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).
He Was A Writer
Magician of Love
I Remember You
Lookin’ For Love
Patti Dahlstrom – Livin’ It Thru 
*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.