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Mimi Farina & Tom Jans - Take Heart (1971)



Mimi Farina: Joan Baez' sister, wife of folk-singer/novelist, Richard Farina. Tom Jans: West Coast folk-singer.

On this album Mimi finally returned to the spotlight from the silence that followed husband Richard Farina's death. Although she only had one writing credit with Richard ("Miles") and an arranging credit for "Dog Blue," on Take Heart Mimi emerged as a strong songwriter with four original songs and three more co-written with Tom Jans. One of the most appealing elements of Mimi and Tom's musical collaboration was how well they blended their voices. Mimi and Richard had often arranged their harmonies in fourths and fifths for the dulcimer. This is part of what created their striking and unique sound, but on Take Heart Mimi and Tom sang more soothing harmonies in thirds, and a warm, intimate mood bathes the songs. We are also treated to somebeautiful guitar playing from both performers, especially on the instrumental, "After the Sugar Harvest," a brilliant dual-guitar reverie that recalls the old Richard & Mimi duets but nevertheless has its own unique sound. "In the Quiet Morning," Mimi's requiem for Janis Joplin, came to be her most famous song. It was recorded by Joan Baez shortly afterwards, and decades later by 10,000 Maniacs and Holly Near. Mimi came to regard Take Heart as her best work. Although it doesn't have the bold originality of her work with Richard Farina, it has a warmth and humanity that is perhaps closer to the core of her artistic vision.

Folk singer/songwriter Tom Jans was born February 9, 1948, in Yakima, WA. The son of a farmer (whose own mother played in a jazz group dubbed the Rocky Mountain Five), he was raised outside of San Jose, CA, weaned in equal measure on the Hank Williams records beloved by his father and the flamenco of his mother's native Spain. Ultimately, the Beatles proved Jans' most profound influence, however, and as a teen he learned guitar and piano, also writing poems he later set to music. After playing in a highschool rock roll band dubbed the Breakers, Jans studied English literature at the University of California, turning down a graduate scholarship to Columbia University to pursue a career as a performer and songwriter.

Shortly after graduation he was playing in a San Francisco coffee shop when, in 1970, he met Jeffrey Shurtleff, a singer who previously collaborated with Joan Baez. Shurtleff soon introduced Jans to Baez, who in turn introduced him to her younger sister Mimi, who with her late husband Richard Farina recorded a series of cultclassic folk LPs for Vanguard. After a failed second marriage and a stalled career as a dancer, Mimi Farina was seeking to return to music. Jans, reminiscent of Farina in so many respects, seemed the ideal collaborator, and together they began performing in Bay Area clubs, earning widespread notice for their breakout performance at the Big Sur Folk Festival. From there, the duo toured in support of Cat Stevens and later James Taylor before signing to AM to record an LP, 1971's Take Heart.

The album generated little interest outside of folk circles, and Jans and Farina soon dissolved their partnership, with the former relocating to Nashville to resume his career as a songwriter. There he joined the publishing house Irving/Almo as a staff writer, scoring his first hit with "Loving Arms," initially recorded by Dobie Gray and later covered by Elvis Presley and Kris Kristofferson.

In 1974 Jans issued his selftitled solo debut, recorded with the assistance of guitarist Lonnie Mack and producer Mentor Williams. Despite critical acclaim, the record earned little commercial attention and he returned to California, settling in Los Angeles and entering an 18month period of seclusion that yielded the songs comprising his Lowell Georgeproduced sophomore effort, 1975's The Eyes of an Only Child. Featuring the countryrock gem "Out of Hand" (later a Nashville charttopper for singer Gary Stewart) as well as the minor FM radio hit "Struggle in Darkness," this record too reached only a small cult audience, and when the following year's Dark Blonde considered by many to be Jans' masterpiece met the same fate, he fled to Europe, telling interviewers of plans to record a new album over the summer months.

The years to follow remain something of a mystery: no new material appeared, and instead Jans dropped from sight until 1982, when a new LP, Champion, appeared solely in a limitededition release on the Japanese label Canyon International, its existence virtually unknown in the U.S. Sometime in late 1983, Jans was in a serious motorcycle accident. While his longterm prognosis appeared positive, he died March 25, 1984, of a suspected drug overdose. Tom Waits later paid homage to Jans with the Bone Machine cut "Whistle Down the Wind."

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