I’m sorry to report that Jesse Winchester passed away yesterday. He was a great singer/songwriter who is better know for other artists interpretations of his songs than for his own recordings of them. Here is Jesse’s performance of his song Biloxi (from his self titled debut album) followed by Jimmy Buffet’s cover version version (from Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes).
I always had great respect for Jesse and his personal convictions that caused him to move to Canada in the 60’s rather than to be drafted into the military and sent to Vietnam. He was granted amnesty in the 70’s by President Carter. Jesse was back home in the US living in Virginia when he passed away yesterday.
I discovered Arthur Gee in 1972 in a record store in the mountains of East Tennessee while I was visiting my grandmother . I had never heard of him prior to seeing the album in the record store but the cover of his album intrigued me (see above) and I bought a copy. (Those days, well before internet, were a simpler time and it was not unusual for me to buy an album based on it’s cover. I found some really great music that way and a few clunkers as well to be fair.)
The only record player that my grandmother had was an old, crank driven, Victrola that looked a lot like this…..
It used a wooden needle (not kidding) and played old 78 RPM records so I had to wait about a week when to play the Arthur Gee record after I got back home to North Alabama.
I was pretty excited once I heard the record! Arthur had a very interesting voice and the style of the songs on the album varied from a typical early 70’s folk singer songwriter style to a touch of San Francisco 60’s psychedelia. I was definitely happy to have purchased the album. Let’s listen to a couple of songs from it…….
I’ll admit that Arthur fell off of my music radar screen pretty quickly and I unfortunately lost my copy of the album in the 90’s during a time when I moved from a house to a one room efficiency apartment and had to greatly pare down my record collection (that is a whole different story that we won’t discuss on the blog!). Even though I no longer possessed the album, I continued to fondly remember Arthur’s music. Something I heard last week make me think of Arthur (and his music) and motivated me to do this post.
As I started to research Arthur I was shocked about how little information about him and his music was available on the internet. I was only able to find the two songs above from the self titled Arthur Gee album that I had purchased back in the 70s. Shocking! I gradually found a few more tidbits of information…….
Arthur (if that’s his real name) was Canadian and recorded a few demo songs back in the late 60s, several of which were re-recorded for his debut album that I had purchased. There was a very limited distribution of these early songs on an album back in the late 60s that was credited to just Arthur. I’ve seen several online references to this album being re-released by a Swiss record label under the title of “In Search Of” but have not been able to locate a copy of it. Let’s listen to a couple of songs that I believe to be from that album. Note: two of the songs appear to be versions of the same song under different names (Confessions and Tea Garden)…….
Arthur Demos/In Search Of
I enjoyed these songs and can see how the Arthur Gee album that I had purchased in 1972 was a natural progression from them.
As I continued my research I discovered that these demos had brought Arthur to the attention of Robb Kunkel, Larry Ray and producer Bill Szymczyk who were starting the Tumbleweed Records label. They signed Arthur to their label and made his self titled album their very first release in 1971. In 1973, the label released a second Arthur Gee album, City Cowboy, on which Arthur was backed by the Whizz Band. I was only able to find a single song on the internet from that album, Green Countryside,……let’s listen……..
As you can tell Arthur’s sound had evolved between 1971 and 1973 but not in a good way in my humble opinion. City Cowboy would turn out to be Arthur’s last release and one of Tumbleweed Records last releases which went under in 1973.
I think Arthur had some real talent and should have achieved much more success than he did. Instead, he is yet another artist that time has forgotten! The most shocking thing from my research is how little information about Arthur is available today. If you are reading this post, and have any additional information about him, I would appreciate you sharing it by either contacting me via email or commenting on this post.
I can’t tell you how much I miss this band. They broke up a couple of years ago and I have still not gotten over it. They never got the credit they deserved. My all time favorite alt country band of all time, the everybodyfields, with a great interview and in studio performance……..
Today, while reading my morning newspaper, I discovered a band called The Serenes from a nearby place called Joure in Friesland in the northern part of Holland (where I live). The band existed from 1988 to 1994 but I had never heard of them before reading the article from Gijsbert Kamer, a Dutch journalist (provided below with a rough translation into English).
Rough Translation (With Help From Mike)
So many classic rock albums have been made in the Netherlands. Albums that stand for a certain time in the rock ‘n’ roll history and always sound special. Revolution of Q 65 (1966), Ivy Green of Ivy Green (1978), Mental Floss For the Globe by Urban Dance Squad (1989) and Palomine by Bertie Serveert (1992) all have that status.
The album Barefoot And Pregnant by The Serenes is another such album. During the autumn of 1990, when the American bands Pixies, Sonic Youth, REM and the British band Stone Roses were making their leading guitar music (before the grunge craze), this beautiful record by the Serenes appeared from Joure.
The Serenes had two great singers/guitarists with Paul Dokter and Theo de Jong and a sound data matched the heady understated guitar pop of The Feelies but still sounded very original.
The guitarists created a wonderful guitar sound which is highlighted in the beautiful closing track Trip Down Memory Street. The sound differed from other Dutch rock bands at that time from the so-called Amsterdam School (Claw Boys Claw, Fatal Flowers).
Barefoot and Pregnant was critically acclaimed and did not go unnoticed abroad. But Dokter and de Jong parted, and worse, the album was not available for years.
The later problem has now been resolved with a wonderful reissue on Re, a sub-label of Excelsior. The reissued CD includes unreleased material from Dokter and De Jong as bonus tracks but the album itself still has much to offer even after all these years.
In addition to the Barefoot and Pregnant album mentioned in the article, the band released Back to Wonder in 1993 (by this time Paul Dokter had left the band). Having now listened to both albums by The Serenes all I can say is …..what a great find and what beautiful music. They sound a bit like early R.E.M. and I like them very much. Let’s listen to some music by The Serenes and so you can see what I am talking about…….
Rebecca (You’re Gonna Be Alright) – from Barefoot and Pregnant
Sprit (Let Me Walk With You) – from Back to Wonder
Special thanks to Tony Pas for his great videos for the two songs above!
If you like what you have heard, I have a gift for you all the way from Holland. You can listen to both albums below. Mike tells me that these albums are not easily available in the United States so this may be your best opportunity to listen to them.
Ten Years After (with Alvin Lee) had the advantage of being showcased at Woodstock, the most famous rock festival ever (see yesterday’s post for the video). That exposure launched their career into the stratosphere. While their success was well deserved, I doubt any of us would remember them today if it wasn’t for Woodstock.
I bring this up because there are a lot of groups that are extremely talented but never break into the big time because they don’t manage to get the exposure that they deserve. Brothers and Sisters out of Austin, Texas is one of those bands. I stumbled onto their music about five years ago and fell in love with it.
Let me share a couple of songs from their first album….
Unfortunately the group appears to have faded away. I have been unable to find any new music from them beyond the two albums that they produced (Brothers and Sisters and Fortuneately) both of which are available for purchase on their website.