their original recordings for Pye have been extensively anthologized [1 2], but for those seeking a hits-focused single disc, Varese’s gathered together all of the group’s UK and US chart entries (except for an early cover of Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothin’s”), and sprinkled in a few album cuts. The collection utilizes stereo mixes that were most likely produced by UK Pye for the American Kapp label (at the demand of label head Dave Kapp). These are genuine stereo mixes made from the original 3-track masters, and they’re surprisingly well balanced. That said, they aren’t the mono singles listeners originally heard on AM radio, which themselves can be found on the longer Pye collections. Listeners unaccustomed to mono will enjoy the stereo mixes, but Searchers fans should really own both, as they’re equally authentic artifacts. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Searchers’ Home Page

The Turtles: The Complete Original Album Collection

Turtles_CompleteOriginalAlbumCollectionThe revelatory album riches of the Turtles

Like its companion singles collection, this album box is a labor of love from the Turtles’ founders, songwriters and vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. The six CD set includes all six original Turtles albums, the first three in both mono and stereo, and a wealth of impressive bonus tracks. This is an essential partner to the singles collection, not just for the greater reach of its album sides, but for album-specific takes and mixes of songs that had separate lives as singles. Listeners will discover the Turtles as a band, thriving and growing together as their imagination and musical ability stretched beyond the familiar pop of their hits. The group’s albums reveal a treasure trove of original material, deftly selected songs from rising Los Angeles writers, and interesting experiments that flew beyond commercial concerns.

The group’s 1965 debut, It Ain’t Me Babe, is filled with the jangle of West Coast folk-rock, and includes three Dylan covers. The group’s hit singles often came from the pens of other writers, but their original material, such as the terrific “Wanderin’ Kind,” could be just as good. The album includes a Dave Clark-styled rave-up of Kenny Dino’s “Your Maw Said You Cried Last Night” and a prematurally anguished take on “It Was a Very Good Year.” The latter originally entered the folk scene with the Kingston Trio, but was turned into a Grammy-winning signature for Frank Sinatra just a month before the Turtles album dropped. A pair of P.F. Sloan tunes includes an early version of “Eve of Destruction” and the single “Let Me Be,” Mann & Weil offered up the memorable “Glitter and Gold,” and Kaylin’s hearty “Let the Cold Winds Blow” takes the Turtles into Folksmen territory.

The group’s second album, You Baby, expanded beyond chiming 12-string with a mix of garage rock and harmony pop, including P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri’s superb title tune. Kaylan was still writing wayfaring folk-rock like “House of Pain” (with a tortured protagonist living on “crumbs and sterno”), but ventures into dystopian social criticism with “Pall Bearing, Ball Bearing World.” Turtles Al Nichol, Chuck Portz and Jim Tucker join in the songwriting with “Flying High” and “I Need Someone,” Bob Lind’s “Down in Suburbia” highlights the group’s growing sense of humor, and Steve Duboff and Artie Kornfeld’s “Just a Room” is a real sleeper. The album closes with a superb vocal arrangement of the folk revival standard “All My Trials” (rewritten here as “All My Problems”) and Kaylan’s Kinks-styled rave-up “Almost There.”

Lineup changes saw the departure of Portz and Murray, and the arrival of John Barbata, ex-Leaves Jim Pons, and briefly, Chip Douglas. The resulting LP, 1967’s Happy Together, was the group’s biggest hit on the album chart, led by the chart-topping, group-defining title song and its follow-up “She’d Rather Be With Me,” both written by the team of Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon. Noteworthy album tracks in include the original “Think I’ll Run Away,” and sophisticated material from Eric Eisner and Warren Zevon. 1968’s concept album The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands, reimagined the group playing soul, psych, pop, country, R&B, surf and even bluegrass. The album’s singles, the last of the Turtles’ Top 40s, include their first group-written hit, “Eleanor,” and a radically reworked cover of Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark’s “You Showed Me.”

Battle of the Bands shows off the band’s imagination and talent in full flight. The soulful opener cues a revue-style album, as the group takes the stage in a variety of guises. Ironically, the song that most sounds like the Turtles, “Eleanor” was written as a lampoon of “Happy Together,” intended to get the band’s label off their backs. Without a mono version of the album to fill this disc, the original stereo album is augmented by bonus tracks, including a trio of singles (“She’s My Girl,” “Sound Asleep” and “The Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll”) that appeared on the 1970 anthology More Golden Hits, and their non-LP B-sides. Outtakes include alternate versions of “The Last Thing I Remember” and “Earth Anthem,” a pair of songs (including the superb “To See the Sun”) that didn’t make the album’s final cut, a 3-minute radio spot.

The group’s final original album, 1969’s Turtle Soup, was produced by the Kinks’ Ray Davies in his first and nearly his last producer’s credit outside the Kinks. Two group-written singles, “You Don’t Have to Walk in the Rain” and “Love in the City,” scraped into the Top 100, and despite its strong performance and message, “House on the Hill” missed entirely. The album remains the Turtles’ most satisfying and musically coherent long player, but with White Whale seeking only cookie-cutter pop that played to the group’s legacy of chart hits, positive reviews didn’t translate into sales. It remains a terrific album that deserves a much higher profile than its original release garnered. The original dozen tracks are supplemented here by a dozen bonuses, including demos, acoustic material from Kaylan and Volman, a period radio spot, and tracks completed for the aborted Shell Shock.

Shell Shock was to be the Turtles sixth and final album for White Whale, but with the group and the label both teetering on the edge of existence, the group’s last release was the 1970 odds and sods album Wooden Head. Reaching back to 1965-66, producer Bones Howe combined nine previously unreleased selections with the album track “Wanderin’ Kind” and B-side “We’ll Meet Again,” to create a surprisingly consistent album of golden age pop. The originals found the group developing their pop hooks alongside material from Peter & Gordon, Sloan & Barri, David Gates and a sprightly cover of Vera Lynn’s WWII classic “We’ll Meet Again.” The bonus material includes tracks drawn from Golden Hits and More Golden Hits, highlighted by balanced stereo remixes of “You Baby,” “Let Me Be” and “It Ain’t Me Babe.”

From their first single, the group established a vocal sound unlike any other. Kaylan’s leads were sweet, but with an underlying toughness that was bolstered by Volman’s harmonies. The band’s instrumental backings were tight and fetchingly melodic, and though the albums didn’t chart well (only 1967’s Happy Together made the Top 40), they’re filled with terrific music that shows off the group’s imagination and ability to respond to changing times. The primitive stereo mixes of the first two albums split the voices left and instruments right, and though great to have in print, the mono mixes are more coherent. It wasn’t until 1967’s Happy Together that a full stereo mix was made, and the following year’s The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands abandoned mono altogether.

Though mono albums were left behind, mono singles were not, making the singles collection a welcome companion to this album box. In addition to singles-only mono mixes, several singles differed significantly from their related album tracks, including an early version of “Making Up My Mind” that was released before before horns were added, an electric sitar arrangement of “Chicken Little Was Right” that stood in for the album’s bluegrass take, and a faster single take of the album track “We’ll Meet Again.” Both sets were prepared from the original tapes, and include extensive liner notes by Los Angeles music historian Andrew Sandoval, photos and reproductions of Turtles ephemera. This six disc box comes with a forty page booklet, and is a must have for Turtles fans and all lovers of ‘60s pop. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Turtles’ Home Page

The Turtles: All the Singles

Turtles_AllTheSinglesComplete collection of singles – the hits and well beyond!

Although the Turtles had a parallel life as album artists, it was their singles that first reverberated in listeners’ ears. Starting with a 1965 cover of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” the group navigated folk-rock and harmony-laden pop to the top of the charts with 1967’s “Happy Together.” They scored nine Top 40 hits and five Top 10’s, all of which are included in this more-than-complete recitation of their singles. “More than,” because the full slate of commercial 45s is augmented by unissued singles, and sides released under nom de plumes. Tieing it all together is a 20-page booklet decorated with record label and picture sleeve reproductions, and stuffed with encylopedic (and microscopic) notes by Los Angeles music historian Andrew Sandoval.

The hits include titles written by Dylan, P.F. Sloan (“Let Me Be” and “You Baby”), Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon (“Happy Together,” “She’d Rather Be With Me,” “You Know What I Mean” and “She’s My Girl”) and Jim McGuinn and Gene Clark (a radically reimagined version of the Byrds’ “You Showed Me”). But they also wrote their own hits (notably 1968’s “Elenore”), as well as a host of fantastic low-charting singles and B-sides that ranged from folk to sunshine pop to garage rock to psychedelic and progressive rock. The band’s reach wasn’t always evident on their hits, but their lower-charting singles and flipsides tip the even greater breadth of their albums.

That same inventiveness led the group to reimagine Kenny Dino’s “Your Maw Said You Cried” as a Dave Clark 5-styled rave-up, and Vera Lynn’s WWII-era “We’ll Meet Again” (a song that had been renewed in the mid-60s consciousness by Dr. Strangelove) as Lovin’ Spoonful-styled good-time music. They stretched themselves even further with original material “Rugs of Woods and Flowers,” “Sound Asleep,” and “Chicken Little Was Right.” The latter’s sitar arrangement differs greatly from the album track, making this single version unique. B-sides were often given to artistically rewarding material, such as Warren Zevon’s “Like the Seasons,” rather than throwaways (though there are the Red Krayola-styled freakout “Umbassa the Dragon” and Brian Wilsonish “Can’t You Hear the Cows.”).

While some of their A-sides may have been ill conceived commercially as singles, others simply failed to gain the response they deserved. Sloan & Barri’s deliciously sweet “Can I Get to Know You Better” has all the hallmarks of a Turtles’ hit, yet struggled to only #89, Nilsson’s “The Story of Rock & Roll” was scooped by a same-week release from the Collage, and three Ray Davies-produced singles from Turtle Soup failed to cracked the Top 40. Ditto for the beautiful “Lady-O.” There are several B-side gems, including Warren Zevon’s “Outside Chance” and the original “Buzz Saw,” that managed to find their own form of popularity – the former as a favorite of the Beatniks, Sounds Like Us, Bangles and Chesterfield Kings, the latter as a much loved break-beat sample.

The set’s bonuses include two singles that never saw release. First is the original 1966 mono single of Goffin & King’s “So Goes Love,” and its Al Nichol-penned B-side “On a Summer Day.” Though the former was included on 1967’s Golden Hits, and the latter on 1970’s Wooden Head, the mono single mixes are previously unreleased. The second is an early version of the Ray Davies-produced “How You Love Me,” featuring Howard Kaylan on lead vocal. Additional rarities include a horn-free single mix of “Making Up My Mind,” the holiday single (as The Christmas Spirit) “Christmas is My Time of Year,” a cover of Lee Andrews and the Hearts’ “Teardrops” (released as the Dedications), its unreleased B-side cover of Jan & Arnie’s “Gas Money,” and the promo-only “Is It Any Wonder.” Also included are unlisted tracks at the end of each disc featuring period Turtles-sung commercials for Pepsi and Camaro.

Having bought their White Whale masters at auction, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman have issued this set (along with a parallel set of the Turtles’ albums) on their own FloEdCo label. The love they have for this material shows in the attention to detail, and in the extensive song notes Sandoval elicited from Kaylan, Volman, Al Nichol and Jim Pons. The two discs and 20-page booklet are packed in a tri-fold slipcase. All tracks are mono except for #16-21 on disc two, and as Sandoval notes, the mono sides are especially revealing for 1968-69 when the albums were stereo only. Taken together with the previously unreleased and promo-only material, this is an absolutely essential companion to the album collection. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Turtles Home Page

The Bangles: Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bangles!

Bangles_LadiesAndGentlemenTheBangsThe Bangles’ Rosetta stone is their fans’ holy grail

For anyone who latched onto the Bangles before their major label makeover on Columbia, the first half of this CD remains the band’s Rosetta stone. Though hits and international fame would come later, the eight tracks released in 1981-2 remain the group’s purest statement of their 60s-tinged harmony rock. They never wrote, played or sang with more elan, and the youthful effervescence of this early work is as compelling today as it was thirty-five years ago. The group first appeared on vinyl as The Bangs with the fan club single “Getting Out of Hand” b/w “Call On Me.” Its local circulation left most listeners to meet the band, renamed as The Bangles, on the compilation Rodney on the ROQ, Vol. III, and then retroactively track down the single’s more widely circulated reissue.

In 1982, amid the the Salvation Army’s self-titled debut, Green on Red’s debut EP, the Dream Syndicate’s Days of Wine and Roses, the Three O’Clock’s Baroque Hoedown, and the Rain Parade’s first single, there was the Bangles’ self-titled five song EP on Faulty. The EP’s four original songs were the perfect lead-in to a scorching cover of the La De Da’s “How is the Air Up There?” Though reissued by IRS, the EP was mostly lost to fans the band picked up with their major label debut, All Over the Place, and even more so in the full rush of fame brought by Different Light. Bits and pieces of the EP reappeared as B-sides and on compilations, but the full EP remained unreissued until this collection was released as MP3s in 2014. Now on CD, the EP can be heard without compression.

Filling out this disc are four full-fidelity demos, a pair of 1984 live tracks, and a commercial for No Magazine. The demos include early takes of “Call On Me” and “The Real World,” a harmony-rich cover of the Turtles’ “Outside Chance” and a tough take on Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Steppin’ Out.” The live cuts are “Tell Me” (from All Over the Place), and a cover of Love’s “7 & 7 Is.” The disc closes with 1982’s “The Rock & Roll Alternative Program Theme Song,” a tune the group recorded for George Gimarc’s pioneering radio show. The only thing missing is the promo-only 12” remix of “The Real World,” but that’s a nit. This is the holy grail for Bangles fans, especially those who never completely cottoned to the commercial polish of their Columbia years. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

The Bangles’ Home Page

The Farewell Drifters: Tomorrow Forever

FarewellDrifters_TomorrowForeverSuperb melding of acoustic roots, folk-rock and pop

Nashville’s Farewell Drifters are often likened to the Avett Brothers, Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons, and though there’s merit in these comparisons, lead vocalist Zach Bevill’s earnest tone often has more in common with the uplift of Tim DeLaughter’s Polyphonic Spree than acoustic roots acts. The group’s anthemic unison singing, and the addition of drums and electric guitar, bring to mind the Spree’s larger productions, and the Farewell Drifters’ citation of Brian Wilson as a primary influence is heard in touches of 1960s harmony, such as the opening chorale of “Starting Over,” and the instrumental production.

The opening “Modern Age” spins up from its plaintive start to a rousing mid-tempo awakening, with group vocals and an orchestral chime for extra lift. The acoustic strums of “Bring ’em Back Around” similarly build into a full-on rock song (with nostalgic lyrics that press many the same emotional buttons as Jonathan Richman’s “That Summer Feeling“), and “Motions” turns from spare piano into a drum-and-strings crescendo, transforming the lyric’s pessimistic premise into an optimistic expectation. The productions aren’t as grandiose as Art Decade‘s orchestral rock, but they draw inspiration from the same pop-rock well.

The group’s harmony singing and Americana roots show in the Band-like “Brother,” as well as the martial drum and banjo of “Tomorrow Forever.” The album’s forward motion – both musical and lyrical – is often stoked by backward glances. The chime added to the shuffling drum of “Tennessee Girl” adds a modern sound to a classic rhythm, just as the protagonist’s advance is connected to his past. There are threads of disappointment and hope throughout the album, suggesting that growth comes more often from studied failure than a safe lack of trying. It’s an empowering message, and one the Drifters communicate winningly in both words and music. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Farewell Drifters’ Home Page

Tom Freund: Two Moons

TomFreund_TwoMoonsFormer Silos bassist extends his catalog as a singer-songwriter

Tom Freund is a songwriter who’s something of a musical chameleon. His latest release opens with “Angel Eyes,” a tune whose sharp edged lyric, “funny how when you leave L.A. you gotta drive into the desert / out of the frying pan and into the fire,” is worthy of Randy Newman. Freund’s lap steel further echoes Los Angeles with its David-Lindley-esque tone, and his guitar complements Al Gamble’s organ on “Heavy Balloon” with atmospheric notes and a meaty solo that builds the track to its close. The latter is a fitting background to a lyric that graduates from ambivalence to skepticism to possibility to hope.

Such sophisticated, and often contrasting, shades of emotion are central to Freund’s songwriting. “Happy Days Lunch Box,” ostensibly a nostalgic tribute to childhood, is freighted with adult hindsight, and the anti-love song “Next Time Around” paradoxically embraces the missing embrace of a partner and wraps it in a 20s-styled tune. The album’s bittersweet closer “Sweetie Pie” is an appreciation of a love that’s ended, sung to acoustic guitar and bass. Freund has a nasally voice that suggests Dylan, songwriter Moon Martin, and on the riff-driven “Grooves Out of My Heart,” Joe Walsh, with a nod to Led Zeppelin in the fadeout for good measure.

Freund phrases like Paul Simon on “Same Old Shit Different Day,” and his plea for acceptance “Let Me Be Who I Wanna Be” provides the same sort of rallying flag as Sonny Bono’s “Laugh at Me,” but with a tone that’s satisfied rather than reactionary. In addition to the deft songwriting and wide-ranging musical palette, Freund’s production includes well-placed touches of strings, horns, ukulele and vintage keyboards, guest harmonica from Stan Behrens, and backing vocals from Ben Harper, Brett Dennen and Serena Ryder. Freund’s imagination as a songwriter is matched by his reach as an arranger and producer, making this collection both varied and cohesive. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

Tom Freund’s Home Page

Keith Allison: In Action – The Complete Columbia Sides Plus!

KeithAllison_InActionLos Angeles studio musician’s mid-60s solo shot

Keith Allison’s discovery at a taping of Dick Clark’s Where the Action Is is an only-in-Hollywood tale to rival that of Lana Turner’s first sighting at the Top Hat Malt Shop. Allison had been living a relatively anonymous life as a session musician (that’s his harmonica on the Monkees “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day“) and latter-day band member for his cousin Jerry Allison’s Crickets. Allison’s appearance as an audience member on Where the Action Is quickly led to a featured slot and a recording contract with Columbia. The latter gave Allison an opportunity to work with producer Terry Melcher for a single and Gary Usher for a pop-rock album.

His first Columbia release turned Joey Brooks and the Baroque Folk’s “I Ain’t Blamin’ You” into folk-rock, and featured an excellent, original B-side, “Look at Me” that turned up two years later as a Cher album track. His next single brought him Boyce & Hart’s “Action, Action, Action” and Mann & Weil’s bounch sunshine pop, “Glitter and Gold.” The former, produced by future Scooby Doo theme song vocalist Larry Marks, is offered here in both its stereo album and mono single mixes.

Allison’s full-length album played to his television audience, who knew him for his covers of hits-of-the-day. The album’s lone original is the very fine country rock “Freeborn Man,” co-written with Mark Lindsay; the rest of the track list is filled with tunes from Boyce & Hart, Neil Diamond, Donovan, Ray Charles and Lindsay. As the liner notes highlight, the variety of material provided a showcase for Allison’s versatility, even when the covers don’t add anything radical to the better-known hits. “Louise” and “Good Thing” give an early indication of how easily Allison would later fit into Paul Revere & The Raiders, and the country-rock arrangement of “Colours” adds something vital to Donovan’s original.

More interesting is the discovery of Neil Diamond’s early single “Do It,” the rave-up “Action, Action, Action,” and a take on “Leave My Woman Alone” that adds a psychedelic edge to the Everly Brothers earlier interpretation. Real Gone’s twenty-three track collection pulls together the Columbia album and singles and adds a self-produced one-off single for Amy that backs Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” with the Byrdsian original “I Don’t Want Nobody But You.” The post-LP singles include an emotional cover of “To Know Her is to Love Her,” a rave-up medley of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis and a lite-psych version of Tommy Roe’s “Everybody.”

Despite a promising start and continuing success as a musician and songwriter, Allison’s solo career never really took off. His work with the Raiders can be heard on several albums, starting with 1968’s Hard ‘n’ Heavy, and he turned up on tracks by Al Kooper, Johnny Rivers, The Dillards and others. He dabbled in acting (including a bit part on The Love Boat!), and has recently gigged with the Waddy Wachtel Band, but the quality of these mid-60s sides suggest there was something more to be had. Stardom is a fickle mistress, and though Allison had the talent and a shot, the stars simply didn’t align. Lucky listeners can now cast themselves back and ask “what if?”  [©2014 Hyperbolium]

Keith Allison Info Page