Having been intrigued by the so-called ‘Bosstown sound’ of Ultimate Spinach and their 1968 debut, I stumbled across Kangaroo and Barbara Keith while searching for bands of a similar ilk also releasing through MGM. The owner of a record store near the Leidseplein in the heart of Amsterdam suggested on one particular visit that I should check out Kangaroo’s self-titled LP from the same year, with particular attention paid to track three.
It took less than one play to convince me; the moment I heard Barbara Keith’s voice, the owner had a sale. It didn’t matter that ‘Daydream Stallion’ was one of only a few tracks on which she sang lead on the album (as well as being the only one she wrote), nor that Kangaroo never made another record, having split in ’69 in the wake of a lukewarm reception for the album. (It’s really not so bad, but in the avalanche of bands on the late ’60s East coast rock scene, no sales meant no trace.)
Barbara went on to release a pair of solo records – both, confusingly, titled Barbara Keith – in 1969 (Verve) and 1972 (Reprise) with minimal sales despite some good press. Not even the fact that her own ‘Free The People’ had been a minor hit for Delaney & Bonnie (find it on 1970′s To Bonnie From Delaney) and picked up by Barbra Streisand for her Stoney End LP (which featured a trio of Laura Nyro remakes) could accelerate interest in Keith’s career.
In 1972, she and producer/husband Doug Tibbles took the rare step of returning an advance received from Reprise for a third album and cut all ties with the music business. The couple did eventually return some twenty years later as The Stone Coyotes (with their son John on guitar and bass), but they’ve made good on their vow to dodge the major-label mechanics of which they’d grown so weary. ‘Daydream Stallion’ reminds of a more naïve time. The young Barbara’s voice is Boston through and through. It’s a voice that can turn an “endless variety of grey days” around, a bad mood into a good one. And, just like her imaginary steed, it demands to be noticed.