Somewhere in rock’s back pages, you might find the name of Tom Northcott, troubadour. After establishing himself as the folk-singing frontman of The Tom Northcott Trio in his native Canada, Northcott headed for California, and proved himself in the fertile musical ground of the San Francisco Bay Area, opening for acts like The Who, The Doors and Jefferson Airplane. Soon he found himself even further south, signed to Los Angeles’ Warner Bros. Records. And between 1966 and1969, Northcott recorded some twenty sides for the label, working with names from the WB “house team,” gents like Lenny Waronker and Leon Russell. At the water tower, Northcott also had access to some of rock’s great songwriters, so he recorded compositions by the likes of Harry Nilsson and, of course, Waronker’s close pal Randy Newman. But when Tom Northcott abandoned music to practice law in the early 1970s, after having cut one 1971 LP for UNI Records, he was all but forgotten. In recent months, Rhino Handmade had been asking the question “Who is Tom Northcott?” in various teasers. Now, the question is answered, and in the best way possible: via the man’s music.
Sunny Goodge Street: The Warner Bros. Recordings collects twenty of Northcott’s recordings for the label, including six previously-unreleased tracks from 1968 and 1969, recorded in both Los Angeles and London. The collection has been many years in the making, beginning with Andrew Sandoval and Bill Inglot’s unearthing of the original tapes and finding the additional unissued tracks and rare single versions. The complete, 10-track The Best of Tom Northcott LP as originally released in 1970 is, of course, included in full. This LP never received wide release in the U.S., designed for the Canadian market, so the music contained within its grooves will be particularly new to many listeners. (Billboard noted on August 1, 1970 that the album was “enjoying much Vancouver sales success.”) The album also contains the single versions of “Sunny Goodge Street” and its flip, “Who Planted Thorns in Miss Alice’s Garden,” plus Northcott’s final single with Warner Bros., “Make Me an Island,” written by Albert (“It Never Rains in Southern California”) Hammond and arranged by Nilsson collaborator Perry Botkin, Jr.
Hit the jump for much, much more, including the full track listing and discography!
You’ll hear Northcott’s shimmering, elaborately orchestral take on Donovan’s “Sunny Goodge Street,” as arranged by Leon Russell (also responsible for the chart to Harpers Bizarre’s “Feelin’ Groovy” for WB). Randy Newman contributes “Somebody Always Gets Hurt,” never commercially recorded by its writer. Harry Nilsson provides two of the tracks, “1941” and “The Rainmaker,” the latter with an arrangement by the prolific “Wall of Sound” architect Jack Nitzsche (himself the recipient of an early Rhino Handmade anthology). Northcott pays homage to Bob Dylan with his version of “Girl of the North Country,” and tackles Joni Mitchell’s “Night in the City.” Northcott himself wrote original songs such as “Who Planted Thorns in Miss Alice’s Garden.”
Befitting the artist’s mystique, Rhino Handmade has pulled out all of the stops on this release. Graphic artist Bruce Licher was enlisted to design the package, a 10″ x 10″ letterpress-printed folio. In addition to the CD itself, the folio contains an “underground newspaper” that doubles as the album’s liner notes. Written by producer Andrew Sandoval, they detail Northcott’s years with Warner Bros. and provide track-by-track annotation. You’ll also find a reproduction of a concert handbill circa 1966 and a Warner promotional photo of the artist. The cover artwork was created by renowned psychedelic artist Bob Masse.
Tom Northcott’s The Warner Bros. Recordings is limited to 3,500 copies, and the cover artwork will be printed in four different colors, 875 apiece. It’s available now for pre-order directly from Rhino Handmade (you’ll find the link below) for $24.98, and will ship on or about February 21. For a slice of psychedelic folk-pop like no other, you might want to make a trip to Sunny Goodge Street.
Tom Northcott, Sunny Goodge Street: The Warner Bros. Recordings (Rhino Handmade, 2012)
- Cities Make the Country Colder
- Sunny Goodge Street
- Landscape Grown Cold
- Night in the City
- Girl of the North Country
- Who Planted Thorns in Miss Alice’s Garden
- The Rainmaker
- High Hope
- And God Created Woman
- A Soulful Shade of Blue
- Somebody Always Gets Hurt
- Ain’t Nobody Home
- A Long Way Down
- Make Me an Island (Non-LP Single)
- See the Tinker Ride
- There’s No Time
- Sunny Goodge Street (Single Version)
- Other Times
- Who Planted Thorns in Miss Alice’s Garden (Single Version)
Tracks 1-10 from The Best of Tom Northcott, Warner Bros., 1970
Tracks 11-14, 16-17 previously unreleased
Track 15 from Warner Bros. single 7283, 1969
Tracks 18 & 20 from Warner Bros. single 7051, 1967
Track 19 from Warner Bros. single 7160, 1968