But this post is not about Neil Young.
I’ve written elsewhere about MSA TOO, so I don’t have to write here again about that, either.
Instead, I’d like to introduce you to a musician that you likely haven’t heard of. But to do that, I do have to go back to 1978 and MSA TOO.
One day as I passed through Coffman Union, I did my usual drift through MSA TOO. Sitting (IIRC) near the door was a rough wooden crate (these were popular in those days) and sitting on top of that crate were some local publications. One of them caught my eye by virtue of its cover (see below: the Internet is a truly wonderful place):
Does it get any more countercultural than that?
Anyway, I picked it up and leafed through it, and was delighted to find that the back cover held a flexible plastic record.
Sidenote: Back in the old days, before podcasts and YouTube, flexible records were sometimes bound into magazines like National Geographic so that you could hear a particularly stirring speech, or Guitar Player so that you could learn a nice lick or hear a demonstration of, e.g., a synthesizer. They were usually recorded only on one side and you had to tear the plastic sheet out of the magazine, flatten it, and sit it on top of a real “licorice pizza” record to listen to it. Because the material was soft, these recordings generally deteriorated pretty quickly, but that was fine–they served their purpose.
By this time (IIRC) I had an apartment on the West Bank, complete with stereo system, so I took my copy of Minnesota Products home (for the princely sum of about $1.50, iirc) and put it on top of a copy of The Sounds of Silence.
Most of it, I didn’t especially care for, though I would learn to over the next few weeks as I listened more. But there was this one song. It was one of two recordings by a duo, Ann Reed and Judy Foster, and it was called “Melinda.” I can’t find the lyrics on line right now, but it included things like this: “Your eyes are grey, Melinda, it’s hard to but I’ll try, your eyes are grey but sometimes seem much bluer than the sky.” I don’t know if that’s right, but. Anyway, all of these with a beautiful guitar accompaniment.
I fell in love with that music.
Over the next few years, as I dipped myself in folk culture, I got to hear Ann Reed live at the Coffee House Extempore (“The Extemp”), which in those days was situated on Cedar, practically across the street from my apartment (or vice-versa) and just up the street from the New Riverside Cafe. I heard her play her Charlie Hoffman 12-string, remarking that the song “Pretty Good for a Girl” was based on a remark someone had made on hearing her recordings.
In the summer of 1981, when L and I were hanging out, we went to a Bonnie Raitt concert. Well, not exactly, but Bonnie was playing, along with some other wonderful artists whose names escape me at the moment. On the way out, there were tables selling all kinds of recordings–mainly by women, as I recall–and on one of the tables was Ann Reed’s album (I think her first) called Carpediem. 12″ vinyl. I bought it immediately, took it home, and listened and listened and listened. Absolutely magnificent.
Years passed. L and I passed out of existence first, then I moved to Chicago, met T, got married, moved to upstate New York and then to Wisconsin. Listened to Carpediem from time to time (and T fell in love with Ann’s songs, too). One day a friend of mine at work was complaining that he couldn’t make it to a concert for which a friend had bought him a ticket. I asked who was playing and he said “Ann Reed.”
Wow. What to do with one ticket? He gave it to me, and I gave it to T, and she went to the concert and was blown away.
She brought back a cassette of Timing is Everything that included songs like “Power Tools” (aka “Power Tools are a Girl’s Best Friend”) and that demonstrated that Ann’s guitar and voice had only improved with time. If you look at the cover, she’s got a Charlie Hoffman guitar.
Now, when we moved from Wisconsin to Connecticut, I had to give up some things, and these included my cherished LP collection. I taped Carpediem, but the record itself went to a used record store, and what became of it, I don’t know. But a few years ago, I discovered that it was available as a Japanese import CD. So now, when I’m listening to one of the thousands of songs on my phone, something from that album will pop up, and remember so many things.
I highly recommend that you go get an album or two by Ann Reed. You won’t be sitting in a sort of smelly, overstuffed chair in a big room in an old building with a mug of very organic-tasting coffee in your hand, watching a woman play killer guitar. That’s mine, I own it.
But you will hear something you don’t hear often: great music from a great person.
Do it today.