Stereophile, February 2006
Re-issue of “John Simon’s Album”
This is one of the great “lost” albums of American pop music. Originally released by Warner Brothers in 1970, it was the first from the producer of The Band’s first two albums, Big Brother’s Cheap Thrills and other classics of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It sounds like all of them and none of them, while being full of the poignant, funky geniality that then seemed to suffuse the rock subculture in and around Woodstock, New York. Simon is a true original. His weirdly expressive, almost non-existent voice is alternately reminiscent of Rickard Manuel’s and Mose Allison’s and these 11 beautifully structured songs, each quite different from the rest, are a combination of Gershwin, Robbie Robertson and the Van Morrison of Moondance, all in haunting, meticulous, sepia-toned arrangements.
It adds up to a sound that is uniquely and deeply American in all the most comforting and disturbing ways: the yearning for a youth and a home that never quite were. The album sounds no less brilliant now for having been out of print for most of the past 25 years. With John Hall, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, Bobby Keys, etc. The remastering job is quite fine – this does not sound like the typical compressed, limited, candy-coated Warner Bros. Pop album of 1970, but is rich and warm and crisp by turns. But the music must be heard to be believed.