Keith Colley

Bird Doggin'

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Although Keith Colley had a couple of minor pop hits as a singer in the 1960s, he was first and foremost a songwriter, with his songs covered by several pop, rock, and folk-rock artists of the era, including Gene Vincent, Jackie DeShannon, the Knickerbockers, and even jazz great Chet Baker. Bird Doggin' is a collection of song demos Colley cut with some of L.A.'s finest session musicians as the decade waned, and the surprise is how finished and focused these recordings sound. Not that there is a great lost masterpiece here, but none of these cuts would have sounded out of place on the radio set lists of the day. Leaning toward a kind of West Coast sunshine folk-pop, songs like the Beach Boys' ballad "Cold Summer" or the Four Seasons' "Human Kindness, have marvelous vocal arrangements, and there is nothing sloppy or tentative about the backing tracks, either. "Bird Doggin'," which leads off the set, has a cocky, ragged strut to it, making it a natural for Gene Vincent, who recorded the released version. Colley, however, sings it with plenty of his own snot-nosed bravado, proving that he could easily come up with songs that weren't all sweetness and good vibes. Again, nothing here will make anyone rewrite their rock canon, and a couple of the cuts show the haziness inherent to the era ("Dawn Is Breaking" seems like a credible piece of garage folk rock until you realize that "Dawn" is a girl and not the sunrise, after which the song simply seems absurd), but as an album, even of demos, it holds up remarkably well. Fans of '60s mainstream folk-rock and sunshine pop will no doubt be delighted at this charming and unassuming little collection.

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