Skip to main content

Review: "Stories We Could Tell: The Very Best of John Sebastian"

by Roger Wink, VVN Music

John Sebastian's musical legacy has always been overshadowed by his days with the Lovin' Spoonful to the detriment of his solo work.

Reprise and Varese Sarabande recently put the spotlight on the latter with Stories We Could Tell: The Very Best of John Sebastian with sixteen tracks from the singer-songwriter's post-Spoonful years.

While my initial reaction, upon seeing the track list, was that they had missed the boat on a number of songs, the album actually comes together quite well with a well divided overview, including two to three tracks from each of his 70's studio albums along with four from his 1971 live set.

The album kicks off with probably his best solo single, "She's a Lady", which went to just 84 on the Hot 100 although it deserved much greater popularity.  It's followed by "Magical Connection" and "You're a Big Boy Now" from his self titled solo debut, which just isn't enough.  The album was superb and, at a minimum, "Red-Eye Express" deserved to be included here although I could also make a case for "Rainbows All Over Your Blues" and "I Had a Dream".

The Motown infused "I Don't Want Nobody Else" highlights songs from The Four of Us but it is the third of the tracks included from the album that was probably the one mistake made in song selection. The track "The Four of Us" was a suite that took up all of side 2 of the 1971 album and, while it was a noble experiment, sixteen minutes is just too much space on this single CD retrospective.  Choosing a different track from this album would have left room for the previously mentioned songs from Sebastian's debut album or other works.

Of course, the megahit "Welcome Back" is here, John's number 1 song from 1976 but, in retrospect, it may be the most dated sounding track on the album.

The real treat, and I commend the companies for including them, are the four tracks from the 1971 album Cheapo Cheapo Productions Presents Real Live John Sebastian. Of all of Sebastian's solo releases, this one captures the raw exuberance and fun of his true musical personality.  John jumps between solo songs, music from his Lovin' Spoonful days, and a number of songs from both the early rock canon and what would now be called Americana. All four tracks from the album here were Lovin' Spoonful hits that, most likely, the companies did not have the rights to so they used these live takes.

Overall, Stories We Could Tell is an above average look back at Sebastian's solo days that could have been excellent with just the changing of a couple of tracks.

Varese Sarabande supplied a copy of this album to VVN Music for review.