This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
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There's an old cliché that artists spend 25 years or so producing their first album but have to come up with a second one in six months. There's a bit of truth to that as there are a bunch of really good first albums and considerably fewer good second ones (The Band is the great exception to that).
These are mostly from the sixties because before that time (except for jazz albums and people like Frank Sinatra) albums were mostly vehicles for a few hit songs and a bunch of filler.
I’ve excluded the first solo albums by John Lennon, Paul Simon, Lou Reed and George Harrison as they, quite obviously, had come to prominence earlier in other guises. I also mention several others at the end who really deserve a place as well, so this isn't really the definitive selection.
I'll start with one of the finest first albums, THE DOORS – that's both the group's name and the album's.
There wasn't a dud track on the album but let's go with their most famous song, Light My Fire, the song that had them banned from The Ed Sullivan Show because they didn't censor the words as Ed requested at their first and only appearance.
♫ The Doors - Light My Fire
I first came across JESSE WINCHESTER's first effort because of a rave review in Rolling Stone.
They also mentioned that there were a couple of members of The Band playing along. That was enough for me to go out and buy it pretty much immediately. I wasn't disappointed and I have every one of his albums and I've seen him perform a number of times.
As with The Doors, the album was named after himself. The song is Yankee Lady.
♫ Jesse Winchester - Yankee Lady
I mentioned above that I’m excluding solo artists who had previously become known in earlier bands. To be consistent I should exclude the next artist but, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”
Also, not surprisingly, Oscar Wilde said something similar some years later ("Wish I'd said that." "You will, Oscar, you will").
So here is JESSE COLIN YOUNG
who came to our notice as the head honcho of The Youngbloods.
While we're on inconsistency, nitpickers might aver that “Song For Juli” was actually his fourth album. It depends how you count these things, and what you include – things get a bit murky.
I don't care, I'm using it anyway because it's a great album, and the first of his I encountered. This is the title song, Song For Juli.
♫ Jesse Colin Young - Song for Juli
When Columbia records signed THE BYRDS, they were told they had one chance only and that was to record a single and if it didn't do any good they were out the door.
The song they recorded, with the help of session musicians, was Mr Tambourine Man which went gangbusters. The record execs decided that they could record a whole album after all. That was named after that single of course.
Taken from album is I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better, written by Gene Clark who was their main songwriter in the early days of the group.
♫ The Byrds - I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better
I changed my mind several times about who should be included at this point. You can see some of those I considered at the end of the column. Finally I settled on ARLO GUTHRIE.
Most of you will be familiar with the song after which the album is named – Ronni features it every Thanksgiving. I won't use that song, but one of the others on the album (yes, there were others). The one I've chosen is I'm Going Home.
♫ Arlo Guthrie - I'm Going Home
Every song on MARIA MULDAUR's initial release would be worthy of inclusion. What a ripper this one is (that's Oz talk signifying approval).
Maria had previously made an album with her husband Geoff but that doesn't count as far as I'm concerned. Besides, this one is a quantum leap in quality over that one.
Choosing a song is the hard part but I've settled on the beautiful I Never Did Sing You a Love Song.
♫ Maria Muldaur - I Never Did Sing You a Love Song
The FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS could be considered in the exceptions too as all four members were previously in The Byrds at one time or another, but I won't let that stop me.
It had two of the finest exponents of country rock in the group – Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman – and a couple of others who were, as mentioned, also in The Byrds. They carried on from where they left off on The Byrds' album "Sweetheart of the Rodeo".
The Burritos' album had the wonderful name, "The Gilded Palace of Sin". From that is Do You Know How It Feels (To Be Lonesome).
Flying Burrito Brothers - Do You Know How It Feels (To Be Lonesome)
ELVIS COSTELLO burst on to the scene with the name of one early rocker (Elvis, of course) and the look of another (Buddy Holly).
In spite of these blatant plagiarisms (if the word can be used in the context of name and appearance), he turned out to be a very interesting artist indeed. A song that Linda Ronstadt covered quite well is Alison.
♫ Elvis Costello - Alison
JAMES HUNTER is a major talent who hasn't really made an impact on the wider listening audience.
That's a shame and I hope to do my little bit to bring him to a slightly wider audience. His first album had the added boost of Van Morrison duetting on two of the songs.
I won't use those (as I've featured them elsewhere). Instead here is James with a little help from Doris Troy singing Hear Me Calling.
♫ James Hunter - Hear Me Calling
I first noticed RODNEY CROWELL's name as one of the musicians in Emmylou Harris's Hot Band.
I next noticed him as the writer of several songs Emmy included on her albums. Naturally, when his first solo album was released I grabbed it. I wasn't disappointed.
Here is Rodney with a bit of help from Emmy and one of the songs she covered, Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight.
♫ Rodney Crowell - Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight
Honorable mentions to The Band “Music From Big Pink”, Kris Kristofferson “Kristofferson”, Tom Waits "Closing Time", Leonard Cohen “Songs of Leonard Cohen”, Norah Jones "Come Away With Me", Dire Straits and The Pretenders. All these deserved a place.
I would have liked to have included James Taylor "Sweet Baby James", Emmylou Harris "Pieces of the Sky" and Warren Zevon, but they were second albums – their first ones were pretty obscure (so much for my rave on Jesse Colin Young).