Sunday, 11 June 2017

"Rock Festival/Ride The Wind/Good And Dusty" by THE YOUNGBLOODS from 1970 and 1971 (April 2017 Beat Goes On Reissue - 3LPs Remastered onto 2CDs) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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Featuring the album "Rock Festivals" from 1970

"...Come On People...Let Your Light Shine..." 

Despite releasing seven quality albums between 1967 and 1972 on two huge record labels - RCA Victor and Warner Brothers - New York's 'The Youngbloods' and their principal songwriter Jesse Colin Young never really meant diddlysquat in the UK (where I live). The live albums "Rock Festival" and "Ride The Wind" were both given limited British releases in 1970 and 1971 on those tasty-looking WB Tan labels with the Raccoon Records logo up in the corner – but they elicited no real interest amongst the Blighty buying public - thereby leaving the third studio album disc offered to us here ("Good And Dusty" from late 1971) as a US-only release on original vinyl...

But this rather fabulous and timely reissue by England's Beat Goes On Records seems determined to correct the error of our frankly callous and musically myopic ways. What you get here are the first three of four albums they did with Warner Brothers/Raccoon Records – that trio issued in 1970 and two from 1971. The first and second platters are live sets as already mentioned (the third is studio) with the 2nd LP "Ride The Wind" actually recorded late November 1969 in New York but not released until July 1971.

The opening duo showcase the band in very different styles of play – bopping and ready to boogie like the audience shown on the rear sleeve of "Rock Festival" - while the second is stripped back and more Richie Havens Rock-Soulful Folk-Soul than standard Rock. And stylistically different or not (anyone looking for the 1969 pop hit "Get Together" should look elsewhere) - given the crude technology of the time - both records were expertly recorded even though they are largely live. Their final and fourth album "High On A Ridge Top" on Warner Brothers BS 2653/Raccoon No. 15 from December 1972 is unfortunately outside the remit of this release.

Beautifully remastered onto 2CDs and amped up with a classy card slipcase and expanded booklet - here are the rocky raccoons...

UK and USA released 14 April 2017 - "Rock Festival/Ride The Wind/Good And Dusty" by THE YOUNGBLOODS on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1284 (Barcode 5017261212849) offers 3LPs from 1970 and 1971 Remastered onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (57:57 minutes): 
1. It's A Lovely Day [Side 1]
2. Faster All The Time
3. Prelude
4. On Beautiful Lake Spenard
5. Josiane
6. Sea Cow Boogie [Side 2]
7. Fiddler A Dram
8. Misty Roses
9. Interlude
10. Peepin' 'N' Hidin' (Baby What You Want Me To Do)
11. Ice Bag
Tracks 1 to 11 are their fourth album "Rock Festival" – recorded live between March and July 1970 - it was released October 1970 in the USA and December 1970 in the UK - both on Warner Brothers WS 1878/Raccoon No. 1. Produced by BOB MATTHEWS (Engineered by Betty Cantor of Grateful Dead fame) - it peaked at No. 80 in the USA (didn't chart UK).

12. Ride The Wind [Side 1]
13. Sugar Babe
14. Sunlight
Tracks 12 to 14 are Side 1 of their fifth album "Ride The Wind" - released July 1971 (recorded live November 1969) in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2563/Raccoon No. 4 and December 1971 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 46100. Produced by CHARLIE DANIELS - it peaked at No. 157 in the USA (didn't chart UK).

Disc 2 (63:24 minutes):
1. The Dolphin [Side 2]
2. Get Together
3. Beautiful
Tracks 1 to 3 are Side 2 of their fifth album "Ride The Wind" - released July 1971 (recorded live November 1969) in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2563/Racoon No. 4 and December 1971 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 46100. Produced by CHARLIE DANIELS - it peaked at No. 157 in the USA (didn't chart UK).

4. Stagger Lee [Side 1]
5. That's How Strong My Love Is
6. Willie And The Hand Jive
7. Circus Face
8. Hippie From Olema No. 5
9. Good And Dusty
10. Let The Good Times Roll
11. Drifting And Drifting [Side 2]
12. Pontiac Blues
13. Moonshine In The Sunshine
14. Will The Circle Be Unbroken
15. I'm A Hog For You Baby
16. Light Shine
Tracks 4 to 16 are their sixth (fifth studio) album "Good And Dusty" - released December 1971 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2566/Raccoon No. 9. No producer listed - it peaked at No. 160 in the USA (no UK release).

THE YOUNGBLOODS on all three albums were:
JESSIE COLIN YOUNG - Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass and Kazoo
LOWELL 'Banana' LEVINGER - Guitars and Piano

EARTHQUAKE ANDERSON - Harmonica (only on "Good And Dusty")
MICHAEL KANE - Bass, French Horn, Vocals, Cornet (only on "Good And Dusty")

The card-slipcase adds a classy feel to the release (standard these last few years with BGO reissues) and the 12-page booklet features original album credits and a new appraisal of their legacy by noted Music Historian JOHN O'REGAN. He discusses their '67 to '72 recordings - post 80's and 90's reunions and Jessie Colin Young's subsequent solo career in Country Music - there's even the lyrics to the brilliant "Ride The Wind" live set and some black and white photos of the three and four-piece line-ups looking young, cheerful and waving enthusiastically at their adoring audience.

But the really big news here is superlative new Audio Transfers from licensed WEA tapes by BGO's resident Engineer ANDREW THOMPSON. I'm always wary of live sets especially from the Sixties and early Seventies where sound was problematical to say the least. Yet both of these sets and especially the Charlie Daniels Produced "Ride The Wind" LP have a clarity that defies their age big time. The studio album "Good And Dusty" is superb too and on tracks like the beautiful "Light Shine" (a return to the glory of the "Get Together" melody) – it’s spectacular. Let's get to the music...

Although "Rock Festival" is supposedly a 'live' LP of new material recorded at various venues like 'The Family Dog' in San Francisco and 'Barn' in Santa Clara - it's clear to me that the lead-off song "It's A Lovely Day" is a studio cut provided by Jessie Colin Young. Warner Brothers tried its pretty melody as a 45 in May 1971 with the LP finisher "Ice Bag" on the flipside - but Warner Brothers 7499/Raccoon S 4 didn't trouble too many charts (its UK equivalent on Warner Brothers K 16098 fared the same). While "Faster All The Time" is a good Levinger bopper - the one-minute "Prelude" and the near six-minutes of the keyboard instrumental "On Beautiful Lake Spenade" both feel like ambling wastes of time. Things improve with Colin Young's "Josiane" – another warm melody that I can’t help but feel should have been a studio cut. "Sea Cow Boogie" turns out to be 20-seconds of Bass-playing nonsense leading into a leery version of the Traditional boozing shanty "Fiddler A Dram". Saving the day comes a warmly recorded cover of Tim Hardin's "Misty Roses" - sung by Colin Young - it's a tiny bit hissy but incredibly intimate and touching in a way that none of the prior tracks do (first decent crown response too). Banjos ahoy for Banana’s "Interlude" – a two-minute instrumental that actually works. As if arriving from another album or a boisterous Chicken Shack gig over in London – they then offer us a Harmonica-warbling cover of Jimmy Reed’s "Peepin..." – great fun but wildly out of place with the rest of the record. We then go discordant Trout Mask Replica Captain Beefheart with two minutes of strained nonsense called "Ice Bag".

After the ragbag that is "Rock Festival" – the six long workouts of "Ride the Wind" come as a welcome relief. As I’ve already said – the second live record is more Rock-Soulful than standard Rock. Young singing, Banana hitting the keys, Bass solos that Funk with the drums – it feels like Richie Havens scatting in front of an appreciative crowd with a hip band of likeminded musicians backing him up. They deconstruct their own songs and offer them up in Funky new incarnations - the Fred Neil masterpiece "Dolphins" gets a moody work over too as does their sunshine slice of Sixties gloriana "Get Together". In my mind the album is the very definition of lost classic - and that Charlie Daniels Production is incredible - each keyboard note and cymbal tap leaping out of your speakers with clarity that defies its age. And Young's singing enters another place - Soulful as well as melodious. Hell - there are times when the finisher "Beautiful" feels like Phil Upchurch live on funky guitar with Al Kooper singing out front - Young urging the people to feel beautiful and reach out (yeah baby). 

Excepting four originals - "Hippie From Olema No. 5" by Lowell 'Banana' Levinger (it's actually a close re-write of Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee"), "Good And Dusty" by all four members of the band and two Jessie Collin Young entries in "Drifting And Drifting" and the lovely single "Light Shine" - the other nine tracks on the "Good And Dusty" studio album are all cover versions. Most are old Blues & R&B Classics - Lloyd Price's rabble-rouser "Stagger Lee" - the gorgeous pleading Soul of Roosevelt Jamison's "That's How Strong My Love Is" made famous by O.V. Wright and Otis Redding (a genuine highlight on here) - the Coasters Leiber & Stoller winner "I'm A Hog For You Baby" - Sonny Boy Williamson's Chess brawler "Pontiac Blues" - Leonard Lee's "Let The Good Times Roll" made famous by Louis Jordan - the spiritual "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" in shimmering Staple Singers style - all rounded off with a sneaky take on the saucy "Willie And The Hand Jive" made infamous by Johnny Otis.

On top of all that is "Moonshine Is The Sunshine" - a Jeffery Cain song that initially turned up on his debut LP "For You" in 1970 on Warner Brothers WS 1880. All three of The Youngbloods had played on that album - only the second LP on the Raccoon Label imprint - and they repaid him by covering his song here. The other goodun on here is Carol Miller's lovely ballad "Circus Face" - Banana playing that Mandola so sweetly (I'm amazed this hasn't been covered more). The album's best moment comes last with Colin Young's lovely "Light Shine". Warner Brothers tried it as a 45 in March 1972 with the equally Soulful "Will The Circle Ever Be Broken" on the flipside - but despite the French horns, sweet guitar picking melody and the overall strength of both sides - Warner Brothers WB 7563 did no business.

As "Light Shine" plays out this gorgeous-sounding twofer - you're left with an abiding impression that even though some of the material isn't blazing and brilliant like the sun (that first album isn’t great) - there's an awful lot of genuine musical sunshine on these three albums that we clearly missed out on. More importantly The Youngbloods and their Warner Brothers output warrants a return to in 2017.

Well done to BGO for getting this wee lysergic Rock-Soulful nugget out there. "Good And Dusty" indeed...

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