wax Poetics

The Youngbloods

Ride the Wind

Released 1971
record label Raccoon Records
Written by Greg Casseus

Released on Raccoon Records (unbeknownst to RCA)
Released on Raccoon Records (unbeknownst to RCA)

Deep grooves and surprising revelations can often come from relatively unexpected quarters. Most people think of the Youngbloods, if they think of them at all, as the consummate ’60s folky-hippie band. This is not too wide of the mark but there’s another layer to the band that came to fruition between 1969 and 1971 when guitarist Banana (his mom knew him as Lowell Levinger) made increasing use of his funky skills on the Wurlitzer electric piano. The band at this point was a trio consisting of Banana, bassist/vocalist Jesse Colin Young and drummer Joe Bauer, all excellent instrumentalists as well as singers/writers, and finding themselves in the thick of the San Francisco psychedelic-improv-jam-rock caused them to really explore the instrumental aspects of their music. They were diving headlong into this new direction when they were taped live over three nights at a New York club in November 1969. The recordings, produced by future country superstar Charlie Daniels, reveal a band that actually leans more towards jazz-funk if anything than the folk-rock they were better known for. Banana rocks the Wurlie very hard throughout and even their big hit, “Get Together,” is transformed into a funky electric-piano jam. But the real reason to keep an eye on this in the dollar bins can be found on the twin side-opening monsters which are the title track and a stunning cover of Fred Neil’s “Dolphins.” At nine-plus and eight minutes respectively, they both groove endlessly and are centered around Banana’s funky keys and a limber-yet-tight and very responsive rhythm section (for a folk guitarist/singer-songwriter Jesse Colin also plays a pretty mean bass). These are the cuts that invariably get people running up to ask what record this is playing and sample possibilities just explode out of every second of them. Another interesting fact about this record is that while the Youngbloods had been signed to RCA for a few years at that point, they had just signed a new deal with Warner Brothers that allowed for their own imprint, Raccoon Records. RCA, apparently unaware of this, released this album but had to quickly withdraw it when they realized another label had the actual rights to release it. What was that about a numbered industry rule again...?

If you enjoyed learning about this band, go deeper into our pages with a Wax Poetics subscription. Receive three issues a year of our collector-worthy magazine that feature in-depth reporting on music that will matter for generations. Subscribe here.