Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Smokey & His Sister|
Smokey & His Sister
Genres: Folk, Pop, Rock
Smokey Mims and his sister Vicki made the huge leap from the Greenwich Village folk clubs and coffee houses to sign with Columbia Records where they released a pair of now highly-prized singles in 1967. Produced by David R... more »
Smokey Mims and his sister Vicki made the huge leap from the Greenwich Village folk clubs and coffee houses to sign with Columbia Records where they released a pair of now highly-prized singles in 1967. Produced by David Rubinson, the trippy, harmony-laced Smokey and His Sister debut album, unfathomably, has remained on the shelf until now. Precious and beautiful, this album has finally arrived to turn whispered rumor into hauntingly seductive reality.
Long Lost Treasure Sees Light Of Day At Last
Cthulhu | Roanoke, VA United States | 12/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Smokey and his Sister provided a voice of sincerity, compassion and goodness for too brief a time during those halcyon, tumultuous days of the late 60s. It was a voice without pretense or artifice, a voice that could heal hurts, that honestly spoke of loneliness, and bespoke the ironies of existence. That Columbia Records has at last opened their creaking vault after 40 years (40 years!), finally allowing this material to see the light of day, is a godsend, but a tad late. So very, very late.
This album of songs was recorded before the one with which I am familiar. I was in high school when I first heard Smokey and his Sister sometime in early '67, coming across the airwaves of local AM radio station WROV (pre Clear Channel). The station would give unknown artists a considerable amount of airplay if one or more of the DJs liked their tune, even though in many instances it would turn out that said artist ultimately failed to crack the national Top Forty chart. One such song was "Creators of Rain", and it sort of drifted into my soul like a kindred spirit from out of the radio wave cosmos. And it's been there ever since. I was reading a weird old, musty paperback printing of "The Dying Earth" by Jack Vance at the time, a collection of fantasy short stories set in a distant and dismal future when the sun has become larger and redder, and earth has become a stranger, more phantasmagorical place, unrecognizeable by our own time. A dim, ruined, melancholy, fatalistic, debauched world where magic has wholly replaced science. In some crazy way "Creators of Rain" seemed to fit what I was reading, contributing part of a soundtrack to the movie I was visualizing as I read the book (incidentally and a few years later, "Joanne", by Michael Nesmith, reminded me of that same book, the chapter "Liane the Wayfarer" to be specific. Imprinting and alternate worlds are strange things, aren't they? Anyway, back to my current review...). I would surely have flipped if I had heard "In a Dream of Silent Seas", the B side of "Creators of Rain", had I been fortunate enough to have heard it. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I never procured a copy of "Creators of Rain" at my local record store, but also never forgot the haunting piece over the years. It wasn't until sometime in the 80s, I think, that I managed to locate a copy of the song in a used 45 record catalog, and mail ordered it. At long last I was able to hear it again, by the original artists, since the only way I had been able to hear the song itself since that initial radio airing, was a cover version, on 8-track (probably paid 50 cents for it), by none other than Ian & Sylvia (as admirable a rendition as that was). However, since what I got was a radio promo edition of the 45, both sides contained the same song. So it was many years after that, in fact only about a year ago, before I was finally able to hear "In a Dream of Silent Seas". It was well worth the wait, and everything and more that I had imagined it would be. Awesome. Dreamy. Surreal. 60s. Folk. Fantasy. I came across it (complete with audio cleaning lab phasing---sounded like it was playing through a deep, subterranean pipe, kind of interesting actually) on a web radio show. Long wait. Anyway, back to the mail order days, I did manage to spot two other songs by Smokey and his Sister in the catalog, and ordered that 45 as well. The songs were "A Lot Of Lovin'" and "Would You Come Home", and when I heard them I was delighted at first listen, especially since I had previously not known of their existence. In fact, the only thing that disappointed was the sorry condition of the 45, but at least it didn't skip. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Although it was to be a long time from that first listen before I would hear "Creators Of Rain" again, it wasn't but a year of so later that I came in contact with the music of Smokey and his Sister. I was a freshman in art college (VCU in Richmond), a friend of a dorm mate wanted to trade me a record album for something, I don't remember what, maybe it was a little beer money. I balked at first. It could be that I wasn't sure that these were the same artists who had released the cherished "Creators of Rain"; I probably looked on the back cover and didn't see the song listed. Perhaps I didn't want to give up my end in the trade so easily. Whatever the case may be, the guy persisted, saying something like, "No, this is a good one. You'll be glad..." So I made the swap, though I don't think that I actually listened to the record until I got back to my home burg some weeks (months?) later. Shortly after the transaction, I think I began to suspect that I had been conned, and was none too happy about it. But once home, and upon a careful listen, I realized that the duo was evidently the very same, and the record was indeed as good as the fellow had said. In fact, I loved it, and shared it with a high school chum of mine who ended up loving it as well. Who couldn't love those sincere, warm, sometimes poignant social ruminations couched in tenderly sung lyrics, lovely melodies, countryish vocal harmonies, gently plucked or strummed guitar amid the occasional faerie horns and orchestra, tastefully arranged, and backed by a lively, spirited rhythm section, etc.? However, I wondered (and was very disappointed by the fact) why "Creators of Rain" hadn't been included, as I was sure that Smokey and his Sister couldn't possibly have produced but the one album. It wasn't until recently, upon the discovery of this CD after years of searching for a copy of that other album on CD, that I realized how wrong I was.
So, they did an ENTIRE ALBUM for Columbia (this CD), as well. That's GREAT!!
And what an album it is. After just a few listens, I have come to love this offering as much as the one with which I am so familiar. I don't agree with the CD liner notes that this is a better record than the Warner Bros lp. They are very different. The Columbia CD is more a collection of songs; obviously they were looking for hit singles, whereas the Warner effort was more of an album, laid back, and the songs meant to be listened to in that context. They sort of flow into one another; it is more of a conceptual thing, softer and dreamier, late 60s FM fare, though with its share of up tempo tunes as well. It is as professionally rendered as the Columbia recordings. The fact that Smokey had to come up with all new material for the Warner release, due to the fact that all his earlier creations were locked down by Columbia, and that the material was as good as it was, is a testament to his awesome songwriting skills. Columbia really did him, and Vickie, a grave disservice by not making available their first album. Things might have turned out differently for them if Columbia had bothered to release, not to mention promote, the recordings.
A few more words about the Warner album, since this is really about the artists Smokey and his Sister, as much as it is this long overdue CD release. The songs are intensely sincere without being maudlin. Smokey sings from the depth of his heart in a most familiar tone, his Sister providing a natural and uncomplicated harmony to his voice, at times one or the other singing solo to the simple accompaniment of his guitar, often backed impeccably by a muscular studio ensemble including anything from strings and choruses of flutes to the sound of shiny toy organ flourishes and distant trumpets. The songs are dreamy, sad, exuberant; they are grounded in simple joys, there are seeming wide vistas of golden white afternoon clouds, or dancing lights in the distance, listening to the rain, daydreams, pipe smokin' (where he got his name?) on the mountaintop ("For All Intents And Purposes") and other underappreciated things that make life so worth the living. The songs are whispery gentle and robust, with lovely melodies and harmonies, heartfelt lyrics. Into this Smokey mixes his young unerring wisdom, lighting butterfly swift on matters as diverse as loneliness, masks and facades, imagination, life's absurdities, the longing for love, freedom. Whatever his subject matter, one thing rings through consistently; Smokey cares. None of the songs on either album illustrates this better than "Sheridan Square".
Somewhere a child's crying, richly dressed in rags
A busy man going nowhere stops to brag
The sound of futile tears is all that I can hear
It's enough to blow your mind
I pass a crowded cafe of emptiness
A silent man speaking of his loneliness
And all the crowd would hide with laughter as he cried
It's enough to blow your mind
Please don't pay it any care, for it isn't anywhere, Sheridan Square
Outside my window a young man sees to grow
His mind is satisfied knowing he don't know
He's proud, he's richly broke, as he stops to bum a smoke
It's enough to blow your mind
[Allow me to reminisce a bit here: In my footloose days of youth, while wandering through Greenwich Village visiting with a girlfriend from Staten Island circa 1971, I accidentally stumbled upon the fabled Sheridan Square. It was a micro park, smaller than most living rooms, consisting of a park bench, a sign, and maybe a trash can. Irony of ironies. At least, I'm pretty sure that's the place Smokey made immortal in his song---only Smokey can say for sure. I vaguely recall exclaiming somewhat excitedly to the chick that the tiny place was the title of a song I revered, and henceforth, for me, a kind of shrine, but of course she didn't share my enthusiasm, undoubtedly never having heard of the song or Smokey and his Sister. I hope the miniscule park is still there.]
And now back to the current offering, the Columbia CD. One bit of criticism I have is of the mix of "Creators of Rain". There is a lovely instrumental bridge in the song where the melody line is beautifully plucked on the nylon string guitar (45 rpm version), which has all but been drowned out by the other elements of the song in this stereo mix on the CD. This need not, and should not, have been done, as it pretty much eliminates a very dramatic component. But don't let that stop you from getting this CD. Still, I'm glad I have my single version of this song. As there was plenty of room, I wonder why they didn't just include the mono single sides, which is quite common with most retro releases these days. Also, the intensity in volume compression (an all too common thing with remastered CDs lately) on this CD in general seems a bit harsh for the subject matter, to my ears. After all, this is folk pop, not hip hop.
Evidently Smokey and his Sister did some appearances, as there is an old poster of a concert in the Bay area which lists them as among the performers. I happened across this information at a website for classic posters, the poster being offered having been made, I think, from the front of a program for a concert on June 3rd 1967 at Mt. Tamalpais Amphitheater in Marin County, CA. Included in the program are a great many well known (at least to classic 60s aficianados) artists, such as: Sparrow, The Doors, Country Joe & The Fish, Moby Grape, The Byrds, Steve Miller Band, Tim Buckley, Miracles, Jefferson Airplane, Wilson Pickett, and quite a few others. Pretty lofty company, in retrospect.
And now, I would like to know: how long before they remaster the Warner lp to CD? For those who find themselves Smokey and his Sister fans upon hearing this Columbia CD, you're in for another treat with the Warner album.
Smokey and His Sister have no bigger fan than me. I was very sorry to learn of Vickie's passing. Smokey, I hope you're alright, old friend. If you're still out there---please call home...
What a blessed sanctuary, oasis, escape, refuge, the music of Smokey and His Sister was, and is in this post 60s brave new millennial world. I feel very fortunate to have entered their realm. Many more people should know of and appreciate it. Outdated, quaint maybe? Thankfully so!"
A Veritable Blast from the Past
Robert J. Raymond | 05/17/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This was something that got missed when it was recorded, then never released. A Big mistake. I am can't be too grateful that this gem sees the light of day. A long wait but worth it. I was in love with "Creators of Rain" when it first came out."