This makes the third time I've bought this wonderful album from the classic lineup of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. I first bought it on vinyl when it was first released in 1970, then again on CD in the 90s, and now this definitive version with two bonus tracks added.
For me, this album defines the Dirt Band and defies category. It's country and bluegrass and rock and the blend works perfectly. There are are only a couple original tunes: Jeff Hanna's rollicking "The Cure" and Jimmie Fadden's harmonica showpiece "Uncle Charlie." They cover a couple of ex-Monkee Mike Nesmith's best songs: "Some of Shelly's Blues" and "Propinquity." They also do four songs by a then relatively unknown songwriter, Kenny Loggins: "Prodigal's Return," "Yukon Railroad" (both co-written with Dann Lottermoser), "Santa Rosa" and "House at Pooh Corner." And then of course, there is their signature song, Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles," which became their first (and only) top ten pop hit.
Then there are all the wonderful instrumental interludes, like Les Thompson's mandolin workout on "Billy in the Low Ground," Fadden's wonderful harmonica on "Swanee River," and John McEuen's banjo pyrotechnics on "Randy Lynn Rag." [In the liner notes, composer Earl Scruggs is quoted as saying McEuen's version is the way he always intended to do it.]
In addition, there are two bonus tracks included on this newly remastered edition, both recorded during the UNCLE CHARLIE sessions. The first is Dann Lottermoser's "Mississippi Rain"; the second is a toe-tapping bluegrass treatment of Lennon-McCartney's "What Goes On," featuring a rare lead vocal by Les Thompson. All told, this is a joy to listen to from start to finish. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
on October 6, 2004
Albums that change things, define genres and otherwise make profound statements don't come along too often. You're lucky if lightning strikes once. With the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, it hit twice -- with "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and before that with this incredible album, "Uncle Charlie."
From the first second of this album, as John McEuen's slammin' banjo kicks off Mike Nesmith's "Some of Shelley's Blues," you know you've discovered something special.
Producer Bill McEuen just turned on the machines and let the band cut loose, and when it was done he pieced together the songs in an order that at times seems almost poetic. I'm tempted here to say that this is a "concept" album but I'll be darned if I could state exactly what that concept is.
What you find is a band that could play literally anything from country to bluegrass to rock to blues to folk and yes, even classical. Plus, you get the band's most lasting hit, their take on Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles," which is still considered the standard take on this song.
The band also champions such songwriters here as Nesmith and Randy Newman, and in turn deliver what are probably considered the paramount versions of those songs, too. Their super-loud version of Buddy Holly's "Rave On" ( a song I saw them use more than once during encores to let the audience know that they were tired and it's time to go home now -- they'd crank the amps to ear-blistering levels for this one) is one that I'm sure would have made Mr. Holly think, "man, why didn't I play it like that?"
John McEuen does stuff on this CD that still drops my jaw when I listen to it. His banjo playing here rivals anything else he's ever done, even the great, good-as-Scruggs's stuff on "Circle."
I have never met anyone who didn't like this album and I probably never will. You'll like it, too. It's timeless. It's wonderful. And it's absolutely perfect.
on June 4, 2004
Those who don't have this record simply don't know what they're missing. I mail-ordered it after checking some reviews: I was interested in the Country-rock phenomenon, I liked the Eagles but I knew there was more to the genre than that. I was rewarded with this magnificent album: each single player seems transfixed by the lightning of inspiration, the music is great and brilliantly executed, Hanna's singing captures the spirit of the whole project. This simply IS Country-rock: banjo, harmonica and accordion fluttering in and out between the dusty guitars and the rusty percussions. The rythmic patterns change from song to song, some instrumental afterthoughts thrown in here and there show to the full the extrordinary skills of the band, both as composers and performers. You just can't sit still as you play the record: you sing along, dance the fast-paced rockers, enjoy the soulful ballads. It's a wonderful record, everytime I listen to it I am moved beyond tears. Everybody who has a decent record collection absolutely has to have Uncle Charlie!
on May 22, 1999
Yes, this is the Nitty Gritty's best album they ever released! When I discovered it in the early 70's, I must have played it 50 times in a couple of months (no minor feat, I had a couple of hundred lp's by that time), lent it to a friend and never saw it again. Well, I just found a mint copy among a collection I just purchased and had the pleasure of becoming reacquainted with "an old friend". Following in the tradition of Sweetheart of the Rodeo by the Byrds, Poco and Buddy Holly, among other influences diverse and many, "Uncle Charlie" is a very hard record to pigeonhole. It comebines elements of folk-rock, country, boogie and blues, old timey, bluegrass and rock 'n roll. But in each and every of it's 20+ songs (some short, some instrumental, some 3+ minutes), the band never sounded better, fresher, more at peace with themselves and the world. Highlights, all vocals, are Mr. Bojangles (the best version I've heard with due respect to Jerry Jeff Walker), Some of Shelley's Blues, Living without You, Rave On, House at Pooh Corner and my favorite on the album and maybe the best "lost" country rock song just waiting to be discovered, Propiniquity (written by Mike Nesmith along with Shelley's Blues). On side 2, you get to hear a bit of Uncle Charlie playing and talking. Somehow, his "appearance" doesn't detract from the album but seems to add to it's charm. If you like roots rock, buy this album and hear what roots rock sounded like 30 years ago.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had a modest single with "Buy for Me the Rain" in 1967 and the following year appeared in the film "Paint Your Wagon," but it wasn't until this breakthrough 1970 album that the band found a wide audience. They combined traditional country and bluegrass with rock and roll but unlike the Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco or the Byrds, the NGDB tended to lean more heavily on the traditional side. The album also produced the biggest hit of their career, the Jerry Jeff Walker-penned "Mr. Bojangles."
Some of the songs are traditional bluegrass numbers like the instrumentals "Chicken Reel" and "Billy in the Low Ground." The NGDB also relied heavily on outside songwriters like Michael Nesmith ("Some of Shelly's Blues," "Propinquity"), Randy Newman ("Livin' Without You"), and Kenny Loggins ("House at Pooh Corner," "Santa Rosa"). The only two originals are Jeff Hanna's "The Cure" and Jimmie Fadden's instrumental "Uncle Charlie."
While this is not the NGDB's first album (they recorded about a half dozen earlier albums that more accurately reflected their jug band and novelty personna), this is where the band's real history begins. They would go on to record other classics like Dream and Will the Circle Be Unbroken, but this is the album that all NGDB fans must own. ESSENTIAL
on July 8, 2005
I had already heard the Dirt Band when this album was released.
I bought the single "Buy for me the rain" and thought this was a great group, worthy of an extended listen. Well, for some unknown reason, I never bought the first couple of albums they released. All that changed when I heard "Mr. Bojangles" on the radio. I was right. This was a band to listen to and to follow.
Mr. Bojangles, Travelin' Mood, Some of Shelly's Blues, Santa Rosa, Chicken Reel, Yukon Railroad, House at Pooh Corner...all great songs. And the amazing thing was..this band could also do country and bluegrass, as well as being a top notch rock n' roll band. Fiddles are on there, as well as banjos, mandolins, and a host of other instruments rarely (if ever) used by a rock band before. Now, to be fair, The Monkees and the Hollies had used banjos before, and the Monkees also used steel guitar, but had never incorporated these instruments into their over all sound the way NGDB did. I was just blown away. I am still blown away by the Dirt Band to this day, although they went pretty much mainstream country for awhile. But give Uncle Charlie a listen, then listen to Welcome To Woody Creek (their latest) and tell me they haven't gone full circle (no pun intended). The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band..Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddy...good stuff indeed.
on March 11, 2014
Of course I fell in LOVE with "House At Pooh Corner" and "Mr. Bojangles" on the radio..so it was only fitting that I buy the LP. While I love pop, and rock. This crossover LP is pure GENIUS! My folks even loved this LP when I bought it! Shocked them as well as me!
Shortly after, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band came to our town on tour to promote the LP. It was my FIRST concert that I attended without a parent in tow and the first one with a date. My high school sweetheart from my freshman year. It was the first time I'd ever seen pot smoked in public, and still one of the best shows I've ever seen!! I now have almost their entire catalogue, have seen them in concert 4 or 5 times and will go every chance I get!
This LP is incredible and still my most favorite of their entire catalogue. I was so GLAD when they released it on CD. Engineered and produced almost as perfectly as the original vinyl. I doubt that ANYONE will EVER be able to match LIBERTY RECORDS original release. Liberty Records were ALWAYS well produced and engineered works of true art at the time.
This line up of songs "Some of Shelly's Blues, Mr. Bojangles, House At Pooh Corner, Propinquity (A Michael Nesmith of the Monkees composition), among others could have all easily been singles and done very well. In fact, I'm surprised some of them weren't. I love the 'visits' with Uncle Charlie and the other touches that make this more of an intimate experience with listener and the band. Still one of my favorite LP's of this genre of this period!
Genius at work!
on July 7, 2015
The Dirt Band was figuring out what kind of music they would settle on as a group, and this was really the direction they took. It was kind of a breakthrough album, and had one big hit, Mr Bojangles, a song written by Kris Kristofferson. The album can be seen as a precursor to the monumentally successful "Will the Circle Be Unbroken", which followed a year or two later. There's an interview with Uncle Charlie and his dog, but the dog really doesn't want to sing.
on March 29, 2014
Finally bought this CD after getting rid of my vinyl copy 20 years ago. I bought a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Greatest Hits CD but just didn't experience that old thrill. The entire collection of songs on this CD bring it all together, including the bits with Uncle Charlie and his Dog Teddy.
on April 17, 2014
This is a truly great collection of music and I have no reservations about buying the CD...my issue is with the cost of the MP3 downloads. $1.29 for each track and over 15 dollars for the convenience (and that's the only reason right there). Some of these tracks are VERY short, and it would take a LOT to justify plunking down that kind of money when used copies of the CD are going for under five dollars. My thoughts on the album are that it's one of the greatest to come from these guys and it's worth checking out, but the download is way overpriced. Get the disc used, enjoy the music and save yourself two thirds of the cost of downloading it!@