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Slices of Bread: David Gates and James Griffin’s Solo Records, Reissued and Remastered

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David Gates - Elektra AlbumsBread occupied a unique place on the Elektra Records roster.  The so-called “soft rock” band shared a label with the likes of Love, The Doors, The Stooges and The MC5, and regularly visited the charts with such signature songs as “Make It with You” (No. 1, 1970), “It Don’t Matter to Me” (No. 10, 1970), “If” (No. 4, 1971), “Baby I’m-a Want You” (No. 3, 1971), “Everything I Own” (No. 5, 1972) and “The Guitar Man” (No. 11, 1972).  All of those staples were written and sung by David Gates, the band’s de facto leader who was going through a true purple patch after toiling in relative obscurity as a songwriter for most of the 1960s.  But songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Gates wasn’t the only songwriter in Bread.  The team of James Griffin and Robb Royer even received an Academy Award for their song “For All We Know,” co-written with Fred Karlin for the 1970 film Lovers and Other Strangers and later popularized by the Carpenters.  Indeed, the band originally was intended to showcase both Gates’ and Griffin’s songs, but Gates’ mellow ballads were invariably chosen as single A-sides…and became hits on multiple charts.  Bread broke up in 1973 with tension high, though a brief 1976 reunion led to one more LP.  During that hiatus and after, both Gates and Griffin took to solo recording.  Edsel has recently reissued all four of David Gates’ Elektra albums as one 2-CD set with the straightforward title of First/Never Let Her Go/Goodbye Girl/Falling in Love Again, while Hux Records has delivered James Griffin’s two Polydor albums on one disc as Just Like Yesterday: The Solo Anthology 1974-77.

For 1973’s First, David Gates was joined by Bread members Mike Botts (drums) and Larry Knechtel (piano/bass) along with such stellar session men as Larry Carlton, Russ Kunkel and Jim Gordon.  The LP wasn’t Gates’ first solo work, however; he had recorded singles under his own name as far back as the late 1950s.  One could be forgiven for mistaking a number of the album’s tracks for Bread songs, with Gates’ reassuring vocals and always-impeccable songcraft keeping the ballads squarely in Bread territory.  But on First, Gates (also acting as producer and arranger) melded rock and folk influences (not to mention folk-rock!) and tackled an 8+ minute orchestral suite of two linked compositions, “Clouds” and “Rain.”  Despite compelling material like the opening track “Sail Around the World,” the jazzy, electric piano-driven “Lorilee” and the Bread-esque ode “Ann,” First peaked at No. 107 on the Billboard 200, bested by the No. 2 chart peak of The Best of Bread!  1975’s Never Let Me Go again welcomed Knechtel and Botts and emphasized the group’s style even more than First had – no surprise, considering that most of the group was playing on the record.  The title track, a bit reminiscent of “Baby I’m-a Want You,” scored a Top 30 hit for the solo Gates, and Gladys Knight and the Pips picked up on “Part Time Love.”

Following Never Let Her Go, Gates, Knechtel and Botts reunited with Griffin.  (Robb Royer had left Bread after 1971’s Manna, and was replaced by Wrecking Crew veteran Knechtel.)  Bread’s “reunion” album Lost Without Your Love yielded the group’s final Top 10 hit with the title track, again written by Gates.  But with Bread’s reunion a short-lived one, Gates plunged into more solo work, and was rewarded with his biggest-ever solo hit with 1977’s “Goodbye Girl.”  The theme to Neil Simon’s film comedy The Goodbye Girl, it reached a No. 15 Pop peak, and an album was built around the song.  (The vocalist Rumer has recently applied her honeyed voice to a cover of Gates’ emotional composition.)  Joining “Goodbye Girl” and five more new Gates compositions (including the breezy “Took the Last Train” and the bleak “Overnight Sensation”) were five retreads from First and Never Let Her Go; accordingly, Edsel has only included the six original songs on the Goodbye Girl portion of the reissue.

Edsel’s set concludes with Gates’ final solo LP for Elektra, 1980’s Falling in Love Again.  “Where Did the Lovin’ Go” cracked the Top 50, but commercially speaking, the time had largely passed for the kind of Southern California soft rock perfected by Bread in the seventies.  As on Goodbye Girl, Bread-mates Knechtel and Botts played on Falling in Love Again.  Gates has only recorded sporadically since 1980, issuing a couple of solo LPs and a career overview with new material; Bread even reunited with both Gates and Griffin for a brief spin in 1996-1997.  The 2-CD set, remastered by Phil Kinrade, includes a 36-page booklet with a new essay from Alan Robinson plus complete lyrics and credits.

After the jump: onto the solo albums of James Griffin!

James Griffin - Just Like YesterdayLike David Gates, James Griffin had seen success before joining Bread.  He was even signed to Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label, releasing a handful of singles as well as the 1963 album Summer Holiday as “Jimmy Griffin” (which has recently been reissued by Real Gone Music).  In his warm, fine liner notes for the late Griffin’s The Solo Anthology, Peter Doggett remarks, “As I discovered when I was fortunate enough to meet him several times in the early 90s, James (or Jimmy, as he introduced himself back then) was…a genuinely lovely guy…Later I spent an afternoon with his Bread colleague David Gates, and I liked him, too, but it was easy to see how their two personalities might have grated: Jimmy was upfront, positive and energetic; David more introspective, guarded and cautious.”  Gates confirmed to Doggett that “James and I did not see eye-to-eye on some things, but it was not personal, it was musical.”

Indeed, Gates contributed bass and guitar to Griffin’s 1974 album Breakin’ Up is Easy, a not-so-veiled reference to Bread’s dissolution.  Botts, Knechtel and Royer all played on the album, with “She Knows” and “Love You Till the Cows Come Home” recorded for Bread but ultimately released by Griffin.  (“She Knows” achieved minor notoriety, receiving cover versions by Ray Charles and the post-Robbie Robertson iteration of The Band.)  Leland Sklar and Russ Kunkel of The Section (Carole King, James Taylor) also appeared on the LP.  The pop-rock songs on the album didn’t quite sound like Bread, or at least not the prevailing Bread sound, i.e. the sound of David Gates.  But Griffin’s own distinctive voice and melodic sense came through on his solo record which Doggett accurately compares to the sound of the country-rockers Poco.  Though Breakin’ Up didn’t chart, Griffin’s tour to promote the album did lead him to strike up a friendship with The Hollies’ Terry Sylvester which led to a 1981 duets album.

Following the short-lived Bread reunion of ’76-’77, Griffin turned in his second, self-titled solo album.  James Griffin featured Botts, Knechtel and Gates alongside Jim Gordon, David Paich and Dean Parks, and as on Breakin’ Up, a number of tracks co-written with Robb Royer.  “That’s All I Need” was another unofficial Bread reunion, and the Southern California country-rock flavor was still there – along with a focused pop songwriting quality.  But Polydor opted to deny the album an American release despite strong material like the horn-rock of “Treat Her Right.”  Griffin retreated to his native Tennessee; his later projects included a 1991 “supergroup” record as Black Tie with The Beach Boys’ Blondie Chaplin, Poco and the Eagles’ Randy Meisner, and Billy Swan.  Sadly, James Griffin died in 2005, having enjoyed a final Bread reunion in which his songs and Gates’ were treated with respect.  Hux’s lovingly-produced collection includes both of these rare albums in full, plus two live tracks (“She Knows” and “Just Like Yesterday”) performed on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test in 1974.  In addition to Doggett’s liner notes, the booklet includes numerous memorabilia reproductions and full credits for both albums.

Hungry for a taste of Bread?  You can order David Gates’ First/Never Let Her Go/Goodbye Girl/Falling in Love Again and James Griffin’s The Solo Anthology at the links below!

David Gates, First/Never Let Her Go/Goodbye Girl/Falling in Love Again (Edsel EDSK 7034, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

CD 1

  1. Sail Around the World
  2. Sunday Rider
  3. Soap (I Use The)
  4. Suite: Clouds, Rain
  5. Help is on the Way
  6. Ann
  7. Do You Believe He’s Comin’
  8. Sight and Sound
  9. Lorilee
  10. Never Let Her Go
  11. Angel
  12. Playin’ on My Guitar
  13. Watch Out
  14. Part Time Love
  15. Chain Me
  16. Light of My Life
  17. Someday
  18. Greener Day
  19. Strangers

CD 2

  1. Goodbye Girl
  2. Took the Last Train
  3. Overnight Sensation
  4. California Lady
  5. Drifter
  6. He Don’t Know How to Love You
  7. Can I Call You
  8. Where Does the Loving Go
  9. 20th Century Man
  10. She Was So Young
  11. Silky
  12. Falling in Love Again
  13. Starship Ride
  14. Chingo
  15. Sweet Desire
  16. The Rainbow Song

CD 1, Tracks 1-9 from First, Elektra LP 75066, 1973
CD 1, Tracks 10-19 from Never Let Her Go, Elektra LP 1028, 1975
CD 2, Tracks 1-6 from Goodbye Girl, Elektra LP 148, 1978
CD 2, Tracks 7-16 from Falling in Love Again, Elektra LP 6E-251, 1980

James Griffin, Just Like Yesterday: The Solo Anthology 1974-77 (Hux CD 136, 2013) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

  1. Breakin’ Up is Easy
  2. Someday
  3. Love You Till the Cows Come Home
  4. She Knows
  5. Father and Son
  6. You’ll Get Along
  7. Lifeline
  8. Goin’ Back to Boston
  9. Only Now
  10. Love to Light the Way
  11. Laura Lee
  12. Hanalei
  13. Goin’ Back to Tennessee
  14. Blood from a Stone
  15. How Do You Say Goodbye
  16. Treat Her Right
  17. That’s All I Need
  18. My Love is Mine
  19. I Repent
  20. Just Like Yesterday
  21. She Knows

Tracks 1-10 from Breakin’ Up is Easy, Polydor LP PD 6018, 1974
Tracks 11-19 from James Griffin, Polydor (U.K.) LP 2391 274, 1977
Tracks 20-21 are previously unreleased

Written by Joe Marchese

November 18, 2013 at 10:20

2 Responses

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  1. I remember picking up the 1st Bread album in high school, thinking it was another rock unit that Elektra was so good at discovering. To my delight, the harmonic blend and inventive songwriting of that 1st album hit home with me. Being a little naive, I bought the public relations’ story Elektra was putting out that these were just three guys that sweep up the studios at night and happened to get a little studio time between sweeping and mopping to record the album. At the time I was not aware of Gate’s and Griifin’s earlier careers. Haha, I learned quickly, tho’. As Bread’s sound softened through the years, I was less and less attracted to them, tho’ they always put out great singles!
    I just want to remind readers of one other outfit that James Griffin found some success with. The Remingtons (1991-1993) were a country trio made up of James along with Richard Mainegra and Rick Yancey from Cymarron. They did score a #10 Billboard hit with “A Long Time Ago” in 1991. They definitely deserve a place in the Griffin retrospective. Thanks to The Second Disc for news of these new collections….plan to buy both!

    Sean Anglum

    November 18, 2013 at 12:41

  2. Aubrey is one of the most beautiful melodies I have ever heard. Very touching and delicate reading a rock reviewer who did a column on Bread’s Greatest Hit’s (a version that came out in the 90s). He called Aubrey, “sheer, seamless, genius”. And it is.

    JosephNZ (@joey_nz)

    December 8, 2013 at 01:03

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