John Sebastian – Faithful Virtue: The Reprise Recordings (2001)

Posted by Green on September 10, 2019as


This set is the final word on the ’70s solo recordings of singer/songwriter John Sebastian. Compiled over three discs are all five of his LPs for the Reprise label: John B. Sebastian, Cheapo-Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian, The Four of Us, Tarzana Kid, and Welcome Back. Additionally, there is an extra half-hour of live material, most of which is issued here for the first time. As he had done with the Lovin’ Spoonful, Sebastian’s emotive and thought-provoking lyrics prove to be his strongest suit. “How Have You Been,” “I Had a Dream,” and “Rainbows All Over Your Blues” best reflect the continuation of the introspective musical and lyrical themes that he had first explored on tracks such as “Younger Generation” and “Darlin’ Be Home Soon.” However, the album was far from being acoustic and weepy. “Red-Eye Express,” “What She Thinks About,” and “Baby, Don’t Ya Get Crazy” are up-tempo rockers featuring the likes of Dallas Taylor (drums), Harvey Brooks (bass), and Stephen Stills (guitar). Sebastian’s second long-player — Cheapo-Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian — was issued to counteract the potential damage of a completely unauthorized live package released by MGM Records. The results are wholly fulfilling and feature a simple duo of Sebastian (guitar/vocals) and Paul Harris (piano). In addition to playing favorites such as “Nashville Cats,” “Did You Ever Have to Make up Your Mind,” and “Lovin’ You,” he also cooked up some vintage jug band blues on “Mobile Line” and a crowd-rousing loose aggregate of oldies including “In the Still of the Night” and “Blue Suede Shoes.” The Four of Us returns Sebastian back to his folk/blues roots on “Well, Well, Well” and “Black Snake Blues.” The extended title track is a picturesque travelogue of places and events between two couples approaching middle age. Although the album did not do well at the cash register when it was issued, it has retained an irresistible harmony and sense of charm. Tarzana Kid suffered much the same fate as its predecessor. This is doubly unfortunate, as it likewise features some of Sebastian’s best studio sides, including his serene cover of Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo,” Lowell George’s “Dixie Chicken,” and again a return to his roots with “Sportin’ Life.” Tarzana Kid is an all-star affair with the likes of David Grisman (mandolin), Ry Cooder (guitar), and David Lindley (guitar), and teamed Sebastian back up with his former producer from the Lovin’ Spoonful, Erik Jacobsen. As he points out in his riveting liner notes essay, the only reason that the Welcome Back album was issued was in support of the title track, which had become a chart-topping hit as well as the theme song to the television situation comedy of the same name. That point aside, there are a few outstanding pieces, including reworked versions of “Didn’t Want to Have to Do It” and “Warm Baby.” A real treat awaits listeners at the end of disc three, with no less than two vintage live sets. The first includes Sebastian’s entire five-song performance from the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. The second is from Winterland Arena in San Francisco during the fall of 1969. For true fans, these recordings represent a grail of sorts. Faithful Virtue: The Reprise Recordings also includes a 48-page liner notes booklet with previously unissued photos and memorabilia. Additionally, there is a separate six-panel foldout poster that also contains all the lyrics from the five long-players. The North American release is limited to an edition of 3,000 and is available via the Rhino HandMade Internet audio salon.

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