Listen – Paul Williams – Trust – MP3
Listen – Paul Williams – Someday Man – MP3
Hows about we close out the week with something on the soft side?
If you’re anywhere near my age (that would be all of forty and seven years) your recollection of Paul Williams would likely be filled with images of the diminutive singer, songwriter and actor alongside either the Muppets or Burt Reynolds. Williams was for a few years all but omnipresent both in movies, and on TV as a game show and variety fixture.
During that period I was certainly aware of Williams’ accomplishments as a songwriter. He wrote (or co-wrote) numerous Top 10 hits for artists like the Carpenters (Rainy Days and Mondays, We’ve Only Just Begun), Three Dog Night (Just An Old Fashioned Love Song) Helen Reddy (You And Me Against The World) and of course Kermit the Frog (the Rainbow Connection).
It was only in the last ten years, as my interest in soft rock/sunshine pop increased, so did my awareness of the earlier works of Paul Williams.
If you’ve followed the goings on here at Iron Leg you will already have heard a couple of cuts by Williams first band, the Holy Mackerel*, who’s sole album is something of a lost classic of late 60s LA pop.
During that period Williams was collaborating with folks like Biff Rose (with whom he wrote ‘Fill Your Heart’, recorded by both Tiny Tim and David Bowie) and Roger Nichols (of The Small Circle of Friends). Williams and Nichols cowrote a number of great songs (like the Carpenters’ numbers above), two of which are today’s selections.
If I may digress for a moment, one specific reason for the growth of my interest in Williams first fell into my ears more than 20 years ago, that being a song entitled ‘Trust’ as recorded by the Peppermint Trolley Company. I picked up their album back in the day, mainly because it looked like the kind of 1960s pop obscurity I thrived on. Once I got the record home that proved to be a good call. Though most of the album is nice enough, the song ‘Trust’ really made an impression. Packed from end to end with pure pop hooks it impressed me immediately as a song that should have been a huge hit.
‘Trust’ became a featured number on my mix tapes in ensuing years, and it was only in the last five years or so, when I scored the CD reissue of the Small Circle of Friends LP, and heard their version of the song (and did a little bit of searching on the interwebs) that I discovered that the ‘Williams’ credited with co-writing the song was in fact Paul Williams.
It wasn’t long after that that I dug up copies of the Holy Mackerel LP, and Williams first solo effort (from which both of today’s songs originated) ‘Someday Man’.
It may have something to do with what was on the radio when my ears (and musical taste) began to mature, but I have a huge weakness for late 60s/early 70s pop. Paul Williams ‘Someday Man’ isn’t just a lost classic of that era, it is one of its finest albums, period.
There are those that would take issue with Williams as performer, but I’ve always found him engaging as a vocalist. ‘Someday Man’ – every one of its songs co-written by Williams and Roger Nichols – features a who’s who of west coast studio heads, with arrangements by Perry Botkin Jr and Chad Stuart. The title song actually had a life before this album, having been recorded by the Monkees in 1969.
Williams recording of ‘Trust’ is to my ears the finest of the three versions, with the expansive arrangement that the song deserves.
Williams recordings of these songs are layered with sophisticated pop hooks, arrangements which are lush but not overbearing and a vibe that brings the era into musical focus. Williams and Nichols were not only a part of that specific period in time, their music went a long way to defining that very sound.
As I’ve said before, if you’re in a garage fuzz bag, these may not be the sounds that turn you on, but if like myself you are a devotee of pure pop, dig yourself some Paul Williams.
See you on Monday.
*Another member of the Holy Mackerel was Paul’s brother Mentor, himself a songwriter, who penned ‘Drift Away’ which was a huge hit for Dobie Gray.