Sir Douglas Quintet

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Matt Wilson
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Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Matt Wilson » 09 Jun 2009, 21:33

Have we ever really had a Doug Sahm thread? Great Tex-Mex stuff starting in the mid '60s and progressing right through the '80s. I'm not familiar with the Quintet's work after the early '70s (as chronicled on Hip O Select's fine box set) but I'll start us off with the albums I do know:

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Honkey Blues 1968
They'd recorded easily enough material in the form of singles and what not for an album prior to this but Honkey Blues is the first LP proper. It's not bad but not really what it should have been either. The band was living in the Bay Area at this point, Sahm trying his hand at being a Hippie in Northern California and not his beloved Texas. I recommend "Are In-Laws Really Outlaws" and one or two more but on the whole, the album's jazzy leanings and slight psychedelic feel don't really suit the boys.

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Mendocino 1969
Easily my favorite Sir Douglas Quintet record. Virtually every song a gem and the perfect Texan-transplant-in-the-Bay-Area album. The title track was (along with the earlier version of "She's About a Mover") their only top 40 hit, and the album also contains "I Wanna Be Your Mama Again," "At The Crossroads," "And It Didn't Even Bring Me Down," and "Texas Me." Paul Gambaccini had this listed in his Top 200 Best Albums book over thirty years ago and that's when I first became aware of it. Make this your first purchase.
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Together After Five 1970
Almost as good. Again, Meyers plays up a storm (did a cheap farfisa ever sound so good?) and the songs almost match up to those on Mendocino. "Nuevo Laredo" may be a soundalike to "Mendocino" but that doesn't mean it's not awesome, "T-Bone Shuffle" and "I Don't Want to Go Home" are ace and the rest of the LP flies along at an even clip until it's over. Get the version with bonus tracks as the stellar "Dynamite Woman" 45 is included. One of their all-time best cuts.

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1+1+1=4 (1970)
Another good one and their second of the year. Sahm was showing no signs of stopping as he cranked out these tracks (some of them recorded in Nashville) in search of the success which would always elude him. While not quite as good as the previous two it still had "Yesterday Got in the Way," "Be Real," "Pretty Flower," and "What About Tomorrow." Great album cover too.

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The Return of Doug Saldana (1971)
And return he did, to greatness, that is. Probably his best album after Mendocino (some say his best, period), the LP offers nary a weak cut and is a perfect blend of the Tex-Mex/blues/rock 'n' roll post hippie gumbo that was the music of Doug Sahm. In fact -- there's not too much of the organ-driven madness of earlier records here, just classic Doug all the way. "Preach What You Live, Live What You Preach" and "Stoned Faces Don't Lie" are the highlights for me, but there's also "She Huggin You, But She's Lookin' At Me" and a few more which are almost as good. The CD with bonus tracks adds the great "Michoacan," making it a must own.

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After this there was an LP of odds and ends called Rough Edges (credited to Sahm only) which contains some of the bonus cuts on CDs I mentioned above. It's also worth tracking down but all of it is on the Hip O Select box (which I really recommend).
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Muskrat » 09 Jun 2009, 22:32

Lance Matthew wrote: (did a cheap farfisa ever sound so good?)


Not to quibble*: it was a Vox Continental.

* but that's what I do!


It's worth tracking down an anthology (there are several) of the Huey Meaux/Tribe sides, too.

Otherwise, excellent post. I like "I Wanna Be Your Mama Again," where Doug shouts the chord changes to the band while they're playing the released take -- you don't hear that kind of thing on an Eagles record!

Fearless in their choice of material, too:

Last edited by Muskrat on 09 Jun 2009, 22:41, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Brin » 09 Jun 2009, 22:37

I think Ive only heard 'Shes about A mover',but they sound pretty good to me.
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Six String » 09 Jun 2009, 22:59

I have the first three on lp and I would have bought the fourth one too but the record/cover weren't in good shape. There's a live one called Texas Jukebox or something along that line that is highly recomended too.
It's post Quintet and I think it came out in the 80s. It sounds like the kind of songs you'd love to hear Sahm sing in a crowded bar.
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Dr. Baron » 09 Jun 2009, 23:13

Obviously, Doug Sahm is a hero. Truly my brother. However, you have to give him some rope. Luckily, unlike most sixties dirtbags, his hippie enthusiasms are lovable (though stupid and excessive). I have learned to love his dopey pothead hippie philosophizing and he is the only one who gets a free pass. The entirety of one song (singled out above) is "Stoned faces don't lie/baby when you're high." He's serious! Sahm is a terrible lyricist, but it just goes to show that this is the least essential aspect of the pop record. Because he can do anything else he sets his mind to do with complete credibility. He is a master of feel and understands all manner of music, though (I should admit) his mastery is focused on my Gulf Coast favorites. So, oddly, I am perhaps more accepting of his initial psych/free jazz experiments than I would be of, say, Joe Walsh. But then again, it's not what I reach for.

Matt has ably singled out the two best of the classic Sir Doug records, though my favorite (Return of Doug Saldana) is slightly marred by some classic Doug loopiness.
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Muskrat » 09 Jun 2009, 23:29

There are those of us, of course, who consider Doug's "loopiness" to be part of his charm.

There's the story of when Doug, relatively early on, showed up at the Fillmore (West) with his seven-piece Honky Blues Band. "I paid for a fucking Quintet," Bill Graham fumed, "and I want a fucking Quintet!"

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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Dr. Baron » 09 Jun 2009, 23:47

Muskrat wrote:There are those of us, of course, who consider Doug's "loopiness" to be part of his charm.


I think that's what I meant to say.
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Muskrat » 09 Jun 2009, 23:54

So, then, the album isn't "marred" by the loopiness.

Imagine how hyper Doug would have been if he didn't smoke massive amounts of weed!
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Dr. Baron » 10 Jun 2009, 00:03

Muskrat wrote:So, then, the album isn't "marred" by the loopiness.


"The Railpak Dun Done In Del Monte Express" thing would've been better with a tune. So yeah, I guess you got me.

Muskrat wrote:Imagine how hyper Doug would have been if he didn't smoke massive amounts of weed!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22E1ToIe42Y
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Charlie O. » 10 Jun 2009, 03:18

LeBaron wrote:The entirety of one song (singled out above) is "Stoned faces don't lie/baby when you're high." He's serious!

No, there are verses to that. But although I've (happily) listened to the song a hundred times or so over the years, I can't recall a single line, myself. But I know they're there.



Yup, Doug's one of my heroes, too - and the first guy I thought of when I saw that thread about what artists do you have all the records by (which I still haven't actually responded to). Not all of his records are great, but a surprisingly high percentage of them are.


Besides the Smash/Mercury/Philips albums Matt talks about,* the Tribe recordings are my favorites. I especially recommend these reissues on Sundazed/BeatRocket:

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The Best Of The Sir Douglas Quintet

This was the Quintet's first album, from 1965 or '66. Why don't more bands name their debut The Best Of...? Makes sense that it would be, right?

Actually, I think Huey Meaux put this out after the band had (temporarily, as it turns out) broken up - but that didn't stop him from choosing a cover photo where the band was pictured in silhouette, so that people wouldn't notice that half the members were Mexican-American. (This was supposed to be an English beat combo, you see. Hence the oh-so-British band name.)

If that isn't gall enough for you, one song appears on the album twice - in different recordings/arrangements, under slightly different titles, but the same song nonetheless (and not even a particularly good song).

But seriously, folks, this is a great, great album. It includes "She's About A Mover", the follow-up "The Rains Came", outrageous covers of Jimmie Rodgers' "In The Jailhouse Now" and Leadbelly's "In The Pines", and more where those came from - big greasy grooves and oodles of charm and good humor. And Doug - as usual - sings his Texas-sized heart out. (Trainspotting: the original Tribe LP dropped the definite article "The" from the band name: The Best Of Sir Douglas Quintet. To this day there is a legion of benighted young record store employees who apparently believe that there was this guy named Douglas Quintet.)


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The Sir Douglas Quintet Is Back!

Sundazed put this together as a companion piece to the above - basically gathering all of the Tribe-era recordings not collected by The Best Of. And it's just as good - maybe (putting aside sentimentality) even better! Some sweet Doug originals, a couple more unbelievable Huddie Ledbetter covers (Sir loved his Leadbelly), and more. Fave soupçons of slop: the ending of "In Time", where the band is audibly uncertain whether the last chord is supposed to be A major or A minor; and the protracted count-in for "Wine, Wine, Wine" where Doug tries repeatedly to get his charges to come in at the same time and in the same tempo (which promptly speeds up once they do finally get past the intro).

Magic of the purest kind.






*I'm surprised that Matt rates Together After Five so highly - I love it, myself, but jesus is it sloppy - and some of the songs were clearly being "written" as the tape rolled...
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Charlie O. » 10 Jun 2009, 03:29

By the way - avoid this recent Tribe comp on the (usually excellent) Varèse Sarabande label:

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The main selling point here is that several of the songs appear in stereo for the first time. Unfortunately, the stereo mixes are mostly awful - really, really awful. And all of the songs are on the above Sundazed albums, in glorious mono.
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Muskrat » 10 Jun 2009, 04:24

Too much Jerry Wexler/"supersession" mindset for me, though it certainly has its merits. The now-deleted Rhino set of the Atlantic sessions is worth tracking down if you like the original album, though.

re: Dylan's presence: there's a story floasting around to the effect that Dylan had the Quintet in mind. Before The Band, but it's easy enough to "hear" Augie on Like a Rolling Stone -- and he did work with Bob, many years later.

Augie's sound generally is a Mexican accordion line played on that Vox Continental.
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Dr. Baron » 10 Jun 2009, 05:05

Jimbo wrote:Am I mistaken, however, by including Doug Sahm solo albums in this thread rather than those of the Sir Douglas Quintet?


Yeah, but it's not like anyone's gonna care. The version of "Is Anyone Goin' To San Antone" during the Wexler sessions is definitive -- one of the greatest things he ever recorded.
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby WG Kaspar » 10 Jun 2009, 10:09

That's a great thread.
I only have Honkey Blues which I love but for some reason, never investigated further. My interest was shortly flared when I heard a great cover of Song Of Everything by Los Super 7 3 or 4 years ago.
I think that I read somewhere that Honkey Blues is not very representative of the sound of the band. Must check out further albums definately.
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Six String » 10 Jun 2009, 16:51

Sir Baron wrote:
Jimbo wrote:Am I mistaken, however, by including Doug Sahm solo albums in this thread rather than those of the Sir Douglas Quintet?


Yeah, but it's not like anyone's gonna care. The version of "Is Anyone Goin' To San Antone" during the Wexler sessions is definitive -- one of the greatest things he ever recorded.


I certainly don't care as I had to mention his Juke Box Music album on the Antone's label. It was produced and mixed by none other than George Rains. Those who were at The Continental with The Denny Freeman
B-3 Organ Trio might remember that the drummer in the band was one George Rains. I'm assuming it's the same guy but I don't know that for a fact. I wish I could have talked to George a little more after the gig. He's played with just about everybody of worth who comes through Austin.

Have you heard this Juke Box album Baron?
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Re: Sir Douglas Quintet

Postby Snarfyguy » 10 Jun 2009, 16:54

How was the album he did with the rhythm section from CCR?

That seemed like a good idea for a match-up.
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