A Spoonful of Cathy Young
Mainstream - 1969
When local Diggers' David DePoe and Brian (Blues) Chapman organized the Queen's Park Love-In in May of 1967, the budding singer-songwriter Cathy Young was barely a busker on the streets of Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood. But when Young was actually invited to play that Victoria Day weekend, on a bill that included the Rabble, Leonard Cohen and Buffy Sainte-Marie, it seemed like the chance of a lifetime.
"It was my graduation from the streets of Yorkville," she would later tell CFRB radio. "It was my first time I played in front of a lot of people, and there were 5,000 people there that day (but) the only song I was able to play was Buffy Sainte-Marie's 'Cod'ine'." And as luck would have it for the poor gal, she was slotted in to play immediately after Ms. Sainte-Marie. The quivering songstress thought to herself, "The only song I know is her song. What am I going to do?" Young bit the bullet, took to the stage and cheekily played her rendition of that great song, thus launching a career that would span over four decades.
By 1969, Young's rising star had caught the eye of Bob Shad, who released her debut record south of the border on his hip Mainstream label. Though A Spoonful of Cathy Young was chosen by Billboard as its "Pick of the Week", it went largely unnoticed, hardly a surprise in a rapidly changing rock world that saw bands like King Crimson, Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull bravely pull us into the seventies with their ground-breaking records that year.
Still, though A Spoonful of Cathy Young may have settled towards the bottom of the sixties dustbin, its curious mix of psych, folk and soul is certainly not without merit. Willie Dixon's 'Spoonful', which opens the record, is given a woozy, psychedelic treatment, and was the obvious choice for a single, I guess. But elsewhere things get much more interesting, especially on more soulful tracks like the excellent 'Everyone's a Dealer' and 'This Life'. This is where - if you can get past the occasionally awkward lyrics - Young's soaring vocal really starts to take off. When she manages to untether it from that high-pitched folky warble so common back then, her singing becomes an arresting mix of Laura Nyro, Grace Slick and perhaps even Melanie in her moodier moments.
A Spoonful of Cathy Young may not be essential listening, but for those who have worn out their copies of Eli and the Thirteenth Confession or New York Tendaberry, it is definitely worth checking out.
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