Ralph Towner (1973) Diary (LP) ECM 1032 (1974)

Ralph Towner

Diary 

ECM 1032

Recorded April 4 and 5, 1973; released 1974.

Produced by Manfred Eicher

**** recommended


Ron Wynn said it so well when reviewing Towner’s Works, “A great, great guitarist whose songs at worst are overly sentimental, at best hypnotic” and it’s important that Wynn started that sentence with “Great, great,” because even when Towner is being sentimental, he completes his intentions and captures his subject, encapsulating an often fleeting or moving subject like a painter, a memory or a moment, and even in the more forgettable moments on this set, brush strokes mix the memories of music’s past with Towner’s own experiences and expressions.


For an album that features one artist using only acoustic guitars, piano and gong, this definitely has its moments. As much as this seems to come out of his work with the group Oregon, a close listen reveals some clear differences. It’s not only more personal, this reveals different influences. At times, this recalls Weather Report at their most reflective, but here Towner strips the body down to bone and ghost.

— winch (author of )

 

LINK TO SELLERS:

John Martyn (1971 – 1975) So Far So Good (LP) Island Records 9484 (1977)

John Martyn

So Far So Good 

Island Records 9484

**** recommended

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Coming out of the innovative folk from the British Isles in the late 60s, this Scottish musician was perhaps the first white artist to sign with independent label Island Records.  This 1977 anthology houses cuts from the previous Island albums (1971 – 1975) and concludes with a rocking live cut from Martyn’s self-released classic Live at Leeds (1975).  Other than the instrumental “Glistening Glyndebourne,” the album features vocal cuts by Martyn.  Likely bassist Danny Thompson (Pentangle) plays on all the dates, two from 1975 also featuring guitarist Paul Kossoff.

This collection provides an excellent overview of the Island years and showcases Martyn’s skills as a songwriter and a guitarist. The cuts are all teasers, informing the listeners of the quality of this artist’s work, and likely causing most to seek out each and every one of these Martyn albums from Island Records.

— winch (author of

LINK TO SELLERS

so far so good LP

Bert Jansch (1965) Lucky Thirteen (LP) Vanguard 79212

Bert Jansch
Lucky Thirteen
Vanguard 79212 
1965 

 

Good Shit *****



First U.S. release by this folk guitarist from Scotland, half of the selections from Bert Jansch(1965), the others from It Don’t Bother Me (1965), this collection alternating between vocal cuts and acoustic guitar solos, the latter especially strong but the vocal cuts powerful as well, some of them strong enough to put a chill to your bones. 

The cautionary tale “Needle of Death,” is as poignant as any drug song, ranks up there with Lou Reed’s song about the same subject matter, this one in sharp contrast to the celebratory drug songs of the 60s.  Other highlights include the traveling tales “Running From Home” and “Rambling’s Gonna Be the Death of Me.”

While the selections come from two albums, they fit together like cars in a freight train, the instrumentals chiming like chains, the sequencing creating a musical journey, a train ride through various landscapes, occasionally slowing down to gaze at people along the way.

This clearly influenced much of the music that followed, not just folk singers but rock artists as well.  It puts most of the competition to shame.

— winch

Bob Dylan & the Band (1967) The Basement Tapes (LP) Columbia 33682 (1975)

Bob Dylan & the Band
The Basement Tapes
Columbia (33682)
Recorded 1967
Released 1975
Producers: Dylan & the Band
Rating: *** (Noteworthy)

Recorded 1967, released July 1975, reached #7 (#8 in the UK)

 


While considered a classic, even a masterpiece, this should have been distilled down to a two-sider–one side featuring cuts by the Band, the flipside with cuts by Dylan.  As it sits, this has too many annoying Dylan cuts.

— winch

Mississippi John Hurt (LP) Folk Songs and Blues (1963) Piedmont (PLP13157)

Mississippi John Hurt
Folk Songs and Blues
Piedmont (PLP13157) 
1963
Rating: ***** (Good Shit)
Hurt had recorded a few sides for Okey in the 1920s (not big sellers), and then returned to share cropping.  In 1963, two D.C. musicians heard the old sides and managed to find him in Mississippi, brought him back to D.C. to record this debut album.  He’d record a few more sets and then passed away in Mississippi.

Classic country blues.  While I’ve heard sides that can stand next to these, I can’t say I’ve heard anything better in this style.

— winch

Everly Brothers: Stories We Could Tell (LP) 1972

Everly Brothers
Stories We Could Tell
RCA Victor 4620
1972
rating: *** (noteworthy)

 

 

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Before splitting for solo careers, the Brothers recorded two sets in the early ’70s, the Chet Atkins-produced 1973 Nashville album Pass the Chicken and Listen and this set from 1972. Recorded in John Sebastian’s living room, this featured some of the countless artists the Brothers had influenced (Delaney Bramlett, Clarence White, Ry Cooder, Warren Zevon, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Chris Etheridge and many others).

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This starts with a Bramlett song that sounds too much like the inferior folk rock from this era (which of course the Brothers played a big part in creating).  Fortunately, the set improves as it progresses.

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The set features two Everly originals, as well as versions of Rod Stewart’s “Mandolin Wind” and Jesse Winchester’s “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz.”  While the straight-forward country of their final album was more enjoyable, this still has plenty of charm.

— winch

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