Sound — 9
The folk singer Chet Powers changed his name to Dino Valenti when performing at an Italian club to get recognition when he would play at night clubs back in the early '60s and on. He never could be recorded for some reason until he got a deal with Epic and recorded this album in 1968, there is another album that he had scrapped that was recorded and would have been a successful album with mainstream folk-pop songs on it. But he demanded his artistic freedom and had this album to be released the way he wanted it, he was difficult in the studio but it was what he wanted and that is the way you have to do things when you are a musician to get the sound that you feel is original and you. That is truly what makes this album so unique, the only song of commercial potential on the album seems to be the track "Tomorrow" and the only cover he did that may have also had some commercial potential is his cover of "Me and My Uncle" by John Phillips which is my favorite rendition of the song, even though I love Joni Mitchell's version and John Denvers', but the way he performs this song so dramatically and intense only as a one man band with his wholesome sounding warm crisp 12 string guitar is just breath-taking. Maybe some people can not appreciate this album for what it truly is as it is a matter of taste but these performances and the song-writing here is impressive. Allmusic gives this album a well deserved four and a half stars but I digress...
The sheer rawness of his cover of the song "Me and My Uncle" adds his own serious and chilling imagery to the song with interesting little guitar fills all done by himself. Definitely one of my favorite tracks off of this album next to "Time" and "Everything's Gonna Be OK."
This album was unfortunately misspelled as Dino Valente when it should be "Valenti" as an error and the original vinyl unfortunately did not do well on the market, but that should never mean that it is not a truly genius rare and unique type of Psychedelic-Folk with a melancholy and moody vibe that is somehow sad and distant yet beautiful. There is also a feel of true happiness and confidence in the track "Everything's Gonna Be Ok."
Back to the fact that Chet Powers was unrecorded for so long and his only work remains to be on this album, and a recently discovered batch of tape recordings compiled into a new album "Get Together" along with his first and only 45 rpm single released there is no other solo recording of him except maybe with Fred Neil from what it looks like. But what really bothers me is that there is so much unreleased material from him that was recorded over the course of the '60s. There is however material with Quicksilver Messenger Service as we all know but most of his old solo recordings are probably ultra rare. I'm sure there are some acetates out there just waiting for the world to hear. And not only that, but the other album that was recorded but replaced for the album "Dino Valente" in 1968.
It is easy to see how he gained a reputation as "the underground Bob Dylan" but he is definitely a more energetic, lively and passionate performer, not that Dylan is bad or that Dino Valenti is better than Bob Dylan or Donovan, they are all three totally different artists to begin with even though they all perform folk. Donovan Leitch is more on the exotic fusion with psychedelia and blues, bluegrass, sitar and even some jazz melted into his music. Dino gives a sense of a loner folk that has a truly different sound that stands alone.
Apparently he recorded for Autumn records in the '60s and a private collector owns that acetate, so people need to start opening up and share this wonderful music!
Dino Valenti remains a timeless standard and must-listen for anyone who loves acid/psychedelic loner folk. This album kind of reminds me of Michael Yonkers' album "Grimwood" released the next year which is all I can think of as far as similarity.
There are session players on this album including Gary Duncan of Quicksilver Messenger Service. But not a whole lot that information is really listed on the album but found in interviews with the artists and Richie Unterberger's writing of the album.
I know I keep going on about the twelve string but the sound is quite soothing and calming in that beautiful shimmering reverb.
There seems to be strings, horns, and even harpsichord on this album along with drumming. The harpsichord actually does give the track "Time" a more psychedelic dreamy feel and edge. This album is somewhat drawn between psychedelic rock and folk rock, but I would just say it stands as psych folk because there is not much actual electric tar but orchestration of instruments building up momentum like in "My Friend."
For the most part although I feel some of the horns and everything slightly hinders and overpowers Valenti's playing like on the track "Tomorrow" it is still nicely composed.
He remains to be a legend and skilfully crafted music that was very different and in a good way. This album is chock full of beautiful acoustic guitar chord progressions with nice little quick notes flying in like on "Something New." I think this is a beautiful album that was very different for it's time just as the person playing them was and the twelve string has a rich and haunting sound playing those enchanting melodies. Please give it a listen if you haven't already.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics seem to be about love and magical imaginative illumination with passion and emotion. The track "Listen to Me" is about trying to talk to a distant lover and trials of relationships severed. He is sometimes lyrically vague in some aspects but yet he seems to make points clear. "Children of the Sun" seems to be a song about youth and the troubles and lament of their struggles at home but somehow he seems to be a comforting figure that reassures you that you are fine. Being unique and eccentric is okay and it's you, you shouldn't try to conform is what Chet Powers is trying to say or the message he is conveying. As people will always try to put you down and make you think that you are "weird" simply because you are different. And it makes sense as Dino Valenti himself never fit into normal society and was somewhat of an outcast from youth growing up in a carnival as his parents would work there and travelling, living that lifestyle.
Overall Impression — 10
I feel that this album has a powerful yet soft and mellow vibe to it that really will hook you in. Each track is something different but it is all somehow similar too. Again, I feel the closest counter-part to this album would be "Grimwood" by Michael Yonkers although I feel that these albums are all unique as a lot of artists were for this time and nothing really does or should sound like something else. But if I could compare this album to anything else it would be "Grimwood" although the album is more raw and slightly lo-fi it has the same concept as acid folk performed by a main artist with occasional nuances of other instruments such as horn and accordion, and recorder. This album also offers the use of many different instruments.
In my opinion I favor the songs "Listen to Me," "Me and My Uncle," "Everything's Gonna Be OK," and "Children of the Sun," and "Test."
"Listen to Me" feels like the serenading of a young lost girl, consoling and giving her compassion and understanding. The guitar playing is sad and melodic, and somewhat touching.
"Me and My Uncle" paints an imagery of desert with a story of an unsavory series of events that ends in despair.
"Everything's Gonna Be OK" give a feel of enchantment and sends you into a distant Tolkien-esque world of utopia with even wilder and more imaginative settings. The first time I've ever heard unicorns (which I love) mentioned in an older folk song or folk music in general which should be about these types of magical things. Adventurous creativity I presume. But the main chorus's verses really get me into the song and really give a sense of pure joy.
"Test" is essentially the real psychedelic cut of the album. It features flute and somehow has a western feel to it with an epic ending that has that Em chord and dino singing a type of moan. The flute adds to that enchanted feel.
I do like the two bonus tracks on the CD, if I had other favorites it would be those, but I do truly love the whole album. There really isn't that much that I don't like except maybe the fact that even though he made it his own album the producer still felt the need to add all those horns and everything into it which was alright, but it doesn't sound all that nice at first, although the build up towards the end of the song is crazy and that definitely compensates.
I would buy this album again and again until I were broke if I lost it, and I truly want to own a copy of the original Epic label vinyl made in '68 that would be insane. This album is a mind-blower for it's time and is very innovative, it seems this is the style that most folk players now are picking up on and of others like Yonkers and Dylan, Donovan etc.