Cult Classic: Nancy Priddy-You’ve Come This Way Before.

Nowadays, many people remember Nancy Priddy as an actress who appeared in Bewitched, The Waltons and Matlock and later, alongside her daughter Christina Applegate in the television series Married…With Children and the film The Sweetest Thing. However, other people remember Nancy Priddy as a singer-songwriter who in 1968, released her debut album You’ve Come This Way Before. It’s a captivating and enchanting album of psychedelic baroque-folk that nowadays, is regarded as a cult classic.

Nancy Lee Priddy was born to Katherine Iona Driggs and Carl Priddy on January the ’22nd’ 1941, in South Bend, Indiana. Growing up, music played an important in her life, and after graduating from high school Nancy Priddy studied liberal arts at Oberlin College, and eventually graduated from the Northwestern School of Drama. 

After graduating, Nancy Priddy decided to embark upon a career in the theatre. Initially, she worked in cabaret but soon decided to change direction.

In 1964, Nancy Priddy headed to Greenwich Village where she joined the folk group The Bitter End Singers. She joined Bob Hider, Lefty Baker, Norris O’Neill, Tina Bohlmann and Vilma Vaccaro in The Bitter End Singers who later in 1964, were signed by Mercury.

Having signed to Mercury, The Bitter End Singers began work on their debut album. Discover The Bitter End Singers was released later in 1964.  The followup Through Our Eyes was released by in 1965. However, following the release of their sophomore album  Nancy Priddy decided to leave The Bitter End Singers and resume her acting career.

Having left New York, Nancy Priddy moved to Chicago, where she resumed her acting career and began writing her own songs. She entered the studio and recorded demos of some of these songs. It seemed Nancy Priddy was still interested in a musical career, and in 1967, she left the Windy City and returned to New York.

When Nancy Priddy  returned to the Big Apple, Leonard Cohen was about to record his debut album and was looking for a backing vocalist. Nancy Priddy fitted the bill and contributed backing vocals on the classic album Songs Of Leonard Cohen. It was released later in 1967 and launched the career of Leonard Cohen. 

Later in 1967, Nancy Priddy met Phil Ramone, who was an up-and-coming producer. At the end of the year, the pair began working on what became Nancy Priddy’s debut album You’ve Come This Way Before.

It featured ten tracks which Nancy Priddy penned with various songwriting partners. This included And Who Will You Be Then, You’ve Come This Way Before and Christina’s World with Everett Gordon. Bobby Whiteside and Nancy Priddy penned Ebony Glass, while she wrote Mystic Lady and Epitaph with John Simon. The other four songs We Could Have It All, My Friend Frank, O Little Child and On The Other Side Of The River were written by Nancy Priddy and Manny Albam. These tracks were recorded at A & R Studios, in New York.

Phil Ramone took charge of production, and three arrangers worked on the album. This included Everett Gordon who arranged Christina’s World and John Simon arranged Mystic Lady, We Could Have It All and Epitaph. Manny Albam arranged the rest of the tracks on You’ve Come This Way Before which featured some top musicians including drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie. When it was completed, it was released by the Los Angeles based Dot Records in late 1968.

When You’ve Come This Way Before was released, Dot Records did little to promote Nancy Priddy. After It was no surprise when Nancy Priddy’s debut album When You’ve Come This Way Before disappeared without trace. 

That was a great shame as When You’ve Come This Way Before is a hidden gem of an album that has been  rediscovered by critics and discerning record buyers. It’s a fusion of disparate musical genres, ranging from baroque-folk to folk and folk-rock to pop, pop-soul and psychedelia to underground music that sounded unlike anything else that was released in 1968.

Although Nancy Priddy had been a member of The Bitter End Singers and recorded with Leonard Cohen, with the help of producer Phil Ramone she seemed to have no preconceived ideas about an album should be recorded. 

There’s an innocence and unworldly sound Nancy Priddy’s vocal as she delivers some of the lyrics on Ebony Glass. Sometimes, Nancy Priddy delivers lyrics that are lysergic and trippy and sometimes have a surreal quality. It’s like a musical equivalent of Alice In Wonderland. Other times, the lyrics are akin to a stream of consciousness and sometimes, the lyrics have a dream like quality. However, some songs on When You’ve Come This Way Before are full of symbolism. It’s a quite beautiful, intricate album where layers of music are combined by Nancy Priddy and her band.

They try new things and push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes beyond. To do this effects units were deployed including echo and ring modulators which add to the instruments and vocals on a number of tracks and add to the psychedelic sound on You’ve Come This Way Before. 

Meanwhile, the arrangements are quite different from those on other albums released in 1968. Curveballs are thrown as the mood and time signatures change keeping the listener on their toes. It’s a case of expect the unexpected on an album that features everything from the lushest of strings to trumpets that sound as if they belong on a Bacharach and David session.  It’s as if You’ve Come This Way Before is trying to appeal to fans of pop and psychedelia and everything in between. And no wonder.

You’ve Come This Way Before is a beautiful, captivating and enchanting album and will win the listener over after just one listen. Soon, it’ll become a firm favourite as the listeners try to decipher the lyrics on this hidden gem of an album. Sadly, it failed to find an audience upon its release in 1968, but fifty-two years later, and Nancy Priddy’s debut album You’ve Come This Way Before is regarded as a cult classic and belatedly, is starting to find the wider audience that it so richly deserves.

Cult Classic: Nancy Priddy-You’ve Come This Way Before.

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