Friday, January 27, 2017

The Deadly Nightshade - The Deadly Nightshade (1975)

This is feminist folk rock, didactic but tuneful. And obscure. This album has never come out on CD, but didn't get that much play back when it was released. One reason is that it's just not all that mainstream-oriented. The other is that it came out the independent Phantom label.

The Deadly Nightshade and was the first of two albums by this New England-based trio. Not only didn't it find favor with the public, but critics didn't seem to take to it either. Robert Christgau dismissed it (somewhat famously) as "squeaky-clean," "smug," and the stuff of junior high school talent shows. Then again, Christgau also didn't like Joy Of Cooking much, and I think they're fab, so I'll take his opinion with a shaker of salt.

I also think his assessment had a lot to do with the singing style of this group, which comes from the folk tradition, where performers ten to e-nun-ci-ate a bit too much. It's somewhat bothersome, but it's actually not that bad. The sarcastic lyrical thrust reminds me a bit of the Roches but without their sense of the absurd, and the music recalls the aforementioned Joy Of Cooking but without Toni Brown and Terry Garthwaite's assured songwriting.

The Deadly Nightshade would go on to have a minor hit with a disco version of the theme song from the oddball TV soap opera "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," a show I remember really enjoying as a kid because of its weirdness. The Nightshade took their single to #79 in the summer of '76 and it was their only hit.

It's also miles away from this album, which mixes up country folk ("High Flying Woman"), satirical ballads ("Nose Job"), and funky pop ("Sweet Sweet Music"). Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals guests on organ and Leslie West of Mountain also chimes in on guitar -- although for some reason (a joke?) he's billed as "Ms. Leslie West."

Bassist Pamela Brandt went on to become an author of several books as well as a noted food critic. She died of a heart attack in 2015 at the age of 68.

Related posts:
Toni Brown - Good For You, Too (1974)
The Joy - Toni Brown & Terry Garthwaite (1977) 
Toni Brown - Toni Brown (1979) 

Track list:
1. High Flying Woman
2. Nose Job
3. Something Blue
4. Losin' At Love
5. Dance, Mr. Big, Dance
6. Keep On The Sunnyside
7. Sweet, Sweet Music
8. Shuffle
9. I Sent My Soul To The Laundromat
10. Someone Down In Nashville
11. Blue Mountain Hornpipe
12. Onions

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