It is not hard to figure out why record labels wouldn't touch Big Lost Rainbow and why it stood no chance of gaining a widespread audience at the time of its 1973 release date. The album runs completely counter to the pompous hard rock that was plastered all over the airwaves at the time, and is far too subtle and mature for mass consumption. Although their initial gig was played before a crowd of 10,000, Big Lost Rainbow were not cut out for the arena.
Their music requires a much more intimate setting and response, and their sole album is a surprising musical delight constructed out of elements of folk, jazz, and classical music, all of which expose gorgeous, supple melodies, mostly composed by lead vocalist and guitarist Ridley Pearson. The album brings to mind the best aspects of soft, early-'70s folk-pop, but unlike much of that genre, there is a genuine sorrow (as opposed to anger) threaded throughout the music; a sorrow, perhaps, brought about by the changing times but not the least bit cynical. It is, instead, a sort of celebratory sentimentality.
The songs are all exceedingly strong. Big Lost Rainbow infuse the music with an uncanny emotional resonance whether they are expressing joyous or melancholy sentiments. The opening cut, "Sail" (written by Otis Read), is powered by harmonies nearly equal to those of Crosby, Stills & Nash, while "Oh! Idaho" is a lilting, upbeat tune that soars with scatty harmonies à la Seals & Crofts. Even the upbeat songs, though, are not exactly bouncy.
The album is entirely drum-less, so acoustic guitar, piano, bass, and cello are all up front with Pearson's vocals, which sound like a gentler, more somnolent Jonathan Edwards or James Taylor. When the mood is slowed down, the songs are incredibly touching. "Slow Rider" has a hint of the Bee Gees in their most heartbreakingly fragile and evocative melodic moments. And the gorgeous "Allegiance of Apathy," the one song included from the group's 1992 reunion, offers not only evidence that the members still have the magic but also a perfect, poignant closing for the album.
Overall there is a tender, communal hippie vibe to the album, very sunny and optimistic without descending into silliness and entirely avoiding jadedness. There is a sense of lost innocence and the process of growing wiser, as if the band is singing a lullaby to the wistfulness of youth. From beginning to end, Big Lost Rainbow is romantic and lovely.
by Stanton Swihart
1. Sail (Otis Read) - 3:09
2. I Go Alone - 4:20
3. Lady Love - 4:11
4. Brothers - 2:58
5. Ocean - 5:02
6. Idaho - 2:18
7. It's Over Now - 3:44
8. Morning Sunshine (Bradbury, Pearson) - 2:44
9. Lady Of Music (Pearson, Berenson) - 13:08
10.Always On The Eve - 4:24
11.Patricia Jane Moon - 3:51
12.Slow Rider - 3:31
Words and Music by Ridley Pearson except where indicated
Big Lost Rainbow
*Ridley Pearson - Guitar, Piano, Vocals, Saxophone
*Otis Read - Guitar, Piano, Vocals
*Robin Pfoutz - Cello
*Adam Berenson - Piano
*Tony Morse - Flute
*Jacques Bailhe - Bass, Vocals, Guitar
*Steve Patt - Pedal Steel Guitar
*Charlie Read - Backing Vocals