Though having been a member of the New Christy Minstrels and Modern Folk Quartet, and a replacement for Zal Yanovsky in the Lovin’ Spoonful, Jerry Yester is known mostly for his behind-the-scenes work as a studio musician, arranger and producer. His album with then-wife Judy Henske, Farewell Aldebaran, and a follow-up collaboration as Rosebud, are both highly revered, but did little to establish Yester’s name commercially. A pair of 1967 singles on the Dunhill label were his only commercially released solo material, but he wrote and recorded at a variety of Los Angeles studios throughout the 1970s, and fifteen of those pieces are collected and released here for the very first time.
These are finished studio recordings, not songwriter demos, and their artistry, quality and polish are undimmed by the decades they’ve spent on the shelf. Yester’s collaboration with lyricist Larry Beckett yielded a wide range of material, with the former responding musically to the latter’s words. The material covers pop, folk, bubblegum, country-rock, baroque and more. The lyrics, which were often inspired by real-life events, are filled with yearning, period detail and allegorical depth. The overdubbed harmonies of “Brooklyn Girl” show what Yester could accomplish on his own, and the backing of the Manhattan Transfer’s Laurel Massé on “Dance for Me, Anna Lee” shows off the artistic circles in which he traveled.
Yester repurposed a few of his earlier melodies, borrowed a few from Bach, and for the vocal intro of “Brooklyn Girl,” he deftly lifted the hook from “Stop! In the Name of Love.” The latter’s production of beautifully layered harmonies and harmonium combine to suggest the Tokens singing a Left Banke song. There are several songs of unrequited infatuation, and Beckett’s lyric of marital dissolution, “The Minutes,” echoed Yester’s split from Judy Henske. Although several of these songs were recorded by a reformed mid-70s MFQ, the originals remained on Yester’s shelf until now. It’s surprising that no one spotted the commercial possibilities of “All I Can Do Is Dance” or the FM potential of an album. Liner notes by Barry Alphonso and photos by Henry Diltz fill out a very special package. [©2017 Hyperbolium]