I Must Be In a Good Place Now
The story behind Bobby Charles’ debut self-titled album is shrouded in quite a bit of mystery. The credits on the album aren’t extremely precise, not listing specific performance contributions, and there wasn’t much of an attempt to document the sessions that took place during 1971. What we do have is a general idea of how this project came to be, how important the musicians who played on this album are, and that we are extremely lucky this record didn’t go totally unnoticed. Basically the record’s story begins in Nashville, where Bobby Charles gets into some trouble with the law. Ultimately, he disappears to avoid having to serve jail time, and winds up heading to Woodstock. Once there, he catches the attention of Albert Grossman, a former manager for Bob Dylan, who begins to introduce him to all of his contacts. Not too long after this, Charles ends up in the studio with the likes of Dr. John, members of The Band, and a list of talented Woodstock musicians. The result is a beautifully comfortable album that showcases a powerful songwriter in a raw, natural, and candid state. At the time of its release, it was a commercial failure, but the album has developed a following over the years that has kept it alive and relevant enough to be reissued a few times in various formats.
Every time I listen to “I Must Be In a Good Place Now” it seems to slow time down. Between the peacefully descriptive lyrics, and the slow moving melodies, this recording feels like you’re taking a break with the musicians, sitting out on the back porch and looking out into the Woodstock landscape. There is some excitement created by the guitar, piano, and drum interjections that move between the Charles’ lines like the butterfly discussed in the song’s second verse. The drum part, which is speculated to have been performed either by N.D. Smart or Billy Mundi, takes the less is more approach, opening up space for these flourishes to provide nuances which bring to life the picture Charles paints.
She Should Have Just
Electric Flag was a band created out of Mike Bloomfield’s desire to grow beyond the confines of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. By 1967, Bloomfield began to grow eager to experiment with funk, jazz, gospel, in a group rooted in his blues band background. He was also enamored with the records coming from Stax in Memphis, and knew the next band would employ a horn section. What started as a desire turned to action when Mike Bloomfield began to piece together the lineup for this new concoction. He reached out to former Dylan band members Barry Goldberg (keys) and Harvey Brooks (Bass), horn players Peter Strazza and Marcus Doubleday, singer/guitarist Nick Gravenites, and drummer Buddy Miles who caught Bloomfield’s eye backing Wilson Pickett at the time. Very quickly the band released a soundtrack for the movie, The Trip. This particular release catches the band still in their infancy and finding their direction. However, the second album, A long Time Comin’, totally rips and its fourth track “She Should Have Just” is one of of my favorites.
Leaning on some of the era's psychedelic musical tendencies, the recording begins with a classical-tinged chord progression, but doesn’t stay there for very long. It quickly leaps into an infectious groove driven by Miles’ foot tap-demanding drum beat. Gravenites delivers a vocal performance that grabs you at the gut and makes you cringe with him as he exclaims, “She should have just left me alone!”. One of my favorite sections in the tune is during the chorus section when Bloomfield fits in an almost Harrison-like distorted guitar lick, in the same call in response manner heard in “Sweet Caroline”.