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Gentle Soul

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Gentle Soul were the singing-songwriting duo of Pamela Polland and Rick Stanley, and made one LP for Epic in 1968 that bridged the folk-rock and singer/songwriter-soft rock eras. The self-titled album, despite coming out on a major label, is extremely rare, and has never been issued on CD. Produced by Terry Melcher (the Byrds, Paul Revere & the Raiders), it had quite a stellar supporting cast of session musicians, including Ry Cooder on guitar, Van Dyke Parks on harpsichord, Paul Horn on flute, and Larry Knechtel (later a founding member of Bread) on organ, plus noted arranger Jack Nitzsche. A nice, though not major, effort, it was indeed a gentle record, usually paced by the close male-female harmonies of Polland and Stanley; they also wrote most of the songs, usually but not always as a team. The folky and acoustic-flavored, but not totally acoustic, ambience and harmonies recalled the Stone Poneys. The balance between male and female vocals, however, was naturally far more even than it was with the Stone Poneys, who were dominated by Linda Ronstadt even on the numbers with harmony lead vocals. Another reference point, though far more obscure, would be the Bay Area folk-rock duo Blackburn and Snow, although Gentle Soul were more subdued, in fact foreshadowing the soft rock of the early '70s.

Prior to Gentle Soul, Pamela Polland had already begun to establish herself as a folk-rock songwriter, placing her compositions with the Rising Sons ("Tulsa County") and, as a matter of fact, the Stone Poneys, who did her "I've Got to Know" on their second album. ("Tulsa County" was later covered by the Byrds and Jesse Ed Davis.) She and Stanley recorded two singles for Columbia, "Tell Me Love" and "Our National Anthem" prior to the release of the Epic LP. Gentle Soul were together for about three years, during which they employed various musicians as accompanists, including Jackson Browne (who actually replaced Stanley for a brief period, though he never recorded with the group) and drummer Sanford Konikoff (who had played briefly with Bob Dylan in the mid-'60s). Epic couldn't have promoted them very heavily, though. Not only is the album scarce, but the label did not even list Polland and Stanley's names on the sleeve, although at least there was a picture, and the names "P. Polland" and "R. Stanley" dominated the songwriting credits. Polland recorded solo material for Columbia in the '70s, and was still recording in the '90s.

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