For many people, Tom Rush was a trailblazer. He was the first of the singer-songwriters. His career began in 1961, when Tom, who was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire began singing in clubs. Back then, Tom was still a student at Harvard University, where he studied English literature. A year later, in 1962, Tom Rush released his debut album Tom Rush At The Unicorn. That was the start of a six decade recording career.

During that period, Tom Rush has influenced several generations of artists. That’s not all. He’s also helped many artists to gain recognition by performing their songs. This includes everyone from David Wiffen, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor, to Joni Mitchell, Murray McLauchlan and William Hawkins. By Tom Rush covering their songs, each of these artists received much needed publicity early in their careers. After this, Jackson Browne, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell went on to enjoy commercial success and critical acclaim. While Tom Rush never quite enjoyed the same commercial success or critical acclaim, he’s recognised as one of the most talented singer-songwriters of his generation. His recording career began fifty-three years ago in 1962.

Tom Rush At The Unicorn.

That’s when Tom Rush released his debut album Tom Rush At The Unicorn. This was a live album, which was recorded at The Unicorn, a favourite of the new generation of folk singers. Released on  LyCornu Records, Tom Rush At The Unicorn was well received by critics. While Tom Rush At The Unicorn wasn’t a commercial success, it helped spread word about this up-and-coming folk singer, Tom Rush.

Mind Rambling.

Just a year after the release of Tom Rush At The Unicorn, Tom caught the biggest break of his nascent career. A friend of his, Paul Rothschild got a job at Prestige Records in the A&R department. One of Paul’s first signings was Tom Rush.

Now, Tom Rush, whose recording career began only a year ago, found himself signed to one of the most prestigious labels of the early sixties, Prestige Records. It was a favoured label for folk and blues singers. Prestige Records, it seemed, was the perfect fit for Tom Rush.

Mind Rambling, Tom Rush’s first studio album was released on Prestige in 1963. It was well received by critics, who praised Tom’s mixture of cover versions and original songs. They were a mixture of folk and covers of early blues. While Mind Rambling wasn’t a huge commercial success, Tom Rush’s star was in the ascendancy.

Following the release of Mind Rambling, Tom Rush was already a stalwart of the Cambridge folk circuit. With his career starting to take off, Tom dropped out of Harvard. He decided to take a year out. This would allow Tom to see if he could make a career out of music. The year out also allowed Tom to see how he would cope financially. 

Quickly, Tom discovered playing the Cambridge folk circuit wasn’t exactly profitable. Each night, Tom took home around ten dollars. Despite this, Tom persevered and spent a year working the Cambridge folk ciruit. Then after his year out, Tom returned to Harvard and graduated a year later with a degree in English literature. By then, Tom was ready to release his third album, Blues, Songs and Ballads.

Blues, Songs and Ballads.

Blues, Songs and Ballads was released in 1965. Just like Mind Rambling, Blues, Songs and Ballads was an album of most blues songs. Duncan and Brandy, the opening track was penned by Tom Rush, and showcased a talented songwriter. Along with the mixture of traditional songs and blues, these songs became Blues, Songs and Ballads.

On its release, critics wrote reviews praising Blues, Songs and Ballads. Some critics questioned the choice of some song on Blues, Songs and Ballads. However, they all were agreed on one thing, Tom Rush was destined for greater things.

That proved to be the case. In 1965, Tom Rush signed to Elektra Records. It was a musical marriage made in heaven. Elektra Records had been signing some of the best up-and-coming singer-songwriters. Judy Collins, Judy Henske, Tim Hardin, Tim Buckley, Phil Ochs and Fred Neil would call Elektra Records home. Now so would Tom Rush.

Tom Rush.

With a new label, Tom Rush set about recording this fourth album, and third studio album. Again, it was a mixture of Tom Rush penned songs and cover versions. Among them were Woody Guthrie’s Do Re Mi, Kokomo Arnold’s Milk Cow Blues, Leiber and Stoller’s When She Wants Good Lovin’ and Bukka White’s Panama Limited. These thirteen tracks were produced by Paul Rothschild and recorded by Tom, accompanied by a tight, talented band. The result was Tom Rush, which was released in 1965.

On Tom Rush’s released in 1965, the album received glowing reviews. Tom’s album of acoustic blues seemed to appeal to critics and discerning record buyers. Critically acclaimed, Tom Rush was a coming of age for Tom Rush. Still, however, commercial success eluded Tom. So, Tom changed tack for his next album, Take A Little Walk With Me.

Take A Little Walk With Me.

For Take A Little Walk With Me, Tom decided to change take. He decided to use electric instruments on the album. Al Kooper plays guitar and keyboards, Bruce Langhorne guitar and bassist Bill Lee. This was a first. Previous Tom Rush albums had been acoustic. That wasn’t the end of changes though.

Another change was Tom decided to cover Chuck Berry’s Too Much Monkey Business and Buddy Holly and Bobby Montgomery’s Love’s Made a Fool of You. However, still, Tom continued to cover his beloved blues, including Willie Dixon’s You Can’t Tell a Book by the Cover. Tom however, did write one of Take A Little Walk With Me’s highlights, the country tinged On The Road. His other contribution was Galveston Flood, which Tom cowrote with John Duffey. It’s another ofTake A Little Walk With Me’s many highlights. 

When Take A Little Walk With Me was released in 1966, it was well received by critics. Critics notice and welcome the stylistic departure. Tom’s previous albums had been acoustic. The new electric sound of Tom Rush won over critics and music lovers alike. Despite this, commercial success continued to elude Tom. It would be another two years before Tom Rush released an album.

The Circle Game.

After two long years, Tom Rush returned in 1968 with a concept album, The Circle Game. During that period, Tom had been working with Arthur Gorson and Paul Harris. Together, the three men chose songs from some of the best up-and-coming songwriters. Among the songs chosen, were Joni Mitchell’s Tin Angel, Urge for Going and The Circle Game. Then there’s James Taylor’s paean Something in the Way She Moves and the joyous Sunshine, Sunshine. Jackson Brown’s Shadow Dream Song was another song from one of music’s rising stars. However, Tom Rush had penned a classic of his own, No Regrets, which in 1976, would be made famous by the reformed Walker Brothers’ Tom’s other contribution was Rockport Sunday. These ten tracks became The Circle Game, which was released in 1968.

On its release in 1968, The Circle Game received critically acclaimed reviews. The judicious choice of songs was at the heart of The Circle Game’s success. A change of producer also played its part in The Circle Game’s success. Arthur Gorson, who was now managing Tom, replaced Paul Rothshild as producer. The result was Tom Rush’s biggest selling album.

When Elektra Records released The Circle Game, it reached number sixty-eight in the US Billboard 200 charts. For Tom, it had been a long time coming, but the success was well worth the wait. However, two years later, when Tom released his next album Tom Rush, Tom would be signed to Columbia. Would his next album, Tom Rush, surpass the success of The Circle Game?

Tom Rush.

By then, Tom had left Elektra Records. Next stop was Columbia. where Tom would release the seventh album of his career, Tom Rush. This was Tom’s sixth studio album. However, unlike on The Circle Game, Tom Rush was an album of cover versions.

Just like the last time, Tom picked songs by some of music’s rising stars. This included Jackson Browne’s These Days and Colours Of The Sun. Again, Tom covered a James Taylor track Rainy Day Man, which James cowrote with Zachary Wiesner. Canadian singer-songwriter, Murray McLauchlan, another of music’s rising stars, contributed Old Man’s Song and Child’s Song. David Wiffen’s Driving Wheel, which nowadays is considered a standard, was chosen by Tom. So was a track from one of Tom’s label mates at Elektra Records, Fred Neil. His composition Wild Child was given a makeover. Given Tom’s love of blues music, it was no surprise that he chose to cover Sleepy John Estes’ Drop Down Mama. The other track on Tom Rush, was Livin’ in the Country, a Day and Wisnstead composition. These ten tracks became Tom Rush, which was recorded in early 1970.

Accompanying Tom Rush, who plugged in for the second time, was a tight, talented band. The rhythm section featured acoustic bassist Ron Carter, electric bassist Duke Bardwell, drummer Herbie Lovelle and guitarist Trevor Veitch who also played mandolin and mandocello. Ed Freeman played twelve-string guitar and Red Rhodes steel guitar. They were joined by David Bromberg on dobro, organist Paul Griffin and Warren Bernhardt on organ and piano. This was the band that recorded the ten tracks that became Tom Rush, which was produced by Ed Freeman. Tom Rush was then released in March 1970.

When Tom Rush was released in March 1970, it was to the same critical acclaim that accompanied The Circle Game. Folk-rock and a hint of country can be heard on Tom Rush’s ten tracks.

Key to the success of Tom Rush, was Tom’s judicious choice of material. This resulted in Tom Rush reaching number seventy-six in the US Billboard 200 charts. While this was a lower chart placing than The Circle Game, Tom Rush was a bigger selling album. Tom’s star was still in the ascendancy. It was a long way from when Tom was making just ten dollars a night. Now Tom was signed to Columbia, and had signed the biggest selling album of his career, Tom Rush.

Opening Tom Rush is Driving Wheel, which nowadays, is regarded as a standard. Back in 1970, Tom was one of the first people to record Driving Wheel. He’s accompanied by an understated, country-tinged arrangement. Just a picked guitar and Hammond organ create a slow, wistful arrangement. Above the arrangement sits Tom’s heartfelt vocal. With sincerity in his vocal, he sings “just called to tell you that I need you, just called to tell you how I feel about you.” With washes of guitar and mesmeric drums and the atmospheric sound of the Hammond organ Tom delivers a needy, hopeful, soul-baring vocal. As he does this, he breathes meaning into this beautiful paean.

Just a firmly strummed guitar sets the scene for Tom’s thoughtful vocal on Rainy Day Man. Soon, the rhythm section and mandolin join the mix. Drums and occasional hissing hi-hats play leading roles, as the story unfolds. The lyrics have a cinematic quality, and you can imagine the scenes unfolding, with Tom the Rainy Day Man riding to the rescue.

Drop Down Mama is an old blues penned by Sleepy John Estes. It literally bursts into life, taking on a Dylan-esque sound. Straight away, you’re hooked. This is folk rock at its best. Before long, it becomes apparent that it’s not just the arrangement that’s reminiscent of Bob Dylan, sometimes it’s Tom’s vocal. Accompanied by handclaps, blistering guitars and the rhythm section, Tom and his band transform Sleepy John Estes’ old blues standard. 

Old Man Song has a much more traditional folk sound. Tom is just accompanied by his acoustic guitar. His vocal is wistful on what’s a poignant song about an old man ageing. One of the most poignant lyrics is “old man with too few tomorrows.” Later, scrabbled mandolin and strings sweep in, adding to this poignant, melancholy and beautiful song.

Just like Old Man Song, Lullaby has an understated sound. Only Tom’s guitar accompanies him. As Tom plucks his guitar, he adds some washes of slide guitar. However, it’s Tom’s tender vocal that proves captivating. The lyrics are a father singing a Lullaby to his daughter. With sincerity Tom sings: “you know darn well your daddy wouldn’t lie to you.” It’s a moving line. Especially with swells of strings underpinning the sparse arrangement. They don’t overpower Tom’s vocal, and allow it to take centre-stage, where it deserves to be.

Most people will have heard Jackson Browne’s version of These Days. It’s one of the finest songs he wrote and recorded. Tom’s cover version is quite different. It’s quicker, with a much more understated, folk sound. Just plucked guitars, piano and later swathes of subtle strings accompany Tom. His voice is rueful, and  full of regret, as he showcases what would become a Jackson Browne classic.

A stridently strummed guitar accompanies Tom’s drawling vocal on Wild Child (World Of Trouble). Soon, Tom’s band are straining at the leash. They’re wanting to kick loose. Knowing what they’re capable of, it’s a tantalising prospect. When they do, it’s well worth the wait. As Tom delivers a drawling vocal, blistering, searing guitars and the rhythm section drive the arrangement along. Meanwhile, Tom’s vocal is looser, and floats in and out of the arrangement. It’s as if he’s happy for the band to showcase their considerable skills. While they do this, we hear another side to Tom, as his vocal heads in the direction of country. This shows there’s more to Tom Rush than blues and folk.

Straight away, Colors Of The Sun has a dreamy sound. That’s down to the spacious arrangement. Tom’s accompanied by his carefully strummed guitar. Meanwhile, chiming guitars augment his vocal. Later, the arrangement fills out, growing in power and drama. The it returns to its understated sound. When it dies, ethereal, angelic  harmonies accompany Tom. They’re yin to Tom’s yang, before the arrangement veers between understated to dramatic. Always though, this beautiful, dreamy and dramatic song proves captivating, ethereal and occasionally, lysergic.

Previously, Tom has toyed with country music on Tom Rush. On Livin’ In The Country, Tom return embraces it fully. This stylistic departure suits him. Especially with such a talented band accompanying him. Seamlessly, they switch from folk to country, sounding as if they’ve just flown in from Nashville. So does Tom, as he narrates this Day and Winsted penned country-rock track.

Closing Tom Rush, is the second Murray McLauchlan song, Child’s Song. Here, Tom combines folk and country, as he sings about a child leaving home for the first time. Tenderly, with his trusty guitar and wistful strings for company, Tom delivers the lyrics. Sadness vies with excitement at the thought of making his own way in the world. Tom brings to life the trepidation and  hope in the lyrics, as a young man begins to make his own way in the world. It’s a quite beautiful and moving track to close Tom Rush, one that leaves you wanting to hear more from one of music’s best kept secrets.

Tom Rush was a definitely trailblazer. He was the first of the singer-songwriters. He released his debut album the same year as Bob Dylan. Sadly, Tom Rush, a hugely talented singer-songwriter never reached the heights he could and should’ve. 

His biggest selling album was Tom Rush, which was released in 1970, on Columbia. Tom Rush showcases the music of Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Fred Neil and Murray McLauchlan. Sadly, Tom Rush never scaled the heights they did. Instead, Tom Rush remains for most people, one of music’s best kept secrets. That’s despite most people knowing his most successful song, No Regrets.

Tom Rush penned No Regrets for his 1968 album, The Circle Game. However, it wasn’t until The Walker Brothers reformed and released No Regrets as a single in 1976, that it became a hit single. Since then, No Regrets has become a classic, and oft-covered song. Sadly, most people wouldn’t be able to tell you who wrote No Regrets. That’s a great shame, as Tom Rush deserves much better.

In the thirty-nine years since The Walker Brothers enjoyed a hit with No Regrets, Tom Rush has kept recording and performing. No Regrets which Tom became a staple of Tom’s live shows, is just one of the many songs Tom has penned. He’s far from a one trick pony. Tom has been writing songs for over fifty years. Indeed, 2015 marks Tom’s fifty-fourth year in music. During that period, Tom Rush has released around twenty albums. However, his biggest selling album was 1970s Tom Rush, which features one of music’s pioneers and best kept secrets, at his charismatic best, breathing life, meaning and emotion into ten tracks.



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