Various Artists:
Singer Songwriter Project

July, 1965
Mono: Elektra EKS-299
Stereo: Elektra EKS-7299
Re-issued on CD in October, 2001 as Elektra 8122 73568-2

Production Supervisor: Jac Holzman
Recording Director: Paul A. Rothchild
Cover Photos: David Gahr
Cover Design:William S. Harvey
Liner notes by Richard Fariņa and Josh Dunson.

Reviewed in:
Broadside (New York). no. 63, October 16, 1965. By Edmund O. Ward.

This various artists anthology featured three songs recorded by Richard. Two of them, "Bold Marauder" and "House Un-American Blues Activity Dream," were recorded again for Richard & Mimi's second album, Reflections in a Crystal Wind. Although the Singer Songwriter tracks are not quite as polished as the later versions, they are still very good. The difference between the two versions lies mainly in the absence of Mimi's voice. She was not credited in the liner notes, so we can't be certain that the guitar playing is hers, but it does sound like her style. If these were demo tapes that were recorded for Elektra when Richard and Mimi were shopping around for a label, it would be highly unlikely that Mimi would not play on them. But the tracks may have been recorded under other circumstances, perhaps to publicize Richard as a songwriter and get more of his songs recorded by other people. It's also possible that their Vanguard contract prevented them from recording as a duo, which would explain why Mimi was left out of the credits.

The third song, "Birmingham Sunday," was not recorded again by Richard or Mimi, and is therefore one of Richard Fariņa's rarer songs. This is ironic because it is also one of his more famous songs. Sung to the tune of the Scottish ballad, "I Once Loved A Lass," this elegy commemorates the lives and innocence of the four girls who were killed in the vicious bombing of an African-American church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Joan Baez had debuted the song at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival and recorded it that year for her album, Joan Baez 5. Her version is also heard at the beginning of Spike Lee's documentary, 4 Little Girls. More recently, Tom Paxton and Anne Hills recorded "Birmingham Sunday" for their 2001 album, Under American Skies.

In addition to the songs, the album is also important for the liner notes Richard wrote, a mini-essay on some of the idiosyncrasies and contradictions of the urban folk revival. Richard's musings on the nature of the folksong as a medium may have been influenced by Marshall McLuhan's controversial book, Understanding Media, published a year before this album.

For many years Singer Songwriter Project was a rare, expensive collector's item. Fortunately, the album has recently been re-issued on CD in England together with David Blue's first solo album, with the complete liner notes as well (NOTE: one track by Patrick Sky was left off this CD). Make sure you get the Elektra release that has the *two* albums on one CD--there is a Collector's Choice release of just David Blue without Singer Songwriter.

The CD reissue. Detail of the Fariņa photo by David Gahr.

    Richard Fariņa:
  • House Un-American Blues Activity Dream
  • Birmingham Sunday
  • Bold Marauder
    Patrick Sky:
  • Too Many Times
    *(not included on the CD re-issue)
  • Talking Socialized Anti-Undertaker Blues
  • Many a Mile
    Bruce Murdoch:
  • Rompin' Rovin' Days
  • Down in Mississippi
  • Farewell my Friend
  • Try 'n' Ask
    Dave Cohen:
  • I Like to Sleep Late in the Morning
  • It's Alright with Me
  • Don't Get Caught in a Storm

A note on the other performers:

David Blue went by the name David Cohen on the Singer Songwriter LP but changed his name to David Blue by the time he released his first solo album, in 1966. Eric Andersen gave him this name because he was "gruff, nasty, unsmiling and suspicious." Bob Spitz, on the other hand, in his Dylan: A Biography, described David Blue as "the funniest, coolest, craziest, and quickest-on-the-draw of the bunch" in the folk scene (p. 345). That book also shows a photo of him with Richard Fariņa and Donovan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Judy Collins recalls her friendship with Blue in her autobiography, Trust Your Heart (pp. 131-132), noting that he died of a heart attack while running in Central Park in 1984.

Patrick Sky recorded his first album in 1965 on Vanguard, though he had also played guitar on Buffy Sainte-Marie's first album, in 1964. He hopped from label to label through the 60s and 70s, and is remembered best today for his bitterly satirical and politically provocative album, Songs That Made America Famous (Adelphi, 1973).

Bruce Murdoch is much more obscure than the others, and I don't have much info on him. He had made a name for himself throughout the Quebec folk scene by the age of 17, and was discovered by Richie Havens' manager Jacob Solmon. Havens reports in his autobiography, They Can't Hide Us Anymore, that Mudoch was a prodigy who was so brilliant and well-read that he taught a literature course at McGill University. Solmon and Havens introduced Murdoch to the Greenwich Village scene, and in 1970 he recorded an album, 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Minute on Richie Haven's label, Stormy Forest. Apparently he stopped performing in the late 70s and eventually became a high school principal in Alberta, though he did record one album after that. Beverly Davies remembers him thus:

Bruce was a friend of mine. He had very pock marked face, something like Brian Adams, and he carried his guitar, a Sunburst Gibson Hummingbird, in a beat up old case. But when he played, my God he was good. In 1965, he hitched to Toronto (or may have been driven by Billy Littler) and stayed at our house at 16 Admireal Road, where he sat in the kitchen playing his music. We were all blown away. That weekend he played the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orilla, Ontario, north of Toronto. He was a great hit that weekend in 1965 at Mariposa, as we read in the press. Bruce would come through Toronto again and then I didn't see him for a year or so. I ran into him at a march on the UN in New York City. Bruce's songs come to mind when I walk a city block, and his "Rompin' Rovin' Days" is never far from mind.