“Naturally” — J. J. Cale – A & M Amls 68105 “Come From The Shadows” – Joan Baez – A&M Amlh 64339 “State Farm” – Jeffrey Shurtleff – A & M Amls 64332 “Vindicator” – Arthur Lee – A&M Amls 64356
The A&M catalogue comprises a great variety of artists, ranging from the immensely popular Herb Alpert and The Carpenters, and includes an impressive array of folk and country singers and musicians, and also puts out the hip-rock sounds of people like Leon Russell and Billy Preston. With A & M’s acquisition of the rights to release the American Sussex label over here, they are releasing much fine soul music; Bill Withers being their most successful soul artist to date with his hit single Lean on Me.
In the last few weeks they have released a number of notable, if not always successful, albums. One of the best is Naturally by J.J. Cale. This is one of the funkiest country/blues records to come out for a long time. The mixture of Cale’s gravelly, bluesy voice, his good, if somewhat sparse guitar playing, excellent choice of Nashville back-up musicians, and sympathetic production have resulted in 12 enjoyable tracks tharmake up this album.
No one single track stands out from the others, but this does not mean that there are any bummers included. All make for worthwhile listening and the album comes into its own if heard late at night, when one is relaxed and doesn’t want something too overpowering to cope with.
Recently released too is another collection of songs from Joan Baez. The album is entitled Come From The Shadows and is made up of the usual protest, socially aware songs she is well-known for, it has a number of adult love songs, and includes two numbers dedicated to other performers. In The Quiet Morning is for the late Janis Joplin, whilst the other is for her old friend/lover, Bob Dylan.
Baez’s treatment of John Lennon’s Imagine is particularly memorable, and is one of the best tracks on the album. And I find her Song Of Bangladesh far more moving than George Harrison’s equivalent.
If you are a Joan Baez fan you will no doubt already have this new offering of hers, if you’re not or have missed out on her recent work, this is an excellent re-introduction to her.
State Farm by Jeffrey Shurtleff is a valuable addition to the world of modern folk music. Shurtleff is an old friend of Joan Baez and was recently on a national tour of America with her. This album has come about chiefly because of her collaboration and encouragement, and her involvement and recommendation has paid off for this first album of Shurtleff’s is a rewarding collection of folk songs. Shurtleff has a melodious, warm voice that is well suited to this type of rhythmically vital music.
Lastly, worth mentioning, not because it is any great success but because of his previous work is Vindicator by Arthur Lee. Lee was the leader of Love, the ill-fated Los Angeles rock band that produced classic rock albums such as Forever Changes and Da Capo. The band never got the type of exposure that was rightfully theirs, although their laziness and untogetherness about live performances was partly responsible for this lack of interest and appreciation. Add to this the extremely temperamental ego of Arthur Lee and the whole band’s over-indulgence in drugs and I suppose it’s hardly surprising that so much of their best work went unnoticed.
Lee’s latest offering is his first solo effort since the final break-up of Love, and it has little of the power and originality of his earlier work. His support group on this record, Band-Aid, are competent but suffer from lack of direction, and Lee’s choice of material ranges from weak to mediocre. There are occasional flashes of his past creativity but they are few and far between.
Admirers of Lee’s work with Love will pick up on this because of the vague aura of mystery that always surrounded that band, and because of the brilliance of some of his past endeavours, but the album is unlikely to attract anyone who does not remember or know of these bygone achievements.