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The Last Word

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Album Review

The Last Word combines both of Chuck & Mary Perrin's privately pressed late-'60s albums (Next of Kin and Brother & Sister) onto one single-CD reissue, adding a couple of songs that appeared on the 1970 various-artists compilation The Peoria Folk Anthology, Vol. 3. Both of these albums by the Illinois brother-sister contemporary folk duo were privately pressed LPs, with a run of a mere 500 copies each. On Next of Kin, as was common for private pressings in those days, the production was basic, with just guitar and voice (with the exception of "To a Better Life," which has a minimal folk-rock arrangement with light percussion). But the sound was clear and spacious, and the music was pretty good close-harmony folk, somewhat reminiscent of a more naive Ian & Sylvia or Stone Poneys. Though there's no rock instrumentation, it's far more folk-rock in inclination than it is traditional folk, both in the singing and the material, whether original or covers of songs by the Lovin' Spoonful, Eric Andersen, Donovan, and Ian & Sylvia themselves. The close harmonies have a nice slightly sad, bittersweet flavor, and Chuck Perrin's songwriting (whether working alone or in collaboration with others) has that mid-to-late-'60s combination of romantic optimism and wary introspection. Though there's a slight callowness that keeps it from reaching a major-league level, it's a nice and attractive record, recommended to '60s folk-rock fans in the mood for the gentlest, most unplugged side of that genre. It's also better than their full-band, more soft rock-ish second LP, Next of Kin (recorded a year later). Sunshine pop fans might well prefer Next of Kin to the far folkier debut, but this follow-up — recorded in late 1969 a year after Brother & Sister had been cut — was a letdown after the mild promise of its predecessor. It's a tame, at times drippy early soft rock/singer/songwriter-oriented album, slicking up the introspective, slightly melancholy close-harmony contemporary folk of their first album. Songs like "Sundance" have the escapist sentiments found throughout much sunshine pop, as well as the bordering-on-easy listening vocals and arrangements. It's not all marshmallow stuff, "Bye Bye Billy" reflecting the influence of Californian mellow rockers like Crosby, Stills & Nash (who sounded tough in comparison to the Perrins), and "Flying" affecting jazzier, more aggressive postures that nonetheless sound rather genteel. Of the two cuts from The Peoria Folk Anthology, Vol. 3, "Help Us Jesus" is dispensable, but "Saturday Morning" is a cheery acoustic number that sounds much more like their first LP than their second.

The Last Word, Chuck and Mary Perrin
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