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Dan the Banjo Man

Dan the Banjo Man

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Album Review

Confusingly, there's no banjo on the Dan the Banjo Man album, and, even stranger, nobody named "Dan" plays on the set. In fact, Dan the Banjo Man was a Phil Cordell solo project, from the multi-instrumentalist who had sprung into the U.K.'s Top Five under the alias Springwater with his "I Will Return" single in 1971. However, Cordell decided that his new wah-wah guitar sounded like a banjo, and thus the Banjo Man was born. The self-recorded and self-produced set was a true bedroom project, recorded on four-track in the cellar of Cordell's Sussex home. With its lush Moog-y sound, an aura enhanced by the deliriously metallic wah-wah guitar, but shot through with both acoustic and electric guitar, Dan boasts all the symphonic glories of the late '60s/early '70s, but with a pop/rock punch that puts it in a category all its own. The set is cover-heavy, jubilantly so, with an extraordinarily eclectic selection of songs done over in Dan's unique style. The popcorn-popping version of "Oh Susanna," with its spectacular slide guitar break, is perfect to pogo to, while his "rock 'til you drop" version of another piece of Americana, "Jimmy Crack Corn" (retitled "Black Magic") is jaw-dropping. "The Locomotion" is delivered up Rolling Stones' style, but with that wah-wah guitar percolating giddily throughout, Sonny & Cher's signature hit, retitled "I Got You Dan" soars "Freebird"-like towards the heavens, Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home" is transformed from R&B masterpiece to a C&W-flavored classic, while the exhilarating title track turns Harry Nilsson's "Games People Play" into a banjo-esque slapping knees up. The Banjo Man juggles styles and moods like an acrobat, refashioning golden oldies with such creativity and innovation that one can't help but stand back in amazement, while the originals are just as mouth-watering. This reissue appends eight more recent recordings to the original set, and while none can beat the exhilarating sense of discovery of their predecessors, neither are any out of place here, and several, notably "The Old Chap" and "Django" are their equals. A welcome return for a spectacular album that doesn't sound dated in the least, growing only more magnificent with age.

Biography

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s

Dan the Banjo Man was actually Phil Cordell, who played everything but some rhythm guitar on the 1974 Dan the Banjo Man album. Cordell had previously released records as Springwater, who had a number five hit in the U.K. in 1971 with "I Will Return." He recorded the Dan the Banjo Man album in a small cellar in Ninfield, Sussex, England, and while the record didn't actually feature a banjo, he did use an automatic wah-wah pedal that he thought made a guitar sound like a banjo. The title track became...
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Dan the Banjo Man, Dan the Banjo Man
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