Band members Related acts
- Danny Cox -- vocals, guitar
- Stan LaFever -- bass
- Jay Migleori -- horns
- Doug Rhodes -- bass
- Red Rhodes -- steel guitar
- Richard Ruskin -- lead guitar
- Pat Shanahan -- drums
- none known
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Birth Announcement
Country/State: Cincinnati, Ohio
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: double LP; gatefold sleeve
Catalog ID: 5976
I'll frequently spend a couple of bucks on an album I know nothing about. I've frequently bought unknown albums on interesting labels. I've bought albums for their goofy covers. I've bought albums that seemed to have strange provenances. I've bought albums just because they looked amazingly unappealing. So here's one that seemed to have all of those characteristics and more ...
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio Danny Cox's first brush with popular success came in 1960 when he won a slot on a Hootenanny Folk tour. The Hootenanny gigs saw him tour throughout the US and in 1963 he decided to relocate to Kansas City, Kansas where he became a mainstay on the city's folk scene, eventually signing with Stan Plesser's Good Karma Productions (which also managed Brewer and Shipley and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils).
After two small label releases (1963's "Danny Cox at the Seven Cities" and 1968's "Sunny"), Cox's third album saw him given a shot at the big time in the form of a deal with Gary Usher, Gary Boettcher, and Keith Olsen's Together label (distributed by Capitol Records). Produced, arranged, and co-engineered by longtime friend Usher (who also designed the hysterical album art), 1969's "Birth Announcement" was an 11 track, double album set. (Boy times have changed - hard to imagine a label financing a double LP for a complete unknown like Cox.) An apparent attempt to cash-in on the public's growing interest in 'hip' singer-songwriters (the inner and back panels showed Cox in full hipster uniform including love beads, vest, wide belt, plantation hat, and striped pants), the album was heavy on sensitive singer/songwriter numbers (Ian Tyson's 'French Girl' and Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne') and popular hits including two Dylan and four Beatles covers. I'm guessing the album was an effort to capture Cox's coffeehouse repertoire with the addition of an electric backing band, but you had to wonder what the excitement was about. Cox had a nice voice and the covers were all fairly energetic; helped immensely by the backing band which included lead guitarist Richard Ruskin and drummer Pat Shanahan. That said, none of the performances jumped up and said 'here I am'. Usher kept most of the arrangements close to the original sources which had the unintended effect of making you compare these covers to the originals. Needless to say the originals won out every time. Not a perfect comparison, but if you've heard mid-1960s Richie Havens, you'll know what to expect on this one. (I will say that in my book Cox gets the nod over Havens since he's nowhere near as shrill and avoided the desire to impose big social and political statements on his captive audience.)
Announcement" track listing:
1.) Baby Blue (Itís All Over Now Baby Blue) (Bob Dylan) - 5:55 rating: *** stars
The first couple of times I heard it, Cox's cover of Dylan's 'Baby Blue' did nothing for me. His vocal started out frail and uncertain and you simply weren't going to forget Dylan's original. On the other hand, given a couple of spins, this version wasn't half bad, especially when Cox and band got rolling. Kudos to Jay Migleori who managed to slap some tasteful horns on the arrangement.
2.) When I Was A Cowboy (Jackie Lomax - A. Lomax) - 4:00 rating: ** stars
As mentioned above, I'm guessing the acoustic blues-rocker 'When I Was A Cowboy' was a pretty good example of Cox's club act. The performance certainly wasn't bad, but you've heard stuff like this hundreds of times before and this one sounded exactly like the others, Forgettable though after a couple of beers it probably sounded a lot better.
3.) While My Guitar Gently Weeps (George Harrison) - 7:22 rating: *** stars
Yeah, it stretched on way too long, but Cox's cover of 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' was actually quite good. If you'd never heard the original this one would have stuck with you, however since 99.99% of the listening population was familiar with the George Harrison original, this one came off as an also-ran. Kudos to lead guitarist Ruskin for his contributions to the song.
Starting of with a cover of Ian Tyson's 'French Girl', side two was apparently devoted to showcasing Cox's sensitive leanings. You could just hear English majors choking back the tears while listening to this one.
2.) Suzanne (Leonard Cohen) - 5:36 rating: ** stars
I never particular liked the Leonard Cohen original so Cox's cover of 'Suzanne' didn't do much for me. Did people really build careers off of sap like this ("she's touched your perfect body with her mind ..."? If a 10th grader turned that couplet in as part of a writing assignment you'd give them a C-. Yech.
3.) A Day In The Life (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 3:45 rating: ** stars
You had to give Cox some credit for being willing to take on one of the Beatles' most elaborate compositions. Again, if you'd heard it in isolation you would have been quite impressed with the results, but the minute you compared it to the original, it you promptly forgot about Cox's version.
While it didn't match the original, Cox's third Beatles cover unexpectedly served as one of the album's standout performance. Unlike most of the covers, on this one Cox ditched the original blueprint, turning what was originally a fragile ballad into a cool soul number. The harp arrangement at the end of the song was a nice nod back to the original.
2.) Little Maggie (P.D.) - 4:05 rating: ** stars
'Little Maggie' served as one of Cox's most energetic performances, but surrounded by a down home country arrangement (banjo, fiddles, and pedal steel guitar), this one was wasted on my ears.
3.) Just Like A Woman (Bob Dylan) - 8:22 rating: * star
I've listened to this song dozens of times, and I'm still not sure how Cox managed to transform a classic Dylan track into one of the album's dullest performances.
The fourth Beatles cover, 'Hey Jude' started out with a professional, but rote cover. It seemed to fade out quickly, but then reappeared with an odd, but intriguing segment that featured native American Indian chanting. Yeah, this was one you had to hear to understand.
2.) Bessie Wonít Weep No More (P.D.) - 9:42 rating: ** stars
The album ended with an okay bluesy-Gospel number; just Cox and acoustic guitars. It was pretty, but forgettable and sure seemed to go on and on .
Well, the album's certainly obscure and had a couple of interesting moments. Is it essential? No. Is it Cox's best? Can't tell you.
Cox's catalog includes a number of additional LPs, though I've never explored any of them:
- 1963's "Danny Cox at the Seven Cities" (Seven Cities catalog number N80P-4762/3)
- 1968's "Sunny" (Pioneer catalog number 811P-2125)
- 1970's "Live At the Family Dog" (MGM/Sunflower catalog number Sun 5002)
- 1971's 'Danny Cox" (Dunhill catalog number DS-50114)
- 1974's "Feel So Good" (Casablanca catalog number NB 7008)
- 2006's "Danny Cox's Troost Ave Blues"
He still lives in Kansas City where he remains an active musician writing commercials and engaged in children's theater.
He also has a small website at: http://dannycoxsongs.com/home.html
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