"Tarzana Kid" is the third studio album of folk and rock singer-songwriter John Sebastian. It was released in 1974, and featured songs in a variety of genres, most of which could be described as "roots music", although the term may not have been in use at the time. About half of the songs were written by Sebastian (with some help from Lowell George, with the other half being either cover songs or traditional. There is a diverse group of backing musicians on the different songs, including Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris and The Pointer Sisters.
When I first listened to this album, the first song I noticed was "Dixie Chicken", a light-hearted song about being tricked into a scam marriage while drunk in Memphis. Sebastian, both before and after The Lovin' Spoonful, had recorded a number of songs that were close to novelty songs, and this seemed like one of them. But then I relistened to the album and realized the depth and introspection of the music and lyrics. The album opens with a Jimmy Cliff cover, "Sitting in Limbo", and includes covers of classics such as "Wild About My Lovin'" (which had also been a song for The Lovin' Spoonful) and Singing the Blues. It includes instrumental songs as well. One of my favorite compositions was "Face of Appalachia", a song that suggests, (contrary to the album's theme) that Sebastian's romanticization of the past was a "dream that had to die".
There are two things I like about this album, and that are closely related: first, Sebastian seems to be well-versed in various forms of roots music, with songs representing reggae, country and folk all being included on this album. Secondly, Sebastian takes this wide knowledge and uses it to make a personal statement. Even though many of the songs are covers, and even though some of them are a bit silly, this manages to be a personal album, displaying a wide variety of themes and emotions. When I discussed Sebastian's debut album, John B. Sebastian, I said that it was only a little less inventive than Neil Young's debut album. And my verdict on this album is that Sebastian was as innovative and interesting of a songwriter as anyone who wasn't Neil Young, at that point. The record-buying public at the time didn't seem to agree, and this album failed to chart, and with the exception of his theme for Welcome Back, Kotter, Sebastian would not be as successful in the 70s as his peers. And listening to this album, that seems unfair.
- Sitting in Limbo -- Jimmy Cliff/Guilly Bright
- Friends Again -- John Sebastian
- Dixie Chicken -- Lowell George and Fred Martin (aka Little Feat)
- Stories We Could Tell -- John Sebastian
- Face of Appalachia -- John Sebastian and Lowell George
- Wild Wood Flower (Traditional)
- Wild About My Lovin' (Traditional)
- Singing the Blues (Marvin Endsley)
- Sportin' Life (The Lovin' Spoonful)
- Harpoon Sebastian and others