Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Welcome Back To The Poor Side of Town
Yesterday afternoon I put a Johnny Rivers album on my turntable that I had never listened to before. It came from a collection of records once owned by a roommate of an ex-girlfriend. She had given me a stack of records years ago and I just added them to my collection without even listening to them. Over the years as I have gone through and weeded out albums that I don't care to keep, this album has stayed on the basis of Johnny Rivers being a gigantic part of my youthful record playing. I have owned three Johnny Rivers records since I could walk: Live At The Whiskey A-Go-Go, And I Know You Want To Dance and Folk. All three were spun over and over when I was but a mere youth in the seventies. That and the fact that the album in question contained his gigantic hit, "Poor Side of Town" kept the album in my collection. When I listened to it yesterday for the first time, I was expecting to simply not like it and thus, finally boot it from my collection. What I found was not just a mere album of schmaltzy songs but a phenomenal sounding record containing amazing arrangements of classic songs. Gone is the classic Johnny Rivers basic guitar-bass-drums arrangement that had characterized his prior albums. His core trio sound is still there but is tastefully augmented with horns and understated strings on certain songs, and virtually displaced by some intriguing solo instruments elsewhere. The album opener, "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" (in its very first recording) shows him managing to sound like a full-fledged rocker despite the presence of violins and flute. "A Taste of Honey" gets a treatment that manages to intersect Calypso and rock. "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" gets perhaps the most soulful and distinctive treatment in its history, complete with its seldom heard lyrics. Even Rivers' pop covers, "Strangers in the Night," "The Shadow of Your Smile," "Softly As I Leave You," and "The Days of Wine and Roses," are successful in showing off his singing in a different vein, and the softer, finer nuances that his voice could express. This album rode the charts longer than any other Johnny Rivers LP. It's essential listening for Rivers fans as well as '60s rock enthusiasts. Which is why I bring it to you today. Here is Johnny Rivers' "Changes". Enjoy!