Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
Source: Japan 24-Bit Remaster
Great Speckled Bird is a country rock album by Great Speckled Bird, a band formed in 1969 by Canadian musicians Ian and Sylvia Tyson. The other group members at the time of recording were Buddy Cage, on pedal steel guitar, Amos Garrett, on guitar and backup vocals, and N.D. Smart, on drums. Nashville session musicians David Briggs and Norbert Putnam sat in, with Briggs on piano and Putnam on bass guitar. Although founding member Ken Kalmusky is listed in the original liner notes, he had actually departed the group prior to recording.
Historically, it is one of those albums that should have been re-released years ago on CD, as should discs by bands like the Amazing Rhythm Aces (hooray to Stony Plain for finally doing it!). And it still stands up as a good album. It is not the perfect album, but when you realize it was made in 1969, and the great courage it took for these two folksingers to follow their instinct and make this album, you appreciate it even more.
There is a good and intelligent storyline in the lyrics, and some great music comes from the speakers. Listen to the interplay between Amos Garrett's (yes, the same musician who went on to fame with Paul Butterfield's Better Days and Maria Muldaur, and is still causing big guitar ripples) multiple string-bending guitar tones and Buddy Cage's (your memory is correct -- New Riders of the Purple Sage) steel guitar.
The album is notable for being the first album to be produced by Todd Rundgren.
Great Speckled Bird was a country rock group formed in 1969 by the Canadian musical duo Ian & Sylvia. Ian Tyson sang, played guitar and composed. Sylvia Tyson sang, composed and occasionally played piano. The other founding members were Amos Garrett on guitar and occasional vocals, Bill Keith on steel guitar, Ken Kalmusky on bass and Ricky Marcus on drums. They were named after the song, "The Great Speckled Bird", as recorded by Roy Acuff.
The group was featured in the film Festival Express, a documentary about the music festival of the same name that took place in 1970. The shows were scheduled, and the performers traveled by train, across Canada. In the film, Great Speckled Bird performs "C.C. Rider", along with Delaney Bramlett and members of Grateful Dead. A performance of the Dylan/Manuel song "Tears of Rage", without the aforementioned accompaniment, is included in the extra features of the DVD release.
In 1970, the group became the house band for the television show Nashville North, produced by the CTV network and filmed at the CFTO-TV studios in Toronto, which, after one season, became the Ian Tyson Show. The show ran until 1975.
Great Speckled Bird, led by the famous 1960s folk and folk-rock duo Ian & Sylvia, made a self-titled country-rock album at the end of the 1960s that has maintained a cult following over the years, though it didn't sell well. Some discographical confusion still surrounds the record.
Often it is listed as an Ian & Sylvia release, though Great Speckled Bird were indeed a band, not just an Ian & Sylvia album title. The confusion was perpetuated by a 1972 album credited to Ian & Sylvia with the Great Speckled Bird.
Ian & Sylvia had included country material in their eclectic repertoire from the time they began performing and recording in the early '60s. By the late '60s, they were leaning decidedly more toward a country-rock direction, recording the 1968 album Nashville in Nashville itself.
Great Speckled Bird, however, differed from that effort in that it was the work of a real band, not just Ian & Sylvia with session musicians. The pair founded the band in 1969, though there were some lineup changes before the album, including the replacement of ex-Bill Monroe sideman Bill Keith with pedal steel guitarist Buddy Cage. Also in the band was drummer N.D. Smart, who had played with the Remains and Mountain, and would later work with Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.
Great Speckled Bird, recorded in late 1969 and issued at the beginning of 1970, had a fuller band sound than any Ian & Sylvia release. It was also more immersed in country music than their previous albums, although it was a definite country-rock fusion (with a touch of gospel), featuring the pedal steel-lead guitar lines of Cage and guitarist Amos Garrett, who devised the technique of bending two or three strings at a time. Produced by a young Todd Rundgren in Nashville, the album, recorded for their manager Albert Grossman's Bearsville Record Productions, suffered from poor distribution and consequent low sales.
Great Speckled Bird toured as well, but got a mixed reception, in part because those expecting straight folk from Ian & Sylvia weren't prepared for a full band with electric instruments. They were part of the Festival Express tour in 1970, which had them cross Canada with a traveling rock festival of sorts that also included the Grateful Dead, the Band, Janis Joplin, and Delaney & Bonnie. The band continued for a while, but it became uncertain whether they were their own entity or an adjunct to Ian & Sylvia, especially when Cage and Garrett left, and the Columbia Ian & Sylvia album was credited to Ian & Sylvia with the Great Speckled Bird. The record was more subdued than Great Speckled Bird, and the band dissolved in the early '70s, with Ian & Sylvia parting ways themselves by the middle of the decade.
The group backed Ian & Sylvia until the duo parted ways in 1975. They also backed Ian Tyson as a solo artist, for his 1973 debut solo album and his live performances, until 1976. Highly Recommended
♣ Ian Tyson - guitar, vocals
♣ Sylvia Tyson - vocals
♣ Buddy Cage - pedal steel guitar
♣ Amos Garrett - guitar, background vocals
♣ N.D. Smart - drums
♣ David Briggs - piano
♣ Norbert Putnam - bass guitar
01. "Love What You're Doing Child" (Ian Tyson) – 3:39
02. "Calgary" (Ian Tyson, Sylvia Tyson) – 3:03
03. "Trucker's Cafe" (Ian Tyson) – 3:22
04. "Long Long Time to Get Old" (Ian Tyson) – 3:07
05. "Flies in the Bottle" (Ian Tyson) – 3:47
06. "Bloodshot Beholder" (Ian Tyson) – 2:58
07. "Crazy Arms" (Chuck Seals, Ralph Mooney) – 2:54
08. "This Dream" (Ian Tyson) – 3:40
09. "Smiling Wine" (Sylvia Tyson) – 3:11
10. "Rio Grande" (Ian Tyson, Amos Garrett) – 3:51
11. "Disappearing Woman" (Sylvia Tyson) – 2:10
12. "We Sail" (Sylvia Tyson) – 4:37
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