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In these online days, it is not such a big problem to make a choice of what music you want to get. You can always find a preview or a video of a song, or even a whole album. The choice is easy.
But in the Sixties and Seventies, it was more of a guessing game. No previews were available and if you wanted to cash out for a vinyl LP or a few of them for the artists you were not too familiar with, you had to be sure you are getting the right thing. If you were lucky, you could chance to hear something you like on the radio or read about it in the printed press. Of course, if the radio played it and the press wrote about it.
As chances go, quite a lot of stuff passed by most of the people unnoticed. That is where almost a legend formed about “unearned treasures”. Chancing on an album that was lingering in the musical shadows from those days on, now almost anything from those times that is not that well known or has never been reissued is proclaimed as “a buried treasure”. Unfortunately, in most cases, there is quite a good reason why certain music never reached a wider public. Good taste is usually hard to fool.
But then, there are exceptions to the rule and it is always a true pleasure to chance upon them. Or that somebody has chanced upon them for you and you can now sample before you rush out to get them. John Compton’ s 1971 solo album To Luna is certainly one of such lost treasures.
Compton certainly is not one of the luckier men in music. He started out quite early at the age of 18, trying to pitch the material he and violinist Robin Batteau prepared for their acoustic band Appaloosa to Al Kooper, one of the key producers and musicians of the time. While Kooper initially rejected their demos, he changed his mind and later produced the band’s album in 1969.
Although Appaloosa got a chance to play with the Allman Brothers and Blood, Sweat & Tears at Fillmore East, the album didn’t get far, so Compton and Batteau recorded an album titled In California in 1970. Again, even with stints with names like Van Morrison and Laura Nyro didn’t do much for the album.
Eventually, both the Appaloosa and Compton & Batteau albums earned a cult status and have recently got reissued and as well as the acclamation the deserve.
To Luna was Compton’s last attempt to reach a wider audience at the time. The album was issued in 1971 presented a set of his best-formed songs and personal and band playing that matches the highest quality produced at that time, or any other time for that matter.
Quite a few of the albums recorded in the Sixties and Seventies bear quite a heavy mark of the times they were made in, both musically and lyrically. Listening to To Luna today it is almost impossible to pin down the period it was made in and sounds as relevant as it should have then.
While Compton’s songs vary from the staple singer/songwriter material (the opener “Colano Sound”) to more jazzy/bluesy variations that actually defy the cliche (“One Find Me Home”), it is the more melancholic songs that truly give this album that “lost treasure” stamp of approval - “Verandas”, “Yorkshire Pines” and the closer “Leave My Casos In Laos” should find their place in anybody’s late night mix.
In the end, the lack of the success at the time obviously discouraged Compton, since practically nothing was heard of him until 1995 when he came up with an album titled “Mother of Mercy”.
Recently, due to the resize of To Luna album, first in Japan and then in the US, Compton’s music has started to fall on some more receptive ears. We’re lucky that somebody decided to brush off the dust of this diamond.