Ringo might be best known for his cover of Vonie Morrison and Johnny Russell's "Act Naturally," but a country version by the Youngbloods opens up this extremely diverse soundtrack to the 1971 Francois Reinchenbach film which had Martin Scorsese as associate producer. This is the document of an "8,000 mile trans-U.S.A." trip by 154 people, a "wagon train" of buses, trucks, and musical groups which ventured to San Francisco, Gallup, NM, Boulder, CO, Sioux City, IA, Yellow Springs, OH, Moline, IL, Warrenton, VA, and Washington D.C. B.B. King follows the Youngbloods with two bluesy numbers clocking in at about ten minutes. He sounds youthful and like he is having fun. His medley is followed by Doug Kershaw's almost six-minute medley, which is a progression of country to blues to cajun -- and not the most commercial collection of artists. Kershaw is exciting, but the recording here is a cut above a soundboard bootleg, it has the same qualities as the Janis Joplin Woodstock 1969 boot. The fiddle sure cuts, through, as does Kershaw's unmistakable voice, but let's read between the lines here. If this entire journey was recorded on audio and film, why aren't there more of these recordings available? Alice Cooper live from this period would be a nice revelation, and Alice Cooper's "Black Juju" might be in tune with the cajun offerings of Doug Kershaw, but with top billing and one track only, Alice seems a bit out of place. The Youngbloods continue their country dabblings with "Hippie From Olema," a Lowell Levinger composition which is a much better recording than the Doug Kershaw material, maybe because the subdued drums and acoustic guitars aren't as hard to capture on tape. Sal Valentino's Stoneground gets three tracks, maybe because they were the "traveling house band" of the caravan. Kind of like the dude who created "Live Aid" and quickly fell back into obscurity. "Dreambo" by Sal Valentino is OK, but another track from Delaney & Bonnie, Alice Cooper, or B.B.King would have been much more appealing. Delaney & Bonnie close the set with their version of Barbara Keith's "Free the People." Considering that the Valentino/Stoneground tracks take up 14 minutes and 47 seconds of a 48 minute and six second album, well, a third of the music is by the bar band sounds of an unknown artist, making this almost as unsatisfying as the Zachariah soundtrack. In that context, three minutes and twenty seconds of brilliance by Delaney & Bonnie is a shame -- their track is pure magic, a wonderful supplement to Delaney & Bonnie On Tour With Eric Clapton. Alice Cooper's "Black JuJu" is prime Cooper, and a superb snapshot of that important group as they were starting to gain true noteriety. They sound great, and it is a very proud moment for a band that would fall into chaos and dysfunction. What Medicine Ball Caravan needs to do is release a DVD of the Cooper, Delaney & Bonnie, B.B.King, Doug Kershaw and Youngbloods concerts. Excellent live Alice Cooper from long ago, which, along with the "Free The People" track, necessitates the addition of this to your collection.
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AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione