Monday, June 13, 2011

The Stone Poneys - The Stone Poneys

The Stone Poneys
The Stone Poneys
Capitol ST 2666
This is an original pressing of the Stone Poneys' debut album.  It would later be reissued to capitalize on Linda Ronstadt's stardom with her name on the cover.  Of the three Stone Poneys albums this is the only one that feels like it is the product of an actual group and not a Linda Ronstadt solo album.  The other two members of the group, Ken Edwards and Bob Kimmel, wrote most of the songs and their vocals are very prominent on the record.  Ronstadt gets some solo vocals, but many of the songs feature three part harmonies.  The record is basically folk-rock, although the emphasis is more on folk than rock.  My favorite song is the self-penned "Sweet Summer Blue and Gold" which was the single off the record.  It is a haunting little song with some nice ensemble singing from the trio.  I really like the band's version of the traditional song "Wild About My Lovin'" which is the most energetic song on the record, the charming vocal harmony reminds me of Ian and Sylvia.  Ken Edward's "Back Home" and Kimmel/Edwards' "Meredith (On My Mind)" are nice songs and the vocal interplay is very pleasant.  These four songs reveal the Stone Poneys as an above average folk-rock group with some potential.  There are signs of trouble though as well.  Edwards and Kimmel's "If I Were You," "All the Beautiful Things" and "Bicycle Song" are slight songs, enjoyable but forgettable.  The trio trade leads on "Train and The River" and when Ronstadt takes her turn at the microphone, it is hard not to wish she was singing the whole song instead.  Ronstadt sings Fred Neil's "Just A Little Bit of Rain" by herself and her big vocal really stands out.  It is easy to see why she attracted more interest as a solo singer than the group did.  Her solo vocals on the two songs by Tom Campbell, "Orion" and "2:10 Train" have star written all over them.  They are really good songs and she puts them over the top with her emotional vocals.  I like this album and appreciate Kimmel and Edwards' contribution, but it seems inevitable that Ronstadt is going to fly higher than them.  In the list of musicians credits she is credited with "pain and suffering" and that could not be more apt.  Her heartfelt vocals lift this genteel folk-rock to another level, the same way Sandy Denny transformed the folk-rock of Fairport Convention and Janis Joplin transformed the bluesy acid rock of Big Brother and the Holding Company.  Of course Fairport was a great band and Big Brother was a very good one, they both had a lot to offer and neither Denny nor Joplin were ever as good without them in my opinion.  The Stone Poneys without Ronstadt were a couple of folkies with guitars.  Ronstadt is the emotional and artistic core of a record that would never have been made without her.  She didn't need them and she went on to make better records without them.  Nonetheless I'm glad this record exists.  I like it better than many of her solo records although that is mostly because I have a thing for folk-rock and I don't really care much for the recycled rock and roll tunes she made a career covering as a solo artist.  This is a minor record to be sure, but it is sweet and sincere and I play it quite a bit.  Recommended for Peter, Paul and Mary fans who wish they weren't so full of themselves.

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