Saturday, December 31, 2011
Early Morning Blues and Greens - Diane Hildebrand
Early Morning Blues and Greens
I came across this while flipping through the folk bin in a record store here in Los Angeles. It caught my attention for a variety of reasons, partly because the picture of the artist resembles my stepmother back in the 70s, partly because it is on one of my favorite 1960s record labels, Elektra, but mostly because I recognized "Early Morning Blues and Greens" as one of the better songs on the Monkees' "Headquarters" album. I decided to pick it up and I'm glad I did. I know very little about Hildebrand except that she was a commercial songwriter who did some television work including co-writing "Goin' Down" and "Your Auntie Grizelda" for the Monkees, "Come On Get Happy" for the Partridge Family and "Easy Come, Easy Go" for Bobby Sherman. Her sole solo album however could not be more different. It is a quiet, introspective album of folk-rock with tasteful, spare instrumental arrangements. "Jan's Blues" is the album opener and it is one of my favorites. Like many of the songs on the record it is driven by a strong bass line with guitars and piano adding color. It is a moody tune about an unhappy love affair. "Thumbin'" shuffles along with some pleasant harmonica accompaniment. It has a nice lazy day feel. "From Rea Who Died Last Summer" is a haunting song in which the deceased urges her friend to enjoy life and not to mourn her. "There's A Coming Together" is a low key, pretty song with hippie overtones. "And It Was Good" has a chamber pop sound reminiscent of Judy Collins. "Gideon" is a waltz-like tune without words, Hildebrand sings the melody with dee-dee-dees. I prefer her version of "Early Morning Blues and Greens" to the Monkees' one mostly because of her superior vocal. I think it is the most memorable song on the album and I dig the folk-rock arrangement. "The Reincarnation of Emmalina Stearns" has a bluesy vocal that challenges Hildebrand's range. Pushed by a strong organ line and prominent guitar, it is the hardest rocking song on the album. I like the hypnotic bass riff in "You Wonder Why You're Lonely" which is another moody song enlivened by raga-ish guitar riffing. The country flavored "Come Looking For Me" features some charming harpsichord accompaniment. The album quietly ends with "Given Time" which is a gentle song about a love affair. It is one of the more personal songs on the album and another one of my favorites. As much as I like this record I can see why it did not make much of a splash at the time. The folk-rock sound that is predominant on it was old-fashioned by 1969 and the record is largely quiet and sedate. The biggest problem for me is the distance in the lyrics, it has a contrived songwriterly feel to it, as if Hildebrand was making stuff up rather than singing from a personal perspective. I still enjoy it, but it doesn't really engage me the way Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen do. On the plus side I like Hildebrand's husky voice and the quality of the instrumental support. It is soothing late at night, I like falling asleep to it. Recommended to Jackie DeShannon fans.