Duke Baxter

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- Duke Baxter (aka James Blake, aka Dudley Baxter, aka 

  Shaman Jim) -- vocals, keyboards




- Duke Baxter and the Midnight Snack

- Revelation

- The Rob Roys




Genre: pop

Rating: 2 stars ** 

Title:  Everybody Loves Matilda

Company: VMC

Catalog:  VS 138

Country/State: Canada

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3316

Price: $40.00

So here's a guy who's lived under a wide number of alias - Duke Baxter, Dudley Ford Baxter, James Blake, and Jim Shaman.


Even though the title of his debut album left me with the impression he was Australian, Baxter was apparently born in the UK, moving to Canada as a child.  He started his professional musical career playing and recording with The Rob Roys and the band Revelation (two obscure, mid--'60s Canadian bands).  There's also a rare single credited to Duke Baxter and the Midnight Snack that seems to have his fingerprints on it.  I'm pretty sure it's the same, guy, but not 100% certain.  Someone out there will know.

  The Rob Roys

- 1966's 'Do You Girl?' b/w 'Yes I Do' (Accent catalog number # AC 1312)



- 1968's 'Cotton Candy Weekend' b/w 'Wait and See' (Music Factory catalog number MU 412)

- 1968's 'Kiss Your Mind Goodbye' b/w "Dorplegank' )Combine catalog number # 45-12)


  Duke Baxter and the Midnight Specials

- 196? 'Hunger' b/w 'Me Tarzan, you Jane Baby' (Arf! Arf! catalog number 211)


By 1969 Baxter had struck out as a solo act, signing to Steve Vail's small, Los Angeles-based Vance Music Corporation (VMC)  label.   Teamed with producer Tony Harris and members of the famed Wrecking Crew, 1969's "Everybody Knows Matilda" showcased a dozen Baxter originals and served as one of the most varied and inconsistent albums in my collection.  Occasionally you'll hear an artist tagged as a chameleon.  That's a pretty apt description for Baxter who over these two sides managed to touch on everything from kitschy county 'The 53rd Card In the Deck', to Jimmy Webb-styled pop ('John Q. Citizen') with nods to 'Eleanor Rigby'-styled Baroque pop ('Don't Hurt Us'), and  blue-eyed soul ('Crosstown Woman').  Baxter certainly had a nice voice that was capable of handling all sorts of genre, but it was impossible to tell where he was coming from on this set.  The album almost sounded like a demo intended to showcase how varied the guy was.  Super inconsistent, but there were some highlights including the title track, 'Crosstown Woman', 'Static Interference ' and the third single 'John Q. Citizen'.


"Everybody Knows Matlida" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Everybody Knows Matilida  (Duke Baxter) - 2:43   rating: **** stars

Trying to describe 'Everybody Knows Matilda' is tough ...  It had the same over-the-top, pretentious edge as something Jimmy Webb might have written for Richard Harris (think along the lines of 'Macarthur Park').  It had a risque plotline that probably kept many radio stations for playing the tune.  At the same time the refrain was lethally catchy.  Hard to not remember this one once you've heard it.   I'm guessing that's why VMC tapped it as a single:

- 1969's 'Everybody Knows Matilida' b/w 'I Ain't No Schoolboy' (VMC catalog number V 740A/B) # 52 pop

2.) I Ain't No School Boy  (Duke Baxter) - 2:45   rating: *** stars

'I Ain't No School Boy' was a top-40ish blue-eyed soul number.  It was a bit too MOR-ish for my tastes; Baxter simply sounded like he was trying a tad too hard and the MOR horns didn't help either.   The tune appeared as the flip side to the title track 45.

3.) Crosstown Woman  (Duke Baxter) - 2:06   rating: **** stars

Hum, 'Crosstown Woman' found Baxter seemingly trying to add a bit of funk to his repertoire.  Always loved the accordion in the mix - kind of South African jive feeling.  Actually, on this one his vocals have always reminded me of BS&T's David Clayton-Thomas.  The backing vocals were by The Arrangement (a group also signed to VMC).  

4.) Mississippi Gentry  (Duke Baxter) - 2:52   rating: *** stars

If you're my age, you may remember there was an early-'70s wave of Dutch bands that scored minor hits with "Americanized" pop hits ... bands like the George Baker Selection, The Shocking Blue, The Tee set.   'Mississippi Gentry' reminded me of one of those tunes.  It wasn't half bad.  Actually, quite catchy.  Giving credit where due, this one at least boasted a nice fuzz guitar solo.

5.) Pretty Heavy  (Duke Baxter) - 3:30   rating:** stars

In contrast, 'Pretty Heavy' found Baxter dipping his toes into the kind of old-timey music that bands like Spanky and Our Gang trafficked in.   Hideous.  


(side 2)

1.) Static Interference   (Duke Baxter) - 2:09   rating: **** stars

Talk about truth in advertising - 'Static Interference' was an Interesting tune that was split between a really catchy pop tune and segments of discordance.   Nice take on young man frustration ...

2.) Superstition Bend  (Duke Baxter) - 2:12   rating: *** stars

Baxter rocking out, but not really.  Liked the end-of-song studio effects.  The track was released as the album's third single:

- 1969's 'Superstition Band' b/w 'Crosstown Woman' and 'She Set Me Free' (VMC catalog number V-749)

3.) The 53rd Card In the Deck  (Duke Baxter) - 2:35   rating:* star

Seriously, complete with pedal steel and a faux country accent, what was he thinking?   Terrible, terrible country tune ...

4.) No Tell Motel  (Duke Baxter) - 3:02   rating:* star

And just when you thought the album had reached its nadir, along came the Opera-esque 'No Tell Motel'.  

5.) Don't Hurt Us  (Duke Baxter) - 2:22   rating:** stars

So why not a bit of Baroque pop?  Wonder if he overdosed on 'Eleanor Rigby' before recording this one.

6.) John Q. Citizen  (Duke Baxter) - 3:38  rating: **** stars

I mentioned Jimmy Webb and Richard Harris earlier ...  well the pair would have been proud of the over-the-top social commentary tucked into 'John Q. Citizen'.  Very '60s vibe on this one with a wonderful chorus.  It was tapped as the album's third single:

- 1969's 'John Q. Citizen' b/w 'Don't Hurt Us' (VMC catalog number V 750)



The album vanished in the States (but managed to do better in Australia where it was released by the Festival label).


Baxter also released a non-LP single:

- 1970's 'Absolute Zero' b/w 'Wings of Love' (Mercury catalog number 73107)




Genre: pop

Rating: -- 

Title:  My Ship Is Coming In

Company: AVI

Catalog:  #AVI 6024

Country/State: Canada

Grade (cover/record): NM/NM

Comments: sealed copy

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3335

Price: $-50.00


I wonder how many people realize there's actually a second Duke Baxter album out there.  I own a mint, sealed, copy, but I've never opened, or heard it.  


Call me a cynic, but on the surface, things didn't look particularly promising with this collection.  First off you had the bland, anonymous looking cover art.  Hard to imagine any artist would have said "Yea, I love the design concept - let's go with it."   As for the album title, well "My Ship Is Coming In"  was certainly uplifting and hopeful, but you had to wonder how Baxter got signed to Ed Cobb, Ray Harris, and Seymour Heller's  American Variety International (AVI) label.  At least in the '70s and '80s AVI was better known for signing anonymous dance and disco acts.  Based on Baxter's previous album. that wasn't exactly his musical genre of choice. 


Anyhow, nothing more than speculation on my part, but I'm guessing that at least some of these tracks were material Baxter had recorded for a shelved "Matilda" follow-on collection.  It's pretty common for record labels to pull shelved material and release if without the artist's consent.  Kind of looks like what might have happened here.


Produced by Emory Gordy Jr., "My Ship Is Coming" offered up a steady collection or radio-friendly pop.  With Baxter credited with penning all eleven tracks, tracks like 'Don't Forget How To Dream' and 'Baby Let Me Walk Next To You' were in the same aural ballpark as top40 pop contemporaries like Chris DeBurgh, Rupert Hines, and Randy Vanwarmer.   Anyhow, to comment on the rest of the songs I'll have to find a cheap, open copy, or break down and open this one.


And it gets even stranger.  Under the name Shaman Jim, Baxter posted a number of tracks that were  intended for his Emory Gordy Jr. produced "Matilda" follow-up album.  Judging by the sound, the second album appears to have been recorded in the early-'70s .  He's apparently unaware of the fact at least a couple of those tunes did make it out on the "My Ship Is Coming In" album.  


"My Ship Is Coming In" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) California Rose   (Duke Baxter) - 3:05
2.) Sweet Sincerity   (Duke Baxter) - 3:01
3.) Don't Forget How To Dream   (Duke Baxter) - 2:45  
rating: **** stars

With a bouncy, sputtering melody and some catchy na-na-na refrains, Don't Forget How To Dream' was one of the most commercial things Baxter ever wrote.   Apparently unaware the track had been released on this album Baxter posted the audio track on  YouTube.  Here are his comments on the song: "Pardon the nasalga (sic), but I still think it stands up.  The idea and the music.  We all need a boost once in a while and this lifts me up when I am blue.  Hope you concur."

4.) My Ship Is Coming In   (Duke Baxter) - 2:46
5.) Dandy Sandy   (Duke Baxter) - 3:02   rating: *** satrs

Another track that Baxter has posted on YouTube ...  This one had kind of a mid-'70s Paul McCartney pop feel to it.  Based on his YouTube comments, Baxter apparently intended for the song to be a little deeper than the casual listener would have assumed.   "[The song] is dee[er than you might first imagine.  She represents the fantasies or youth with litltle concept of the woes and acares of responsibilit.  She put the fun in fundamental and the zest in a world otherwise filled with war and sufering.  Thank her for her brave innocent light that scares away the bleakness of a world going made.  Was she real or just a dream visiting my mind.  I will let you decide.  Note: I don;t recall the order of the album songs so I will put them up in some kind of hopefully logical order.  The last song on the album sums it all up.  I hope you stay with me till then at least. 
6.) Baby Let Me Walk Next To You   (Duke Baxter) - 3:05  
rating:: *** stars  

Speculation on my part, but based on the lyrics, I think this song might actually be the tune Baxter posted under the title 'She was a Beautiful Lady'.   If so, the result was a pretty, heavily orchestrated ballad.  Baxter's comments on the song: "Here is the last song on the second album that was not released in the US.  Hope you like it.  It is slightly symphonic.  A wistful journey into a young child's dream of unrequired love.  It is definitely from the heart.  I grew up at the beach and so this song rings strangely true for me.  Emory Gordy did the beautiful arrangement as usual, based around the way I played the song on piano.  I only wish I had a better copy of the master.  So be it.  Someday ..."


(side 2)
1.) Dizzy Lizzy   (Duke Baxter) - 3:33
2.) One More Heart Beat Down The Line   (Duke Baxter) - 3:36
3.) Alice May   (Duke Baxter) - 2:36
4.) Some Day Soon   (Duke Baxter) - 4:10
5.) Thank You   (Duke Baxter) - 2:55




Baxter also posted tracks for what was planned third album (which he referred to as "Duke Baxter and the Love Bandits").   Based on tracks like 'Queen of Rock and Roll',  'I Do It for You Honey', and 'Be Mine Tonight', the third album sounded like a  late-'70s project.  


Unfortunately Shaman Jim didn't provide a great deal on information on any of the "new" songs.  Judging by the videos accompanying the songs, he also appears to have taken up painting.


- 'Stardusted Rooftop' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXh0s7NN03g

- 'She was a Beautiful Lady' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krYFQc_C5YI

- 'Gypsy Magic' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FazvZVTMeCs 

- 'Don't Forget How To Dream' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMimP7NJKA8

- 'Teaser of a Pleaser' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=goBhzww1RnU

- 'I Do It for You Honey' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xELj7-3cS0

- 'One Wish' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWNZ9ik6pno

- 'I Miss You All the Time' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3V-EI8Htn7E

- 'A Lover's Promise' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Z4liMqG8AA

- 'Ballad of Jody Lee' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaGmVDQFuCI

- 'Queen of Rock and Roll' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TErc1eJJLI

- 'Be Mine Tonight'  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao2Yia4B-20

- 'Love Oasis' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hr6bm6N3OIw

- Angel' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoY71WEfIIc

- 'Hard To Get Home' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Map16EYZ6ug

- 'Dandy Sandy' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMyQByLxGTI

- 'Love On Delivery' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjXrZoRGsrQ 

- 'I Believe In Love' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QY_C2y-vXSU