Danny O'Keefe is not a stranger to this blog.
And, this record isn't exactly a new listen.
This was, perhaps, the first Danny O'Keefe album I got back in the 80s … read the other entries to find out why I bought it. The copy of the record was hacked and listening to it didn't do the music a service. And, believe me, I have a high tolerance for hiss, scratch and pop.
I thought the music was interesting but the record was slung in the bin. I think I kept the evocative sleeve.
$4 and twenty years later I revisit this album.
In the intervening years Ii have listened to a lot more Danny O'Keefe and I know where he is coming from.
I'm convinced that O'Keefe cannot make an uninteresting album. Everything he does has some worth. His albums are a little uneven but the good moments in them outweigh the bad, and importantly, his songs stick in the memory.
They aren't there right away but return to you later.
This, his fourth solo album (he had been in a band called "Calliope"), highlights his strengths though it hints at some of his weaknesses.
I have mentioned in some of my other comments about O'Keefe's tendency to some Eagles-like material (which I do not think is a great thing) but here he actually uses The Eagles as his backing band on a couple of tracks!
This was just before the Eagles major breakthrough with "Hotel California" in 1976 and they play well. They alway did but that's not the problem. Luckily, O'Keefe's writing and sensibility is sufficiently rustic and ragged to avoid any of The Eagles smooth pitfalls.
No doubt this is helped by the inclusion of other great musicians like Larry Knechtel, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and David Lindley … check the personnel at the end of this blog entry …it is quite stellar.
Linda Ronstadt also contributes backing vocals on the first two tracks.
The beauty of this record is, like a lot of O'Keefe I have heard, its eclectic-ness …. trad pop, country rock, singer songwriter, soft rock, rock n roll, country, ragtime, old timey, avant garde … all wrapped in lyrics that lean towards poetry.
It doesn't always work but it is always interesting and eclectic and occasionally brilliant.
Tracks (best in italics)
- So Long, Harry Truman – a great bounce of a song. US Democratic President Harry Truman (1945-1953) was known for his honesty and plain speaking. Obviously this is meant to be a statement on the deterioration of American politics in the wake of the Watergate scandal (1972) and the resignation of President Nixon (1974).
- Quits – a beautiful song about a relationship at an end. And quite final, "I'll just call it quits"
- Rainbow Girl – a love song where the music sounds more ominous than the upbeat lyrics, I love it.
- The Delta Queen – a gentle old trad pop come ragtime type tune. This is something you would expect to hear Jim Kweskin (or more recently Pokey LaFarge) singing and it works.
- The Kid/The Last Days – The intro and fade out contain Spanish spoken bits taken from Federico Garcia Lorca's poem "Malaguena", Manuel Machado's poem "Lirio" and an old Spanish proverb. Both poets are associated with work before and during the Spanish Civil War. I'm not sure what the song is about as the narrative doesn't seem to flow with the extracts. I think it's a stream of consciousness
- Covered Wagon – country rock …with more rock than country. Not too bad but familiar.
- It's Been a Good Day – a gentle bounce of a song …almost Jimmy Buffet in nature.
- Fiddler's Jamboree – another pre-war throwback ..this time an old-timey country type tune. Engaging
- Steel Guitar – a 1950s honky tonk country throwback song (with some early rock n roll … perhaps a little vocal melody from Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88"?) about a steel guitarist in the 1950s. Endearing and played well. David Lindley plays the steel guitar. The song originally appeared on his self titled album from 1971.
- Hard Times – a grim singer songwriter tune with religious overtones about "end of times" perhaps? Well, it was the mid-70s …..
Wonderfully, errr eclectic and occasionally, err brilliant …. I'm keeping it.
Nothing no where
So Long, Harry Truman
The Delta Queen
- Danny O’Keefe – guitar, vocals / Personnel: John Guerin – drums / Larry Knechtel – piano, bass / Don Henley – drums, background vocals / Bernie Leadon, Linda Ronstadt, Joyce Everson – background vocals / Andrew Gold – piano / Jim Fielder, Chuck Domanico – bass / Gary Mallaber – drums / Sneaky Pete Kleinow – pedal steel guitar / John Boylan – mellotron / Roger Kellaway – piano / Tom Scott – woodwinds / Richard Greene – violin / David Grisman – mandolin / Jimmy Bond – bass / Larry Vanover – jug / Glenn Frey – guitar / Randy Meisner – bass / David Lindley – lap steel guitar / John Boylan – producer