Tuesday, 8 December 2009

“The New Folk Sound Of…” by TERRY CALLIER. A Review of his Sixties debut album on Prestige now reissued on a 2003 CD Remaster with Three Bonus Tracks.

"…Better Days Coming…You And Me Brother…We Can Make It So…”

There are now TWO CD issues of this album…

The first was released in 1995 in the UK on one of Ace Records label imprints - Beat Goes Public CDBGPM 101 (second image above). It was a straightforward reissue of the US vinyl album on Prestige PR 7383. It ran to 37:46 minutes and had no mastering or remastering credits. The sound quality was ok, but it has been made redundant by…

This 2nd issue (first image above) – an upgraded 2003 remaster that adds three previously unreleased outtakes from the original session to the album’s eight tracks (55:01 minutes).

This new version on Beat Goes Public CDBGPM 156 has been transferred by JOE TARANTINO at the Fantasy Studios in California – and if I was to describe what’s better - it’s the vocals – they’re far more amplified and to beautiful effect. Unfortunately, it’s still a gatefold slip of paper that provides no history of the record (the original May 1965 liner notes are reproduced, but it’s the usual vague Sixties babble that doesn’t actually inform you of anything).

Aged only 23, “New Folk Sound Of…” was recorded by SAMUEL CHARTERS in the Webb Recording Studios in Chicago in just one day – 29 July 1964 – and released in the late summer of the following year. There are only 3 musicians – TERRY CALLIER on Guitar and Vocals, TERBOUR ATTENBOROUGH on Bass and JOHN TWEEDLE also on Bass. Another surprise is that all the songs are covers – five being Public Domain Traditionals while the other three were from songwriter catalogues of the time.

Side 1 opens with the lovely and lonesome “900 Miles” which sets up his style and the album’s overall feel. Although it’s just him on Acoustic Guitar with his voice high up in the mix and the other instruments behind him, the effect is more FOLK-SOUL than just Folk or Roots. It’s beautifully atmospheric – the kind of album you’d play on a quiet Sunday morning when you just want something soothing on the ear and brain.

Some tracks work better than others. It’s difficult to hear “Oh Dear What Can The Matter Be” now without thinking of a schoolyard song we used to sing which rudely rhymed a “Lavatory” with “Matter Be”. But things get better with the quietly lovely “Johnny Be Gay If You Can Be” and “Cotton Eyed Joe”. The difference on the remaster of “Cotton Eyed Joe” is stark – the vocals soar out of the speakers.

One of the album’s true masterpieces is Side 2’s opener - the plea for racial equality and an end to all war - “It’s About Time” (lyrics above). Written by a beat poet and a female US songwriter (Kent Foreman and Lydia Wood) and running to a mere 3:33 minutes, it features a lovely guitar strum, but this time it has the added double bass of TERBOUR ATTENBOROUGH which lifts the song out of it’s folk-roots feel into something so much more powerful and substantial. It still sounds awesome to this day – as meltingly relevant then as it is now. It’s followed by “Promenade In Green” which is a Negro song from Alabama copyrighted by Robert Kaufman and Len Chandler in 1961 (a year before Callier started singing) – it’s heart-meltingly lovely. “I’m A Drifter” is excellent too, but probably overstays its welcome at just short of nine minutes.

The extras are a revelation. It’s easy to see why they were left off the album – it’s not that they’re sub-standard it’s just that they were more of the same and something had to give. Which is good news for us some 45 years later because the gambling song “Jack O’ Diamonds” is superb, but the real winner is his cover of the Judy Collins song “The Golden Apples Of The Sun” which incorporated the poetry of William Butler Yates into the words. It’s gorgeous. What a find!

As you’ve no doubt gathered, I’ve been soppy about Terence Orlando Callier for years, so perhaps my review is overly gushing – but once your weary lugs actually hear this criminally forgotten gem, you’ll understand why…

Despite the lack of notes and an appreciation of the man’s legacy – this is a great reissue of a soft and graceful start – and a philosophy to life that continues to inspire to this day.

I strongly urge you to get this superb CD reissue into your life.

PS: see also my reviews for the two albums he followed “Folk Sound” with - “Occasional Rain” (1972 on Cadet) and “What Color Is Love” (1973 on Cadet).

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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