CD Review: Clover – Clover / Fourty Niner (Fantasy, 1970-71)
Clover was a Marin County, California four-piece that formed in the late ‘60s and recorded this pair of albums for Fantasy Records in 1970-71. Their renown, however, stems from later exploits, including the slot as Elvis Costello’s backing band on his 1977 debut, My Aim is True, as well as spinning off Huey Lewis and the News, and launching the solo and songwriting (including Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny”) career of Alex Call. Their original albums didn’t catch on upon initial release, and have been tough to find. Reissued on this two-fer, the performances reveal a band drawing inspiration from both the San Francisco scene and the country-rock wafting up from Los Angeles, and with additional dashes of blues and soul Clover was ready to rock the local clubs and bars.
The albums, like the band’s set list, sprinkled covers (Jr. Walker’s “Shotgun” Rev. Gary Davis’ “If I Had My Way” and a Creedence-styled jam on the spiritual “Wade in the Water” that surely stretched out to fifteen minutes on stage) amid originals that included country, electric blues, and jazz- and funk-rock. The former comes in several varieties, including the traditional-sounding lament “No Vacancy,” Bakersfield-influenced “Monopoly,” Clarence White-styled guitar picking of “Lizard Rock and Roll Band,” and bluegrass “Chicken Butt.” Guitarist John McFree shows off his steel playing on “Howie’s Song,” and drummer Mitch Howie adds funky beats to “Love is Gone.” In the end, Clover was a good band, though not particularly distinct, and their albums provide a reminder of just how deep the bench was in the San Francisco scene.