My fondest memories of Tom Rush, one of the best interpretive singers of the folk revival, are of his excellent renditions of Murray McLaughlins "Childs Song" and Joni Mitchells "Urge for Going" -- a song Mitchell wrote before production of her first LP (1967) but released only as the "B" side of a 1972 single, four years after Rush recorded it. Both of these songs appear on The Very Best of Tom Rush: No Regrets, and it is enjoyable to hear them again, along with several other engaging songs -- all sung in Rushs unmistakable rich, warm voice with that slightly ragged edge.
This collection covers an impressive span of years, from Rushs 1962 live-recorded version of Jesse Fullers "San Francisco Bay Blues" -- a coffee house classic, still recorded today (e.g., by Ramblin Jack Elliot) -- through Rushs own "River Song," recorded in 1998. Although I still find the two above-mentioned favorites to be very well done, this CD provides several other high points as well, and Rushs slow, ponderous 1968 take on "Urge for Going" feels a bit dated even as compared with some of the other, earlier tracks. Take, for instance, Rushs 1963 recording of Leroy Carrs "Mobile-Texas Line." The skilled blues-guitar riffs and straightforward singing hold up as well as the blues tracks on the wonderful 1998 Geoff Muldaur CD I reviewed on this screen just a few months ago.
Rush himself selected the tracks for this CD. That says a lot for his objectivity, for Rush has written many songs yet only included six of them among the 17 on his Very Best. "No Regrets," the albums (sub)title song, is a fine lost-love ballad from his 1974 Ladies Love Outlaws LP. "Theres no regrets, no tears to cry/Dont want you back, wed only cry again/Say goodbye again." The impressive list of credits suggests the tracks texture and the kind of orchestration that had become fashionable with folksingers/singer-songwriters less than two decades after the folk revival had begun putting an acoustic guitar in every ranch house. In addition to Rush on vocals and acoustic guitar, we have Rupert Holmes string arrangement, conductor; Jeff Baxter electric guitar and pedal steel; Elliott Randall electric guitars; Bob Babbit (Kreinar) bass; Andrew Smith drums; Leon Pendarvis piano, Fender Rhodes; George Devens percussion; and Carly Simon vocal.
Two tracks later on this CD but recorded four years earlier, Rushs "Merrimac County," co-written with Trevor Veitch, has a leaner, mountain-ish folk sound, with just guitar, bass, vocals, dulcimer, violin and viola. Next-to-last is another of Rushs very fine covers: Jackson Brownes "Jamaica, Say You Will." What Rushs 1984 version lacks by not having the legendary David Crosby/Graham Nash harmony that enabled Brownes version to soar 12 years earlier when it led off his first LP, it makes up for with very appealing acoustic guitar introduction and accompaniment and skilled vocal harmony by Eric Lilljequiest and Dean Adrian in the refrain.
The CD also contains covers of songs by folk-revival great Eric von Schmidt and by Eric Kaz, Lee Clayton, David Wiffen, and Bokker "Bukka" White. In all, The Very Best of Tom Rush: No Regrets offers attractive glimpses at a musicians three-and-a-half-decade recording and performing career -- a career defined by talent and integrity and animated by a unique marriage of the artists quest for truth and beauty to the human craving for experience. The concluding track, "River Song," is so lovely that we can only hope Rush doesnt decide not to "roam no more."
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