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

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, March 16, 2006
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Editorial Reviews


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

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  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 (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,115 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
Yowza did this take me back! One of my favorite albums from the 70's and to be honest of all time. When started to listen to it I found I can still sing along to all of the songs, they are literally burned into my brain. The production by Michael Nesmith is spot-on as is the band. If you are an Eagles fan they owe a lot to this album, not saying they "borrowed" anything from this album (7 Bridges Road) but you may detect a few similarities. Highly recommended.
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Underrated is an understatement when talking about Ian Matthews. Few singers in the past 40 years have recorded as many fine albums as Matthews, yet remain so unknown to music listeners around the world. I wouldn't go as far as calling him an innovator, as one reviewer did, although he was one of the early practioners of folk-rock, but he is certainly a peerless interpreter of other writer's songs, as witnessed on this 2-for-1 reissue of two of his better early 1970s albums. Other reviewers have hailed his versions of songs such as "Seven Bridges Road", "I Don't Want to Talk About It," and "Ol' 55", but there are many other gems on this CD, including covers of Steely Dan's pop gem "Dirty Work" and Jesse Winchester's sublime "Biloxi." Matthews obviously chose these songs with care and attention, serving as showcases for his soothing vocal style, but there is also passion in these arrangements too. Listen to these songs and immerse yourself in the melodic magic.
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There are some albums that belong in any music collection -- it's great fun and often richly rewarding to truly open oneself to as many different musical styles as possible. Considering this, if there were a folk/rock/country genre, VALLEY HI is one of those albums that truly should be in any afficianados collection. The perfectly melded country, folk and rock, the mystical, the down-to-earth flavors: all are included here in spades. Back in the day, this would fit nicely, even providing one of the defining influences, of that niche of music my friends and I termed 'head' music. Absolutely wonderful for it's earthy to ethereal beauty, one could easily use this work as a background for anything from parties to meditation. Matthews was one of the early members of the successful folk-rock band Fairport Convention, and while Ian makes this music truly his alone, some of that influence seems still to have crept in -- with the result being a blending of styles holding these songs together quite nicely. The addition of the not-quite-as-dazzling album SOME DAYS YOU EAT THE BEAR (...) still is a wonderful plus, with some of the songs ranging from oh-so-mellow to the truly toe tapping rowdy: free music is always appreciated, and free music by Ian Matthews and friends is just a no-brainer! This really takes me back (although it's still in my regularly rotating queue). Some of my fondest memories are of listening to this album (VALLEY HI) with my closest friends and trying to add some of the better songs to our own musical repertoire (with me just learning the mandolin and my friends on guitar; all of us doing our best to try to sing along and capture some of the unique harmonies beautifully used by Matthews & Co. on the many stand-out cuts).... Good times, good friends, good music. Try this one -- you won't be sorry. Bubba
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