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Chris Darrow

Artist Proof – 2013 (Drag City)

Reviewed by Ron Hart

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CDs by Chris Darrow

Back in the late 1960s, before the era of litigation that forced rapper Common to drop the "Sense" from his name and British ska greats The Beat to put the word "English" in its moniker, there were three bands who went by the name Kaleidoscope. There was one group from Mexico, another from the United Kingdom who Pink Floyd fans might recognize from the soundtrack to the 1970 cult film classic "Zabriskie Point." But perhaps the most prolific of this triad of same-named acts was the Kaleidoscope from the U.S., namely due to the fact that its front man was a young, savage David Lindley, guitarist for Jackson Browne and one-time leader of the criminally underrated New Wave set El Rayo-X.

But this American edition of Kaleidoscope harbored another choice name amongst its ranks in bassist Chris Darrow, who earned his stripes as a crack session man after leaving the group following the release of their classic second LP " Beacon from Mars." His credits have appeared on such renowned recordings as James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James," the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Rare Junk," the eponymous second Vince Martin album and John Fahey's "Of Rivers and Religion" and was paramount in the creation of Leonard Cohen's iconic first album "Songs of Leonard Cohen" as part of the initial sessions.

Yet amidst all of this studio activity, Darrow managed to forge a nice little solo career of his own, conceived with his excellent 1971 debut "Artist Proof" once again available on vinyl and, for the first time, CD from Chicago indie Drag City. In a time when country rock was being bounced off the cliffs of Laurel and Topanga Canyons by such Los Angeles luminaries as David Crosby, The Byrds, Gram Parsons and Linda Ronstadt, this album was undoubtedly eclipsed by the avalanche of masterpieces that gathered in the valleys at the time of its initial street date in lieu of the quality twang that permeates through the original dozen tracks crafted by a phenomenal cast of musicians including pedal steel great Ed Black, percussionist John Ware from Michael Nesmith's First National Band, one-time Flying Burrito Brothers drummer Mickey McGee and bassist Arnie Moore who performed on the late Richie Havens' indelible 1983. But in discovering this tiny treasure 42 years later, amended with studio demos of such key LP cuts as Beware of Time, Song for Steven and Move On Down the Line, hearing the communal warmth of Darrow's individual style of songcraft bleed through your speakers in 2013 gives this erstwhile treasure of vintage Americana a brand new stab at greatness.