Saturday, July 18, 2015

Continental Drifters: “Drifted: In The Beginning & Beyond” (2015) CD Review

Continental Drifters included folks like Peter Holsapple, Susan Cowsill and Vicki Peterson in the lineup during the band’s ten-year existence. In fact, the only steady band member was bass player Mark Walton (whom you’ll also know from The Dream Syndicate). As a result, there are several voices in the band’s songs, several members contributing material, and keeping things interesting. The new two-disc retrospective, Drifted: In The Beginning & Beyond, includes plenty of previously unreleased tracks to keep serious fans happy. And for someone who might be new to the band, this two-disc set should serve as a great introduction. There is a lot of original material from the band’s early years on the first disc, plus some great covers on the second disc. This set includes liner notes by Scott Schinder, as well as by band members Carlo Nuccio, Ray Ganucheau, Mark Walton, Gary Eaton, Robert Mache, Danny McGough, Peter Holsapple, Vicki Peterson, and Susan Cowsill, who all tell the story of the band. There is also a brief note by Steve Wynn (Wynn and Mark Walton played together in The Dream Syndicate).

Disc One: In The Beginning

This collection kicks off with an early version of “Who We Are, Where We Live,” a song written by Vicki Peterson that was included on the band’s 1999 release, Vermilion. This version was previously unreleased. I love the raw power of this track. It’s a good rock song. By the way, if you’re having trouble placing the name, Vicki Peterson was a founding member of The Bangs (who then became The Bangles), and also a member of The Psycho Sisters (along with Susan Cowsill). “Who We Are, Where We Live” is followed by “Side Steppin’ The Fire,” written by Carlo Nuccio. This song really works for me. Perhaps it’s because of the line about making a list, which I tend to do every day, and perhaps it’s because of his goal with the list – “How I plan to turn it around/To better fit this guy I knew/When I was much younger.” It definitely has the feel of some of The Band’s material.

Another of my favorite songs from the first disc is “Karen A,” also written by Carlo Nuccio. It has a beautiful folk feel, with nice work on harmonica at the beginning and at key moments. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I must admit I miss our conversations on the phone/I never figured out what exactly went wrong/But it was good/When you wanted it that way/Karen A.” This demo was previously unreleased. Also previously unreleased is the early version of “The Rain Song,” a tune that would be included on Vermilion. This is a strong track written by Susan Cowsill. Here are the opening lines: “I don’t think about us much anymore/Frankly, the topic has become a bore/You don’t come up much in my conversations/I don’t think about you on vacation/But when it rains, when it rains, when it rains/That’s when I remember.”

The band goes more into the country realm with “Mr. Everything,” a song written by Gary Eaton. The version here is a previously unreleased alternate mix. “He’s Mr. Everything/He’s all you need to know/Nothing matters/’Til it’s time for him to go.” Then things get a little funky with “No One Cares,” written by Ray Ganucheau. And even though has a bit of funk to it, it takes on a serious tone, with lines like, “No one cares/No one calls/No one’s there for when you fall.” Also written by Ray Ganucheau is “I Didn’t Want To Lie,” a really sweet, pretty tune, with nice vocals. This is another of my favorites.

One of the most interesting tracks for me is “Invisible Boyfriend,” written by Peter Holsapple (the only of his songs included in this collection). Check out these lines: “I watched her turn and then smile at the air/Halfway expecting to see him right there/And when he’s not, her face just drops/Meet the invisible boyfriend/The man of her dreams has returned to a dream/She’s by herself, or so it would seem/To a casual observer like I am.” This is a seriously good song.

Disc Two: Beyond

While the first disc contains all original music, the second disc is all covers, including quite a few songs from Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention. Several tracks on this disc are live recordings, all of them previously unreleased. It opens with a live version of “You Don’t Miss Your Water,” a song written and originally performed by William Bell. This excellent version was recorded on in July of 1992 for the Los Angeles radio program Morning Becomes Eclectic. That’s followed by a live version of Lucinda Williams’ “Crescent City,” recorded in November of 2000 in Louisiana. Interestingly, it cuts before the audience applauds, which is actually nice, since this is a mixture of live and studio recordings from a variety of sources.

They dip into pop with a fun cover of the Alive N Kickin’ hit “Tighter, Tighter,” which was co-written by Tommy James (yes, of the Shondells), and also “I Can’t Let Go,” which had been released as a single by The Hollies. And they do a wonderful rendition of “Some Of Shelly’s Blues,” written by Michael Nesmith (and here spelled “Some Of Shelley’s Blues”). I’m a huge Monkees fan, and I was so excited in 1990 when they finally included this song on a compilation, titled Missing Links Volume Two (there spelled “Some Of Shelly’s Blues”). It’s a great song, and it’s been covered by several artists over the years, including Earl Scruggs, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Mary McCaslin. The version included on this disc was previously unreleased. A different version of this song (there spelled “Some Of Shelly’s Blues”) was included on the self-titled album from Continental Drifters, but I actually prefer the version on this disc.

One of my favorite tracks on this disc is a Beach Boys cover, “Farmer’s Daughter.” Continental Drifters take that short intro from the original and stretch it out, giving it a decidedly James Bond feel, which is great. Maybe I’m mad, but I’m digging this version more than the original. This track was recorded at a reunion show in April of 2009.  It’s followed by another of this disc’s highlights, a wonderful rendition of “Dedicated To The One I Love,” recorded live in 1996. I love this track, and the vocals are excellent.

The final eight tracks were written either by Sandy Denny or Richard Thompson (the one exception being the traditional tune “Matty Groves” which Fairport Convention had covered). Six of them were previously released on 2001’s Listen, Listen, but the first, a live version of Sandy Denny’s “At The End Of The Day,” was previously unreleased. It’s a really nice rendition from 2000. The final track, “Meet On The Ledge,” was previously released on a single in 1997. I love Richard Thompson, and this band does some really good versions of his music. I'm particularly fond of “I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight.”

CD Track List

Disc One
  1. Who We Are, Where We Live (Early Version)
  2. Side Steppin’ The Fire
  3. The Mississippi
  4. Match Made In Heaven
  5. Karen A (Demo)
  6. The Rain Song (Early Version)
  7. Dallas (Alternate Mix)
  8. Here I Am
  9. Mr. Everything (Alternate Mix)
  10. No One Cares
  11. Green (Demo)
  12. I Didn’t Want To Lie
  13. Invisible Boyfriend
  14. New York (Demo)
  15. Let It Ride 
Disc Two
  1. You Don’t Miss Your Water (Live)
  2. Crescent City (Live)
  3. A Song For You
  4. Tighter, Tighter (Demo)
  5. I Can’t Let Go
  6. Some Of Shelley's Blues (Campfire Mix)
  7. When You Dance I Can Really Love
  8. Turn Back The Hands Of Time (Live)
  9. Farmer’s Daughter (Live)
  10. Dedicated To The One I Love (Live)
  11. At The End Of The Day (Live)
  12. Listen, Listen
  13. I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight
  14. The Poor Ditching Boy
  15. You’re Gonna Need Somebody
  16. I’m A Dreamer
  17. Matty Groves
  18. Meet On The Ledge (Studio Version)
Drifted: In The Beginning & Beyond was released on July 17, 2015 through Omnivore Recordings. By the way, the entire band will be getting together for two shows in September – one in New Orleans, one in Los Angeles (the two cities that this band called home). 

No comments:

Post a Comment