Pat Kilroy

Light of Day

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Despite receiving little to no notice upon its late-1966 release, Light of Day stands as an eclectic breakthrough (and only) solo effort from Pat Kilroy (heard here on vocals as well as guitar, Jew's harp, percussion, and electric bass) -- who was likewise a member of the Bay Area duo New Age alongside Susan Graubard. Kilroy's highly stylized blend of acoustic folk and blues is fused with a distinctly Eastern-flavored sensibility to create an appealing aura quite unlike most other mid-'60s fare. Kudos should likewise be given to the foresight of the powers that be at the seminal imprint Elektra Records. Under the direction of the label's founder, Jac Holzman, they became renowned for giving unique and deserving talents -- such as those found here -- an outlet. Joining Kilroy are a few well-known names, primarily Graubard (flute/glockenspiel), Stefan Grossman (guitar), and Eric Kaz (mouth harp). Bob Amacker (percussion) is prominently featured on the tabla. Although in short order this popular and distinct-sounding hand drum would find its way into more mainstream pop music, its use here is one of the first incorporations of the instrument from traditional Indian music into Western culture. It is immediately evident on Light of Day's mellow and blithe opening melody, "The Magic Carpet." Lacking the opulent tonality of Tim Buckley, the funky "Roberta's Blues" bears a similar one-man-band austerity. Holding together Kilroy's wails and screams are the unusual support of the artist's own undulating bassline, Kaz on harmonica, and some well-placed and wholly unobtrusive congas, courtesy of Jim Welch. Far more introspective and intimate is the gorgeous "Cancereal" -- based on the fact that Kilroy, Graubard, and Amacker's birth dates all fell under Cancer's astrological sign. Rather than traditional lyrics, Kilroy's presumably improvised wordless vocalizations interject rhythms and harmonies over the sparse yet effective backdrop. Several songs have discernible roots in other familiar melodies. For instance, "A Day at the Beach" seems to be built off the familiar chord progressions of Allen Toussaint's Crescent City soul classic "Fortune Teller." That said, Kilroy's emphatic slide guitar and rousing vocals turn it into a completely different direction. Notably, the Toussaint composition has no overt relationship with the Kilroy selection of the same name. Stefan Grossman's influence is clear and strong on the excellent "Mississippi Blues," whose structure mirrors the W.C. Handy classic "St. Louis Blues." The stars also align on the stunning title track and other original works such as "Vibrations" and "Star Dance," truly allowing Kilroy and company to reveal their considerable musicality as a unit.

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