Take a Picture is a reissue of an underground classic from 1968. Margo Guryan was/is a respected songwriter from the ’60s whose songs were recorded by Claudine Longet, Spanky and Our Gang, Jackie DeShannon, Bobby Sherman, Astrud Gilberto, and Mama Cass. Equal parts jazz and soft pop, Guryan’s work flows like cream out of the speakers. For the hardcore Guryan fans, please forgive the following analogy for the benefit of those not familiar with her work. Think “Girl from Ipanema” or think “To Sir with Love” with very high feminine vocals, highlighted by complex jazz chord phrasings.
The opener, “Sunday Morning” recorded by Spanky and Our Gang, and most recently by the pop artist Linus of Hollywood (see PopMatters review) typifies the majority of the cuts on the CD. Lyrics often fail to suggest the melody that accompanies them, but that is not the case on the recording or this track:
“Sunday Morning, Sun Shining from Your Eyes, Sleepy Face, Smiling Into Mine, Sunday Morning, Lots of Time with Nothing to Do, Lots of Time to Spend with You, On Sunday Morning”
Indeed, these are simple lyrics describing an intimate Sunday experience in a tasteful, descriptive way. Whether or not by design I am not sure, but the chords and melody paint an aural landscape of freshness, brightness, hope and intimacy, a theme present on “Sunday Morning” and throughout the remainder of the songs.
The second track, “Sun”, is a standout. That it is a standout also happens to be the opinion of the great Darian Sahanaga (Wondermints, Brian Wilson). Taken from the liner notes, describing “Sun”, Darian says: “… what a gorgeous song. With every chord shift I follow her step by step on her own secret path upward. It’s an ethereal journey rarely made by others…this is the stufff of heavens. Timeless….”
Sahanaja goes on to compare Guryan with Vince Guaraldi (jazz pianist who pennned the classic Peanuts music soundtracks) and the great Brian Wilson. I wouldn’t go as far as Darian, but I wouldn’t claim to understand as much as Darian does the grandeur of what likely lies within the structures of these sonically dense, but flowing compositions.
This CD release has been too long in coming. The resurgence of pop, power pop, lounge and soft pop made the rerelease of this recording feasible. It is a shame that such an artist cannot flourish in the musical times we are in today. I repeat a common theme of many of my reviews: music is all about songs and songwriting. Compositional excellence. Margo Guryan is a legend who deserves the mantra of legendary songwriter, and I urge you to seek this recording out.