John B Sebastian, The Four Of Us, Tarzan Kid, Welcome Back plus BBC In Concert 1970
Edsel Records [Release date 10.02.14]
Dylan just about nailed it when he pronounced ‘the times they are a changin’ in 1964 and John Sebastian, as co-founder of The Lovin’ Spoonful the following year, was at the forefront of the American ‘summer of love’ sea change that swept popular music in the latter half of the sixties.
But after a run of 7 top ten hit singles in 1965 and 1966 the glitter began to fade and by 1969 the game was up. Singer, songwriter, guitarist, harmonica and autoharpist Sebastian went it alone and this collection neatly brings together – on 3 discs -his first 4 album released on Reprise Records between 1970 and 1976 plus a solo concert broadcast from a BBCTV studio in October 1970.
When you think of Reprise Records (incidentally, formed by Frank Sinatra in 1960 in a bid for greater artistic freedom) you naturally think of in the Greenwich Village/ Laurel Canyon singer songwriter set and Joni Mitchell and Neil Young in particular, but John Sebastian never fitted into that pigeon hole.
Or any for that matter as he flitted, butterfly like, across a kaleidoscope of styles ranging from Little Feat style rock to the blues, from Paul Simon to Beach Boys style pop, from to country to Andrew Gold and Stephen Bishop style singer songwriter, and way to beyond. His eclecticism within the space of each album more than likely goes a long way to explaining why his solo career was only of moderate success.
But he held great sway by his contemporaries and his solo work is peppered with contributions from luminaries of the era like David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Buddy Emmons, Dallas Taylor, Harvey Brooks, Paul Harris, The Ikettes, Felix Pappalardi, Mac Rebennack, Lowell George, the Pointer Sisters, David Lindley, David Grisman, Amos Garrett, Phil Everly, Ry Cooder and Emmylou Harris.
Revisiting these albums now is a trip down memory lane and it’s quite remarkable how fresh and vibrant the recordings sound. If you’ve got or had any of these albums on vinyl and have fond memories, then this collection is a ‘must have’. If you’re just curious then you might want to dip your toe into an internet stream before indulging.
Glowing embers of their time which, may not light any new fires but could rekindle a few old ones. ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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