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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Dirk Hamilton - You Can Sing On The Left Or Bark On The Right (1976 us, spectacular folk rock with jazz and blues elements, 2013 japan SHM remaster)

Dirk Hamilton was born in Hobart, Indiana and raised in California. At 14 he played in a Chuck Berry/surf music band called The Regents. For a 45-rpm record they were about to make, bandleader Houston Box had written an instrumental called ‘Orangutan’ but needed a B-side so Dirk whipped out ‘Truck’ the night before the session. He says it was the first song he ever wrote and ‘it stunk’.

Dirk: “I began playing guitar and singing songs when I was 8 years old. I was writing stories and poems before that. I always thought of the two activities as completely different and separate -- writing was ‘serious’, playing and singing was ‘fun’. Then I discovered Dylan and learned that songs could be just as deep as the best poetry. It was an epiphany! At that moment I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”

At 15, Dirk wrote two more songs for another 45, this one under his own name. Both records were on the IKON label in Sacramento. “These two were stinkers too but after what seemed like a real long time, I began writing good songs and realized I’d done it! I had enjoyed myself into a real songwriter poet!”

By the early 70’s, he was playing professionally in nightclubs in the San Joaquin and Central Valleys and in the San Francisco Bay Area. In ’74, he moved to LA where he eventually signed with ABC records thanks to Steely Dan producer Gary Katz who produced his first album, ‘You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right’. Dirk went on to record 3 more major label records, another one for ABC (‘Alias i’) and two for Elektra (‘Meet Me at the Crux’ and ‘Thug of Love’). He toured the country with his band for 5 years receiving good and rave reviews for his records and live performances but somehow never became a huge commercial success.

After moving to Los Angeles from Stockton, CA, Dirk Hamilton attracted the attention of Steely Dan producer Gary Katz, who in turn helped him sign a deal with ABC Records. The result, the Katz-produced You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right, is a quirky if occasionally misguided work, with moments of brilliance. Katz brought in a host of session pros, including Chuck Rainey, Elliott Randall, and Jeff Porcaro -- all of whom had previously worked with him on various Steely Dan projects -- to flesh out Hamilton's idiosyncratic, acoustic-based tunes. 

What makes You Can Sing truly worthwhile, and distinguishes it from the other singer/songwriter recordings bombarding the industry at the time, is masterful songwriting like the terrific "She Don't Squash Bugs," the detailed melancholy of "Wasn't That One Night Good," and the opening track, "The Sweet Forever." It would take Hamilton a couple of years to find the perfect setting for his songs but, nonetheless, his sharp wit, keen insight, and unique style are evident throughout You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right. 
by Brett Hartenbach

1. The Sweet Forever - 5:34
2. Waterfall - 3:23
3. Little Big-Time Man - 2:42
4. She Don't Squash Bugs - 3:18
5. I Got To Feelin' - 4:47
6. Sweet And Cold - 4:33
7. Wasn't That One Night Good - 3:45
8. Grow A Rose - 3:31
9. When She Kiss Ya' Like She Love - Ya' Know She Do - 4:49
10.Ridin' On A Whale - 2:41
All compositions by Dirk Hamilton

*Dirk Hamilton - Vocals, Guitar
*Chuck Rainey - Bass
*David Hungate - Bass
*Jeffrey Porcaro - Drums
*Dean Parks - Guitar
*Elliot Randall - Guitar
*Larry Carlton - Guitar
*Louie Shelton - Guitar
*David Paich - Keyboards
*Ron Fransen - Accordion
*Milt Holland - Percussion
*Victor Feldman - Percussion
*Chris Hillman - Background Vocals
*Jim Gilstrap - Background Vocals
*Sherlie Matthews - Background Vocals
*Tom Kelly - Background Vocals
*Venetta Fields - Background Vocals

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