Posts Tagged ‘Patti Dahlstrom’

Patti Dahlstrom Calls It A Day

July 20, 2011

Originally posted July 14, 2008

Last Friday morning, as I was dithering over what to say about Raga Rock, I heard the little chime that tells me that something had dropped into the mailbox that I use for this blog. A little pop-up on the screen told me Patti Dahlstrom had dropped me a line with the subject heading “London calling!”

Intrigued, I jumped off the less than interesting train of thought I’d been riding and headed for the mailbox. I was pretty certain Patti wasn’t going to discuss her impressions of the Clash’s 1979 masterpiece, London Calling!. And she didn’t. She asked me, politely, how soon I would be able to post Livin’ It Thru, the last of her four albums from the Seventies. Someone in the music industry is, she said, interested in reissuing her music, possibly all four albums, possibly a “best of” CD. And, she said, she thought that directing those interested to the posts here would be the easiest way to let them hear her stuff.

The timing was perfect. For the past couple of weeks, I’d been aiming at posting Patti’s fourth album this week. I’d been listening to Livin’ It Thru pretty regularly for a couple of weeks, absorbing the sound and doing some preliminary assessments. So I wrote back, telling Patti that the record would be up this week. This wasn’t the first time she’d mentioned that there was some interest in reissuing her work, and the idea that Echoes In The Wind might help get that done was pleasing.

I also asked a few questions about Livin’ It Thru and her feelings about it. Was it her best? How did she see it? And a few other things.

She wrote back: “Livin’ It Thru I see as my fourth album!” And I took that to mean that she’s unable to decide – or at least reluctant to acknowledge – how the record compares to the others. It’s probably an unfair question, much like asking a mother to declare which child she prefers above her others.

Patti wrote that the sessions for Livin’ It Thru came at a difficult time, though there were some good things that came out of them:

“I was extremely fried by this time, which explains several non-self-penned songs. That said, I loved working with [producer] Larry Knechtel. He is so professional, so talented, and he made the studio process the most pleasant I experienced. There are some unusual pieces on there I love though. Loved that Captain and Tennille came in and did backgrounds on “Lookin’ for Love” and “[He Was A] Writer.”

Five of the ten songs on the record came at least partly from Patti’s pen, and that was a lower ratio than had been present on her three earlier albums. Those songs were: “One Afternoon” (with Severin Browne), “Magician of Love,” “Without Love” (with Al Staehly), “Fool’s Gold” (with Marcia Waldorf) and “Changing Minds” (with Larry Knechtel).

And with Livin’ It Thru, Patti’s recording career closed:

“20th wanted me to do another album, but as I said I was fried. There was a lot of negative stuff at 20th, none of it related to [her mentor] Russ Regan, and I just wanted to go back to only writing at that point. . . . I just didn’t have it in me to do another one. I should have suggested a best of package for the first 2, that would have been an alternative, but I just wanted to be quiet for a while.”

And, as related here earlier, after some years of writing and then other pursuits in Southern California, Patti made her way back home to Houston to teach for some years before moving to London last year.

I have to admit that I can’t sort out where Livin’ It Thru ranks with Patti’s other albums, and I’m not going to try. It’s clearly a mid-Seventies pop-rock album, but there are several things that to my ears distinguish it – in a very good way – from the standard album in that genre. In general, I love the keyboard work. As noted below, a list of credits I found online cites Knechtel and Daryl Dragon as the keyboard players. Patti did some keyboard work on her earlier records, so it would not surprise me if some of the work were hers, as well.*

And there are some specific songs that stand out: The narrative song, “He Was A Writer” is a strong opening track, and “Magician of Love” has a nice organ part, and Patti does an eye-opening vocal vamp toward the end of the track. But the record’s strongest moments come on Side Two.

“Without Love” comes across as simply a song about our need for love when it’s not present until the chorus, when the background singers hiss, “Sex!” and Patti sings, “It don’t mean a thing without love.” And what seemed like a nice mid-tempo tune becomes a cautionary message (and one that was counter to a lot of other messages in the loose and easy Seventies). That’s followed by an atmospheric take on Cris Williamson’s “Wild Things.” And then comes, to me, the record’s high point, the bluesy, slinky and snaky “Lookin’ For Love.” (I wish I knew who did the harp solo.)**

A track later, the record end with the elegiac “Changing Minds,” the song Patti co-wrote with Larry Knechtel. It’s a lovely way to close the record, and, as it turned out, that chapter of Patti’s life. And through the entire album, of course, comes that smoky, bluesy twang of Patti’s voice.

There is a long list of credits on the back of the record jacket that does not list specific roles. The entry for Livin’ It Thru at West Coast Music has roles listed for some:

Mike Baird and Jeff Porcaro on drums; Jack Conrad and Jerry Scheff on bass; Ben Benay and Michael Deasy on guitar; Larry Knechtel and Daryl Dragon (the Captain of Captain & Tennille) on keyboards; Gary Coleman on percussion; Chuck Findley, Jim Horn and Jackie Kelso on horns; and Don Dunn, Melissa Tennille, Toni Tennille and Shelly Knechtel on background vocals.

Others credited on the back of the record jacket (with my best guess at their participation) were: Jay Cooper (unknown), Bernie Grundman (mastering) Jimmie Haskell (string arrangements), Duitch Helmer (vocals), Russ Regan (with 20th Century), Norman Seef (photography and/or art direction), “Sid Sharp etc.” (strings), Bob Siller (guitar and/or vocals) and Gary Ullmer (engineer).

Tracks:
He Was A Writer
One Afternoon
Lullaby
Magician of Love
I Remember You
Without Love
Wild Things
Lookin’ For Love
Fool’s Gold
Changing Minds

Patti Dahlstrom – Livin’ It Thru [1976]

*As I noted in a later post, Patti emailed me shortly after this post was published and told me that she did not play any keyboard parts on any of her albums. She also told me that the list of credits I found on line were in error at least once: Daryl Dragon did not play keyboards on the album. She did say that the harp solo on “Lookin’ For Love” was by Larry Knechtel and that Jay Cooper was her attorney. Notes added July 20, 2011.

Advertisements

Patti Dahlstrom: Loving Life In London

June 27, 2011

Originally posted May 5, 2008

Observant readers will recall that a few weeks ago, after I posted Patti Dahlstrom’s second album, The Way I Am, Patti herself left a note here, asking me for an email address. I answered, of course.

And that spurred a fascinating exchange, one that answered a few questions I had from her first two albums and offers some insight into Patti and her recording work of the early 1970s.

As I surmised – but did not actually say – she’s living in London now, has been since early this year. “For my birthday last year,” Patti wrote, “I came to England for two weeks.” She’d been there before, but “this time, I fell in love with it. I sold everything I owned, followed my soul . . . and moved here in January. It felt parallel to moving to L.A. in ’67.”

She said she’s taking a master’s course in professional writing at London Metropolitan University, and she’s living in St. John’s Wood in the heart of London. (Being a music fan and a map fan, I did some looking on Google Earth, and from what I can tell, Patti lives no more than a few moments’ walk from the famed crosswalk the Beatles used for the cover of the Abbey Road album.) In one of her notes to me, she mentioned the reader who left a note here, insisting that she was still living in Houston.

He was right and wrong, she said. “I did move back to Houston in 1990 and became a college professor at the Art Institute of Houston,” which she said was one of a chain of colleges around the U.S. “It was a wonderful experience and I worked with thousands of young ones.”

She started out teaching songwriting, she said, and then moved to other courses. “My favorite course to teach,” she wrote, “was Critical Thinking, which I taught for six years. I was also head of the department, which I did not like. I liked being in the classroom with all of those great young minds.”

After twelve years at the institute, she said, she left, choosing to teach younger children, which was another “amazing experience.” Her young students, she said, were “so aware, so trusting, so smart.”

And then it was off to London. As to the reader who insisted she was still in Houston, she said, “he’s young, and this is a big lesson for all of us . . . life is not static. Things change.”

It’s obvious from her notes that Patti is blooming in London, but she still has fond memories of the years she spent in L.A. as a songwriter and then as a performer. She spent the years 1970-72 – just prior to beginning her recording career – as a staff writer for Motown’s Jobete Music. “It was an incredible experience, like going to college to write R&B,” she wrote. “Berry Gordy was an amazing man.”

It was during that time that Russ Regan signed Patti to the Uni label; during that year, she notes, he also signed for their first albums Elton John, Barry White, Olivia Newton-John and Neil Diamond. A pretty good haul!

As noted here earlier, Patti recorded her self-titled debut on Uni in 1972, and followed that with The Way I Am in 1973, on 20th Century. In my comments on The Way I Am, I said that I could not find musician credits; I did find them on the ’Net, but Patti assured me that the credits had been included on an insert (the one that had been in my copy evidently had not survived the years). “I always gave credit to everyone on my albums,” she said. “For The Way I Am, it was on the lyric sheet, with each person credited for each song. I never could have accomplished anything without a great deal of help. Earthly and otherwise.”

Her final two records, both on 20th Century, were Your Place Or Mine in 1975 (the album I’m sharing today) and Livin’ It Thru, released in 1976. After that, she continued songwriting, working with such writers as “Tom Snow, Kerry Chater, Glen Ballard, Gary Puckett, David Penn and others,” with her songs recorded by – among others – Anne Murray, the Captain and Tenille, Riders in the Sky and Michael Johnson. (Patti sent me a demo of the song “Dialogue,” which she wrote with Tom Snow and which was recorded by Michael Johnson. She also sent me CD burns of her four albums, which are about as clean-sounding, she said, as can be found without actually getting to the masters.)

Patti’s California days wound up with a two-year stint, starting in 1988, for E!, the cable entertainment network. “As an assistant to the two heads of the network,” Patti said, “I created programming [and] did still photography of interview guests with Greg Kinnear. We all wore a lot of hats getting that off the ground.”

She still writes, as is evident from the course of study she’s following in London. “The bulk of my writing,” Patti said, “has been non-fiction spiritual prose.” She’s working on a book, and she said that several pieces from it have been read at funerals, conventions and other events. The book, she said, “is my definition of Christianity as had been shaped not only by my upbringing, but also by my metaphysical life experiences, which have helped me know, not just believe.”

I asked her if she ever saw her records in the used-record stores. “I have seen my records in bins from time to time, though not lately,” she wrote. “I’m still shocked [they’re] so prevalent on Google and Ebay, which my students turned me on to. The funniest is that they would order [a record] online and bring it in to me to sign and they didn’t even have turntables!”

As I discovered when I first learned about Patti a few months ago, it’s fairly easy to get hold of her records, and in generally pretty good shape. For today’s share, most of the mp3s are ripped from the CD Patti sent me and a few are ripped from the vinyl I found online.

If there is a theme to Your Place Or Mine, it’s one of loss, hard-earned truth and acceptance. Sometimes musicians sit down with themes around which they plan their next work. (The most famous example of that might be Pink Floyd, whose members purposefully sorted out topics about which they wanted to write before embarking on Dark Side of the Moon.) Other times – and I think this is far more frequent – musicians and songwriters simply go about their work and when they gather their new songs together, they find links and commonalities. I get a sense that’s what happened with Your Place Or Mine.

Three of the songs on the album, Patti told me, were written for her good friend, Jim Croce, who died in a Louisiana plane crash in the autumn of 1973. She wrote “Louisiana” with Al Staehely, “Good To Be Alive” with Severin Browne (a constant writing partner whom she’d originally met at Jobete) and “Sending My Good Thoughts” with Artie Wayne.

Of those three, “Louisiana” is the one that works best musically and lyrically, and it seems to me to be the centerpiece of the record. Over a simple piano base, Patti sings:

“Louisiana, you’re takin’ the life out of me.
“Louisiana, you are shakin’ the light out of me.
“Claimin’ a close friend I leaned a lot on,
“I learned more about standin’ alone since he’s gone.
“Louisiana, I’m lookin’ at life differently.”

And drums and a sweet fiddle (played by David Lindley) join the piano as Patti heads through the second verse and then reaches the bridge:

“Everybody’s waitin’, wastin’ precious time
“And hoping for the glory as if it’s not a state of mind.
“Blamin’ man and circumstance for what they themselves begin.
“When the only chance of holdin’ on is lettin’ go within.
“Lettin’ go within.”

The song is elegiac without being syrupy. Of the other two tributes to Croce, “Good To Be Alive” is a celebration of release, but its music is maybe a bit too bouncy for the tone of the lyrics. “Sending My Good Thoughts To You,” which closes the album, is a superb song.

After several listens, I’ve come to the conclusion that, even though “Louisiana” is the heart of the record, the album’s themes as I hear them – loss, hard-earned truths and acceptance – are summed up during “Sending My Good Thoughts” when Patti sings: “All we can do is all we can do.”

Other standouts on the record are:

The opener, “Used To Be In Love With Love,” a propulsive song highlighted by horn accents and runs that provide a hint of early Chicago or Chase

“If You Want It Easy,” which has a nice full sound based on piano and organ and topped off by what has to be Lindley’s guitar. It’s not hard at all to imagine this coming out of radio speakers in 1975. To my ears, if there were a hit song on the record, this would have been it.

“He Did Me Wrong But He Did It Right,” which has a more rhythmic sound than the rest of the record, being laid on a sorrowful bed of swooping strings and a bass pattern than hints at funk. A great saxophone solo tops it off.

“Runnin’ Out Of World,” which has the same propulsive sound as “Used To Be In Love With Love.” I love the moment when the background singers chime in: “Runnin’!”

Through it all, of course, there are Patti’s distinctive and somewhat idiosyncratic vocals, which are engaging enough to me to make the entire album worthwhile.

As on her first two records, Patti wrote some of the songs on her own and some with other people. Songwriting credits went to Staehely, Jimmy Howell, Andy Cahan, Jimmy Seals (of Seals & Crofts), Browne and Artie Wayne.

Musicians on the album were Larry Knechtel (“an outstanding talent, a great human being,” Patti says), Michael Utley, Andy Cahan and George Clinton on keyboards; Jack Conrad, David Hungate and Klaus Voorman on bass; David Kemper, Gary Mallaber and Jim Keltner on drums; Dean Parks, Al Staehely, Art Munson, Freddy Tackett, Steve Cropper, Jay Graydon and Al Casey on guitar; David Lindley on banjo, fiddle and slide guitar; Nick DeCaro on accordion; Jim Horn, Chuck Findley, Jackie Kelso and Lon Van Eaton on horns; Jim Horn on flute; Steve Foreman and Milt Holland on percussion; and Patti Dahlstrom, Don Dunn, Ray Kennedy and Chuck Higgins on background vocals.

Track listing:
Used To Be In Love With Love (Dahlstrom/Staehely/Howell)
If You Want It Easy (Dahlstrom)
Break Of Day (Cahan/Dahlstrom/Seals)
Painter (Dahlstrom/Browne)
Louisiana (Dahlstrom/Staehely)
He Did Me Wrong But He Did It Right (Dahlstrom/Staehely)
Runnin’ Out Of World (Dahlstrom/Wayne)
When It Comes To You (Dahlstrom)
Good To Be Alive (Dahlstrom/Browne)
Sending My Good Thoughts (Dahlstrom/Wayne)

Patti Dahlstrom – Your Place Or Mine [1975]

Patti Dahlstrom Takes Her Second Shot

June 22, 2011

Originally posted April 9, 2008

I’ve been stumbling around for about an hour, trying to figure out what to say about Patti Dahlstrom’s second album, The Way I Am.

The record came out in 1973, and from the distance of thirty-five years, I see Patti as being in the middle of three categories of musicians, spread across a continuum. First, on one end, are the folks who struggled and worked and sent out demos and – in today’s parlance – networked their tails off and never got a chance, never got the right folks to listen, never got into the studio on anything other than their own dimes.

On the far end are those who made it, some for a short time and some permanently. These are the folks who had one or two or many hits, sold singles and albums and, at the very least, pop up regularly on oldies radio and spark a smile for the recollections of a summertime moment long ago.

In the middle are those who got their chances. They got into the studios, made one or two or four records and had some singles released. But through mismanagement, through misfortune, through missed opportunities, through simple mischance, they had no hits, they had no best-sellers and soon they were out of chances. They stayed in L.A., they went back home, they went someplace new; they gave up, they kept their music for themselves, or they moved on.

I see Patti Dahlstrom in that middle group. (And I have no idea which group is larger, the ones who never get a chance or the ones who do and then move on. I’m reasonably certain that the third group – those who make it in even the most minimal sense – is much, much smaller than the other two.) Patti came to L.A. from Houston, recorded four albums between 1972 and 1976 and then left the scene.

That was, of course, more than thirty years ago. As I mentioned when I posted her first album here last month, I’ve seen reports that have her teaching in her home town of Houston and that have her living in London. It’s unimportant – though it would be interesting – to know where she’s at now. But it’s interesting to consider where she might have been.

Artie Wayne, a long-time performer and producer, interviewed Russ Regan, a man of similar background, in 2006 for the website Spectropop (which bills itself as “The website about Phil Spector, Wall of Sound, Brill Building, Girl Groups, West Coast . . .” something or other). During that interview, Regan says:

“Wow! Patti Dahlstrom, who I love, had her first album with me at Uni and she did three more albums when I went over to 20th Century Fox. You know, in my career there are two female singer/songwriters who I signed, that should’ve been stars, Patti Dahlstrom and Harriet Shock.”

I’ve never heard of Harriet Shock, but then, until about two months ago, I’d never heard of Patti Dahlstrom, either.

Regan’s comment came in response to a statement about Patti from Wayne, asking Regan, “Did you know that I got her to write the English lyric to a French song by Veronique Sanson that eventually became her first 20th Century Fox release?”

That song was “Emotion,” and it was released as a single from Patti’s second album, The Way I Am, which came out in 1973. I’ve found no indication that the single made a dent in any chart at the time. (I wonder what the ratio of singles released to singles that make the Top 100 was in 1973; it must have been very high.)

As on the earlier album, Patti got writing credit for all ten songs on The Way I Am, sharing that credit with Severin Browne on six of them. On her first album, Patti Dahlstrom, Browne was credited specifically with writing the music for those songs on which he received credit. I think one can assume the same here, which means the lyrics are all Patti’s, including the English translation for “Emotion.”

The three songs that are credited as solely Patti’s compositions are: “I Promised,” “Give Him Time” and “For Everybody’s Sake.”

It’s not a bad album, but I don’t think it’s quite as good as her first one. It seems more based in mid-range tempos than was Patti Dahlstrom, with only “High Noon Alibis” breaking loose at all, although if Browne wrote the music for six of the second album’s ten tracks, that might fall at his feet. There is still the echo of Carole King about the album, which is not a bad echo to have. Sadly, the jacket contains no credits save listing Michael J. Jackson and Michael Omartian as producers. Given that, one can reasonably assume that Omartian plays piano and other keyboards, and it’s the piano that, to me, lends a lot of that Carole King-ian flavor.

Highlights? I like “I Promised” a lot, especially lyrically. “High Noon Alibis” moves along nicely with what sounds like a Dobro or steel guitar providing some accents. “Cleveland Snow” has some nice wordplay. “Emotion” is a sweeping song and a good choice for the single, no matter how it fared in the marketplace. “Then I Lose You” starts with an odd, angular guitar figure – one that repeats on occasion – that sounds like something from Steely Dan and morphs into melancholy with a sweet organ wash in the background. There is a flute solo on “The Way I Am,” and a stunning saxophone solo on “Innate” that make me think that – as he did on Patti Dahlstrom – Jim Horn stopped by.

Throughout the album, Patti’s distinctive, smoky voice and occasionally odd diction add unique elements that help the record hold one’s interest. As I said, it’s not quite as good as her first record, but The Way I Am is still pretty good.

(There’s more surface sound and little pops on this one than there were in the rip of Patti’s first album. Hard to avoid, I guess, when dealing with vinyl that’s thirty-five years old.)

Track listing:
I’ll Come Home
I Promised
The Way I Am
High Noon Alibis
Cleveland Snow
Emotion
Give Him Time
Then I Lose You
Innate
For Everybody’s Sake

Patti Dahlstrom – The Way I Am [1973]

Afternote:
While crawling around on the Net after posting the album, I found a credit list for The Way I Am at a site – based in Italy – called West Coast Music. The album had Jim Gordon and Gary Mallaber on drums; Jack Conrad, Leland Sklar and Bryan Garfalo on bass; Dean Parks, Larry Carlton, David Spinozza, David Lindley and Ned Doheny on guitar; Craig Doerge and Michael Omartian on  piano; Michael Utley on organ; Tom Scott and Clarence McDonald on horns; and Don Dunn on background vocals.

That’s quite a list of talent there. Among the interesting things is the presence of Don Dunn, evidently the same Don Dunn who was a co-writer of “Hitchcock Railway,” which I featured the other day. As I’ve said before, small circles indeed.

If I Could Wander Through Time . . .

June 18, 2011

Originally posted March 21, 2008

Time travel has been on my mind for the past few days, as it sometimes is. Of all the concepts that writers of science fiction – or speculative fiction, as it might better be called – sometimes tangle with, time travel is the one that grabs hold of my imagination the hardest. I admit I have some interest in anticipating what it will be like when we are confronted with the proof that there are other civilizations, other sentient beings, somewhere else in the universe. The meeting of disparate cultures, if and when it happens (and I’m betting it will), will radically alter our ideas about the universe and our place in it.

But that’s something that I believe will someday leave the arena of science fiction and become science fact. Time travel is a less likely proposition. (I’m not going to say it won’t ever become reality; when I’m tempted to do so, I recall the correction the New York Times ran in 1969, when Apollo 11 made the first lunar landing. The Times acknowledged that had it been wrong in its insistence during the 1920s that rockets could never boost payloads into space.) And I enjoy very much wading through the thickets of fiction about time travel, some of it very good, some of it less so.

I think about it today because I completed last night a re-reading of The Time Patrol, a 1991 collection of short stories and novellas by Poul Anderson (whom I mentioned in a post earlier this week). Anderson’s structure for the collection is that there is a group of men and women who jaunt through time and space, safeguarding human history at the behest of the Danellians, a powerful culture descended from humankind millions of years in the future. When variations in history are detected – sometimes the result of accidents and sometimes the product of mischief perpetrated by criminals who have illegally gained access to time travel – the patrol goes into action to safeguard history as we know it and to ensure the time line that results in Danellian civilization.

Anderson’s work is sturdy, and his tales range from simple detective stories to longer examinations of historical cultures that are generally unwritten about (at least from where I read), like the Mediterranean culture of Tyre in 950 BCE, or the Ostrogoths in what is now Poland and Ukraine in about 300 CE. (Anderson’s long story set in the latter locale, “The Sorrow of Odin the Goth,” is the best in the book and one of the best stories I’ve ever read, speculative fiction or otherwise.) Anderson also wrote a novel, The Shield of Time. I’ve read it once, and started re-reading it last evening; its tale didn’t stick in my head from the first reading, so we’ll see how the second run-through goes.

Other authors have invested much of their writing efforts in time travel. A few come to mind quickly.

Robert A. Heinlein wrote a little bit of every kind of speculative fiction, but to me, his time travel novels and stories were his best, starting in 1973 with Time Enough For Love, subtitled “The Lives of Lazarus Long.” Time travel enters the tale in the last third or so of the volume, and for the rest of the book and for much of the remainder of Heinlein’s work, exploration of time travel, and the inherent contradictions and paradoxes, was a constant.

In addition, Jack Finney has written a three-novel series featuring a character named Simon Morley beginning with 1970’s Time and Again. Allen Appel wrote a series about the travails of Alex Balfour, whose time travels are involuntary; that series begins with 1985’s Time After Time. And Darryl Brock is the author of two novels: If I Never Get Back and Two in the Field, which feature time traveler Sam Fowler. (Brock’s first, from 1990, is likely my favorite time travel book of all; Fowler spends a good portion of the book traveling the U.S. with the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first professional baseball team.)

Anytime I read those books or others like it, of course, the notion runs in my head: If I could travel through time, where would I go? Well, six places/times come to mind:

1. The American Great Plains in, say, 1500. I’d love to see the buffalo in herds that stretch to the horizon.

2. The Globe Theater in Shakespeare’s London, for one of his comedies. Given changes in pronunciation, I likely wouldn’t comprehend the English, but I’d know when to laugh.

3. I’d like to go to two baseball games in Pittsburgh, one in Exposition Park in 1908 to see Honus Wagner, the greatest shortstop of all time during what was likely his greatest season, and the other in Forbes Field in 1939, when Josh Gibson – probably the greatest catcher of all time – and Buck Leonard, one of the great power hitters of all time, were teammates on the Homestead Grays of the Negro National League.

4. It would be fun to be in Liverpool, England, in 1961 and stop in at the Cavern Club for a performance by the very young Beatles. They played 292 times in the club in 1961 and 1962.

5. I’d travel in 1362 to the land near Kensington, Minnesota, that would eventually be farmed by Olof Öhman, to see if a traveling group of Swedes and Norwegians actually left there the stone inscribed with runes that Öhman found in 1898. Famous in Minnesota and among archeologists on a wider scale, the Kensington Runestone is one of the great historical riddles.

Another riddle that I ponder now and then – as does anyone who loves music – is why some performers make it big and others don’t. About a month ago, I ran across a short post from a year ago at the Illfolks blog about an early 1970s singer-songwriter named Patti Dahlstrom. The two tracks posted there – “Ollabelle and Slim” and “Rider” – intrigued me a lot. So I began to dig.

And I learned that there isn’t a lot of information out there about Patti Dahlstrom. According to Illfolks, she’s evidently in Houston, but according to a piece I saw for the online magazine Spectropop, she’s living in St. John’s Woods in London, England. So there’s very little to go on. Google provides a few links, but nothing with much hard data, not even a birth year (although I’d guess somewhere between 1948 and 1951). What remains are Patti’s four albums, all of which were fairly easy to acquire:

Patti Dahlstrom, on the Uni label, 1972

The Way I Am, on 20th Century, 1973

Your Place Or Mine, 20th Century, 1975

Livin’ It Thru, 20th Century, 1976

As I was recording Patti Dahlstrom this morning to rip the mp3s, the Texas Gal said to me, “It sounds like Carole King.”

Well, maybe. The sound of the accompaniment is akin to Tapestry, with lots of piano and acoustic sounds. Any electric instrumentation is folded into the background, and the sound of the album is homey. If I were to draw a comparison, I’d slide it in with the three albums made about the same time by Joy of Cooking.

But the voice, Patti’s voice, doesn’t slide that easily into either one of those folders. She has a twang and a drawl at times, giving her a bluesy, country feel. The blogger at Illfolks commented on “her rootsy Southern vocals,” calling them “true if not pretty.” The blogger went on to say, “Perhaps at the time (early 70’s) there was no such thing as ‘country crossover,’ so being pitched as a pop star was doing her a disservice.”

That seems about right. Patti’s voice wouldn’t have fallen neatly into a genre in an industry that seems, more often than not, to be looking for a repetition of the last big thing instead of looking for something unique. So Patti was likely too countryish for pop and far to connected to pop-rock for her records to be placed in the country bins. She recorded her four records and went on.

Today’s share is her first, Patti Dahlstrom, from 1971. I think it’s generally a good album, with Patti writing the lyrics to all ten songs and music for six of them. (Music for “Get Along, Handsome” and “I’m Letting Go” came from Severin Browne, while Robbie Leff wrote the music for “Weddin’” and “Comfortable.”) To me, the standout is the album’s opener, “Wait Like A Lady,” with “And I Never Did” and “Ollabelle and Slim” not that far behind.

That makes it sound like the other tracks on the record lack something. They don’t, but there is a sameness throughout the record that veers close to an overload of mellowness. A few things keep that from happening: One is the country feel of “Weddin’,” while another is the slow acceleration of the tempo on “Ollabelle and Slim” that pulls the record forward. The third is the sweet saxophone of Jim Horn weaving its way around the vocal on “Comfortable.”

As I noted, this is the first of four Patti Dahlstrom albums. I’ll be sharing the other three in weeks to come. I like this one a lot.

Tracks:
Wait Like A Lady
And I Never Did
Get Along, Handsome
Comfortable
This Isn’t An Ordinary Love Song
Weddin’
I’m Letting Go
What If
Ollabelle and Slim
Rider

Patti Dahlstrom – Patti Dahlstrom [1972]