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Rayburn - 2010 - "Rayburn"

(61:55, ‘Psych of the South’)

TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Your Mind 3:12
2.  Got to Get Ready to Die 6:37
3.  Steam Shuffle 3:07
4.  Said I Love Only You 8:03
5.  Righteous Man 5:22
6.  Songbird 6:56
7.  See My Eyes 4:14
8.  The Trail is Gone 2:05
9.  Your Mind-II 3:15
10. America 2:17
11. Saltless Tears 4:36
12. Hey Friend 3:13
13. Working My Way Upstream 5:10
14. Your Mind-III 3:48


Jimmy Roberts – guitars; piano; vocals
Mack Price – bass; vocals
Robbie Carder – drums; vocals
Steve Stephens – keyboards; vocals
Steve Burchfield – guitars 

Prolusion. The US outfit RAYBURN was formed in 1970 and through the four years of its initial history it caused quite a stir in the local scene, and saw opportunity knocking on quite a few occasions as well - most notably when the band's members signed a record contract in 1972. But adversity saw to it that the band never managed to have a true go at a career, the father of a band member buying out the aforementioned record deal to try to force his son into the family business as the first challenge to confront them, and when they fought back from this disappointment guitarist Roberts developed cancer and died at the age of 21. This CD was compiled from various demo recordings they made back in the early 70's, and was released at a reunion concert Rayburn held in 2009.

Analysis. The early 70's are by many regarded as something of a golden age for rock music. But recording and releasing material back then was expensive, and it was mostly the lucky few who managed to get a record deal that saw their material documented, so to speak, and by that fact also got the chance to become commercially successful. As the production costs of creating and releasing music has steadily decreased in the last couple of decades, many artists that for one reason or another didn't get their chance back then have seen their material officially issued in recent years, often with one or more band members involved. This production by Rayburn is just such a creation, made up of initial demo recordings and a few studio takes made by a second version of the band in 1977, which was assembled to finalize leftover material never finished by the initial version of the band. If the world of music had been much different, if Rayburn had managed to get their shot at a career some 40 years ago is arguable, but it is undeniable that the material they created during their brief tenure has been deserving of an official release. In style residing somewhere in between Steppenwolf and Kansas, they explored a distinctly US-sounding variety of rock music that held a lot of promise. And while not always residing inside what one might describe as art rock these days, most of the compositions would probably have been described as just that when the band was active. If assuming that the CD has been put together in more or less chronological order, it seems that the band initially had more of a hard rock foundation, with organ textures and distorted guitar riffs combined in a manner somewhat akin to Steppenwolf, with a few forays into lighter and more free-flowing territories, with touches of jazz and fusion brought in to the mix, as documented in the piece Your Mind. As this number is presented in three alternate versions on this disc, it is a song that also documents the development of the band and how they gradually incorporated more distinct art rock tendencies to their sound as they evolved. First and foremost by the input of founding member and main composer Steve Stephens, whose tangent excursions gradually move closer and closer to symphonic territories, with more of an emphasis given to layered vocals as well, and the overall sound of the band at this time not too far off from what US act Kansas would explore early on in their career. By and large this is an interesting production and an intriguing historical document of a career that never came to be. And while the recording quality is rather lo-fi compared to what we're used to in this day and age, the vintage sound suits the material perfectly.

Conclusion. While perhaps not stunningly original in scope, Rayburn's compositions have stood the test of time rather well, and should be a pleasing experience for most with an interest in early 70's art rock, and arguably a must buy for anyone with a dedicated interest in US artists exploring this genre at this point in time. A fine effort and a well-made historical document.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: January 21, 2010
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