Compton & Batteau
Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1970)
- Robin Batteau -- cello, guitar, vocals
- John Parker Compton -- vocals
- Bill Elliott -- keyboards
- King Errison -- percussion
- Robin Lane -- backing vocals
- John London -- bass
- Randy Meisner -- bass
- Jim Messina -- guitar
- Pat Shanahon -- drums
- John Ware -- drums
- Rusty Young -- pedal steel guitar
- Appaloosa (John Compton - Robin Batteau)
- Robin Batteau (solo efforts)
- Batteaux (Robin Batteaux)
- Buskin and Batteau (Robin Batteau)
- John Parker Compton (solo efforts)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: In California
Country/State: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: still in shrink wrap (opened)
Catalog ID: 6270
A couple of years ago I stumbled across an album by the band Appaloosa. It was somewhat unconventional and quirky, but stuck a chord with me, making my top-10 favorites list. I've subsequently sold about a half dozen copies to folks. Anyhow, Appaloosa was a one-shot deal with the band principles Robin Batteau and John Parker Compton deciding to leave Massachusetts and try their luck in California continuing their recording partnership as 'Compton and Batteau'.
The 1969 Appaloosa LP was released by Columbia and after the album proved commercially stillborn the company effectively lost interests in the band. When the band collapsed violinist Robin Batteau joined his wife in California. Singer/guitarist John Parker Compton decided to join him, promptly packed up for California. Once in California the pair began shopping demos and were promptly signed by Columbia A&R man Eddie Matthews, Produced by Abner Spector, 1970's "In California" wasn't a major change in direction from the Appaloosa album - perhaps a touch more country-rock oriented (thanks in part to support from several members of Poco who happened to be recording an album in the same studio), but featuring the same general sound - eclectic, but with some commercial touches. Perhaps the biggest change was the emergence of Batteau. Appaloosa had pretty much been a showcase for Compton, but this time around Batteau contributed a couple of tracks to the mix (two of the best performances in my humble opinion) and handled a couple of vocals. As it turned out, his voice was far more commercial than Compton's.
California" track listing:
1.) Laughter Turns To Blues (John Parker Compton) - 3:20 rating: *** stars
'Laughter Turns To Blues' started out with a Dylan-esque vibe, but when it hit the refrain morphed into a pretty, country-rock number. Curiously in an interview with Nick Warburton Compton said the song was inspired by the Christmas song 'Good King Wencelas'.
2.) Silk On Steel (John Parker Compton) - 3:30 rating: ** stars
Another barebones acoustic ballad showcasing Compton's acoustic guitar and Batteau's violin, 'Silk On Steel' was a bit on the pretentious side. Pretty, but a bit too intense for its own good.
3.) Honeysuckle (John Parker Compton) - 3:07 rating: **** stars
With an assist from Jim Messina on lead guitar, 'Honeysuckle' finally picked up the pace with one of the closest things they'd ever done to an outright rocker.
4.) Narration (instrumental) rating: ** stars
'Narration' was nothing more than a split second of instrumentation.
5.) Elevator (Robin Batteau) - 1:40 rating: ** stars
With Batteau handling lead vocals, 'Elevator' found the duo returning to sensitive singer/songwriter territory. This one actually sounded a bit like early Cat Stevens.
6.) Narration (instrumental) rating: ** stars
Shame they didn't featured more of the instrumental 'Narration' since it sounded like an interesting number.
7.) Homesick Kid (John Parker Compton) - 4:06 rating: **** stars
Falling somewhere on the genre spectrum between Dylan and Poco, 'Homesick Kid' was another album highlight. In fact Poco's Randy Meisner and Pat Shanahon provided bass and drums respectively.
'One of the album's prettiest ballads, Proposition' was reportedly inspired by Compton's run in with his draft board - apparently not a very enjoyable experience. I'm usually not a big fan of violins in rock songs, but Batteau turned in a beautiful performance on this one.
2.) Narration (instrumental) rating: ** stars
Nothing to say about the instrumental fragment 'Narration'.
3.) Grotto Farm (John Parker Compton) - 3:40 rating: * star
'Grotto Farm' was the kind of track that must have English majors into spasms of ecstasy - literally dripping with that sensitive singer/songwriter vibe, to my ears it simply sound fey and indulgent.
4.) Essa Vanessa (John Parker Compton) - 3:00 rating: **** stars
'Essa Vanessa' had a couple of things going for it: 1.) a full throttle rock arrangement (about time), 2.) Bill Elliott's harpsichord, and 3.) a breezy and memorable melody. The end result was the album's most commercial and memorable performance.
-5.) Zephyr (John Parker Compton) - 2:11 rating: ** stars
Zephyr' offered up more acoustic singer/songwriter material ... pretty, but forgettable.
6.) Narration (instrumental)
7.) California (Robin Batteau) - 3:20 rating: **** stars
With Batteau handling lead vocals, the in-your-face environmental opening of 'California' was came as a bit of a jolt, but once the song got going it was easily the album highlight. Almost a jaunt sea shanty, this was the one track that stuck in your head. Easy to see why Columbia tapped it as the single,, though it may only have been released as a promo 45..
- 1970's 'California' (mono) b/w 'California' (steeo) (Columbia catalog number 4 45256)
Not as immediately engaging as Appaloosa, but another one that grows on you with a bit of time and effort.
Like the Appaloosa album, this one did nothing commercially and the pair called it quits. Compton moved back to Cambridge, bought a farm and three years later reappeared with an instantly obscure solo album, before returning to the club and bar circuit where he released a couple of equally obscure follow-ons.
Batteau hooked up with his brother in the band Batteaux, followed by a stint in the band Pierce Arrow.
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