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Don Agrati "Homegrown" LP
 

Don Agrati "Homegrown" LP

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Genre: rock
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title:  Homegrown
Company: Elektra
Catalog: EKS-75057
Year: 1973
Country/State: Lafayette, California
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: includes original lyric insert white label promo copy
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 4776
Price: $20.00

Yes, I'll admit that I bought this album knowing full well that it was the work of 'Robbie Douglas' of Mickey Mouse Club 'Mouseketeer and My Three Sons' fame (check out the sly nod to the television program on the album cover - look in the weeds). I also knew that as Don Grady he'd been a member of The Palace Guard and The Yellow Balloon who'd recorded a surprisingly enjoyable collection of mid-1960s pop. So what !!! I also happened to know that this is a surprisingly good album. Good luck finding your own original copy.



Taking advantage of his television success and all-American good looks, under his stage name, starting in the mid-'60s Grady/Agrati recorded a string of modestly entertaining, if poor selling singles:


credited to Don Grady
- 1964's 'I Think You're Thru' b/w 'A Broken Heart Knows Better' (Capitol catalog number 5181)
- 1965's 'One Good Turn Deserves Another' b/w 'It's Better This Way' (Capitol catalog number 5362)
- 1966's 'Children Of St. Monica' b/w 'Good Man To Have Around The House' (Canterbury catalog C-501)
- 1966's 'Let It Happen' b/w 'Out' (Challenge catalog number 59328)
- 1967's 'Impressions With Syvonne' b/w 'Leaving It Up To You' (Canterbury catalog C-507)

credited to Don Grady and the Palace Guard
- 'Little People' b/w 'Summertime Games' (Orange Empire catalog number OE 9166-7)


Released in 1973, the aptly titled "Homegrown" came close to being a true one man show. Apparently recorded at home using 'Keith Olsen's homemade 8 track' Agrati wrote all eleven tracks, produced, mixed, sang and handled most of the instrumentation. Propelled by his likeable voice which occasionally reminded me a bit of Paul McCartney, or Emitt Rhodes (who's always reminded me of McCartney), the album was exceptionally varied, effortlessly bouncing from genre to genre. Not meant as a criticism, but it almost sounded like Agrati was trying to test himself to see if he could deal with different genres and styles. The album kicked off with a killer cut in the jazzy 'Bloodstream' (complete with some tasty scat singing and a horn solo that would have made Miles Davis proud). Elsewhere Agrati took stabs at McCartney-syled vaudeville revival ('One Man Woman'), '60s pop-psych ('Heather Ann'), sensitive singer/songwriter ('Story'), and hard rock (the Steve Winwood and Traffic-styled 'Hollywood Song'). Tracks like 'Love, Come My Way' and 'Sunny Day' were actually quite commercial, though nowhere near as interesting. His musical forays even include a brief chamber music interlude (the curiously titled 'Rocky Mountain Bear Hunt').

- Yeah, the opening scat section was a bit disconcerting, but when it got going 'Bloodstream' was a surprisingly cool jazzy number - imagine Steely Dan without the mean and ominous edge. It was tapped as the album's secoond single. rating: **** stars
- A breezy pop-tinged ballad, 'Love, Come My Way' suffered from a touch of Paul McCartney sentimentality ... actually this one was commercial, but saccahrine. Pass. rating: ** stars
- 'Who knows where the title came from, but Rocky Mountain Bear Hunt' was a chamber music styled instrumental. Quite pretty, if an odd thing to have included on the album. rating: *** stars
- Blending sunshine pop with a psych edge, 'Heather Ann' has a very mid-'60s feel and was one of the standout performances. Very radio-friendly and commercial. rating: *** stars
- Returning to singer/songwriter mode, 'Story' sounded a bit like a second tier Gilbert O'Sullivan song, or perhaps an equally bad early Billy Joel outing. That said, the lyric seemed to be autobiographical - maybe I'm reading too much into it, but perhaps a reflection on his My Three Sons days ... rating: ** stars
- I'll readily admit that some folks find vaudeville charming, but stuff like 'One Man Woman' leaves me at a complete loss. Even Paul McCartney couldn't pull something like this one off. Naturally Elektra decided to float it as a single. rating: ** stars
- Sporting a nifty '60s pop-psych feel that had a great melody, fantastic multi-tracked vocals and some cute lyrics, 'Hollywood Song' was my pick for one of the standout performances. The song also showcased Agrati's keyboard chops. Elektra should have tapped this one as a single, rather than the lame 'One Woman Man'. rating: **** stars
- The album's most blatantly radio ready number, 'Sunny Day' would have made for a near perfect summer single ... With a wonderful, instantly hum-ready melody and another example of Agrati's sterling multi-tracked vocals, what wasn't to love on this one ? rating: **** stars
- And then along comes a sappy, overly orchestrated MOR ballad like 'I Was a Man'. Talk about a mood killer, though at least it was short. rating: * star
- Opening in with snippet of in-studio chatter, 'Protoplasm Blues' sounded like a goofy jam that took on a life of its own, in the process becoming one of the album's most enjoyable performances. Fun from start to finish. rating: **** stars
- Unfortunately the album ended with a sputter; namely another shot of pseudo-vaudeville via 'Two Bit Afternoon'. Actually, with the marching band segment, the song sounded more like something out of a '50s musical than a pop album. rating: ** stars

Elektra also tapped the album for a pair of singles:


- 'One Woman Man' b/w 'One Man Woman (mono)' (Elektra catalog number EK-45846) 
- 'Bloodstream' b/w 'Two-Bit Afternoon' (Elektra catalog number EK-45860)  

Just a bit too heavy on the cutesy pop side to be a great album, but Agrati certainly had the chops to sell some albums. I've always wondered why this was his only album.

"Homegrown" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Bloodstream (Don Agrati) - 3:33
2.) Love, Come My Way   (Don Agrati) - 3:01
3.) Rocky Mountain Bear Hunt (instrumental) (Don Agrati) - 1:08
4.) Heather Ann (Don Agrati) - 3:04
5.) Story (Don Agrati) - 2:23
6.) One Man Woman (Don Agrati) - 2:07

(side 2)
1.) Hollywood Song (Don Agrati) - 4:03
2.) Sunny Day (Don Agrati) - 2:33
3.) I Was a Man (Don Agrati) - 2:30
4.) Protoplasm Blues (Don Agrati) - 4:22
5.) Two Bit Afternoon (Don Agrati) - 3:26

Until I did a little research I didn't realize what an active musician Agrati had been. Among other things, he was an in-demand jazz sessions player, he wrote the theme music for the Phil Donahue Show, composed the music that's used at the Universal Theme Parks, and wrote soundtracks for numerous movie and television programs. Sadly, in June 2012, a couple of weeks after I revisited this album, Grady died of cancer. He wass 68 years old.

It hasn't been updated since his death, but here's a link to Grady's website:
http://dongrady.com/music.html
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