At some point, I intend to write a book on the great lost rock and roll albums. I've a collection of about 50,000 recordings, and it's incredible that a surprising amount of those are either almost completely unknown or grossly undersung. Among the very best are John Batdorf and Mark Rodney's debut and sophomore releases, Off the Shelf and Batdorf & Rodney respectively, two of the finest mello-rockin' slabs this country has ever seen, much in the CSNY/America vein. A third LP followed, a very fine effort as well, but those first two just shine! Like too many such enterprises, despite label enthusiasms for the sound and a swiftly manifesting cult audience, B&R never went very far, decided to turn into the succeeding group Silver, and then, alas, gave up the ghost, Batdorf continuing solo while Rodney, son of famed trumpeter Red Rodney, resumed an acting career started in childhood. He also hosted a jazz radio show in Vegas and very well still might be.
Now Batdorf has remastered the complete first pair of LPs, most of Life, tossed in two Silver cuts, and included three unreleased tracks for a stuffed-to-the-gills two-fer. I'm tapping the keys feverishly, y'all, in order to get this review to press for the close of the old year and opening of the new one 'cause Portfolio is DEFINITELY going on my Best Of 2014 list. Crits like myself always hold out hope that time will endow a second glance in the public eye (and ear), re-indexing the slate of standard benchmark works towards a more comprehensive overview. Long-time readers know I've already incorporated B&R as nonpareils and, in just one instance among many, look how long it took musicians and critics to recognize Nick Drake's genius. Too often, we don't know what's passed us by while we were looking elsewhere.
Portflio is packed in with ringing acoustic guitars, marvelous dual vocal harmonies, soaring solo voicings, toe-tapping rhythm sections, wistful airs, and, every so often, as you'll hear with this audio-video of Can You See Him:
…well architected extensions a la Loggins & Messina, another group B&R shared many likenesses with. At the same time as this much awaited re-release, John teamed up with Michael McLean for the superb Soundtracks 2 Recovery (here), and I'm quite sure anyone hearing either album will soon be drooling for the other. And Portfolio is the sort of bonanza where you can start wherever you please; it's all good.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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