Thursday, 24 August 2017

"Tiptoe Past The Dragon" by MARLIN GREENE (February 2009 Collectors' Choice CD Reissue - Bob Fisher Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...




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"...Masquerade Ball..."

Marlin Green's lone album "Tiptoe Past The Dragon" was issued Stateside in the early summer of 1972 and as per their rather over-reaching jewel case sticker - this February 2009 US 'Collectors' Choice' CD would have us believe it's - 'One of 1972's Great Lost Albums!'

"Tiptoe Past The Dragon" is not a lost masterpiece despite what they claim (it has been notorious bargain-bin fodder for decades in second-hand shops – a strict no-no as a buy in) – but it has musical goodies on both sides worth rediscovering – especially if you like your Americana with a touch of Country Rock.

Musically we’re talking a sort of lesser America – or in Britain - a sort of sub Matthews Southern Comfort or Plainsong. There are even traces of Neil Young circa "Gold Rush" and "Harvest" with his backing band Crazy Horse when Greene goes all Country Rock on certain songs. And recorded down South in The Muscle Shoals Studios – the LP features a slew of notable session types like Eddie Hinton, Barry Beckett and Wayne Perkins (of Smith, Perkins, Smith).

For fans of this forgotten album - this rather ordinary CD Reissue does at least offers up two things worth noting - a fairly tasty audio remaster and it's physically cheap too (less than four quid on some sites). Here are the details...

US released 17 February 2009 - "Tiptoe Past The Dragon" by MARLIN GREENE on Collectors' Choice CCM-997 (Barcode 617742099720) is a straightforward CD Reissue and Remaster of the 11-Track 1972 LP and plays out as follows (34:49 minutes):

1. Grand Illusion [Side 1]
2. Masquerade Ball
3. Jonathan's Dream
4. My Country Breakdown
5. Forest Ranger
6. Gemini Gypsy
7. Ponce de Leon [Side 2]
8. Who's The Captain Of Your Ship Of Dreams
9. Fields Of Clover
10. Good Christian Cowboy
11. Tiptoe Past The Dragon
Tracks 1 to 11 are his debut album "Tiptoe Past The Dragon" - released June 1972 in the USA on Elektra Records EKS 75028 (no UK issue).

MARLIN GREENE - Lead Vocals
EDDIE HINTON, LARRY 'GIMMER' NICHOLSON and WAYNE PERKINS - Guitars
LEON La BLANC - Pedal Steel Guitar
BARRY BECKETT and CHUCK LEAVELL - Keyboards
DAVID HOOD - Bass
FRED PROUTY, LOU MULLINEX and ROGER HAWKINS - Drums

Typical of almost all Collectors' Choice CD Reissues - you get a functional gatefold inlay that at least has a summary of the man's career and the album by noted writer COLIN ESCOTT (done in December 2008). BOB FISHER - their resident Audio Engineer - did the Remaster and it sounds professional, full and at times rather beautiful - the swirling acoustic guitars and 'la la' singing on "Masquerade Ball" - the pedal steel twang of "Good Christian Cowboy" - all good.

Produced by Greene himself – the album hit the shops in 1972 hoping no doubt to catch the singer-songwriter craze sweeping everything in the early Seventies. Vocally he's close to say Ian Matthews and wrote all the songs except "Fields Of Clover" and "Good Christian Cowboy" which were penned by Wayne Perkins (later with Smith, Perkins, Smith over on Island Records in 1972 – an album that I hope to one day see on CD). But despite the strength of material like "Masquerade Ball" alas few noticed - and is now confirmed by Green in the liner notes that little promotion of the LP took place at Elektra. The label more closely associated with the Doors, Bread and Carly Simon did try a Radio Promo 45 for the jaunty Eagles-sounding Country-Rock of Side1's "Forest Ranger" on Elektra EK-45790 - but it didn't raise any interest and apparently stock copies were never pressed or pursued. 

The album opens with a gentle acoustic ballad "Grand Illusion" where dreamers find their own reality (could have been a single too). It then trumps up the rather excellent "Masquerade Ball" - a highly produced 12-string acoustic tune that is instantly likeable. Clearly reading 'Jonathan Livingstone Seagull' (like everyone else at the time - that book was huge) - "Jonathan's Dream" is a rather aimless instrumental that starts with gulls and ocean waves lapping and doodles around on the guitar for about a minute and a half only to jump right into Flying Burrito Brothers territory with "My Country Breakdown" - not a particularly strong track either. I much prefer the Side 1 finisher "Gemini Gypsy" - so very Plainsong - and in a good way.

Over on Side 2 Greene rocks it up with the Dobro and Piano of "Ponce De Leon" and gets melodic Ian Matthews on "Who's The Captain Of Your Ship Of Dreams" - another potential single. Wayne Perkins of Smith, Perkins, Smith (and later two albums with Crimson Tide on Capitol Records) provides the two Country-Rock tunes - the very Neil Young ballad-feel to "Fields Of Clover" and the holy-roller of "Good Christian Cowboy" - both rather good. It ends on the short but Judy Henske/Jerry Yester strange title track - "Tiptoe Past The Dragon".

Not a masterpiece for sure but there is moments that impress hugely and on repeated listens - the music grows on you like crazy.

"...Why don't you look around..." - Greene sings in the hypnotic  "Fields Of Clover". 
I'd agree – worth a punt...

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