UK released February 2014 on Edsel EDSG 8039 (Barcode 740155803933) - this 2CD/1DVD triple features the four Reprise albums John Sebastian made after he left The Lovin' Spoonful in 1968. It also sports a Previously Unreleased Concert recorded for England’s BBC "In Concert" TV Program (broadcast 16 October 1970) that is approved by the artist himself and making its DVD debut here. Here's is a stacked up spoonful of loving details...
Disc 1 (75:57 minutes):
1. Red-Eye Express
2. She’s A Lady
3. What She Thinks About
4. Magical Connection
5. You’re A Big Boy Now
6. Rainbows All Over Your Blues
7. How Have You Been
8. Baby, Don’t Ya Get Crazy
9. The Room Nobody Lives In
11. I Had A Dream
Tracks 1 to 11 are his debut solo LP "John B. Sebastian" - release January 1970 in the USA on Reprise RS 6379 and April 1970 in the UK on Reprise RSLP 6379
12. Well Well Well
13. Black Snake Blues
14. I Don’t Want Nobody Else
15. Apple Hill
16. Black Satin Kid
17. We’ll See
18. Sweet Muse
19. The Four Of Us
Tracks 12 to 19 are his 2nd studio album "The Four Of Us" - released in the USA August 1971 on Reprise RS 2041 and Reprise K 44149 in the UK
Tracks 20 and 21 are "Give Us A Break" and "Music For People Who Don't Speak English" - released February 1972 - they are the non-album A&B sides of a USA 7" single on Reprise 1074
Disc 2 (63:25 minutes):
1. Sitting In Limbo
2. Friends Again
3. Dixie Chicken
4. Stories We Could Tell
5. Face Of Appalachia
6. Wild Wood Flower
7. Wild About My Lovin’
8. Singing The Blues
9. Sportin’ Life
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 3rd studio album "Tarzana Kid" - released in the USA September 1974 on Reprise MS 2187 and November 1974 in the UK on Bearsville K 54028
12. She’s Funny
13. You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine
14. Didn’t Wanna Have To Do It
15. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
16. Welcome Back
17. I Needed Her Most When I Told Her To Go
18. A Song A Day In Nashville
19. Warm Baby
20. Let This Be Our Time To Get Along
Tracks 11 to 20 are his 4th studio album "Welcome Back" - released in the USA April 1976 on Reprise MS 2249 and Reprise K 54074 in the UK
DVD “In Concert: John Sebastian Sings John Sebastian”
1. Lovin’ You
2. You’re A Big Boy Now
3. She’s A Lady
4. Rain On The Roof
6. Jug Band Music
7. Goin’ To German
8. Nashville Cats
9. Improvisation On Harmonica
10. Darling Be Home Soon
The presentation on this reissue is top-notch - a four-way foldout digipak with a chunky 36-page booklet featuring recording details, lyrics, photos, an essay on his career by noted writer PAUL MYERS, pictures of the original album labels and even personal photos supplied by Catherine Sebastian. PHIL RYNSTON at Tall Order has done the mastering and the sound is uniformly great throughout.
The first album sounds amazing if not stylistically mixed up and out of time (recorded in 1968 but released until early 1970). The clarity on tracks is thrilling - "What She Thinks About" with Harmony Vocals by Graham Nash and my personal favourite - the trippy acoustic "How Have You Been" with Paul Harris later of Manassas on Harmonium. "Baby Don't Ya Get Crazy" is awful (even if it features Stephen Stills on Lead Guitar) but "I Had A Dream" ends the platter on a swirling upbeat note.
I've always thought the 2nd album was a massive improvement over the first opening with the bluesy Josh White cover "Well, Well, Well" which would later become "In My Time Of Dying" at the hands of Led Zeppelin on 1975's "Physical Graffiti". It continues with Clifton Chenier's "Black Snake Blues" - again in slide guitar boogie mode. "I Don't Want Nobody Else" intros like an Eddie Hinton song and is pure Sebastian Lovin' Spoonful melody - great stuff. After the pretty ditty "Apple Hill" - it's back to rocking on "Black Satin Kid". The piano of "Sweet Muse" sounds so clear now as does the acoustic guitar on the finisher title track. It's also a genuine blast to hear the non-album single "Give Us A Break" after all these years on a scratchy 45 - and with its superb instrumental B-side "Music For People Who Don't Speak English" sounding not unlike a War outtake with Lee Oskar on Harmonica.
The "Tarzana Kid" album features a huge cast of guests and is the funkiest of the four - there's Russell DaShiell of The Don Harrison Band, Lowell George of Little Feat, Emmylou Harris, The Pointer Sisters, Ry Cooder, Phil Everly, Buddy Emmons on Pedal Steel and David Lindley on Fiddle. The lovely "Face Of Appalachia" is co-written with Lowell George and features his signature style of guitar playing - it's a nugget. The Traditional "Wild About My Lovin'" features a perfectly complimentary Ry Cooder giving it some cool Mandolin and Slide. And I've often put the Rock-Funky instrumental "Harpoon" on many a 70's FEST CD-R compilation (always has folks asking after it).
The opener for album number four "Hideaway" sounds like Dave Edmunds while the title track "Welcome Back" became an unlikely US number 1 on the back of a John Travolta TV program called Welcome Back, Kotter. It's all a bit poppy on "She's Funny" but gets better on "You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine". He returns successfully to The Lovin' Spoonful's 1966 hit "Didn't Want To Have To Do It" by making it slower but still as lovely. The melody of "I Needed Her Most When I Told Her To Go" is so The Band - and in a good way. Jeff Baxter plays Pedal Steel on the country "A Song A Day In Nashville" will tickle Gram Parsons fans. It ends nicely on the harmonica and strings of "Let This Be Our Time To Get Along" - as lovely a song as he's even penned.
But while the music may be 4 out of 5 - what gives this reissue that extra star is the real prize - the DVD. Stood alone in front of an appreciative and tiny British audience (maybe 30 people) - Sebastian is dressed in tie-dye shirt and trousers and enthusiastically works his way through new songs and a few Spoonful classics like "Rain On The Roof" and a storming version of "Daydream". He switches between acoustic, electric acoustic and electric lead - holding the stage easily and having great fun and banter with the crowd. He even puts in a fabulous Harmonica Solo towards the end and wraps it all up with a superlative rendition of the Spoonful's beautiful "Darling Be Home Soon". Defaulted to Full Aspect - the picture quality is great considering it's been in the can for 43 years. There's no extras on here - but man what a find - it's a real jewel in this reissue's crown.
It's not all genius by any means - there are clunkers on the CDs - and his mid Seventies voice was never the most emotive nor effective. But there is also so much to admire. This is impressive stuff - and you have to say that Edsel have done John Sebastian's musical legacy a solid with this superb release. Well done to all involved...
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!
Since I discovered them - and despite a catty remark at their expense by one half of the indomitable Steely Dan duo (Becker, in this instance) - I've always had some time and quite a lot of love for The Lovin' Spoonful. Not only did they do Daydream, You're A Big Boy Now, and the fabulous Summer In The City (my favourite version of which is actually by Quincy Jones), and many other great tunes, but they even did a soundtrack to a Woody Allen movie! All the songs mentioned above are by Spoonful front man John B. Sebastian, and as much as I like the Lovin' Spoonful (great name, for starters), I like solo Sebastian even more... and not just 'cause he has a great name ;o).
I was loaned Faithful Virtue some years back, and the result has been a longstanding desire to get hold of all this music*. And now I can, and for only £12.99 (at the time of writing). Plus there's the added bonus of an in concert DVD, recorded in 1970 for the venerable ol' BBC. Of the four albums compiled in both this and that other older set, the first and third - the first being eponymous, whilst the third is called The Tarzana Kid - are my favourites. His contractual obligation fulfilling Welcome Back is much better than the scenario of its begetting suggests (the core rhythm section are the early back-line of Toto), and the only album I'm less keen on is the second, The Four Of Us (what was side one is dominated by a road-warrior rock'n'roll vibe, whilst side two is a side-long conceptual suite about life on the road).
Not only has Sebastian got a terrific voice, he's also a great guitarist and songwriter. Actually he's a multi-instrumentalist, playing numerous things, including various guitars, banjo, keyboards, dulcimer, and harmonica: his harmonica duet of Amazing Grace with Paul Butterfield is sublime (it's not part of this set, but can be heard on either More Music from Mud Acres, or Woodstock Mountains: Music from Mud Acres). But I guess what I love best is that he embodies, to me, the best of the hippy dream. He and his music are eclectic, accomplished, joyful and humble.
I suspect one reason Sebastian languished on Reprise is rooted in one of his great strengths, his eclecticism and diversity. Covering so many bases, and so well - he's a veritable musical chameleon - the label may have felt he lacked an easily marketable 'angle'. The irony of this is that it was his swan song for the label that produced the biggest hit of his post Spoonful career. But that hit, Welcome Back, is far from the best number, even on the album which it comes from (Didn't want To Have To Do It is, for example, at least to my ears, a lot better). I'd like to thank fellow reviewer Glyn Luke for making me aware of this set, and John B. Sebastian and his numerous musical collaborators (the 'cast' across these recordings is a who's who of great talent) for making some incredibly beautiful and accomplished music. And to end, a snippet of the lyric to Magical Connection:
'Magical connection, genuine affection
Parallel direction in between the lines'
Yep, that about sums it up for me!
* The four albums gathered on this release were Sebastian's output for Reprise Records in the seventies, and much of this material (I'm not 100% clear if it was all of it) has been released on a couple of CD versions before, under the titles Faithful Virtue (on Rhino Handmade) and The Reprise Recordings (on Wounded Bird), both of which feature the same cover image and, I believe, the same track listing (more or less). What Faithful Virtue has that this set lacks is the live album Cheapo-Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian, and some additional (and some of it previously unreleased) live stuff, including his complete Woodstock set, full of the hipster patois of the time, such as 'you cats are so far out', and the like!
This current set, released by Edsel Records from UK in 2014, contain 2 CDs with 4 complete albums, plus one DVD. I have compiled a detailed song listing (with album and singles label & number, chart position, date of release, with personal comments)(BB200=Billboard Album Chart; BB Pop=Billboard Hot 100; BB AC=Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart; CB Pop=Cash Box Singles Chart; RW Pop=Record World Singles Chart; UK=British Singles Chart):
CD DISC 1:
LP JOHN B. SEBASTIAN (MGM 4654)(BB200 20/1970):
01 Red-Eye Express (Reprise 0918)(b-side, May 1970)
02 She’s A Lady (Kama Sutra KA-254)(a-side)(BB Pop 84/1969; CB Pop 62/1968; CB Pop 54/1968)(November 1968)
03 What she Thinks About (Reprise 0918)(uncharted a-side, May 1970)
04 Magical Connection (Reprise RS 20902)(a-side)(CB Pop 109/1970)(June 1970)
05 You’re A Big Boy Now
06 Rainbows All Over Your Blues
07 How Have You Been
08 Baby, Don’t Ya Get Crazy
09 The Room Nobody Lives In (Kama Sutra KA-254)(b-side, November 1968)
10 Fan-Fana-Fa (Reprise RS 20902)(UK b-side, June 1970)
11 I Had A Dream
LP THE FOUR OF US (Reprise 2041)(BB200 93/1971):
12 Well Well Well (Reprise 1050)(uncharted a-side, November 1971)
13 Black Snake Blues
14 I Don’t Want Nobody Else (Reprise 1026)(uncharted a-side, July 1971)
15 Apple Hill
16 Black Satin Kid
17 We’ll See (Reprise 1050)(b-side, November 1971)
18 Sweet Muse (Reprise 1026)(b-side, July 1971)
19 The Four of Us
20 Give Us A Break
21 Music for People Who Don’t Speak English
CD DISC 2:
LP TARZANA KID (Reprise 2187)(1974):
01 Sitting in Limbo
02 Friends Again
03 Dixie Chicken
04 Stories We Could Tell
05 Face of Appalachia
06 Wild Wood Flower
07 Wild About My Lovin’
08 Singing The Blues
09 Sportin’ Life
LP WELCOME BACK (Reprise 2249)(BB200 79/1976):
11 Hideaway (Reprise RPS 1355)(a-side)(BB Pop 95/1976)(July 1976)
12 She’s Funny
13 You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Home
14 Didn’t Wanna Have To Do It
15 One Step Forward, Two Steps Back (Reprise RPS 1355)(b-side, July 1976)
16 Welcome Back (Reprise RPS 1349)(a-side)(BB Pop 1(1)/1976; BB AC 1(2)/1976; CB Pop 1(2)/1976; RW Pop 1(2)/1976)(March 1976)
17 I Needed Her Most When I Told Her To Go
18 A Song A Day In Nashville
19 Warm Baby (Reprise RPS 1349)(b-side, March 1976)
20 Let This Be Our Time To Get Along
DVD DISC 3: IN CONCERT: JOHN SEBASTIAN SINGS JOHN SEBASTIAN (Broadcast on October 16, 1970 on BBC TV):
01 Lovin’ You
02 You’re A Big Boy Now
03 She’s A Lady
04 Rain on the Roof
06 Jug band Music
07 Goin’ to German
08 Nashville Cats
09 Improvisation on Harmonica
10 Darling Be Home Soon
After John Sebastian went solo in 1968, leaving the Lovin’ Spoonful, he was involved in lawsuit with the old label, and the release of his first album “John B. Sebastian” was delayed for 2 years. In the meantime, he appeared at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. In the end, Mo Ostin at Warner Brothers stepped up to buy up the deal, and this album was finally released in 1970, but the smoke from Woodstock had long cleared. Although the album did hit #20 on Billboard Album Chart, Sebastian shook his head and wondered what might have been if legal hassles hadn’t slowed his momentum. There are quite a few singles from that album.
“The Four of Us” was a concept album about his wife Catherine and Sebastian, their discovery of each other and getting married. In the end, Sebastian felt that Warner Brothers had buried the album because they were not sure how to market an album with a 15-minute song taking up all of the side two.
In “Tarzana Kid” Sebastian had patched up a rift with Lovin’ Spoonful producer Erik Jacobsen, even getting Phil Everly to sing backing vocals. Emmylou Harris also sang backing vocals on “Dixie Chicken.” Unfortunately, despite talented efforts of all involved, the album failed to chart. Sebastian found himself, as he sings in the opening cut by Jimmy Cliff, “Sitting in Limbo” with his label and his career in general.
The breakthrough came when Alan Sachs asked Sebastian to sing the title song to his upcoming ABC-TV comedy series “Kotter”. Sebastian returned with the song “Welcome Back”, a song coming from the Sweathogs, not Kotter’s or some overlord narrator’s point of view. The song was so popular that the series was quickly renamed “Welcome Back Kotter.” This song would have been the most successful American single of 1976, notes Sebastian, “but just to keep me humble, the song of the year was “Disco Duck” by Rick Dees.”
1 This is the first time four of the albums of John Sebastian appear in one set at reasonable price. To buy them separately will cost you more.
2 If you want the complete singles of John Sebastian, all his singles (a and b-sides) are found in this current set. This is pure John Sebastian at his best.
3 The sound is wonderfully remastered: clean with no hiss. Sebastian’s voice was prominently displayed. The various backing instruments are clearly defined.
4 There is also a wonderful 36-page booklet, with an informative and intimate essay by Paul Meyers. All the 4 album front covers are fully displayed, each occupying the entire page. The lyrics and personnel for each song were included.
5 The DVD was a never-before-released concert from a BBC-4 “Singer-Songwriters at the BBC” series, broadcast on October 16, 1970 on BBC TV. There are 10 songs, mostly from Lovin’ Spoonful days. Precious!
1 No chart position and label & number are included.
COMPLETE SINGLES DISCOGRAPHY:
I have just finished compiling a Complete Singles Discography and found that he, as a solo artist, has 7 singles (14 songs) from 1968 to 1976. His labels are (1) Kama Sutra, and (2) Reprise.
John Sebastian was born on March 17, 1944 in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York. He was a successful singer and songwriter, both as leader of the Lovin’ Spoonful and his solo career. This entire set is totally enjoyable with great sound, plus the rare and precious DVD. If you like the Lovin’ Spoonful or John Sebastian, this set is a Must-Own.
on 21 March 2014
No question, this a great value package for Sebastian fans.
It's from Rhino, with their usual quality remastering: the 'John B Sebastian' tracks are clearer than the 1990 LineA reissue CD of that album, which I have. The included NTSC DVD is a mono BBC video 'In Concert' series programme, from October 1970. The visuals and sound are very good; John is in fine form and it's an intimate and endearing performance.
The Digipack packaging is good, with a full booklet including detsiled track and player details, plus an account of how each album came to be.
All in all, well worth the money and a great momento of the post-Woodstock John Sebastian.
on 17 May 2014
John Sebastian naturally progressing from the good time vibes of the Lovin Spoonful to an assured solo artist. Through these four solo albums he shows his eclecticism and his range through blues, folk, country, rock and pop, featuring his innovative word play and excellence of guitar and harmonica playing. Some filler - unnecessary reprises of Spoonful tracks, and a few below par tracks prevent a 5 star rating. However the DVD of the BBC 'cheapo-cheapo productions' concert is a good natured delight.
on 27 June 2014
I bought this purely for the DVD of John Sebastian in concert. This BBC performance dates from around June 1970 and features him at his informal best. As footage of him and also The Lovin' Spoonful is at a premium, I'm happy to see anything, even the "Candy-Ass" stuff of a much underrated musician in a much underrated band.
on 12 June 2014
Anyone who likes The Lovin' Spoonful or good happy music will love this set of John Sebastian's solo work. It was very hard to find the cds originally so this set is very welcome. Let's hope there's more to follow. The DVD is very intimate and good humored. What a great guitarist he is.
on 31 March 2014
Waited a long time for JSB to be released on CD. The mastering is superb and brings back fond memories. It is also worth the price for the DVD, though short, I have never seen it before and as the liner notes say, JSB says, it's of it's time. Buy and enjoy. You won't be disappointed.
on 19 April 2014
This is a great collection of albums by a fine artist,loads of highlights.Tarzana kid replaces my well worn vinyl album and you get to sing along with"welcome Back".lovely.