Jerry Yester: Pass Your Light Around

The songs reflect the 1970s, the time from which they emerged. This music recalls the soft pop of that era.

When is a reissue not a reissue, or maybe the inquiry would be more accurate as when is a lost album not really lost? Jerry Yester's Pass Your Light Around begs these types of questions. Yester, a folk rocker from the 1960s who served stints with the Modern Folk Quartet and the Lovin' Spoonful and produced albums for the Association, Tim Buckley, and the Turtles, recorded these songs in various studios throughout the 1970s. Yester created the 15 tracks here using a variety of instruments and players back then (with one exception, an instrumental from 1964) but he never released, until now, in a remastered form.

Jerry Yester

Pass Your Light Around

Label: Omnivore
US Release Date: 2017-08-08

As one might expect from music originally made 40 years ago, the songs sound dated and reflect the period from which they emerged. That's a double-edged sword. This music resembles of soft pop of that era (think Bread, America, and Seals & Croft). It's peaceful, laid-back and mellow. It can also be meaningless and bland. The tracks on this album tend to fall into the latter category.

There are many times one just wants Yester to let loose. His vocals and instrumentals always come off as controlled. Love, the main topic of this and most popular music, should make one feel liberated. Instead, Yester tends to declare his feelings without really expressing them with passion. One doesn't have to howl, but there does need to provide an intensity of emotion to give the songs a deeper significance. Otherwise, the notion of love resembles the kind one has when referring to relatively trivial things, as in “I just love your outfit". One expects more important feelings.

The best songs here offer a blissful innocuousness. On tracks such as “My Dusty Darling", “The Sun is Like a Big Brass Band" and “Dance for Me, Anna Lee", Yester gets playful and idiosyncratic. He plays everything from a classical Harpsichord to what sounds like a toy piano to create eccentric musical accompaniments to somewhat nonsensical verses like: “I loved a girl from Phoenix / her wings were weak and bare / but when she got her feathers / she faded in the air." The ephemerality of the character is mimicked by the lyrics that dissipate into nothingness.

The music's fragility implies the sensitivity of its male performer when being soft was being cool and manly. That doesn't make him less of a sexist. For example, Yester begins the stately “Across the Persian Gulf" with the line “I wish you were a slave girl" with a vocal emphasis on the word “slave". That does not make him a pig but reflects the norms of the time when a singer could gently coo about wanting a woman whose primary reason in life would be to serve her man. And the presumption was that most women secretly just wanted a man to tend.

That was then; this is now. Releasing this music now suggests its timelessness. The disc has its share of charm and can be fun. However, it does not transcend its time. The remastering may have made the sonics sound good on today's more modern equipment, but the songs themselves recall the past. They come off as artifacts rather than seeming ageless.

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