Richie Havens: “Alarm Clock”
Secondhand Vinyl Album (Purchased at Total Drag, Sioux Falls, SD)
Original Release Date: 1971 Stormy Forest Productions
(My Rating: 5 Stars also THIS IS AN END OF THE WORLD SURVIVAL PICK!!!)
Here Comes The Sun
To Give All Your Love Away
Younger Men Grow Older
Girls Don’t Run Away
End Of The Seasons
Some Will Wait
“I am alone, you are alone, and alone we face each other in order to eliminate every misunderstanding. You see, I met your organization the other day and in no way were they organized. Each had a different idea of me, as each was alone and never knew it.” The above excerpt is a quote I took from the back cover of the album, “Alarm Clock,” by Richie Havens. While it certainly sounds deep, I can’t be certain I truly understand its’ intended meaning. However, I chose to include it in my review for two key reasons. The first being I believe it to be a testament to the poetic artist it represents. The second reason I featured this quote is due to the irony I felt while reading it. While this tidbit seems to be a commentary hinting at the topics of tolerance and the overall unique journey each of us individually faces throughout life, this blogger couldn't help but feel like she’s part of some type of artistic community while listening to this record. In other words, even though I listened to, “Alarm Clock,” solo I never really felt alone. Perhaps this unexpected irony was the intention of the artist, considering Richie Havens started his career as a beatnik poet before actually discovering his undeniable talent as a musician. Intentional or not, I found the combination of this quote and Havens' communal festival sound to be a genius contradiction that inspired a lot of thought in this, often admittedly thoughtless, listener.
“Alarm Clock,” begins with a cover of George Harrison’s beloved song, “Here Comes The Sun.” Upon noticing this title on the album I feared what another artist might do to such a classic. Now after MULTIPLE listens I’m ashamed to have doubted the pure genius presented here by Richie Havens and his band. Between the absolutely absorbing beats of conga drums and the serenely calming pitch of Havens' deep voice I’m ready to confess, with supreme humility, that I prefer this version of the song to Harrison’s original. However, I want to make certain to acknowledge not only George Harrison’s extreme talent in the music industry, but his seemingly remarkable devotion to spirituality and introspection. Keeping this last statement in mind, I can only reason that the like-mindedness of Richie Havens regarding these topics made him an excellent candidate to perform Harrison’s song. Basically, my decision to favor Havens' version of, "Here Comes The Sun," is owed to the fact that I prefer his voice to Harrison's…and those conga drums really didn’t hurt either.
Regarding the topic of Richie Havens' voice, songs like, “To Give All Your Love Away,” and, “Younger Men Grow Older,” are excellent examples of this artist’s ability to balance lyrics of peaceful reflection with the complex sound of relaxing rasp. It’s also notable to mention that during these songs Havens also possesses a remarkable ability to display remarkable talent while simultaneously remaining accessible to the everyday listener. For example, this blogger immediately recognized the sheer skill of Havens' guitar and vocal abilities. However, I couldn’t help but feel like this artist was somehow secretly singing, “Come in! Sing and dance with us! This groove’s for you too!” And yes, I just wrote the word, “groove.”
I guess it’s thoughts like this that allow a listener to feel like they're part of some kind of artistic hippie community while listening to, “Alarm Clock.” While Havens' voice is certainly one of my favorite aspects regarding this album, I believe it needs to be clear that it would not be nearly as remarkable without the accompaniment of the talented musicians in his band. Outstanding examples of this can be found during the songs, “Some Will Wait,” and, “Missing Train.” It’s this blogger’s opinion that the spirit of both of these songs are dominantly driven by the featured percussion sections. Likewise, the entrancing piece, “Patient Lady,” proves to be an unabashed threesome between two acoustic and one electric guitar, leaving this listener lusting for more. I suspect it’s the overall talent displayed by, not only Richie Havens, but also his entire band that makes this listener feel like the album, “Alarm Clock,” contains commentary deeply rooted to the earth and all the people that inhabit it.
Lastly, it’s impossible for me to choose the song I like best on an album like, “Alarm Clock,” due to the fact that I adore all of them. It’s true troubadours like Richie Havens that solidify my faith that at one time, not so long ago, honest-to-God hippies existed. At that time these sometimes outcast individuals may have recited introspective verse like, “You see, I met your organization the other day and in no way were they organized. Each had a different idea of me.” I want to reassure anyone reading this that the only idea I have regarding Richie Havens is, “I can only hope he would have let me into his community of artists and introspects, because judging by their music not only did these people really think, I believe it's most likely they could seriously dance.”
"Here Comes The Sun": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBbXKsKXyNU