Checking out Martin Johnson’s previous contribution to the chain gang, Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal’s version of ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee’, led me back to that pair’s first outing when they were quite unknown. Their band, the Rising Sons, comprised of Cooder and Mahal along with Gary Marker on bass, Jesse Lee Kincaid on guitar and Ed Cassidy (of Spirit fame) on drums for a brief period, replaced by Kevin Kelley (who later joined The Byrds). A super group of sorts after the event if you like. So super in fact that their 1966 album languished in the CBS vaults for 36 years before getting an official release, the band having split up soon after the recording sessions. Cooder and Mahal of course went their separate ways with both of them taking the sounds heard on the album in various directions (although it was Mahal who clung more fiercely to several of the songs on his early solo releases).
The album is much of its time. Produced by Terry Melcher it’s an interesting mix of folk and blues and early country rock and it holds up well against other contemporary LA releases by The Byrds, Love and such. A glimpse of what they could have become is heard on the brace of songs written by Kincaid which are firmly in the folk rock camp but the majority of the songs are covers. There are blues standards, a then unreleased Dylan song and Mahal’s first rendition of Goffin and King’s ‘Giant Step’. The story goes that Linda Ronstadt heard The Rising Sons play Linda Albertino’s ‘2:10 Train’ in a club and asked them for permission to use their arrangement for her version of the song on the 1967 Stone Poneys’ album. Here’s the Rising Sons’ version, we’ll leave it up you to compare and contrast Linda’s via a Google search.