BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
In retrospect, it seems remarkable that the recordings that make up this compilation remained unreleased for so long. Jerry Yester was, and is, an important player in America’s seminal folk scene and his list of credits — The New Christy Minstrels, The Modern Folk Quartet, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Association, his band Rosebud and various roles behind the boards for the likes of Tim Buckley and Tom Waits — make him one of the unsung heroes who helped transition traditional folk to unabashed rock ‘n’ roll. Nevertheless, it’s the music he recorded on his own and with collaborator Larry Beckett that deserves discovery. Yester and Beckett drew from a remarkably wide array of styles — folk (of course), cabaret, psych, chamber pop and numerous motifs in-between. The result is an impressive set of fifteen disparate songs, mostly recorded throughout the ‘70s while Yester was taking time to contemplate his next move.
Listening to these tracks now becomes something of a revelation. Given their imaginative arrangements, one gets the sense that these great lost treasures have stood the test of time. Like Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, Yester is unafraid to bend the boundaries and borrow influences that range from classical to cabaret. The songs that result — a jaunty “Pass Your Light Around,” the celebratory “My Dusty Darling,” the cooing Beach Boys-like “Brooklyn Girl,” the expressive ballad “With a Hickory Pole” — are all simply stunning, and they not only beg an initial listen but repeated hearings as well. In the end, one can only marvel at the fact that Yester is indeed an unsung hero. To call this an exceptional offering doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
DOWNLOAD: “Pass Your Light Around,” “My Dusty Darling,” “Brooklyn Girl”