Friday, July 15, 2011

Friend & Lover - Reach Out Of The Darkness 1968

Jim Post was a member of a Canadian folk group called the Rum Runners when he met Cathy Conn, who was part of a dance company appearing at the same state fair that he was playing. She gave up dancing and married Post, and he taught her enough about singing so that the two made a credible duo on stage. They lacked Ian & Sylvia's delicate interweaving of voices, but Conn could really belt out a chorus, and Post had a pleasing tenor. Billing themselves as Friend & Lover, they played clubs while developing a sound and a repertory, and cut their debut single, "If Tomorrow," produced by Joe South, for ABC-Paramount. It failed to chart, and though they were good enough to rate support act status with the Buckinghams and even Cream, the duo seemed to be going nowhere until Jerry Schoenbaum, the head of MGM/Verve, became impressed with Post's song "Reach Out of the Darkness." An upbeat, ebullient song that crossed midway between Spanky & Our Gang and the early Jefferson Airplane, it was ideal for the summer of 1968, a point when the last, lingering glow of the previous year's psychedelic summer was still visible' if only through eyes clouded by nostalgic longing amid the worsening political strife of the period. The song itself was a distant cousin to the Byrds' "Renaissance Fair," David Crosby's stunningly beautiful musical memory of the first San Francisco Be-In; in this case, the inspiration was Post's having attended a love-in in New York City, and the sense of freedom that was in the air. The record struck a responsive chord, making number ten on the national charts, but the duo was never able to follow it up with any success, despite two singles and an LP issued in their wake. They played out their Verve contract, losing a lucrative offer from Columbia Records in the process when Verve wouldn't let them go, and then moved to Cadet Records as Jim & Cathy. The couple later divorced, ending the duo's history, and Post has since recorded for a multitude of labels and ventured into playwriting and theatrical production.
Friend & Lover's "Reach Out of the Darkness," with its infectious opening rally cry of "I think it's so groovy now that people are finally gettin' together" provided the flower power movement -- and a late-'80s television commercial for the Freedom Rock box set -- with an unofficial anthem for the swinging '60s. The husband-and-wife team of Jim Post (Friend) and Cathy Conn (Lover) never managed to score another hit, but their little gift to the protest movement has -- for better or for worse -- shown an impressive amount of staying power. A colorful mix of early Jefferson Airplane-style idealism, soul, and psychedelic pop, their 1968 debut harbored more than just the signature tune that graced its cover. "The Way We Were in the Beginning" is pure Odessa-era Bee Gees, "Boston Is a Lovely Town" sounds like the sequel to Petula Clark's "Downtown," and "Weddin' March (I Feel Groovy)" could have given Sonny & Cher a run for their money. While nothing on Reach Out of the Darkness radiates any sort of social gravity or depth, it's also not in the least bit pretentious. In fact, listeners with the cognitive abilities to bypass lyrics like "I wonder why people do not like the lovely dandelion," from the Donovan-esque "Ode to a Dandelion," may find themselves dancing and laughing along at the sheer innocence of it all. AMG.

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