Showing a ragged bunch of cowboy wannabes listlessly poised around some sort of backwoods building, you could be forgiven for thinking "Brown Dust" was going to offer up a set of early-1970s country-rock. Those were certainly my expectations. So much for first impressions. Anyone who actually listened to "Brown Dust" was probably surprised to discover that sonically it had more in common with Three Dog Night-styled top-40 pop than country-rock. 'Course a quick review of the performance credits showing a three piece horn section might have provided a clue that these guys weren't looking to be The Flying Burrito Brothers. So what did this one actually sound like? Sporting three decent lead singers in the form of Cisneros, Longoria and Ramos, about half of the set featured distinctively top-40 material powered by likeable, if slightly anonymous group vocals. The liner notes didn't provide song-by-song credits, but at least one of the three singers sounded a lot like Chuck Negron - check out the closing tune 'Autumn'). Tracks like 'Fantasy Folk' and the cover of John Sebastian's 'Do You Believe In Magic' were quite commercial (in an early 1970s fashion). Elsewhere, performances like 'So I'm Down', 'Photograph' and ;Autumn' found the group pursuing more of a rock band sound. The results weren't entirely convincing, but song-for-song the collection had a fairly high enjoyment factor that was only underscored by the fact the horns were kept in check throughout most of the album. Interestingly, none of the ten tracks appeared to be originals, with most of the ten tracks credited to R. Burton and M. Crowe. Anyone know who these guys were ?
- Showcasing their talented vocal line up, 'Fantasy Folk' was one of the album highlights sported a catchy pop melody with a 'happening' lyric and, thanks to Noranger's tasty lead guitar solo, enough of a rock edge to make this one quite enjoyable. rating: **** stars
- Kicked along by a nice barrelhouse piano, a great Longoria hyperactive bass line and those blended lead vocals, 'So I'm Down' was another album highlight. This time out they seemed interested in showcasing the fact they could rock out. Again, the results weren't entirely convincing though I will give them kudos for the fact the horn arrangement (which kicked in towards the end of the song), wasn't particularly disruptive. rating: *** stars
- The first disappointment, 'Reflecting' was a plodding, overly sentimental ballad. This was one where the group vocals just didn't cut it. The song would have been far better had the it been re-arranged to feature the guy with the raspy voice (no idea which member that was). The sax solo was also unnecessary. Imagine a bad Billy Joel song being sung by a slightly tipsy Catholic choir and you'll get the feel on this one. rating: ** stars
- Their cover of Carole King's 'Going Back' was one of the album's more interesting performances. Opening up with some psych-influenced arrangements, their adaptation turned the song into an over-the-top emotional meltdown that would have made Phil Spector proud. As on the rest of the album, I wasn't sure which of the three vocalists handled lead duties this time out, but his performance was killer; sounding like he was literally pleading for his life. Cool cover version. rating: **** stars
- I never really liked John Sebastian's signature tune 'Do You Believe In Magic' so I can't say this cover was anything to write home about. Seemingly intended as one of the album's potential 'hits' (it was tapped as a single), their cover version stayed pretty close to the original. If pushed, I might actually give the nod to this version since it upped the tempo a notch and had another nice barrelhouse piano embedded in the arrangement. rating: ** stars
- 'Photograph' was another attempt to blend rock with pop sensibilities, this time out the results sounding a bit like a bad Three Dog Night cover tune. Noranger's classically inspired fuzz guitar provided the highlights. rating: *** stars - With a pleasant CS&N-styled vocal arrangement, the lyric made me guess 'Stormy Sunday' was written when the band were living and working in Hawaii. Cute and very '70s. rating: *** stars
- Unfortunately 'Everlasting Peace' found the band descending into lounge act territory. Easy to picture them playing this in front of tiki drink soaked hotel guests. rating: * star
- The album's strangest offering, 'Desire Not a Taste' started out as a stark, almost folk number before abruptly shifting gears into a bouncy, organ powered Up With People-styled peace chant. I can picture The Kaplan Brothers covering this one. Strange enough hearing it sober, I'm sure it was even more jarring if you were sitting there stoned out of your mind. rating: **** stars
- Probably the album's heaviest and most rock-oriented track, the closer 'Autumn' was another track that had a distinct Three Dog Night vibe (okay, okay overlook the horns). Sounded like the song was edited out of a much longer studio jam session ...
As mentioned above, the album spun off a single in the form of:
- 1972's 'Do You Believe In Magic' b/w 'Family Folk' (Family catalog number FPA 0904)
No, it won't change your life, but not a bad listening experience, especially if you liked Three Dog Night ...
"Brown Dust" track listing:
1.) Fantasy Folk (R. Burton - M. Crowe) - 2:45
2.) So I'm Down (R. Burton) - 2:38
3.) Reflecting (R. Burton - M. Crowe) -2:53
4.) Goin' Back (Carole King - Gerry Goffin) - 4:05
5.) Do You Believe In Magic (John Sebastian) - 2:14
1.) Photograph (R. Burton) - 3:37
2.) Stormy Sunday (R. Burton - M. Crowe) - 3:05
3.) Everlasting Peace (R. Burton) - 2:48
4.) Desire Not a Taste (R. Burton - M. Crowe) -3:00
5.) Autumn (R. Burton - M. Crowe) - 3:58