Baywood – “Baywood Live at the Palomino ’81”
Sometimes a time capsule can reveal more about the present than the past or at least both in equal measures.
In the case of the Southern California band Baywood, a live recording from 1981 can provide a glimpse into the present as well as a flashback of the West Coast roots-rock scene from several decades ago. First of all, Baywood – featuring Ronny Lee (vocals), Bill Rotella (vocals/guitar), Stewart Marsh (vocals/guitar), James “Sparks” Sinclair (pedal steel guitar), Bill Hurlbut (bass), and Marty Fera (drums) – wanted to be successful. You can hear it in the mass appeal hooks of their country-rock songwriting, their soaring harmonies, and their bluesy guitar solos, all of which represented the height of commercial accessibility for such a young group in the early ‘80s. The blueprint was provided a decade earlier by the Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd. At times Baywood sound like a cross between with the Allman Brothers Band and Cheap Trick, adopting the Southern grit of the former and the jubilant power pop of the latter.
Baywood certainly had the goods to scorch the charts back then. Ironically, songs such as “It’s You” and “No More” would have no difficulties competing with today’s indie whippersnappers. “It’s You” is a spirited mélange of country and classic rock with solid drumming from Fera, who’d later end up touring with Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh of the Eagles. The guitar jamming in “No More” is hypnotic and thrilling. The musicianship is top-drawer throughout; these kids really knew how to play.
Lyrically, Baywood are refreshingly free from the existential angst that plagues contemporary Americana bands. “Keep Movin’” echoes the freewheeling, no-strings-attached attitudes towards love prevalent in the ‘70s, before everything changed with the arrival of AIDS and adulthood. “Tears and Pain” carves a straightforward narrative of emotional anguish that becomes a cathartic experience because of the fiery guitars. “Latest Fool” describes romantic devastation of a different sort (“She left her man/She left him home in tears”) while the closer “At the Ball” is a dreamy, sweet send-off.