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The Heartbeat of Love
Artist: Richie Furay
Label: Friday Music
It has been two years since the last album release by Pastor Richie Furay and twenty eight years since the last release to the mainstream market by this rock n roll legend. While most listeners in that market will be probably unfamiliar with his two gospel releases his name will no doubt ring a bell with anyone who is at all knowledgable with the history of sixties American rock music. A founding member along with Stephen Stills and Neil Young of the legendary "Buffalo Springfield" as well as "Poco" and "The Souther, Hillman & Furay Band," Richie Furay helped cement the sound of American rock during the sixties and seventies.
His newest release entitled The Heartbeat of Love shows that neither time nor his conversion to Christianity has dimmed or quenched the musical fire that burnt so bright all those years ago. On this musical ride Richie has brought along an awesome supporting cast of playes. His daughter Jesse Furay Lynch provides perfect harmony vocals to compliment her dads leads which have not lessened with time, he still sounds like the kid that sang "Kind Woman" from the old "Buffalo Springfield" days. If that were it that would enough but it just keeps getting better and better.
Richie has enlisted a number of old friends to come along, such friends as Timothy B. Schmidt, Stephen Stills, Jeff Hanna, Neil Young, Kenny Loggins and of course Mark Volman aka "Flo". Lyrically this is primarily a collection of love songs to family, home and hearth. We have here the writings of an apparently very contented man. The production quality as one would expect is absolute perfection. This is for my money the number one album of the year, and it will take alot to knock it out of that position. Check out more on this legend at www.RichieFuray.com or www.fridaymusic.com
Chris MacIntosh aka Grandfather Rock
At first listen to Richie Furay's comeback CD, Heartbeat of Love, his influences, at first, may not jump out at you. As co-founder of the legendary Buffalo Springfield and country-rock pioneers, Poco, he is no stranger to originality, innovation and the marriage between traditional and contemporary music. One of the many innovations of his first mainstream release in 25 years is the successful integration of musical styles.
The influence of folk music on Furay's sound should come as no surprise for those who know his story. He began playing Kingston Trio influenced music in the early 60's in his hometown, Yellow Springs, Ohio. From these roots he graduated to the basket houses of Greenwich Village following in the footsteps of artists like Bob Dylan, Richie Havens and John Sebastian. Furay's musical odyssey in NYC led him to the formation of the Au Go-Go Singers, which included a young Stephen Stills. The group was an attempt to follow the success of The New Christy Minstrels. They performed Civil War and traditional folk songs with a contemporary flair. The group completed one album before disbanding.
Later, through a meeting with Gram Parsons in Greenwich Village, Furay heard the new-born electric sound of The Byrds performing "Mr. Tambourine Man." From this moment he fell in love with the blend of folk and rock. This was just a breath away from the merger of country music and rock, and the creation of a style of music that would influence today's mainstream country sound.
Before he left for Los Angeles, Furay met a young, struggling songwriter named Neil Young. Stills was touring in Canada at the time. Coincidentally, Stills had already met Neil while on this tour. During their meeting Young played Furay a song called "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing." Furay had the good sense to record this song on an old reel-reel tape deck. "Clancy" would go on to become a Richie Furay signature song with the Buffalo Springfield and during live performances on his solo career. After this, the two musicians parted company feeling that one day they would meet again. How Stephen Stills and Richie Furay met Neil Young on Sunset Blvd.in Hollywood to form The Buffalo Springfield is now a part of rock and roll legend.
While The Buffalo Springfield became one of the major innovators of the infant country-rock sounds, their internal battles caused the band to break up pre-maturely; but not without leaving behind a legacy of folk and country influenced rock music that thirty years later would find them inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Frustratingly, Furay's next projects, including another seminal country-rock band, Poco, never brought him to the level of success that came to Stephen Stills and Neil Young. A brief involvement with Chris Hillman and J.D. Souther as The Souther, Hillman, Furay Band would yield one minor Top 40 hit, his own "Falling In Love." After leaving this band, Furay embarked on a four year and four album solo career. It didn't catch fire in spite of excellent reviews and dynamic live performances. After this Richie Furay left the music scene, but not for good.
Today, he has emerged with Heartbeat of Love, his first mainstream release in 25 years. It is a straight forward country-rock CD with ten new original songs, co-written with his partners Scott Sellen and Jim Mason, as well as two well-deserved re-recordings of songs from his Buffalo Springfield and Poco days. From _Heartbeat of Love_ emerges a sound that not only recaptures the music of his early folk days in Greenwich Village and the Buffalo Springfield, but advances the long neglected and influential genre of country-rock. While some bands have sold the soul of their music to exclusive deals with large retailers and morphed into corporate rock, Richie Furay remains an independent artist free to experiment with fresh new approaches to his music.
Always trying something new to advance his sound and bring something fresh, the CD allows saxophones, mandolin, fiddles, rock guitars, drums and electric bass to play side by side. The sound of acoustic guitars are always present as a foundation for the variety of instruments. The remarkable part of this approach is the integration of this artist's three major musical influences that brings together and builds on his musical history. The blend has never been better than on this release.
And to top it off, Furay's vocals are fresh, energetic, passionate and sound like he's still 22. At age 63, this is quite a feat. His voice is widely recognized as one of the best of the classic rock era. Heartbeat of Love serves as a reminder as to why this is not an exaggeration.
While the material on the album is consistently first-rate throughout, there are some stand-out tracks. The opening song, "Forever With You", begins with an acapella three-part harmony vocal provided by Furay, his daughter Jesse-who is an artist in her own right- and The Dirt Band's Jeff Hanna. It then kicks into a full-blown country-rock celebration of devoted love. It's a fine introduction to what is to follow. The title track, "Heartbeat of Love" is richly layered country-rock at it's best. The song features Poco's Paul Cotton and session man Dan Dugmore, who provides guitar work throughout the CD. "Dean's Barbecue" is the most stellar and straight forward country song on the disc featuring Mickey Raphel on harmonica, Rusty Young on dobro, Al Perkins on guitar and Furay's partner, Scott Sellen on banjo. "Calling Out Your Name" is a song of desperate love featuring a soulful Stephen Stills on background vocals.
The two songs chosen for re-recording are "Kind Woman" from The Buffalo Springfield and "Let's Dance Tonight", a classic Poco song. Both tracks provide high points on this CD. "Kind Woman" features Neil Young on Gretch guitar with Kenny Loggins on background vocals. This song has been credited as the beginning of Poco and the song that signaled the beginning of the country-rock movement. It is interesting to contrast the 1968 version with this new production. The first version has the feel of new-found love, while the new version resonates with the depth of a love that has grown through the years. The truth of the updated "Kind Woman" is the feeling that Furay's marriage to his wife, Nancy, has endured and grown. It could be said that the song has deepened because of a commitment held steadfast through hardship and struggle. This is rare in today's culture.
"Let's Dance Tonight" is a Poco song from 1973, completed at a time when Furay was ready to leave the band in pursuit of chart success. This new version greatly improves on the original. It is performed with a youthful passion only hinted at in the original recording. It's no wonder the genesis of Heartbeat of Love was the suggestion from a friend in Nashville that Furay re-record this song. The original Poco version cries out for the kind of energy that is consistent with the music and lyrics. The Heartbeat session of "Let's Dance Tonight" breathtakingly succeeds in this respect.
Since the CD is an independent project, it is available through Furay's website, www.richiefuray.com. For a more in-depth look at the journey Richie Furay has been through over the last 40 years, I would recommend reading For What It's Worth: The Story Buffalo Springfield by John Einarson and Richie Furay, and Pickin' Up the Pieces by Richie Furay and Michael Roberts. To find out what Furay has been up to over the last 25 years read the "My Story" section of his website, told in his own words.
The Richie Furay story is a journey of the magic of music, the success, the frustration, the pitfalls of fame, and ultimately the redemption of this legendary pioneer of American music whose name has become synonymous with the country-rock genre.
Terry Roland 11/24/2007