Looking Back on the Future

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Dawnwind's story couldn't be any more of an obscure cult one -- the folk-based duo, consisting of Jon Harflett and John Perkins, formed in 1967, recorded its one album over a weekend in 1975 when one was ragingly sick, and then was stuck with seeing the album get a miniscule run from which Harflett and Perkins got no money. But such are the ways of trends and rediscoveries that demand grew for a reissue in 2006, and Looking Back on the Future proves to be an engagingly moody release, its almost garish purple-tinged sleeve weirdly appropriate for the understated opulence of the music. While hardly an orchestral effort, Looking Back revels in a richness of sound and reference -- if not in the sense of such avant-garde performers as Bert Jansch, John Fahey, or Robbie Basho, then far more so than the dull but worthy efforts of so many sensitive souls of the '70s. Assisted by three other performers on guitar, mandolin, and fiddle, Harflett and Perkins effortlessly create an atmosphere of modern mysticism, with songs like "Concrete Circle" and "Canticle" suggesting a displacement between past and present that the band carefully bridges. Even songs that could be more readily imagined from a performer opening for, say, Cat Stevens succeed on the strength of the performances, thus the excellent "Man of Stars" and "Dogs of War." A few covers, including John Prine's excellent, heartbreaking "Sam Stone," are interspersed among the originals, but it's those originals that are the deserving standouts on this surprising gem. The reissue, besides including reflective liner notes from the duo, includes two crisp 1975-era live performances of the tracks "Street Singer" and "Dogs of War" as a fine bonus.

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