Carol Kleyn – Love Has Made Me Stronger [reissue]

January 01, 1970

(Drag City)

 

www.dragcity.com

 

To
understand Carol Kleyn, go no further than a concert review from the early ’70s
when she toured with the Allman Brothers: “Ms. Kleyn’s voice immediately reminds one of Judy Collins, and combined
with her skillful harp work, provided a professional sound not at all out of
place with the rest of the show.” Her delivery might be a bit more rugged than
Collins, but it certainly resides in the same soprano vocal range. Furthermore,
her harp of choice refers to the one played by angels, not the one blown by the
likes of Little Walter.

 

If the
comparison piques interest, this reissue of Kleyn’s 1976 debut may be your cup
of organic green tea. If not, well, it might be best to keep moving.

 

The
harpist/vocalist moved to California
for college in 1969 and picked up on whatever good vibes were still in the air
when she taught herself how to play her instrument. No ordinary flower child,
she also worked closely with boyfriend Bobby Brown, learning to build
instruments and do sound production for his One Man Orchestra. Along the way,
she performed at private parties for the likes of Led Zeppelin, and toured as the opening act for the Allmans. When no one approached her with
a record deal, she recorded and released Love
Has Made Me Stronger
on her own and sold it at Renaissance Fairs and street
performances.

 

The
album is split between Kleyn accompanying herself on harp on side one and
acoustic or electric piano on side two. Without the backing of a band, it comes
across a bit like a set of demos, albeit ones that are rich with natural echo.
Her harp comes through with a timbre that occasionally sounds like a Japanese
koto or even a banjo if that instrument has more sustain. (The instrumental
“Street Song” presents the best evidence of this.) Her voice never overpowers
the instrument, instead sitting on the same volume level.

 

But
songs like “Mountain Child” and “Oo Like the Mountain” are very much of the era
or the one that had wrapped up in the previous decade, with plenty of high
swoops into her upper register. It’s not exactly the patented Joni Mitchell
trill, but it’s a distant cousin and can be grating. “Blackbird,” with its tale
of the namesake’s promise to “sing you all a love song” and endless
“cu-cu-coooo” choruses is too much to take. 
Some of the piano songs have good ideas which might have come off a
little better with a full band. As it stands, the bouncy electric keys in “Well
Glory Be” sound like a Godspell outtake.

 

It’s
strange that Drag
City decided to reissue
the album. They might see Kleyn as a fairy godmother or precedent to Joanna
Newsom, much like Devendra Banhart felt towards Linda Perhacs, when he talked
up her 1970 jazz-folk record Parallelograms.
But this album feels more like a curio of a bygone era rather than an
overlooked gem.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Street Song,” “Love
Has Made Me Stronger.” MIKE
SHANLEY

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