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Friday, 26 June 2020

"The Ozark Mountain Daredevils/It'll Shine When It Shines" by THE OZARK MOUNTAIN DAREDEVILS – December 1973 and December 1974 US Debut and Second Studio Albums on A&M Records (April 1974 and January 1975 in the UK) – featuring John Dillon, Michael "Supe" Granda, Larry Lee, Buddy Brayfield, Steve Cash and Randle Chowning (January 2005 UK Beat Goes On Reissue – 2LPs Onto 2CDs (No Bonuses) – Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Light In The Lowlands..."

In 1974 I was fully committed. Not to Bedlam (as some had hoped) but to buying every album my lounge-boy Guinness and Gordon's bar-tips could afford. I bought "The Confessions Of Dr. Dream..." by Kevin Ayers on Island Records in a two-quid deal as well as Greenslade's third on Warner Brothers "Spyglass Guest", Todd Rundgren's Utopia and their self-titled monster debut on Bearsville, Dan Fogelberg's gorgeous "Souvenirs" on Full Moon/Epic - and so many more. Average White Band, Planet Waves, On The Border, Caribou, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Hergest Ridge, Relayer, Sheet Music, On The Beach, Court And Spark, The Payback, Rejuvenation, Perfect Angel, It's Too Late To Stop Now, Irish Tours '74, Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley, Second Helping, Roxy's Country Life, Phaedra, Joe Walsh's fab So What – 1974 was a good year for albums and diversity of genres.

Then I spotted the intriguing grandma and shack A&M Records sleeve for "It'll Shine When It Shines" by the quirkily named THE OZARK MOUNTAIN DAREDEVILS (again in a sale). I liked the inner foldout lyrics sheet that made the release feel substantial; I mostly dug Country Rock and Acoustic Country in all its guises and thought - what the hell - let's give this pretty mountain goat a whirl. I played that album to death and of course back-tracked to the debut from the previous year which I found was just as good - and some would say - even better. Hell, the debut even had Prog elements in songs like "Spaceship Orion" and "Colorado" - a genre I was equally obsessed with. And so, I've been a huge fan of the hoot and a holler Ozarks ever since. To the matter...

What you get here is their December 1973 US debut album (April 1974 in the UK) and their second platter from December 1974 USA (January 1975 in the UK) - both on A&M Records - remastered to perfection onto 2CDs in 2005 by England's Beat Goes On (BGO) and the pair of albums loaded down with fun, warmth and astonishingly good/calming and refreshing melodies that get their hooks into you and won't leave.

The Byrds in the late Sixties, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, America, John Prine and of course the mighty Eagles (among many) had all broken down the Country Rock door moving the largely US genre away from Hicksville into tunes you couldn't deny. The Ozark Mountain Daredevils embodied all of it and actually did feel like the crystal clear waters of a Missouri stream, light in the lowlands. Here are the boys hat made the mountains sing...

UK released 24 January 2005 - "The Ozark Mountain Daredevils/It'll Shine When It Shines" by THE OZARK MOUNTAIN DAREDEVILS on Beat Goes On BGOCD 648 (Barcode 5017261206480) offers their debut and second studio albums Remastered onto 2CDs that play out as follows:

CD1 (38:46 minutes):
1. Country Girl [Side 1]
2. Spaceship Orion
3. If You Wanna Get To Heaven
4. Chicken Train
5. Colorado Song
6. Standin' On The Rock [Side 2]
7. Road To Glory
8. Black Sky
9. Within Without
10. Beauty In The River
Tracks 1 to 10 are their debut album "The Ozark Mountain Daredevils" - released December 1973 in the USA on A&M Records SP-4411 and April 1974 in the UK on A&M Records AMLH 64411. Tracks 1 and 7 written by Randle Chowning, Tracks 2 and 9 by Larry Lee, Tracks 4 and 8 by Steve Cash, Tracks 6 and 10 by John Dillon and Tracks 3 and 5 by Steve Cash and John Dillon. Produced by GLYN JOHNS and DAVID ANDERLE - it entered the US LP charts in February 1974 and peaked at No. 26 (didn't chart UK)

CD2 (44:20 minutes):
1. You Made It Right [Side 1]
2. Look Away
3. Jackie Blue
4. Kansas You Fooler
5. It Couldn't Be Better
6. E.E. Lawson
7. Walkin' Down The Road [Side 2]
8. What's Happened Along In My Life
9. It Probably Always Will
10. Lowlands
11. Tidal wave
12. It'll Shine When It Shines
Tracks 1 to 12 are their second studio album "It'll Shine When It Shines" - released December 1974 in the USA on A&M Records SP-3654 and January 1975 in the UK on A&M Records AMLH 63654. Produced by GLYN JOHNS and DAVID ANDERLE - it entered the US LP charts in December 1974 and peaked at No. 19 (didn't chart UK). 

The outer card wrap is both classy and a trademark look for BGO CD reissues and I would imagine BGOCD648 has been a steady seller for them. The sixteen-page booklet reproduces both lyric inserts that came with the original vinyls and also sports new JOHN TOBLER liner notes. All six band members are profiled - John Dillon, Steve Cash, Randle Chowning, Larry Lee, Michael "Supe" Granda and Buddy Brayfield along with their British and American Producers - Glyn Johns and David Anderle - pals who in-between gigs for The Rolling Stones went to see the band in Kansas, liked them and produced both records with superb fidelity. The legendary Glyn Johns has lent his hand to "Joan Armatrading", "Who's Next", "Eagles" - engineered the first Zeppelin and so many more - and the Andrew Thompson Remaster here is just glorious - bringing out that polish Johns brought to the original sessions.

As you can see from the track lists and playing-times provided above, Beat Goes On has chosen to separate each album onto its own CD. And I mention this because the only real downside (given that there was room on both discs) is that they didn't include the non-album 45 flipside to the huge hit "Jackie Blue" which was called "Better Days" (January 1975 US on A&M Records 1654-S, February 1975 UK on A&M records AMS 7150). There was also the exclusive "Dreams" that only showed up on the British 45 to "You Made It Right" in April 1976 on A&M Records AMS 7223. To my knowledge neither of these period B-sides have ever made their way onto digital (maybe future BGO reissues would consider adding these two rarities on?). Outside of that, this is an audio and presentation winner. Let's get to the Country girls and Kansas foolers...

The jaunty strum of "Country Girl" sets the tone immediately - very Eagles "Take It Easy" with Randle Chowning on Lead Vocals, Lead Electric and Acoustic Guitars, National Steel and Harp too. His "Country Girl" is a sweetie and a dead-ringer for easy radio-programming, so hardly surprising that A&M chose it as the lead off 45 in October 1973 - two months before the album arrived in December. It was paired with the Side 2 album cut "Within Without" on A&M 1477-S (another pretty strummer) - but neither song caught on. Single number two did. With the album picking up momentum, A&M tried the equally catchy "If You Wanna Get To Heaven" b/w "Spaceship Orion" on A&M 1515-S - a very cool twofer of album gems released in April 1974. It took some months, but in the second week of June 1974, it finally made Billboard's singles chart and eventually rose to No.25 giving the Springfield, Missouri band their first (semi) hit.

Perhaps not wanting the band to be lumbering with the riotously funny hoot 'n' holler square-dancing "Chicken Train" - it seems odd now that this obvious crowd-pleaser (neck jerking ahoy) wasn't issued as a follow-up 45 in either the USA or UK - but alas. For those looking towards ballads, "Road To Glory" is a harmonica strummer about card games in courtyards whilst "Black Sky" starts out like "Stone Fox Chase" by Area Code 615 (the theme song to "The Old Grey Whistle Test") before it becomes something akin to something on Cooder's "Paradise And Lunch" - all sliding acoustics as the Harp warbles over the stove lyrics. The LP's finisher "Beauty In The River" is a tad too hick for my tastes, but both "Spaceship Orion" and the fabulous "Colorado Song" shock me still with their gorgeous and clever melodies (love that guitar solo, very Genesis even somehow and those crescendo harmonies). I'm going back to Colorado, rolling down the highway...take me with you boys.

The second studio album made good on the America-good melodies of the debut opening strongly with "You Made It Right" – a very McGuinness Flint jolly old rag mama strummer with "clear blue windswept sky" lyrics. It’s an infectious tune – simple and beautifully captured by Producer Johns. Geetar honky tonk follows with the equally slick "Look Away" – a chugger with piano rolls and oh lord look away gospel words. I remember liking "Jackie Blue" when I first heard it in 1974 but didn’t think much past that. The American listening public begged to differ – loving the tune to distraction where it became a huge radio tune pushing A&M 1654 all the way up to No. 3 in March 1975. While the cool "E.E. Lawson" finishes Side 1 in great slide guitar fashion (did those deep vocals), my heart returns more to the pretty love song "It Couldn't Be Better" – a John Dillon co-write with Elizabeth Anderson where I think she provides uncredited harmony vocals amidst those crickets. Side 2 is the better stew pot of ballad gems like "What's Happened Along In My Life" and in particular the gorgeous "Lowlands". There are more but best you discover them yourself.

Sticking with A&M Records, The Ozarks would make "The Car Over The Lake Album", "Men From Earth" and "Don't Look Back" in 1975, 1976 and 1977 only to end their tenure with the label on the double-live album "It's Alive" in 1978. BGO have paired 1975 and 1976 on another release. But many feel the Springfield sixers are best remembered here.

"...I heard a song that was taught to a lady and it made the mountains sing..." – the boys teach on the beautiful opening to "Lowlands". Investigate these river songs and enjoy...

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