Artist: Terry Reid
Originally released on LP in 1973: Atlantic SD 7259
Reissued on CD in 2002: Water 107
The touch-paper for this unique album was the meeting between Terry Reid and David Lindley at the second Sky River Rock Festival held in Tenino, Washington State, USA at the end of August 1969.
When Lindley’s band, Kaleidoscope, disbanded David wrote to Terry in the UK saying he was the guitar player that Reid needed. Terry told him to come on over, so he dropped everything and moved to England. They lived in Terry’s country cottage in Brampton near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire not far from Holywell where Reid was born. Material was worked up and they played a number of gigs at different venues around the UK. Terry took a lot of his vocal phrasings from Aretha Franklin and in turn Lindley took many of his guitar phrasings from Reid’s vocals. The line up went through various musicians before settling down to Lee Miles on bass (from the Ike & Tina Turner Review) and Alan White on drums.
This band was captured in all its glory in the film of the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre, also released in 1973. The group appears playing a ten minute long, end of set sequence, kicking off with Dean and segueing into a number featuring Linda Lewis sharing the vocals with Terry. This is the first band performance in the film and the same audio track of Dean is then played over the closing credits to the film. The whole band is cooking and Lindley plays some fine lap steel guitar.
In 1969 Terry had fallen out with his producer, Mickie Most, over artistic freedom resulting in litigation, during which he was unable to release any new material. In the circumstances Reid started recording at Advision Studios in London with Yes producer, Eddie Offord, without a label. Despite hours of sessions Terry could not reconcile an album’s requirement for structured songs with his desire to incorporate a myriad of styles and influences. As time went on Reid became dissatisfied with the sessions and was missing the US where he had had success in the past.
As a result Reid, Lindley and Miles all relocated to the States where Terry discussed his problems with Ahmet Ertegun, president of Atlantic Records. Ahmet would resolve the legal issues and signed Reid to Atlantic. Terry then met Tom Dowd, producer of Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding etc who helped Reid re-cut most of the tracks. The sessions were finished at Wally Heider’s studio in San Francisco with drummer Conrad Isidore, who had played on the first two Stephen Stills albums on Atlantic.
Finally River was released in 1973 with minimal promotion as Atlantic were already losing interest. The outside of the gatefold LP sleeve was an upside down photograph in golden greens of a river with vegetation protruding out of the water. The cover presented a low profile with just the artist’s name and title on the front, and track list on the back, all hand written. The inside of the gatefold was blue with the album credits and a photograph of Terry in denim sitting on a riverbank.
Reid wrote all the songs on the album and the two sides of the LP had distinctive moods. Side One featured four tracks played by the four piece band and Side Two was three numbers with Terry on solo acoustic guitar, the title track being augmented by bass and percussion.
The album opens in fine style with the track Dean. Terry plays choppy guitar while David Lindley’s wonderful clipped lap steel guitar riffs compliment Reid’s voice. This is a bluesy number about Reid’s then girlfriend, Jenny Dean. Once again in Avenue Terry’s vocal and guitar inflections are mirrored with Lindley’s lap steel producing everything from delicate fills to buzz saw riffs. Terry moves to acoustic guitar for Things To Try but still sings his heart out while the urgent bass and drums drive the song along as the lap steel builds in intensity. Side One closes with more acoustic guitar by Reid and Lindley’s lap steel volleys on Live Life.
Side Two calms down to a slower more meandering pace with Terry on beautiful acoustic guitar. The song entitled River is blessed with the percussion of Willie Bobo, who had played with Buddy Miles and Santana. A jazzy Brazilian feel evokes a lazy river and creates a classic track with shades of Tim Buckley. In 1969 Buckley recorded his own song called The River on Blue Afternoon, in which David Friedman on vibes does what Bobo does for Terry’s own River. For Dreams Reid picks a delicate tune and his voice floats through the whole range. The album closes with Milestones filigree guitar, whistling and Terry’s low voice which he then multi-tracks producing reflections of David Crosby from If I Could Only Remember My Name. These last two tracks were the only survivors of the Offord sessions.
Throughout the album Terry sings and contorts his powerful big voice resulting in vocals that in places are like an additional abstract instrument producing everything from a whisper to a roar.
The whole, including the original sleeve, is greater than the sum of the parts and stands the test of time. It somehow captures an early seventies vibe before the precision of record production sucked out emotion and feel. A magical album, all in less than 37 minutes.
Water of San Francisco, California is the first record label to re-release this LP on CD and it has been well worth the wait. The music has been re-mastered and the package includes a 24-page booklet with faithful reproduction of the LP sleeve and gathers together promotional memorabilia from Paul Toms and extensive and informative sleeve notes by Keith Duncan covering Reid’s career. For more information visit Keith’s web site at www.terryreid.net and Terry’s personal site at www.terryreid.com.