Monday, September 7, 2015

Lowell Levinger – Get Together: Banana Recalls Youngbloods Classics

Get Together: Banana Recalls Youngbloods Classics
Grandpa Raccoon

Back when I was in high school – 1967-1971 – the Youngbloods were one of my favorite rock bands. I had most of the original LPs back in the day and I still occasionally revisit some of the CD reissues. I loved the way they integrated folk roots and occasionally jazz influences and acoustic and electric instrumentation into their music and I also greatly appreciated how they seamlessly drew on their own original songs, songs drawn from other writers, and some from traditional folk, jug band and blues sources.

The Youngbloods broke up around 1972 or so and now 40+ years later, on Get Together: Banana Recalls Youngbloods Classics, band member Lowell Levinger – aka Banana – pays tribute to his old band with a dozen songs and tunes that have remained part of his repertoire over the past four decades. That so much of the material holds up so well is a tribute both to how strong the songs were to begin with, to how Banana has matured as an interpreter, and to the really nice arrangements featuring collaborations with the likes of fellow-Youngblood Jesse Colin Young, David Grisman, Ry Cooder, Darol Anger, Duke Robillard and others on various tracks.

Among my favorite tracks are “Grizzly Bear,” a great old country blues song first recorded in 1928 by Jim Jackson; Jesse Colin Young’s haunting “Darkness, Darkness”; the bluegrass version of Banana’s “Hippie from Olema,” a great parody of Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee”; Robin Remailly’s “Euphoria,” a song the Youngbloods, no doubt, picked up from the Holy Modal Rounders (this version features some wild singing and fiddling from Rounder Peter Stampfel); the traditional “Stagger Lee” with some additional verses by Banana; Jesse Colin Young’s bouncy “Sugar Babe”; and, of course, Dino Valenti’s anthemic “Get Together,” the song for which the Youngbloods are most remembered.

Get Together: Banana Recalls Youngbloods Classics is a lot of fun to listen to as we, too, recall those Youngbloods classics.

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--Mike Regenstreif

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