Beau-Brummels-Bradleys-Barn

CD Review: The Beau Brummels, “Bradley’s Barn”

Some cult classics should stay cult classics.

This belief doesn’t diminish the album for those who love that recording, as the conglomeration of things that made the effort stand out for them remains there to enjoy. It’s just that those eccentricities kept the thing from being accepted by the mainstream audience, and as a fan you are required to understand that this is not something they’re going to like. Roughly half of my personal music collection consists of stuff I can’t casually pop on in social settings. Perhaps the point of view is too pointed, or the music is too complicated, or sometimes not complicated enough. They wouldn’t like it no matter how hard I might try to convince friends that this is something. I recall friends who were really into Tool’s Aenima at the time it came out and I tried to turn them on to King Crimson’s Red. It didn’t work out the way I thought it would.

It is important however that both albums remain obtainable in some form or another because you can never tell what you will connect with. For that, Rhino Records and executive producers Andrew Sandoval and Alec Palao are to be commended for getting the lost fan favorite, The Beau Brummels’ Bradley’s Barn back into print. The album was not a big seller for the Warner Bros. label in 1968 and likely alienated older fans that were introduced to the Brummels through the hit “Laugh, Laugh.” Much like how they perfectly adopted the British Invasion sound on that recording, the album has fully integrated a countrified groove. At this point only vocalist Sal Valentino and guitarist Ron Elliott remained, and Valentino sounds nothing like he used to here, his smooth delivery now replaced by a heavy drawl and quaver.

I can fully attest to the shock of the new Brummels fans must have felt. After all, I knew them from “Laugh Laugh” and their appearance on the TV show The Flintstones. When I received this disc for review (from 2011, in fact) my first reaction upon listening was “what the hell is this,” and that was that…until recently. Feeling in a country mood, as I do from time to time, I pulled out Johnny Cash At San Quentin, some Nickel Creek and, oh what the heck, let’s give that weird Bradley’s Barn another turn. This time it stuck.

I can’t say I’ve fully gotten used to Valentino’s excesses as he pronounces “coyote” as “cay-oh-teh,” among other moments of asserting his “con-tray-nayess,” but what first elicited flat-out antipathy now finds my toes shaking (if not necessarily tapping) with approval. The tracks that do it for me are conscious of the times they were in, so touchstones of sixties pop help ease the listener in to a place where acceptance leads to appreciation.

And as usual, Rhino went nuts on the reissue, a hardcover booklet roughly 7-inches by 7-inches (like 45 rpm records), the full album, nearly a CD-and-a-half of bonus material, and a complete history of the album in the liner notes. More than that, the label understood the material and chose to release this elaborate package as part of the Rhino Handmade program; a smart move, because this wouldn’t have passed muster in the larger music market. The small cult that follows this recording would have picked it up and, one can only guess, that would have been it. The discs would have been cut out, sent off to the bins at the local grocery store, and left to linger next to ever more prominent titles that also aren’t getting bought lately. This is a case of doing right by those fans that feel the recording deserves that degree of respect, but also gets the marketplace it is being introduced into, often characterized by indifference of anything that was not released fifteen minutes ago.

I enjoy Bradley’s Barn now, but I had to get there when I was receptive to it. It was not going to easily drag me in, but I’m glad I was given the opportunity to at least try.

Cherokee Girl- The Beau Brummels

Bradley’s Barn is available from Rhino.com.

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  • jbacardi

    For decades the only track I heard from this record was “Deep Water”, which was on one of the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders I owned. It was OK, but I was never moved to try to find the album. Finally, a couple of years ago I got curious and found it online, dl’ed it, and like you, it’s been slow to grow on me. It’s not a bad record by any stretch, but the songs don’t grab me. Still, I do give it a listen once in a while.