Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bradley's Barn - The Beau Brummels

Bradley's Barn
The Beau Brummels
Warner Bros.  WS 1760

The end of the line for the first incarnation of the Beau Brummels (although they would reunite periodically beginning in the mid 1970s and even record a few more albums.)  They had started out as a quintet on Autumn Records back in 1964 but had been reduced to just Sal Valentino and Ron Elliott by the time they recorded this in 1968 supported by a bunch of Nashville studio pros in Owen Bradley's Tennessee recording studio which gives the album its title.  It was a long way from their San Francisco home geographically but musically it doesn't stray too far.  It does have a countryish sound but most of the songs would not sound out of place amongst the arty folk rock songs on their preceding album, "Triangle."  The album begins with one of my all-time favorite Beau Brummels songs, "Turn Around" penned by Elliott and his usual writing partner Bob Durand.  This sparkling evocation of youthful romance was also a highlight on the Everly Brothers' "Roots" which Elliott helped arrange and which was recorded around the same time as this album and which it resembles somewhat.  The jangly guitars and Valentino's soulful vocal really send me.  Valentino sweetly drawls the love song "An Added Attraction (Come and See Me)" which he also wrote.  It is the most country-flavored tune on the album.  Elliott and Valentino co-wrote "Deep Water" which is one of the strongest songs on the record.  It has more jangly guitars and an urgent vocal from Valentino as he delivers the anxiety-laden lyrics.  Elliott's "Long Walking Down To Misery" is a folk rock song given the country treatment with another fine Valentino vocal describing how he lost his girlfriend.  Elliott's "Little Bird" is a pretty ballad loaded with symbolism.  The first side concludes with Elliott and Durand's rocking "Cherokee Girl" which paints a portrait of the title character using imagery of Native American folklore.  The song features a soaring vocal from Valentino and is given extra oomph from tasteful string overdubs.  It is another one of my favorite songs on the album.  Side two opens with the easy going "I'm A Sleeper" by Elliott and Valentino which features Valentino drawling from the perspective of a wishing well.  Elliott's "The Loneliest Man In Town" is one of the few songs on the album you can actually imagine a traditional country singer like Porter Wagoner covering.  It features the familiar down-on-his-luck theme so popular in country music and it sounds very country as well.  In contrast "Love Can Fall a Long Way Down" by Elliott and Durand is pure folk rock and one of the most impressive songs on the album.  It is dynamic and highly propulsive with some baroque rock overtones in the keyboards.  Valentino passionately delivers lyrics examining a deteriorating relationship in the wake of a bad party.  "Jessica" by Elliott and Valentino goes country rock for a song about heartbreak.  Randy Newman's "Bless You California" is the only non-original song on the album.  It is a rollicking, humorous song about aimlessness and manipulation with a sarcastic edge that stands out from the earnestness of the rest of the record.  It gives the finish of the album a bit of a bite to it.  This is my favorite Beau Brummels album, the songwriting is so strong and Valentino's vocals are so warm and powerful, the album really stands out as something sincere and original in a year full of self-indulgence and excess.  It is a shame that the record did not get the attention or sales it deserved and that the band broke up after its release.  It is about as good as country rock gets.  Recommended for people who prefer "Nashville Skyline" over "Wheels of Fire." 

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