Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rising Sons - Rising Sons: Featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder

Ry Cooder (Guitar, Dobro, Mandolin, Vocals)
Taj Mahal (Guitar, Harmonica, Piano, Vocals)
Jesse Lee Kincaid (Guitar, Vocals)
Gary Marker (Bass)
Kevin Kelley (Drums, Percussion)

Rising Sons was a Los Angeles, California-based band founded in 1964. The original lineup was Ry Cooder (vocals, six and 12-string guitar, mandolin, slide and bottleneck guitar, dobro), Taj Mahal (vocals, harmonica, guitar, piano), Gary Marker (bass), Jesse Lee Kincaid (vocals and guitar) and Ed Cassidy (drums). Cassidy left the band after he broke his hand and was replaced by Kevin Kelley.

The group was signed to Columbia Records but their album was never issued. One single, "Candy Man"/"The Devil's Got My Woman", did surface, but the group disbanded in 1966.

No one knew quite what to make of this L.A. band in the mid-’60s, which unbelievably included Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Kevin Kelly (later in the Byrds), and even Ed Cassidy (briefly) in the same lineup. They only managed one single on Columbia before breaking up in 1966, but they also got to lay down an album’s worth of unreleased material, which was finally issued over 25 years later. Their languid, bluesy, folksy sort of sound anticipated future recordings by outfits like Moby Grape, Buffalo Springfield, the Grateful Dead, and even the country-rock Byrds.
Their lone single and unreleased album form the core of this 22-track reissue, which features imaginative rearrangements of standards like “Corrine, Corrina,” an obscure Dylan cover (“Walkin’ down the Line”), rocking originals, a confident performance of Goffin/King’s “Take A Giant Step” (later Mahal’s signature tune), and nifty guitar interplay between Mahal and Cooder throughout. Overall, it sounds a lot more like it belongs in 1967-68 than 1965-66. This archival release has value above and beyond historical inerest.

"..The Rising Sons are one of the great what-might-have-been stories of Sixties rock. For a few brief moments in 1965 and '66, the Sons were the club band to beat in Los Angeles, tearing it up with a dynamic menage a trois of ardent folk-blues scholarship, brawny Delta grind and Beatlesque pop vigor. But after a lone Columbia single flopped and a projected album was scrapped, the Sons broke up and became a legend of sorts, famous mostly for their future cachet. Bluesman Taj Mahal, then fresh from the Boston hootenanny scene, was one of the Sons' two singers; roots-guitar god Ry Cooder, still in his teens at the time, was the band's prodigious lead picker.
The Sons deserved better. These twenty-two rousing and mostly unreleased performances from the Columbia vaults show the Rising Sons to be the missing link between Beatlemania and the late-Sixties electric-blues explosion, an exciting, highly commercial proposition that missed stardom by just a hairbreadth. They turn vintage black-cat moans like Sleepy John Estes's "If the River Was Whiskey (Divin' Duck Blues)" and the Reverend Gary Davis's "Candy Man" into ebullient Hollywood party soul, with Cooder's spidery, purist chops betraying the twangy influence of George Harrison, while Taj Mahal spikes the band's Sunset Strip mix with his own Beale Street-style howl. "Statesboro Blues" (heard in two zesty readings) cooks like the Cavern-era Beatles with a hellhound on their trail.
The legend is slightly undercut by the modest, even weedy production by Terry Melcher, who never quite reconciled the Sons' mythic stage prowess with the signature jangle of his work with the Byrds and Paul Revere and the Raiders. When the overtly Dylanesque ambitions (nasal delivery et cetera) of the Sons' other singer, Jesse Lee Kincaid, take over on "Spanish Lace Blues" and "The Girl With Green Eyes," the Sons sound wooden, as if they're just going through the L.A. folk-rock motions.
But at their best (which is most of the time), the Rising Sons were precocious blues adventurers who took the music out of the beatnik coffeehouses and into the discotheques, where people could really dance to it. The Sons' version of "Take a Giant Step" is the best example of their derring-do, a lithe roadhouse overhaul of the Monkees song combining Taj Mahal's energetic howl and Cooder's bottleneck maneuvers with bursts of cheesy Sixties fuzz guitar and a weird neo-Byrdsy a cappella vocal break. They definitely don't make 'em like that anymore..."

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