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THE GENTLE SOUL

Prog Folk • United States


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The Gentle Soul biography
The GENTLE SOUL were a California folk duo made up of singers/songwriters Rick Stanley and Pamela Polland who released one album in 1968. Surrounding themselves with talented musicians such as RY COODER, TAJ MAHAL and VAN DYKE PARKS to name a few, their music more or less bridged the folk-rock and singer-songwriter/soft rock eras. Their self-titled album was released to little fanfare and then quickly descended into obscurity. Although not a major work, it has become a classic of the sort and the LP version is extremely rare (and expensive).

This is gentle, acoustic-flavoured and very conventional folk by today's standards: safe vibes, soft rock of the PETER, PAUL AND MARY and CAT STEVENS category. The high harmonies of Pollard and Stanley, however, are impeccable. The 11-track album, deftly produced by Terry Melcher (The BYRDS, PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS), features some dreamy orchestral instrumentation such as harpsichord, flute and cello, and Ry Cooder makes his presence felt on some very gutsy/bluesy tunes. The overall feel, however, is extremely mellow. As for the nine bonus tracks of the CD re-release, they are much poppier than the rest, sometimes showing influences from The BYRDS and The MAMMAS & THE PAPPAS in the harmonies and guitar parts. The CD, by the way, was digitally recorded from the LP and sounds a little dated.

Fans of The STONE PONEY will definitely like this, as will those of folk-rock duo BLACKBURN & SNOW.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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Gentle SoulGentle Soul
Sundazed Music Inc. 2003
Audio CD$59.95
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3.52 | 4 ratings
Gentle Soul
1968

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0.00 | 0 ratings
Tell Me Love / You Move Me
1966

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 Gentle Soul by GENTLE SOUL, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.52 | 4 ratings

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Gentle Soul
The Gentle Soul Prog Folk

Review by Marty McFly
Special Collaborator Errors and Omissions Team

4 stars As a folk album, very great. I like it. A lot. But this page twists. Or teaches (if you like this choice of words more), you soon learn to rate prog elements. Prog + like = result. Interesting thing. First I though that full star ratings are limitation, that I can't give exactly what I want. For this is 3(+) and 4(-) difference, which I quickly learned to use.

This is folk. 1968 is still in depths of non-prog waters, where prog was just a dream, which many bands were later attributed to. But efforts like this made the way to better prog folk. Right before this album, I was listening one, more to country-rock leaned record But here, I just can't give better, when I don't enjoy it, nor I see many good things here. Yes, nice to listen, with variety of instruments. This was first thing I like here. Second is undefined feeling of both good and bad impress on me. But when I consider old age of this record and not so big choice in these times, I'll choose

4(-), almost 3 stars, but just almost.

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 Gentle Soul by GENTLE SOUL, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.52 | 4 ratings

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Gentle Soul
The Gentle Soul Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars It’s kind of amazing that this record wasn’t reissued much sooner than just a few years ago. While the Gentle Soul themselves faded into obscurity within a couple years of the release of this album, the name-dropping of musicians involved with the band pretty much demands that these tracks be made more widely available to all manner of music fans. Rick Stanley and Pamela Polland formed the nucleus of the band and aren’t exactly household names, but they ran with an impressive crowd. A very young Ry Cooder appears here on guitar and more importantly mandolin. Van Dyke Parks appears on the heels of his fated collaboration with Brian Wilson on the Beach Boys’ ‘SMILE’ recordings. Larry Knechtel was already a well-known keyboardist of Simon & Garfunkel fame and plays organ here. Flautist Paul Horn had just left a lucrative gig with Tony Bennett and is also on the record. And a teenage Jackson Browne had caught the ear of Polland, who recorded one of his first compositions, “Flying Thing”. This track didn’t appear on the original vinyl, but is included on the CD reissue. Browne also briefly replaced Stanley in the touring version of Gentle Soul before it disbanded and he went on to a solo career.

Unfortunately this CD version was produced from a digital copy of the vinyl release and suffers a bit as a result. The sound isn’t bad, but there are a few slightly fuzzed-over spots that seem to have been too manipulated. But if you are looking for this record you’ll have to settle for the CD for the time being at least, unless you have a very fat wallet and feel like hunting down one of the few and rare original vinyl copies.

In the 21st century this comes off as a very mild, West Coast soft-rock and country-tinged body of work. But for its time this was really fairly innovative stuff. The Eagles hadn’t yet made Hollywood country rock a radio staple yet, and the blending of folk, country, and some orchestral instrumentation with well-harmonized vocals was still a novel thing. The sounds here are in stark contrast with what Simon & Garfunkel were doing in New York, much less ethnic and more rural-sounding and a bit closer to the less-jaded West Coast hippie crowd, but not quite Haight-Asbury hippie. Very refined really. While Simon & Garfunkel were more likely to appear on an Ivy League college’s student green for a wine and cheese recital, Gentle Soul come off as just as likely to show up in a smoke-filled coffee house or even on the beach. The songs are almost all about relationships or introspection, and seem to consciously avoid more controversial social topics, and certainly not anything political.

Almost all the songs on the original release were composed by Polland, with the exception of “Young Man Blue” and the last two tracks. An interesting trivia note: the lyrics for “Dance” were actually written by actor the late Ned Wynn, best known for his role of the dastardly Colonel Bat Guano in the Stanley Kubrick film ‘Dr. Strangelove’. Enough name-dropping already? Like I said, this album itself isn’t as impressive as are the number of accomplished artists who were involved with the band at some level or another.

Ry Cooder is the musical star though, turning out consistently excellent if rather simple guitar and mandolin performances on every track. Polland and Stanley are a great matched set on vocals, harmonizing well with each other and giving this a truly folk tinge. The more interesting tracks include the opening “Overture”, a sort of medley of the rest of the album’s tracks; the harpsichord-dominant “Marcus” written as a lullaby for band manager Billy James’ young son; and the Stanley autobiography “Young Man Blue”, which succeeds almost entirely due to Cooder’s bluesy and trance-like slide guitar. “Empty Wine” offers the most exquisite vocals from Polland, as well as some fine cello from sometime Bob Dylan sideman Ted Michel.

The ‘bonus’ tracks are mostly b-sides or earlier tracks that didn’t make it onto the original album. “2:10 Train” features Taj Mahal himself on harmonica. The sound quality of these tracks varies widely, but all of them are at least cleaned up enough to merit being put into this collection. Most are fairly forgettable, although the flower-powered “Our National Anthem” (not the one you’re probably thinking of) is mildly interesting in a hippie/love/peace kind of way. Pretty dated sentiments today though.

This is a very decent folk album, probably qualifying as progressive just because it would have been a bit of a novelty in 1968, especially the stringed instruments and harpsichord. Extra points for providing an early and obscure glimpse into the genius of Ry Cooder. I’ll give it a very high three stars with recommendation for most folk fans.

peace

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