Gary McFarland and Peter Smith

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  

- Gary McFarland (RIP 1971) -- vocals, vibraphone, keyboards

- Peter Smith -- vocals


  supporting musicians:

- Ray Alonge -- French horn

- Chet Amsterdam -- bass

- Warren Bernhardt -- keyboard

- Phil Bodner -- reeds

- Sam Brown -- guitar

- Ron Cuber -- reeds

- Russell George -- fiddle

- Tony Levin -- bass

- George Opalisky -- reeds

- Romeo Penque -- reeds

- Herbert Price Jr.-- tuba

- Stuart Scharf -- guitar

- Denny Seiwell -- drums, percussion

- Martin Stann -- trumpet




- The Gary McFarland Orchestra





Genre: jazz

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Butterscotch Rum

Company: Buddah

Catalog:  BDS 95,001

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; small punch out hole top right corner

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD 1972

Price: SOLD $30.00

1971's "Butterscotch Rum" was an odd collaboration between jazz artist Gary McFarland and  political cartoonist/songwriter Peter Smith.   McFarland was credited with the music, Smith contributed the lyrics and the pair traded vocals across the nine original compositions.  Given McFarland had made a name for himself in the field of orchestral jazz,, exemplified by tracks like 'All My Better Days', 'Miami Here We Come', and 'Straight Arrow'  the album was surprisingly mainstream and even mildly commercial.  I'll readily admit this one isn't going to appeal to most folks.   Jazz fans will find it too commercial for their sophisticated tastes.  Okay, 'Rain On the Ocean' might be the exception to the rule.  At the same time pop fans are going to find it too quirky for their top-40 orientation. 


I can't quite put my fingers on it, but there's something that I find intriguing on this goofy collection.


back cover photo - left to right: Gary McFarland - Peter Smith


Only 38, in July 1971 McFarland suffered a fatal heart attack when someone spiked one of his drinks with a dose of liquid methadone.


"Butterscotch Rum" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) All My Better Days  (Gary McFarland - Peter Smith) - 3:08  rating: **** stars

Smooth, MOR-ish ballad with a touch of McFarland's beloved samba embedded in it.  Soothing tune with Smith's voice reminding me a bit of America's Dewey Burnell.   Unfortunately the song was probably too commercial for McFarland's jazz fans.  At the same time it was probably too jazzy for pop fans.  Nevertheless I liked it.  McFarland and Smith shared lead vocals on this one.

2.) Poor Daniel  (Gary McFarland - Peter Smith) - 4:05  rating: ** stars

The breezy, keyboard propelled ballad 'Poor Daniel' sounded like Smith had overdosed on the "Nilsson Does Newman" album.   The lyric had the same "aren't-I-deep-and-thought-provoking feel" that so many '70s artists craved.   Add to that there was a violin solo ...   yech. 

3.) Salvation Army Rags  (Gary McFarland - Peter Smith) - 5:08   rating: *** stars

The first couple of minutes of 'Salvation Army Rags' sounded like they'd stolen in from some 1880s ragtime tune.  Luckily the song abruptly shifted direction, picking up speed and a funky edge that made it one of the set's more commercial ventures.  Lyrically it wasn't one of Smith's most sophisticated efforts - the pair singing "play it again" time after time after time.   Nice horn charts.   

4.) Miami Here We Come  (Gary McFarland - Peter Smith) - 2:49   rating: *** stars

Lush, modestly commercial MOR ballad with some sweet harmony vocals kicked in midway and on the title refrain.  Imagine Lou Reed and The Beach Boys having decided they wanted to try being a lounge act.   I've got to tell you the harmony vocals were simply killer on this one. 

5.) Straight Arrow  (Gary McFarland - Peter Smith) - 3:48  rating: **** stars

Straight ahead low-keyed rocker.  With the pair sharing the lead vocals, 'Straight Ahead' would not have sounded out of place on a Loggins and Messina album.   Always wondered why the tune wasn't entitled 'Sylvia'.    Fun tune.   


(side 2)
1.) Dance with Me  (Gary McFarland - Peter Smith) - 4:53
  rating: ** stars

Another tune that seemingly was attempting to blend a Nilsson melody with Newman-esque insight.  The tune didn't come close to the goal.    

2.) Rain On the Ocean  (Gary McFarland - Peter Smith) - 7:17  rating: ** stars

Probably the most jazzy tune on the album, 'Rain On the Ocean' was also one of the dullest with a melody that just kind of plodded long.   Stretched out over seven minutes it was apparently intended to showcase McFarland's arrangement, but it came off sounding more like a misplaced piece of a film score than a true song.   

3.) Jenny's Path  (Gary McFarland - Peter Smith) - 2:37   rating: *** stars

Newman meets the Free Design ?   This is the tune the album got its title from.

4.) Patricia  (Gary McFarland - Peter Smith) - 5:40  rating: **** stars

Breezy, extended, jazzy ballad that had The Association, The Beach Boys and The Free Design elements buried in the arrangement.