Light in the Attic Records Offers Slice of 70s Music History in ‘Earl’s Closet’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Who is Earl McGrath? Though not a name well-known among the general public, McGrath was famous among the famous. Born into poverty, McGrath eventually found himself living in high society due to his charismatic charm and boisterous personality. In the seventies, Earl’s salon parties would include guests like Harrison Ford (who was Earl’s handyman and pot dealer before finding success in acting), Mick Jagger, Nancy Pelosi, and Andy Warhol to name a few. After forming a lifelong friendship with Atlantic Records founder, Ahmet Ertegun, McGrath was given support by Ertegun to start his own record label, Clean Records and by the late 70s was made president of Rolling Stones Records. After McGrath’s passing in 2016, journalist Joe Hagen stumbled across a treasure trove of master tapes in Earl’s closet while looking for pictures to use for a book he was writing. Hagen’s discovery has culminated in a mix-tape type album of twenty-two unreleased songs found on these tapes appropriately titled Earl’s Closet released by Light in the Attic Records.

Earl’s Closet is a window into the music of seventies and most of the songs present themselves as being from that era, in the best way possible. The opening track is “Two More Bottles of Wine” written by Delbert McClinton and performed by Delbert & Glen. The song is Texas alt-country at its best. McClinton sings about moving to LA where he found himself sweep out warehouses at night. Though the song never made the cut on a Delbert & Glen record, the song was later recorded and made famous by Emmylou Harris. Another gem in the treasure trove of Earl’s Closet are two unreleased songs by Daryl Hall and John Oates “Baby Come Closer” and “Dry in the Sun” recorded under their original name of Whole Oats. Though not as catchy as their output in the 80s, the songs still retain that R&B influence that would define the Hall and Oats sound. One of the most interesting entries on Earl’s Closet is a cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” recorded by a Delfonics-style soul group called Blood Brothers Six of whom no one had ever heard of and no information can be found on the internet. Two tapes were found labeled as being by The New York Dolls in 1976, despite them having disbanded by then, that were essentially the foundation of David Johansen solo work post-New York Dolls.

With such a treasure trove of songs discovered, it took Hagen more than a year to sort through and pick out songs for this project. Besides the aforementioned artists, Earl’s Closet included unreleased songs by funk-rocker Norma Jean Bell, Ultra Violet (one of Andy Warhol’s Superstars), The Jim Carroll Band, Terry Allen and many others. The release from Light in the Attic Records includes a 20-page insert about McGrath and the many artists included on the double LP. Earl’s Closet is a fantastic slice of music history that deserves a place in everyone’s record collection.

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