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  • Valley Hi/Some Days You Eat the Bear and Some Days the Bear Eats You
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Valley Hi/Some Days You Eat the Bear and Some Days the Bear Eats You

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Audio CD, March 16, 2006
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$139.22 $79.73

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As a member of Fairport Convention in the late '60s, Ian Matthews helped create a superb fusion of traditional British folk and modern California country-rock. After leaving Fairport in 1969, Matthews was a restless soul, founding two bands in a matter of three years (Southern Comfort and Plainsong) while also putting out solo albums. However, when Elektra signed him to a solo contract in 1973, it was a dream come true. He'd desperately wanted to move to the West Coast and soak in its fertile music scene. Not only did Elektra invite him to record in L.A., they even found him a place to live in the San Fernando Valley. Fully embracing the local aesthetic, Matthews recorded two excellent albums for the label, both of which are included here. Valley Hi, produced by Mike Nesmith, is a near-perfect example of the California country sound, while the self-produced Some Days You Eat the Bear (And Some Days the Bear Eats You) is less twangy and finds Matthews heading in a more pop-oriented direction. Throughout Matthews mixes a few top-notch originals with a terrific selection of covers: songs by Fairport buddy Richard Thompson, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, Crazy Horse, Steely Dan, Steve Young, Jesse Winchester, Gene Clark, and Randy Newman. Graced by Matthews's soft, gentle tenor vocals and an easy-flowing, laid-back sound, this set is essential for any fan of the soothing California sound of the '70s. --Marc Greilsamer

1. Keep On Sailing
2. Old Man At The Mill
3. Shady Lies
4. These Days
5. Leaving Alone
6. 7 Bridges Road
7. Save Your Sorrows
8. What Are You Waiting For
9. Propinquity
10. Blue Blue Day
11. Ol'
12. I Don't Wanna Talk About It
13. A Wailing Goodbye
14. Keep On Sailing
15. Tried So Hard
16. Dirty Work
17. Do I Still Figure In Your Life
18. Home
19. Biloxi
20. The Fault

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 16, 2006)
  • Original Release Date: 2003
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Water
  • ASIN: B0000C509W
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,562 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By greyhoundude on February 24, 2004
Format: Audio CD
the finest West Coast country/rock album ever recorded...certainly one of the most listenable. Track-for-track, it pounds albums by the likes of the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, etc, etc, etc into the turf. A large amount of credit (much to Iain's everlasting chagrin) must go to producer Michael Nesmith, whose Countryside Band (Iain wanted boring L.A studio musicians to supply instrumentation....more on that in a bit) was absolutely perfect for these tunes. Nesmith's production shines throughout. The arrangement for "Seven Bridges Road" was directly stolen by the Eagles....that's Nesmith's arrangement you hear on the radio by the Eagles, folks.

Other standout tracks include "Old Man At The Mill," "Keep On Sailing," Richard Thompson's "Shady Lies" (unreleased by Thompson), "Propinquity," and "Blue Blue Day." For some reason, "You Fell Through My Mind" (the B-side of "Seven Bridges Road" and an excellent tune) was not included in this package. It's featured as a bonus track on the now-deleted THE SOUL OF MANY PLACES collection. Go figure. And buy that CD as well, if you can find it.

Unlike Iain's subsequent releases, the cover tunes on VALLEY HI all work. It's a shame that, although he's released some fine albums since, Iain never really reached this level of quality again.

SOME DAYS YOU EAT THE BEAR was released a short time after VALLEY HI and suffers from poor production and a very muddy mix. Saying goodbye to Nesmith and his Countryside Band, Iain employs your typical (for the day) run-of-the-mill mellow country/rock L.A. whiz-kid session players.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By T. A. Shepherd on January 16, 2007
Format: Audio CD
How nice of them to pair up these two Electra albums on one disc! I've always preferred the "Valley Hi" version of "Keep on Sailing" to the one on "Some Days". Most likely, it's due to the late Red Rhodes' dobro playing. He was the greatest steel guitar player of all time, but more about Iain: Iain was really the best male singer in Fairport and when they lost him, I'm afraid they lost some of the magic that made their first two albums so unique. Anyway, Matthews went on to form Southern Comfort. Their second and third albums come highly recommended. Their sense of ecclectism was uncanny and fresh. That said, Iain found a true partner in Andy Roberts and the two of them formed Plainsong. Their "In Search of Amelia Earhart" album remains a classic to this day. When Plainsong personnel went sour during the recording sessions for their second album, "Now We Are Three", Matthews went solo and teamed up with Michael Nesmith & the First National Band. The result was "Valli Hi", a collection of engaging original material, much of what was from the second Plainsong album sessions. "Keep On Sailing" was the album's signature song, but the real treat here is "Seven Bridges Road", a song The Eagles copied note-for-note. This is the original recording of that nature with Iain doing all the harmony vocals and let this be known here and now: This is the definitive version! Red plays a steel solo that literally comes alive. Richard Thompson's "Shady Lies" is a supurb country ballad as good as any song on "Henry the Human Fly". It seagues from "Old Man at the Mill", a tradition folk song from The Dillards' song book. He does a super reading of Jackson Browne's "These Days". Tom Waits' "Ol' 55" (from "Some Days") never sounded better since it was done back in '74.Read more ›
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 28, 2004
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Music fans rejoice -- this release collects two of the ex-Fairport Convention singer's best releases. Valley High, produced by country-rock visionary Mike Nesmith, is a beautiful and moving collection of sterling so-cal country rock, much better performed and written then the more popular entries by the Eagles of this period. Look for Ian's soulful and thoughtful rendition of Jackson Browne's These Days, as a highlight, along with a blistering take on the traditional Old Man at the Mill.
Bear is another winner, which over time opens up and envelopes you in the sweet tenor of Ian even more than Valley High. A great two-fer!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Stephen Reid on January 12, 2012
Format: Audio CD
"Somedays You Eat THE BEAR....And Somedays The Bear Eats You" (to give it its correct and charmingly weird title) was Iain's (or Ian as he was then) second solo album for Jac Holzman's Electra label (his first was the Michael Nesmith produced "Valley Hi"). Recorded in '73 and released in '74, "Somedays" was self-produced, and consequently was much more representative of where Matthews was coming from musically at the time. Personally, I consider this to be the best album Iain has made in his long and illustrious career, surpassing even the Top 20 charting, radio-frendly "Stealing Home". I have owned this album in one form or another since '74, have played it literally over a thousand times, and still love to listen to it. It's a wonderfully summery album and a great driving companion.
"Somedays" kicks off with a great version of Tom Waits' "Ol '55", surpassing the contemporary Eagles ("On The Border") cut. Iain I think is always at his best when covering the songs of the great (and largely at the time ignored) American songwriters. There are some lovely interpretations on this album - most notably Danny Whitten's beautiful "I Dont Wanna Talk About It', Jesse Winchester's lush "Biloxi", Peter Blumson's "Do I Still Figure I Your Life?", and a great reading of Gene Clark's "Tried So Hard" which easily eclipses the Burritos' version. Fagen and Becker's "Dirty Work" is very close to the original, which is not surprising as at the time Iain was being touted as the replacement for David Palmer as guest vocalist in Steely Dan.
The Matthews' originals on "Somedays" are all re-workings of songs which he had tried out before (on the then unreleased second Plainsong album), except for "Keep On Sailing" which is a much improved version of the one which appeared on "Valley Hi".
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