Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Kathy Smith - 1971 - Kathy Smith 2

Kathy Smith 
Kathy Smith 2

01. Lady Of Lavender 3:47
02. It's Taking So Long 4:57
03. Rock & Roll Star 4:00
04. Willie 3:55
05. Fly Off With The Wind 4:32
06. Seven Virgins 3:49
07. For Emile 3:43
08. Travel In A Circle 5:57
09. Blessed Be The People 4:57

Bass: Gerry Germont, Tony levin
Congas: Daniel Ben Zebulon
Drums, Percussion: Bill La Vorgna, Don Alias, Donald McDonald
Flute: Jeremy Steig
Guitar: Don Sarlin
Keyboards: Jan Hammer, Warren Bernhardt

It was a bit difficult to trace background information on Kathy Smith. She was part of the California folkie scene, playing at local venues and coffeehouses. A legendary venue but rather unknown was Paradox where people like Tim Buckley, Jackson Browne, Steve Noonan, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John McEuen, and Penny Nichols used to play. Nobody found out about the place so it had to close down. The musicians found a new podium at the Troubadour. I am not sure around what time Kathy Smith started to share stages, and hang around with them, but especially with people like Penny Nichols, Pamela Polland and Jackson Browne (a close contact which explains how their songs ended up on her albums. Pamela Polland (also known from her album The Gentle Soul) was going to appear on her debut too). Penny Nichols, who first sang with a bluegrass band with John, Bill & Alice McEuen (until John took Jackson Browne's place in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), then formed a duo with Kathy Smith called the Greasy Mountain Butterballs which toured Vietnam in the fall of 1966. 

Kathy Smith - 1970 - Some Songs I've Saved

Kathy Smith 
Some Songs I've Saved

01. Topanga 2:25
02. What Nancy Knows 4:37
03. A Vision Of Two States 3:47
04. End Of The World 6:25
05. Same Old Lady 4:35
06. Blackbird And The Pearl 4:32
07. Russel : Gemini II 3:28
08. If I Could Touch You 3:02
09. Circles Of Love 3:30

Kathy Smith: rhythm guitar, vocals, guitar
Stormy Forest Freaks: chorus, hand claps
Monte Dunn: lead guitar
Jim Fielder: bass
Bill LaVorgna: drums
Artie Traum: lead guitar, banjo
Eric Weisburg: fiddle
Jeremy Steig: flute
Chuck Rainey: bass
Warren Bernhardt: piano, organ
Collin Walcott: tabla, sitar
Don Sarlin: lead guitar

Rex Reed's review from the April 1970 issue of Stereo Review:

"Once upon a time, Kathy Smith would have been called a folk singer. Now this charming balladeer is aptly representative of the music of today. Just as Judy Collins bridged that musical generation gap from straight-folk to `pop' singer, so now Kathy steps right across it. No longer do these ladies (and gents) tune up their trusty guitars and winsomely wail about `John Riley.' Like Miss Smith, today's folk-pop artists are more likely to be singing their own music, which, in Kathy's case, is lyrically and romantically excellent. Surrounding Kathy's charming, strong, and reflective voice are extremely talented musicians like Jeremy Steig on flute, Monte Dunn on lead guitar, Jim Fielder and Chuck Ramney on bass, and Bill La Vorgna on drums, among others.

"The album has its own particular and unusual style--a kind of neo-Classicism...[with] a very sensual rock beat that can run hot and cool. One of the most fantasy-filled and most beautiful songs on the album is titled `End of the World,' and it is written by Miss Smith. There are shadings of jazz and Villa-Lobos, with Jeremy Steig's flute illuminating the tropical landscape. Some intros reminded me of Judy Collins singing `Bird on a Wire' or Nina Simone singing `Suzanne.' But Kathy swings immediately into her very own song and her very own styling. `What Nancy Knows' is one of the best examples. I'm impressed too with the sheer professionalism of the arrangements and instrumentalists, and Kathy herself is up to matching both elements. She is perfectly willing to use her voice as another instrumental thread to be woven in and out of this honest American musical fabric. Kathy and company are to be paid serious attention."

Originally released in 1970 on the miniscule Stormy Forrest label, Kathy Smith's Some Songs I've Saved is no lost treasure on the level of, say, Linda Perhacs' Parallelograms, no matter how much obscurantist collectors may want it to be. Stormy Forrest was Richie Havens' label, and Havens' signature blend of folk and jazz influences is all over this album musically, with flutes and upright bass alongside the acoustic guitars, strings, and Indian instruments. But Smith is not a particularly soulful or jazzy singer: indeed, if anything, she's oddly stiff and proper, over-enunciating her lyrics in songs like "Same Old Lady" like a much more mannered version of the early Judy Collins, when a looser, more rhythmically freewheeling approach would have worked better. Similarly, the songs are fine examples of the whole chamber folk school of female singer/songwriters from this era, but the arrangements are neither trippily psychedelic nor old-school Elizabethan enough to attract the full attention of the Judee Sill and Vashti Bunyan devotees one would assume to be the target audience for this reissue. At its worst, Some Songs I've Saved is merely drearily competent, and at its best (the opening "Topanga," the delicate ballad "If I Could Touch You"), it's a solid L.A. folk-rock album in the early Joni Mitchell school. Don't approach it expecting a magical lost treasure and you likely won't be disappointed, but Some Songs I've Saved is a fairly slight curio overall.

Cheryl Dilcher - 1977 - Blue Sailor

Cheryl Dilcher 
Blue Sailor

01. Run And Hide 3:38
02. Ellie 3:09
03. Shake Me Up 3:44
04. What Do I Do Now? 3:25
05. Here Comes My Baby 3:59
06. Blue Sailor 4:58
07. Keep On Walkin' 4:04
08. Lovin' Woman 3:06
09. Follow The Love 3:09

Recorded and mixed at The Record Plant, Los Angeles, California, August, 1977

Backing Vocals – Frances Knott, Ginger Blake, Linda Dillard
Bass – Erik Scott
Drums – Craig Krampf
Keyboards – Steve Hardin
Lead Vocals, Twelve-String Guitar, Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Cheryl Dilcher
Organ – Al Kooper (tracks: A2)
Percussion – Joe Lala
Rhythm Guitar – Al Kooper (tracks: A5)
Rhythm Guitar [Additional] – Joey Larsen, Steve De Lacey
Rhythm Guitar [Electric], Lead Guitar – Stephen Restaino
Slide Guitar [Electric] – Lowell George (tracks: B2)
Synthesizer – W. Michael Lewis (tracks: A1)

Not as good as Magic , but still a release from Cheryl, passing through rock, folk, blues and even disco realms. Some all-star guest appearances, including Joe Lala on percussion, Al Cooper on organ and Lowell George on slide guitar. "Follow the Love" rocks hard and the title track is mindblowing!
It's too bad this has been Cheryl's last album (to date). Released in 1977, it contained the obligatory (especially for Butterfly Records) disco song. But, this is a solid pop / rock album. Well worth the effort to search out this hidden gem.

Cheryl Dilcher - 1974 - Magic

Cheryl Dilcher 

01. Magic 2:58
02. Home To Me 3:15
03. Devil Song 4:10
04. It's A Secret 3:33
05. Fantasy 4:43
06. Who's The Captain (Of Rock 'N Roll) 3:20
07. The Good Times 3:27
08. Together 3:16
09. You're The One 2:56
10. Dance 5:29

Bass, Vocals [Background Vocals] – Randy Koontz
Drums, Vocals [Background Vocals] – Joe Aglio
Electric Guitar, Vocals [Background Vocals] – "Rick Robin" Beilke
Saxophone [Sax Solo] – Nino Tempo (tracks: A5)
Steel Guitar [Pedal Steel] – Rusty Young (tracks: A3)
Vocals, Acoustic Guitar [Acoustic 12-string], Songwriter – Cheryl Dilcher

"Congratulations to Cheryl Dilcher for pulling her act together. Her first [actually her second] album was dull, unmusical, and unsuccessful. This time she has gotten an interesting backup group together and, with the able help of producer Jeff Barry, created a provocative and aggressive album." M.A. (Morgan Ames) [High Fidelity, Oct. 1974, p. 129]

Cheryl Dilcher's second [actually, third] album, Magic moves easily between the gloss of a club presentation and the more sparing production of rock music. At first, she sounds a little like Grace Slick, and her guitar work on the instrumental 'Magic' sounds like Yes. Side one starts out strong with 'Magic' and 'Home to Me.' 'Home to Me' is about Los Angeles--'this town of superstars, You have to look like you're from Mars, For anyone to stop and even notice.' The L.A.-Southern California environment is noticeable on several of her other numbers as well, including 'You're the One,' and 'Dance.' 'The Devil Song' and 'It's A Secret' follow and are strong compositions, though very contrasting love songs: One is laid back and the other exultory. Poco's Rusty Young joins in on 'The Devil Song' with a restrained pedal steel guitar arrangement. 'Who's the Captain (Of Rock 'N Roll)' is good on side two, despite its somewhat confused lyrics. Cheryl Dilcher draws upon a number of sources and resources on MAGIC. Her voice and twelve string guitar are excellent, and she bats about .500 on her writing talents. She moves from a white gospel sound to rock and country. Where many female rock artists record introverted, intimate projects, Dilcher appears as an authentic and original rocker. She'll be around for some time to come." D.W. [Listening Post, Oct. 1974, p. 6.]

"Producer Jeff Barry is not only rejuvenated and brought roughly up-to-date by the tough-cookie lyrics of Cheryl Dilcher, but in epics like 'You're the One' he sounds like he never left. She plays well-audible acoustic 12-string on every cut, but lest you be deceived she opens with the raga tongue of this Lp's title tune (MAGIC (A&M SP 3640) to let you know that it's all rock 'n roll, no smoothtalking mellowed-back country hokum for this glitterized refugee from Allentown, Pennsy, no sir; she's even got Rusty Young on pedal steel in 'The Devil Song,' exorcism-rock, and Nino Tempo's conspicuous sax on the real killer, 'Fantasy.' 'Who's the Captain of Rock 'n Roll,' is for Columbus and Vespucci." [Zoo World; the Music Magazine, Aug. 15, 1974, p. 42.]

Cheryl Dilcher - 1973 - Butterfly

Cheryl Dilcher

01. Butterfly
02. Deep Down Inside
03. Sweet Mama
04. Rainbow Farm
05. So Sad
06. Can't Get Enough Of You
07. Irma
08. High
09. Good Morning World
10. Once Upon A Time
11. Chocolate Candy
12. All Woman

Jeff Barry - percussion
Max Bennett - bass
George Bohannon - trombone
Jack Conrad - bass
Cheryl Dilcher - vocals, guitar
Ed Green - drums, percussion
Clarence McDonald - keyboards
Mike Melvoin - keyboards
Art Munson - lead guitar
Chuck Rainey - bass
David Walker - lead guitar

"Every record company should have its own Melanie if it wants one; now A&M has its. Whatever does it for you." M.A. (Morgan Ames) [High Fidelity, Nov. 1973, p. 155]

"In Cheryl Dilcher, A. & M. have Franc's female counterpart. It's possible that she could have made more impact if Melanie, whom she resembles vocally, hadn't got there first. Still, she has the redoubtable Jeff Barry producing her--which could help her on her way. In the meantime she just about deserves A:2 for her efforts, which she can share with Peter Franc." [Hi Fi News & Record Review, Dec. 1973, p. 2633.]

"While butterflies and kittens cavort on the album jacket, Cheryl spews up enough musical sugar to kill a nation of diabetics. There's even a cutesie butterfly mask to wear when you listen to the album and run around outside your house in your skivvies. A&M should have thrown in a luger for good measure. Maybe if we all wish REEEL hard, this'll go away." [Circus, Oct. 1973, p. 53.]

From Allentown, Pennsylvania, a pretty hippy folk/pop singer/songwriter who began in the coffee
circuit. Some of her songs were included in the Hippie Goddesses CD compilation but her albums
on A&M and Butterfly are quite lame.
(Stephane Rebeschini)

Though there's no denying namesake Cheryl Dilcher was cute, when I stumbled across this album at a yardsale I didn't have a clue who she was.  As a result I bought the album based on the Jeff Barry connection.  In carrying a dedicated to Barry, he produced this album and was credited with playing percussion throughout.

Judging by the title and cutesy packaging (butterflies, kittens, etc.) my initial thoughts were that 1973's "Butterfly" was liable to be little more than a collection of cloyingly earnest singer/songwriter tracks; maybe something along the lines of early Janis Ian, Melanie, or Carly Simon.  The other thought was that this would turn out to be throwaway pop - Barry having found a cute, young woman whom he was willing to mentor for awhile.  Well, technically I wasn't completely wrong with the initial assessment.  Listening to the album it turned out that Dilcher actually did sound a bit like a slightly pissed off  Melanie and on tracks like 'Sweet Mama', 'Rainbow Farm' and 'So Sad' her material could have been mistaken for something off of one of Melanie's mid-1970s albums (check out side two's 'Irma' or 'Chocolate Candy' if you doubt the comparison). Like Melanie, Dilcher owned a deep and raspy voice that wasn't the most musical thing you ever heard, but proved to be well suited to her material and grew on you with a couple of spins.   Similarly I wasn't completely off target with respect to Jeff Barry's influence.  Though all twelve tracks were Dilcher originals and nothing here was overtly bubblegum, Barry's commercial touch was evident throughout the set.  

Unknown to me at the time, this one's generated a cult following among psych collectors.  Turns out that 'High' and 'All Woman' were included in a bootleg compilation entitled "Hippie Goddesses".  While it's easy to see why they were included (fuzz guitar and a far more rock oriented attack than the rest of the set), musically those tracks were quite atypical.  Too bad, since they were amongst the collection's standout performances.  

Cheryl Dilcher - 1971 - Special Songs

Cheryl Dilcher 
Special Songs 

01. A Better Day
02. Mercy, Dear Lord, Mercy
03. Three Wishes
04. Richard Never Cries
05. Do I Have To Wait Very Long
06. Song By a Bird
07. Music Box
08. How I'd Like To Go Home
09. Cotton Joe
10. Little Miss No One
11. Happy Times

Cheryl Dilcher - Guitar, Piano, Harpsichord, Vocals
Amedeo Borsetti - Organ, Piano (Electric)
Bette Midler - Voices
David Smith - Flute
David Wagner - Guitar (Bass)
Jim Turner - Voices
John Adelson - Organ, Guitar, Harmonica
John Dee - Producer
Lane Emley - Guitar (Bass)
Mario Garcia - Bongos, Drums

Cheryl Dilcher began her musical career in her hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Accompanying herself on the 12-string guitar, she played her self-penned songs at concerts on college campuses in the Lehigh Valley in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some of the colleges she played include Lafayette College (Easton), Lehigh University (Bethlehem), and Muhlenberg College (Allentown).
Cheryl played a weekly gig at a small coffeehouse, the Back Fence, in Greenwich Village. This club usually booked three acts a night, and the floor was littered with peanut shells.

In 1967, a self-styled record producer from Red Bank, New Jersey, Johnny Dee (John DeCesare), was looking for a musical act to manage, produce, and record. I lived in the same apartment complex as Johnny and met him and his mother through my mother. I played a left-handed 12-string guitar and he was intrigued. He recorded me on his home reel-to-reel recorder, trying to turn my folky style into R&B by encouraging me to throw in some "baby, baby" to the Neil Diamond song, "Do It."

At the time, he was also managing and promoting a rock band from Matawan, first known as Jay Walker and the Pedestrians but later changing their name to Hole in the Wall (after a restaurant they spotted in New York City). I started hanging with Johnny and the band, going to their local gigs and to the Vantone Sound Studios (14 Northfield Avenue) in West Orange, New Jersey where they cut a single, Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home to Me" backed with the Rolling Stones' "Blue Turns to Grey." He got them a record deal with Epic, and hooked up with producer Jeff Barry. Johnny was headed for the big time with office space at 1650 Broadway, New York City.

Johnny trolled for talent in the New York City clubs and saw Cheryl perform at the Back Fence. He immediately thought she was his ticket to fame and fortune and convinced her to let him manage and record her. He made a demo acetate in 1969 of her singing her songs with her 12-string, and started planning for rehearsals with other musicians prior to recording an album.

By this time, I'd gotten married in February 1968 to a musician I'd met at Monmouth College, West Long Branch, New Jersey. Joe and I performed together locally and at "basket house" coffeehouses in Greenwich Village as the Joint Effort. Johnny sort of managed us but never put any effort into booking or recording us. He liked us and thought we could play and sing harmony on Cheryl's first album so he gave us the acetate to learn the songs.

I transcribed the lyrics and Joe figured out her chords, and we worked on them for several weeks, devising harmonies and finger-picking patterns to complement Cheryl's strumming guitar work. We met Cheryl for the first time at Smile Studios (763 8th Avenue, New York City) for the rehearsal. Joining us was Lane Emley, the lead guitarist from Hole in the Wall.

It soon became apparent that we didn't need two female 12-string rhythm guitarists, so I didn't play. Joe played the finger-picking he'd arranged but Cheryl didn't like it and Johnny decided he wanted more of a rock sound. I figured we'd at least get to do the background vocals.

Johnny, in his inimitable fashion, decided to record Cheryl with part of her boyfriend Wayne's band: Wayne Achey on drums; John Adelson on lead guitar, organ, and harmonica; Dave Wagner on bass guitar; and Amedeo Borsetti on electric piano and organ. Lane Emley played bass guitar also. The other players were studio musicians who Johnny hired.

For background vocals, he brought in a young woman who was gigging around the city, picking up studio work to supplement her regular night performing at the Continental Baths--Bette Midler. So, yeah, I can say I was replaced by Bette Midler!

Now that Cheryl had an album recorded, Johnny shopped it around to various labels. I'd been studying the music business for several years and recommended Elektra as a good fit. He decided to approach Ampex, the tape manufacturer, which was branching off into the recording business. Ampex released Special Songs in 1970. Two newbies trying to figure out how to market Cheryl.

Johnny wanted to meet with Cheryl on her home turf, so we three drove from New Jersey to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to her apartment with a beautiful bay window over a corner luncheonette (401-1/2 Gordon Street). We stayed at a hotel downtown and, because we didn't have much money, we brought along our camping stove and cooler and cooked dinner in the room all three of us shared.

Johnny, being weird, didn't want the hotel to know there were three people staying in one room, so he elected to sleep, fully clothed, on top of the second bed so it wouldn't look slept in. We slept under the covers in the other bed.

Cheryl lived with a roommate, Kelly, and she joined us at a local diner for lunch. We all got along pretty well and soon Joe and I were driving to Allentown without Johnny to Cheryl's for parties and to see her boyfriend's band play at a club in Quakertown.

In true hippie fashion, we slept on the floor in her apartment. One memorable weekend, people were smoking marijuana in the bathroom, sprawled in the dry clawfoot tub, while Kelly made sloppy joe sandwiches in the kitchen, and we musicians jammed in the living room. After one weekend party, we drove home the next day at 30 mph through a blinding snowstorm. The normally one hour drive took three hours crawling behind the snowplow. We had a lot of great times and only regretted that we weren't on the album.

Joe has gone on to play delta blues locally and would love the opportunity to really provide some good slide guitar backing to any of Cheryl's efforts. He's actually started playing "Do I Have to Wait Very Long" as a regular song in his sets. Of all the songs on the first album, that one touches a place in him that resonates with his own experience and it is a valuable part of his nights on stage.
Susan Hamburger

It is so sad that she is now posthumely becoming a cult idol, I wished I would have found out about her 35 years earlier!

Chris Harwood - 1970 - Nice to Meet Miss Christine

Chris Harwood 
Nice to Meet Miss Christine

01. Mama 3:26
02. Crying To Be Heard 5:07
03. Wooden Ships 5:01
04. Ain't Gonna Be Your Slave 3:16
05. Question Of Time 3:44
06. Gotta Do My Best 3:21
07. Before You Right Now 3:51
08. Never Knew What Love Was 2:45
09. Flies Like A Bird 2:53

Bonus Tracks
10. Hear What I Have To Say 4:00
11. When I Come Home 3:57
12. Romance 4:03

Christine: Vocals
Tommy Eyre: Piano, Hammond
Roger Sutton: Bass
Dave Lambert: Acoustic Guitar
Geoff Mathews: Acoustic Guitar
Peter Banks: Electric Guitar
Ian McDonald: Sax, Flute
J.Kay Boots: Drums
Pete York: Drums, Percussion
Johnny Van Derrick: Violin

Has anybody met Chrissie Harwood?  Let us introduce to you an elusive British artiste who made an equally elusive, immaculate LP, which in the 35 years since its original release, as if by tragic magic, has materialised into thin air.

Recorded for an obscure British label it was the only record she ever made and no singles were ever released. In fact it was seldom heard beyond these shores (aside rumours of an Australian vanity pressing), and alongside Vertigo’s obscure Linda Hoyle LP, late period Transatlantic releases such as CMU’s Space Cabaret and Julie Covington’s early solo LP Beautiful Changes, it remains one of the most sought after English female folk rock records ever released. Until now it has been a mystery amongst pop-historians, DJs and record collectors alike.

For a short time in the early 90s the original LP became a regular exhibit at UK record fairs where aspiring collectors and DJs like myself would be the only buyers willing to take a gamble on this anonymous slab of vinyl housed in its uninspiring black and white sleeve which was devoid of any information likely to inspire any of the old-faire to take a punt. A record shop in Stockport called ‘The 78 Record Exchange’ was rumoured to have a whole box of these LPs sat outside in the rain throughout the late Eighties until the final copy was snapped up for the modest 50 pence asking price. The old cliche “never judge a book by the cover” couldn’t be more apt – and although, in hindsight, the LP has all the enigmatic trappings of an American private press, Smithsonian, folksploitation LP the bland packaging didn’t quite cut the mustard. Since then copies of the LP rarely crop up, only two have cropped up on the ‘necessarily evil’ eBay within the last 3 years and both have commanded figures around the £200 mark (£192 and £228 retrospectively). With a notable resurgence in vintage British folk rock it is little wonder that ‘an original Chris Harwood’ has become something of a holy grail amongst collectors, but few can say they actually know the history behind this sacred LP – the original artist, as I already mentioned, has remained somewhat elusive to say the least.

Throughout the heady summer of 1970 a regular folk tinged fixture at Rick Wakeman’s notorious ‘Brewer’s Droop’ rock pub in London was an unnamed blues-folk outfit featuring a sixteen-year-old singer called Chrissie Harwood. Spellbinding performances were warmly received by the progressive-pop cognoscenti which inspired Chrissie’s latter day squeeze and future husband and rock hack, Mark Plummer, to pursue a record deal resulting in an overnight guinea-pig contract with the launch of a CBS distributed new label owned by an uber-legendary, Mickie-Most-alike called Miki Dallon.

The first release on the short lived Birth imprint (which acted as a sister-label to Dallon’s Youngblood Records) was realised with a half baked business plan, and after a short run of break-neck off-peak studio sessions at Marble Arch (one of which witnessed a temporary power cut) – the LP, ‘Nice To Meet Christine’, was written and recorded with Plummer behind the desk and Ms. Harwood in the vocal booth. In his debut role as producer, Plummer enlisted the services of a host of up and coming progressive rock and folk stars drawing from a little black book of celebrity friends who he had previously interviewed for the likes of Melody Maker and in turn they then created the blueprint for a Rock Family tree-surgeons breakfast.

The original ‘Yes’ guitarist Peter Banks, who would later form ‘Blodwyn Pig’ was drafted in to play acoustic and pedal steel guitar throughout the entire LP alongside a young Guitarist Dave Lambert who would go on to work with Dave Cousins in ‘The King Earl Boogie Band’ and later join ‘The Strawbs’. Lambert wrote three tracks for the album, a country-rock-boogie number ‘Ain’t Gonna Be Your Slave’, the up-tempo ‘Flies Like A Bird’ and a quasi-political intro track ‘Mama’ which included a Gainsbourg / Melody Nelson-esque choral arrangement courtesy of folk-rock vocal group ‘Design’ (craftily recording under the moniker ‘The Designettes’ to avoid legal wranglings with their new label Epic).

By contacting Joe Cocker’s Hammond organist Tommy Eyre, Plummer would inject ‘the funk’ into the proceedings, which goes some way to explaining why the LP has become a regular inclusion on record collectors wants-lists, especially sought after amongst Hip-Hop producers and die-hard Acid-Jazzers over the last ten years. Eyre (who would play on albums by ‘Juicy Lucy’, ‘The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’ and John Martyn) added sublime twinkles of Fender Rhodes and bursts of Hammond B3 to the LP, most notably on an astonishing, orchestral-funk cover of CSN’s ‘Wooden Ships’ as well as Chrissie’s self penned ‘Gotta Do My Best’ complete with pulsating backbeat courtesy of rock journalist veteran Chris Welsch drumming under the pseudonym J.K. Boots. Chris Welsch also supplied a future-DJ-friendly drum break on another of Chrissie’s original compositions ‘Never Knew What Love Was’, a stripped down arrangement exposing the raw fender bass played on the album by Roger Sutton, fresh from recording the seminal Brian Auger and Julie Driscoll LP ‘Open’.

With extra percussion from drum workshop legend Peter York, more guitars by folk-festival stalwart Mike Maran, and ‘Macdonald & Giles’ saxophonist, Ian MacDonald, contributing to a version of Traffic’s ‘Crying To Be Heard’ the LP unintentionally became an all star super-session (library music enthusiasts might revel in the fact that violins were contributed by session-man and Michel Legrand side-kick Johnny Van Derrick whilst taking a break from recording incidental music for The Pink Panther). Three further tracks were recorded in the session which have never been heard since the original recording.

After the studio bill was paid the LP was delivered, manufactured and sadly, mysteriously disappeared in to the purple ether with minimum commitment in the artwork, marketing and radio-plug department. A crest fallen Chrissie was given the cold, ambiguous explanation that ‘nothing happened’ with her only handcrafted stab at fulfiling the teenage dream. In later years Chrissie would hide her only copies of the ultra rare original release in a cupboard only to smash and tear them to pieces to save the potential humiliation of the record re-appearing at family functions like an embarrassing photo album. To this day since, the mysterious Chris Harwood has shyly put her singer songwriter days behind her and successfully covered the tracks. Fruitless, feeble attempts to track Chrissie down have lead to a string of ‘dodgy’ bootlegs from France, Italy and the UK which have only highlighted ‘Miss Christine’s’ enigmatic position in the mystery of pop history. In a topsy-turvy chain of events, the solo artist would step down the pop-ladder and become a session vocalist. Chrissie’s voice can be heard clearly on two tracks by the Peter Grant discovered ‘Stone The Crows’ backing up lead vocalist Maggie Bell on ‘Sunset Cowboy’ and ‘Crystal Palace Bowl’. The Twickenham born singer also spent extra studio time in an unnamed rock combo recording for Bell Records before a twist of fate saw her take the disappointing music industry in to her own hands and until recently she has worked behind the scenes, promoting pop music overseas.

Nowadays Chris Harwood is being touted as Britain's great lost female folksinger. That's understandable -- her sole record, Nice to Meet Miss Christine, launched the tiny indie Birth label in 1970. The album disappeared soon after, probably because most listeners were unable to get beyond the first track, the exceedingly self-righteous, anti-racist "Mama," whose justified anger doesn't exonerate the song's lack of melody. Or maybe it was due to the fact that Nice wasn't really a folk album at all, as the guest musician roster makes clear. Guitarist Peter Banks was a founding member of Yes, pianist/organist Tommy Eyre would soon be joining Rainbow, brass and woodwind player Ian McDonald hailed from King Crimson, drummer Pete York came from the Spencer Davis Group, and guitarist Mike Maran would eventually become Britain's top musical arranger. Not a folkie in sight, but one hell of a lineup, expanding the sound of what one assumes was Harwood's own group -- guitarist Dave Lambert, bassist Roger Sutton, and drummer J. Kay Boots. Thus the songs sound phenomenal (even if the transfer to CD creates a hollowness at the center), the musicianship is flawless, and the set is as eclectic as one would imagine with these players on board. Jazzy fusion, jammy prog rock, pomp rock, revved-up R&B, and combinations of all of the above swirl across the set. The musicians are so busy showboating that melodies are mostly ignored, most spectacularly on the covers of Dave Mason's "Crying to Be Heard" and Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Wooden Ships," a situation Harwood does little to resolve. She's best showcased on the sultry blues of "Flies Like a Bird," but elsewhere too often slides into waspishness or worse -- harangues. A musical Margaret Thatcher is no good thing, but that's how Harwood comes across, all hectoring tones and wagging finger, even on the love songs. It's no surprise, then, that the iron chanteuse never made another record, but if you can ignore her, the backing is sensational.

Susan Christie - 1970 - Paint A Lady

Susan Christie 
Paint A Lady

01. Rainy Day
02. Paint a Lady
03. For the Love of a Soldier
04. Ghost Riders in the Sky
05. Yesterday, Where's My Mind?
06. Echo in My Mind
07. When Love Comes
08. No One Can Hear You Cry

Bass – Kirk Hamilton
Drums – Jim Valerio

The material on this album, heard by few until it was issued on CD in the early 21st century, might have been built up as a little weirder than it is by some of the collectors who've raved about it. While it's not the most uplifting stuff in the world, much of it is haunting but not all that out-there pop-folk. Susan Christie's fairly strong, strident vocals and moody melodies, occasionally embellished by strings, aren't the most uncommercial mixture that could have been concocted, though apparently they were too uncommercial to find release when they were originally recorded. What is unusual -- and what sets it most apart from some singers she might bear the vaguest of resemblance to at times, like Melanie, Tim Buckley, Sandy Denny, and Bobbie Gentry -- are the unexpectedly forceful distorted guitars, near-hard rock organ, and angular rhythms and mild dissonance used in some of the arrangements. In addition, for an eight-song, half-hour album, it's certainly unpredictable in the wide territory it covers -- "No One Can Hear You Cry," unlike anything else on the record, is close to sounding like a fine lost Dionne Warwick outtake, though even that gets set aside from the usual Bacharach/David production by the insertion of off-the-wall exotic tinkles of descending instrumental glissandos. If that's not odd enough in this company, there's also a cut, "When Love Comes," that's not too far off early Marianne Faithfull at her best. In contrast, "Yesterday, Where's My Mind?" is freaky at the outset, with its pummeling, tumbling drum breaks, creepy organ, and trippy ominous whisper-to-a-scream recitation, but even that track settles back into a relatively conventional song after three minutes. "For the Love of a Soldier" is another standout, managing to mix affecting antiwar folk-rock with a funky hard rock chorus quite effectively. Though Christie's not quite a major talent based on these relics, this is nicely dreamy and varied folk-rock for the most part that shows a lot of sadly unfulfilled potential, and if it's more downbeat than the norm for the genre, it's hardly gloomy.

The late ‘60s, early ‘70s were such a creative period, it is sad to realize how many albums got shelved and passed unnoticed and given no chance. This album had a press of only three copies.

When I first heard this album, I was firstly reminded of the delicate arrangements of some of The Mamas and The Papas, as imagined as some solo release from a similar group. Not only the arrangements are tight and effective, well thought over and well produced with band arrangements and orchestral touches, but the songs are well chosen and attractive, Susan Christie has also great vocal qualities, a strong combination that deserves to be heard, and that makes repeated listens a real pleasure. “Rainy Day” has some beautiful dark melancholy in the voice and lyrics, while through the music this is uplifted to the acceptable human sweetness of what makes such feeling an ‘experience’ (so not bringing things down, but lifting it into musical pleasantness). 

Everywhere the arrangements are perfect, with the right emotionality made stronger by drums or rock added to the more lush orchestrations, (mixed with acoustic guitars,..)… Just now and then associations with a theatrical/filmic emotionality are made possible, as if highlighting a Morricone accompanied movie…and there’s also one real western song, “Ghost Riders in the Sky”, again into the folk-poprock context.  

In the middle there’s also one longer track of over 9 minutes called “Yesterday, where’s my mind?”, with a more experimental introduction, in an ESP-LP LSD fashion, with trance spoken word, at first just rhythmically accompanied, with a bit of organ, before the narrator/singer and the organ goes a little bit crazy, as a free-er introduction that still leads to another real song.

One of my favorite things to do during these days is to sit out on my roofed porch, preferably in one of the wooden rocking chairs my grandfather built decades ago, and watch the rain fall. If its dark, I light a candle and set it on the hay spool that serves as a makeshift table, and sometimes play some music. Well this Friday happened to be one of those special evenings, and the music of choice for this night was Susan Christie's rediscovered 1970 "Paint a Lady" LP. 

Sitting there, listening to the rain fall in hammering sheets as it slapped the tree limbs in my yard and pooled in the field beside my house was a comforting experience, the occasional break caused by thunder in the distance. Hearing this LP in conjunction was almost like being visited by an angel, her soothing voice almost flawless in its tone and character, her effortless vocal beauty melting away whatever stress and complications I might have had. Of course, I recognize some of these songs, some of them are country songs from an earlier time, reworked to benefit Christie's mid-tempo and slower soothing croon. It was just a magical experience of sorts, one where everything is right in the world, at least for me for a brief period of time.

Considering this, you might be surprised to learn that Christie's 1970 LP was never officially released. When she signed to Columbia Records and cut this record for them, it was considered a commericial flop waiting to happen, so Columbia with its infinite and limitless wisdom, scrapped the record and condemned it to languish in obscurity. A whopping thirty-six years later, until Andy Votel "discovered" a copy and the album made its way to being repressed on CD, finding a brand new audience. Why exactly record executives in 1970 would consider an album worthless on the market when it recieved such high praise nearly forty years later is anyone's guess, but it makes you wonder. I suppose it contradicted the happier sounds of the time, with music coming off the relative high of 1960's blues rock, this album by contrast sounds absolutely beautiful but there is a certain eerieness to it. I can't quite put my finger on it, but to my ears its almost like I'm hearing a woman who is tormented by something, that it manages to contaminate even the most beautifully composed poetry and words that she sings. Maybe its just her character, and in my opinion, it adds a certain depth to these songs that otherwise wouldn't be there. Dark, eerie music like this often captures the imagination more than an album that sounds happy and carefree, dark music has always been more appealing to the human mind than something created by happy people.

Songs like "Rainy Day" and the title track are what I'm talking about. Soothing, relaxing numbers, yet there is an innate darkness to them. No doubt Christie's beautiful singing is the highlight of the album, as otherwise I doubt any of these songs would be half as good without her. The really weird part about this album is how unevenly mixed it sounds sometimes, I was particularly disappointed by "Ghost Riders in the Sky." I'm a huge fan of that song and many of its incarnations, and while this one is not offensive, Christie's vocals almost sound buried at times beneath the strings. The song has been slowed down a bit compared to something like Johnny Cash's energetic version, which suits Christie's voice, but again she's almost blotted out by the instruments. On an album like this, where the singer is the most important component, that is NOT a good thing.

Weird how this album never found itself on shelves back in 1970, but its not like its the first time a major label screwed up. Its a beautiful, moody work regardless, the only real anomaly here is "Yesterday, Where's My Mind" which is no doubt the most passionate performance here, but it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album. Personally I prefer her slower pieces, but nonetheless I can't fathom why any fan of psychedelic folk (which is what it was dubbed) wouldn't like this. I've been into acid folk music for a while now, and this is probably one of my favorite albums in the style (as crude and expansive as that genre is.) Definitely recommended, if for no other reason than to experience Susan Christie's dark songbird like singing.