Back in the 60’s, there was a gret band called The Youngbloods who had a great lead singer called Jesse Colin Young, another guy named Joe, one called Jerry, and a curly-haired fellow they called “Banana” who allegedly inspired the Donovan line in “Mellow Yellow:” “Electrical Banana’s gonna be a sudden craze/ Electrical Banana’s gonna be the very next phase..: Banana’s real name was Lowell Levinger and he is the one who has put this album together over 42 years after the band played their last gig.
And what fun it is to hear these 12 Youngbloods songs now. It all starts out with one of my favorite songs, “Grizzly Bear.” Jesse Colin Young joins Levinger here and they have a high old time with it, including an inspired improvised spoken word part that will put a smile on your face. We then move to the psychedelic groove of “Supersonic Transport,”followed by the somber, folk-based “Darkness, Darkness<” which was penned by Young and sounds as contemporary today as it did then. Here, it is enhanced by Ry Cooder on slide guitar and David Anger’s incredible violin,
“The Pool Hall Song” is another delightful song to make you laugh with its great story of a man who just can’t stand his sister’s freeloading boyfriend one more minute. It is followed by the banjo and bass duet, “Interlude” and then the baroque “On Sir Francis Drake,” which illustrates just how diverse The Youngbloods were and how good the music still sounds with Levinger on piano and Carlos Aonzo on classical mandolin.
“Hippie From Olema” is a real blast from the past, a window into the hippie era with its good-humored answer to Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee,” and “Euphoria” also takes us right back to the hippie era. “Eyes Eyes”is an evocative folky number with some tasty banjo picking from Levinger and is followed by a great version of the classic folk tale of “Stagger Lee,” enhanced by the guest appearance of Duke Robillard on guitar. The fabulous blues party song, “Sugar Babe,” which was penned by Jesse Colin Young, is the last song on the album but I want to talk about “Get Together” last because it is, to me, the iconic 60’s anthem and captures all the love and idealism of that era before drugs and cynicism ate away at it. Maybe listening to that song enough will give us some of it back. The song features a “Grand Chorus” that includes Maria Muldaur, David Grisman and family, Maggie Levinger, Dan Hicks, and even more friends.
Kudos to Lowell “Banana” Levinger for bringing these songs back to us. They sounded great with the Youngbloods then and they sound great with Levinger and his pals now.