Checkout my other blog entry for some detail on why I like John Sebastian.
I didn't really link much of a biography on him so for those of you who cant be bothered clicking here in an annotated biography.
Wiki[edia: "John Benson Sebastian was born in New York City (1944) and grew up in Italy and Greenwich Village. His father, John Sebastian, was a noted classical harmonica player and his mother, Jane, was a radio script writer… Sebastian grew up surrounded by music and musicians, including Burl Ives and Woody Guthrie and hearing such players as Lead Belly and Mississippi John Hurt in his own neighbourhood. He graduated from Blair Academy, a private boarding school in Blairstown, New Jersey, in 1962. He next attended New York University for just over a year, but dropped out as he became more interested in musical pursuits… In the early 1960s, Sebastian developed an interest in blues music and in playing harmonica in a blues style, rather than the classical style used by his father. Through his father's connections, he met and was influenced by blues musicians Sonny Terry and Lightnin' Hopkins (for whom Sebastian served as "unofficial tour guide and valet" when Hopkins was in New York City). Sebastian became part of the folk and blues scene that was developing in Greenwich Village and later gave rise to folk rock. In addition to harmonica, Sebastian played guitar and occasionally autoharp. One of Sebastian's first recording gigs was playing guitar and harmonica for Billy Faier's 1964 album The Beast of Billy Faier. He also played on Fred Neil's album Bleecker & MacDougal and Tom Rush's self-titled album in 1965. He played in the Even Dozen Jug Band and in The Mugwumps, which split to form The Lovin' Spoonful and The Mamas & the Papas. Bob Dylan invited him to play bass on his Bringing It All Back Home sessions (though his parts probably did not appear on the album), and to join Dylan's new electric touring band, but Sebastian declined in order to concentrate on his own project, The Lovin' Spoonful".
The Lovin Spoonful were incredibly popular between 1965 – 1967 and Sebastian found his material widely covered. His solo career (since 1968) however never really took off, the exception being the #1 theme to the "Welcome Back Kotter" television show, "Welcome Back", in 1976, a beautifully evocative song if there ever was one and one that sums up the show succinctly over the course of two or so minutes.
This album was his third solo album (second studio solo album).
Sebastian was not afraid of experimenting and 1971 was a time for experimentation. The record labels were certainly letting people do what they want.
So when Sebastian fronted up with an album of folk blues and roots music on side one and one 16 minute song on side two the record label didn't flinch. Well maybe they did but folk lues was commonplace (Canned Heat, Blues Project et al) and Arlo Guthrie and Iron Butterfly had sold well with the long suite songs so why not here?
For whatever reason it didn't do well. Sebastian seems to think it didn't because he was too happy and people wanted cynicism.
Certainly the mood of the album isn't downbeat but the music itself is schizophrenic. There's a little bit of something here for every musical taste. Perhaps too much. Sebastian was showing his versatility in roots music (and all the facets of Americana) and it all holds together but only just. Some of the songs are excellent but there are no instant classics that Sebastian was always capable of putting out.
All songs by Sebastian unless otherwise indicated.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Well, Well, Well – (arranged by Josh White) – a good folk blues that Sebastian had learned from Josh White in hi youth.
- Black Snake Blues – (Clifton Chenier) – a cover of song by the great zydeco act Clifton Chenier before he as too well known. This is positively electric and shows Sebastian could have been a convincing white bluesman.
- I Don't Want Nobody Else – Like something from Lovin Spoonful but without the lush fills.
- Apple Hill – another very good familiar Sebastian tune.
- Black Satin Kid – a straight ahead rocker. Sebastian is least convincing on these.
- We'll See – Great good time music like the Lovin Spoonful put out
- Sweet Muse – a rootsy New Orleans type of jazzy blues piece.
- The Four Of Us – Contributors include the Esso Trinidad Steel Band, Dr. John and Felix Pappalardi. This is actually four separate songs linked together and chronicling a cross-country journey of Sebastian and his wife and another couple (the "four of us"). This is hardly commercial but it works as four separate songs (which jar against each other intentionally at times) or one long song.
Patchy but good … I'm keeping it.
Well, Well, Well
Black Snake Blues