Saturday, December 10, 2011
BRUCE LANGHORNE: Tambourine Man - VERY FIRST solo album release from Gerde's original one man house band
A cursory look at Bruce Langhorne's bio and musical credits, one may think that somewhere along the line he would've had at least ONE album of his own mixed in. Not so...until now.
Released in November, the aptly titled TAMBOURINE MAN is a collection of tracks (a few waiting in the can for some 20 years!) that capture several facets of the man himself. Not an easy task considering his resume and cast of friends and associates.
While a young man, native New Yorker Bruce Langhorne took his chops to Greenwich Village in the early '60s where he had the opportunity to befriend and perform with a who's who list of Folk Revival up and comers.
One of those friends was an established recording artist named Brother John Sellers. Although Bruce and Gospel Singer Brother John never recorded anything formal, it was their association forged at Folk City that effectively was a showcase for Langhorne's ability to play strings behind a wide variety of acts. He made a career of recording BEHIND a diverse crowd, but at Folk City, he played LIVE along side them. It became evident to all that he knew his way around a guitar.
Langhorne and Sellers became the Gerde's Folk City house band in the early days as Brother John MC'd quite often and would normally have Bruce accompany his Gospel singing. Bruce met a host of other musicians there and began his recording career playing with another set of Gerde's alumni, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. He was hired by Texas Songbird Carolyn Hester to play guitar on her 1961 Vanguard release and that was where he first recorded with harmonica player, Bob Dylan. Both Ms. Hester and Mr. Dylan are just a couple in a long line of Folks won over by Bruce's personality.
Bruce made friends easily in the Village and proved himself in the studio by making other songwriter's recordings better.
From his website www.brucelanghorne.com:
Bruce Langhorne was one of the most important session guitarists of the 1960s, particularly in the early years of folk-rock. He is most famous for playing on some of Bob Dylan’s records, particularly 1965′s Bringing It All Back Home, Dylan’s transitional release from folk to folk-rock. However, he actually played with numerous musicians making the change from folk to folk-rock in the second half of the 1960s, including Tom Rush, Richard & Mimi Fariña, Richie Havens, Gordon Lightfoot, Eric Andersen, Fred Neil, Joan Baez, and Buffy Sainte-Marie. He also played on some other instruments; performed live with Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, the Fariñas, and others; and produced Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. He has also done soundtrack work, including scoring Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand.
~ Ritchie Unterberger
When new Gerde's sensation Dylan got his own recording contract, the two reunited in the studio for the Freewheelin' sessions and, more predominantly, on the BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME album. It was Bruce who inspired Bob's song, Mr. Tambourine Man, hence the name of his debut album.
"We thought of other titles," Bruce says deadpan, "but that was the only one that seemed to make any sense." To all who know Bruce, he is more a force of nature than man. Thirteen songs can hardly explain his true nature, but they provide a glimpse into the kind of person he is and the character he possesses.
If you're looking for finger-pickin' Folk Rock and Roots, look elsewhere. What you'll hear is a one-of-a-kind blend of Latin, Spiritual, Jazz, African and Funk atmospheres succinctly wrapped around impassioned stories and sentiment only Bruce weave.
Songs like 'Hard headed woman,' 'Subaru,' 'Chihuahua' and 'Perfect love' give the listener a sampling of Mr. Langorne's wit. Sprinkled in with such entertaining tales are even more musically intricate World beats. 'Samedi' ends in a near-rap and the bluesy 'Bottom of the sea' has a serious tone but 'Aunt Sally' and 'Mary' balance out any heavy thoughts. 'Mary' is a take on 'Mary had a little lamb that both Jim Henson and Paul Simon would approve of. (You'll just have to listen for yourself to understand!)
The layered sounds on 'The wind' and 'Angels' seem to capture Bruce's spiritual nature. 'The Wind,' with Bruce's famed Turkish drum in the forefront, has a tribal quality where 'Angels' has the ethereal sound of an ascenscion towards heaven. As the whimsical wrap up to the disc, it seems like the perfect music to play for someone floating to a better place wearing smiles and rainbows and a big white loincloth:)
I've only spent a few hours with the man on two separate occasions but I can honestly say that his positive nature is contagious and palpable. Where his memory fails him, his charm and sense of compassion take over.
Unabashedly, part of the marketing material for TAMBOURINE MAN state that "All proceeds go directly to Bruce." Well shouldn't they? It's only been 50 years in the making. He's seen the ugly side of the music business. He shouldn't have to be shy about being honest. If the executives at Starbucks heard the sounds on this record, it would sell a million copies!!
I had the rare opportunity to purchase my copies of the disc directly from Bruce at his home in Venice, CA. As we made the exchange, I had the bright idea to write a review of the CD for this blog. As I mentioned it to Bruce, with impeccable timing, he says, "If sales slump, I can say it was because your review was shit and that Bob Porco is a fucking liar."
Living on his property is a visual artist and his budding family. Bruce gushes about the infant saying that the baby already knows what it's taken him a lifetime to learn. I ask what he means and to give an example, he recites a message he once received in a fortune cookie: A place is reserved in paradise for those who make their companions laugh.
[step one: log on to brucelanghorne.com]
[step two: Buy the disc...and get some hot sauce while you're there]