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McGuinness Flint: Happy Birthday, Ruthy Baby

Album Notes

In the early '70s, Capitol had both the Band and McGuinness Flint on their roster, with both bands producing the best work of their careers. Like the Band, McGuinness Flint excelled by ignoring trends in rock music and drawing on styles with deeper roots. Also like the Band, Happy Birthday, Ruthy Baby is a follow-up that often surpasses their exceptional debut album. Where Dylan's former backup band was making the cover of Time magazine, though, McGuinness Flint remained largely unknown outside their native England. Happy Birthday, Ruthy Baby, with solid production by Glynn Johns and the gifted Nicky Hopkins on piano, expands on the rustic tone of the band's first album. The title track is a rousing pub rock tribute to one of the band's supporters, a touching picture of life as a struggling musician. Jazz influences permeate the propulsive "Reader to Writer" and "Fixer," with its stunning trombone solo. "Klondike" is a slice of Americana that could easily pass for a Robbie Robertson composition, and the acoustic "Sparrow" is as moving as any ballad to come out of the '70s. From beginning to end, Happy Birthday, Ruthy Baby is a gem, full of promise for the group. It's unfortunate that the album, and the band, were not more widely appreciated. Principle songwriters Gallagher and Lyle left after this album. Although McGuinness Flint rebounded in style with Lo and Behold, lead singer Dennis Coulson soon started a solo career, and the band folded in 1975. ~ James A. Gardner


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