Michael Murphey

Flowing Free Forever/Lone Wolf/Peaks, Valleys, Honky-Tonks & Alleys

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BGO's 2013 three-fer combines three albums Michael Martin Murphey released in the late '70s: 1976's Flowing Free Forever, 1978's Lone Wolf, and 1979's Peaks, Valleys, Honky-Tonks and Alleys. The first of these three records arrived two years after he scored a genuine hit with "Wildfire" but Flowing Free Forever, as the somewhat mystical title suggests, finds Murphey pursuing an odd soft rock cosmic country psychedelia that's heavily orchestrated and occasionally overwhelming. "Cherokee Fiddle" cuts through the gentle bombast but this is one odd record, pitched halfway between Texan progressive country and breezy SoCal nights. Lone Wolf moves Murphey further out to the West Coast, dialing back the country roots and also that progressive pretension. It's a soft rock record through and through, so slick it almost boards a yacht, but that's why it's appealing; it was warm, lush, and reassuring, perhaps not much like the rest of his work but alluring because of the difference. Peaks brings Murphey back to his roots, stripping away some but not all of these soft accouterments in an attempt to bolster his cowboy poet credentials. Occasionally, he drifts off on a soft groove -- "South Coast" and a cover of Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang" are by-the-book SoCal softness -- but this has the most grit and heft of any of the three albums here.

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