Thursday, September 18, 2014

D.R. Hooker - The Truth (1972 us, gorgeous lounge psychedelia)

New Haven, CT nutbomb Donald Hooker, who rumor has it went dressed like Jesus at all times, was a guitarist, singer & songwriter who got a gaggle of local yokels to accompany him on dobro, bass, synth, organ, piano, horns and drums.  There's also a few pop-psych near-ballads tinged with minor keys and jazzy percussion that makes for a low-rent Zombies vibe, and Hooker's edgy-but-quiet singing smacks of Lou Reed. Fuzz cranks up to bomber level for the tougher songs, and it wraps up with a big pro-Jesus pro-drug blowout complete with backmasking.

Tempting as it is to exaggerate the worth of such obscurities, The Truth deserves every plaudit that comes its way, making it astonishing that there was no real band to speak of. Instead ten musicians are credited alongside the mysterious Donald Hooker, who wrote, sang and played lead on the album. Culled from the local music scene, they rehearsed only briefly before entering the studio. Tom Kobela, who plays dobro on The Truth, remembers that Hooker ‘was a very likable, long-haired fellow’ with a most unusual appearance. Heavily bearded and very thin, he looks nothing short of messianic on the front cover. Kobela recalls that ‘D.R. wore robes, which was pushing the dress code conventions even then.’ Despite his wasted appearance, though, he knew exactly what he wanted in the studio. ‘He had a real sense of mission’, says Kobela. ‘He was way ahead of me there!’

Heralded by an eerie whoosh, the first track, ‘The Sea’, exemplifies the album’s sound: a strong melody, funky drumming and percussion and piercing guitar underpin oddly philosophical, quasi-Christian lyrics. Some songs are mellow (the lethargic  ‘Weather Girl’ and plain soporific ‘Falling Asleep’), whilst others rock hard (‘I’m Leaving You’ and ‘The Truth’). Other highlights include the irresistibly funky ‘A Stranger’s Smile’ and the beautifully structured ‘This Thing’. But the album’s masterpiece is the unforgettable ‘Forge Your Own Chains’, whose smouldering groove, enlivened by delicate synth and atmospheric brass, provides the backing for Hooker’s admonitory lyrics about the iniquities of substance abuse.

Despite the profusion of musicians involved, The Truth has a remarkably intimate, uncluttered feel - no small achievement. Kobela, however, admits that ‘at the time I thought D.R. overestimated his own talents. I’ve since learnt not to judge people so quickly.’ The group, such as it was, split as soon as the recording was complete and that was that. ‘I never heard the final mix of the album or even saw the cover art’, Kobela continues, only learning of its cult status when, to his amazement, he stumbled across it on the internet."
1. The Sea - 4:26
2. Fall In Love - 2:35
3. A Stranger's Smile - 2:21
4. Weather Girl - 4:11
5. This Thing - 5:18
6. Forge Your Own Chains - 4:42
7. I'm Leaving You - 4:03
8. The Truth - 3:39
9. The Bible - 4:46
10.Falling Asleep - 5:01
11.Hello - 2:41
12.This Moment - 5:26
13.Free - 3:17
14.Winter - 4:29
15.A Tormented Heart - 6:01
16.Kamala - 5:54
Music and Lyrics by D.R. Hooker

*D.R. Hooker - Vocals, Guitars
*Steve Malkan - Bass
*Bett McDevitt - Drums
*Bob Reardon - Keyboards
*Carroll Yanni - Lead Guitar
*Ken Lovelett - Vibraphone, Percussion
*Dave Mason - Vocals

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