CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET BREAD FAN
Let's face it: during their heyday, Bread just weren't considered "cool" nor "hip." They were commercial, successful and made beautiful music. What could a card-carrying hippie like me (with shelves full of Hendrix, Clapton, Beck and Page; Beatles, Stones, Who and Kinks; Coltrane, Miles, Bird and Duke; Muddy, Wolf, B.B. and Albert King; Dylan, Baez, Joni and Donovan; Eagles, Ronstadt, Jackson and J.D.; James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and Otis Redding) possibly hear in the music of a Top 40 band?
The answer was great songs, incredible voices and top notch playing. I just got hooked the moment I heard "Make It With You" and so became a "closet" Bread fan. Along with The Carpenters, the Kasenetz & Katz gang and few other secret favorites, my Bread records remained "hidden" amongst my collection: if someone spotted one, I'd simply claim it belonged to my little sister.
As an avid collector, though, I wanted to know more, figuring musicians and writers of this caliber couldn't have simply materialized out of nowhere. I went to see my musical mentor and buddy, Big Al, and asked what he knew about them. Of course, he knew everything about them! He proceeded to tell me that the main guy, David Gates, was a rockabilly out of Oklahoma who had risen to the top of the L.A. recording scene alongside Leon Russell, Glen Campbell and Chuck Blackwell, and had participated in about 200 sides as a composer, artist, producer, arranger, guitarist and bassist. He said, "Do you remember The Murmaids? That's David Gates!"
(He then told me that the "other" guy, Jimmy Griffin, had been a successful teen singer with Beach Boys/surf scene connections and had charted with one of the first Lennon-McCartney covers in the United States, "All My Loving." And not only that, he and his partner, Robb Royer, the third guy in the band, had written "For All we Know" for "Lovers and Other Strangers" and won an Academy Award! But that's another story...)
I was off and running, collecting as much as I could on everyone connected with the band as they progressed with the additions of Larry Knechtel and Mike Botts to round out a road-worthy touring lineup. And as time progressed, I was able to "prove" to everyone how both "cool" and "hip" David and the rest of the guys were by playing "Jo-Baby" by The Accents and The Avalanches stuff, etc. (Steely Dan? Oh, that's the drummer from Bread on that track...)
And over the years, I did pretty well, finding lots of gems out there with David's (and the others') names attached. In fact, I got to know Jimmy Griffin after my band opened for The Remingtons in the '90s and when I told him about my collection, he asked if I could assist him and his mom in putting together some of this early stuff. I put a package together of tapes and any vinyl doubles I had and when he received it, he called to say he was thrilled. He told me he'd mentioned the tapes to David and asked if I could put together another package for him which he'd forward. (Jimmy didn't want to give me David's address. As most people know, David is a super-private person, rarely giving interviews and prefers to remain out of the spotlight unless he's on the stage.) I stayed in touch with Jimmy, but never heard from David. I hope he got the tapes, but now, that's a moot point and now I'll actually get to the point of this review:
Rare Rockin' Records new David Gates compilation, "The Early Years 1962-1967," is a must-have for just about everyone. It has most of the sides I'd collected. It has sides I'd never heard. It has sides I'd never even heard of! The depth and breadth of his talents are fully represented in incredible fidelity. (Much work must have gone into finding masters or unplayed copies of the records to master from - the sound quality is great!) It's all here: soul, girl group, surf, country, pop - you name it. The hits and the better-known stuff are worth the purchase price alone for great mastering - it's like hearing some of them for the first time - but beyond that, there's many hundreds of dollars of rarities which most of us could never afford, even if we could find them.
The booklet is incredibly detailed and lavishly illustrated and, apparently, this might just be the tip of the iceberg - there's a photo array of another CD's worth of stuff not on this volume. Hopefully, there's a volume two in the works, but if not, it gives us all stuff to look for in the meantime now that we've gotten all this great stuff together in one neat package.
A great job by Rare Rockin' Records and a great testament to the multiple talents of the great David Gates.