Monday, September 17, 2007
IAN MATTHEWS - Valley Hi/Some Days You Eat The Bear And Some Days The Bear Eats You CD (Water)
Another slice of MOR folk-rock I have found great affection for the past 12 months. Let's make this quick: Matthews was briefly a member of Fairport Convention before going solo and heading for the West Coast of the US of A in the early '70s. He also headed up the short-lived outfit Plainsong, who released an excellent album on Elektra in '72 (also reissued as a 2CD on Water w/ a ton of bonus tracks), which I would highly recommend to fans of Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, before cutting this LP in '73. His voice and delivery is light and breezy and he'd obviously been hanging around w/ possibly one too many Laurel Canyon hippies at the time, in which case I would not recemmend this album to anyone whose taste in music runs the full gamut from Discharge to Negative Approach. It comprises mostly covers from the likes of Jackson Browne ("These Days", also covered by Nico on her debut), Richard Thompson, Steve Young, Randy Newman and Michael Nesmith, and whilst such a cover-heavy disc may denote a certain lightness of approach, Matthews interpretations really make this his album, and the opener, "Keep On Sailing", a Matthews original, is a standout. Water have tacked on his Some Days You... LP from '74 as a bonus, which, despite some good moments, including a reworking of "Keep On Sailing", as well as Gene Clark and Tom Waits covers, possesses a super-slick yacht-rock sound which ruins some otherwise great material. On top of that you get a version of Steely Dan's "Dirty Work" (a guilty pleasure, I might add) and none other than Jeff "Skunk" Baxter on electric and pedal steel guitar. Keep on sailing, indeed! I tend to skip most of the second album here, though the consistent greatness of the first makes this a definite keeper.