Sunday, March 19, 2017

Maria Muldaur (1973)

"Maria Muldaur" by Maria Muldaur (1973)

Considered a one-hit wonder, Maria Muldaur, had been on the music scene for ten years performing with various musicians and bands including a band her then husband, Geoff Muldaur, was in called Jim Kweskin and The Jug Band. After the Jug Band broke up Geoff and Maria released tow albums as a duo in 1968 and 1972. Finally in 1972 Maria began her solo career and released her first album "Maria Muldaur" in 1973. Her album featured some of the great musicians of the time including David Lindley, Ry Cooder, Andrew Gold and Dr. John.

The album featured a mostly bluesy New Orleans jazz style, a sound that Dr. John had been known for throughout his career. The track "Any Old Time," written by country singer/songwriter Jimmie Rodgers, features a decidedly blues vocal with New Orleans styled piano and Hawaiian influenced guitar by David Lindley (we remember Lindley for his classic tune "Mercury Blues"). "Three Dollar Bill" is one of the album's highlights. Co-written by Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John), "Three Dollar Bill" showcases the great Dr. John in a great horn arrangement and the prolific Jim Gordon on piano. Jim Gordon has worked with many luminaries including Elvin Bishop, Paul Butterfield, Linda Ronstadt, Delaney Bramlett, Jessi Colter, Waylon Jennings, Bonnie Raitt, The Band, Rod Stewart, Rita Coolidge and many others. Andrew Gold, singer and songwriter of the song, "Thank You For Being A Friend" was prominently featured playing acoustic guitar on the jazzy "Vaudeville Man," a song in which Dr. John tinkles the ivories. Maria does a charming rendition of Dolly Parton’s “My Tennessee Mountain Home.”

The album's prominent highlight is the smash single "Midnight At The Oasis" which reached #6 in the US and #21 in the UK in 1973. The song enjoyed a major amount of radio airplay that lasted several years. The song impressed critics and peers alike so much that it was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 17th Annual Grammy Awards held in 1975.

David Nichtern, songwriter of “Midnight At The Oasis said, "I wrote the song before I started working with Maria... the details are a little bit intimate, but let's just say there was a girl, a waterbed, feta cheese and grape leaves, and a Martin 000-18 (acoustic guitar) near by.

I actually produced the demo (in Woodstock) that got Maria her Warner Bros solo artist deal, so I was on the map already with them to that extent. On that demo was a song I wrote called 'I Never Did Sing You a Lovesong' which made it onto her album as well as a track that Wendy Waldman wrote called 'Mad Mad Me (I Love You)' which made it onto the album as it was so I got producer credit for that track.
My memory is that I came out to LA and got to play rhythm guitar on several tracks. From there I got more and more involved with the record. At a rehearsal, I played 'Midnight at the Oasis' for Lenny Waronker and he liked it and wanted to include it on the record. We recorded it with some great musicians - Jim Gordon on drums (who later went crazy and killed his own mother and went to prison for life I think). Freebo played bass, Mark Jordan on piano and me on acoustic guitar. Later, Famous Amos Garrett added that amazing electric guitar part and solo, which in some circles is as famous as the song itself. Warner’s released the album and then Midnight as the first single... they hung in there with it for something like nine months until it took off.... that might not happen today... the rest is herstory as they say..."

In an interview with Maria, she explained: “I was making my first solo album for Warner Brothers in 1973, and I had just recently separated from my then-husband, Geoff Muldaur, who not only was my partner, but also my musical partner, and sort of the mastermind of, musically, whatever we did together. So being a solo artist was completely strange and alien and rather scary territory for me.

And so I was out in California finding myself in the studio with all the top guns: Dr. John, Ry Cooder, David Lindley; I mean, all the fabulous guys that played on my first album. And I had been working with a young guitarist named David Nichtern when I first separated from Geoffrey. He was very encouraging and told me, 'You can do this.' I was just sobbing and I was a mess. We had a little talk and he would say, 'Look, people still know you from the Jug Band, and if I can get work in these little coffee houses, you can, too.' And so we put together a few tunes, and he got us some gigs. This was real low-profile stuff. I'd be crying all the way up to the gig, and he'd say, 'Okay, dry your eyes and wash your face. We're on in half an hour.' And he was just a very supportive little brother to me.

And so when I found myself out in California doing this solo album, I was going to do one of his songs. He's a very lovely songwriter and he'd written this beautiful song called 'I Never Did Sing You a Lovesong.' Very lyrical little waltz-y, kind of a country waltz kind of thing. And he knew I had all these really fabulous musicians at the studio. But he came out on his own dime, because he just felt, well, maybe they'll let him play rhythm guitar on his own tune or something. So he came on out in his little VW bug and slept on a mattress on my living room floor in the Hollywood Hills and came to the studio, was observing everything, and did get to play on his own song.

And then we were almost finished recording, the producer came in the studio and said, 'You know, I've been listening to the rough mixes, and I think we're in pretty good shape.' He said, 'You know, we've got some up tempo stuff and we've got some nice ballads. I think if we had one more medium tempo song, then the album would be nicely balanced out, we'd be in good shape. Does anything come to mind?'

So David was standing right there, and just off the top of my head, kind of as a gesture of gratitude to him because he had been so supportive to me, kind of holding my hand through all of this, which was very overwhelming, you know, I'd never been in that position before of being a solo artist and trying to make my way through an album that was all about me. And I said, 'Well, David has this song. It's a funny little song, really, but it is medium tempo.' I said, 'David, play them 'Midnight at the Oasis' and see what you think.' Which I'd heard before and I thought it was just a goofy little song; I didn't think much of it one way or the other. So he whipped out his guitar and started to play it on the guitar, and I sang it. And the producer cocked his head, he said, 'Oh, that's cute, okay, wanna do that one?' So as a gesture to David, I said, 'Yeah, let's do that one. I have no other bright ideas.' And we called in some great studio players and we cut it. And the rest is history."

After “Midnight At The Oasis” had been a hit Maria came back in 1974 with her second hit “I’m A Woman,” which made it to #12 on the US single chart. Saving her from being a one hit wonder.

"Midnight At The Oasis"

No comments:

Post a Comment