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River Saint - River Saint (LP)

River Saint - River Saint (LP)

Price: $125.00 currently not available     
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Genre: country-rock
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  River Saint
Company: Van Dyke
Catalog: 14041
Year: 1978
Country/State: Miami, Florida
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: minor ring wear
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6141
Price: $125.00

River Saint is a rare album, even for an obscure tax scam label like Album World. As you'd expect, there's no biographical information to be found on the web with respect to this outfit. That said, based on the abbreviated liner notes accompanying their sole LP, River Saint appears to have been a real Florida-based band showcasing the talents of drummer Steve Brettholz, bassist Jim Keegan, guitarist Steve McNamara, sax player Bruce Shepard, and guitarist Art Schmidt. I can also tell you that 1977's cleverly-titled "River Saint" was recorded in Miami's Studio Center Sound Recording with Gary Vandy producing (he also contributed guitar to a couple of tracks).

So what's this one sound like? With Keegan and McNamara sharing prime songwriting responsibilities, most of the album wallowed in a country-rock mode. Imagine an outfit a bit more country-tinged than Poco, but a bit more rock and pop-oriented than Asleep At the Wheel. Keegan and McNamara also shared lead vocal duties. Unfortunately neither was particularly gifted in the vocal department. Given the absence of detailed performance information I'm not sure which principal was featured on individual songs, but the two had distinctive vocal styles - one of the two sounded like a shrill version of the late Ray Stevens (I'm guessing Keegan), while the other was perpetually nasally, flat and sounded like he was singing with a throat full of phlegm (I'm guessing McNamara).

Be forewarned, the track sequence shown on the back panel was incorrect. The correct sequences are shown in the song list and the brief song descriptions shown below.

- Musically 'Jesus, Buddha & the Lost Disciples' started off with some promising country-rock guitar segment, but went down the tubes when the vocal kicked in. Not sure if Keegan or McNamara was featured on vocals (I'm guessing Keegan since he wrote the song), but regardless the performance was shrill and occasionally borderline out-of-tune. Unfortunate since the song itself offered up a decent slice of country-pop. rating: ** stars
- 'Can You Pay Your Dues' featured a much more distinctive country feel and in spite of another lackluster vocal (different singer this time out), was actually a stronger song. Nice breezy melody with one of those 'country-wisdom' lyrics - think along the lines of the late Hoyt Axton and you'd have a feel for this one. Nice summer tune. rating: *** stars
- 'Get Down Old Cowboy' was a laidback country-ballad with one of the album's best guitar solos. Again, a flat vocal detracted from the overall performance. rating: *** stars
- 'The Time of Our Lives' was another catchy country-rock number that was killed by the irritating lead vocal. Shame this one wasn't covered by Firefall, Poco, or some country-rock entity with a better lead singer. rating: ** stars
- With a catchy, up-tempo rock melody and some nice bass work from Keegan 'Soulfull of Gold' (their spelling, not mine), was probably side one's best performance. I'm normally not a bug sax fan, but Bruce Shephard turned in a killer performance on this one. rating: **** stars
- Kicked along by a nice guitar riff, 'Feel What I Feel' found the band making a concerted effort to rock out. Musically the results were quite impressive (again, the guitar work was excellent), but a flat an emotionless vocal took almost all of the energy out of the performance. rating: *** stars
- 'Stormy Soul Serenade' was a sax-propelled, early-1960s sounding instrumental that would have made decent incidental music for a 'B' grade frat-boy flick. rating: * star
- Keegan's 'Awakening (Sweet Contagious Dreams)' was a pretty ballad made even more surprising by the fact his vocal was quite good (as was the bluesy guitar work). rating: *** stars
- 'To Make a New Tomorrow' was built on a insidiously catchy guitar and bass figure (every time I hear it I think of the Woody Woodpecker song). It was another track where the vocal wasn't halfway irritating. One of my favorites tracks on the album. rating: **** stars
- 'Son-of-a-Gun' ended the album with a hideous pseudo polka number. Total waste of time and vinyl. rating: * star

All told a couple of entertaining moments, but hardly a must-own set.

"River Saint" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Jesus, Buddha & the Lost Disciples (Jim Keegan) -
2.) Can You Pay Your Dues (Steve McNamara) -
3.) Get Down Old Cowboy (Steve Brettholz)
4.) The Time of Our Lives (Steve Brettholz)
5.) Soulfull of Gold (Jim Keegan) -

(side 2)
1.) Feel What I Feel (Steve McNamara) -
2.) Stormy Soul Serenade (instrumental) (Jim Keegan) -
3.) Awakening (Sweet Contagious Dreams) (Jim Keegan) -
4.) To Make a New Tomorrow (Jim Keegan) -
5.) Son-of-a-Gun (Jim Keegan) -

Producer Vandy's still active in music. I should drop him a note sometime and ask him about this outfit.
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