Top positive review
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Ecological Warnings 40 years ago
on 29 November 2011
This album is noteworthy in JM's huge catalogue because of the brilliant fiddle playing by Don "Sugarcane" Harris, the solid bass of Larry Taylor and the inspired guitar work of Harvey Mandel (the latter two stalwarts of Canned Heat at its height). It is also notable for not having a drummer - a great relief given that recordings today tend to put the drums so far up in the mix that they become the dominant instrument.
Most of the songs on the album are love songs and range from the bass driven upbeat "You must be crazy" to the slow whining "Crying" - an outstanding blues track with Sugarcane squeezing every drop of emotion out of his electric fiddle. But, for me, the stand out track was (and still is) the opening number "Nature's Disappearing". When I heard that track it was the first time in my life I had heard of the dangers of pollution and the other environmental issues raised and it influenced my thinking on the issues ever after. Of course the ideas expressed in the song are no longer fresh, but what is so depressing is that 40 years on the appeal to do something about the state we are getting the planet into is more needed than ever. Amongst blues and rock fans, "Nature's Disappearing" may have recruited more people to Greenpeace than the voyages of Rainbow Warrior.
Without a single dud track, USA Union is one of the best albums in JM's long and celebrated career.