Top positive review
23 people found this helpful
on 11 February 2014
I`ve waited so long for this.
In 1970 I bought John Sebastian`s self-titled debut solo LP, having been a big fan of The Lovin` Spoonful. I wasn`t disappointed, and played the living hell out of it. Hearing it again after so many years (stupidly sold all my LPs twenty years ago) I was almost in tears.
There are a handful of what I think of as `special people` in rock music, and I can`t quite explain my choices: for example, Ray Davies, John Fogerty, Rick Danko, Lowell George - and John Sebastian. Something to do with being a catalyst for others, but it`s more than that. Be that as it may...
This lovingly packaged deluxe box-set consists of two discs, bursting with musical joie de vivre, of JS`s first four 1970s solo albums, plus a live `70s DVD. To me it is the answer to a thousand prayers, a compilation that is much more than I`d ever dared hope for.
If I went through every track, we`d be here all night, so I`ll try and give a flavour of what`s here.
The `John B. Sebastian` debut album is utterly wonderful, with the gloriously upbeat opener Red-Eye Express an uplifting song about being on the move that will surely bring a daft grin to the glummest face:
Hurry up Laurie, hurry up Sue...
It`s followed by the tenderly lovely She`s A Lady, which could only have been written in the late sixties (the LP took two years to get a release, much to the impatience of JS et al). In this song, as in so many, he shows what a fine lyricist he is:
She`s a lady
and I chanced to meet her in my scufflin` days
She`s a lady
hypnotised me there that day
I came to play in my usual way, hey -
Floatin` along with a whimsical twinkln` in her strange green eyes
`Linger with me`, she said `Yes`
and oh! the time did fly...
Rainbows All Over Your Blues (which opened Side Two of the LP - ah, those were the days) is a stunning track, all steel guitars and JS at his most winningly sunny. He could bring the sun out like few others - remember Daydream, Do You Believe In Magic, Jugband Music...?
The pensive I Had A Dream and the haunting, gutsily sung How Have You Been are other highlights.
It`s enough now to say that the quality barely dips over the following three albums: The Four Of Us, Tarzana Kid, and Welcome Back, the title track of the latter giving him a rare and most welcome #1 hit in the US, though he was virtually ignored in the good ol` UK!
He does some terrific covers, such as a respectfully thoughtful version of Jimmy Cliff`s Sitting In Limbo, a nicely langorous Dixie Chicken with pal Lowell George helping out on guitar, and the much-covered classic Singing The Blues. There`s also his own reading of his road ballad Stories We Could Tell, with - how sad we must now call him the late - Phil Everly on (what else!) harmony vocal. The Everly Brothers then made it the title track of a seventies LP of theirs. No wonder, it`s a great song.
The DVD is a delightful bonus and shows what a great live performer he was - and still is.
If you count all the songs he wrote/co-wrote for the Lovin` Spoonful, and all of these too, John Sebastian by rights ought to be hailed as one of the finest songwriters of the sixties and seventies. On top of that he`s a distinctive, warm-voiced singer, superb guitarist, and plays a mean harmonica - he was much in demand as a session musician back in the sixties, for example on Tim Hardin`s classic first LP, and many others.
Rhino are forever in my debt and have earned my eternal gratitude for the labour of love that is this box of wonders and delights. So much heaven, so much glorious music.
Welcome back, indeed!