And Still More...

You can guess the Texas element in Mother Earth found Tennessee too similar to the environment they’d run away from years before, and sought out friendlier environments, but most of them stayed long enough to record the second Mother Earth album, Make A Joyful Noise, co-produced in Nashville by Rivers and Nelson in 1969. As a side project, she also recorded Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country, coaxing Elvis Presley's Sun-era guitarist Scotty Moore out of retirement to produce and play on her version of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's That's All Right Mama

While it’s a pleasant enough album, Make A Joyful Noise isn’t in the same league as its predecessor. There’s an R&B City Side and a Country Side featuring the sort of material you’d associate with Nashville, but the mix doesn’t work as well as the Powell, a couple from Tracy, another Powell, couple more Tracy formula on Living With The Animals

One big difference is that the Texas horns were gone, as were Naftalin and Rains, but in came Boz Scaggs, who Tracy had known back home in Wisconsin, playing rhythm, and drummer Lonnie Castille, formerly with Archie Bell and The Drells, of Tighten Up fame. Another difference is the male vocal foil for Tracy. Powell St John’s still there, but most of the guy songs are handled by Ronald Stallings whose voice might have been adequate but it doesn’t have the same sort of vocal character that Powell added to his tracks on the first album.

The musical chairs continued as time went by, and when the next Mother Earth album, Satisfied, appeared the following year, only Tracy and Toad Andrews were left from the Animals line-up.

If you’re interested, over at Wolfgang’s Vault ( there are glimpses of an earlier (pre-Living With The Animals) line-up of Mother Earth, performing between The Flamin' Groovies and Jefferson Airplane on 29/30 September 1967, about a year before the album’s release, Most of the tracks were never officially recorded, but the blues, rock and gospel elements in the group's sound show Mother Earth as one of the most diverse sounding Bay Area bands in 1967 with a tinge of psychedelia, but an earthier, more bluesy sound than many of their contemporaries.

The Winterland 29 September 1967 set begins with a harp and organ groove that transmutes into a keyboard/drums jam and meanders through ten and a half minutes of ensemble playing. Mobile Lill has a nice groove, harp from Powell and a throaty Nelson vocal. No Use Crying is a step back vocally, as Tracy relinquishes the microphone (Wayne Talbert vocal? Doesn’t sound like Living With The Animals Powell - maybe it’s the earmuffs). Ensemble vocals on Turn Your Truck Around kick into a nice groove, then Tracy’s back for Without Love (There Is Nothing) which Mother Earth recorded for the Revolution soundtrack. Nice. Rockin' Pneumonia And the Boogie Woogie Flu hits another nice groove but fades prematurely. There’s an early two-bloke vocal version of Living With The Animals, which starts in progress after the Rockin' Pneumonia fade out. The closer, Help Me Jesus, gets into a gospel groove, Tracy’s vocals over driving drums on the verses with the rest of the band kicking in on the chorus. Nice set. Wish I’d been there to witness it.


© Ian Hughes 2012