John Sebastian, |
John B. Sebastian
Collectors Choice, 2006)
Loving Spoonful founder John Sebastian never had much luck with his solo career. A quick history of this album illustrates the type of frustration he was forced to face. When the Spoonful broke up, Sebastian, wanting to establish himself as a solo singer-songwriter, signed with Warner and, rounding up a group of friends like Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Delaney and Bonnie, Bruce Langhorne, Paul Harris and others, made this album. It was recorded in 1968, when the singer-songwriter genre was just entering its formative stages, but Warner, in its corporate wisdom, delayed its release for 18 months. By the time it came out in 1970, the singer-songwriter genre had become well-established. Sebastian now seemed like a follower instead of a leader. Rather than helping to establish a genre, as he'd hoped, he appeared to be following already-established formulas.
As if that weren't enough, when the album finally hit the stores, MGM Music claimed Sebastian was still under contract to them, so they released their own version of the album: same music, different cover art. To say consumers were confused is to understate. To say that MGM's move hurt Sebastian's chances in the marketplace is also to understate. The album was pretty well DOA.
It's good to have it back now because John B. Sebastian is a very good CD, displaying the range of Sebastian's talent. He writes well -- "She's a Lady" and "I Had a Dream," both included here, have become semi-standards, and he knows how to create a mood. Sebastian's music always had a lighthearted, good-time feel and that expression of delight receives maybe its best expression here. The opening song, "Red-Eye Express," invited the audience to come along on a journey and Sebastian does all he can to make it a good one.
Considering that it's a 30-year-old journey that led directly to middle age, we have to consider if the music is still timely, if it still holds up. Most of the CD does; it reveals, of course, its '60s origins but still rewards listening. A couple of the songs are rooted too solidly in '60s and '70s attitudes and jargon to hold up well. "How Have You Been," which I remembered as a powerful song, now borders on embarrassing, but on the whole, the music on John B. Sebastian still has life, humor and charm.
I recommend you hear it.
by Michael Scott Cain