Check out other posts on this blog for detail on, the great, Danny O’Keefe.
This is Danny O’Keefe’s first solo album, or, at least first proper solo album.
In the mid-60s O’Keefe tread the solo folk rock path created by Dylan and put out a few singles on Seattle based Jerden records (who put out "Louie Louie" by the Kinsmen in 1963) and its subsidiary Picadilly (owned by Jerry Dennon) before putting out an album in 1966, the obscure “Introducing Danny O'Keefe”, on the Seattle based Panorama records label (also owned by Dennon).
Somehow, for reasons known to him, in 1968, O'Keefe ended up in of a four-man heavy psychedelic rock band named Calliope. The group recorded one album, “Steamed” (1968), for Buddah Records before disbanding.
He went back to his folky Americana, which was becoming a chart viable genre as part of the singer-songwriter movement.
And then Ahmet Ertegun (co-founder of Atlantic records) heard him and liked him (http://www.dannyokeefe.com/library_1.htm) and he was signed to Cotillion, an Atlantic records subsidiary, who were expanding into the country, country rock and country flavoured market, with signings of Willie Nelson, The Eagles, The Allman Bros, Doug Sahm, John Prine and others.
Ertegun produced him.
This is the result.
This is pure country folk flavoured singer-songwriter with some New York touches. O’Keefe is too smart (and sharp) to do it too straight. He understands drama and intensity but there is humour and acute detail in his songs. His voice, nasally, fully phrased with precise diction, is rarely stretched, but is perfect for this music, and only enhances the detail he puts in his story songs.
This I love about O’Keefe’s music … he has captured the right balance between musicality and telling a story. You can (without waxing lyrical) feel the characters in his songs or at least understand what they are going through.
Among the West Coast singer-songwriters who came to fame in the early 1970's, O'Keefe has enjoyed, probably, the least commercial success relative to his talent. And whatever success there is comes off the back of one song, his hit “Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues”. And, it doesn’t hurt that Elvis Presley covered it … the royalties on that must have put bread and butter on the table.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Covered Wagon – later re-recorded on his "So Long Harry Truman" album from 1975. A excellent pumpin' and honky tonkin' country rock song about the need to move on to new places (a familiar theme at the time)
- 3:10 Smokey Thursday – a great song about the effects of pollution. Pete Seeger had sung about the same in the 1960s but the theme on environmental degradation was becoming a mainstream concern, "Don't Go Near the Water" and "A Day in the Life of a Tree" (both from "Surf's Up" (1971)) by The Beach Boys, ‘Hungry Planet’ (from ‘(Untitled)’ (1970)) by The Byrds, ‘Apeman’ (from ‘Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One’ (1970)) by The Kinks, ‘Where Do the Children Play?’ (from ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ (1970)), by Cat Stevens, ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ (from ‘Ladies of the Canyon’ (1970)) by Joni Mitchell, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" (from "What's Going On (1971)) by Marvin Gaye …
3:10 Smokey Thursday
The people on the freeways
Left their castles
Built on wheels
To find the fields
They were all gone
The sky, too, was out of view
- The Drover – the narrator meets a drover and he tells him his story. Very good.
- A Country Song – you can read "brother" narrowly (a sibling) or broadly (other people). Either way this is powerful
- Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues – recorded by O’Keefe in 1968 originally as a b-side, then re-recorded for this album, and then re-recorded again for his next album, “O’Keefe” (1972). The hit version of the song (#9 Hot 100 1972) is the 1972 version. Not as solemn as the later version but magnificent nevertheless.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Time_Charlie%27s_Got_the_Blues
- Steel Guitar – later re-recorded on his "So Long Harry Truman" album from 1975. Another winner about a woman and her steel guitar. He life is unwinds during the course of the song and her experiences make her quite a singer and player. There is a dig in here also, the steel guitar is the "real" guitar. Perhaps O'Keefe is suggesting that to be convincing in the types of broken hearted country songs the woman sings you need to have lived life. Sounds reasonable to me.
- Saturday Morning – a funky song about dealing with people. School has finishes and it's Saturday morning …
- Sweet Rollin' – a love affair breaking down …
- Bottle Up And Go – (Sam Hopkins, Max McCormick) – a Lighting Hopkins song done in the style of The Blues Project combined with a bit of Rolling Stones-y mid tempo swagger.
- Come Dance With Me – a country psych number which struts, between clouds.
- Canary – the significance of the canary – warning of danger?
- Rev. Stone – the spoken intro sounds like something from a film (and sounds a little like Steve McQueen (but it's not)) but I can't pick it. This is an existential plea about … something. But it hold the interest and is well sung with O'Keefe going outside his usual voice.
A magnificent album. Vastly underrated … I'm keeping it.
Nothing nowhere (though a re-recorded “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues” (from his “O’Keefe” album) charted in 1972 (#9, 1972 US Pop)
3:10 Smokey Thursday
A Country Song
Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues
Bottle Up And Go
Come Dance With Me
- Sweet Rollin', Come Dance With Me, Canary, Rev. Stone – recorded in Hollywood California with: Danny O'Keefe (vocals / guitar), Doug Hastrings (guitar), Billy McPherson (flute/ saxes/keyboard), Bob Nixon (keyboards), Chris Ethridge (bass), Rich Crooks (drums/ percussion), string and vocal arrangements by Jimmy Haskell (!).The rest recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with Danny O'Keefe (vocals / guitar), Eddie Hinton (guitar), Jimmy Johnson (guitar), Barry Beckett (keyboards), David Hood (bass), Roger Hawkins (drums / percussion) string and vocal arrangements by Arif Mardin (!). Produced by Ahmet Ertegun
- “Cotillion Records was a subsidiary of Atlantic Records (and from 1971 part of WEA) and was active from 1968 through 1985. The label was formed as an outlet for blues and deep Southern soul; its first single, Otis Clay's version of "She's About a Mover", reached the R&B charts. Cotillion's catalog quickly expanded to include progressive rock, folk-rock, gospel, jazz and comedy. In 1976, the label started focusing on disco and R&B. At that point, Cotillion's catalog albums outside those genres were reissued on Atlantic”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotillion_Records