Richie Havens

Richard P. Havens, 1983

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Havens' third Verve album was an ambitious double LP, using about a couple dozen backing musicians in various combinations on instruments ranging from conga and sitar to steel guitar and organ. Though recorded for the most part in the studio, it also included several live recordings from a July 1968 concert. As with many double albums, it perhaps could have used some pruning, although in general it was a worthy expansion of his sound as captured on record. Divided almost equally between originals and covers, the music has the moving and melancholy vibe, yet also somewhat rambling feel, typical of Havens' prime. Certainly his "What More Can I Say John?" is a subtle and admirable anti-Vietnam war song, while his interpretations of Leonard Cohen's "Priests" and Maurey Hayden's (aka Lotus Weinstock's) "Cautiously" are unusual cover choices that are imaginatively done. An Indian influence makes itself heard occasionally, as on "Just Above My Hobby Horse's Head" and "Putting Out the Vibration, and Hoping It Comes Home"; "Indian Rope Man," with Jeremy Steig on flute, is one of his better compositions. However, there's an over reliance on Beatles covers (there are four here). And the live stuff on side four, with its cutesy five-minute version of "With a Little Help From My Friends" (in which Havens wordlessly scats the lyrics), seems like an afterthought to push the set to double-LP length.

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