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Crate Digger’s Gold: Firefall – Elan

February 12, 2017

This is how good the 70s were for music: a minor league band could put out a masterpiece and go platinum plus (greater than a million units sold). A band that was on par with The Eagles for songwriting and musicianship, but not really beloved.  I can think of several 70s bands like this.

You may be familiar with Elan’s top-40 hit “Strange Way” that still gets played on classic rock radio.  These guys were more than one hit wonders (they charted 11 singles).  They had an impressive pedigree in country/folk rock (direct or indirect connections to The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds).  They honed their craft as road warriors touring in support of top acts like Leon Russell, The Doobie Brothers, The Band and finally Fleetwood Mac (when the Mac was the biggest band in the world). The point is these guys were very talented.

I am a fan of  a lot of contemporary acts that like have a 70s country rock Southern California vibe (i.e. Father John Misty, Ryan Adams, Jenny Lewis, The Jayhawks, etc).  Firefall is a textbook example of this style.  Not as famous, original or archetypal as bands like Crosby, Stills & Nash (CSN), The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, they were still damn good.  They had two quality singer songwriters in Rick Roberts and Larry Burnett. They had a gunslinger guitarist – Jock Bartley. A country rock legend – drummer Michael Clarke.  A secret spice: an amazing keyboard and woodwind player – David Muse.  The group was rounded out by a very experienced and professional bassist, Mark Andes, who brought some jazz and prog influences to the band. To pull it all together these guys have CSN quality harmonies.

Side one opens with a classic rock staple: “Strange Way.”   It is a ballad with an arena rock chorus.  This is pure ear candy. This was the kind of song that you would spin to show off your stereo back in the day.

“Sweet And Sour” shows off Firefall’s great vocal harmonies.  You swear it is a lost CSN classic.

“Wrong Side Of Town” brings a new groove to the album: funky, jazzy and sassy.

“Count Your Blessings” is a soft rock beauty with a light country sway.  It has a simple message:

“And you’ll be alright

When your laughter reappears

And you learn to count your blessings

Not your tears”

“Get You Back” lets you know these guys can rock.  It is pure Southern Boogie.

Side two opens with “Anymore.”   This song has a Stephen Stills feel. However, Rick Roberts has a more powerful vocal than Stills.  The song has a sprinkle of some swampy funk.

“Baby” is some more soft rock. Guest Laura Taylor contributes some sexy harmonies.  David Muse drops a Grover Washington Jr. quality soprano sax solo.

“Goodbye, I Love You” is another slick single.  Just not quite as amazing as “Strange Way.”

“Sweet Ann” takes the album on a more traditional country rock tangent. But it is still a bit off (in a good way) with an organ and flute solos.

“Wind Of Change” closes the album on a rocking note.  More Southern boogie, but with CSN harmonies.

This is a great album and an easy find. I see this frequently in the dollar bins.  In fact,  I recently picked up a near mint copy for a buck.

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From → Music Reviews

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