Last year, the Omnivore label began its retelling of the story of Judy Henske and Jerry Yester with the hotly-anticipated, first authorized reissue of the then-married duo’s 1969 cult favorite album Farewell Aldebaran. Now, the Henske/Yester tale continues with another lavishly expanded CD reissue: this time, of 1971’s Rosebud. The album was so named for the band itself, featuring Henske on vocals, Yester on vocals, bass, and banjo, her future husband Craig Doerge on vocals, keyboards, and vibes, John Seiter on vocals, drum and percussion, and briefly, David Vaught on bass. Like Aldebaran, Rosebud served up a delicious array of songs for which the term “pop” was just too loose. A hint came from the label originally releasing Rosebud: Frank Zappa’s Warner Bros.-affiliated Straight imprint. Rosebud was more rooted in tuneful songcraft than its predecessor (every song was penned by the band members in one configuration or another), with just enough experimentation around the edges. Thanks to Omnivore’s new edition, there’s now twice as much to savor.
That the fiercely eclectic streak on Aldebaran wasn’t tempered for Rosebud is evident just listening to the first two songs, as the raucously percussive “Panama” segues into the French choral number, “Le Soleil.” Henske’s big, bluesy, Broadway-by-way-of-L.A. voice drives much of Rosebud, but she blends beautifully throughout the album with Yester, Doerge, and Seiter in sparkling four-part harmony. Impressionistic takes on various locales pepper the album, from the soft, slinky “Reno” (featuring The Wrecking Crew’s Mike Deasy on lead guitar) to Henske’s tenderly autobiographical “Western Wisconsin” as subtly sung by Doerge. Western imagery fills “Roll Home Cheyenne,” a melodic travelogue sing-along with jazz’s Ray Brown and Barry Zweig on acoustic bass and guitar, respectively.
“Lorelei” offers hypnotic balladry and dark beauty; similarly spellbinding is “Flying to Morning.” It has a cinematic feel (with Doerge’s shifting melody enhanced by Yester’s supple string chart) that makes it one of the album’s most ambitious tracks. The band’s more out-there inclinations are aired on “The Yum Yum Man,” an offbeat country-rock tune featuring Yester on banjo and pedal steel great Buddy Emmons doing what he did best. Gospel gets an airing on the rousing ode “Salvation,” sung by Seiter, while on the other end of the spectrum, a gentle “Lullaby II (Summer Carol)” is a harmony-laden gem arranged with strings and horns. It’s a more peaceful bookend to the harrowing “Lullaby” written by Yester and Henske for Farewell Aldebaran.
The original album was likely too eclectic to register commercially, but it’s no less worthy for that and no less accessible to interested ears. It has been generously expanded with ten additional tracks here by reissue producer Cheryl Pawelski. Two of these have been derived from singles: the promotional mono 45 mix of “Reno,” and the rollicking B-side “Lazy,” with Henske languidly crooning over saloon-style piano and her bandmates lightheartedly adding harmonies. A full seven tracks are previously unreleased including demos and finished versions of “Mercury of Fools” and “Hey, Old Friend.” The latter, a low-key piano-driven ballad, has Yester singing on the demo but Henske on the final version. Other work-in-progress tracks include the demo of “Le Soleil” and “What’s the Matter with Sam,” an embryonic song that eventually became “Panama” and the album’s opening track. The twangy, appealingly ragged outtake “Easy on Me, Easy” was later re-recorded by Craig Doerge at Columbia. Just as good is the dramatic, churchy “Father of Souls,” sung by both Henske and Seiter.
Michael Graves has remastered all of the tracks here in splendid fashion. Barry Alfonso’s liner notes reflect on Rosebud’s brief existence in incisive fashion, drawing on new quotes from Henske, Yester, and Doerge. Indeed, Rosebud had withered by the end of 1971, leaving behind just this one lone LP. Happily, the diverse music the band recorded in a short period of time can now find full flower.