Sunday, 20 July 2014

"In My Own Time" by KAREN DALTON (2006 Light In The Attic CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Any Way You Made It Was Just Fine…"

Some artists carry the weight of legend – voice, talent, mercurial – segueing immediately into drugs, heartbreak and destruction. They shone brightly for a while and then imploded – forgotten now – except by the few who were around the flames at the time. Karen Dalton is one of those artists. And this astonishing Light in The Attic Records reissue is determined to rectify that crappy oversight…

US released November 2006 – "In My Own Time" by KAREN DALTON on Light In The Attic Records LITA 022 (Barcode 826853002226) is a straightforward 10-track CD reissue of her second and last vinyl album and plays out as follows (34:35 minutes):

1. Something On Your Mind
2. When A Man Loves A Woman
3. In My Own Dream
4. Katie Cruel
5. How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
6. In A Station [Side 2]
7. Take Me
8. Same Old Man
9. One Night Of Love
10. Are You Leaving For The Country
Tracks 1 to 10 are her 2nd and last studio album "In My Own Time" - originally released May 1971 on Paramount Records PAS 6008 in the USA and June 1971 in the UK on Paramount SPFL 271 (it didn't chart in either country). 

Guest musicians included pianists Richard Bell and John Simon, Steel Player Bill Keith with Amos Garrett and John Hall adding Guitars. The CD is housed in a gatefold card sleeve and having loved the Kris Kristofferson, Rodriguez and Michael Chapman reissues on LITA – the lavish booklet on this beauty is no different. It's a joy to look at featuring contributions from fans like Lenny Kaye, Nick Cave and Devendra Banhart.

The album’s short 10 tracks are entirely cover versions and give full reign to her utterly unique guttural voice and sloppy-as The Rolling Stones interpretations of them. Dalton had a Billie Holiday 'gargling gravel for breakfast' kind of beauty when she sang – like she was about to collapse any second – a sort of Bette Midler drunk at the microphone with laryngitis (you get the audio picture).

It opens with a Dino Valente original (not on his lone 1968 Epic LP) called "Something On Your Mind" – a ballad that aches in the loveliest of ways. And of course you're then that hit with that voice – wow! It's followed by Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman" which you would think would work but it’s a tad forced and my least favourite take on here. Better is her cut of Paul Butterfield's "In My Own Dream" (from his 1968 LP of the same name) that takes the original and adds on sweet pedal steel languidness to it (very cool). We enter Americana banjo territory on the gorgeous Traditional of "Katie Cruel". It's the kind of song that raises chills (people have even featured in You Tube for just that reason) and LITA actually issued it as a limited edition 45" in the States. Side 1 ends with an upbeat version of Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" - a Holland-Dozier-Holland classic - but it's good rather than being great.

Side 2 kicks off with a winner - "In A Station" - a Richard Manuel song from The Band's brilliant 1968 debut album "Music From Big Pink". It somehow makes the song warmer whilst still retaining that reminiscing-beauty it always had ("...wonder could you ever know me…"). She goes country with George Jones' "Take Me" – a fabulous smoocher – and again with that pedal-steel ache and a gripping vocal. We return to Banjo for "Same Old Man" while Joe Tate's "One Night Of Love" gets a bit of funky guitar and rolling piano. It ends on my all time fave – "Are You Leaving For The Country" by Robert Tucker – a song I've placed on CD-R compilations which have had people regularly ask – who the hell is this!

I love the way 'Light In The Attic' go the full-throated whole hog on their reissues – gorgeous fat booklets – original tapes remastered – and a pride in their release that oozes out of every nook and cranny. The album itself isn’t all genius by any means and five-star ravings are probably a little over the top – but (and this is the big but) – there is genuine magic on here and so much that screams out to be rediscovered (I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen a UK pressing on Paramount Records across 45 years of collecting).

Her only other studio LP was her debut "It's So Hard To Tell Who's Going To Love You The Best" on Capitol Records ST-271 in 1969. Harvey Brooks (featured bassist on Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" and Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew") produced the record - which also boasted liner notes by New York Village folk-hero Fred Neil - author of "Dolphins” and Midnight Cowboy's closing theme song "Everybody's Talkin’” sung in the film by Nilsson.

Karen Dalton died in 1993 after years of drug-related problems aged 55 – largely forgotten and massively under-appreciated. Well this superlative LITA reissue does her voice, talent and magic justice at last. Beautifully dishevelled and then some...

PS: A 2009 LITA reissue offers a 4-track bonus CD with alternate takes of Something On Your Mind, In My Own Dream. Katie Cruel and Are You Leaving for The Country

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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