Band members Related acts
- Steve D'Avanzo -- piano
- Danny Krieger -- slide guitar
- Eric Morton -- flute
- Dave O'Niell -- congas
- Ray Price -- drums
- Eric Relph -- vocals, guitar
- Billy Slater -- bass
- Michael Allsup -- mellotron
- Bill Champlin -- guitar, keyboards
- none known
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Pretty Darlin'
Company: Evy Pollen
Country/State: Laguna Beach, California
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 5928
Here's another late-1970s California-based private press that seems to have attracted most of its attention as a result of being included in one of the Hans Pokora Record Collector Dreams books (I think it was in the fourth volume). Subject to debate, but at least to my ears, Pokora's selections tend to reflect rarity, as opposed to musical quality which makes the standard description for Eric Relph's "Pretty Darlin'" almost laughable:
"Excellent trippy folk/soft rock/psych thing. Slippery lead guitar, slide guitar, a bit of Mellotron, etc."
I don't know about your situation, but that description would cover about a third of my record collection.
Seemingly a self-financed vanity project released on the Laguna Beach-based Evy Pollen label (the mailing address was a P.O. box), the album was co-produced by Relph and former Three Dog Night lead guitarist Michael Allsup. All ten tracks were penned by Relph with Gladys Vincent providing lyrics for two of the selections. Backing seems to have been from friends and associates with the notable exception of Allsup who contributed mellotron on a track and Bill Champlin who provided guitar and keyboards on a couple of tracks.
The first couple of spins didn't exactly knock my socks off. While it had a surprisingly polished sound for a vanity project, none of the ten Relph-penned numbers were in-your-face impressive. The album certainly had its moments, but there just wasn't that one standout killer track. Luckily this was one that aside to revisit. Sadly, it took me a couple of years to get back to it, but the second time around it struck a much more positive note with me.
- The title track opened up with some very attractive, pseudo-jazzy guitar chords, before morphing into a breezy, vaguely tropical sounding ballad. Singing in a slightly higher key that most of the other songs, Relph's sounded a little tentative on this one, but he turned in a fantastic lead guitar solo that salvaged the song. rating: *** stars
- In spite of the presence of a flute in the arrangement, 'Oh Why' was one of the album's most commercial offerings. The song sported a great country--rock melody with a surprisingly rock oriented hook (Allsup providing Mellotron on this one). Relph's sounded much more comfortable in this lower range. rating: *** stars
- Kicked along by Relph's screeching lead guitar, 'Spirit Train' was about as close to an outright rock song as the album came. At the same time, the song had a very commercial arrangement that would have sounded good on top-40 radio. rating: *** stars
- A nice country-rocker, the highlight of 'Forty Miles' came in the form of Relph's excellent slide guitar. Tasteful and restrained, he set a standard for the instrument that most practitioners could only dream about. One of my favorite performances on the album. rating: *** stars
- An upbeat acoustic number, 'Treat Me Kind' sounded like something you might have heard at a Saturday evening Catholic folk mass. Complete with backing chorus (the lead female voice that sang 'treat me kind' was a major irritating), it was one of those upbeat, inspirational songs that you'll either love, or detest. I lean to the latter. rating: ** star
- With a great melody and interesting lyric 'Gold or Silver' was the kind of country-rock song a group like Firefall always wanted to find. The song also served as a platform for Relph to showcase his rock guitar chops.. rating: **** star
- There was a great song buried somewhere in the arrangement to 'Down the Road'. Unfortunately, as it stood the song couldn't figure out what it wanted to be - slide-powered rocker, singer-songwriter, country-rock number ... The end result was kind of an aural mess. Relph's slide guitar again provided the highlight. rating: ** star
- Another brush was straight ahead rock, 'Hands Off Babe' couldn't quite pull it off. This time out the shortcoming was in the vocal department. Relph was clearly trying to tough up his delivery, but it simply wasn't very convincing. It was like watching your 15 year old neighbor trying to prove he was a bad ass. Gladys Vincent's lyrics didn't help either. rating: ** star
- A pleasant singer-songwriter ballad, 'Stoned Louis' would have been a lot better without the irritating cocktail jazz flute arrangement and Relph's in-of-song scatting. rating: ** star
- 'Ah Dey Aum' acoustic guitar arrangement always reminded me of something Lindsey Buckingham might have pulled off. Balancing technical virtuosity with an attractive melody, it was quite a tour-de-force. (Always wanted to use that phrase in a review.) rating: *** star
All told one of the better private presses I've heard in the last couple of years. A little too laidback from rock fans, but still well worth checking out. (Not that anyone will care, but Bill Ogden's front cover artwork has always kind of creeped me out ... what happened to the rest of the woman's face?)
Darlin" track listing:
1.) Pretty Darlin' (Eric Relph) - 4:13
2.) Oh Why (Eric Relph) - 2:42
3.) Spirit Train (Eric Relph - Gladys Vincent) - 2:09
4.) Forty Miles (Eric Relph) - 3:12
5.) Treat Me Kind (Eric Relph) - 2:53
2.) Down the Road (Eric Relph) - 2:43
3.) Hands Off Babe (Eric Relph - Gladys Vincent) - 2:50
4.) Stoned Louis (Eric Relph) - 2:48
5.) Ah Dey Aum (instrumental) (Eric Relph) - 2:35
And that seems to have been it for Relph's recording career ... Anyone with more insight feel free to drop me a line.
And someone did !
Hi Scott, Sorry you didn't like the LP. It's hard for me to listen to also, but at the time it seemed better. I used all my money after going through a divorce on it, but my kids still seem to think it is cool. Michale Allsup was a friend, so I took a bunch of friends into the studio just for fun. People convinced me into putting money into the project and turned it more into a production. It got quite a bit of airplay, and I had records in stores and did many commercials and a few interviews. It was never meant to go anywhere....for real! KNX FM in LA almost went with one of the tunes and wanted me to rerecord the song because the quality wasn't as good as Kenny Loggins if played back to back. Gladys Vincent was an older and wonderful friend of Papa John Creach's. I was very good friends with John & Gretchen. Guess you know who Bill Champlin & Michal Allsup are. The singers Michale Rosato & Bill Manassero are wonderful musicians and people. Mike has a flower shop in Hawaii and Bill has an orphanage in Haiti and was recently featured on a national special by CNN called "Rescued." Bill Ogden was a good friend and owed me around $100 for paying his rent one month and let me use his drawing for the cover and then decided to finish up the art work. I think he is one of the best surf artists. Not much vanity in this project...I just needed a cover and the other painting he had at the time wasn't as tasty.
I have never given up music, just left town to have a family. I still have a 24 track studio and have recorded several CDs over the years. We just played a gig last night, but it's way too much work packing around all the gear now. Where are the roadies when you need them? We play classic oldies with a few originals. One of the bands I was in played at the Laguna Beach Christmas Festival on Christmas Night. (Google it if you want) Crazy but fun times! I never should have quit surfing though!
Keep the Faith, Keep in touch
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