Sunday, May 11, 2008

Batdorf & Rodney - Four Days Runnin'

“I don’t know what spell I’m under, feels like something’s chasing after me.” That’s actually how this fun new album ends, and exactly how I feel as it fades out. Batdorf & Rodney were some of the albums I digitized myself back in the 90’s when it felt like there were some albums that would never come out on CD. These are guys who had a bright light shining on them for awhile, but 30 years go by and I only hear them when I pull my “old records off the shelf”. That’s actually the title of the first Batdorf & Rodney album – from 1971. A wonderfully mixed up time for me, with Vietnam looming over society as cities were burning (I lived in Asbury Park in this era, which burned due to lots of anxiety over racism). I understand the place I’m living now was even worse because they were quietly hanging blacks and Jewish people in the name of freedom. The hangings made the front pages of the local weekly, but never made the news outside of the area. A sad era that has never been publically talked about. Where some of the cities were pushing for integration, the countryside was killing people making sure segregation was permanent. Why do I bring this up? Nothing really to do with Batdorf & Rodney, except that one of my favorite jams of theirs was simply called Farm. Their albums were pleasant acoustic jams, with the flavors of America and Seals and Crofts. Not political in the least, but they were definitely acres removed from the inner-city plights. “From the dark side of the great divide where hope is buried with dreams that died, there’s no escaping from the mountainside.”

This album starts with the wonderfully sunny Summer Of Love, performed in a much different manner than Fogerty’s song of the same name; but recalling the innocence with the same emotion. “It was a time of change, and it was so beautiful and strange. And nothing’s been quite the same since the summer of love.” I still live there, in many ways, mostly musically.”You can never forget that sound that moves you still, it was state of the art. And it beats in your heart, and it always will. It was a time to sing. It was a time we began to dream. And music meant everything in the summer of love.” John Batdorf has lyrically caught my inner being fully.

The rest of the new album is a collection of some of their best songs re-recorded in the studio sounding just great. The digital recordings I made were off records that were 25 years old when I was making the transition, so I am very glad to hear them this clear. Not sure I ever heard them this clear – ever. You’ll know several of these songs because they were played on what we used to call “underground radio”. Weird, that thought. Everyone was listening to underground radio, so what made it underground? No commercials, and super-cool music. One Day recalls the emotions going through all of us during those days of turmoil and hoping for a peace none of us felt but wanted to feel really bad. “One day I’m sure we’ll all be happy. Peace will soon find every one. One day we’ll wake up in the morning, all our troubles will be gone.” Explains why there’s so much censorship today – people really have no sense that a war is killing off young Americans until a family member or immediate neighbor comes home. We don’t see the thousands, just the few. The government and large businesses running the war have learned how to control our emotions so people don’t have the same anger over what the government is doing to all the innocents overseas. But this album reminds me deeply of all those emotions. “Today should be my best day, all my best days are burning” is a brilliant line that cuts deeper in me today than it did 30 years ago, from the jam song Let Me Go.

Home Again bursts with the same power of joy it always had, with guitar interplays that inspire thoughts of deep understanding of why we are even here. “The daylight found me sitting underneath an oak tree clearing up what once was cloudy, knowing most of all I’m happy.” And alive, feeling alive, truly alive. A quick shoutout for a dear old friends, Where Were You And I, and Can You See Him? I hope it does not take 33 years for another album from these guys. The two new songs create an anticipation that these guys still have many eartastable moments left to share.

Batdorf & Rodney