Polly Niles

Sunshine in My Rainy Day Mind: The Lost Album

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Serious music nerds and crate diggers love nothing more than discovering a notable artist who either slipped into utter obscurity or never rose from it in the first place, and there's no arguing that Polly Niles qualifies. Niles had an interesting backstory, between having been married to Ramblin' Jack Elliott, later tying the knot with Tony Silvester of the Main Ingredient, and appearing in the Blaxploitation touchstone Super Fly. But despite having a strong voice and some enthusiastic supporters, the first and only album she recorded, financed by the U.K. independent label Ember Records, was shelved after it was completed in 1970. Except for one tune on a 1970 Ember Records sampler, Future Star Explosion: New Faces of the 70's, none of Niles' recorded work was available to the public before 2009, when tracks began appearing on compilations of music from the Ember vaults. For those fascinated by Polly Niles' admittedly intriguing story, Sunshine in My Rainy Day Mind: The Lost Album probably seems like manna from heaven; on CD, it contains the complete unreleased 12-song album along with 24 bonus tracks devoted to alternate takes and different mixes. Hearing the album after all these years, there's no arguing Polly Niles had talent and potential. Her voice was warm and rich, a bit mannered but readily adaptable to pop, folk, country, adult contemporary, and even light psychedelic material. She may not reinvent Neil Young's "I Am a Child," Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released," or Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line," but she tackles them with confidence and a personality of her own, and she injects a welcome soulful touch into the glossy arrangements. However, it's worth noting that Ember clearly didn't see her as a rock singer, and this music seems to have been geared for grown-ups hoping to seem hip rather than actual latter-day hippies, regardless of the songwriters on board. And even though the lost album is well worth a listen, the CD edition of this package is much too much of a good thing; the same songs from the original album are recycled in various forms, most of which are only so different, and only the most obsessed listener could possibly want or need four mixes of "East Virginia" in one set. Polly Niles deserved more attention than she received in 1970, and Sunshine in My Rainy Day Mind: The Lost Album is a welcome corrective to that, but just issuing the lost album might have made a better case for her overlooked talent.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 02:32 Amazon
2 03:13 Amazon
3 02:39 Amazon
4 02:19 Amazon
5 03:06 Amazon
6 04:04 Amazon
7 02:17 Amazon
8 03:12 Amazon
9 03:40 Amazon
10 01:53 Amazon
11 02:36 Amazon
12 02:08 Amazon
13 02:40 Amazon
14 03:08 Amazon
15 02:37 Amazon
16 02:07 Amazon
17 02:39 Amazon
18 03:13 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick