Wednesday, October 12
It Worked For Nick Drake, Though The Timing Was, Unfortunately, A Little Off
I really am so excited about John Simon's Journey turning up (partially) on iTunes that I'd break bread with Penn Jillette just for noticing. It's a terriffic album, released in 1972 and promptly ignored, and unavailable between its quick drowning then and suddenly bobbing back to the surface last June. It features an ungodly big band of then-young players: Howard Johnson, Dave Sanborn, Dave Poe, the Brecker Brothers, the incredible Dave Holland on bass, and Simon's piano, which manages to keep up in that company. Be forewarned: it also features Simon's soulfully miserable whine of a voice, which clocks in somewhere between Randy Newman and Mrs. Miller. If this sort of thing bothers you, well, you shouldn't be reading this blog. Clever and witty lyricist, too.
Simon was mostly known as a producer, notably for The Band, but he also produced Janis Joplin's Cheap Thrills, Leonard Cohen's first album, and a host of others as they say in the hosting business. Journey was one of the albums I've obnoxiously forced people, especially people much younger than myself, to listen to in order to prove how radio betrayed the American public in the early 1970s. The others:
Nick Drake, Pink Moon
John Cale Paris 1919
Richard Thompson Starring As Henry the Human Fly
Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks Striking It Rich
Since it's what it takes these days it's time the rest of these people were selling Volkswagons.
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Of course I know some of Simon's production and engineering work. The second recording by The Band is so warm and woody sounding, sonically amazing considering it was recorded ina pool house and Simon also played on some of the tracks. I'm not familiar with this album Journey, but it has a good cast of characters.
It must have been his own interest in the tuba that led him to employ Howard Johnson whose playing is so wonderful on those early Carla Bley recordings, such as Tropic Appetites, on which Dave Holland also appears, and Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra.
I have three of the four recordings you list at the bottom and think I've heard that Dan Hicks record but don't own it.
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