Elliott Randall is perhaps best known for his superb guitar solo on Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years, a solo Jimmy Page apparently rates one of his favourites. He would know. Randall has been a widely used and successful session player – a preferred choice of work for him - for many years since this debut solo album of 1970.
Randall’s Island is a concept album of sorts, but more importantly it is a genre-hopping masterclass in class. Opener Sour Flower is a wonderful jazzfusion number with Randall’s fine opening guitar-work leading to a multi-tracked, and perhaps echoplexed, saxophone solo by Paul Fleisher. It then returns to more guitar a la Chicago Transit Authority’s Free Form Guitar fuzzed up sound, and then transforms into other guitar-effects psychedelia to establish this as a truly great instrumental artefact from this time.
Second track Life In Botanical Gardens (Oh Yes] is a polar opposite as a pop-psyche acoustic number with lysergic lyrics and flute [more echoing effects] presenting its pretty pastoral folk perfectly – life in botanical garden, yes, so covering its settee - and clear other echoes of Manfred Mann’s Mighty Quinn.
Third track Take Out The Dog And Bark The Cat changes tack again with a sparkling blues walking its absurd title with a funky guitar gait. Fourth Mumblin’ To Myself sustains the blues groove, with horn support and Terry Adams punching out organ bursts. Bass and drums support this funked-up rhythm by respective players Bob Piazza and Allen Herman from great band Ten Wheel Drive [reviewed elsewhere on this blog].
Fifth Brother People goes into more countryrock mode, with harmonising lead vocals. Sixth Jolly Green Giant And The Statue Of Liberty returns to the playful titling as well as a more psychedelic sound with a manic spoken narrative, echoing and other effects [reminding me a little of The Chamber Brothers’ great Time Has Come Today]. This is superb, random fun. Seventh Bustin’ My Brains is back to countryrock with sublime wah-wah/fuzz guitar soloing and sax support and requisite virtuoso drumming.
This consistently brilliant album ends on the 7+ minutes All I Am’s. This is a ballad with sweeping strings and sweet singing. Fleisher’s flute gets another echoplexed airing before Randall intervenes with more guitar flourishes and the song’s rousing vocal chorus.
The following is widely circulated online so I trust it is OK to print again here Randall’s own observations on this album and his work:
What a strange and interesting crew this was! Paul Fleisher and I played together beginning in the early-mid 60's in NYC niteclubs including Trude Heller's, The Peppermint Lounge, and The Metropole. He and I co-authored the entire record. I'd known Allen Herman & Bob Piazza for quite a while too - before they joined The Island, they were members of Genya Ravan's R&B supergroup Ten Wheel Drive. Phillip Namanworth had been playing with Dave Van Ronk & The Hudson Dusters, and brought with him a boogie-thing that was just too contagious! Terry Adams of NRBQ guested on Hammond B-3. George Andrews handled the string arrangements; he used to lead a big-band in NYC, which was well... quite an education. Through the ranks of this band came Steve Gadd, The Brecker Brothers, David Sanborn, Lou Soloff, Chuck Rainey, and most of the Island crew. (Like I said - an education.) Andy Muson also guested on 2 tracks; killer jazzer, also played with Albert King for a spell before moving on to a hugely successful studio career in LA. Finally, the legendary Eddie Kramer, engineer/producer extraordinaire - for most of the Jimi Hendrix records, as well as Led Zeppelin, Traffic, and a host of others. Respect, Eddie!