Continuing our trawl through Vinyl Connections holding from February 1971, and beginning with an absolute classic. [Part One here]
Pretty much everyone agrees that Carole King’s second LP is a flawless album that boosted singer-songwriter artists towards the top of the first division. And not just in the US and Canada where the LP was a #1 hit. It reached #3 in Australia and #4 in the UK and did extremely well in other places too.
The Laurel Canyon lifestyle must have been pretty good in the early seventies. When David Crosby wanted to record his first solo album, he invited friends and neighbours around to contribute. So, on this genial, laid back LP we have appearances by Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead), Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Santana drummer Michael Shrieve, and others. The result is a very pleasant, slightly stoned LP with some great playing and singing and few enough references to “Almost Cut My Hair” to not distract excessively.
Harry Nilsson was the recipient of much peer acclaim, but it didn’t seem to do him much good. Despite being named by The Beatles as their favourite US artist (in 1968), and forming abiding friendships with both John and Ringo, Nilsson struggled with demons and the curse of patchy albums. This is one of them, a sweet, light-weight story-fable with a beautiful package, released to accompany the extended cartoon of the same name… but there is little that zings, musically speaking. The hit was “Me and My Arrow”.
In 1971, however, the best was still to come for Nilsson; in November he released his most consistent and by far biggest selling album.
Although once owning all the early Barclay James Harvest LPs on vinyl, I let most of them go. BJH are one of those progressive bands I just haven’t been able to really connect with*; to me they are the prog rock equivalent of Dan Fogelberg. The melodies are pretty, the arrangements (often using a real live orchestra) are competent but it just doesn’t rock my boat. The word that fits is anodyne. However, the Best Of pictured above contains half of BJH’s 1971 album Once Again and that’s a good enough coverage for me. Standout song is the eight minute “She Said” achieving something above an MOR canter. Once described, somewhat acidly, as “a poor man’s Moody Blues”, BJH have grown and retained a goodly crop of fans throughout their long career. But what about the original gatefold sleeve? Superb!
* Renaissance are another, Rush a third.
A spoken announcement opens the debut LP from the under-appreciated Ghanian/Caribbean band Osibisa: “Criss-Cross rhythms that explode with happiness”. It’s a wonderful description of the world—jazz—rock hybrid outfit who were amongst the earliest champions of multi-cultural rock. This 1971 self-titled album is a joy and a delight — it has brought me both for over forty years. Largely instrumental with vocal chants and exclamations thrown in, this is a jazz album for those who don’t have a clue about jazz and a world music album for those who get spooked by the wildlife in a city park. Lots of percussion, as you would expect, but all of it varied and lively. Some neat guitar solos, too. And a cover by Roger Dean. Really, a disc you should hear at least once in your life. 🔆🔆🔆🔆🔆 [5 stars]
Although the opening cut on this collaboration between two jazz legends has an almost country feel, the LP overall is a tight, inventive and very accessible piano—vibes dialogue. High class early career music from two living legends. 🔆🔆🔆🔅 [3 ½ stars]
Miles adventures into jazz rock began in earnest with Bitches Brew (1970; more here in the 70 FROM ’70 series). On Jack Johnson, producer Teo Macero again works and re-configures the open-ended recordings into a cohesive, compulsive, epic whole. It may not be dinner jazz (unless, perhaps, you are holding a summer ‘come as a caveman beatnik’ barbie in a firelit forrest glade somewhere) but it is extraordinarily energetic, full of changes of mood and nuance, and an LP that gives more with repeated listenings. Featured at Vinyl Connection here, Jack Johnson is Miles you can groove to and grow with. 🔆🔆🔆🔆🔆 [5 stars]
Apologies for the delayed posts. Quite a lot going on at present.