Raven Records has released a 2-disc CD package that contains the five early RCA albums by John Hartford. Life, Love & Music – 5 Essential Albums 1966-1969 contains all the tracks from John Hartford Looks at Life (1966), Earthwords & Music (1967), The Love Album (1967), Housing Project (1968) and John Hartford (1969). All have been out of print and unavailable for some time.
All of these albums were from the pre-Aereo-Plain period, the point where John’s music made a fairly radical change both in recordings and on stage. Perhaps it was being released from the oversight and expectations of a major label contract that freed him to create such iconic records as Mark Twang, Gum Tree Canoe, Nobody Knows What You Do, and Aereo-Plain.
In any event, you can hear many of the elements that defined his later work in these early RCA albums, with plenty of banjo and fiddle, and lots of Hartford’s quirky humor. And of course his distinctive, baritone voice.
They were recorded during the time that John was a favorite on both the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS, and then on the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. On Campbell’s show, a very popular segment had Hartford and Campbell playing together acoustically on banjo and guitar. Campbell had re-recorded Hartford’s Gentle On My Mind in 1967 after it had initially appeared on Earthworks & Music.
It’s possible that many of Hartford’s younger fans may not even be familiar with his music from the late ’60s. Many kudos to Raven Records for making that a simple matter to overcome.
Life, Love & Music is available as a 2-disc set online.