Friday, October 2, 2015

Sea Train - 1970 - Seatrain

Sea Train

01. I'm Willin'     3:32
02. Song Of Job     6:04
03. Broken Morning     3:04
04. Home To You     3:22
05. Out Where The Hills     5:48
06. Waiting For Elijah     3:35
07. 13 Questions     2:58
08. Oh My Love     2:50
09. Sally Goodin'     2:09
10. Creepin' Midnight     5:20
11. Orange Blossom Special     5:07

Larry Atamanuik: drums, percussion
Lloyd Baskin: lead vocals, keyboards
Richard Greene: violin, viola, keyboard, vocals
Andy Kulberg: bass, vocals, flute, composer
Peter Rowan: lead vocals, guitar, composer

Right when the album started with "I'm Willing" I realized the lyrics looked familiar, especially the line "If you give me weed, whites, and wine". I just listened to Little Feat's "Sailin' Shoes" this past week so I knew it was the same.

I checked to see which album was released first and then I saw the words and music written by Lowell George and I realized he was from Little Feat. Which means George must have let Seatrain play his song for this album before Little Feat would put this song on "Sailin Shoes".

And poof! there went the lineup of Sea Train, replaced by a less interesting, yet more commercial assemblage of people known as Seatrain.  I guess they figured people would not remember that they had just had an album that was self-titled, especially with a slightly changed name.  This Seatrain has an entirely different feel to it, and although the Kulberg/Roberts songwriting team is still in place, Kulberg cedes some control to the newcomers.  Roberts is even officially a member of the group - making them one of the few American bands with an in-house designated lyricist (other than the Grateful Dead).  This new lineup (for those of you scoring at home - Larry Atamanuik on drums, Peter Rowan on guitar and Lloyd Baskin on keyboards, with Baskin and Rowan splitting lead vocals) decided to pare down their sound greatly.  Oh, not in terms of the number of group members, but in terms of styles.  Jazz?  Almost gone.  Kulberg's flute is only let out once ("Broken Morning").  Classical?  Greatly cut down to some of Baskin's keyboard parts (he sounds like Michael Brown before an electric harpsichord on "Waiting for Elijah").  What was left was good old American roots-rock.  Where Sea Train's focal point constantly shifted, Seatrain focuses mainly on Greene's violin.  This is a good thing.  Greene was a fiddle player of exceptional talent, and he lets it shine not only in his spotlight pieces ("Sally Goodin" and "O.B.S." both of which he arranged and adapted, making them sound similar to English groups like Fairport Convention) but throughout the album, frequently with wah-wah pedal attached.  But a paucity of songwriting seems to be on the land.  Rowan, who was the predominant writer for his old group Earth Opera, contributed three songs - a couple of standard romantic ballads ("Home to You" and "Oh My Love") and a slower folk song that is nice, gentle and worth the wait ("Waiting for Elijah").   Roberts' lyrics are not quite as strong; "Song of Job" is a rather talky retelling of the old Biblical story, which lacks suspense.  Their lone charting single, "13 Questions," is an odd UFO encounter in reverse, but with a completely unrelated refrain that happens to be the catchiest part of the song.  Only "Broken Morning" comes close to his earlier work, but only close.  Actually, Seatrain reworks one of Sea Train's highlights, "Out Where the Hills," making it more jaunty and fun before it enters Greene (solo) land.  This version is nowhere close to the original, but still has the album's most complex arrangement.  The two strongest songs are actually from outside the group --Lowell George's signature tune and ode to drug-running ("I'm Willing") before Little Feat recorded it, and an excellent Goffin/King grandstand ("Creepin' Midnight" where Baskin's vocals just wallow in soul).  This incarnation's playing is much simpler as well.  Producer George Martin (yes, that George Martin) tends to make Baskin the central support in each song, such that one frequently forgets that Rowan even exists.  The entire album may not have a guitar solo on it, and often Rowan is completely inaudible.  The band in this incarnation relies more on rhythm than notes (compare the two "Out Where the Hills"), and the production is pretty clean, as compared to the intentional overlap of Sea Train.  So the new Seatrain was a lesser band, a more focused band, and a decent roots-rock band.



  2. I remain this group...One of my favourite in the underground seventies.I don't think i gonna get it today again.Many thanks Drago!!!.