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High Time: The Elektra Recordings

Zachary Richard

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Album Review

In March 1974, Richard recorded an entire album for Elektra that was never released, getting canceled not long before it would have come out. More than 25 years later, the tapes for the unreleased LP were found. The ten songs that would have comprised the record form the basis for this archival release by Rhino Handmade, with an additional (undated) seven demos recorded around the same time. The young Richard was at this time not as immersed in the zydeco style as he would when he became more renowned. This is of undoubted interest to Richard fans, but note that much of it is pretty ordinary mid-'70s singer/songwriter stuff, often bearing some similarity to Elton John's early material (particularly on the piano-dominated ballads). Better are the cuts that tap into a bright, rock-influenced zydeco vein; he doesn't sound far removed from Van Morrison's Caledonia soul phase on "High Time." There's also pure zydeco in yet another version of the over-covered "J'Ai Été au Bal." It's not surprising, really, that this didn't find release back in the mid-'70s; the mix of straight singer/songwriting and zydeco cuts is kind of schizophrenic, and the singer/songwriter material is of journeyman quality. The seven demos include early versions of four songs from the unreleased LP, plus three others that were not part of the LP's track listing. It turns out that one of those songs not targeted for the LP, "Sir Gawaine," is an uncharacteristic adaptation of a traditional song that would not have been out of place in Sandy Denny's repertoire, the vocals and silvery guitar reminiscent of Tim Buckley in spots. It's the best thing here, and another bonus demo of a song not on the unreleased LP, "Deep Night Hole," is another atypical highlight with its somber tale of men trapped in a coal mine, accentuated by dissonant doomstruck piano chords. Incidentally, all of the seven demo bonus cuts were previously unreleased, with the exception of "Jeune Fille Chanky Chank," which came out on Rhino's Silver Jubilee: The Best of Zachary Richard.

Biography

Born: 08 September 1950 in Scott, LA

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Cajun rebel Zachary Richard has been offering his zesty, unique fusion of traditional cajun, zydeco, rock, and New Orleans blues since the early '70s. Though not well-known outside of Louisiana, Canada, and France, Richard, along with Michael Doucet and others, has been a key figure in the revitalization of Cajun music. He has also been a longtime social activist, using his potent song lyrics to promote Cajun pride and solidarity in the face of long-standing injustice and prejudice. This activism...
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High Time: The Elektra Recordings, Zachary Richard
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