A Euro P/S for 1941
I can’t remember when I first became aware of Tom Northcott, but I am pretty sure that I knew his name for years before I ever heard a note of the music he made.
Northcott, who was based in British Columbia, in Canada made all of his records in the relatively short window of 1965 to 1971.
Though he made a few regional records in Canada, Northcott is best remembered these days for a series of 45s he did for Warner Brothers in the mid-to-late 60s and an LP he recorded for UNI in 1971.
He had the kind of high, clear tenor voice that was very popular during the folk revival.
He recorded a couple of folk rock 45s with the Tom Northcott Trio and the Vancouver Playboys before signing with Warner Brothers in 1967.
Northcott recorded a variety of cover and original material, waxing songs by Bob Dylan (‘Girl of the North Country’), Nilsson (‘1941’) and Donovan (‘Sunny Goodge Street’), all of which were Canadian hits in 1967 and 1968.
I bring you the latter two tracks today, because of all the Northcott material I’ve managed to find, they are my favorites.
As a certified Nilsson freak, I am constitutionally incapable of passing up a cover version of ‘1941’, and Northcott’s is excellent.
Both of these 45s were recorded in Los Angeles, produced by Lenny Waronker and Leon Russell and arranged by Russell as well.
Northcott takes ‘1941’ at a much faster pace than any of the other versions I’ve heard (which tend to hew closely to the Nilsson original) and it’s a refreshing change of pace. Though Russell adds in some brass, the arrangement isn’t too busy.
His version of Donovan’s ‘Sunny Goodge Street’ is a much more ornate, upbeat take on the song. The original is a quiet, meandering affair with a jazz combo and a bowed bass violin. Northcott’s version is a bright, baroque popsike waltz, with accordion, and what sounds like a cimbalom, producing an almost calliope-like effect.
Northcott’s UNI LP is a slightly more rock-oriented project, including covers of Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman and a cool version of the Move’s ‘Blackberry Way’. It tends not to be very expensive and I would highly recommend you pick it up if you dig the tracks I’ve posted today.
Rhino Handmade released a comp of Northcott’s Warner Brothers material, but it appears to be long out of print.
Interestingly, not long after his 1971 LP, Northcott left the music business to become a commercial fisherman, and later got a law degree, specializing in maritime law.
I hope you dig the sounds, and I’ll see you all next week.