Margo Guryan's album Take a Picture, a lost classic of sweet pop (a la Astrud Gilberto or Claudine Longet) from the 60s, lovingly reissued in the past couple years by various labels, filled a void left by a lack of pleasant, sophisticated modern rock while also completing a picture of an era of songwriting which directly followed the hallowed Beach Boy's Pet Sounds.
At the end of each of the different versions of the cd reissues are a handful of demos. It turns out that these demos were a sampling of a small cache culled from a much larger wealth of demos.
Along with recording her one sole album in the late 60s, Margo cut a great amount of demos, some with just piano, and others with a small backing but nonetheless all of them properly arranged (and fairly well recorded - as was the practice in those days).
These demos were then covered by a large amount of artists from Mama Cass (I Think A Lot About You - her last single in 1974), Sunday Morning (Spanky and Our Gang), Think Of Rain (Bobby Sherman, Astrud Gilberto, and countless others), I Don't Intend To Spend Christmas Without You (Claudine Longet and much later an astute Saint Etienne), to name just a few.
Couple this with the amount of songs she eventually re-recorded on Take a Picture (including: Sun, Love Songs, Think Of Rain, What Can I Give You, Sunday Morning), and we are presented with 25 Demos.
I don't think you have to be in the know (anymore) to have heard about Margo Guryan or to appreciate her many talents and her unique charm. I'm sure that fans of everything from the Monkees to the Gentle Waves and Belle and Sebastian may have heard about her and would appreciate her. And if you missed her the first time around - or the second time - now's the time to check her out.
In essence 25 Demos can be divided up into two separate albums or sections. Tracks 1 through 15 were recorded in the 1960s and tracks 16 through 24 in the 1970s, with the final track 25 concluding it all as a recent (2000) recording of a very early composition (1966) which preceded all her other recordings.
There is continuity in sound between the tracks thanks to Margo's sweet whispery voice and her quirky songwriting and arrangement skills. Tracks 1 through 15 are lovelorn and sweet, but sophisticated melodies and time signatures (thanks to Margo's jazz background combined with her love for Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys) add a lot of dimension to the 'love song'.
These first 15 tracks are almost a song cycle for love (as was her LP Take a Picture). This is the story of young love, but not a naive love. A love that is self aware but still fragile. Track 4, the demo of Sunday Morning, has a funky feel to it and might outdo the re-recording from Take a Picture. Another of my favorites is Track 8 Most Of My Life which starts out simply: 'Most of my life, I fell in love in one minute flat' but then goes on to point out that 'losing someone I loved was part of the game' until now.
Track 12 I Don't Intend To Spend Christmas Without You is one of the better Xmas songs I have heard in recent years - and it was written on purpose not to mention typical Christmas imagery (snow, mistletoe, tinsel etc.) and has a great catchy chorus you will be humming for days.
There is a more adventurous flair to the 1970s demos. At this point, Margo breaks free of the love song (every so often) and begins to cover political, or social interests. A number of tunes (Tracks 18, 19, and 20) were inspired by the Nixon administration and take on a quirky dimension, do not sound dated one bit but point out our dissatisfaction with lying elected officials. Track 21 I'd Like To See The Bad Guys Win is directly inspired by the Mae West album Way Out West, originally released in the 1960s, and is a highlight.
The one track sorely missing is her ode to the rock group, a song called Spanky and Our Gang, originally released as a B-side to a single taken from Take a Picture but only included in demo form on the cd reissues and for some reason that demo version is not included here. A spunky intoxicating tune which could have found a home as a television theme song but didn't, could have been reissued on her first cd, but wasn't, is my favorite Margo Guryan song.
It looks like I will have to dish out for that 7 inch after all, and how much was it when I saw it at auction? oh a mere $50. Unless, there is another cd in the works for release, Margo....?