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The Youngbloods

Formed in Boston, Massachusetts, 1965 by solo act JESSE COLIN YOUNG (he’d already released two solo sets), The YOUNGBLOODS were a nice blend of psychedelia, sunshine-pop and folk-rock. The first of those solo sets, “The Soul Of A City Boy” (1964), found the singer-songwriter surface from the studio allegedly after only four hours; the second, “Young Blood” (1965) featured The LOVIN’ SPOONFUL’s JOHN SEBASTIAN on Dobro.
Alongside guitarist Jerry Corbitt, drummer Joe Bauer and Lowell “Banana” Levinger (on keyboards and guitar), Jesse Colin and The YOUNGBLOODS sealed a deal with R.C.A. Records almost immediately afterwards, charting with Corbitt’s `Grizzly Bear’. Not too dissimilar to a bluesy-pop LOVIN’ SPOONFUL, the group’s eponymous debut, THE YOUNGBLOODS (1967) {*7}, collected a couple of Young and Corbitt cues alongside renditions of tracks from blues legends such as BLIND WILLIE McTELL (`Statesboro Blues’), MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT (`C.C. Rider’) and JIMMY REED (`Ain’t That Lovin’ You’ and folkies like FRED NEIL (`The Other Side Of This Life’) and `Four In The Morning’ (again). However, most people will remember the set for the inclusion of DINO VALENTI’s infinite `Get Together’ masterpiece, a minor hit originally, a Top 5 two years later when re-promoted as the theme for the National Conference of Christians & Jews; Kurt Cobain/NIRVANA later subverted the lyrics for the track “Territorial Pissings” on their classic “Nevermind” set.
With three YOUNG contributions (`All My Dreams Blue’, `Long And Tall’ and `The Wine Song’), EARTH MUSIC (1967) {*6} – again produced by Felix Pappalardi – was a little harder around the edges, example being a raw cover of CHUCK BERRY’s `Too Much Monkey Business’. YOUNG’s friend, the aforementioned Remaily, was also credited on `Euphoria’, while Corbitt & Levinger’s `Dreamer’s Dream’ (plus the former’s TIM BUCKLEY-esque `Don’t Play Games’ and the latter’s YARDBIRDS-like `Fool Me’) bore little resemblance to the country-pickin’ LOMAX/trad number, `Sugar Babe’ or CHUCK WILLIS’ `I Can Tell’ – all arguably precursors to the GRATEFUL DEAD and/or QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE. The set closed with an acceptable version of TIM HARDIN’s `Reason To Believe’. YOUNG subsequently relocated to West Coast San Francisco, where the band (minus Corbitt) recorded their/YOUNG’s finest hour, the hippie-inspired ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN (1969) {*8}.
Containing at least one further gemstone (`Darkness, Darkness’ – featuring unforgettable lead guitar fretwork), the album shifted from folk-rock into the electric country psychedelia of `Smug’, the funky `Sham’ or the jazzy/BACHARACH-ish `On Sir Francis Drake’ (highlighting harpsichord). YOUNG also shone on the light’n’airy romantic ballads `Sunlight’, `Beautiful’, `Quicksand’ and longish closing RUNDGREN-esque cue `Ride The Wind’, while group compositions come courtesy of `Trillium’; former member Corbitt, former producer Pappalardi and his wife Gail Collins penned the playful `Rain Song’.
The ill-timed and ill-advised concert set, ROCK FESTIVAL (1970) {*4}, might’ve peeked into the Top 50, but few would find the ghastly acid-jam set a turn-on; from the dismal trad cue `Fiddler A Dram’ to HARDIN’s `Misty Roses’ to JIMMY REED’s `Peepin’ & Hidin’’, YOUNG and Co had hit the ground running; a second live batch, recorded late ’69, RIDE THE WIND (1971) {*7}, was a proper jam set, offering up lengthier takes of FRED NEIL’s `The Dolphin’ and the title track.
With American bands transferring to country-rock en masse, it was refreshing that at least one outfit didn’t succumb to temptation (bar `Hippie From Olema No.5’). But on GOOD AND DUSTY (1971) {*3} they should’ve, as their counterpoise to good-time blues and jazz wasn’t the ticket anyone was expecting to receive – `Circus Face’ aside. Swansong set HIGH ON A RIDGE TOP (1972) {*4} bore the same traits, the diversity between `Donna’ and `La Bamba’ (both from the hand of RITCHIE VALENS) alongside `Running Bear’ (by the similarly-fated plane-crash victim BIG BOPPER) and DYLAN’s `I Shall Be Released’ or The BEATLES’ `She Came In Through The Bathroom Window’, befitting a band that had lost their direction completely. JESSE COLIN YOUNG would take a different approach when he resurrected his long-awaited solo comeback, albeit in a laid-back horizontal singer-songwriter fashion.
© MC Strong 1997-2010/GFD / rev-up MCS Oct2013

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