An Introduction to John Stewart
is not, as the cover would lead one to believe, a compilation of his best-known tracks, though certainly some of those are here. It is instead a complete reissue of his first two solo albums, California Bloodlines issued in 1969 and Willard
, issued in 1970, both by Capitol Records. Both albums have been deeply influential for their easy blend of country and folk sounds, and many of the songwriters from the L.A. singer/songwriter scene -- Jackson Browne
and Rick Nelson
among them -- spent lots of time listening to them. While John Stewart
is best known for "Daydream Believer" that the Monkees
scored with, and later "Gold" (neither of which are here), it is these two albums that show his true gift as a songwriter and storyteller. These recordings have not been available domestically on CD before, so this is a real treat. If only Fuel had been able to reproduce the original artwork, or had been more truthful in their presentation, this would have been a much more attractive package. The music, however, doesn't lie. This is deep, heady stuff with a sense of possibility and innocence. And if that dates music, so be it, but these are masterpieces and should be considered by anyone interested in American songwriting.