Ned Doheny’s elusive debut album reissued on 180 gram vinyl
“On and on the story goes, it appears to have no end…no beginning.”
Los Angeles royalty Ned Doheny tried to make it big in his hometown. He met Jackson Browne and dipped his toes in the Laurel Canyon music scene. But after some high times—and low—nothing real was happening for the singer-songwriter and guitarist, so he hit the open road, traveling across the country and then making his way to England, where he met up with Dave Mason of Traffic.
“I wrote ‘On and On’ driving between Los Angeles and New York,” Doheny says, “and then when I got to England, I wrote ‘Trust Me’ sitting on the floor in Dave Mason’s living room. And he went, ‘Holy shit! Would you like to be in a band?’ ”
Doheny, Mason, and Cass Elliot from the Mamas and the Papas started rehearsing together for an upcoming album on Blue Thumb. But before they recorded the album, Doheny bailed. “I was a pretty arrogant youth,” he recounts. “It kept me from signing with Dave Mason’s people. They wanted to put me in some sort of supergroup, and I resisted it. I didn’t take direction well.”
Mason, knowing the gold he had with Doheny’s “On and On,” recorded the song with Mama Cass for their 1971 self-titled album—without Doheny.
Doheny headed back to his hometown of L.A. and linked up again with Jackson Browne, who introduced him to David Geffen, who was about to become a force in the industry by snatching up Laurel Canyon talent left and right. Doheny met all the folks—Graham Nash and David Crosby, Joni Mitchell and Bernie Leadon of the Eagles. Doheny was one of the first artists signed for Geffen’s new Asylum Records.
His debut album came about quickly, and was released in 1973 to some pretty decent critical acclaim. Rolling Stone writer Stephen Holden praised it as “a sort of Southern California Astral Weeks…supremely laidback, acoustical jazz-rock that on first listening is pleasant, and after several more absorbing. He phrases like a cool jazz man, seldom using his voice other than as the leading line above a tightly coordinated instrumental texture.”
Those jazzy vibes can be heard on the track “Lashambeaux.”
But the real standout track is Doheny’s own version of his track “On and On.”
And while the song has many characteristics of other Laurel Canyon music of the time—with harmonizing by none other than Graham Nash and a sublime folky groove—the song didn’t catch on and neither did the album.
Doheny soon found himself at odds with his boss, who was basking in the success of his golden goose, the Eagles. But Doheny didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of his label mates who were making country-tinged folk music. He saw his future more along the lines of Steely Dan—something funky, something with a real groove. So he parted ways with Asylum and went a different direction.
Doheny’s self-titled debut remains one of the scarcest albums on Asylum, and went generally unheard for decades.
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