Posts Tagged ‘Ian & Sylvia’

‘Beauty In That Rainbow In The Sky . . .’

Friday, May 17th, 2013

So, about “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” . . .

As I noted yesterday, and as was the case for a couple of other sturdy songs I’ve written about in the past ten days or so, it was Glenn Yarbrough’s 1967 album, For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, that introduced me to “Tomorrow,” which I’ve long thought to be one of Bob Dylan’s most beautiful songs.

The first released version of the song was recorded by Ian & Sylvia for their 1964 album, Four Strong Winds. Regular reader David Leander noted in a comment yesterday that “at one point Dylan told them he’d written it for them to record, but I think he told anybody that might record one of his songs that he’d written it for them.” I’ve read in a number of places that the song was inspired by Dylan’s early 1960s relationship with Suze Rotolo (the young woman shown with Dylan on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan), but that doesn’t mean that he might not have had Ian & Sylvia – or Judy Collins (from her Fifth Album in 1965) or someone else or no other performer at all – in mind when he wrote the song.

As I also noted yesterday, Dylan has officially released two versions of the song: The first recorded, a demo, was officially released in 2010 as part of the ninth volume of Dylan’s ongoing Bootleg Series, and – according to Wikipedia – has been available as a bootleg for years. The second version he recorded, a live 1963 performance of the song in New York City, was released in 1972 as a track on Dylan’s second greatest hits album. Wikipedia also notes that a “studio version of the song, an outtake from the June 1970 sessions for New Morning, has also been bootlegged.”

The first Dylan version I heard of “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” was on that second greatest hits package. (The only video I can find at YouTube with that 1963 live version is from an episode of The Walking Dead. Zombies and a love song don’t match well for me.) By that time, of course, I’d absorbed the Yarbrough version from his For Emily album:

Over the years, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” has been a generally popular song for covers. Second Hand Songs lists a total of thirty-one English-language versions, and more (I didn’t bother to count) are listed at Amazon. I imagine that iTunes and other similar sites would have more yet. As is generally the case, the list of folks and groups who’ve covered the song include the unsurprising and the surprising alike: Among the first category are the Brothers Four, the We Five, the Kingston Trio, Linda Mason, Chris Hillman, Bud & Travis, the Silkie, the Earl Scruggs Revue and Sandy Denny. Less expected (or even unknown in these parts) are Hipcity Cruz, Deborah Cooperman, Barb Jungr, Sebastian Cabot, Magna Carta and Danielle Howell.

I’ve heard at most bits and pieces of those covers in the above paragraph, but over the years, I’ve listened to many other covers of the song, and I’ve tracked down even more in just the past couple of days. One version that’s been mentioned here at least twice in the past six years is the version by Elvis Presley that showed up in his 1966 movie Spinout. Regular reader Porky noted yesterday that Elvis “supposedly learned it from Odetta’s version,” which was on the 1965 album, Odetta Sings Dylan. I like Elvis’ version more than I used to, but the austere dignity which Odetta brought to her music doesn’t seem to work for the song.

I was surprised to find the name of Hamilton Camp among those who’d covered “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.” Camp, a mid-1960s folkie, released the song on his 1964 album Paths of Victory. That album is likely better known for his version of Dino Valente’s “Get Together,” which became a No. 5 hit for the Youngbloods in 1969 (after being a No. 31 hit for the We Five in 1965).

Another, far more recent name that surprised me was that of the country-folk group Nickel Creek, which put the song on its 2005 album, Why Should the Fire Die? I enjoyed the group’s self-titled debut in 2000, but wasn’t at all pleased with the follow-up, This Side, in 2002. I may have to give the group another try.

The most enjoyable version of “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” that I came across this week came from a one-off album from 1973. Several blogs have featured the album Refuge by the duo calling itself Heaven & Earth, and one of my favorite blogs, hippy-djkit, calls the album a “psych folk funk beauty from the early 70’s featuring the gorgeous voices of Jo D. Andrews & Pat Gefell.” There are a couple of other notable covers on the album, specifically takes on Stephen Stills’ “To A Flame” and the Elton John/Bernie Taupin classic, “60 Years On,” but the best thing on the album – and maybe the prettiest version I’ve ever heard – is Heaven & Earth’s take on “Tomorrow Is A Long Time.”

Reference to “Get Together”  corrected June 8, 2013.

‘She’ll Leave You Lost Some Rainy Morn . . .’

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

A ringing guitar chord followed by an insistent riff came from the speakers last evening, causing me to look up from whatever I was doing. The riff was repeated twice, and then came the vocal:

Three silver rings on slim hands waiting,
Flash bright in candlelight through Sunday’s early morn.
We found a room that rainy morning . . .

I’d recognized the song from the first three words: “The French Girl” by Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker. But I did not know the record, so I checked the RealPlayer. It was by the Daily Flash, a band name I did not recognize. The mp3 had come to me a few years ago when I scavenged a good portion of the Lost Jukebox series from various boards and blogs.

The Daily Flash, it turns out, was from Seattle and had about a three-year run of recording and performing in the mid-1960s, during which it released singles on Parrot (a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately”) and on Uni, which in 1967 released the band’s take on “The French Girl.” The second single, says Wikipedia, did well enough to net the group an appearance on the television show The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., which led “to a regular spot as a house band on a local Los Angeles teen-oriented TV show Boss City.”

Learning all of that was fine, and I may dig more into the band’s story another time. (Wikipedia tells the band’s tale here, and the revived band’s website is here.) But I was more interested in the song. There isn’t a lot of information out there about “The French Girl,” as far as I can tell. My favorite tool in that regard, Second Hand Songs, doesn’t have an entry for the tune. A folky version by Bill Staines is available at Amazon, where a countryish cover by a band called the Snakes is listed but not available. At Discogs.com, I learned that a band named Ashtray Boy released a cover of the song as a single in 1996, thirty years after Ian & Sylvia included the tune on their 1966 album, Play One More. I don’t know how Ashtray Boy’s version sounded, but here’s what Ian & Sylvia did with the song.

I know of two other covers of the tune (though I’d guess there are more out there): A version by Gene Clark of the Byrds showed up on the Flying High anthology in 1998, and a note by Richie Unterberger at All Music Guide leads me to believe that Clark recorded the track in the mid-1960s, around the time of the release of the 1967 album Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers. Clark’s version of “The French Girl” is a bit pallid to me.

The other cover I know is the first version I ever heard of the song: The version by Glenn Yarbrough on his 1967 album For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her. The album was, as I related some years ago, one that my sister had received from a boyfriend who was headed to Vietnam. I don’t know how often she played the record, but the record and Yarbrough became favorites of mine. And listening to Yarbrough introduced me, in those days when I was not listening to pop and rock, to the work of some of the finest folk and folk-rock songwriters of the day. The songwriter credits on Yarbrough’s For Emily album alone contain some impressive names: Paul Simon, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Stephen Stills, Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan . . . and Ian Tyson and Sylvia Fricker, the writers of “The French Girl.”

First impressions matter, folks tell us when we’re young (and maybe not so young). And yes, they do. So it’s no wonder that the version of “The French Girl” that I like the best is the one I heard first. I know that Yarbrough’s lilting tenor might not be the best match for the song. I also know that Ian & Sylvia recorded the song first, and that deserves some respect. I know as well that the more muscular version offered by the Daily Flash is pretty darned good. (And if the Snakes’ version is ever available at Amazon, I’ll probably like it a lot.)

But it’s Yarbrough’s cover of the song that came to me first. And it’s Yarbrough’s version that takes me back to the basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard, the haven where I took in the frustration of the song’s narrator – “but her friends down at the French café had no English words for me” – and then pondered my life’s own mysteries, which sadly included no French girl.

Saturday Single No. 213

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

 I have, as has been noted here several times before, a fascination with the music of 1970. So I thought that this morning – with a planned shopping excursion and the Texas Gal waiting on the other side of this post – I’d look at the Top Ten for this week in 1970, and then do a six-song random jaunt through that year’s music in search of today’s single. (As you’ll see below, for technical reasons, this became a seven-song jaunt.)

The Billboard Top Ten in the last week of November was almost unchanged from the Top Ten a week earlier, a list we looked at last week. The order had shifted, and “Somebody’s Been Sleeping” by 100 Proof Aged In Soul had been replaced by Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Help Us All.” But it was a familiar list (with, as a commenter rightly pointed out last week, several iconic performances):

“I Think I Love You” by the Partridge Family
“The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
“I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5
“We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
“Gypsy Woman” by Brian Hyland
“Indiana Wants Me” by R. Dean Taylor
“Montego Bay” by Bobby Bloom
“Heaven Help Us All” by Stevie Wonder
“Green-Eyed Lady” by Sugarloaf

So what I’m going to do from here is sort out the 3,100 or so songs I have from 1970, arrange them in time order, and with “I Think I Love You” as my starting point, click on six songs at random and see where we end up.

Our first stop is “Movement5 (Beginning)” by Mandrill, a horn-laden Latin R&B band from Brooklyn. Starting with some guitar feedback, the piece slides into a percussion driven chant of “Peace! Love! Peace! Love!”  Sounds like 1970. Eventually, the percussion fades away, and the chanting runs through an echo chamber before finally fading away itself.

And we’re on to “You’d Better Be Ready” by a group named Magic Sand. Google has plenty of information about the scientific toy called Magic Sand but nothing significant about the group, which, according to the listing at All-Music Guide,  released only one album in its creative life. “You’d Better Be Ready” is bluesy with a heavy circular riff and a busy boogieing guitar solo that sounds very much of its time. So, too, do the slightly menacing vocals: “That fella you’ve been seeing can’t love you like me. Step over to my side. There’s no room for three.”

And we move into familiar territory: the rollicking and triplet-enhanced piano of Little Richard as he leads Delaney & Bonnie & Friends into “Miss Ann,” a selection from D&B&F’s album To Bonnie From Delaney. (That was, I believe, the first Delaney & Bonnie album I owned, and my first listening to it brought me my first knowing exposure to Little Richard’s flamboyant musicianship. As soon as the track was over, I stopped the stereo, moved the needle back and listened to “Miss Ann” once more.)

From rockin’ out with Little Richard we move on to a subdued folkish reading of a Gordon Lightfoot song by a fellow who did his share of rocking out over the years. Released as the last track on Ronnie Hawkins’ self-titled 1970 album, “Home From The Forest” gets a quiet, meditative reading, appropriate for the tale of an old man whose home was a rooming house and whose friend was a bottle. It’s a side of Hawkins not often seen, and it’s all the more effective for that. (The track also has a sad and sweet harmonica solo from none other than King Biscuit Boy.)

Fifth up this morning is a tune from Traffic, pulled from John Barleycorn Must Die. “Stranger To Himself” is a halting, shifting tune with intentional dissonance, instrumental and vocal. I’ve heard it so many times over forty years that it sounds normal, and I wish I could remember what I thought of it the first time I heard it. Now, it just sounds like the rec room in our basement circa 1973.

And we head to country rock territory, with weeping fiddles leading us into “The Image of Me” from Burrito Deluxe, the second album released by the Flying Burrito Brothers. The track, written by country writing legend Harlan Howard along with Wayne Kemp, seems to be your basic Burrito outing: good but not great, as least not when compared to the group’s previous release, The Gilded Palace of Sin. That came out in 1969, though, and we’re concerned this morning with 1970 and prepared to stop right here. Technical difficulties, however, at 4shared.com force us to move on one more step to a seventh song:

Ian and Sylvia Tyson were one of the most popular acts of the folk revival of the early 1960s, with Ian Tyson writing some of the most evocative songs of that era, including “Early Morning Rain” and “Four Strong Winds.” As 1970 came along, they’d been passed by for the most part, but soldiered on, heading into country rock and straight country music. Their 1970 release, The Great Speckled Bird, was produced by Todd Rundgren, and although it was not all that successful commercially, I’ve always enjoyed it. And “Smiling Wine” from The Great Speckled Bird is today’s Saturday single:

(Whoops! “Early Morning Rain,” as reader Randy points out, is Gordon Lightfoot’s tune.)