Rock and pop music are, by all accounts, as unfair as life itself. Imagine spending the prime years of one’s life, slowly honing one’s skills as a guitarist, songwriter, vocalist and fledgling producer/engineer, only to have the developed fruits of your labor passed over by industry, radio, even those who you may have connected with earlier. Such was the fate of Music And Dreams, a wonderful, privately-issued album released by Robert Lester Folsom in 1976 that’s very special to us here at Anthology Recordings, and an all-new collection of his home recordings, entitled Ode To A Rainy Day: Archives 1972-1975.
Robert Lester Folsom’s story isn’t all that uncommon in the parlance of his era. Too young to be drafted, he spent the ‘60s growing up in Adel, Georgia, a small town nearer to Valdosta and Florida’s northern border than anything resembling rock & roll, obsessing over his guitar as his craft and skills grew. Convincing a friend to go in on a Sears reel-to-reel tape recorder, which he’d eventually buy out, Folsom caught the recording bug, traveling all around the area with his mobile unit, capturing sound to tapes for hire, and mastering the art of multitracking, which would become essential to his own material. With a number of friends home from college here and there, Folsom would write and record a wealth of material, eventually self-releasing an 8-track tape of his strongest selections, which makes up the backbone of Ode To A Rainy Day – the first time these songs have been heard in decades.
The polish you’ll find on Music And Dreams is missing from the tracks on Ode, and if that’s how you need to swing, so be it. Ostensibly more homemade, if not entirely “outsider” – a tag usually reserved for musicians that exhibit some manner of concern to the outside world rather than their lack of suitability for the music industry, neither of which fits Folsom’s character or material – Ode showcases both impeccable songwriting across light folk, downer pop, front porch rock and woodshed country tropes, combined with ingenious arrangements and technical skills across primitive recording equipment. Folsom’s voice on these tracks pitches between Joe Walsh and Alzo Fronte, with a Southern twinge that grounds those tracks in reality. Patches of tough, Whitten-esque acid guitar soloing dot the title track and “On and On,” though the beauty of Ode lies in its tracking of the seasons: the supreme late summer laze of “See You Later, I’m Gone,” the wintry chill of instrumental “Oblivion,” the springtime sashays of “Situations” and “Lovels,” all bring out a natural, safely-exposed-to-the-elements sound from these works that transcends the humble circumstances in which they were fashioned. Rather, these songs wear those circumstances like a badge of honor, and listeners can decide for themselves the best parts of these approaches by comparing the versions of “Show Me To The Window” that crop up on both releases.
Folsom had become a seasoned studio head and professional musician by the time that his solo debut Music And Dreams had materialized. Recording at the Lefevre studio in Atlanta, GA, it brings the ideas presented on Ode into clear, polished relief, lushly appointed with synthesizers, clavinet, an army of percussion, and multiple tracks of orchestration and arrangements that’ll make you feel like you’ve heard any of these wonderful songs before. Folsom provides a homespun challenge to then-established artists as farflung as Todd Rundgren, Neil Young, and KC & The Sunshine Band, albeit with touches of guitar fuzz ripping (“Jericho”) that credit his upbringing from the decade prior. Had the record any manner of major label backing, it could’ve been a hit; as it stands, Music And Dreams has quietly amassed a cult following, with original copies trading for handsome sums, as attested by its presence in both editions of The Acid Archives, and its thorough championing by an unlikely ally, Gumball/Velvet Monkeys guitarist and celebrated producer Don Fleming, who grew up next door to Folsom back in Adel, and whose first outfit, The Stroke Band, was produced by Folsom himself at Lefevre in 1978.
We’re proud to make Music And Dreams available once again, and beyond ecstatic to present the music that led up to it on Ode To A Rainy Day.