Sunday, September 24, 2023

Genya Ravan - Goldie Zelkowitz (1974 us, essential funky blues rock, 2008 remaster)

When you hear the great blues singer Genya Ravan totally capture Gregg Allman's "Whipping Post," you realize that his melody needed a vocal that could bring the song way over the bar. Ravan's voice does just that, hits the home run while gliding through the dense production of Gabriel Mekler, the man who produced Janis Joplin's I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama. It's the combination of Mekler's guidance and Ravan's musical instincts that give immense power to this 1974 release titled after Ravan's birth name, Goldie Zelkowitz. 

The version of the Allman Brothers' classic is a total reinterpretation, but it is only one of ten selections that are arguably the best setting for this pioneer vocalist. "Get It Back" is funky and hip with dance rhythms that are adventurous and futuristic; the song has pull like an undertow, and the production is so polished it will amaze. Mekler was one of the most underrated producers of his day, and the Kozmic Blues album was a masterpiece overshadowed by Cheap Thrills and Pearl. It seems like Mekler had something to prove and, with co-producer Trevor Lawrence, he augments Ravan's vocal prowess, the band aiding and abetting her as she takes "Hold On I'm Coming" and makes it her own. A dazzling recording that sounds like Quicksilver Messenger Service doing Big Mama Thornton's "Ball and Chain" with drums out of Charlie Watts on "Let It Bleed" -- this makeover of the Sam & Dave hit is a monster track. "Whipping Post" was great but this "Hold On I'm Coming" just obliterates everything in its path.

While Ten Wheel Drive experimented with various styles, their former lead singer has the opportunity here to focus and to strut her stuff away from the confines of a big, big rock band, giving listeners a side of Ravan that is only hinted at on Urban Desire, one of her most popular solo albums, which arrived a few years after this. "Letter" is like a subdued "Stay With Me" from the TWD days, while "Breadline" takes the disc even deeper into the blues. "Walkin' Walkin'" is snappy, intimate dance-pop that gives good balance to an album boasting Danny Kortchmar on guitar and Bobby Keyes on horns. "Need Your Lovin'" segues into a mini-medley with "Peeping and Hiding" finding Ravan's voice in complete control, and boy can she play the harmonica. 

Her catalog remains one of the most unmined vaults of treasures in rock/blues history, and this album needs to be the centerpiece of a boxed-set appreciation of Genya Ravan. It is so overwhelmingly good that, with a push to the blues market, it can find a new audience for this major and underrated talent. The singer's legacy is intact at and Goldie Zelkowitz is an often overlooked chestnut in her impressive catalog, an album that needs to get serious attention from those who understand this art form and who want another album to cherish.
by Joe Viglione
1. My Oh My My Mama (Catherine C. Williamson, Gabriel Mekler, Trevor Lawrence) - 4:08
2. Whipping Post (Gregg Allman) - 4:25
3. Get It Back (Gabriel Mekler, Genya Ravan, Trevor Lawrence) - 3:10
4. Hold On I'm Coming (David Porter, Isaac Hayes) - 4:22
5. Little By Little (Gabriel Mekler, Genya Ravan, Trevor Lawrence) - 3:33
6. Letter (Catherine C. Williamson, Gabriel Mekler, Trevor Lawrence) - 4:38
7. Breadline (Catherine C. Williamson, Gabriel Mekler, Trevor Lawrence) - 3:40
8. Walkin' (Catherine C. Williamson, Gabriel Mekler, Genya Ravan, Trevor Lawrence) - 2:36
9. Need Your Lovin / Peeping And Hiding (Bobby Robinson, Clarence Lewis, Don Gardner, James McDougal, Morris Levy) - 2:39

*Genya Ravan - Harmonica, Percussion, Vocals
*Fred Beckmeier - Bass
*Steve Beckmeier - Guitar
*Mailto Correa - Percussion
*Gwen Edwards - Vocals
*Abigale Haness - Vocals
*Bobby Keys - Saxophone
*Danny Kortchmar - Guitar
*Trevor Lawrence - Horn, Keyboards
*Steve Madaio - Horn
*Ken Marco - Guitar
*Gabriel Mekler - Keyboards
*Larry Nash - Keyboards
*Kenneth "Spider Webb" Rice - Drums
*William D. "Smitty" Smith - Keyboards
*Catherine C. Williamson - Vocals

1971  Genya Ravan - Genya Ravan (Remaster)
Related Act
1969  Ten Wheel Drive - Construction #1 (2019 korean remaster)
1970  Ten Wheel Drive - Brief Replies (2019 korean remaster)