I’ve seen Rod Taylor’s self-titled album listed on discographies for the Asylum label, but before running across a copy always half-assumed it was some sort of project by the Hollywood actor. Considering the relatively high quality of singer-songwriter releases that emerged on David Geffen’s label at the time, that of course was a silly (and incorrect) guess — but there still is a Tinseltown connection. This Rod Taylor has gone on to be better known as Roderick or R.L., and has numerous credits (mostly as a writer) on the Internet Movie Database. Digging a bit deeper, he also released various other albums as Roderick Falconer in the 1970s and ’80s.
The credits on Taylor’s album reveal one heck of an all-star cast assembled to help him get his first set of songs recorded. Backing vocals are by Bonnie Bramlett and Joni Mitchell; guitarists include Ry Cooder, Jesse Ed Davis and Andrew Gold; bassists Lee Sklar and former Stone Poney Kenny Edwards; drums by Jim Keltner and Russ Kunkel; pedal steel by Red Rhodes; organ by Little Feat’s Bill Payne; and that’s probably only half the familiar names here.
Happily, Taylor’s songs measure up to his backing cast. It’s a set of mostly laid-back country rock, led by Taylor’s bluesy, lived-in sounding vocals, but also dressed up with the occasional horn chart or psyched-out fiddling by folks such as David LaFlamme. And on a label unafraid to release records by distinctive and/or non-“pop” singing voices (at this point Asylum had already issued albums by Tom Waits and David Blue, along with Joni Mitchell, Judee Sill and J.D. Souther), Taylor is right at home.
Not so happily, being the 13th release for Asylum did nothing to dispel that number’s unlucky reputation; Taylor’s album seems to mostly turn up today as a white label promo, which is the form I found. Somewhat surprisingly, it has been reissued on CD in Japan...but it will likely be easier to track down the original vinyl. And it’s well worth it for fans of early ’70s singer-songwriters or country rock. (Asylum SD 5062, 1973)