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The Unissued Capitol Album

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Album Review

Jim Ford only released one album during his lifetime but it wasn't for lack of trying. A year after 1969's Harlan County, he recorded an album for Capitol Records that remained unreleased for 40 years, when Bear Family finally assembled and issued the untitled LP. There's no title and no background here, with the meager liner notes waving away its nonexistence with a "Sadly, for reasons that are best not mentioned in polite company, Jim Ford fell out with the record company executives who in turn shelved the singer/songwriter's planned album and refused to have anything further to do with him." After all this time, it would be nice to get a little background on the album's conception and destruction, something that wasn't quite charted in either of Bear Family's previous Ford collections, The Sounds of Our Time and Point of No Return. As it turns out, much of The Unissued Capitol Album popped up on those two discs — all but two of these ten songs were on the previous reissues, a "full version" of the smoky, bluesy jam "You Just-A" (no short version showed up on the other discs) and an early version of the zodiac rock of "Rising Sign," which Ford cut three years down the road for Paramount. There may not be much new here, but hearing these ten songs collected together is nonetheless revealing, as they all hang together with a nicely subdued mood, sometimes veering on the introspective but mostly luxuriously lazy, hanging in the air with their slow, soulful sounds. This LP is decidedly mellower than Harlan County, never once sliding into boogie rock, and it sustains its mood well, retaining a hazy late-night vibe with some of Ford's best songs: "The Sounds of Our Time," an early version of "Big Mouth USA," "I Wonder What They'll Do with Today," "Go Through Sunday," the aching "Point of No Return," "Harry Hippie" (which Bobby Womack turned into a hit), and "Thirty Six Inches High" (which Nick Lowe covered on Jesus of Cool). As rich as this is, it's not commercially viable, so it's little wonder Capitol shelved it, and its delayed release serves it well: it's an album out of time.


Born: 23 August 1941 in Harlan County, KY

Genre: Crime & Thrillers

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '00s

Originally from New Orleans, Jim Ford lost interest in his academic pursuits and, in 1966, drifted out to California. He was passing through L.A. on his way to the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco when he met two session musicians, Pat and Lolly Vegas. The Native American rockers -- who later formed the commercially successful Redbone -- had worked on the Shindig television show at the time, and had already recorded their Pat and Lolly Vegas at the Haunted House album for Mercury. After hearing...
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