Lazarus on Apple Music

Lazarus

Lazarus were a soft rock trio, originally known as Shiloh, who were one of the early signings to the Bearsville label -- and like a lot of that company's early signings, their music came and went without much notice from the public, despite their having the attention of Peter Yarrow as the producer of their two LPs. Legend has it (as also referenced in the notes to their debut LP) that they approached Yarrow backstage following a 1969 Peter, Paul and Mary concert. In short order, they were renamed Lazarus and cutting an album under the auspices of Yarrow and Peter, Paul and Mary producer Phil Ramone, and were signed to Bearsville, a record company newly organized by PPM manager Albert Grossman.

They were, in fact, Christian rockers, which was something relatively new in those days -- the back-to-Jesus movement, as an offshoot of the counterculture, had just gotten rolling a couple of years earlier. The members were Bill (Billie) Hughes on guitar, violin, and backing vocals; Carl Keesee on bass and vocals; and Gary Dye on keyboards and vocals. Their sound was basically acoustic rock with minimal amplification and lots of harmony vocals -- think of Crosby, Stills & Nash or a low-wattage answer to the Doobie Brothers from the time of their second or third album. And in a way, it's ironic that Peter Yarrow, of the PPM lineup, ended up producing them, as Noel "Paul" Stookey was the trio's most overtly religious practitioner (and a devout born-again Christian as well), and ended up performing Bill Hughes' "Blessed," a song off of Lazarus' self-titled debut album, at his Carnegie Hall concert, released by Warner Bros. as One Night Stand.

In any case, neither of Lazarus' two albums sold in any serious numbers, but the group was still working in the mid-'70s. One report has them doing a Life Savers jingle during this period. Hughes, who passed away in Los Angeles in 1998, went solo in 1978, cutting his first album for Epic that year. He also worked with Keesee in Canada, cutting records into the early '90s. Keesee played a lot of sessions, including recordings with Jane Siberry, and -- with Hughes -- recorded with David Bradstreet. The second Lazarus album, Fool's Paradise, was released by Pony Canyon in Japan on CD, but otherwise the group's main exposure in recent decades was the 2000 reissue of "Ladyfriends 2" from their second album on Bearsville Anthology. ~ Bruce Eder

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