Danny O’Keefe’s Danny’s Best 1970-2000

cover, Danny's BestYou probably remember Danny O’Keefe, if you know the name at all, as the performer of the all-time classic tune “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues.” I think I have heard this song done by more pub singers than any other. And it still sounds good. This collection is subtitled “Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues.” One guesses that it’s there so prospective buyers will think, “Oh! I know that one!” But Danny O’Keefe has a lot more great songs, and Raven has selected a choice bunch for this collection.

The first two on offer are “Covered Wagon,” and “Steel Guitar.” The first is a bluesy tune about “roamin’ in my covered wagon,” that sounds a bit like Levon Helm, and features Danny with some help from Muscle Shoals sessionmen like Roger Hawkins, David Hood, Jimmie Johnson and Barry Beckett. The second one is a slide guitar shuffle replicating the “Steel Guitar” of the title. O’Keefe’s vocals are relaxed and funky. Then you get the big hit. Guitar solo by Reggie Young, harmonies by the Brigati Brothers on the chorus, “Good time Charlie. . . .” still sounds as good as it did the first time you heard it. According to the liner notes (Raven always has good liner notes, this time by Aussie singer/songwriter Mike McClellan) this version, produced by Arif Mardin, was a second crack at it. The song had appeared on his first album but was overproduced and “unconvincing.” Surely the hit version convinces me, “. . .some gotta win, some gotta lose. . .”

O’Keefe was more than a one-hit wonder though, and the rest of the songs included here show the breadth of his talent. “The Road” was covered by Jackson Browne on his Running On Empty album, to some success. The songs become less familiar but just as rich as you progress through O’Keefe’s career. Albums were produced by Mardin (again) or John Boylan, and session and guest musicians from David Bromberg to Dr. John, from Donnie Hathaway to Linda Ronstadt would make appearances, but it’s the songs and voice of Danny O’Keefe that remain at the forefront.

I’ve heard “The Jimmy Hoffa Memorial Building Blues” by polyester-clad guitar wizard David Lindley, who also covers O’Keefe’s “Well, Well, Well” (a co-write with Bob Dylan) and Lindley knows a good tune when he hears it. Danny’s Best is full of tunes that might make good covers, but also sound just fine in their original versions. The bands are always good, production is on a high level, and Danny’s pleasant voice and fine acoustic or electric guitar playing is always dependable.

Almost 80 minutes of fine tunes by one of the originals. Another superb collection from Raven.

(Raven Records, 2005)

David Kidney

David Kidney was born in the Marine Hospital on Staten Island in the middle of the last century, when the millenium seemed a very long way off. His family soon moved to Canada, because the air was fresher. He has written songs and stories, played guitar, painted, sculpted, and coached soccer and baseball. He edits and publishes the Rylander, the Ry Cooder Quarterly, which has subscribers around the world. He says life in the Great White North is grand. He lives in Dundas in the province of Ontario, with his wife.

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