The YOUNGBLOODS – ” The Albums “

Posted: July 11, 2022 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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If the “Summer of Love” had a theme song, it would have to be “Get Together”, by The Youngbloods. With its warm cascade of chords and message of aspirational brotherhood, “Together” swirled the hippie ethic into a song.

As far as choruses go, few are as instantly identifiable as this one: “Come on, people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now.”

The song, “Get Together” (sometimes called “Let’s Get Together”), has a fascinating, convoluted history. For most people, it will always be associated with the Youngbloods, whose primary lead singer, Jesse Colin Young originally born Perry Miller in November 1941 in Queens, N.Y. Young got his start in the early ’60s as a solo folk-blues singer on the Boston-Cambridge club circuit. He released two acoustic albums, “The Soul of a City Boy” (Capitol Records, 1964) and “Young Blood” (Mercury, 1965), before the rock and roll bug bit him.

Along with guitarist-singer Jerry Corbitt, keyboardist-guitarist Lowell “Banana” Levinger and drummer Joe Bauer, Young (who switched to bass in the band) formed the Youngbloods in Boston in 1966 and, after signing with RCA Records, they recorded their self-titled debut album the following year. Corbitt and Young started playing together on his back porch. Then one day after the Beatles came out we said, “Could we just transition into a band?” Banana lived down the street from Corbitt, and Joe Bauer had just come up from Memphis and moved in upstairs from Banana. There weren’t a lot of drummers around, because the folk thing was pretty strong. Pretty soon I was playing duo and then we were Jesse Colin Young and the Lonely Nights or the Jerry Corbitt Three. We had a bunch of names before we got around to Youngbloods.

The debut album produced by Mountain‘s Felix Pappalardi, who had a reputation as an gifted arranger on the New York folk scene, later he would also produce Cream around the same time, the folk-rock album, which bore a resemblance to the sound of the Lovin’ Spoonful. Even while they were moving forward, the Youngbloods experienced a surprise hit when “Get Together,” from the debut, was re-released in the summer of ’69. This time it resonated with the larger audience, The Youngbloods’ debut album, a self-titled work which minted a signature sound sifting together folk, jazz, ragtime, country-rock and psychedelia. During their 5 year run, The Youngbloods recorded a deep trove of elegant tunes

A single taken from the album, “Get Together,” credited to Chet Powers (who was actually future Quicksilver Messenger Service singer Dino Valenti), The Youngbloods’ sophomore LP, “Earth Music”, in the same vein musically. Jefferson Airplane had already recorded the song for their pre-Grace Slick debut album in ’66 (Jefferson Airplane “Takes Off“). But The Youngbloods‘ version idealized its melody with their finely-twined harmonies. “I got a chill down my whole body,” Young said. “The song was became a hit in San Francisco!”

The Youngbloods’ second album was “Earth Music” and then, during the 1967 Summer of Love, The band all moved to the West Coast.

We played the Avalon [Ballroom, in San Francisco] and it was full of freaks and they all looked like Banana with the big hair. So we realized we could work there. Then we walked into this cheap motel and there’s this funny little radio built into the bed and I turn it on and there’s “Get Together.” Wow!.

When the time came for “Elephant Mountain” we had been on the West Coast for a year. Clearly, they needed a change if they were to survive, so in mid-’67, the band yanked up its roots and relocated from its then-current home of New York City  to the San Francisco Bay Area. There they found greater acceptance among the local rock aficionados, and set out to make their third album for RCA, which would be titled “Elephant Mountain” (named after an actual peak near Pt. Reyes Station in Marin County, north of San Francisco, where the band, now reduced to a trio with the departure of Corbitt, resided). With Charlie Daniels producing,

Images of wind, sunlight and mountains began to inform Young’s songs. “Love of the natural world is as much a theme in my music as romantic love,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s even more dominant. I got more out of walking over the ridge top in Marin and looking out at the national sea shore than any drugs I ever took.”

The inspiration that gave found full focus on the band’s third, and best, studio album, “Elephant Mountain”, released in 1969. featured the seminal tracks, At the same time, the band experienced a serious rupture. Corbett ditched the band three songs into recording ‘Elephant Mountain.’ The guitarist had developed a fear or flying, got into serious drugs, and also pined to focus on country-rock rather than The Youngbloods’ more eclectic mix. But instead of subverting the band, Corbitt’s parting opened them up to a new sound. Continuing as a spare trio allowed them to experiment, employing more improvisation to fill the space. The players were greatly encouraged in that regard by their producer, the later country-rock star Charlie Daniels. “He said to us ‘some bands need a push, and some need you to get out in front of them and say ‘woe,'” Young recalled. “‘But you guys just need me to be there.

The album, despite its underwhelming chart performance, gave The Youngbloods a large credibility boost it is considered not only the band’s finest but a sleeper classic from that era, with jazz-informed songs like “Ride the Wind,” “Sunlight,” kissed by a luminous melody and a rapturous lyric. “Darkness, Darkness,” (Mott The Hoople recorded their own haunted version for their 1971 album “Brain Capers“). A bad acid trip had inspired the song. “It put me in touch with terror,” Young said. “Later, I came to think of my friends in Vietnam. They live with this terror every night. After the war, we played a lot of veteran’s benefits. The veterans told me that ‘Darkness, Darkness’ and ‘Get Together’ were the songs that really got to them in that period. Other songs “Quicksand” and “Beautiful” receiving massive amounts of airplay on the FM rock stations of the day.

They released their next album, a live set called “Rock Festival”.

Informed by a sensibility finely attuned to the natural world. Young’s flexible tenor expressed unalloyed freedom, while the band played their instruments with supple care. Their 1971 live album, “Ride The Wind”, remains one of the greatest concert documents of the classic-rock era. The nine minute take on the title track remains the ultimate Youngbloods’ jam. “We were playing music at the edge of my learning curve,” Young said. “There’s not a lot of half-step chord changes in pop music. With that success in hand, the Youngbloods were able to launch their own RCA-distributed label, Raccoon Records.

No live album of the prime San Francisco era so perfectly captured the lightness of the scene. Appropriately, ‘Ride The Wind’ documents a free concert in the city’s park. “The most transformational thing about that scene was playing for free,” Young said. “You could pull a permit from the city for $100, get a flat bed truck, pull up in the pan handle of the park and people would come hear you play. Free music was like two halves of a great being meeting.”

After ‘Ride,’ the band released two more studio works, though neither captured their essence as sweetly as their previous work. Young went on to create solo albums with more elaborate instrumentation while still retaining his commitment to the character of Marin. Some observers have speculated that the reason The Youngbloods didn’t become bigger had to do with their home base in low-key Marin rather than in the city centre. Observers also believe the press’ snubbing of the band had to do with a prevailing critical bias against “mellow music” in favour of more aggressive sounds. Young isn’t sure about either of those things, but he does feel that one factor in the band’s low profile has to do with him being a reluctant performer. “I don’t feed on adulation,” he said, Young is simply content to have made a living in music. He’s also proud of the band’s catalogue

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