Originally posted November 30, 2007
When Bobby Jameson went into the studio to record his second album in 1967 – his first that would be released entirely under his own name – he was teamed up with producer Curt Boettcher.
It seems an odd combination, given Bobby’s recordings to that point: the folk-rock that he recorded as Chris Lucey on Songs of Protest and Anti-Protest and the few pop-rock and folk rock singles that had come out on Mira and a few other smaller labels. The best of that string of singles had been “Gotta Find My Roogalator,” produced by Frank Zappa and released on the Penthouse label; like the others, it got little airplay and went nowhere.
Boettcher, on the other hand, was coming off a series of successes, having produced the singles “Along Comes Mary” and “Cherish” for the Association, as well as the group’s first album, And Then . . . Along Comes The Association.* About the same time as he went into the studio with Bobby Jameson, Boettcher worked with Gary Usher’s group, Sagittarius, doing vocals and some production work on 1967’s Present Tense and – later – 1969’s Big Blue Marble, two albums of sweet and mystical California pop that are now collector’s items.
In retrospect, for anyone who’s listened to Jameson’s 1969 album, Working!, the pairing seems even more odd. Jameson was in the process of finding that later persona, the world-weary wanderer who lives in the grooves of Working!, trying to, in the words of that album’s opening track, find his way “back to Palo Alto.” And Color Him In, the result of Jameson’s time in the studio with Boettcher, seems like a fascinating detour but a detour nevertheless.
There’s no doubt that Boettcher knew his way around the studio. His work with the Association – superb radio pop that it was (“Cherish” is one of my all-time favorite singles) – shows that. But I get the sense from listening to Color Him In that Boettcher had no idea what to do with Bobby Jameson and his music, with the combination of acerbic wit, romance and – this was 1967, after all – hippie mysticism, southern California style. So it seems as if Boettcher tried a little bit of everything.
Several of the tracks on Color Him In would not have sounded out of place on an Association album: “Know Yourself,” “Right By My Side,” “See Dawn,” “Do You Believe in Yesterday? and “Who’s Putting Who On?” although the vocal on that last track is far too intense for anything ever recorded by the Association. Still, the production is familiar, with its horns and the wordless backing vocals, including the “bum, bum” sequences that come right from the introduction to “Cherish.”
Other tracks on the record sound like they come from other places, as far as the production goes. Maybe it’s just my ears, but I keep hearing echoes of other performers – from a wide range of styles – as I listen to Boettcher’s work on Color Him In.
The opener, “Jamie,” has a touch of the style that Johnny Rivers would find about the same time with Rewind, the second in his sequence of great albums. “Windows and Doors” has a touch of British pop to it, maybe the Hollies? “The New Age” sounds as if Cyrkle, the group that hit with “Red Rubber Ball” and “Turn-Down Day,” could have recorded it.
Heading to the second side of the record, “Jenny” is an ultra-mellow piece that somehow anticipates the solo work of Jesse Colin Young. “I Love You More Than You Know” puts me in mind of the Casinos and “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” from the same year. “Candy Colored Dragon” is a slice of sunshine pop, and “Places, Times and the People,” the record’s closer, has echoes of some of Roy Orbison’s better singles.
I dunno. Maybe I’m hearing things. But it seems as if Boettcher had no idea what to do with Bobby Jameson and his songs, so he threw a little bit of everything out there, resulting in an album that has no identifiable center. Most of the songs are pretty good, and Boettcher’s production is nothing if not capable. Jameson’s vocals are good, but they’re not nearly as good here as they were on parts of the Chris Lucey album or as they would be two years later on Working. But the bigger flaw, I think, is that there’s no unity to the record, and in 1967 listeners were just beginning to look for albums that had some sort of unity, if not an overall concept.
I don’t know what time of the year the album came out, but it’s worth recalling that on June 1 of that year, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the third album – following Rubber Soul and Revolver – in a series that changed listeners’ expectations forever. Up until then, an album could be a collection of unconnected, stylistically different tracks, as long as it had a couple of hit singles. But after those three albums, and especially after Sgt. Pepper, listeners were looking not for just good music but for music that had if not a concept then at least a coherent vision. And Color Him In, as good as many of the songs are and as capable as Boettcher’s production was, did not have that coherence.
Add to that the fact that Verve – a label more known for jazz – evidently did little to promote the album and likely had little idea how to do so anyway, and Color Him In got lost in the flood of albums that were crowding the marketplace in 1967. It’s not a lost masterpiece, but it is an interesting listen.
I’ve included in the zip file six singles from Jameson: “I’m So Lonely,” “Okey Fanokey Baby” and “All Alone” from 1964, “Gotta Find My Roogalator” from 1966 and “Vietnam” and “Metropolitan Man” from 1967. (When I posted the Chris Lucey album, I included a track that the CD release had labeled as “Metro Man.” The track was actually an acoustic version of “Vietnam” most likely recorded in 1967.)
Color Him In
Windows and Doors
Right By My Side
Who’s Putting Who On?
The New Age
Do You Believe In Yesterday?
I Love You More Than You Know
Candy Colored Dragon
Places, Times and the People
Gotta Find My Roogalator
I’m So Lonely
Okey Fanokey Baby
Bobby Jameson – Color Him In  & Asst. Singles
*I think my chronology is off here concerning the timing of Boettcher’s work. I think Bobby Jameson left a note at the original post site with a correction, but that note is either lost or buried in an email box, so I cannot correct any errors here. Note added May 22, 2011.