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Pop - Released January 1, 1970 | Rhino - Warner Records

When he led the Lovin' Spoonful from 1965 to 1967, John Sebastian experimented with a variety of styles, expanding from the folk, jug band, and rock & roll that were the band's basic mixture to include everything from country ("Nashville Cats") to orchestrated movie scoring ("Darling, Be Home Soon"). Freed from the confines of a four-piece band, he stretched further on his debut solo album, including the samba-flavored "Magical Connection" and the R&B-styled "Baby, Don't Ya Get Crazy" (complete with the Ikettes on backup vocals) in addition to traditional country on "Rainbows All Over Your Blues," which spotlighted Buddy Emmons on pedal steel guitar. But there were also delicate ballads like the string-filled "She's a Lady," a stripped-down remake of "You're a Big Boy Now," and "The Room Nobody Lives In," the last performed with only a harmonium and bass guitar. And there were pop/rock songs like "Red-Eye Express," "What She Thinks About," and the utopian "I Had a Dream" that you could imagine having fitted easily into the Spoonful's repertoire. The songs continued Sebastian's trend toward a more personal writing style, many of them containing images of travel that corresponded to his peripatetic lifestyle. Like Paul McCartney's McCartney, which followed it into the marketplace by a few months, the album was an eclectic but low-key introduction to the solo career of a former group member whose band was known for more elaborate productions, and all the more effective for that. (John B. Sebastian was the subject of a legal dispute between MGM records and Reprise records, with Reprise winning out, although MGM briefly issued its own version of the LP, apparently taken from a second-generation master. The MGM version is sonically inferior to the Reprise one and has different artwork, but the contents of the two LPs are identical.) © William Ruhlmann /TiVo

Pop - Released August 11, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

A wide variety of musical forms can be found here, from reggae to Appalachian hill music, from city rock to country roll. And while this sounds like a hodgepodge, John Sebastian manages to pull it off with his usual aplomb. Highlights include "Dixie Chicken" (made famous by Little Feat), "Sitting in Limbo" (from the Jimmy Cliff songbook), and Sebastian's version of "Stories We Could Tell" (already made famous by the Everly Brothers). © James Chrispell /TiVo

Pop - Released November 22, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

A 16-track selection from Sebastian's solo albums from 1970 to 1976, including the hit "Welcome Back." © William Ruhlmann /TiVo

Pop - Released January 1, 1976 | Rhino - Warner Records

John Sebastian's relationship with Reprise records cooled after the commercial failure of his 1974 album Tarzana Kid, but he still owed one more record on his contract when his theme song for the television series Welcome Back, Kotter became a surprise hit in the spring of 1976. Reprise, naturally, called for an immediate LP tie-in, and Sebastian obliged. But he didn't really have an album's worth of top-flight tunes ready, and the result was an uneven collection filled out with a near-instrumental ("Let This Be Our Time to Get Along"), a folk-blues song he'd written in the early '60s ("Warm Baby"), and a remake of one of his old Lovin' Spoonful songs ("Didn't Wanna Have to Do It"). The new material tended to be craftsman-like pop songs, the melodies simple and catchy, the lyrics light verse ("You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine," "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back," "I Needed Her Most When I Told Her to Go"). Employing the soon-to-be Toto rhythm section of David Hungate and Jeff Porcaro, Sebastian had a solid backing when he ventured into island syncopation on "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back," and Jeff Baxter gave him some convincing pedal steel playing on "A Song a Day in Nashville," the only song that really cut deeply, painting a portrait of a struggling songwriter on the rebound who easily could have been Sebastian himself. Then, of course, there was "Welcome Back," a pleasant-enough tune whose endless repetitions of its title betrayed its origin as a brief TV theme song. It was the biggest hit of Sebastian's career, but unfortunately, with his contract up, Reprise had little reason to work to sustain his comeback, and, amazingly, he quickly went from being a man with a number one record to a man without a record label. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo

Pop - Released April 1, 1971 | Rhino - Warner Records

Like some other live albums, this one was released to provide an alternative to a bootleg. But in this case, the particular bootleg appeared to be a legitimate release. The early years of John Sebastian's solo career were bedeviled by a contract dispute involving his move from MGM records to Reprise records, and in the course of it, MGM obtained a tape of a Sebastian concert and released it without his consent under the title John Sebastian Live. That album was withdrawn, but Sebastian countered it with his own concert album, pointedly called Cheapo-Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian. Of course, both albums were a response to Sebastian's popularity as a solo concert attraction in the wake of his appearance in the Woodstock film and on its soundtrack album. In the early '70s, no rock festival was complete without the tie-dyed singer/songwriter and his warm and friendly stage manner. Despite the circumstances that led to this album's creation, fans had reason to rejoice, since it proved to be a definitive statement of Sebastian's stage show. Alone but for pianist Paul Harris, he ranged through a repertoire including old folk and rock & roll standards, Lovin' Spoonful songs, and his own recent solo songs. Funny, self-deprecating, and engaging in a wise, yet wide-eyed way, he turned his concert audience into a group of friends and did the same thing to those listening to the LP. Here was a performer capable of reaching back to the music of Jimmie Rodgers and Leadbelly, Carl Perkins, and the Five Satins, demonstrating how such predecessors had influenced the good-time music he made in the '60s. A virtual jukebox, he made the history of popular music seem like endless fun, and he made people who heard the album wish they'd been at the show. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo

Pop - Released August 23, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records


Pop/Rock - Released June 20, 2005 | Shanachie

Released in 1993, Tar Beach is John Sebastian's first album since 1976's Welcome Back, yet it sounds like it could have come out six months later, as if the intervening 17 years had never happened. Very much in the style of Welcome Back or 1974's The Tarzana Kid, Tar Beach is a good-natured, laid-back collection of California-style singer/songwriter pop, somewhere between James Taylor at his most mellow and a less loopy Jimmy Buffett. The songs are at worst inoffensive, but nothing matches Sebastian's best work in the Lovin' Spoonful. Even the best songs, like the summery title track and the relaxed "Don't You Run With Him," are pretty lightweight, although the extended layoff did give Sebastian a decade-plus backlog of songs to choose from and so there are no actual dogs on the album along the lines of Welcome Back's "Let This Be Our Time to Get Along." Tar Beach is charming enough, but it's pretty much inconsequential. © Stewart Mason /TiVo

Pop - Released August 9, 1971 | Rhino - Warner Records


Blues - Released December 21, 2015 | JBs'CDs