John Sebastian's Reprise Recordings To Be Reissued
From his days as an insider on the Greenwich Village folk scene to his role as leader of the Lovin' Spoonful and through his subsequent solo work, John Sebastian has been a central figure in American pop music. And now, Collectors' Choice Music will "welcome back" Sebastian's Reprise solo albums from the 1970s with five CDs shipping to stores on February 20, 2007. The reissues feature liner notes by Richie Unterberger containing quotes from Sebastian himself.
Sebastian is best known for his Lovin' Spoonful hits like "Summer in the City" and "Daydream, " but his career experienced a resurgence once signed as a solo act to Warner Bros.' Reprise label in 1970. His hit "Welcome Back, " heard as the theme song to the sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter, " topped the pop charts in 1976. But many tend to forget that his American music roots run deep.
The son of classical harmonica player John Sebastian, young John grew up in Greenwich Village and appeared as a sideman on records by the time he was 16. In 1964, he joined the Even Dozen Jug Band, which made a record for Elektra, and was a member of the Mugwumps along with future Mamas and Papas Cass Elliott and Denny Doherty as well as future Spoonful partner Zal Yanovsky. The era was chronicled in the Mamas & Papas' "Creeque Alley": "In a coffeehouse Sebastian sat/And after every number they passed the hat."
The Lovin' Spoonful had other hits as well as the two chart-toppers, namely "Do You Believe in Magic, " "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice, " "Nashville Cats, " "Rain on the Roof, " "Darling Be Home Soon" and "Six O'Clock." But the band's story was mired in "Behind the Music"-like personnel issues, and eventually Sebastian went solo. He signed to Reprise, but the Spoonful's label, Kama Sutra, believing that they were owed one more album, released their own version of Sebastian's debut album, John B. Sebastian, made from second-generation masters. However, Reprise prevailed, and Collectors' Choice now makes available his five albums from that era.
John B. Sebastian. Sebastian's Reprise debut was the highest charting of the bunch, reaching no. 20 in 1970. It was cannibalized by Kama Sutra's bootleg version, which was eventually withdrawn. The album contains "I Had a Dream, " which he played at the Woodstock Festival, and led off the movie soundtrack album. Guest musicians include Crosby, Stills and Nash, plus CSN drummer Dallas Taylor.
The Four of Us. This 1971 release was the most ambitious of John's career, highlighted by the eponymous 16-minute suite that occupied all of Side 2. But this is not prog-rock — John is a master songwriting storyteller taking his time to get all the insights down on tape (in this case, the story of how he met his wife Catherine and a road trip they took with another couple — hence the title The Four of Us.) Sidemen include Dr. John, Felix Pappalardi (Cream producer, Mountain) and the Esso Trinidad Steel Band.
Cheapo Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian. After issuing an unauthorized version of Sebastian's first solo album for Reprise, MGM (parent company of Kama Sutra) continued its shenanigans by releasing an unauthorized live album. So John and Reprise struck back with this vastly superior 1971 concert recording, featuring a charming assortment of covers, Spoonful favorites and newer tunes. Included are "Have You Ever Had To Make Up Your Mind, " "Lovin' You, " "Nashville Cats, " "Darling Be Home Soon, " "Younger Generation, " and covers of "Goodnight Irene, " "Fishin' Blues" and "Blue Suede Shoes."
Tarzana Kid. This 1974 album, recorded while Sebastian was living in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, was peppered with many guest stars. Lowell George and Emmylou Harris join in on a version of Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken." Sebastian is also joined by former Even Dozen Jug Band bandmate David Grisman plus David Lindley, the Pointer Sisters, Ry Cooder and Phil Everly. "The idea was because I didn't have a group, I should take advantage of not having a group and let the tune determine the player", says Sebastian. He also buried the hatchet with former Lovin' Spoonful producer Erik Jakobsen, with whom Sebastian co-produced the album.
Welcome Back. Released in 1976, this album was a "welcome" return to the charts for John, thanks to the title tune theme song to the TV show featuring Gabe Kaplan and a young John Travolta. The album contains the single version, which was different from the demo used on TV. The rest of the album features Sebastian as filtered through the production sensibilities of Steve Barri, and provided a triumphant finale to his association with Warner/Reprise.
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