There are certain albums a person returns to, over and over again. These albums often transcend time and genre, and chances are you can name a few of them that reside in your own music collection. I’m talking about that special album you might play when you’re down, or when you just need a visit from an old friend to remind you of another time. At The Second Disc, we frequently strive to remind you of those albums.
Through the years, one such record for me has been Paul Williams’ Someday Man. No matter how many times I listen, it still strikes me as a perfect pop album. Yet upon its release in May 1970 as Reprise 6401, Someday Man appeared and disappeared, and that was that, for roughly 30 years. One of its songs is entitled “Mornin’ I’ll Be Movin’ On,” and both Paul Williams (lyrics/vocals) and Roger Nichols (music/production) did indeed move on. Before dissolving their songwriting partnership in 1972, Williams and Nichols composed hits for a number of artists but perhaps most memorably the Carpenters: “Rainy Days and Mondays.” “We’ve Only Just Begun.” “I Won’t Last a Day Without You.” “Let Me Be the One.” While those songs practically created the soundtrack of the seventies, they in fact owe a great debt to the sounds developed on Someday Man.
Following up its recent deluxe reissue of The Holy Mackerel’s only LP (Now Sounds CRNOW 21), Williams’ early band, Now Sounds has delivered an expanded edition of Someday Man (CRNOW 22) and it won’t disappoint both longtime fans of the album and those who have only just begun (pun intended) to discover the charms of this great lost sunshine pop classic.
Now Sounds’ new Someday Man offers twelve additional tracks (two more than are actually on the album itself!) including four mono single mixes, two demos, four revealing instrumental backing tracks (check out the optimistic horn punctuation after the title song’s chorus), and most fascinatingly, the sessions for “Someday Man” and a song that didn’t make the album, “The Drifter.” The latter song did appear as a single by Nichols’ group Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends in a version apparently utilizing the same backing track as heard here. The infectiously jaunty “Drifter” also received a number of cover versions from artists as disparate as Kenny Lynch and Steve Lawrence. Of course, Rev-Ola’s expanded reissue of Small Circle of Friends (Rev-Ola CRREV 86) is another must-have for any fan of vocal harmony, sunshine pop or just great songs played with superb musicianship.
Throughout the 10 original tracks that comprise Someday Man, the arrangements (by some of the business’ best, including Perry Botkin, Jr., Bob Alcivar, John Andrew Tartaglia, Artie Butler and Chad Stuart of Chad and Jeremy!) and production by Nichols are beautifully married to Williams’ conversational, direct lyrics. The wistful horns that open “Do You Really Have a Heart?” (also recorded by Dobie Gray on White Whale in 1969) speak volumes, while “To Put Up with You” employs relaxed brass to point up the irony of the irresistible put-down lyric. Like “The Drifter,” “To Put Up with You” is one of those songs that you simply won’t believe wasn’t a big AM radio hit. Of course, Williams delivers his own words in the kind of modest and warm voice that is characteristic of many songwriters, making up for lack of technique with immense honesty.
The title song may be familiar to Monkees fans, as the group recorded it to little commercial success despite a terrific Bones Howe production. “Someday Man” espouses what strikes me as a wonderful, positive philosophy, and one that’s very “Paul Williams”: “Some people always complain that their life is too short/So they hurry it along…Their worries drive them insane/But they still go along for the ride/As for me/I have all the time in the world…Tomorrow’s a new day, baby/Anything can happen at all!” Nichols’ music builds to the chorus’ great release, matching Williams’ vivid imagery each step of the way.
Not that this bona fide sunshine pop classic is all light. There are a full range of emotions on display in the song cycle, which has a recognizable late-sixties aesthetic despite the phenomenal success its creators would go onto in defining the style of seventies pop. Written in the shadow of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and with a sobering reference to the slain leader in its lyric, “So Many People” is set to a tough acoustic guitar riff and is tastefully enhanced by producer Nichols’ graceful strings and subtle horns. It’s still poignant and all too relevant today. It’s heartening to read in producer Steve Stanley’s excellent liner notes that Williams is still proud of this socially aware song: “So many people and all in a hurry/Living in circles of worship and worry/Dressing so long that they’re usually late for the show…So busy judging the heads that they’re turning/So busy fighting there’s no time for learning/Turning their backs on the people they might like to know.” The pensive “Trust,” colored with baroque strings, is another standout track, though there’s no weak link in the entire tunestack. “I Know You” and “Time” (the latter a prescient rumination on mortality from its young songwriters) are both haunting melodies, but there’s an undercurrent of hope in the music and orchestration. This balance is redolent of many of the finest works of the era, and on Someday Man, Nichols and Williams found beauty amidst all the upheaval. The use of the sitar on “Time” places it in the era it was recorded but still sounds fresh today; it’s no surprise that the famed Los Angeles “Wrecking Crew” worked their magic on this album.
The cinematic quality of the songs on Someday Man evinces the talent that would lead Williams into a successful career writing songs for both the screen and the stage. While none of the songs are particularly long, they linger in the memory thanks to their strong melodic hooks, inventive arrangements and simple, truthful lyrical sentiments. One can only wonder where the Nichols/Williams partnership would have led had they continued to work together; upon their breakup, Williams would flex his muscles more as both lyricist and composer, as well as form another successful partnership with Kenny Ascher. Nichols would go on to pen more standards including “Times of Your Life,” as recorded by Paul Anka. The songs they wrote together between 1968 and 1972, however, continue to be recorded and anthologized, testament to their craft and timeless quality. (Hmmm, wouldn’t an Ace Songwriters Series-style volume featuring Paul and Roger’s songs interpreted by others be a fine candidate for future release? One can only hope!)
Now Sounds’ definitive reissue boasts a customarily strong essay by Stanley drawing on interviews with both Nichols and Williams, and information on all of the bonus tracks. It’s delightful to see the old Reprise logo on the orange label resurrected on the disc with a Now Sounds twist, and the album’s cover art, with the diminutive Williams dwarfed by an enormous, rather foreboding house, is as striking as ever.
If you’re still looking for that perfect holiday gift for the music lover in your life, you couldn’t do much better than this expanded version of Someday Man. To steal from Nick Lowe, it’s pure pop for now people, and it’s a gift that with time, will just keep on giving.