Artist: Lowell Levinger
Album: Get Together - Banana Recalls Youngbloods Classics
Label: Grandpa Raccoon Records
Release Date: 09/11/2015
It seems that 2015 is the year to mark major milestones, especially when it comes to the various 50 year anniversary celebrations. Let’s see — there’s the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, “Satisfaction,” “Help”… the list goes on and on. But for those that weren’t members of the A team, the occasion might sadly go unnoticed.
So leave it to Lowell Levinger — who once went under the rather odd nickname “Banana” — to mark the anniversary of the band to which he belonged, the group that was known as the Youngbloods. True, they may not have made quite the same impression that their contemporaries did at the time, but with at least a couple of significant songs that generated permanent placement on oldies radio — those being “Get Together” and “Darkness Darkness” — it’s appropriate that some remembrance is shared, even if it comes from a member of the original ensemble. Thus, Get Together — Banana Recalls Youngbloods Classics offers due homage to a band whose unassuming demeanor made them as much a forewarner of essential Americana as the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield or any California contemporary.
It’s apt then that in looking back, Levinger reshuffles these songs with a series of homespun arrangements, bringing in special guests like former bandmate Jesse Colin Young, Ry Cooder, David Grisman, Nina Gerber, Dan Hicks and Peter Rowan to give the recordings an authentic folk-like flair. Accordingly, “Stagger Lee,” “Sugar Babe,” “Euphoria” and, natch, the aforementioned signature songs sound appropriately vintage without distancing them from the originals. “Hippie From Olema,” a dated parody of “Okie from Muskogee,” and the elegiac “On Sir Francis Drake” offer a similar appeal, but it’s the communal spirit that serves the songs best. Consequently, credit Banana for taking an approach that remains as ripe as ever.
– Lee Zimmerman