Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1972)
- Barbara Keith -- vocals, acoustic guitar, keyboard
supporting musicians (1972)
- Max Bennett -- bass
- Richard Bennett -- pedal steel guitar
- John Brennan -- acoustic guitar
- David Cohen -- electric guitar
- Craig Doerge -- keyboards
- Lowell George (RIP) -- guitar
- Jim Gordon (RIP) -- drums, percussion
- Emory Gordy Jr. -- bass
- Milt Holland - - percussion
- Jim Keltner -- drums
- Sneaky Pete Kleinow -- pedal steel guitar
- Danny Kootch -- electric guitar
- Clarence MacDonald -- keyboards
- Spooner Oldham -- keyboards
- Tony Peluso -- electric guitar
- Lee Sklar -- bass
- Dennis St. John -- drums, percussion
- Ron Tutt -- drums, percussion
- Michael Utley -- keyboards
- The Stone Cnyons
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Barbara Keith
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 3295
I owned the Kangeroo album for years and always wondered what Barbara Keith's solo efforts sounded like. Both her solo albums get rave reviews from fans. Ironically, personal history has shown that's frequently the first sign of potential danger. Still, Keith's numerous fans seem totally committed to her cause and there's little of the hyperbole that surrounds so many of the big name albums that have proven disappointing.
Barbara Keith's self-titled 1969 debut on Verve is serious rare. In contrast, 1972's "Barbara Keith" is merely scarce. Still, in all the years I've been collecting, I'd only seen two copies, including one at a small, Herndon, Virginia record store (which I snatched up),. Produced by Larry Marks, Reprise seemingly put considerable resource into the album. In addition to featuring a stunning list of A-team studio players, the label allowed Keith substantial artistic freedom. How often do you see a little known artist being allowed to record an album of original material - the one cover being a seemingly contractually required Dylan cover ('All Along the Watchtower'). Speaking of Dylan, the album started out with a simply killer cover of 'All Along the Watchtower'. Admittedly it took two guitarists to get there (David Cohen and Tony Peluso), but the end result was almost as good as the Hendrix version. And then the album started to go off the tracks for me. When Keith employed her huskier voice (the ballad 'Detroit or Buffalo', the gospel-tinged 'Shining All Along', and the rocker 'A Stone's Throw Away'), she had a fantastic instrument that's always reminded me a little bit of a tougher Laura Nyro, or maybe an American Sandy Denny. Her lyrics were personal and frequently interesting, but on songs like 'Rolling Water' and 'The Bramble and the Rose' Keith displayed a penchant for sensitive singer/songwriter ballads where she exhibited a delivery that included a shrill, shaky element that didn't do a great deal for me. Her hardcore fans will hate me saying this wasn't a total wash-out, but was simply too inconsistent to live up to the hype that surrounded it.
Reportedly unhappy with the album, Keith supposedly returned her advance money to Reprise and the two parties went their separate ways just as the album was released. Probably not a big surprise, but Reprise didn't bother putting much promotional effort behind the album. in the early '00s she reappeared in the band The Stone Coyotes, featuring her husband and son (Doug and John Tibbles). I like what I've heard. Here's a link to the band's homepage: The Stone Coyotes
Keith" track listing:
1.) All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan) - 3:23 rating: **** stars
About all I can say is shame the rest of the album wasn't as good as her Dylan cover. Taunt, biting, and almost as rockin' as the Hendrix version, this was the kind of Dylan cover most folks could only dream of. David Cohen and Tony Peluso on lead guitars. Shame it wasn't longer. Hard to believe the single didn't attract commercial attention:
- 1973's 'All Along the Watchtower' b/w 'The Bramble and the Rose' (Reprise catalog number REP 1144)
2.) Rolling Water (Barbara Keith) - 3:09 rating: ** stars
'Rolling Water' was was certainly a pretty folk-tinged ballad, but this was one where Keith's unsteady, warbling vocals were a major distraction. Hearing it multi-tracked was even more painful.
3.) The Bramble and the Rose (Barbara Keith) - 2:50 rating: ** stars
Emily Harris-styled country, complete with Richard Bennett pedal steel guitar ... not my genre.
4.) Burn the Midnight Oil No More (Barbara Keith) - 3:03 rating: ** stars
'Burn the Midnight Oil No More' was a stark, hyper-sensitive ballad featuring Keith on piano and Lee Sklar on bass. Imagine an American version of the late Sandy Denny and you'll get a feel for this one.
5.) Free the People (Barbara Keith) - 3:49 rating: **** stars
With a country-Gospel sound, 'Free the People' the song is my choice for the album's second best performance. I'm not claiming it's great, but it had the best melody and was one of the few performances with a vocal that didn't quiver too much. Delaney and Bonnie quickly spotted it and enjoyed a hit with their 45. The tune was tapped as a single in the UK and France. Three years later A&M reissued it as a single in the US:
- 1973's 'Free the People' b/w 'All Along the Watchtower' (Reprise catalog number K 14240)
- 1976's ''Free the People' b/w 'The Rainmaker' (A&M catalog number 1191)
1.) Detroit or Buffalo (Barbara Keith) - 4:29 rating: **** stars
Geez, if there's a song Keith's known for, based on the number of covers over the years, it's probably the country-tinged ballad 'Detroit or Buffalo'. Boasting one of her prettiest melodies and support from Lowell George (acoustic guitar) and Sneaky Pete Kleinow (pedal steel guitar), this was another album highlight. Tear jerk beautiful.
2.) The Road I Took To You (Barbara Keith) - 3:17 rating: ** stars
The keyboard propelled ballad 'The Road I Took To You' stands as another Keith tune that's been covered by a lot of people. Pretty, but again a touch too sentimental for my tastes.
3.) Shining All Along (Barbara Keith) - 3:04 rating: *** stars
To my ears 'Shining All Along' has always sounded like one of the gospel-rockers the Bonnie and Delaney might have recorded in the mid-'70s. Lowell George's slide guitar was prominently featured.
4.) Rainy Nights Are All the Same (Barbara Keith) - 3:21 rating: *** stars
Another pretty, but forgettable acoustic ballad.
5.) A Stone's Throw Away (Barbara Keith - Doug Tibbles) - 4:43 rating: **** stars
Maybe I'm fooling myself, but Lowell George's slide guitar has always sounded so distinctive to me ... Another out-and-out rocker and another song that would have made a dandy 45.
Fro anyone interested, there's a nice Japanese fan site at: http://www.geocities.jp/hideki_wtnb/barbara-keith.html
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