Dino Valenti

Get Together: The Lost Recordings Pre-1970

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It's not entirely clear when the recordings on this CD (all but one of them previously unreleased) were made. The subtitle reads "the lost recordings pre 1970"; the liner notes state they were "produced and recorded from 1964-70"; and there are no dates for the specific individual tracks. With the exception of the one previously issued cut, a January 1964 demo of "Get Together," this material was according to the liner notes drawn from tapes found in a storage unit. Certainly most of the tracks sound like they were cut some years later than the mid-'60s, particularly in respect to the electric guitar tone. It wouldn't be surprising if some of these were demoed with the intention of being considered for Quicksilver Messenger Service, as some of them have a feel not far removed from the early-'70s records Valenti did as a member of that band. A few cuts do have a stark acoustic folk approach and seem likely to have been done as early as the mid-'60s, particularly his version of "Silver Dagger," which with its emotional vocal, heavy guitar chording, and tail-end-of-the-folk-revival aura is easily one of the most outstanding performances on the disc.

Most of the emphasis is on Valenti's original material, which has the philosophical, at times meandering, melancholy reflective hippie folk-rock vibe characteristic of much of his work. Yet the songs are not as memorable or his best compositions, and the production and arrangements not up to the level of what can be heard on his rare 1968 self-titled cult album. Valenti could be a notoriously uncompromising character, and really did seem to benefit from even nominal direction and enhancements, as producer Bob Johnston gave him for that solo LP. He also sometimes benefited from greater structure to his material, and it might not be a coincidence that he shines brightly on some of the songs he interprets by others, like "Silver Dagger" and another wholly acoustic, and surprisingly effective, arrangement of Smokey Robinson's "I'll Try Something New." Overall, this CD has its value in rounding out the legacy of a notable San Francisco rock singer/songwriter who never got to record or release as much material as he should have. But it's a little unsatisfying, as the songs and production usually don't bring out the best in Valenti, and the compositions aren't as diverse or different from each other as one might hope.

The album comes with a postcard that purchasers can send to the record label to obtain a free bonus disc of nine additional performances (including two of a song that doesn't appear on the regular disc) from the same source material used for Get Together. These were, according to the brief note included with the bonus disc, "not included on the retail release of the CD for various reasons, some of which may be that there might be the smallest defect in the recording or that it may be an acoustic version of a song on the retail CD." These cuts are quite similar in nature to those on Get Together, including a quite different alternate version of "Get Together" (which seems like it might post-date the one on the main disc by some time) and acoustic versions of two other songs that appear on the Get Together CD, "Star Rider" and "County Fair." The bonus disc will be worth hearing for anyone interested enough in Valenti to have purchased Get Together (and the price is certainly right), though it likewise is not up to the standards of the best recordings that came out in his lifetime.

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