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You Can Sing On the Left or Bark On the Right

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Album Review

This is a welcome reissue for this sumptuous 1976 set, an album that defines the softer side of the '70s. In fact, in one way or another, You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right showcases the whole spectrum of the rock arena that never quite rocked out. Here's Bruce Springsteen sneaking out of Asbury Park to skewer the "Little Big-Time Man," there's Bob Dylan reminiscing about a long gone love on "Wasn't That One Night Good," and isn't that the Rolling Stones dancing through "You Can't Always Get What You Want" in "Palova's Shoes"? And it's not just those artists' styles that Dirk Hamilton captures so adroitly, but their vocal inflections and lyrical tweaks to boot. The punchy paean to a vegetarian "She Don't Squash Bugs" pays tribute to Tom Petty, "I Got a Feeling" isn't reggae but regardless is still highly reminiscent of Bob Marley's "Redemption Songs," albeit with orchestral overdubs. And then there are the cross-pollinations, like "Grow a Rose," which sidles up to funk, gospel, and Mink DeVille. "Sweet Forever" grafts Bob Dylan with Van Morrison and Bob Dylan, while "Ridin' on a Whale" bounces exuberantly between Motown and Melanie. Thin Lizzy's "Dancing in the Moonlight" provides inspiration elsewhere, as do the Eagles, Poco, Cat Stevens, and a plethora of other pop-rockers of the day. If the music is derivative, albeit in a delightfully dizzying way, the lyrics are shockingly unique, their startling visions combined with extraordinarily vivid vignettes create a psychedelic ride of poetic splendor through emotional valleys, wilderness backdrops, and moonlit moments of love. All told, it makes for a quite astonishing set of songs, and with the 2005 reissue, the set is appended by two previously unreleased numbers, the aforementioned "Pavlova's Shoes" and the Van Morrison-flecked "Jokey to a Shakey Hand."


Born: Indiana

Genre: Rock

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

Indiana-born singer/songwriter Dirk Hamilton possesses a distinctive, raspy tenor, along with a rock & roll passion, stinging wit, and keen eye for the peculiarities of life. After leaving Indiana and relocating to L.A., he gained the notice of Steely Dan producer Gary Katz, who helped him get a deal with ABC Records. The subsequent album, the acoustic-based You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right, produced by Katz, was released in 1976. The record, which quickly distinguished itself artistically,...
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You Can Sing On the Left or Bark On the Right, Dirk Hamilton
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