IGNORED OBSCURED RESTORED
Maria Muldaur’s self titled, debut solo album is one of my all time favorite records. Let’s say Top 100. Really. I know that’s not a very hip choice, but I go to it on a regular basis and find myself singing along to the tastefully curated selection of great songs written by Dolly Parton, Kate McGarrigle, Dan Hicks, Dr John and Wendy Waldman. And they’re played by a “dream team” of session musicians including Clarence White, Bill Keith, Ry Cooder, David Lindley, Andrew Gold, Jim Keltner, Amos Garrett and Chris Ethridge amongst others.
While I would generally select a deep cut as the SotW, today I’m going with the hit – “Midnight at the Oasis”.
This song perfectly evokes the feel of a hot summer night. What with talk of camels, sand dunes and harems, how could you avoid imagining a magic carpet ride to a romantic Saharan tent?
The lyrics are overtly suggestive, but in Muldaur’s hands they come across as cheeky, not creepy.
The musicianship is impeccable. Jim Gordon (Derek & The Dominoes) takes over the drums. David Nichtern, who wrote the song, plays acoustic guitar. Freebo, Bonnie Raitt’s longtime collaborator, is on bass. Then, at the bridge, there’s that wonderful, tasteful Amos Garrett guitar solo. It’s simple, short and absolutely gorgeous.
Enjoy… until next week.
Great choice as always Tom. This is not only a memorable song, and a very solid album, but we tend to overlook Muldaur’s part in the folk/hippie movement of the mid-60’s.
She was a major player in that (and her supporting cast on this disk proves it).
Good God. We’ve now hit rock bottom. For me, the only enjoyable Maria Muldaur comes from this clip from “Waiting For Guffman” one of my all-time favorite movies:
When Peter courageously admitted to being a folkie I said “not me.” I am not a folkie at all. It’s hard to be good without a beat and nearly impossible without rhythm. Fatuous and maudlin lyrics delivered with portentous frowns and/or stupidly sunny smiles riddle the genre, even in the best songs.
But then I thought psst Gene, you do love some folkie songs. I could make a whole CD of them, but in all truth unless I allowed songs with drums I couldn’t fill it. Maybe some other time we can name them.
Because Steve has a point. We are straying far from my interest and intent with Midnight at the Oasis.
Lawr brought us Tom, who has a quirky and thus interesting newsletter pumping a song each Saturday.
Tom’s interests and aesthetics are different than yours, mine and ours, but he brings a writerly diligence to the ferreting out of interesting (in one way or another) bits of musical lore.
The pop music lover in me adored Midnight at the Oasis, when it was on the charts, because it was so novel. It was Jimmy Buffett before Jimmy Buffett. But I have to say, listening to it now, the surface appeal is totally the novelty. This is ear candy and cute, great for a hit, and maybe not to everybody else’s taste on the tune.
But Maria Muldaur isn’t unsubstantial. She sang with the Kweskin Jug Band, had a regular gig backing the Grateful Dead, had this novelty song hit number 6 on the Billboard charts.
Is this an essential song? Nope, but I’m happy to have Tom writing about it and other songs obvious and obscure for our site. For me the division between a folkie novelty hit and an obscure b-side Norwegian metal rift is very small. I like dynamic chops and musicianship, but I really like having writers who care about tunes write about them and how they click.
Remnants, of course, will disagree.
And thank god, if we disagree, we can comment.
Midnight At The Oasis blew the day it came out and still blows today. Maria Muldaur blows. Jimmy Buffett blows too.
BTW I love the good folk music. I think Richard and Mimi Farina kill on both albums. Richard and Linda Thompson are essential on about eight albums of material. Bob Dylan? Pretty good even when he wasn’t with Al Kooper.
I love other folkies like the McGarrigle Sisters, the Roches, Steve Forbert, with rockish passion. I once heard Forbert play Tel*Star on the radio with an acoustic guitar and it was transcendent.
Mostly I think these boundaries are bullshit. None of the above don’t rank Dancing in the Street as anything less than the greatest song they’ve ever heard (unless they think I’m right that Da Doo Ron Ron matters more.
Obviously the question is open to debate.
I love great tunes, and the genre has undoubtedly produced some. I would say that once you have drums it’s folk-rock but perhaps that is simplistic.