There is an interesting super deluxe edition vinyl set out now by an artist some of you may not of heard of before named Karen Dalton. Those of you in-the-know will certainly have heard of her and some of you might even be big fans going deeper seeking out rare live recordings and such.
Karen was part of the Greenwich Village folk music scene in the early 1960s that spawned Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Tiny Tim, Fred Neil and many others. She was highly revered by her peers but for numerous sad reasons, she disappeared into obscurity and poverty after a couple promising recordings.
In recent years her music has been re-discovered by a new generation of fans…
Dino Valenti (a.k.a. Chet Powers a.k.a. Jesse Oris Farrow, writer of The Youngbloods’ smash hit anthem “Get Together” as well as Quicksilver’s hits “Fresh Air” and “What About Me”) gave Karen a great song which became the lead track on her second album, In My Own Time. This song has become kind of her signature these days: “Something On Your Mind.”
It is a fantastic tune. I admit that I was somewhat late to the the party in discovering Karen Dalton’s music. I was introduced to her music about four years or so back because of a band I was in with the great blues-rock-folk-punk legend and friend, Gary Floyd. We ended up covering that song in the most recent incarnation of his band The Buddah Brothers. In fact we recorded “Something On Your Mind” for an album that has yet to be released but if you are curious you can see us performing it live on a soundstage up on YouTube (click here). Sorry for the self-promotional moment but it did apply and I’m quite proud of what we accomplished here paying tribute to Karen’s music while making it our own. Learning how to play it was a great way to get inside the song and her sound.
Anyhow, this new 50th Anniversary Edition of In My Own Time is really quite wonderful as it presents all of that album remastered and sounding really nice. It even includes a period-accurate reproduction of the label design as seen on the rare original pressings. Alas, I don’t own an original copy of this album to compare this to as it’s quite hard to find out in the wilds of record collecting (and pricey to buy from dealers online). But this reissue does sound excellent and is very enjoyable.
This new version of In My Own Time is pressed on 180-gram black vinyl and spins at 45 RPM for premium fidelity. The music is spread out over two discs for best possible sound quality. It was cut from new transfers made in 2021 and pressed at RTI. And also we get bonus studio outtakes/alternates as well as live performances from The Beat Club television show in Germany and in Montreux, Switzerland in 1971. The live recordings are on the final disc of the collection and on the 6th side is a beautiful etched portrait of Karen printed into the vinyl (not playable).
I’ve been thinking about this phenomena about Karen’s revival and it is quite curious because there are plenty of other heartfelt folk-rock singers who were doing great work back in the day — I’m still hoping for a Melanie revival to happen while she still alive to appreciate it! But one has to wonder why a new generation of young hip music fans would get into Karen’s music at this point in time.
Perhaps it’s the mystique of her harrowed life given she never kicked her addictions, leaving her ultimately homeless on the streets of New York in the 1990s. Perhaps it’s an unusual raw bluesy aggression she applied to folk music that stands out for some people.
There’s a lot of ache, disappointment and heart break in her delivery and even her own songs, such as “Katie Cruel.”
“If I was where I would be
Then I’d be where I am not
Here I am where I must be
Where I would be, I can not
When I first came to town
They bought me drinks a’ plenty
Now they’ve changed their tune
Hand me the bottles empty”
And then there is the whole Billie Holiday thing she pulled off so brilliantly, a feat that is palpable. I don’t use this word very often but Karen Dalton really had a unique way with a phrase at least as far as pop music goes. She brought Holiday’s bluesy jazz singer sense of timing to folk-rock music.
Listen how she stretches notes and phrases, dancing around the rhythms. It is really a blues singers’s gift she had, making you follow her every twist and turn. This is very apparent on the live recordings included on the set from The Montreux Golden Pop Festival (May 1, 1971). Check out her take on Fred Neil’s “Blues On The Ceiling” for a good example of what I mean. These are soundboard recordings so the fidelity is quite nice; she also sings that song on her first album from 1968. I found some video of her performing this song at Montreux, so look for it posted below!
At times when I’m listening to Karen Dalton it feels like what might have happened had late period Tom Waits tried to re-record Judy Collins’ 1968 classic Who Knows Where The Time Goes.
This new 50th Anniversary edition of In My Own Time was lovingly crafted by the good folks at Light In The Attic Records. The physical album cover is very high-quality and it comes with a generous booklet filled with compelling information and photos offering many insights into her life. If I have any complaint is that there is almost too much “stuff” jammed into this cover so it seemed pretty jam packed in there when it was still in the shrink wrap.
Oh, did I tell you that this includes two — count ‘em two — 45 RPM singles with picture sleeves?
Seriously, if you get this new 50th Anniversary edition of In My Own Time you might want to put the album in a plastic outer sleeve and keep the LPs outside the cover (as many audiophile collectors do these days).
You can find the new 50th Anniversary edition of Karen Dalton’s In My Own Time streaming in 96 kHz, 24-bit fidelity on Qobuz Hi Res (click here) and in 16-bit CD quality on Tidal (click here). Both sound good but the Qobuz version sounds quite a bit richer, especially on the studio tracks.
And for those of you who want more, the album is available on Cassette, colored vinyl variants and maybe most stunningly, on 8-track Cartridge!!
If you are a fan of Karen Dalton you’ll probably want to get this collection, especially for all the bonus goodies and the booklet which includes liner notes by Lenny Kaye, plus an essay by Nick Cave and thoughts from Devendra Banhart.
And perhaps if you don’t have an original pressing of the album on vinyl, maybe this issue will bring down the price of the original copies a bit. Originals on Discogs start at over $100 for a VG condition copy and go up from there. Someone is selling an 8-track copy for nearly $400!
For me, I’m good with just having this fine reissue of In My Own Time in the collection. This is an excellent snapshot of Karen Dalton’s peak moment. That said, I plan to dig into her earlier albums. I checked out a bit of the one before this streaming on Qobuz and it sounds pretty fine to me so far.