This is Tony Sheidan's only actual album made as an album and is deicated to George Harrison. Virtually a singer songwriter one its on the German label Bear Family-a reissue label which doesn't normally sign anybody. The subject matter is Sheridan's own life rather than make political statements and is relatively easy to digest
Let alone that there are many things to say about the man who made this album A lot can also be said about his music, the two are somewhat inseparable from each other you would think, but his development as an artist and on a personal and spiritual level makes Vagabond an interesting departure that bona fide r'n'r that made his reputation on the Hamburg scene way back in the 60's. Those who know his story knows he gradually departed from that said scene after his experiences in Viet Nam and his search for spiritual awareness. If we take a quick look at his discography he was called to the U.S. in the late seventies, yet to record with the Elvis Presley band and then his output went blank up until 1983. It was in 1981 one he officially became a Swami and adopting the name Swami Probhu Sharan, there are more interviews and so on the cause of this spiritual development, most recently in The Teacher the Tony Sheridan story, read it and your understanding for this man and your respect for him will grow.
In hearing of Swamis passing, I realised the best way of finding a way to pay homage to my teenage role model, was to try and seek out the albums in his output that was someway rare in The Kingdom of Sweden. I remember a correspondence with an online record store what ever was the name of it (Ginza or CDON?). With store manager saying (and apparently asking for pardon) the only record we can get for you - is the one he made with Beatles. I always knew there was more about this artist than those albeit legendary recordings. Having found a reissue of My bonnie LP telling in the liner notes about his step by step departure from the scene and his spiritual involvement in becoming Swami I found it an intriguing curiosity but as a fact per say I didn't really understand what had happened to this man, if you don't read his interviews or Bhagwan/Osho News regularly - this album will serve you well in understanding all that is great about him for one part and on the other, what he went through.
Rewinding back to 1997, a year of a certain Brit pop explosion from Oasis (All Around the World) and the like, I admired it from far and came to understand it later. Forward to the time being I was particularly stuck as an avid follower of the early 60's twisting' Hamburg szene, a thing that had started in my pre-teens Because a teacher of music history in 5th or 6th grade had played us a certain song from a band called "The Beatles" the song was (as I found out later one of the many versions of) Ain't She Sweet, trying to locate this recording on a proper release other than the same old greatest hits of the 60's I got acquainted with a low budget release with a black and white cover, called the early tapes of THE BEATLES (and you guessed it already) THE BEATLES WITH TONY SHERIDAN AND TONY SHERIDAN AND THE BEAT BROTHERS. To be strictly honest my fascination with the aforementioned group came and went, but the fascination with the man Swami Probhu Sharan (Then known to me only as Tony Sheridan) continued to cultivate as I saw him as the definition of a stellar Rock n Roll performer for all his routine and professionalism. I also concurred with the notification he jokingly made in one of the versions of the James Paul McCartney arranged Sweet Georgia Brown during the phase of guitar and piano interplay the songs mid section is made up of:"Not too commercial boys, not too commercial"
Back to the year 1997 It wasn't only the year of Oasis as stated about, moreover I found out that there existed some other guy, living in The Kingdom of Sweden who had a immense fascination of the Hamburg Szene, He wrote a book called 'From Cavern to Star Club' more or less a chronicle on the era. The books author Hans Olof Gothfridsson asked Swami to write an epilogue on the 60's to make it complete. As the book also featured the EP Hamburg Twist unique for this book, I consequently just had to have my mother special order this book from a local bookstore.
Reading this book later on having become more of a spiritually involved Theology student and in the Shi'I congregation, theology has (quite naturally) taken the top priority over music, but familiarising myself yet again with this "Epilogue" written by the artist in 1997 having also gone through with my professor of Indian religions what makes a Sannyasin and a Guru. I realised there was a spiritual depth, if more esoteric than directly obvious in his words, most notably expressed like this:
"Music as a bridge to God[...] has proven to be the most powerful force for Peace and reconciliation and of course it is today synonymous with hope and most of all: love"
This above said pinpoints several important issues, as I have matured by age and experience both as an active worker in the Shi'i congregation and in making theological studies my main priority, I am deeply moved in my undestanding of this Profound saying:
Let me elaborate:
It is said by many who are invovled in theology in general that music is something, negative, harmful an expression of sloth or even Lo and Behold, a vice.
While the above said is true in many aspects of the matter truth be told that from another angle there is always another side of the same coin, especially if you see music as a means it depends how you use it and what goals you aspire to achieve using this means.
If we quote one of the most famous rock combo The Rolling Stones, not to get inolved in back biting but only to make a point clear it can be said "it's only rock n roll" but for Swami Probhu Sharan who left his body in february, thi very year things become obvious that for him it wasn't only that and he lived to tell about it.
For those who knew that his reason for recording this album this late was to honour the memory of a former collauge George Harrison who is famous for going public and saying "all I learned from Rock n Roll I learned from Sheridan" You'd might have to think that your in for a rock n roll feast - but if you want that look elsewhere in his canon, Vagabond is something else, if some what unexpected to those who had not known what this man had gone through. The mellow mood and mix between a brought sound and delicate details is sound wise, even to the extent of vocal performances more reminischent of Dire Straits send off album On Every Street.
The retrospective lyrics speak of experiences and remind somewhat of the two transisitional albums that Yusuf Islam made during the final years of Cat Stevens era, before his exit from the POP SCENE that used to dominate his life style since a very young age. (compare his reflective "To Be a Star" from 1977 with "Won't Do it Again": - sounds like a happy go lucky tune but it is so much more. The focus on Vagabond is what the artist himself descrubes as often enigmatic or As a seeker with "Philosophical leaning" the artist is also willing to confess that he "did a lotta livin in sin" however the same artist openly proclaims on this same song on the selfexplainatory level that he "Won't do it again"
"Indochina" is perhaps the more obvious highlight. If you are up for the up close and personal, and look beyond the fact that it's a jangly ballad, and that the guitar playing echoes Mcguinn and the Byrds (probably without any awareness from this said artist.) Know thar Byrds also composed material reflecting over war and peace and moral dilemmas, but here, Swami spoke of personal experiences and it also gives a personal account not only professing the fact that " I was a legionnare,got the scars to show, when Indochina called. I really had go, got me a wounded heart, and a fever high, it nearly brought me down but I did not die" it also speaks of a seeker experiencing his first ventures into coming spiritually mature, and even reflects over a major philosphical dimension of Buddha Dhamma, which he very well may have encountered in Viet Nam.
Looking back I cannot understand why I at some point thought no he "can't be as good not rocking any more". This is profound!
Especially check out the aformentioned When I Was Young, Yes soundwise it sounds more later day Dire straits or partly Sweetheart of the Rodeo era Byrds than it sounds like that bona fide Top Twist Sheridan. yes Vagabond is different but it is no less great, it's just something else.
"I really thought: 'Now I've seen it all' Help me Lord: ' cause I can't take much more'"
(When I was Young)
On a Different note: 'Beautiful' is subtle but quite frankly beautiful and I get sort of the same feeling I got when I heard Richard Harris MacArthur Park the first time. All you r'n'r fans don't have to despare, as a warm up for these sessions a new take of his biggest Smash hit Skinny Minnie was done... It includes here as a bonus, mind you however if you are in for Only that good ol' Rock n Roll, you will have to look elsewhere.