Bob Dylan – Self-Titled

Artist: Bob Dylan
Genere: Folk
Title: Self-Titled
Label: Columbia
Format: Vinyl
Musicians: Bob Dylan – vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica
Producer: John H. Hammond

Bob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman, May 24, 1941) is an American poetic songwriter, singer, painter, writer, and Nobel prize laureate. He has been influential in popular music and culture for more than five decades. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when his songs chronicled social unrest. Early songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin'” became anthems for the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement. Leaving behind his initial base in the American folk music revival, his six-minute single “Like a Rolling Stone”, recorded in 1965, enlarged the range of popular music. Continue reading

James Taylor – Sweet Baby James

Artist: James Taylor

Genre: Folk, Folk-Rock
Title: Sweet Baby James
Released: 1970
Label: Warner Bros
Musicians:James Taylor – guitar, vocals, Chris Darrow – fiddle, violin. Carole King – piano, vocals, Danny Kortchmar – guitar, Russ Kunkel – drums, John London – bass, Randy Meisner – bass, Red Rhodes – steel guitar, Bobby West – double bass
The horn players are uncredited.
Producer: Peter Asher
Engineer: Bill Lazerus
Mastering Engineer: Darrell Johnson

Sweet Baby James is the second album by American singer-songwriter James Taylor, and his first release on Warner Bros. Records.

From Wikipedia: “The album, produced by Peter Asher, was recorded at Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, between 8 and 17 December 1969 at a cost of only $7,600 out of a budget of $20,000. Taylor was “essentially homeless” at the time the album was recorded, either staying in Asher’s home or crashing on a couch at the house of guitarist Danny Kortchmar or anyone else who would have him.”

The copy I have happens to be the green label version which in the Warner Bros hierarchy of the time was and is considered the better pressings. My copy also came with the original fold-out lyric sheet as well. That’s called pure luck folks. I bought the record used of course and did not realize that it still had what would normally be long gone until I went to listen and review this LP. Got to love it when that happens for it happens very seldom.

Side One
1. “Sweet Baby James” – I always have thought the song was about, or additionally about, Taylor himself — a “self lullaby” being a reasonable interpretation given the name and “singing works just fine for me” lyric — and so Taylor is often referred to in the press by the nickname “Sweet Baby James”.  However, according to Wikipedia: The song was written by Taylor for the son of his older brother Alex, who was also named James (and indeed was named after him). Deliberately a cross between a cowboy song and a lullaby, it was first thought up by Taylor as he was driving through Carolina to meet his infant nephew for the first time.

2. “Lo and Behold”
– This is a gospel style song because it is a gospel song and while I am not a fan of gospel, this song is quite good. It was not written by James Taylor, but written by Jack Christopher Allsopp and Andrew Wyatt.

3. “Sunny Skies” – 
Taylor wrote “Sunny Skies” during his treatment at the Austen Riggs Center. The melody is cheerful, which is ironic given the lyrics. Taylor accompanies himself on acoustic guitar. The title “Sunny Skies” actually does not refer to the condition of the sky, but to the title character of the song. The title character of the song “sleeps in the morning,” “weeps in the evening,” “doesn’t know when to rise” and has no friends. The last verse of the song links the title character to the singer, who sings that he looks out his own window to see snow and trees, and wonders if he should let the world pass him by, just like the title character. The singer, just like Taylor himself at the time, wonders if his accomplishments were worth the suffering he went through to achieve them. Perrone also notes that, like the title character, Taylor had gone through a period where he was too depressed to get up in the morning.

4. “Steamroller Blues” – “Steamroller Blues” (a.k.a. “Steamroller”), is a blues parody written by James Taylor, that appeared on his 1970 album Sweet Baby James. It was intended to “mock” the inauthentic blues bands of the day. The song later appeared on two of Taylor’s compilation albums and has been recorded by a variety of other artists. Taylor and Danny Kortchmar, both playing electric guitars, laid down the track in one night at Sunset Studios, the rhythm section being added later. A tight budget and production schedule forced Taylor to record the song despite suffering from a head cold.
The song was included on Taylor’s diamond-selling Greatest Hits 1976 compilation using a live version recorded in August 1975 at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, which in my opinion is one of the best versions.

5. “Country Road” – The song references Somerset Street in Belmont, Massachusetts,[citation needed] a wooded road running adjacent to the land owned by McLean Hospital, where Taylor had committed himself in 1965 to receive treatment for depression. According to Taylor’s friend Danny Kortchmar, “Country Road” captures the restless, anticipatory, vaguely hopeful feeling that plays a large part on James’ character.

6. “Oh, Susanna” (Stephen Foster) – This is a good version of this traditional song, but the best version in my opinion, is Neil Young’s rendition, it’s crazy.

Side Two
1. “Fire and Rain” –  “Fire and Rain” is a folk rock song written and performed by James Taylor.  The song follows Taylor’s reaction to the suicide of Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend, and his experiences with drug addiction and fame. Taylor said the song was about several incidents during his early recording career. The second line “Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you” refers to Suzanne Schnerr, a childhood friend of his who committed suicide while he was in London, England, recording his first album. In that same account, Taylor said he had been in a deep depression after the failure of his new band The Flying Machine to coalesce (the lyric “Sweet dreams and Flying Machines in pieces on the ground”; the reference is to the name of the band rather than a fatal plane crash, as was long rumored).
In 2005, during an interview on NPR, Taylor explained to host Scott Simon that the song was written in three parts: The first part was about Taylor’s friend Suzanne, who died while Taylor was in London working on his first album after being signed to Apple Records. Friends at home, concerned that it might distract Taylor from his big break, kept the tragic news from him and he found out six months later.
The second part details Taylor’s struggle to overcome drug addiction and depression.
The third part deals with coming to grips with fame and fortune, looking back at the road that got him there. It includes a reference to James Taylor and The Flying Machine, a band he briefly worked with before his big break with Paul McCartney, Peter Asher, and Apple Records.
Carole King played piano on the song. Drummer Russ Kunkel used brushes rather than sticks on his drum kit and Bobby West played double bass in place of a bass guitar to “underscore the melancholy on the song”.
King has stated that her song “You’ve Got a Friend,” that Taylor recorded, was a response to the line in the refrain that “I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.”

2. “Blossom”

3. “Anywhere Like Heaven” – To me this song is about his home town and how connected he feels to it. It’s almost like a sanctuary to him. He probably wrote this on some tour or something as the song seems to be about him missing home while on the road.

4. “Oh Baby, Don’t You Loose Your Lip on Me”

5. “Suite for 20 G” – The song “Suite for 20 G” was so named because Taylor was promised $20,000 (US$130,617 in 2017 dollars) once the album was delivered. With one more song needed, he strung together three unfinished songs into a “suite”, and completed the album.



Joni Mitchell – Song To A Seagull

Artist: Joni Mitchell
Genere: Folk
Title: Song To A Seagull
Released: 1968
Label: Reprise
Format: Vinyl
Musicians: Joni Mitchell – guitar, piano, vocals, album cover
Stephen Stills – bass, Lee Keefer – banshee
Producer: David Crosby
Engineer: Art Cryst

“Joni” Mitchell, CC (Roberta Joan Anderson) is a Canadian singer-songwriter, record producer and in case you were not aware, she is also a painter. Rolling Stone called her “one of the greatest songwriters ever” and AllMusic has stated, “When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century”.

Drawing from folk, pop, rock and jazz, Mitchell’s songs often reflect social and environmental ideals as well as her feelings about romance, confusion, disillusionment and joy.

There is a great deal to know about Joni Mitchell. Some highlights I will touch on that I know from mind. Mitchell, with popular songs like “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Woodstock”, helped define an era and a generation. Yes, she wrote “Woodstock” for Crosby Stills and Nash.  Her distinctive piano and open-tuned guitar compositions also grew more harmonically and rhythmically complex as she explored jazz, melding it with influences of rock and roll, R&B, classical music. In the late 1970s, she began working closely with noted jazz musicians and in that same time, she turned again toward pop and engaged in political protest.
She is the sole producer credited on most of her albums, including all her work in the 1970s. A blunt critic of the music industry, she quit touring and released her 17th, and reportedly last, album of original songs in 2007.
Her roots are actually in visual art and she designed her own album covers, with this one being one of them.

The story goes long, so here is a link to Wikipedia for the full and fascinating story. I encourage you to give it a read, it is not as boring as you may think.
Here is a link to her official website:

This LP, Song to a Seagull (also known as Joni Mitchell) is her debut album. The first thing I noticed upon listening is that it has a kind of flat sound to it. The reason I found out in research, is David Crosby wanted Mitchell to sound pure and natural, so he asked her to sing into the studio grand piano, and set up extra microphones to capture her voice repeating off the strings; unfortunately the set up captured too much ambient noise, resulting in excessive tape hiss, which could only be removed post-production at the cost of the high sounds in the audio range, which gives the album a flat feel.

The credits state that the album was dedicated to her Grade 7 English teacher, “Mr. Kratzmann, who taught me to love words” I also learned that this album was originally released as Joni Mitchell because the LP album covers were printed incorrectly, cutting off part of the “Song to a Seagull” title (spelled out by birds in flight). One must really look hard to see the name of the LP in the seagulls. The cut-off, as well as the publishers at Reprise Records not noticing the birds spelled out the album name, caused the eponymous album title.

Side One:
I Had A King: This opener is one of my favorites on the LP. It is just acoustic guitar and vocals. It seems to be about a relationship gone sour from a controlling person. At least that’s what the lyrics convey to me.
Michael From The Mountains: This song is one of my least favorites on the LP. Again it is just acoustic guitar and vocals. It just seems dull and flat to me. I don’t know how else to describe it.
Night In The City: Now that we have the favorite and least favorite ones out of the way early, this song has more life to it. This up tempo piece includes acoustic guitar, bass and keyboard. They also use a vocal dub to give a call and response effect. The song is also kind of a fun theme as it conveys how fun living in an artistically active city can be.
Marcie: This song done with acoustic guitar, vocal and Banshee (which is an east Indian instrument) is a story type song. It is like a day in the life of a person, in this case, a girl named Marcie.
Nathan La Franeer: This song seems inspired by a taxi ride in my mind. There is a downfall to this piece though. There is a very strange sound effect that happens twice that sounds like something either happened in the recording or something that just doesn’t belong.

Side Two:
Sisotowbell Lane: Mitchell has said that “Sisotowbell” stands for “Somehow, in spite of trouble, ours will be ever lasting love”. It is kind of a funny song in a way. For some reason, this was recorded extremely soft, like the levels were set too low or not brought up in the mix. It is barely audible causing one to have to turn the volume up quite a bit only to have too loud when the next track is played. (While this may give  some vinyl haters ammo for argument, they miss the fact that the CD version while more audible due to digital push sounds even flatter than the vinyl version, making the entire LP un-listenable).
The Dawntreader: All I can say is that this is another favorite of mine on this LP.
The Pirate Of Penance:  This one is not my favorite. I think it is the worst of the LP in my opinion. It is done like a script, really odd and hard to follow.
Song To A Seagull: Obviously, the title track. Not that great and somewhat avant-garde.
Cactus Tree: With this last track we are back to normal. Not a bad song either.


Night In The City: