I hope the new week finds you all well.
The record I bring you today is a big favorite of mine – one you’ve heard on the Iron Leg Radio Show podcast – and one that I chased for a while before finally adding it to my crates.
The artist, named here as ‘Ruthann’ but in fact Ruthann Friedman, has one of the more interesting back stories in all of 60s pop.
I first encountered her music via a 45 by the Garden Club, a one-off affair that featured Friedman, Tom Shipley (later of Brewer and…), with songwriting by Tandyn Almer (’Along Comes Mary’) and production by Larry Marks.
I was already familiar with all of those names, except Friedman’s, so I started digging.
The first thing I discovered was that Friedman had written the Association’s huge 1967 hit ‘Windy’, which of course went on to be recorded many, many times in a wide variety of settings.
I was surprised I had never heard about Friedman.
As it turns out, Ruthann Friedman was a native of the Bronx who had moved west as a teenager, falling in with the west coast folk scene.
She was (as indicated by the cast of characters associated with the Garden Club) part of a very talented and interesting crowd.
Friedman’s style was a timely amalgam of folk and pop, which she fleshed out on her 1969 Reprise LP ‘Costant Companion’.
Not long after I managed to find a copy of that album, I found out that not long after its release, Friedman recorded a 45 with none other than Van Dyke Parks at the controls.
You already know I’m way into Parks, so I set off in search of that 45.
It would appear that the record in question, ‘Carry On (Glittering Dancer)’ only ever got to the promo stage (issued with mono mix on one side, stereo on the other), and in combination with the already obscure nature of Friedman’s oeuvre, was like the fabled hens teeth.
The record doesn’t trade for a lot of money (comparatively, it seems to run for 30 or 40 bucks) but it is maddeningly scarce.
When it finally did turn up, I managed to grab it at a steep discount (always a treat) and when you hear it I think you’ll see why I was so happy.
‘Carry On (Glittering Dancer)’ is unlike anything on Friedman’s album (which is mosty folk psych). It is – like many Van Dyke Parks joints – dense, packed with ideas, butting up against the avant garde yet still anchored in a pop foundation.
The base coat –as it were – is pretty simple, but as the 45 rolls on it is adorned with horns, strings, percussion and layers upon layer of Friedman harmonizing with herself.
The horns are especially interesting, flirting with dissonance (you go, Van Dyke!), which while probably dooming the record to exile from the radio, made it a crucial part of both Friedman’s and Parks’ stories.
Oddly (and sadly) after this 45 hit the streets in 1970, Ruthann Friedman never recorded again.
I have heard about her performing, and there have been reissues of her released and unreleased (demos, etc) material. You can get ‘Carry On (Glittering Dancer)’ as a bonus track to the iTunes release of ‘Constant Companion’.
It is a very groovy record and yet another piece in the Van Dyke Parks puzzle.
I hope you dig it and I’ll see you all next week.