Buddah BDS 5082
I first encountered Bert Sommer via his brief association with my beloved Left Banke. He was just a name to me until I saw him perform "Jennifer" at Woodstock in "Woodstock Diaries." I was really impressed and jumped on this album when I came across it. It was his third album. Normally the hideous cover art would have had me continue flipping through the bin, it looks like some god-awful hippie bullshit but it is fortunately much better than that (although there is some hippie bullshit as well.) This is no lost masterpiece but it is worth checking out. I particularly like "Magic Elixir" which Sommer co-wrote with Michael Brown and which definitely benefits from Brown's inimitable pop songcraft. It is the hardest rocking song on the record and features some fun lyrics. I also like the anti-Vietnam War song "The People Will Come Together" which sounds a bit like the Guess Who on a good day and contains some nice guitar playing. "Love is Winning" makes me feel good whenever I hear it, it has a compelling melody and endearing lyrics. "Me and the Sunshine" is another nice feel-good song that has a bit of a sunshine pop feel to it. ''Back On The Bag" is a nicely understated anti-drug song. There are a few head-scratchers as well like Sommer's cover of the Rascals' "People Got To Be Free" which is one of the most forceful and soulful songs in the Rascals' canon and yet in Sommer's hands it sounds like Melanie. His cover of "The Battle of New Orleans" baffles me. I guess it is a joke, but it seems pointless and contrary to the vibe of the rest of the record although it does chug along more swingingly than the original. To my immense surprise, the Rodgers and Hammerstein song "Carefully Taught" works great, you'd almost think it was written by a pair of hippies. The album's themes are basically peace, love and brotherhood, so I suppose if you are cynical, nihilistic or just a serious minded realist, this is probably not the album for you. If like me, you have a soft spot for hippies and youthful idealism, you will probably enjoy this. It is a charming relic of that era that is good-natured, intelligent and sincere. Recommended for fans of Donovan and Melanie as well as wannabe flower children everywhere.