Album Review

Beau Brummels - Magic Hollow

Beau Brummels - Magic Hollow

When the Beau Brummels are mentioned in music history books, it's usually in deference to FM DJ Tom Donohue, who signed them to his Autumn label, or to Sly Stewart (later known as Sly Stone), who produced them. In spite of having had only a couple of big hits, the very fact that they were the first Bay Area rock group (pre-Summer of Love) to make it high up the charts made them influential; being early bloomers may ultimately have worked both for and against them. Although they were one of the very first American groups to successfully capitalize on the new British sound and image, the Beau Brummels didn't mimic the English groups (despite taking their name from a 19th-century British dandy), although their melodic songs were suffused with an effervescent energy typical of the Searchers and others. The Beau Brummels were also folk-rock innovators who predated the Byrds. Sal Valentino and Ron Elliott were among the first to follow Dylan to Nashville, and the resulting album, though not country-rock per se, revealed some of the latent possibilities of that genre. With Valentino's rich and distinctive voice, Elliott's songwriting and musical talent, and the other three members' strong rhythm and multi-part harmonies, the Beau Brummels could probably have ridden the charts for a long time if not for label troubles (and, perhaps, health issues surrounding Elliott's diabetes). All the group's hits, both major ("Laugh, Laugh", "Just A Little") and minor ("You Tell Me Why", "One Too Many Mornings"), are on Magic Hollow, a 113-track set supplemented by a 48-page booklet. It includes half of most of the group's albums, including the groundbreaking Triangle, a quasi-mystical album featuring Van Dyke Parks, and Bradley's Barn, the Nashville album that utilized the session musicians who would soon become Area Code 615. Neither the group's 1975 reunion album nor Elliott's solo album is represented. The first disc starts with early demos from 1964; the last one features numerous tracks from the band's Warner Bros. tenure of 1967-68. An impressive 42 cuts are unissued, on top of many more that appeared mostly on obscure compilations. Not everything is sublime, but Magic Hollow substantiates the notion that music historians should have been paying more attention to the Beau Brummels' legacy.