It's hard to put on a finger on why Jesse Colin Young never had a more successful solo career.
He had all the right attributes to be a successful singer songwriter in the 70s…
He was an ex folkie who had a gentle, lyrical style.
He had been the lead vocalist and central songwriter in a successful rock group, The Youngbloods.
His musical taste encompassed folk, country, old timey music, ragtime and 1950s rock n roll.
He contained an American musical intuition which was rooted in the land.
Van Morrison is comparable though Morrison's Americana is one that is learnt from film and music from afar.
Young is the real deal.
Perhaps the answer for his relative lack of pop fame lies in his time – as the 70s became increasingly more bland or cynical Young's happiness and optimism threw him with the hippies of yesterday, something to which he was already linked to in the publics mind.
That's not to say Young isn't political – he is. But, Young's politics are not a call to arms just a plea to give peace a chance.
But, it worked for Lennon.
Unlike Lennon you never feel like you are being lectured to and the message isn't strident. There is a wistful, quiet message here … a type of optimistic melancholy if that can exist.
He also didn't write as many catchy songs as Morrison, Lennon et al (and he loved mixing in covers) but there is a trance like quality in his best albums. Like Tim Buckley he manages to pull the listener to the message through the music and the not just the lyric.
When you listen to this album as a whole the music and the mellow tone of Young's voice count as much as the lyric in getting the listener to that place where we can live in peace, and no problem can't be overcome, if we leave our egos at the door and work together communally.
The tone of his voice literally massages the brain …. if James Taylor was more socially observational or political he would sound like this.
This was Young's third solo album. His last, "Young Blood", came out in 1965 just before the start of The Youngbloods,
The album is, perhaps, an extension of the Youngbloods though perhaps a little more straightforward. The Youngbloods could be a little quirky but here Young seems to be content with the message and the gentle mood and he doesn't feel the need to experiment.
There are six covers but all of them are adapted to fit Young's musical point of view and it is testament to his taste and conviction that it works.
The gentle mood is central (as it seems to be on many of his solo albums) …the voice, the arrangements, the guitar, horns and everything all create a gentle vibe.
I'd love to see him playing in the coffee shop or pub down the road …on a sunny, summer day which I know will be followed by another sunny summer day.
Check my other comments for biographical details.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Good Times – (Jesse Colin Young) – reminiscence of good times in San Francisco….ahhh, they must have been great times
- Sweet Little Child – (Jesse Colin Young) – a rustic love song strut.
- Together – (Jesse Colin Young) – as gentle and wistful love song as there ever was.
- Sweet Little Sixteen -(Chuck Berry) – Chuck's rocker done in a gentle bounce. It works but is hasn't been done like this before, or since.
- The Peace Song – (Jesse Colin Young) – Beautiful, and perhaps, of it's time but who cares….
- Six Days on the Road – (Earl Green / Carl Montgomery) – The Dave Dudley song given a "hippie" treatment. The ode to the road works regardless if you are short back and sides country or long haired counter culture.
- Lovely Day – (Jesse Colin Young) – a good original
- Creole Belle – (Trad) – made famous by Mississippi John Hurt …excellent.
- 1000 Miles from Nowhere – (Mercy Dee Walton) – this sounds like an old blues though it is actually a 1953 tune by Mercy Dee Walton better known as “One Room Country Shack” and recorded by many others including Buddy Guy.
- Born in Chicago – (Nick Gravenites) – The Paul Butterfield Blues Band song from 1965. A good blues, not as tough as the original but good nonetheless.
- Pastures of Plenty – (Woody Guthrie / Traditional) – The magnificent Woody Guthrie song given a entirely new look, Part jazzy torch song, part hippie anthem it's nothing if not an original idea.
A nice vibe …. I'm keeping it.
The Peace Song
- Wikipedia: "Young was born Perry Miller and raised in Queens, where he was a classmate of Art Garfunkel. His mother was a violinist and his father was an accountant with a strong interest in classical music."