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Archive for the ‘John Hartford’ Category

Gentle On His Mind: Raven Collects John Hartford’s First Five Albums

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John Hartford - Life Love and MusicIt’s knowin’ that your door is always open/And the path is free to walk/That makes me tend to leave my sleeping bag/Rolled up and stashed behind your couch…

John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind” picked up two 1968 Grammy Awards – one for Hartford himself as Best Folk Performance, and one for Glen Campbell as Best Country and Western Solo Vocal Performance – Male. The song, a charting single for Campbell, Patti Page, Aretha Franklin and Dean Martin, announced Hartford as a songwriter to watch. RCA Victor had actually signed him back in 1966, however, with the album John Hartford Looks at Life. He remained at the label for six albums (and a seventh that remained on the shelf for decades). Now, his first five LPs have been brought together on two CDs from the Raven label as Life, Love and Music: 5 Essential Albums 1966-1969.

John Cowan Harford (1937-2001) – he later changed it to “Hartford” reportedly at the behest of RCA’s Chet Atkins – was born in New York City but spent his youth in Missouri, where he became fascinated with the lore surrounding the great Mississippi River. By high school, he had mastered guitar, fiddle, mandolin and banjo, and inspired by Flatt and Scruggs, formed a bluegrass band. In 1965, having earned a college degree from Washington University at St. Louis, he moved to Nashville to pursue his calling in music. Hartford worked as a deejay and earned a publishing deal as well as a recording one with RCA’s Nashville division under Atkins’ direction. John Hartford Looks at Life wasn’t your standard country fare. Its song titles made this clear: “Jack’s in the Sack,” “I Shoulda Wore My Birthday Suit,” “A Man Smoking a Cigar.” Hartford deftly balanced humor and poetry, literacy and lunacy, commercial-leaning country-pop and kooky novelties. In short, it announced a new talent. Hartford’s promise was fulfilled by his next release, Earthwords and Music, which introduced the world to “Gentle on My Mind.” The success of the song brought Hartford financial and artistic independence.

Post-“Gentle,” Hartford’s career took off. He wrote for, and appeared with, The Smothers Brothers on their controversial and often brilliant television variety show and Campbell on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. By the time of 1968’s The Love Album, the third LP contained in this set, Hartford had his winning formula down of combining offbeat, droll and witty ditties with more straightforward folk and country-flecked pop in the style of “Gentle.” 1968’s Housing Project proved to be his final album in Nashville with producer Felton Jarvis (of Elvis Presley fame). Hartford and Jarvis somewhat stripped back the more expansive production of The Love Album but retained Hartford’s singular worldview, impeccable musicianship and sonically pleasing blend of folk, bluegrass, country and pop – with even a dash of psychedelia. Hartford’s sixth album, titled simply John Hartford in the style of an artist reinventing himself, was produced not in Nashville but in Los Angeles, with Harry Nilsson’s producer Rick Jarrard. The 1969 album was his most outrageous yet, emphasizing the trippy qualities already inherent in his music with orchestration (even sitars!) and the hints of a rock sensibility.

There’s much more after the jump. including the complete track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

July 11, 2014 at 11:13

Real Gone Music Partners with Dusty Groove, Releases Hartford, Mathis and Grateful Dead in December

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If you’re in the market for any last-minute holiday gifts, Real Gone Music has got you covered.  The reissue specialists have announced their December slate of six titles, including three from an exciting new partnership!  As usual for the eclectic Real Goners, the releases cover a wide spectrum of genres, from traditional vocal pop to country, rock and jazz!  On December 4, the label will unveil these six titles: Johnny Mathis’ So Nice/Johnny Mathis Sings;John Hartford’s Aereo-Plain/Morning Bugle—The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings; Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks Vol. 26–4/26/69 Electric Theater, Chicago, IL 4/27/69 Labor Temple Minneapolis, MN; Gene Harris’ Gene Harris/The Three Sounds/Gene Harris of the Three Sounds; Bobbi Humphrey’s Dig This; and Jeremy Steig’s Wayfaring Stranger.  The final three titles are being released in collaboration with Chicago music retailer Dusty Groove.

Real Gone concludes its reissue series of Johnny Mathis’ Mercury albums with So Nice (1966) and Johnny Mathis Sings (1967).  So Nice (which hit No. 50 on the 1966 charts) took its title from Marcos Valle’s bossa nova ballad, and Mathis drew other songs from Broadway musicals (three songs from the then-current smash Man of La Mancha) and the pop charts (Bacharach and David’s “What the World Needs Now is Love,” Bob Lind’s “Elusive Butterfly.”) Johnny Mathis Sings (which reached No. 103) was even more diverse, with more Bacharach and David (“Always Something There to Remind Me,” “Saturday Sunshine”) joined by Lennon and McCartney (“Eleanor Rigby”) and Bobby Hebb (“Sunny”).  Mathis also tackled contemporary film and theatre songs on his tenth and final set for Mercury Records.  Soon after the release of Sings, he was back at Columbia Records to start another chapter.  Both albums make their CD debut, remastered by Mark Wilder at Battery Studios and featuring liner notes written by James Ritz featuring quotes from Mathis himself.

From a great singer to a great songwriter: Real Gone is also issuing, for the first time, The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings of John Hartford.  The “Gentle on My Mind” songwriter, having established onscreen fame paired with Glen Campbell and The Smothers Brothers on television, signed to Warner Bros. in 1971 and issued two singular long-players.  For 1971’s Aereo-Plain, Hartford brought together fiddler Vassar Clements, dobroist Tut Taylor, guitarist Norman Blake and bassist Randy Scruggs to play a set that paved the way for the so-called “newgrass” movement of contemporary bluegrass music.  Despite its lack of commercial success, Hartford pressed ahead with 1972’s Morning Bugle, on which he was joined by Blake and bassist Dave Holland.   Real Gone’s definitive survey of Hartford’s WB period includes eight previously unreleased tracks (four from each session), with notes by Hartford historian Andrew Vaughan and photos donated by the artist’s family.

After the jump: The Grateful Dead, plus three lost gems from Real Gone and Dusty Groove! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 26, 2012 at 10:10