Dick’s Picks: This week Dick has cast his eye (and ear?) back to 1973 with this sun-kissed and ever-so-slightly-funky Californian delight from much underrated U.S. singer-songwriter Ned Doheny….
Ned who? For years he was the kind of artist you’d find clogging up the £1 bins at your local record emporium, but more recently he’s undergone something of a reappraisal. Why? Well, one reason is that his particular brand of blue-eyed ‘70s R&B/Soul is very much in keeping with the whole disco/Balearic/re-edits shenanigans currently rockin’ the more discerning dance-floors near you, in fact the more adventurous DJs out there were quick to play some of Ned’s later ‘70s output (Get It Up For Love being the, err, biggie) – in short, he’s gone from zero to hero in just a few short years, all without releasing a (new) record!
Born in 1948 in California it’s said that after receiving a guitar as a Christmas gift the young Ned never looked back, quickly becoming a bit of a virtuoso, in fact so quick he was playing his first professional recording session while still in High School! Friends with fellow school mate Jackson Browne Doheny soon found himself associated with the super-cool Elektra imprint and the heady milieu that was late ‘60s Topanga Canyon; think Graham Nash, David Crosby, Joni Mitchell et al….
After an aborted attempt in the UK working with Dave Mason and Cass Elliot, Doheny returned to L.A. and was quickly signed to David Geffen’s newly emerging ‘home of the sensitive-singer-songwriter-type’ that was Asylum Records – in 1973 he released his first solo long player; ‘Ned Doheny’, he was 22.
What’s the album like?
Smooth grooves, sublime musicianship, close harmonies, deft song-writing, in fact very much in keeping with other early ’70s West Coast/SoCal singer-songwriter fair and, whilst maybe not matching the intensity and experimentation of Neil Young or Joni Mitchell albums from this period, it certainly trumps some of the more snooze-fest long players released at this time; yes that means you Jackson Browne and James Taylor.
Check ‘On & On’, featuring the inimitable close harmonies of a CSNY moonlighting Graham Nash, playing it on my way into work today for a brief moment there I was transported from a drizzly, wind-swept Kent to a laid back cruise up the Pacific Coast Highway, circa 1974 – well, for a moment.
Other highlights include the delicately finger-picked Gene Clark-esque ‘Postcards From Hollywood’, surely the epitome of the mellow California sound (think Eagles, Jackson Browne with a side-order of jazzy Steely Dan-isms). However, it’s not all like that, check the quietly funky ‘Fineline’, a nice hint of what was to come with subsequent releases like ‘Hard Candy’.
Although the five studio albums recorded between 1973 and 1991 were out of print in the US/Europe for many years, Japan would prove a more receptive audience, helping keep Ned’s name (and music) alive. More recently taste-maker DJs have been playing his music to a brand new audience whilst esteemed reissue label the Numero Group has reissued the albums and also compiled the ‘Separate Oceans’ double LP – so whad’ya know? – a happy ending….
Full sales info for the LP is here