Georgia Street, by Appaloosa

 

One thing that works in favor of music aficionados is the seemingly never ending hidden musical gems that pop up as you delve into the past. Thanks to fellow music aficionado and good friend Kerry Maxwell for pointing me in the direction of this fantastic record. Appaloosa was the brainchild of John Parker Compton who grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the 60s and was influenced by artists who played at the legendary Club 47 (now club Passim) in Harvard Square, in particular by Tim Hardin. While still in high school he started performing in folk clubs around Boston and then met violin player Robin Batteau, with whom he started performing as a duo. In 1968 he met Van Morrison, at the time living in Boston and preparing material for an album that would become Astral Weeks. Compton on the meeting: “Standing on Van’s porch excited and nervous, I rang his doorbell. Van’s wife Janet Planet opened the door and invited me in and showed me into their kitchen as Van’s children ran around their small house. Van came downstairs and I handed him a reel-to-reel tape of my recordings and he threaded them onto a Wollensak tape recorder sitting on his kitchen table. He listened to my song “Subway” and a few others and then he replied, “I like your songs.” That was a meeting that I will always cherish.”

appaloosa-back-cover

Appaloosa back cover

Compton rounded up the band with schoolmate David Reiser on Bass and Eugene Rosov on Cello, creating an interesting mix of musical instruments that years later would be classified as Chamber Folk, an exclusive club of folk artists with a classical sensibility to their arrangement. As possible only in that period of time, when record labels were after unique bands that defied category, they landed a deal with a major label:”We auditioned for about five or six record companies in New York City. We were on the waiting list of three or four companies, and decided to approach another company, which turned out to be Columbia. Meeting Al Kooper was just a fluke. We were playing for some secretaries at Columbia while waiting for an appointment. Al Kooper walked by and instantly asked us if we would like to make a demo tape that night.”

Al Kooper was busy during his production stint at Columbia, producing jazz and rock albums including the Don Ellis Orchestra and Bob Dylan. He also produced his own albums, including one of late-60s iconic albums, Super Session with Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. Appaloosa was one of his last producing jobs at Columbia. Kooper liked the natural acoustic sound of the band and tried to keep it true to its original vibe without much embellishment. The band is playing live in the studio, and no overdubs were added. Kooper in the album’s liner notes: “The strings you hear in this album are exclusively Robin Batteau and Gene Rosov, violin and cello respectively. There is never any overdubbing or sel-synching of extra strings on this album. When you hear strings, there are only two strings playing at all times. The illusion of hearing twenty or thirty is a tribute to their consummate technique and arranging.”

Kooper’s contribution to the album went beyond the production seat, adding playing duties on keyboards, vibraphone and electric guitar. On Georgia Street he plays a Rock-Si-Chord, an electronic keyboard that tries to emulate the sound of a harpsichord in a context of amplified instruments. The instrument was popular in the late 60 and early 70s, and was used by Michael Kamen with the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble.

Kooper also brought in great musicians from his Blood Sweat and Tears days, the band he left in 1968 after an amazing debut album. On Georgia Street he brought Bobby Colomby to play drums and Fred Lipsius on Alto Sax. Apart from his drumming career Colomby went on to produce jazz and rock albums, including Jaco Pastorius, the bassist’s first album from 1976. Fred Lipsius arranged some of Blood, Sweat and Tears best known songs including Spinning wheel (Grammy Award on that one) and You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.

Being still teenagers and naïve at the album’s release and without a manager, Appaloosa went nowhere. Eugene Rosov went back to Harvard University and David joined a jazz band. Compton and Batteau moved to California, where they recorded one more album for Columbia, In California. The sole album they released in 1969 is a rare classic of that period. I picked Georgia Street for its blend of jazz and folk, the great strings work, Bobby Colomby’s drumming and Al Kooper on that Rock-Si-Chord.

Looking at the herd, knowing living’s just a word,

Realizing much too quickly how everything’s absurd,

Visions can’t be heard.

 

She think she is to me like water is to sand,

She thinks I’ll soak her up and you know try and understand,

But not everything’s so grand.

That’s not how it is on Georgia Street,

That’s not how it is on Georgia Street.

 

Walking through the crowd, She’s acting, she’s acting much too proud,

She’s floating swiftly smoothly on her silver cloud,

And she’s talking, she’s talking much too loud.

 

She think she is to me like water is to sand,

She thinks I’ll soak her up and you know try and understand,

But not everything’s so grand.

That’s not how it is on Georgia Street,

That’s not how it is on Georgia Street.

 

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