Album Reviews

Jesse Colin Young

Song for Juli

Artist:     Jesse Colin Young

Album:     Song for Juli

Label:     Audio Fidelity/Pigfoot Music LLC

Release Date:     11/04/2016


Forever linked to the Youngbloods and their ubiquitous, late ‘60s anthem, “Get Together,” Jesse Colin Young, the legendary group’s lead singer, was also a prolific solo artist. Taking the smash hit’s unifying message of peace and love to heart, the idealistic Young would channel much of his energy into activism, spearheading the ‘70s “No Nukes” movement and fighting for environmental causes.

Young’s soft-rock masterpiece, Song for Juli, originally released in 1973 and now being reintroduced on 180-gram vinyl as part of a new reissue campaign, is not a political album per se. Rather it espouses agrarian values and getting back to nature as a mode of living, as “Ridgetop” – a heady, sprawling jam of jazz and country-rock fusion – expresses reverence for his reclusive Marin, California retreat. His love of family, and especially his daughter, Juli, is tenderly articulated in the gentle, shuffling title track, emphasizing piano and flute in another jazzy track that’s as sophisticated as it is pretty and heartfelt. And in that way it’s reminiscent of Graham Nash’s folky wonder, Songs for Beginners, endearing and intimate.

After all these years, though, what’s still surprising about Song for Juli is its rich diversity, its tight, adventurous playing and varied instrumentation, and a knack for seamlessly change directions midstream. Clearly comfortable in his own skin, the downhome Cajun in Young lets loose in a short “Lafayette Waltz” that serves as a prelude to a raucous “Jambalaya (On the Bayou), while the sunny “T-Bone Shuffle” goes on a rowdy bluesy bender. With its jaunty mix of country and rock, “Miss Hesitation” turns lush and expansive when full-on horns arrive, before a joyous New Orleans jazz parade marches in. And songs like “Evenin’” and “Morning Sun” run at a crisp pace, with good, sure hooks, as Song for Juli finds Young deftly stirring together all these disparate elements like a five-star chef. And that thick new vinyl sure makes this underrated record, which rose higher on the charts than any album by the Youngbloods, sound warm, pristine and inviting.

-Peter Lindblad

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