Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Gentle Soul - Gentle Soul (Outstanding Pop-Rock Album US 1968)

Size: 122 MB
Bitrate: 256
Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
Artwork Included
Source: Japan 24-Bit Remaster

The Gentle Soul's sole album is suffused with pretty and wistful folk-rock tunes, deftly produced by Terry Melcher to incorporate dreamy orchestral instrumentation -- harpsichord, flute, and cello -- while retaining an understated subtlety. If you like the Stone Poneys, who made similar material in the late 1960s, there's no way you're not going to like this album. If you're sitting on the fence after that conditional recommendation, it might be too mellow for your tastes. If you want to know how exactly it might differ from the Stone Poneys, it's a little more on the soft-rock side, and definitely heavier on the male-female harmonies. All of which might be underselling the record, which is pretty attractive, though not astounding, on its own terms. That's probably Ry Cooder making his presence felt on the gutsiest and bluesiest tunes, "Young Man Blue" and "Reelin'," both of which feature excellent acoustic slide guitar. Although Pamela Polland and Rick Stanley sing and write well together, it's Polland whose personality comes through stronger, particularly as she takes the occasional unharmonized lead vocal and is the sole composer of one of the record's strongest tunes, "See My Love (Song for Greg)." Is this worth the three figure prices it commands on auction lists? No. But what is? It's decent music if you can get it.

It was finally reissued on CD by Sundazed in 2003 with the addition of nine bonus cuts, including all five songs from their late-'60s non-LP singles, an alternate take of the single "Tell Me Love," and three previously unreleased outtakes, among them the early Jackson Browne composition "Flying Thing." With the exception of a bluesy 1968 version of "2:10 Train" (also covered by the Stone Poneys and the Rising Sons), most of these have a poppier sound than the album, sometimes showing the influence of the Byrds and the Mamas & the Papas in the harmonies and guitar parts.

 It’s kind of amazing that this record wasn’t reissued much sooner than just a few years ago. While the Gentle Soul themselves faded into obscurity within a couple years of the release of this album, the name-dropping of musicians involved with the band pretty much demands that these tracks be made more widely available to all manner of music fans. Rick Stanley and Pamela Polland formed the nucleus of the band and aren’t exactly household names, but they ran with an impressive crowd. A very young Ry Cooder appears here on guitar and more importantly mandolin. Van Dyke Parks appears on the heels of his fated collaboration with Brian Wilson on the Beach Boys’ ‘SMILE’ recordings. Larry Knechtel was already a well-known keyboardist of Simon & Garfunkel fame and plays organ here. Flautist Paul Horn had just left a lucrative gig with Tony Bennett and is also on the record. And a teenage Jackson Browne had caught the ear of Polland, who recorded one of his first compositions, “Flying Thing”. This track didn’t appear on the original vinyl, but is included on the CD reissue. Browne also briefly replaced Stanley in the touring version of Gentle Soul before it disbanded and he went on to a solo career.

The Gentle Soul - US Promo Single 22 May 1967
Unfortunately this CD version was produced from a digital copy of the vinyl release and suffers a bit as a result. The sound isn’t bad, but there are a few slightly fuzzed-over spots that seem to have been too manipulated. But if you are looking for this record you’ll have to settle for the CD for the time being at least, unless you have a very fat wallet and feel like hunting down one of the few and rare original vinyl copies.

In the 21st century this comes off as a very mild, West Coast soft-rock and country-tinged body of work. But for its time this was really fairly innovative stuff. The Eagles hadn’t yet made Hollywood country rock a radio staple yet, and the blending of folk, country, and some orchestral instrumentation with well-harmonized vocals was still a novel thing. The sounds here are in stark contrast with what Simon & Garfunkel were doing in New York, much less ethnic and more rural-sounding and a bit closer to the less-jaded West Coast hippie crowd, but not quite Haight-Asbury hippie. Very refined really. While Simon & Garfunkel were more likely to appear on an Ivy League college’s student green for a wine and cheese recital, Gentle Soul come off as just as likely to show up in a smoke-filled coffee house or even on the beach. The songs are almost all about relationships or introspection, and seem to consciously avoid more controversial social topics, and certainly not anything political.

The Gentle Soul w. Papersleeve - US Promo Single 27 Feb 1967
Almost all the songs on the original release were composed by Polland, with the exception of “Young Man Blue” and the last two tracks. An interesting trivia note: the lyrics for “Dance” were actually written by actor the late Ned Wynn, best known for his role of the dastardly Colonel Bat Guano in the Stanley Kubrick film ‘Dr. Strangelove’. Enough name-dropping already? Like I said, this album itself isn’t as impressive as are the number of accomplished artists who were involved with the band at some level or another.

Ry Cooder is the musical star though, turning out consistently excellent if rather simple guitar and mandolin performances on every track. Polland and Stanley are a great matched set on vocals, harmonizing well with each other and giving this a truly folk tinge. The more interesting tracks include the opening “Overture”, a sort of medley of the rest of the album’s tracks; the harpsichord-dominant “Marcus” written as a lullaby for band manager Billy James’ young son; and the Stanley autobiography “Young Man Blue”, which succeeds almost entirely due to Cooder’s bluesy and trance-like slide guitar. “Empty Wine” offers the most exquisite vocals from Polland, as well as some fine cello from sometime Bob Dylan sideman Ted Michel.

The Gentle Soul - US Promo Single 27 Feb 1967
The ‘bonus’ tracks are mostly b-sides or earlier tracks that didn’t make it onto the original album. “2:10 Train” features Taj Mahal himself on harmonica. The sound quality of these tracks varies widely, but all of them are at least cleaned up enough to merit being put into this collection. Most are fairly forgettable, although the flower-powered “Our National Anthem” (not the one you’re probably thinking of) is mildly interesting in a hippie/love/peace kind of way. Pretty dated sentiments today though.

This is a very decent folk album, probably qualifying as progressive just because it would have been a bit of a novelty in 1968, especially the stringed instruments and harpsichord. Extra points for providing an early and obscure glimpse into the genius of Ry Cooder. I’ll give it a very high three stars with recommendation for most folk fans. []

 Pamela Polland - female vocals, guitar
 Rick Stanley - vocals, guitar
 Tony Cohan - tabla
 Ry Cooder, Mike Deasy - guitar
 Van Dyke Parks - harpsichord
 Paul Horn - flute
 Ted Michel - cello
 Larry Knechtel - organ
 Bill Plummer - bass
 Gayle Levant - harp


 Riley Wyldflower - guitar
 Jerry Cole - guitar
 Joe Osborne - bass
 Sandy Konikoff - drums
 Hal Blaine - drums
 Terry Melcher - producer (01-11)

01. Overture - 4:35
02. Marcus (Pamela Polland) - 2:52
03. Song For Eolia - 2:12
04. Young Man Blue (Rick Stanley) - 2:30
05. Renaissance - 3:10
06. See My Love (Song For Greg) (Pamela Polland) - 3:55
07. Love Is Always Real - 2:55
08. Empty Wine - 2:35
09. Through A Dream - 3:54
10. Reelin' (Pamela Polland) - 3:17
11. Dance (Rick Stanley/N.Wynn) - 3:23

Rare Bonus Tracks:
12. Tell Me Love (mono, single A-side) (Rick Stanley) - 2:24
13. Song For Three (mono, single B-side) (Pamela Polland/G.Copeland) - 2:56
14. 2:10 Train (mono) (T.Campbell/L.Albertano) - 2:52
15. Flying Thing (previously unissued) (Jackson Browne) - 3:15
16. God Is Love (previously unissued) - 2:19
17. You Move Me (single A-side) (Pamela Polland) - 2:12
18. Our National Anthem (single B-side) (Pamela Polland) - 2:28
19. Tell Me Love (alternate version, previously unissued) (Rick Stanley) - 2:22
20. Love Is Always Real (alternate version, previously unissued) - 3:02

1. Link
2. Link


ge said...

Just held CD yesterday transferring album from shelf to car---this version is super to see

Anonymous said...

Been looking for this - THANKS

Byrds Flyght said...

I have the original vinyl, and a CDR sent to me by Pamela Polland in the late 90s. She also wrote "Tulsa County" which was recorded by many, including the Byrds. I think the LP has been re-released on high quality vinyl years ago.

Carlos Roa said...

Thankx a lot friend. Nice record.

Anonymous said...

Pamela Polland is not listed as a group member on the album back cover. I assume however that is her picture on the front cover. It seems as if she was fated to her relative obscurity.

Byrds Flyght said...

Rick Stanley isn't mentioned on the back cover either. Only the accompanying musicians were.

Anonymous said...

Thanx a lot!

john said...

I've listened to the original and thought it was exceptional, curious about the bonus tracks. Thanks very much.

Reo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Witty said...

Would you please re-upload this


Jim W