Music Review: Buzzy Linhart – Electric Lady Dream: The Eddie Kramer Sessions

Originally recorded as the Sixties morphed into the Seventies, Electric Lady Dream: The Eddie Kramer Sessions perfectly captures the sound and spirit of that experimental era. The album title references the Electric Lady Studios in New York City, where these innovative recordings were made, even before the studio was officially opened. The subtitle pays tribute to Eddie Kramer, an ingenious session engineer whose career included work with The Beatles, Traffic, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and most famously, Jimi Hendrix. In fact, Kramer engineered the trio of Hendrix Experience LPs that revolutionized rock ‘n’ roll: Are You Experienced?, Axis: As Bold As Love, and Electric Ladyland. Hence the title of this CD and the Hendrix-financed studio, out of which came these recordings that comprised its first completed album.

This Buzzy Linhart project also earned Eddie Kramer his initial rock LP production credit, after countless groundbreaking sessions as an engineer. The album itself has a curious history. Titled Music and credited to the band also known as Music, the LP was one of only two albums released on Eleuthera Records, the brainchild of Artie Kornfield of Woodstock fame. The 1970 recording was soon retitled Buzzy Linhart Is Music and reissued as part of a double album (also containing Linhart’s earlier solo LP Buzzy) on Kama Sutra Records in 1972. Because their cover art is essentially the same, both Music records look alike at first glance.

The project came together in 1969, when an exceptional musical quartet formed around singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Buzzy Linhart, a key figure on the Greenwich Village scene through the 1960s. Joining Linhart was guitarist Doug Rodrigues who, as a teenager, had played with Linhart in The Seventh Sons, an early raga-rock band; Rodrigues would go on to work with Carlos Santana, Betty Davis, Mandrill, and Lenny White on his Venusian Summer album. Rodrigues and drummer John Siomos had backed up Mitch Ryder shortly before joining Linhart. Siomos would later become a member of Peter Frampton’s Camel, co-writing “Do You Feel Like We Do” and playing on the best-selling concert album Frampton Come Alive. The foursome was completed by bassist Doug Rauch, who had played with the folk-rock duo Bunky and Jake. A respected and influential musician, Rauch was destined to explore jazz fusion with Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin and to pioneer a bass playing technique dubbed “double thumbing.”

The group proved so impressive that the planned 1970 Linhart solo LP was attributed to the combo under the eponymous title Music. The subsequent reissues have restored the recordings to their original intent as a Buzzy Linhart solo album.

The Electric Lady Dream CD adds the previously unreleased “The Birds,” while dropping two songs from the vinyl Music LP. The eight-song collection  features “That’s The Bag I’m In,” written by Fred Neil, whom Linhart had worked with in his earliest Greenwich Village days. Re-imagining the tune as an acid rock anthem, Linhart’s group unleashes a guitar-bass-drums assault that few power-rock bands could match. Linhart sings and scats through the hip lyrics, explaining that “the same thing will happen again/cause that’s the bag I’m in.” Digging into the songbook of another former folk collaborator, Linhart comes up with an astonishing interpretation of Tim Hardin’s “You Got A Reputation.” With Siomos’ steady upbeat drums powering the song, guitarist Rodrigues and vocalist Linhart take “Reputation” into previuosly unheard, weirdly irresistible pop territory. Undoubtedly, producer Kramer helped make this audio pop experiment possible.

Linhart composed the remaining songs on Electirc Lady Dream, demonstrating his wide-ranging influences from folk, blues, and jazz to improvisational rock ‘n’ roll. Released as a 1972 single, “Talk About A Morning” blends doses of all these styles with a creative twist that impressed studio owner Jimi Hendrix. “If You Love Me” moves in an edgier, heavy rock direction, while squeezing in jazzy chords, scat vocals, and plenty of terrific guitar licks. The previously unreleased “The Birds” highlights Linhart’s vibraphone playing, while exploring the offbeat hippie quirkiness that marked the late-1960s. Riding a funky bass and drums percussive bottom, “Mother’s Red Light” is a psychedelic gem on which Kramer daringly mixes Linhart’s phased voice way down into his production, making it another imaginative rhythm instrument. It’s a fitting sound for the singer who created scat-rock, or maybe we should call it Buzz-rock.

By guest contributor Joseph Tortelli