Expanded edition of McKuenâ€™s popular 1969 hits album
San Francisco poet and singer Rod McKuen was as popular with the people as he was reviled by critics. The latter labeled his works schmaltzy and facile, while the former bought his books and records, and attended his readings and concerts in tremendous numbers. The gap between his lack of critical accolades and his surfeit of popular acclaim likely hinges on the resonance his plainspoken words of isolation and spirituality struck with an audience who might otherwise not read poetry. The raspy earnestness of his vocal performances was often parodied, but the loneliness that threaded through his songs struck a deep emotional chord with listeners, and his uplifting messages provided hope.
Despite the sales of his records, McKuenâ€™s chart success as a musical artist was limited; more successful were his songs, which were recorded by Oliver (â€œJeanâ€), Terry Jacks (â€œSeasons in the Sun,â€ an English translation of Jacques Brelâ€™s â€œLe Moribondâ€), Damita Jo (â€œIf You Go Away,â€ a translation of Brelâ€™s â€œNe Me Quitte Pasâ€), Perry Como (â€œI Think of You,â€ co-written with Frances Lai), Frank Sinatra (â€œLoveâ€™s Been Good for Meâ€), Perry Como (â€œI Think of Youâ€), the Kingston Trio (â€œAlly Ally, Oxen Freeâ€), Waylon Jennings (â€œDoesnâ€™t Anybody Know My Nameâ€), and many more. Other writings – notably â€œListen to the Warmâ€ and â€œA Cat Named Sloopyâ€ – remain fan favorites in both their original poetic form, and when subsequently set to song. The former is included here as a bonus track, the latter, unfortunately not.
Expanded reissue of the â€œAliceâ€™s Restaurantâ€ soundtrack
Two years after Arlo Guthrie debuted with Aliceâ€™s Restaurant, and the surprisingly wide popularity of its eighteen-minute title track, his comedic anti-authoritarian talking blues became a movie and a soundtrack album. In its original incarnation, the soundtrack was anchored by a two-part re-recording of the title track, but its studio setting seemed to sap the satirical audacity of the debut albumâ€™s live take. More interesting were the tracks recorded especially for the soundtrack, including Guthrieâ€™s folk-styled instrumentals â€œTraveling Musicâ€ and â€œTrip to the City,â€ the meditative â€œCrash Pad Improvs,â€ and music supervisor Garry Shermanâ€™s bluesy â€œHarps & Marriage.â€ Two vocal tracks include Al Schackmanâ€™s performance of Guthrie and Shermanâ€™s â€œYouâ€™re a Fink,â€ and Tigger Outlawâ€™s poignant acoustic cover of Joni Mitchellâ€™s â€œSongs to Aging Children.â€
The original release was augmented with eleven bonus tracks for Rykodiscâ€™s out-of-print 1998 reissue, expanding upon the soundtrack elements created by Guthrie and Sherman. Featured among the bonuses is instrumental continuity written and arranged by Guthrie, including the Hawaiiana â€œBig City Garbageâ€ and the rock â€˜nâ€™ roll â€œWedding Festivities,â€ and a pair of Woody Guthrie tunes sung by Pete Seeger (â€œPastures of Plentyâ€), and Seeger with the younger Guthrie (â€œCar Songâ€). All eleven of these soundtrack bonuses are included on Omnivoreâ€™s 2019 reissue, and are augmented with a previously unreleased 24-minute rendition of â€œAliceâ€™s Restaurantâ€ that Guthrie performed in on Philadelphia folk radio legend Gene Shayâ€™s program in 1968.
Bonus-ladÂen reissues of Steve Goodmanâ€™s final two albums
Goodman lived his entire professional career on borrowed time. Diagnosed with leukemia in 1969, he made the most of his 15 years on the public stage. His best known song, â€œCity of New Orleans,â€ was a hit for Arlo Guthrie, and again for Willie Nelson, and is recounted from his debut album in live form on Artistic Hair. But his most sung song is the Chicago Cubs victory anthem â€œGo Cubs Go,â€ included as a bonus track on this reissue of Affordable Art. The latter album, the last released during Goodmanâ€™s lifetime, includes a double-header of baseball-themed tracks in its original lineup, â€œA Dying Cub Fanâ€™s Last Request,â€ and a sprightly dawg-grass arrangement of the national pastime classic â€œTake Me Out to the Ballgame.â€
Goodman recorded for Buddah and Asylum before inaugurating his own Red Pajama label with this pair of albums, reissued here with eighteen bonus tracks between them. 1983â€™s Artistic Hair was constructed from live material cherry-picked from a decadeâ€™s worth of recordings. The selected tracks show off the intimate stage presence that matched the intellectual intimacy of Goodmanâ€™s music. The material features a half dozen originals, including the humorous realities ofÂ â€œElvis Imitatorsâ€ and â€œChicken Cordon Bleus,â€ and the icons â€œCity of New Orleansâ€ and â€œYou Never Even Called Me By Name.â€ Goodmanâ€™s covers ranged widely from early twentieth century tunes â€œTico Tico,â€ â€œRed Red Robinâ€ and â€œWinter Wonderlandâ€ to Shel Silversteinâ€™s acoustic blues, â€œThree-Legged Man.â€
The albumâ€™s ten bonus tracks, originally released on the posthumous No Big Surprise: The Steve Goodman Anthology, feature a similar mix of originals and covers, including Goodmanâ€™s chanty about a notorious Chicago-area towing company, â€œLincoln Park Pirates,â€ the ad-libbed stage performerâ€™s nightmare, â€œThe Broken String Song,â€ and the celebration of loveâ€™s polyglot nature, â€œMen Who Love Women Who Love Men.â€ Covers include Leroy Van Dykeâ€™s tongue-twisting â€œThe Auctioneer,â€ the Albert Brumley spiritual â€œIâ€™ll Fly Awayâ€ and the mid-30s dance tune â€œItâ€™s a Sin to Tell a Lie,â€ popularly recorded by Fats Waller, the Ink Spots and Patti Page. Goodman is relaxed and confident as he variously performs solo and with a band, and while the settings and recording quality vary, the constructed set is a treat.
Affordable Art mixes live and studio tracks, with a song list composed almost entirely of originals. The album opens with the instrumental â€œIf Only Jethro Was Here,â€ featuring Goodman on mandola and Jim Rothermel on recorder, and highlighting mandolinist Jethro Burnsâ€™ absence. Burns himself is heard on an old-timey rendition of â€œTake Me Out to the Ballgame,â€ which is stretched into a double with Goodmanâ€™s â€œA Dying Cubs Fanâ€™s Last Request,â€ and legged into a triple with the bonus track â€œGo Cubs Go.â€ As on his previous album of live material, Goodman is heard both solo and with a band, including the driving drums and electric slide of â€œHow Much Tequila (Did I Drink Last Night)?â€ and an acoustic ensemble highlighted by Marty Stuartâ€™s mandolin and Jerry Douglasâ€™ dobro on the hopeful â€œWhen My Rowboat Comes In.â€
John Denverâ€™s pre-superstar years as a pop folkie
Six years before John Denver catapulted to fame with 1971â€™s â€œTake Me Home Country Roads,â€ he was a hard working folkie on the Los Angeles club scene. In 1965, when Chad Mitchell left his eponymous folk trio for a solo career, Denver survived the audition process to assume the groupâ€™s leadership. The new lineup issued a pair of studio albums and a live set on Mercury, and when the last original member, Mike Kobluk, left the group, Denver carried on with recent addition David Boise and the newly added Michael Johnson, as Denver, Boise & Johnson. The latter trio released only one single, Denverâ€™s â€œTake Me to Tomorrow,â€ but recorded additional material, of which three previously unreleased selections are included here.
The Mitchell Trioâ€™s legacy of humor is heard in the 1967 single â€œLike to Deal with Ladies as Sung in the Shower Accompanied by a Twenty-Seven Piece Band,â€ as well as a live performance of â€œHe Was a Friend of Mine.â€ The latter, stretching to nearly eight minutes, finds Denver intertwining smart-aleck stage patter with an audience sing-along and the trioâ€™s superb harmonizing. Denverâ€™s early years found him writing several of his most beloved songs, including â€œLeaving on a Jet Plane,â€ originally self-released in solo form as â€œBabe, I Hate To Go (Leaving On A Jet Plane).â€ The retitled song is offered here in both a poorly conceived, band-backed studio single, as well as a beautifully sung acoustic live performance from 1967.
The laying on of spiritual hands offered up on 2016â€™s Blue Healer is now turned inward, with a dramatic album that finds Mathus moving from guitar to piano, and enriching his musical brew with space. Space for the vocals and lyrics, and space for instrumental backings that arenâ€™t exactly spare, but often stray from the thick gumbo of his earlier albums. He ranges easily and authoritatively through Americana, folk, country, R&B, rock and electric swamp, turning his lyrics inward to explore the underpinnings of his own artistic life. The songs often drift into being, as though Mathus is gathering his thoughts as he addresses the microphone; heâ€™s relaxed, confident and intensely present as he reveals himself. Thereâ€™s an immediacy in this approach that casts a new light on his earlier records, suggesting they may have been more of an outward manifestation of the internal truths he mines here.
Some of these personal revelations are delivered directly in the lyrics, but elsewhere, such as the title track, poetic images are rendered with expressive singing and backed by instrumentals that essay mood rather than narrative. The basic revelation of â€œReally Hurt Someoneâ€ is heightened by intense violin runs and vocal dynamics that suggest Screaminâ€™ Jay Hawkinsâ€™ â€œI Put a Spell on You.â€ The drifting piano and backing chorale of â€œBeen Unravellingâ€ add a meditative counterpoint to a palpably lonely vocal – as if Joe Cocker was fronting the Friends-era Beach Boys. Mathus turns to an R&B groove for â€œSunk a Little Loa,â€ swampy electric blues for â€œAlligator Fish,â€ trad-jazz for the story song â€œJack Told the Devil,â€ boozy C&W on â€œSouth of Laredo,â€ and tips his melodic hat to Jimi Hendrixâ€™s â€œAngelâ€ on â€œSunken Road.â€
Legendary acoustic harmony bandâ€™s 1974 debut, with 11 bonus tracks
The fusion of country, jazz, folk, blues, bluegrass and swing this trio developed in the late â€˜70s isnâ€™t without near-term antecedents (e.g., Dan Licks and His Hot Licks) or parallels (e.g., David Grisman), but the joy with which these three talented musicians – Walter Hyatt, Champ Hood and David Ball – meshed their influences and voices is in many ways without equal. Although there was fine solo work to follow – and commercial success for Ball in Nashville – there was something greater than the parts in their collaboration. With three star-quality singers blending their voices in harmony, their talents as instrumentalists might have receded into the background, had their gifts not been so substantial. Their acoustic playing is gentle, but substantial, and provides perfect backing and decoration to their singing.
Omnivore began the digital restoration of the groupâ€™s catalog with the 2018 anthology Those Boys From Carolina, They Sure Enough Could Sing, and now digs deeper with this reissue of the groupâ€™s debut. Recorded in North Carolina (in a single day, in mono, and with no overdubs!) and originally released in 1974 as Blame it on the Bossa Nova, the album was reordered and reissued eponymously in 1978, as the group was settling into Austin. Their run would last five more years and turn out another studio album (An American in Texas), a live set (Recorded Live) and a cassette collection of studio material (6-26-79). Reissues have come and gone, including the numerous versions of this debut that are documented in the liner notes, but the bandâ€™s impression on its fans has never faded.
The trioâ€™s harmonies take in the sounds of country musicâ€™s early family acts, close harmony pop of the â€˜40s, and the jazz vocal groups of the â€˜50s and â€˜60s. Their repertoire includes superb original material that mingles easily with lovingly arranged covers of the Delta Rhythm Boysâ€™ jivey â€œGive Me Some Skin,â€ Robert Johnsonâ€™s â€œFrom Four Until Late,â€ Professor Longhairâ€™s â€œIn the Night,â€ the late â€˜30s blues â€œUndecided,â€ the folk staple â€œLittle Sadie,â€ and a wonderfully crooned take on the film theme â€œRuby.â€ The trioâ€™s harmonizing on â€œHigh Hillâ€ is unbelievably lush, Ballâ€™s falsetto is striking throughout the album (as are Hoodâ€™s acoustic guitar leads), and Hyattâ€™s â€œAloha,â€ which opened the original LP, now closes out the albumâ€™s eleven track lineup.
DeShannon’s short, artistically rich early-70s stop at Capitol
After an eight-year run on Liberty/Imperial that included the Bacharach-David-penned “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and the original â€œPut a Little Love in Your Heart,â€ singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon made a brief stop at Capitol before moving on to Atlantic. Capitol initially sent DeShannon to Memphis to record with producer Chips Moman and his American Sound studio regulars, but other than the single â€œStone Cold Soulâ€ and the LP track â€œShow Me,â€ the sessions were shelved. Her second session, recorded in Los Angeles with Eric Malamud and John Palladino, resulted in the album Songs, and just like that, DeShannon was off to Atlantic. Eleven completed Moman masters appeared in the UK on RPMâ€™s 2006 reissue of Songs, all of which is collected here along with five additional previously unreleased Memphis tracks, and liners from Joe Marchese that include a fresh interview with the artist.
DeShannon arrived in December 1970 at 827 Thomas Street to record at a studio that had put itself on the map with iconic records by the Box Tops, Neil Diamond, Dusty Springfield and Elvis Presley. Though sheâ€™d previously tapped into her childhood love of R&B with a cover of Holland, Dozier & Hollandâ€™s â€œYou Keep Me Hanginâ€™ On,â€ settling in with Moman and his â€œMemphis Boysâ€ house band afforded an opportunity to fully fuse her love of soul music with original songs and well-selected cover material. One of DeShannonâ€™s lasting artistic assets is her dual excellence as a songwriter and an interpreter of other writersâ€™ songs. Here she shows off her interpretive abilities with selections from William Bell, Goffin & King, Emitt Rhodes, Arlo Guthrie, Van Morrison, and the non-charting title track by Mark James, the writer of Elvis Presleyâ€™s American Studios recording of â€œSuspicious Minds.â€
The set opens with a short, previously unreleased take on Bellâ€™s â€œYou Donâ€™t Miss Your Water (Til Your Well Runs Dry),â€ establishing the Memphis sessionâ€™s southern credentials with DeShannonâ€™s soulful vocal and the piano and guitar â€œgoodiesâ€ (as DeShannon calls them in the liner notes) of Bobby Woods and Reggie Young. The band plays as a tight, adaptable unit, providing thoughtful backing for the rural struggle of â€œWest Virginia Mine,â€ and a more optimistic mood for the poetic look at the Israeli settlements of â€œNow That the Desert is Blooming.â€ The arrangements take the cover songs in subtly new directions as the guitar, strings, horns and backing vocals of Carole Kingâ€™s â€œChild of Mineâ€ gently frame DeShannonâ€™s rough-edged vocal, and an upbeat soul treatment separates the cover from Emitt Rhodesâ€™ original of â€œLive Till You Dieâ€
Spooner Oldham and Dan Pennâ€™s â€œSweet Inspirationâ€ might seem like a gimme for the American Sound crew, but DeShannon leads them with a gentler vocal groove than the Sweet Inspirationsâ€™ original, and Arlo Guthrieâ€™s B-side â€œGabrielâ€™s Motherâ€™s Highwayâ€ fits easily into the albumâ€™s gospel vibe. The collection features five previously unreleased Memphis recordings, including keyboardist Bobby Emmonsâ€™ â€œThey Got You Boyâ€ and a cover of George Harrisonâ€™s deeply moving â€œIsnâ€™t It a Pity.â€ While the Memphis tracks donâ€™t necessarily jump out as hit singles, the material was well picked, DeShannon was in fine voice and found real chemistry with the house band, so itâ€™s hard to imagine why Capitol didnâ€™t hear the commercial potential, and scrapped the sessions.
But scrap them they did, and DeShannon moved on to record in Los Angeles with a different set of studio hands. The results would be released as the Songs album, opening with one of the two songs salvaged from the Memphis sessions, â€œShow Me.â€ Written by session guitarist Johnny Christopher, the songâ€™s musical hall style was at odds with the soul of the Memphis sessions, but indicated the variety the Los Angeles album would bring. In addition to her downbeat folk â€œSalinas,â€ upbeat funk â€œBad Waterâ€ and a new arrangement of â€œWest Virginia Mine,â€ DeShannon picked up Bob Dylanâ€™s â€œLady, Lady, Lay,â€ Hoyt Axtonâ€™s â€œEase Your Pain,â€ McGuinness Flintâ€™s â€œInternational,â€ a blistering version of the traditional â€œDown By the Riverside,â€ and original material from the session players.