DION – Sanctuary – (Warner Brothers) – 1971

Dion - Sanctuary

Dion is amazing.

Of all the rock n rollers of the 50s he has probably come out the best …

He is alive, he found internal peace and, musically, he hasn't been trapped by the music that made him famous.

Check out my other comments for biography but Dion (at first with the Belmonts and then solo) burst onto the scene out of New York City in the late 50s and early 60s with a series of rock n roll doo wop anthems. They are era defining songs: "I Wonder Why,"  "A Teenager in Love", "Runaround Sue", "The Wanderer", "Lovers Who Wander"  "Ruby Baby".

In 1968 he put personal demons behind him and changed his music altogether and had a hit with a pop folk ballad "Abraham, Martin and John" (#4US). This began his singer-songwriter and "introspective" period.

"Sanctuary" comes from that period.

Dion never abandoned his rock n roll roots (live) but the singer-songwriter albums were just that. Dion wrote a few songs that meant something to him and sang them. He, also, given his pedigree wasn't adverse to a cover and covered a few songs or picked songs from aspiring songwriters. And, the albums are of their time in many ways.

Laid back, "meaningful", thoughtful, and, obviously, personal. But, Dion as a singer-songwriter stood out from the pack, not because of his songwriting, but as a singer he had an amazing emotive voice. A kid brought up on doo wop and pop and rock with an incredibly soulful (and if he wanted bluesy) voice he could outsing anyone else in the genre (one where they tended to devote their time to words, err lyrics).

And, as such despite his (limited) success in the area I suspect he wasn't totally embraced. He sang too well and he had been a teen idol.

Still he persisted for the better part of ten years and the demands for material must have been great.

Since "Abraham, Martin and John" appeared in 1968 there had been three albums of introspection, "Dion" (1968), "Sit Down Old Friend" (1970), "You're Not Alone" (1971). He may have felt some of that pressure to write and find material for "Sanctuary". The album has a re-recording of his magnificent rock era track "The Wanderer" and three live songs recorded at The Bitter End in New York in 1971, "Abraham Martin & John", "Almond Joy" and "Ruby Baby".

But that doesn't diminish the album. They all work to remind you that Dion had a life before and was looking too the future.

The studio tracks are very laid back but with David Bromberg on lead guitar and dobro and a tight rhythm section everything is beautifully smooth (perhaps too smooth) with a gentle upstate New York country vibe like James Taylor, Jesse Colin Young,  or Gordon Lightfoot (yes, I know he's Canadian).

It certainly is soothing though and quite optimistic by 1971 standards.

Another album of introspection in the singer-songwriter genre came with "Suite For Late Summer" (1972) before Dion moved on. He never actually moved away from introspection just away from the strictly singer-songwriter stylings. Streetwise pop, Christian music, rock n roll and urban blues would follow whilst his recent albums seem to incorporate everything into a seamless whole.

All songs by Dion unless otherwise noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Sunshine Lady – a gentle joyful bounce on this song serves it well.
  • Sanctuary – (Don Burnham / Dick Holler ) – another optimistic song which is all sunshine but undeniably soothing.
  • Willigo – some Paul Simon sounds starting to creep in. Well Simon was another New York native.
  • Harmony Sound – a beautiful gentle ballad.
  • Gotta Get Up – the song is slight but well sung.
  • Medley: Please Be My Friend – (Ian Matthews) /Take a Little Time – (Dion DiMucci / Susan Dimucci / Ian Matthews) – songs written or co-written with English folkie alt country singer Ian Matthews

      Side Two

  • The Wanderer – (Ernie Maresca) –  if anyone can "play" with this song it's Dion. The original is a piece of brilliance. Here, done as a gentle folk blues it's cool and a good showcase for Dion's voice but it won't ever replace the original.
  • Abraham, Martin and John – (Dick Holler) – (live) – The first of three live songs. Wonderful and if you didn't know Dion was from NYC the spoken intro will leave you in no doubt. A joy.
  • Almond Joy – (Eric Von Schmidt) – (live) –  Eric Von Schmidt was an American folk music singer-songwriter influential on the East Coast folk boom. This song was most notably done by Richard and Mimi Farina and released (after Ricards's death) in 1968. A humorous folk song
  • Ruby Baby – (Jerry Leiber / Mike Stoller) – (live) – back in the groove he does an old classic in a contemporary fashion though faithfully. The crowd claps along. And rightly they should.
  • Brand New Morning – a beautiful and optimistic song. It may be hippie in sentiment but it also, equallu, point towards Dion's future Christian music.

And …

Quite beautiful in part … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action




1972 #200




Sunshine Lady


Medley: Please Be My Friend /Take a Little Time


The Wanderer


Brand New Morning

mp3 attached















Posted in Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

THE SONS OF CHAMPLIN – A Circle Filled With Love – (Ariola) – 1976

Sons of Champlin - A Circle Filled With Love

I commented on another Sons of Champlin album quite some time ago, "The Sons – Follow Your Heart – (Capitol) – 1971". As was my habit then the background was sketchy. I've gone for more padding since then…

The Sons of Champlin are one of those US bands that never had an international presence but were quite popular nationally and very popular regionally. They recorded for majors, had a number of minor hits and managed to last a while in the music industry.

Allmusic has this to say, "The Sons of Champlin did not rank in the first tier of the San Francisco psychedelic rock bands of the '60s with the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, but they did qualify for the second tier along with Moby Grape and Quicksilver Messenger Service, playing a more soul- and R&B-influenced style of music than their peers. Despite a somewhat lackadaisical attitude toward the demands of a professional career, they managed to chart a handful of albums in the late '60s and ‘70s".

They started out in that great melting pot of music that was California in the 1960s.

Wikipedia, "Champlin started his musical career in high school (Tamalpais in Mill Valley) as a member of a popular local band, The Opposite Six. One of his teachers encouraged Champlin to drop out of school and pursue music full-time. In 1965 the draft claimed the drummer and bass player of the Opposite Six, and Champlin joined forces with guitarist Terry Haggerty, sax player Tim Cain, bassist John Prosser and drummer Jim Meyers in the band that became the Sons of Champlin. By late 1967 the lineup had changed to include keyboardist/saxman Geoff Palmer, trumpeter Jim Beem, bassist Al Strong, and drummer Bill Bowen, creating a funky Hammond B3-and-horns sound that was distinctive from the rest of the Bay Area’s psychedelic guitar bands (one bandsman[who?] referred to the music as "acid jazz") … The Sons recorded their first album in 1967 for Trident Records, owned by Kingston Trio manager Frank Werber".

They spent the rest of the decade and into the early 70s recording their psych come jazz rock, In 1972 they added a full time horn section to the band (as was the rage back then – even The Kinks had a horn section for a while).

Their sound remained the same, they had toyed with horns (sic) before, but now the sound was more fuller and more commercial. The horns punched up the rhythms and gave everyone the chance to groove. The band moved more into the Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears territory.

This was a calculated move on their part  as those bands were doing well and the sons of Champlin wanted to increase their audience.

This album was the direct result of that.

"A Circle Filled With Love" was a slight change indirection a cleaner, smoother more danceable sound. It has a slick and "radio-friendly" sound with the horns following the music a lot more. The jazz rock elements are there but buried under AOR sounds and a good dose of 70s era R&B disco, with vocals that are more soulful and sound a  lot like Boz Scaggs, who was also big at the time. Think Average White Band, Bee Gees and Pablo Cruise with more virtuosity.

And, you can't fault the playing or Champlin's vocals … they were both on the money.

The album was produced by Keith Olsen, just off producing Fleetwood Mac's big-selling self-titled album.

But, the album only did reasonably well but well enough for a follow up. The album that followed, sunk, and the band broke up in 1977.

Just when you think everything is working …

Bill Champlin went solo and then joined Chicago in 1981.

There was a one of reformation in 1985 and then a series of successful reunion gigs in 1997 followed by a live CD in 1998. Champlin was (and is) still in Chicago but managed to find time for Sons of Champlin releasing a new album, “Hip Li’l Dreams",  in 2005 (their first studio album in twenty eight years).

They still tour and are out there playing somewhere.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side 1

  • Hold On – (Bill Champlin) – look this is slick AOR but superior slick AOR with a funky beat and gentle horns.
  • Here Is Where Your Love Belongs – (Bill Champlin) – quite dull
  • Follow Your Heart – (B.B. Heavy) –  A song writing pseudonym credited to the group and a song they had done on their 1971 album of the same name. A nice groove.
  • Knickaknack – (James Preston – David Schallock – Jeffrey Palmer – Bill Champlin) – An instrumental, and a slightly jazzy and trippy one. Quite nice though perhaps a little out of place.
  • Imagination's Sake – (Rob Moitoza) – Written by sometime member, guitarist Moitoza. Very slick and Chicago like.
  • Still In Love with You – (Terry Haggerty) – written by the guitarist. More AOR, MOR slickness.

      Side 2

  • Circle Filled with Love – (Bill Champlin – Pat Craig) – More slickness but this is catchy and exudes good times and optimism.
  • To the Sea – (Bill Champlin) – a slight country feel creeps in and does this song no harm. It becomes a middle of the day dream with some thoughtful lyrics. Excellent.
  • You – (Bill Champlin) – a mid tempo R&B disco number.
  • For a While – (Bill Champlin) – More Chicago style AOR.
  • Slippery When It's Wet – (T. McClary) – a 1975 single by Commodores (#1 Soul, #19 Pop) though titled "Slippery When Wet". Let's get funky. Like a white O'Jays at their rockiest. Normally I don't like white bands doing this. They don't cut it but here they give it a good shot.
  • Helping Hand – (Bill Champlin) – whoa … slick and very mid 70s. There is a touch of the Eagles in there.

And …

I was expecting a lot worse but half of this is quite good and some of it is better than it's contemporary rivals on the scene … but, it's not my thing. Tape a couple (perfect for a Sunday drive) and get rid of the vinyl.

Chart Action



1976  Hold On  The Billboard Hot 100  #47 

1976  Hold On  R&B Singles  #88  

1977  Here Is Where Your Love Belongs  The Billboard Hot 100  #80


1976 #117




Hold On

mp3 attached

Circle Filled with Love  




For a While


Slippery When It's Wet


















  • Trivia for Brisbanites – my copy of this vinyl is an ex 4ZZZ copy. "Bought at the 4ZZZ no choice radiothon" is stamped onto the sleeve. Radio tastes have changed at 4ZZZ but 4ZZZ, is and was, an alternative FM station which gives you some idea, perhaps of where "Sons of Champlin" sat in 1976 in Australia.
Posted in Jazz Rock Fusion, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

DELANEY & BONNIE – To Bonnie from Delaney – (Atco) – 1970

Delaney & Bonnie -  To Bonnie From Delaney

I have a couple of Delaney & Bonnie albums.

If you like southern blue eyed soul and rock you will have them in your collection.

And I like southern blue eyed soul and rock …

There are worries though …

But first, allmusic says this, "The husband-and-wife duo of Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett created some of the most distinctive and unique music of the early '70s, but their alchemical sound — equal parts blue-eyed soul, blues, country, and gospel — was often marginalized by the attention instead paid to the contributions of their famous "friends," including rock icons like Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and George Harrison".

And that is important.

Their sound is distinctive, some of their songs are instantly identifiable but they themselves are not instantly recognisable. Perhaps they were overshadowed by their contributors, as suggested, or perhaps, they never played up the married singers angle like Sonny and Cher but for whatever reason the casual musical listener would be hard pressed to pick Delaney & Bonnie out of a musical line-up.

Yet at the time, in the early 70s they were turning out some truly wonderful and trendsetting music. Their blend of white country soul rock gospel and funk became the template for many an act and can still be seen in acts today.

And that is the worry.

Delaney contribution was equal, or actually greater, than that of Bonnie but Bonnie's blues voice, like Janis Joplin's, captured the spirit of the times and a sound which was evoked over and over. Their sound seemed to suggest that white chicks could get down and dirty, and bluesy and be free, and be the musical equal of their man. Helen of Troy face may have launched a thousand ships but those voices launched a lot of idol contestants.

When you sing with as much, err soul, as Bonnie that's fine but sadly many that came after her are just technique. Likewise Delaney, a authentic boy of the south, no doubt encouraged many a boy, north, south, east and west to sing of shacks, troubles, and grits but Delaney, born in Mississippi, knew the music of the south intimately. He lived and breathed it and applied it with taste.

Biography, Allmusic again, " Delaney Bramlett was born July 1, 1939 in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, later befriending fellow aspiring musicians Leon Russell and J.J. Cale. On their recommendation he relocated to Los Angeles, briefly landing with the Champs before he was hired to play guitar with the Shindogs, the house band on the popular ABC television variety series Shindig. Bonnie Lynn O'Farrell, meanwhile, was born November 8, 1944 in Alton, Illinois and raised in nearby East St. Louis; as a teen she backed blues acts including Albert King and Little Milton, before signing on as the first-ever white Ikette behind Ike & Tina Turner. She eventually migrated to Los Angeles as well, and met Delaney while the Shindogs were moonlighting at a local bowling alley. Within a week, the couple were married"

They recorded for Stax and then Elektra and were popular with other musicians, especially Eric Clapton and George Harrison  (who were both going through American roots phases after psychedelic or experimental excesses) who recorded and or played with them and this led them signing to Atco (Atlantic) and a live album, then this album and a breakthrough.

There were other albums but they eventually broke up as a couple and a s musical duo. There were solo albums but never the success of the early 70s.

The playing as you would expect is superb. Look at the musicians: Duane Allman, Jim Dickinson, some of Elvis's band, Sam Clayton of Little Feat, Memphis session men, guest spots from Sneeky Pete, King Curtis and Little Richard.

The vibe is both contemporary (1970) and old (1870). The spirit of the counter culture is evoked but the time could be 100 years earlier as the hardships, loss and tales of lover transcend time thought not place. The record oozes the South in sound and attitude. And as such, it was, in  some ways, a funky gospel rock and soul flipside to the darker tales told by The Band.

Co-produced by Delaney it is his show. That's not to say it doesn't have it's flaws. It's not perfect. The pitch isn't sustained all the way through and some of the screeching has become ruined by subsequent impersonators but as a soundtrack to the South it will do fine.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Hard Luck and Troubles – (Delaney Bramlett) – A funky way to start and quite rousing with Delaney in fine voice.
  • God Knows I Love You – (Delaney Bramlett, Mac Davis) – Co-written by Mac Davis (of "In the Ghetto" fame) this is a good soulful country ballad.
  • Lay Down My Burden – (Steve Bogard, Michael Utley) – First appearance here I think. A gospel flavoured screecher  done by Bonnie and very well done.
  • Medley:- Come On In My Kitchen – (Robert Johnson)/ -Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean – (Herbert Lance, Charles Singleton, John Wallace)/ – Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad – (Traditional, arr. Delaney Bramlett) – A short blues medley with both Delaney and Bonnie vocalising , separately and together. A old Robert Johnson blues merges into a Ruth Brown blues ("Mama he treats your daughter mean – great title, get it ?) before moving onto a trad blues bone by everyone (including Woody Guthrie). The guitar is wonderful.
  • The Love of My Man – (Ed Townsend) – Theola Kilgore's #21 pop hit and #3 R&B hit from 1963. White chicks can sing da blues. Rarely, yes, But they can.
  • They Call It Rock and Roll Music – (Delaney Bramlett) – Delaney and his involvement in rock 'n' roll in a  song. A hoot. King Curtis plays sax.

      Side Two

  • Soul Shake – (Margaret Lewis, Myrna Smith) – originally done by Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson in 1969 (#37 pop). A good horn driven soul song.
  • Miss Ann – (Richard Penniman, Enotris Johnson) – Recorded by Little Richard in 1957 (it was the B-side to his hit "Jenny Jenny"). Little Richard guests on piano and tears it up..
  • Alone Together – (Delaney Bramlett, Bonnie Bramlett, Bobby Whitlock) – a gentle blues rock with shared vocals.
  • Living on the Open Road – (Delaney Bramlett) – a straight ahead rocker with great guitar work.
  • Let Me Be Your Man – (George Soulé, Terry Woodford) – I assume this was done first by George Soule. It's a slow 60's Percy Sledge type blues.
  • Free the People – (Barbara Keith) – a cover of the Barbara Keith song and a great song which is done beautifully here. A secular song done as a gospel song and, perhaps, one of the defining songs of the era.

And …

Excellent … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1970  Free The People  The Billboard Hot 100  #75 


1970 #58




full album


They Call It Rock and Roll Music

mp3 attached

Free the People

mp3 attached




















  • "Bonnie Bramlett was an accomplished singer at an early age, performing with blues guitarist Albert King at age 14 and in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue at 15 – the first white Ikette, "for three days in a black wig and Man Tan skin darkener." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonnie_Bramlett
  • The album is actually credited to "Delaney & Bonnie and Friends"

Delaney & Bonnie -  To Bonnie From Delaney - back     Delaney & Bonnie -  To Bonnie From Delaney - center


RIP  Frank Sinatra Jr (January 10, 1944 – March 16, 2016)

Posted in Country Soul, Southern and Boogie Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

JACKIE DeSHANNON – New Arrangement – (CBS) – 1975

Jackie DeShannon - New Arrangement

This one was a good earner for Jackie.

Well, not immediately but in 1981.

Kim Carnes recorded Jackie's "Bette Davis Eyes" and took it to #1 across the world. So the co-writers royalties would have been nice.

Jackie had gone from Liberty Records in the 1960s with such era-defining hits as "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" and "When You Walk in the Room" to Capitol records for a one off, then to Atlantic Records in 1972 with famed producer and DeShannon fan Jerry Wexler.

The trouble was she hadn't hit it big since the 60s, the last hit was 1969 thought they had tried everything and Jackie had shown she could do everything but luck wasn't on her side, or more likely, the radio stations were to busy fawning over other "new" stars rather than former pop stars who had "reinvented" themselves.

Pop music programmers likes boxes and doesn't want to be challenged.

Jackie had put out some fine albums and some stellar singles and some even better album tracks but nothing was clicking.

Columbia (CBS) picked her up and decided to update her sound and make her the more mature 70s female vocalist. Less pop, less earthy, more slick, more commercial. They teamed her with ex "We Five" guitarist, producer Michael Stewart (who had produced Billy Joel's "Piano Man" (1973)) album and surrounded her with legendary sessionmen Waddy Wachtel, Jesse Ed Davis, Larry Knechtel, Ron Tutt, Mike Deasy, and Leland Sklar.

The result.

This is mid 70s MOR slick singer songwriter pop rock … there is keyboard, synth and strings. But, for 1975 and this record could have been a lot slicker and glossier so I can assume it could have been a lot worse. There are enough "earthy" elements and individual sounds to each of the songs that gives it an cross genre edge over its glossy competition.

Jackie can do anything well.

She could do up-tempo pop and she could do country soul and singer songwriter.

But I can't help feeling with some more thumping arrangements this could have sounded a lot better.

The songs themselves are strong. Jackie largely eschews confessional or introspection in favour of witty observation. Her voice, as it matured, became increasingly smoky and attractive in that older woman way (she was only 34) and her melodies were as catchy as ever but they had become vehicles for the lyrics … and the lyrics were (gently) sharp.

There is a lot going on here. More than meets the eye.

But who will listen to it today unless 70s MOR production makes a comeback …

Perhaps I'm being a bit too hard. Some of the songs do break free and transcend the production and some fit in well with the production I just wish that they had the benefit of hindsight.

But then again … if every musician had that the world would be full of hits …

For biographical details on Jackie see my other comments.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Let the Sailors Dance – (Randy Edelman – Jackie DeShannon) –  slick but no worse than anything similar coming out in 1975 and probably a little better especially with those lyrics
  • Boat to Sail – (Jackie DeShannon) –  Brian Wilson with his then-wife Marilyn provide backing vocals … and the in joke is that Brian is name checked on this song (and it even sounds a little like a Brian Wilson song). The song itself is great, a nice piece of dreamy, drifting along in a Caribbean boat, island pop. The song was covered by The Carpenters for their 1976 album "A Kind of Hush".
  • Sweet Baby Gene – (Jackie DeShannon – Donna Terry Weiss) –  a nie jazzy number
  • A New Arrangement – (Glen Ballentyne – Jackie DeShannon) –  The song needs a new "arrangement" (sic).  The arrangements are too slick … strings and tinkly keyboards really date it. A pity because the lyrics are interesting – refering to a sexually ambivalent artist.
  • Over My Head Again – (John Bettis – Jackie DeShannon) –  James Brown is name checked in this horn driven pop rocker.

      Side Two

  • Bette Davis Eyes – (Donna Terry Weiss – Jackie DeShannon) – This is a great song. But you won't recognise it here. DeShannon's original is an old school funky dance hall song as opposed to Kim Carnes toal revamping of it as a torture faux new wave melodrama. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bette_Davis_Eyes
  • Queen of the Rodeo – (Donna Terry Weiss – Jackie DeShannon) –  Jackie goes country and this is convincing and quite beautiful
  • I Wanted It All – (John Bettis – Jackie DeShannon) –  Another country-ih song. Covered by Rita Coolidge on her "It's Only Love" (1975) album.
  • Murphy – (Glen Ballentyne – Jackie DeShannon) –  A strange song. Like a tune from a Broadway show.
  • Barefoot Boys and Barefoot Girls – (Jackie DeShannon – Donna Terry Weiss) –  so so pop song.
  • Dreamin' as One – (David Palmer – William Smith) –  I'm not sure if this is a cover or not. I can't find any early recordings of it though it was recorded by Jorge Calderón  on his "City Music" (1976) album, Blood, Sweat, & Tears on their "Brand New Day" (1977) album and by the co-author and sometimes BS&T sideman, William. D. Smith himself, on his solo album, "Smitty" (1978). A tender ballad with the emphasis on "tender".

And …

There is some gold here and I do love Jackie … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where


Boat to Sail


Sweet Baby Gene


A New Arrangement


Bette Davis Eyes




















RIP – PF Sloan September 18, 1945 – November 15, 2015

Posted in Singer Songwriter, Soft Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

JOHNNY CASH – Happiness is You – (Columbia) – 1966

Johnny Cash - Happiness Is You

Johnny Cash was quite happy before he was "the man in black". Actually, he was quite upbeat even when he was the man in black

This is Johnny's Love Album.

Well, the "New Love" Album.

Thematically the songs deal with breaking up, moving on, and starting afresh.

"Happiness is You" found Cash beginning divorce proceedings with his wife (Vivian), and singing of happiness he had found in someone else (June Carter).

Johnny was 34 in 1966. He'd met Vivian in 1951 when he was 19. They married in St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in San Antonio in 1954 when Cash (who was Southern Baptist) was 22 and had four daughters. His wife divorced him in 1966. He married June Carter, who he'd met backstage in 1955 (introduced by Elvis),  in 1968.

It's all very clinical, simple and  straightforward when put down on paper and maybe it should be left at that but records give an indication to the headspace the performer was in at any given time. The more unconscious this is (ie: not pointed) the more interesting it is.

Johnny may have been "freed" by his wife through divorce but he had not sought the divorce himself. She had said that  Johnny's drug and alcohol abuse, constant touring, affairs with other women, and his close relationship with June Carter led her to file for divorce in 1966 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Cash).  Johnny's behaviours must have been extremely bad for Vivian, a Roman Catholic, to ask for a divorce, where her religion did not allow divorce and divorce was otherwise uncommon amongst Catholics in the 1960s. Perhaps Johnny had his cake and wanted to eat it too or perhaps he was suffering guilt which drove him to extremes. I mean, what came first, the drug and alcohol abuse, constant touring, affairs with other women, or the close relationship with June Carter. It does make a difference. I suspect Johnny knew right from wrong but didn't always do right and so (over) indulged in substances as punishment.

June Carter, born in 1929, and three years older than Cash, had been married twice and had two children to each husband. She was married first to honky-tonk singer Carl Smith from 1952 until their divorce in 1956 and then to Edwin "Rip" Nix, a former football player, police officer, and race car driver from 1957 to 1966.

A cynic would say that 1966 seems like it was the year for divorce.

June Carter, though, was active in music and must have known of Johnny's excesses and indulgences, or heard of them (sorry, I have the recent Cash biography (ies) behind me but I haven't read them yet) and she would  have been wary but she must have seen good in him. And the self avowed "biggest sinner of them all", Johnny Cash, must have seen redemption in June Carter.

And this is where this album comes from.

As the liner notes say … "there will always be  lovers and there will always be losers, and this time Johnny turns his hand to a program of songs that deal with both".

Some will say it's just a bunch of country love songs, don't read too much into it. But, I've never bought into arguments like that. Sure, if this was a manufactured pop band, then maybe. Otherwise, if there are historical events occurring all around you or life changing personal events then those things are going to affect the music you make even if your music is subconscious, or even if you didn't write most of the songs (Cash only wrote two here – the two "happy" titled songs – with June) through your song choices and how you interpret them.

And of course Johnny isn't a subconscious artist, so it is fair to read "Happiness is You" as a ode to his girlfriend, June Carter as well as a goodbye to his wife, Vivian..

Musically there are some concessions made to the mid 60s sounds with organs and what not (which I don't mind) but otherwise it is classic boom-chicka-boom Cash.

While many of Johnny's sixties albums are now regarded as classics, and are easily identifiable or iconic, this album appears to have been overlooked for whatever reason. Perhaps the blah artwork, perhaps the lack of  a really killer single or perhaps people don't like Johnny too happy?

Whatever the reason it is a shame … all Johnny Cash is worth a listen.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Happiness Is You – (Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash) – Happiness is found ina new love, but to my ears it is a restrained happiness, as if there is an acknowledgement that others have suffered for the lovers to get to this point. Or, perhaps a reading too much into this song. Still, its got a nice easy going vibe to it.
  • Guess Things Happen That Way – (Jack Clement) – Johnny recorded this whilst he was at Sun records and had a #1 Country hit with it (#11 pop). This version isn't as good but it is still catchy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guess_Things_Happen_That_Way
  • Ancient History – (Wayne P. Walker, Irene Stanton) – Not sure who did this first but I'm pretty sure it was Hank Snow who released it as a B-Side in 1962. "You're ancient history to this heart of mine" … a typical country line if there ever was one.
  • You Comb Her Hair – (Harlan Howard, Hank Cochran) – a #5 for George Jones in 1963. This country light compared to Jones' original. Pity, it's a good song.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Comb_Her_Hair
  • She Came from the Mountains – (Peter La Farge) – Cash had an affinity for folk singer La Farge who died in 1965. This song he never released (officially) by La Farge. A beautiful, melancholy song of a mountain woman who can’t settle down in the city with her man.

      Side Two

  • For Lovin' Me – (Gordon Lightfoot) – the Gordon Lightfoot song covered by everyone including Elvis Presley, Ian and Sylvia, and Peter Paul and Mary. It's a great song and Cash sings it well.
  • No One Will Ever Know – (Fred Rose, Mel Foree) – The first release was by Roy Acuff and His Smoky Mountain Boys in 1946 but it was also released (post death) by Hank Williams (1957), Sons of the Pioneers (1957), Jack Scott (1958), Don Gibson (1961), Ferlin Husky (1959), Roy Orbison (1963) and many others. So so.
  • Is This My Destiny? – (Helen Carter) – written by June's older sister Helen. A song of lost love done as a funeral hymn. Good though the backing vocals don't fit.
  • A Wound Time Can't Erase – (Bill D. Johnson) – first done by Stonewall Jackson in 1962 and a #3 country hit. Classic 60s country sounds.
  • Happy to Be with You – (Merle Kilgore, June Carter, Johnny Cash) – A crazy hybrid of sounds with country and pop instrumentation colliding but  Johnny's steady vocals holding it all together. Strangely endearing.
  • Wabash Cannonball – (A.P. Carter) – An American standard and a favourite of the Carter Family who made one of the first recordings of the song in 1929. Johnny's version isn't raucous but it is faithful. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wabash_Cannonball

And …

Any Johnny Cash album is worth listening to …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action



1966  Happy To Be With You  Country Singles  #9 


1967 #10




Happiness Is You


Guess Things Happen That Way

Live in the 50s


Ancient History


You Comb Her Hair


She Came from the Mountains

mp3 attached

For Lovin' Me

Live with Gordon Lightfoot


No One Will Ever Know


Is This My Destiny?


A Wound Time Can't Erase


Happy to Be with You


Wabash Cannonball



















  • Johnny and June had a son, John Carter Cash (born 1970), and remained married till the end of their lives (June died May 15, 2003 (aged 73) and Johnny September 12, 2003 (aged 71) ) though, I'm sure there were trying times … for June.
Posted in Country | Tagged | Leave a comment

ARLO GUTHRIE – Washington County – (Reprise) – 1970

Arlo Guthrie - Washington County

"Washington County" is Arlo's fourth album and third studio album.

Arlo had already proven himself as a voice separate to that of his father, folk legend Woody Guthrie.

Here at the age of 23, at the dawn of the 1970s what was ahead?

The Vietnam War was still raging, Nixon was popping, environmental degradation was becoming clearly noticeable, urban slums were the norm, unemployment was rising, drug addiction was evident, rioting and civil disobedience were common occurrences.

America was not in a good way

For so many of America's youth the future lay in the past. An agrarian past. A life in the country where things were simple(r) and people largely left you alone. Traditional community values from years past was espoused (and communal living values of more recent vintage were on occasion encouraged)..

In some ways it was a retreat from the world's problems but in some ways it was also an attack on consumerist late 20th century capitalist America. If enough people went back to the earth, moved away from technology, stopped chasing the dollar, appreciated the world around them, became more spiritual then the system would collapse.

It was a step to one side of the hippie movement or at least the hippie movement grown up. Hedonism wasn't the only object. Community and family also played a part.

Did it work?

Well, I leave that to others to argue.

With the movement came music. The music of old America. Country sounds had been filtering their way down to the rock and pop youth for a few years as had folk sounds. Old country and Americana through The Band, Jim Kweskin, Bob Dylan and others were added to the pot. Arlo had been in the thick of this, and importantly had the right pedigree and a great ear.

Arlo, as an individualist, as a result of his lineage and as a product of his times soaked all this up. He also soaked up the influences of the emerging singer-songwriter movement and its honest confessional song writing style. Over the top he overlaid a dose of spirituality. Old time country came with a slab of religion, and the seventies back to the earth movement had its fair share of "Jesus freaks" preaching the values of agrarian community and pacifism so it is natural that Arlo was exposed to and accepted that. After all what is wrong with tilling the land and pacifism?

For a kid who was bar mitzvahed  there are a lot of Christian references (though Arlo later converted to Catholicism, before becoming interfaith) in the album, such as on "Gabriel Mother's Highway Ballad #16 Blues" ("Come on children, all come home, Jesus gonna make you well"),  "Valley To Pray'" ("I went down to the valley to pray, learnin' about the good old way", and "who will wear the starry crown, Oh, Lord, show me the way"), and "I Could Be Singing"' ("You and your friends have a party, Welcome your heavenly Dad").

But Arlo isn't a Christian singer. This is a young person looking at the world around him. There are songs about the world, protest songs and love songs. They are themes he'd done before in his album " Running Down the Road" (1969), and perhaps with a little more success but Arlo shows that here he still has songs in the same theme left in him..

The musicians employed on this album brought out the best of these sounds. They were (or were to be in) some of the greats in country or country rock… Hoyt Axton, Ry Cooder, Doug Dillard, Chris Ethridge (Flying Burrito Brothers), Richard Hayward (Little Feat), Clarence White (Byrds).

The country air and positive spirituality must have worked wonders because there is an optimism on this album which makes you want to go out and buy a farm, or at least weed the vegetable patch.

It soothes the brain (and makes me want to finish writing this dumb arsed blog entry that much quicker)

Come on, put down your iPhone, android, touch screen, walk way from your PC, laptop  ….put on this piece on vinyl, loud enough to hear, get in the yard, lie in the sun ….

Check out my other comments for detail on Arlo.

All songs by Arlo unless otherwise noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Introduction – a nice, err introduction, It sounds a little like what  Ray Davies was thinking about in his Muswell Hill country daydreams in London.
  • Fencepost Blues – a nice mid tempo rural rocker.
  • Gabriel's Mother's Highway Ballad # Blues – singer-songwriter gone country and religios. A ple for heaven on earth
  • Washington County – a excellent banjo instrumental
  • Valley to Pray – (Arlo Guthrie, Doc Watson, John Pilla) – a bouncy jaunt co-written with the great Doc Watson. Pretty clear in its statement of intent.
  • Lay Down Little Doggies – (Woody Guthrie) – a cover of a cowboy song written by his father. Beautiful. The "doggies" of the title are cattle or more specifically a orphan calves which was sometimes referred to as a dogies.

      Side Two

  • I Could Be Singing – A pointed song, not a call to arms but, certainly, a exclamation that a new world is a coming
  • If You Would Just Drop By – Arlo attempts David Ackles
  • Percy's Song – (Bob Dylan) – unreleased by Dylan till 1985. Fairport Convention released it on their album "Unhalfbricking "(1969) and Joan Baez sang it in the Dylan live film " Dont Look Back" (1967). A beautiful song about the trial of the only survivor of a car crash, the driver, told from his friends point of view.
  • I Want to Be Around – another there is a "new world" a coming song. Beautiful. Okay, it may never have come but listening this you think it could have.

And …

Another winner from Arlo … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action




1970 #33




The album:


Lay Down Little Doggies

mp3 attached

I Could Be Singing


Percy's Song


I Want to Be Around 















  • Produced by Lenny Waronker and John Pilla
Posted in Americana, Country Rock, Folk Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

MELANIE – Ballroom Streets – (Tomato records) – 1978

Melanie - Ballroom Streets

Regular readers of this blog would know I have a thing for Melanie. She is one of my favourite chick singers in rock and pop.

For those not up to speed on Melanie, or only know Melanie from her early 70s efforts check out my other blog entries.

This album is relatively obscure and comes at a time when Melanie had lost her earlier "hippie" (for want of a better word) audience.

In the mid 70s Melanie had flirted with some disco soul sounds, soft rock, contemporary rock and some jazzy torch singer sounds and this album was perhaps the culmination of that.

The sound is slick, and tight with a lot of beat and more than a few danceable grooves … and I don't mean the imitating a tree in the wind type dancing that one would have done to Melanie's music five years earlier

Melanie sang her old hits and threw in a few new songs but used jazz, soul, blues, and funky  rock arrangements on all the songs.

What is interesting is she decides to do it in front of an audience.

The albums is essentially a live album though recorded in the studio with only a small audience (an audience of 30 people).

According to the engineer: "I'm so glad to see that people enjoy this record as much as all of us who made it did! My name is Michael Laskow, and I engineered Ballroom Streets. It was extremely unusual in the way we recorded it. It was in fact done live in the studio with an audience of people who won a contest at a local radio station in Miami.

The band played live with the audience members sitting on the floor, often mingled in and around the band members while they played. We rarely overdubbed anything, and virtually all of Melanie's vocal's were done live (which is all but unheard of!).

I had to mix the PA system in the room for the audience, watch the levels going to the 24-track tape machine, do at least two separate mixes for the floor monitors that fed the band members their mixes. I honestly don't think anybody in any era has recorded an album in quite the same manner. Dealing with the sound bleeding from one instrument's microphone to another is something that is normally handled with iso booths, and lots of moving blankets ad gobos (sound iso panels that get rolled around a studio).

For this record, we had VERY limited gear by today's standard, and had to use a lot of physics to calculate musician, microphone, audience, PA monitors, and band monitor placement to get the best possible isolation. Just isolating Melanie's incredible voice from bleeding into her acoustic guitar mic would be more than most engineers would care to deal with …"


So, Melanie may be playing it safe by redoing her hits, but is taking a bigger chance by redoing arrangements and playing that in front of a live audience.

The only way for her to save the day it to perform the hell out of all the songs.

And, she does.

Melanie's voice and her interpretive skills as a vocalist never let her down.

All songs by Melanie unless noted.

Tracks (best in italics)

            Side A

  • Running After Love  –  Very slick but very catchy.
  • Holdin' Out  –  a slight calypso beat sneaks in but Melanie's voice is perfect.
  • Cyclone / Candles In The Rain  –  an interesting coupling. "Cyclone" is in your face and "Candles" is heavily re-arranged compared to the original and not at all subtle. It all works though as an electric gospel shouter.
  • Beautiful Sadness  –  a new song – bluesy & wonderful

      Side B

  • Do You Believe  –  screeching guitars abound but it somehow doesn't offend here.
  • Nickel Song  –  not as cutesy as the original and the song needs the cute.
  • Any Guy –  Is some cynicism and sadness creeping in or is the voice just older?
  • Look What They Did To My Song  –  A great song. Again she plays with it but it's still great
  • I Believe (Secret of the Darkness) – Backing Vocals by The Persuasions. Another gospel shouter

      Side C

  • Poet  –  a dramatic ballad
  • Save Me  –  a delicate folk number.
  • Together Alone  –  nice but slight …
  • Ruby Tuesday – (Keith Richards – Mick Jagger) – always a crowd favourite. Here it is given the BIG treatment and Melanie always did it big anyway … it works.

      Side D

  • Buckle Down  –  A new song. And a good one.
  • Miranda – (Phil Ochs) – a great Phil Ochs song beautifully done by Melanie.
  • Brand New Key  –  Melanie's other famous "cutesy" song … it doesn't come off here.
  • Groundhog Day – a great song and one that shows of Melanie's voice perfectly.
  • Friends & Company – a show stopper …

And …

No overdubs, done live … this gal can sing. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where


Running After Love


Cyclone / Candles In The Rain   


Beautiful Sadness


Look What They Did To My Song


I Believe


Ruby Tuesday


Buckle Down


Friends & Company

mp3 attached




Live – memorial for Phil Ochs 1976


Johnny Cash and Melanie – Silver Threads & Golden Needles


Melanie and Miley Cyrus














          Melanie - Ballroom Streets - back sleeve          Melanie - Ballroom Streets - gatefold           

Posted in Rock & Pop, Singer Songwriter | Tagged | Leave a comment

GENE PITNEY – This Is Gene Pitney Singing The Platters’ Golden Platters – (Musicor) – 1970

Gene Pitney - This is Gene Pitney

Check out my other comments for biographical detail on Gene.

In late 1969 Gene was not riding high in the charts, well, not the US charts, His album sales had slumped and he wasn't a big album seller anyway. But importantly his singles had also dried up

1968 had seen him do well with a #16 ("She's A Heartbreaker") in The Billboard Hot 100, but that had been followed up with  a #92 ("Billy You're My Friend") in the same year. 1969 saw no placings (and 1970, ultimately, would see his last placing in the US Top 100 charts, #89 for "She Lets Her Hair Down (Early In The Morning)")

And this was from a guy who had had one #1, another nine top 10s, plus another nine top 20s in the early to mid 60s.

But music is a games of snakes and ladders played on a world domination board. Whilst Gene was dipping in the US he was a major draw in UK, Australia and Europe and had substantial hits there. Smaller national ponds perhaps but enough work to keep the wolves from the door.

But that doesn't explain this album.

Gene was a quirky guy and did march to the beat of his own drum. As a singer of pop he is sometimes dismissed. But he wrote a lot of his own tunes and, more importantly, he directed how his music should sound.

I think it is this quirkiness which led to a guy like Gene recording this in 1969.

The Vietnam was is raging, protesters are being clubbed, people are rioting, whilst musically, Dylan is raving, the Stooges are signalling the decline of western civilisation, The Band have headed for the mountains and psychedlia and excess is everywhere.

Pitney's response: an album of Platters songs.

I had to check that this album wasn't a compilation of Platters song that Gene may have recorded over the years and then compiled into this release but no, it seems Gene recorded these fresh in 1969.

The Platters were a leading R&B vocal group of the 1950s. Under the guidance of Buck Ram they had a romantic and quite "white" sound when compared to other doo wop bands of the 50s. They carried on the tradition of the Ink Spots" and The Mills Brothers and white vocal groups rather than the traditions of the black R&B groups. That's not to say they didn't sound black just that they were slick and smooth enough and free of enough regionalism to have major crossover appeal .

Clearly they were a big influence on Pitney, and not be cause he is doing an album of their hits but because their heartfelt singing really presupposes the highly emotive style that made him famous.

Slick, white make out music with a R&B vocal line …perhaps wasn't that novel in late 1969, early 1970 ./..it was after all one of the corner stones of the emerging MOR cabaret sound.

The beauty is Gene makes no attempt to update the music.

It's as if he has hopped into a time machine and transported himself back to the 1950s … a time when, on the surface at least, everything was simpler. There was no war, no civil unrest, people were happy, the country was prosperous, and the only fear you had was whether you were going to make it to the next base with your date.

This isn't retreatism, this is the one finger salute to the world.

And while I admire Gene's affection of times past I know (and not with the benefit of the here and now) that this was always going to be musical suicide.

Nothing charted.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • The Great Pretender – (B. Ram) – a magnificent song done beautifully. It has been covered often but this is one of the best. I think Freddy Mercury's 1987 version is based on this more than on the original.
  • Twilight Time – (B. Ram, A. Nevins, M. Nevins, A. Nunn) – another good version
  • Harbor Lights – (J. Kennedy, H. Williams) – I'm partial to Bing Crosby's version (1950) and Elvis Presley's version (1954, first released 1976) but this is a great version also.
  • I'm Sorry – (B.Ram, P. Tintrurin, B.White) – good only.
  • The Magic Touch – (B. Ram) – good but not as good as the original.

      Side Two

  • My Prayer – (KJ. Kennedy, G.Boulanger) – lush.
  • Smoke Gets in Your Eyes – (O.Harbach, K, Kern) – emotion packed on emotion.
  • Heaven on Earth – (J. Kennedy, H. Williams) – excellent
  • Only You – (B. Ram, A. Rand) – another great song and a great version where Gene takes the emotion to "11".
  • One in a Million – (T. Williams, G. Miles) – nice

And …

Well, of course …. I'm keeping it.

Chart Action


The Great Pretender


Harbor Lights

mp3 attached (sorry about the scratch and pop – my vinyl is poor)

My Prayer


Only You










The Platters and their charting songs:





Posted in Pop Rock, Rock & Pop | Tagged | Leave a comment

FELIX CAVALIERE – Castles in the Air – (Epic) – 1979

Felix Cavaliere - Castles in the Air

Felix Cavaliere was the blue-eyed soul singer of one of the America's finest groups of the 1960s, The Young Rascals.

Felix being of Italian heritage is probably brown eyed.

Blue-eyed soul is a term used to describe white singers who sing rhythm and blues and soul music or pop and rock and roll in a black soul style.

The Young Rascals were at their best, and best known for their, danceable blue-eyed soul pop songs but they extended themselves and could do anything (and even had hits) whilst dabbling in other styles, garage rock, am pop, psychedelic rock, gospel, jazz, Latin, and Eastern, music.

They were kids who grew up in New York and their roots were in the New York area twist and bar bands of the early 1960s. It was about dancing and keeping the customer's happy. As they got older, they weren't adverse to sticking a message, a mood, or a whole philosophical meditation in the music but they did always reverted to the bottom line which is: keeping up with the times and keeping the customer satisfied.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, you have to pay the bills.

They had their ear to the ground, or rather to the airwaves and kept it tuneful but the hits stopped.

The band broke up in 1972.

Cavaliere embarked on a solo career.

Felix Cavaliere was born in 1942. Allmusic, "Cavaliere studied classical piano as a child and joined the Stereos in his hometown of Pelham, NY, before attending Syracuse University, where he formed the Escorts. He then moved to New York City and got his professional start as a backup musician for Sandy Scott and later Joey Dee & the Starliters. Other future members of the Young Rascals were also in the Starliters, and the group was launched with performances in the New York metropolitan area during 1965. They were signed to Atlantic Records and began releasing records by the end of the year. From then through 1969, the Rascals were one of the biggest groups in the country, their hits including the Cavaliere-sung "Good Lovin'," "Groovin'," "A Girl Like You," "A Beautiful Morning," and "People Got to Be Free," as they evolved from blue-eyed soul (a term coined to describe them) to psychedelic pop and jazz fusion. Their fortunes declined thereafter, and they disbanded in 1972. Cavaliere then went solo and has since released several solo albums without matching the group's commercial appeal".

"Castles in the Air" was his fourth solo album.

1979 was not a good year for singers from the 1960s looking to maintain careers. Disco was the order of the day for black music, soft rock was the order of the music for white music.

And here Cavaliere has embraced both.

Having said that there is exceptional disco music and there is some exceptional soft rock music.

This is neither and even if it was I need very little of both to keep me happy.

This is anticipates all that bad soundtrack music to bland Hollywood erotic thrillers of the early to mid 80s. Luckily the full synth hasn't kicked in but it is creeping in.

The saving grace is Cavaliere's voice. He could write a tune or two but his voice was his real gift.

And, you can put this record on and it can lull you into a (sort of) happy state, though there is no substance here, and, maybe even a little rot. You feel like one of the "The Stepford Wives", manipulated, screwed but empty happy.

It perfectly explains the emerging popularity of punk though.

Produced by Felix Cavliere and Cengiz Yalykaya.

Tracks (best in italics)

      Side One

  • Good To Have Love Back – (Felix Cavaliere) – this is hard going
  • Only a Lonely Heart Sees – (Felix Cavaliere – Jay Tran) – this is marginally better but well sung by Felix.
  • All or Nothing – (Felix Cavaliere) – hmmm, he shouldn't give us those options.
  • Castles In the Air – (Felix Cavaliere) –
  • People Got To Be Free – (Felix Cavaliere – Eddie Brigati) – A cover of a Rascals #1 from 1968 from their "Freedom Suite" album. A great track in its original form this is a pointless but at least it's a muscular cover.

      Side Two

  • Dancin' the Night Away  Felix Cavaliere) – white disco anyone? Comes with the "Star Wars" ping, ping space shots. Or was it "Battlestar Gallactica"?
  • Love Is the First Day of Spring  -( Eddie Brigati – Felix Cavaliere) – This is better and moves into Frankie Valli territory.
  • Outside Your Window – (Felix Cavaliere – Dan Beck – Willie Young) – a toe tapper
  • Don't Hold Back Your Love – (Felix Cavaliere) – hmmmm, again.
  • You Turned Me Around – (Felix Cavaliere) – This is 100% fluff but Felix sings the hell out of this.

And …

This is hard going. I don't have enough soft rock come disco in my collection and I do like Cavaliere … I'm keeping it, grudgingly, to fill out The Rascals collection.

Chart Action



1980  Only A Lonely Heart Sees  Adult Contemporary  #2 

1980  Only A Lonely Heart Sees  The Billboard Hot 100  #36 




Good To Have Love Back


Only a Lonely Heart Sees


All or Nothing  


Castles In the Air


People Got To Be Free  



Dancin' the Night Away


Love Is the First Day of Spring


Outside Your Window  


Don't Hold Back Your Love


You Turned Me Around

mp3 attached


















  • Band line up: Felix Cavaliere (lead vocals, Fender Rhodes, Oberheim, Hammond Organ, Piano) /  Hiram Bullock (guitars – except on track 7) /  Steve Jordan (drums) /  Vinnie Cusano (guitars on track 3 and 7, provides guitar solo on track 9)/ Background vocals by : Luther Vandross, Yvonne Lewis, Annie Sutton, Dennis Collins,  Eddie Brigati, David Brigati, Davis Lasley, Lynn Pitney, Arnold McCuller, Diva Gray.
  • Vinnie Vincent was later in KISS 1982-1984
  • This was a Rascals mini-reunion of sorts with David and Eddie Brigiatti providing backing vocals on three of the songs.
Posted in Soft Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment

BREWER & SHIPLEY – Weeds – (Kama Sutra) – 1969

Brewer & Shipley - Weeds

If you only have a cursory knowledge of Brewer and Shipley or only know there one hit, "One Toke Over the Line" check out my other comments on them especially the last one on the "Shake off the Demon" album. That will go some way to explaining where this album comes from.

Brewer and Shipley were from heartland America who made the slog to the west coast with their brand of folk rock but what they brought with them was the dust and the open spaces, the sounds of Native Americans, and the music of those American peoples: white country, Native American music, some blues, a little jazz from Kansas City. They weren't hicks, they were switched on and armed with sounds and smarts ready to burst forth just like Dylan had half a decade earlier.

And, in the tradition of duos (or trios) of the folk boom they could both play guitars, sing, and write. All those skills are strong but their voices, particularly, mix well. They are big and loud in that "up front" folk way rather than laid back and gentle in that cowboy country rock way we have come to expect. I suspect that is why they have been overlooked in country rock retrospectives though they were there at it's inception and have always had country sounds in their music.

Their first album " Down in L.A." (1968) was folk rock with hints of country and pop. They didn't like L.A.  much so they headed back to  Kansas City. Their label dropped them. They entered into new contracts with Kama Sutra and ended up in San Francisco recording with producer "Nicky Gravy".

Nicky Gravy was Nick Gravenites, who was soon to become the lead singer of Big Brother & the Holding Company.

"Brewer & Shipley's management hooked the duo up with Gravenites, who'd already made a name for himself as a member of the Electric Flag, as well as writing songs recorded by the likes of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Gravenites was instrumental in assembling the backup musicians for Weeds, who included guitarist Mike Bloomfield (who'd played with Gravenites in the Electric Flag); keyboardist Mark Naftalin, who'd played alongside Bloomfield in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band; violinist Richard Greene, who in the '60s played with bluegrass giant Bill Monroe, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, the Blues Project, and Sea Train; and Nicky Hopkins, the most esteemed session keyboardist in '60s British rock, who'd played on important records by the likes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks, and Who. The countrified feel to much of the record was supplied in part by ace pedal steel guitarist Red Rhodes, who played on such classics as the Byrds' The Notorious Byrd Brothers and James Taylor's Sweet Baby James"" http://www.richieunterberger.com/brewer.html  

What Gravenites put together was a crack country and folk rock band who could also play folk but who never shied away from rock.

But it was not all Gravenites and I''m not doubting what Richie Unterberger has written above but it sounds like Nicy Gravenites  had the vision and that is doing Brewer and Shipley a disservice. Brewer and Shipley had the vision and the folk rock, goes country and Midwest was already present on their first album.

Here, they were just going to shake it up a bit and take a grater to some of the pop aspects of the first album.

The result is country rock with folk aspects like The Byrds, Crosby Stills and Nash, Great Speckled Byrd.

The only difference is that Brewer and Shipley haven't received the laurels that they deserve.

Tracks (best in italics)

   Side One

  • Lady Like You – Brief but a great intro to the album that sets the mood. A gentle country folk twanger
  • Rise Up (Easy Rider)  – more "Easy Rider" references. Well, the movie was a big hit.
  • Boomerang -another good song
  • Indian Summer – a magnificent big ballad, piano, fiddle and all
  • All Along The Watchtower  – a great version of a great Dylan song

      Side Two

  • People Love Each Other – of course, you have to have one of the "people love each other" songs in 1969 but this has a hint of melancholia and benefits as a result.
  • Pig's Head – A thumper. Beautiful with lyrics about civil unrest
  • Oh, Sweet Lady – a gentle folky ode, to a, errr sweet lady. Beautifully sung with a touch of the Simon & Garfunkel
  • Too Soon Tomorrow  -another ballad that is both gentle and big and quite beautiful
  • Witchi-tai-to – (Jim Pepper) – Native American Jim Pepper was lead vocalist in "Everything is Everything who has a #69  hit with this adapted Indian chant on the US charts. Brewer and Shipley heard it and learnt it phonetically … whilst changing the song slightly. This is great with a emphasis on the central riff off which everything revolves for almost seven minutes. It's a happy song with both Native American and English lyrics. http://www.brewerandshipley.com/misc/WitchiTaiTo2.htm

And …

This is superior stuff, as good as any other country rock coming out in the late 1960s … a unheralded classic … I'm keeping it.

Chart Action

Nothing no where


Full album


Indian Summer

mp3 attached

People Love Each Other

live recently



live recently


















Brewer & Shipley - Weeds - back


RIP: Paul Kantner

Posted in Country Rock, Folk Rock | Tagged | Leave a comment