Glenn Yarbrough, in a pensive mood…
The tune I bring you today is one of those great intersections of a very groovy song sung by a very unexpected singer.
If you come by here on a regular basis, or listen to the podcast you already know of my deep and abiding love for the Buffalo Springfield, pretty much tied with Arthur Lee and Love for my favorite American band of the 1960s.
I still have all of their albums in heavy rotation, and am always looking for cover versions of the songs the recorded between 1966 and 1968.
A few years back the Echoes In the Wind blog posted a clip of Glenn Yarbrough performing the Stephen Stills-penned tune ‘Everybody’s Wrong’ (from the Buffalo Springfield’s debut LP).
Yarbrough was already familiar to me via my father’s Limeliters records (one of the most popular groups of the commercial end of the 50s/60s folk revival) and his big 1965 hit ‘Baby the Rain Must Fall’, but the idea of him having recorded a Buffalo Springfield song seemed incongruous.
Yarbrough’s voice is one of the most distinctive of its time, a high, heavily vibratoed tenor seemingly purpose-made for sea chantys, and not one I would have associated with the hipper end of the folk rock spectrum.
That said, my curiosity had to be sated, so I went out and found a copy of Yarbrough’s 1967 LP ‘For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her’ (the title taken from the Simon and Garfunkel song that opens the album).
When I got the record I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that it contained some very interesting material, including covers of songs by Buffy Sainte Marie, Ian and Sylvia, Bob Dylan and a couple of songs by Phil Ochs. That the arrangements were by George Tipton (who worked on Nilsson’s RCA albums) was a bonus.
Yarbrough’s performances of the these songs are excellent, and the arrangements are surprisingly hip.
His version of ‘Everybody’s Wrong’ is a really cool piece of folk rock bordering on psychedelia, filled with modal guitar picking and tastefully applied orchestral touches. It doesn’t stray too far from the source material, but Yarbrough and Tipton manage to put their own stamp on it.
As far as I can tell, there’s really nothing else in Yarbrough’s discography like it. In retrospect it seems like an attempt to reach a hipper audience, and met with apathy, pushed the singer back into a much more adult contemporary track.
Either way, the album is really interesting and ought to be better known.
I hope you dig the track, and I’ll see you next week.