Monday, 14 April 2014

"John B. Sebastian/The Four Of Us/Tarzana Kid/Welcome Back/BBC In Concert 1970 DVD" by JOHN SEBASTIAN (2014 Edsel 2CD/1DVD Reissue & Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry…




UK released February 2014 - "John B. Sebastian/The Four Of Us/Tarzana Kid/Welcome Back and BBC IN Concert DVD" by JOHN SEBASTIAN 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 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
10. Fa-fana-fa
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
10. Harpoon
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

11. Hideaway
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
5. Daydream
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... 

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