Guitarist John Parker Compton and violinist Robin Batteau were playing the coffeehouse circuit together in Cambridge during the late ’60s before forming the band Appaloosa. Also including bassist David Reiser and cellist Eugene Rosov, Appaloosa was signed to Columbia Records in 1969, and had an LP on the shelves before the year was out. The Cambridge folk-influenced founding duo followed up their band’s self-titled album with the 1970 recording, ‘Compton & Batteau in California’, before going their separate ways; Compton recorded a solo album, ‘To Luna’, the following year, and resurfaced in the ’90s with some new recordings, while Batteau went on to play in a duo with his brother David Batteau, before joining the late-’70s band Pierce Arrow, then working as a studio musician.
In California by name, in California by nature. You’ll struggle to find 14 songs more drenched in lazy West Coast sunshine than Compton and Batteau’s only album (recorded in 1971 before promptly falling into the abyss of wonderful, overlooked recordings). Fans of Gene Clark, John Phillips, Fraser & Debolt and the like will be well served here, with many of the tracks leaning towards the cowboy balladry these artists share. Completing the line-up with the likes of Randy Meisner (The Eagles, Poco) and Jim Messina (Loggins and Messina, Buffalo Springfield) ‘In California’ understandably has an additional proto-yacht rock feel, evoking ‘Late For The Sky’ era Jackson Browne – though it’s the more up-tempo offerings that really showcase the duo’s ability to write a tune. Album highlight ‘Homesick Kid’ is the perfect example of the addictive, melody-led songwriting which really should have earned them stardom, while ‘Honeysuckle’ and ‘Essa Vanessa’ bring texture in the form of immaculately orchestrated percussion and additional instrumentation (harpsichord, cowbell). On these occasions the album veers magnificently towards the psychedelic, bringing to mind The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.
“‘Compton And Batteau In California’ remains enthused about in quiet corners, by Amazon buyers, on sites like Vinyl History and Small Town Pleasures. It’s a forgotten piece of baroque folk caught in time; 47 years after the fact it somehow sounds timeless. Like Cat Stevens with Nick Drake’s strings” MOJO Magazine