I graduated from High School and classic rock radio around the same time. I got a job in a bookstore, and on my lunch breaks, I would pour over the shorter more obscure album reviews in the back of Mojo and Spin. Thus my journey into indie rock began and for a time, I left the mainstream behind. It blew my mind that so many outstanding artists could be so under-appreciated. As I got older and I watched the majority of these indie bands fade into obscurity, I realized that this was not a new phenomenon. The stuff on the radio is…well, the stuff on the radio. But the more interesting stuff was probably languishing in obscurity.
So I’m really into lost bands and dusty 45s from artists who never made it big, despite having a lot to say. With the resurgence in vinyl records, a curious (and frankly awesome) subculture of music nerds has started boutique labels with the sole mission of panning for this rare musical gold and reissuing it. One such label, Forager Records out of sunny California, has just released its debut album BELONG TO THE WIND. According to their website, the label scrounged many dusty 45s to unearth this “mellow drift through psychedelic folk & soul gathered from American 45s of the 1970s.”
Needless to say, with a description like that I pulled out my credit card and ordered a copy of the record. This compilation did not disappoint. An eclectic mix of tracks that all share a common thread of loneliness and introspection BELONG TO THE WIND beautifully illustrates my theory that much of the best music did not make the Billboard Top 100 and is languishing in obscurity. The collection opens with the shimmering “Spend Another Day” by Autumn Dust. This track perfectly sets the mood for the rest of the record. There’s a painful longing in the singer’s voice. Who is he? I have no idea. A Google search for Autumn Dust reveals nothing. And so it goes for all the other artists featured. The mystery behind who these people are only serves to heighten the aura of mystery surrounding the track.
Despite the label touting “psychedelic folk & soul,” none of the tracks falls neatly into any one genre. And none of them fall into the trap of boring ’70s singer-songwriter cliche. The second track, “Oh Man” by Cisco, features an oddly haunting saxophone. Most of these tracks are downers, just a glance at the titles will tell you that: “I’ll Never Be the Same” and “Time for Us to Part” being the most obvious. But even songs with even less somber titles still go hard on the sorrow. A good example is the track “I Want to Change My Life,” whose soulful lyrics seem to be a helpless cry for change that might not be possible.
The record’s standout track is the devastating “Anticipation of the Sun” by Jeff Laign. The song, ostensibly about the death of a best friend, is sung with aching sincerity and with a voice that always seems on the verge of breaking. The spooky, almost lo-fi production left me feeling haunted every time I pushed play. Who the hell was/is Jeff Laign and why didn’t he become a household name? “Anticipation of the Sun” is worth 50 Cat Stevens songs; why didn’t he become more famous?
If I have any gripes with BELONG TO THE WIND, besides its brevity (the ten tracks clock in at just 40 minutes), it’s that only one song has a female singer. And what a song it is, too–“The Lady Has No Heart” by a band called St. Elmo’s Fire feels like a forgotten Fleetwood Mac b-side. I could have used just a little bit more of that, but otherwise, this is a perfect collection of lost classics ideal for lonely Sunday afternoons. Hopefully, Forager Records will make enough money off BELONG TO THE WIND to release more forgotten music.
If you’re interested in buying a copy of the record or just want to listen to these songs, visit the Forager Records website.