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26 Aug 2016

Buzz Linhart “Buzzy” 1968 US freakbeat Psych Rock

Buzz Linhart “Buzzy” 1968 US freakbeat Psych Rock 


A veteran of the New York coffee house circuit who went on to record with Jimi Hendrix, Buzz Linhart recorded this classic debut in London in 1968. Featuring backing from Welsh psychedelic favourites the Eyes Of Blue, it’s a superb collection of acid-influenced folk and pop, including the epic, sitar-tinged raga Sing Joy, and is sure to appeal to all fans of hippie singer-songwriting. 

“Buzz Linhart came out of the legendary Greenwich Village coffee-house period of the early to middle 60s, when Tim Hardin, Fred Neil and John Sebastian (amongst many others) were finding themselves, influencing others, and being influenced (as often as not by each other). It was a period of hanging out, of song-writing, of soaking in everything from folk to blues to rock. 

Like Fred Neil, who taught him a lot, Linhart has a strong, gritty, emotional voice. Like Hardin, his life has been racked with almost insurmountable personal problems, and his voice and lyrics reflect it. In 1968, after a long absence and with many of the personal problems apparently solved, he made some brief appearances in New York, where critical reaction was consistently favourable. He’s also much sought after as a sidesman on vibes” - Lillian Roxon’s Rock Encyclopedia, 1969 

Buzzy Linhart was born to musical parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on March 3rd 1943. He was already a multi-instrumentalist by the time he left high school, and after an unproductive stint in the US Navy, he gravitated towards Florida in 1962 (where he hooked up with Fred Neil), and then to New York. In Greenwich Village he roomed with John Sebastian and played in the same clubs as future luminaries such as Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin and David Crosby. 

As well as playing folk, however, Linhart also developed an interest in Indian music well before it entered the mainstream, honing his raga skills in late-night jam sessions at legendary venues including the Night Owl and the Cafe Wha? After a quartet he’d formed, the Seventh Sons, didn’t work out (though they recorded a superb, visionary LP for ESP), he impressed hitmaker Mitch Ryder sufficiently to be invited to travel to Europe as his opening act. In London he hooked up with producer Lou Reizner (for whom he’d recorded some demos in New York, and who was now Mercury’s UK A&R chief) and soon arranged to cut his debut LP. 

Buzzy was recorded in October 1968, with backing from Welsh psych-rockers the Eyes of Blue. As 16 magazine put it that November: ‘It’s finally beginning to happen for super-talented singer-composer Buzz Linhart. By the time you read this, he will have played (along with Mitch Ryder) the Royal Palace in Portugal, have done a tour of England, and starred for two weeks at Revolution, the Beatles’ new disco in London.’ 

Nonetheless, the album – a classy mixture of acid-tinged singer-songwriter fare and raga - did not fare well on its February 1969 release, prompting Linhart to return to the US. There he released a string of further LPs, as well as contributing to recordings by Jimi Hendrix, Carly Simon, Barry Manilow, Bette Midler and others, and is still playing as much as ever today…… 

From Cleveland, the singer and songwriter Buzzy Linhart was a veteran of the East Coast coffee house scene and formed the Seventh Sons in 1967. Between 1968 and 1974, he also released several interesting solo albums. 
His first album Buzzy was recorded in England in October 1968. On the first side he is backed by the Welsh group Eyes of Blue and performs his own songs (Willie Jean, Step Into My Wildest Dreams) and a fast cover of Tim Hardin’s Yellow Cab. The second side features Sing Joy, a long (18'45") raga with only Big Jim Sullivan on sitar and Keshav Sathe on tabla. A really interesting album, it deserves to be heard. 
The only album ever cut by Buzzy Linhart – and a really compelling mix of styles that should have hit bigger at the time! Buzzy had his roots in the New York folk scene of the 60s, but he’s recording here in London with a very unusual sound – fuzzy and rocking at some moments, droning and folksy at others – and often with some heavily jamming instrumentation that’s nearly as appealing as Buzzy’s confidently-sung vocals. Backing is by the Welsh group Eyes Of Blue, with Raymond Williams on guitar and Phil Ryan on organ and mellotron – but one especially great track on the album is an extended Indian-styled number, with Big Jim Sullivan on sitar and Keshav Sathe on tabla – working in a stretched-out groove that runs for nearly 20 minutes in length! Titles include “Sing Joy”, “End Song”, “Step Into My Wildest Dreams”, “Yellow Cab”, and “Willie Jean”. 
Linhart ’s debut album is a strange, unfocused affair, the kind of thing that would have only been issued by a major label in the late ‘60s. The singer varies between relatively short songs and way-extended workouts that mix folk with rock , Indian music ( Big Jim Sullivan plays sitar), and even some mellotron. Linhart uses drawn-out blues-folk phrasing that owes quite a bit to Village folk-rockers like Tim Hardin and Fred Neil , and in fact a five-and-a-half-minute workout on Hardin ’s blues , 'Yellow Cab,’ opens the LP. The ten-minute 'Willie Jean’ is next, and actually Phil Ryan ’s mellotron here gives the song an unusual lift that helps to differentiate what would otherwise be an OK but unremarkable anguished folk ballad . The 18-minute 'Sing Joy’ takes up most of side two, and its Indian-oriented improvisation gets tedious after a promising opening burst of ominous orchestral drone. When he milks that drone for an entire, albeit three-minute, song (the closing 'End Song,’ overlaid with mellotron), the result is more interesting, recalling Fred Neil at his most despondent, but with freakier production. It’s no mystery as to why Linhart favored these elastic, spontaneous-sounding folk / jazz / blues / Indian / rock fusions; he had no doubt played that kind of music when one of his bands, the Seventh Sons , backed Fred Neil live in the mid-'60s. Still, his singing, songwriting, and editing capabilities were not quite up to the point where he could shine on an album all his own. ~ Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide … 

*Buzz Linhart - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals 
*‘Big’ Jim Sullivan - Sitar 
*Keshav Sathe - Tabla 
*Raymond ‘Taff’ Williams - Lead Guitar 
*Ritchie Francis - Bass 
*Phil Ryan - Organ, Mellotron 
*John Weathers - Drums, Timpani 

1. Yellow Cab (Tim Hardin) - 4:33 
2. Willie Jean (Buzz Linhart) - 9:49 
3. Step Into My Wildest Dreams (Buzz Linhart) - 5:44 
4. Wish I Could Find (Buzz Linhart) - 3:23 
5. Sing Joy (Dona Calles / Buzz Linhart) - 19:00 
6. End Song (Buzz Linhart) - 3:10 

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