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The Youngbloods - Ride The Wind (1971)



Jesse Colin Young (b. Perry Miller, November 11, 1941, Queens, New York City) was a moderately successful folk singer with two LPs under his belt – Soul of a City Boy (1964) and Youngblood (1965) – when he met fellow folk singer and former bluegrass musician from Cambridge, Jerry Corbitt (b. Tifton, Georgia). When in town, Young would drop in on Corbitt, and the two played together exchanging harmonies.

Beginning in January 1965, the two began performing on the Canadian circuit as a duo, eventually adopting the name "The Youngbloods". Young played bass, and Corbitt played piano, harmonica and lead guitar. Corbitt introduced Young to a bluegrass musician, Lowell Levinger (b. Lowell Levinger III, 1946, Cambridge, Massachusetts). Levinger, known as "Banana", could play the piano, banjo, mandolin, mandola, guitar and bass; he had played in the Proper Bostoners and the Trolls, and played mainly piano and guitar in the Youngbloods. He knew of a fellow tenant who could flesh out the band, Joe Bauer (b. September 26, 1941, Memphis, Florida), an aspiring jazz drummer with experience playing in society dance bands.

Once the lineup was set, Jesse Colin Young and the Youngbloods, as the group was then known, began building a reputation from their club dates. (Early demo sides from 1965 were later issued by Mercury Records on the Two Trips album.) Their first concert had been at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village; months later, they were the house band at the Cafe Au Go Go and had signed a recording contract with RCA Records. Young, however, was not satisfied with RCA. "Nobody at [RCA] was really mean or anything; everybody was just kind of stupid," he explained to Rolling Stone magazine. "They never knew what to make of us, and tried to set us up as a bubblegum act... they never knew what we were, and never knew how to merchandise us."

The arrangement did produce one charting single in "Grizzly Bear" (#52, 1967). Several critically praised albums followed: The Youngbloods (1967, later retitled Get Together); Earth Music (1967); and Elephant Mountain (1969), with its track, "Darkness, Darkness".

In 1967, when "Get Together", a paean to universal brotherhood first appeared, it did not sell very well, reaching only #62 on the chart.[citation needed] But two years later – after Dan Ingram had recorded a brotherhood promotion for WABC-AM in which the song was used as a bed for the promotion, and after the National Council of Christians and Jews subsequently used the song as their theme song on television and radio commercials – the track was re-released and cracked the Top 5. This disc sold over one million copies, and received a gold record, awarded by the R.I.A.A. on 7 October 1969.

Johnny Carson once reportedly refused to allow the band to perform on The Johnny Carson Show, saying they were overly demanding during the pre-show soundcheck.

With Corbitt's departure from the band (for a solo career) in 1969, before the band recorded the Elephant Mountain album, Levinger assumed lead guitar duties and played extensively on Wurlitzer electric piano. The band became adept at lengthy improvisations in their live performances (as captured on the albums Rock Festival and Ride the Wind released after the band moved over to their own Warner Brothers distributed Raccoon label).

In 1971 the group added bassist Michael Kane to their lineup and put out two more albums Good & Dusty (1971) and High on a Ridgetop (1972) before disbanding. Young, Levinger and Bauer all went on to solo careers, of which only Young had any notable success. Levinger, Bauer and Kane were part of another group, Noggins, in 1972 that only lasted for one album, Crab Tunes. Bauer died of a brain tumor in September 1982, at the age of 40. (wikipedia)


Recorded live in New York, New York on November 26-29, 1969

This live disc followed up Rock Festival (1970), another batch of live recordings. However, Ride the Wind (1971) is far from simply a stop-gap effort between studio discs. The trio of Jesse Colin Young (bass/kazoo/rhythm guitar), Banana (guitar/piano), and Joe Bauer (drums) are definitely in their element on these half-dozen sides. In much the same way as their Marin County contemporaries, the Grateful Dead, the Youngbloods' live experience allowed the band to stretch out and take their improvisational interplay to a level that is merely hinted at on their studio sides. The disc begins with a nearly ten-minute version of the title track, which was initially issued on Elephant Mountain (1970). Banana really shines, as his laid-back electric piano runs are ably complemented by some interesting contributions from both Young and Bauer. The centerpiece is the extended instrumental interplay that ebbs and flows as the groove builds incrementally. The happy-go-lucky "Sugar Babe" sticks closely to the up-tempo ragtime version featured on Earth Music (1967). The band returns to Elephant Mountain for an easygoing and pastoral rendering of "Sunlight" that again allows for some well-tempered improvisation. The cover of Fred Neil's "The Dolphin" is another not-to-be-missed epic, as the Youngbloods never issued a studio version and once again a strong jazz influence dictates the performance's overall vibe. "Get Together" was the band's best-known side and still holds up in what is a spirited reading with just enough alteration to make it a worthwhile inclusion. Ride the Wind concludes with a final track from Elephant Mountain, as the optimistic "Beautiful" is given a lengthy and funky workout. When paired with the harder-edged Rock Festival, this live volume gives listeners another aural vantage point from which to rediscover the Youngbloods' unique country-rock leanings. ~ Lindsay Planer

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