Yes To Jerry, No To The Trout

Originally posted May 25, 2007

I’ve got a stack on LPs on my table, waiting for me to rip them to mp3s. There’s some pretty good stuff in there: the Sanford-Townsend Band, the Cate Brothers, Maria Muldaur, Indigo Girls, Don Nix and Jimmy Spheeris (both of whom I’ve posted stuff from earlier), Valerie Carter, another Cold Blood, Hurricane Smith and more.

Some of those albums are still in print on CD, which is  stuff I’ll tend not to post. (I don’t worry about the individual cuts that I  post for my Baker’s Dozens, but I try not to post entire albums that are still  in print. Inconsistent? Maybe. But it’s the line I’ve drawn, and I’ll try to  stick to it.) The others, the things that aren’t in print or were never  released on CD, seem to be good albums. But every once in a while, I look at  the stack of waiting LPs and sigh. Some days, nothing in that pile seems to  grab my imagination.

And I go wandering off to the stacks, pulling records down  here and there, looking for something to intrigue me. I stopped by the T’s this  morning and pulled down an album called The Trout by a group called The  Trout. I remember picking it up at Cheapo’s sometime in the late 1990s, almost  entirely because of the cover: Two grim-faced men – one in a serape, the other  in a fleece-collared jacket and a straw cowboy hat, sit in chairs in what  appears to be an attic. At the far right, almost in front of a window, stands a  young woman in a nearly translucent granny dress, her right foot propped up on a rocking horse.

Wow! I thought. Get back to the land! Hoe that corn and pass  around the pipe! Set our souls free with hippie music!

So I bought it and took it home. Well, it’s not quite hippie  music. It’s more like very odd sunshine pop. And I dropped it on the USB  turntable this morning. I was dubious as the album recorded, and when I set  about splitting the songs, I sighed. There were just too many pops for my  taste. I mean, some are to be expected – it’s a nearly forty-year-old LP. But  I’m picky. So I threw The Trout back into the water and went looking for  something else.

Over in the R section, I pulled out Jerry Riopelle and his Take  A Chance album, an ABC release from 1975. The front shows a reproduction of  a painting called “Hollywood Indian On a Horse,” and the back cover shows Jerry  and his bandmates – none of whose names I recognized – in various rugged poses:  There’s some shoulder-length hair, some round wire-rimmed glasses, beards and  mustaches and some cowboy hats. I know I played the record at least once – I  play every LP I buy before I stick it on the shelf – but I couldn’t recall this  one.

So I threw it on the USB turntable and let it rip. It’s not  bad, a country-rockish piece of work that kind of sums up the Seventies: Long  hair was for hippies, but now we’re gonna be country boys. It was Riopelle’s  third album, or so says All-Music Guide, and someone at ABC still thought Jerry  and his pals would make them some money. Riopelle, who came out of Detroit, got  to produce the album himself, with co-producer credits to David Plenn, his  guitar player, and to Keith Olsen, likely someone from ABC. The side musicians  include a few luminaries: Jim Horn plays saxophone, Byron Berline adds fiddle  and slide guitar is credited to “Watty” Wachtel. Has to be Waddy, doncha think?

AMG’s take on the record was brief: “Several good tracks like ‘Steppin’ Out’ and ‘Red Ball Texas Flyer’ are  included, but over-production stifles the artist.” A reasonable verdict. I did  like both of those songs, as well as “Baby Rose” and “Walkin’ On  Water.”

Overall, though, I  thought the whole record lacked something. There was none of the vitality, the  sense of purpose, that one expects in good country-rock, even in slow and less  happy numbers. Riopelle’s first release, though, might be intriguing. Here’s  what AMG says about 1971’s Jerry Riopelle: “A gem of an album from this  unknown singer, it is direct, honest, and bluesy rock & roll. Both happy  and brutally sad music.” I may have to start digging for that one. Reading  between the lines, it seems as if Riopelle shifted gears somewhere between his  debut and the 1975 record I share here, from the “bluesy rock & roll” of  his debut to the somewhat bland country rock of Take A Chance.

AMG says that  Riopelle released two albums in the 1990s, the second of which – 1999’s Tongue  ’N’ Groove – got a glowing review. And the performer has a fairly extensive  website, which notes the existence of several albums – from the Seventies and  from more recent times – that AMG did not list. The more I looked,  the more intrigued I became. Even though Take A Chance was a little bit  disappointing, I thought I’d still post it here. If there’s one thing I’ve  learned in the four months I’ve been sharing things here, it’s that almost any  piece of music has someone out there in the world who wants to hear it.

(As I was finishing  this, I thought I’d check for Riopelle at my regular online marketplaces:  Nothing seems to be in print, as far as Amazon is concerned, but copies of Tongue  ’N’ Groove and 1994’s Hush Money are available used and evidently as  cut-outs. At GEMM, it looks like most everything in his catalogue is available;  prices range from $10 to $20 for most titles, with an LP called Juicy Talk  going for about $39 and a UK single of “Walkin’ On Water” priced at more than  $40.)

I guess I’m going to  have to put Jerry Riopelle on that long list I keep of artists I need to take a  closer look at. But I don’t think The Trout is going to make the list.

Jerry Riopelle – Take  A Chance [1975]

Track listing
River On The Run
Hey Old Friend
Take A Chance
Me And The Fox
Baby Rose
Valentine
Cryin’ Out Loud
Talk To Me
Walkin’ On Water
Red Ball Texas Flyer
Steppin’ Out

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One Response to “Yes To Jerry, No To The Trout”

  1. Heavy Thumps As The Jukebox Played « Echoes In The Wind Archives Says:

    […] Jim Messina and Joe Osborn provided some of the work on bass. Russell Bridges (very soon to be better known as Leon Russell) played organ and electric piano. Milt Holland provided some percussion work. Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine were on drums. And one of the producers was Jerry Riopelle, whom I wrote about here. […]

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