The Beau Brummels – Bradley’s Barn (1968; 2012 reissue)

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Formed in 1964, the Beau Brummels were not only America’s first successful response to the British Invasion that changed the entire complexion of pop music that historic year, but they were also the first successful rock group from San Francisco, California.

Most people tend to believe the City by the Bay’s music scene was dead and boring until psychedelic gourmets like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service pumped color and innovation into the foggy skies, but the Beau Brummels actually spearheaded the movement. Although the band wasn’t playing the kind of acid rock San Francisco quickly became associated with, they were peddling a new and fresh sound in the shape of folk rock, a style certainly rooted in psychedelic music.

1965 was a golden time for the Beau Brummels, as that was when they enjoyed a permanent residency on the charts with top selling singles such as “Laugh Laugh, “Just a Little” and “You Tell Me Why.” Despite the fact the band continued to record arresting material, they failed to grab a firm foothold with the public eye and were practically forgotten.

Initially released by the Warner Brothers label in the autumn of 1968, Bradley’s Barn (Rhino Handmade)
captured the Beau Brummels in a full-on country rock mode. Lead singer Sal Valentino and songwriter and guitarist Ron Elliott were the only original members left in the band, but their vision and talents were as strong as they were when they were riding high on the airwaves. Shades of country music had tinted the group’s material in the past, so it was no big shock they were naturals at embracing the genre.

Rhino Handmade has reissued an expanded version of “Bradley’s Barn” that includes alternate takes and an assortment of other odds and sods. The Beau Brummels, who were joined by Nashville greats, guitarist Jerry Reed and drummer Kenneth A. Buttrey, on the sessions, may have peered in the rearview mirror for inspiration, but in the end they created something that was rather unconventional and forward thinking. Aside from the Bob Dylan, Gene Clark and the Byrds, crossing traditional country sounds with rock and roll was basically virgin territory at the hour Bradley’s Barn was born.

A gaggle of gems appear on Bradley’s Barn, with “Cherokee Girl,” “Deep Water” and “Turn Around” being particularly outstanding. All the correct elements employed in true-blue country music are here. Twangy guitars intersect eloquently with crackling harmonies, while the melodies weep, sigh and spin rustic imagery. The energy is positive, and the Beau Brummels execute the tunes with passion and total comprehension.

It’s too bad Bradley’s Barn collapsed on the vine commercially; what an artistic achievement it was. Right from the beginning, the Beau Brummels were trendsetters with their folk-pop anthems, and there’s no question this album rested on the cusp of the country-rock boom that ultimately starred the Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, the Eagles and Pure Prairie League.

Smacking of integrity, spellbinding performances and well-crafted songs, Bradley’s Barn is an invaluable piece of music, and how wonderful Rhino Handmade has revived it and added more goodies to the plate. Revolutionary and thick with revelations, these two discs are perfect examples of quintessential country rock.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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