Saturday Single No. 299

As we did a some weeks ago with what had become “1972 Week,” we’ll close the accidental “1971 Week” with a six-tune random walk, this time through the year that saw me graduate from high school and move on to the grown-ups’ table at St. Cloud State.

First up is “There’s A Long Road Ahead,” from Clydie King, who was one of the best and busiest background singers from the late 1960s on. She’d recorded as a member of several groups and on her own since the late 1950s without much chart success, and released three solo albums in the 1970s. “There’s A Long Road Ahead” was on King’s first album, Direct Me and was written by Delaney Bramlett and Carl Radle. If the combination of those names – King, Bramlett and Radle – makes you think you know what the track sounds like, you’re probably right.

In 1971, the Lettermen were still releasing albums of alternately bouncy, smooth and sorrowful vocal workouts. “Everything is Good About You,” one of the bouncy (and less-distinguished) workouts, was pulled from the album Everything’s Good About You. It was the group’s thirtieth (and next-to-last) single to find its way into or near the Billboard Hot 100, topping out at No. 74, and it’s our second stop this morning.

In the early days of this blog, I wrote several times about Tom Jans and added one post about the album Take Heart, Jans’ 1971 collaboration with Mimi Fariña. It’s a quiet album that I tend to forget about, and one of the benefits of random walks like this is that they remind me of music that I’ve somehow left behind. The specific reminder this morning is the track “Charlotte,” a sorrowful and string-heavy meditation. And after pausing for it, we head off for our fourth tune.

Pretty much everything I know about folksinger Ann Briggs comes from Wikipedia and from listening to her 1971 album The Time Has Come. The album is good, though it sometimes – and this morning is one of those times – seems a little bleak, in the way that a lot of English folk music can. And Briggs’ music is very clearly smack in the middle of that folk tradition. “Fine Horseman,” bleak as it may be, is our fourth stop this morning.

Next up is Richie Havens, once more taking a well-known song and turning it, to some extent, inside out. On the album The Great Blind Degree, Havens covered Graham Nash’s great song, “Teach Your Children,” and turned it from a country-ish jaunt into a slow, heartfelt plea. It’s not nearly my favorite among Havens’ covers of well-known songs, but it’s memorable and effective.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I wrote that I found The Band’s 1971 album Cahoots underwhelming, and that’s true. Compared to the glories of Music From Big Pink and The Band, the group’s work on Cahoots seemed pale when it came out. And it’s another album – like the one by Jans and Fariña mentioned above – that I think I need to revisit. And I guess that reintroduction starts now as the RealPlayer lands on “Thinkin’ Out Loud.” At first listen, it seems better than I recall, and its today’s Saturday Single.

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One Response to “Saturday Single No. 299”

  1. Tim McMullen says:

    Nice nod to Tom Jans, and apparently you have spoken of him before. All three of his albums (Take Heart—with Mimi Fariña; Tom Jans; and The Eyes of An Only Child) are gems. His first solo album features the classic “Loving Arms,” as well as three Jans collaborations with the great Will Jennings in some of Jennings earliest outings. I had the opportunity to see Mimi Fariña perform at The Ash Grove opening for Hoyt Axton, both performing solo.

    I appreciate the mention of Ann Briggs, an inspiration and early collaborator of Bert Jansch, one of my very favorite guitar players, perhaps my number 1. I saw Bert play a number of times, twice with Pentangle and several solo gigs. He was awe-inspiring. I actually like his quirky singing very much as well.

    Sad that both Jans and Jansch, as well as Richard and Mimi Fariña (and Hoyt as well) left us much too soon.

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