The Red House Painters Old Ramon 2LP
2001 Release Finally Available Again On Vinyl!
Old Ramon, the sixth Red House Painters album, recorded in the fall of 1997
through the spring of 1998, was intended for release that summer. But the
mega-major label merger catastrophe that left hundreds of bands homeless spared
few. Red House Painters looked for a brief moment like survivors, but subsequent
delays eventually turned into permanent layoff. Old Ramon sat in limbo and grew
into legend as another great, lost album only the privileged few would ever
properly hear. They’ve unintentionally put the wait back into the term
Singer Mark Kozelek kept busy with a series of other projects. He served as
producer for Take Me Home: A Tribute to John Denver. As archivist for the 4AD
Red House Painters Retrospective album, assembling rarities and live tracks. As
solo artist with several tracks on the Shanti Project album, and two albums Rock
‘n’ Roll Singer and What’s Next to the Moon, a collection of AC/DC songs
reinterpreted. As live performer, touring the United States, United Kingdom,
Spain, Sweden and his first ever shows in South Korea. As film scorer for the
independent film Last Ball. And, finally, as actor in Cameron Crowe’s critically
acclaimed Almost Famous.
But while playing a musician in a movie—Kozelek appears as the bassist of
Stillwater in Almost Famous—was an exciting diversion, it also pointed out the
absurdity and irony of the situation. He’d been writing and performing his own
music since the 1980s, with Red House Painters since the early 1990s. He was a
musician, not just someone who might play one on TV.
With Old Ramon sitting on the shelf, it was like reading a book with a chapter
missing. Kozelek had written most of the album throughout 1996 and 1997. There
were “Between Days” and “Wop-a-din-din,” written during the months he stayed in
Oaxaca, Mexico about his time there and his cat waiting at home in San
Francisco; “Cruiser” written on an airplane ride from Los Angeles to San
Francisco about a friend he’d met during the John Cale tour; and “Golden,” a
song in tribute to John Denver, written and recorded in a single day during
December of 1997, just a few months after Denver’s tragic death. “Michigan” and
“River” had been road-tested on the band’s previous tour.
The album, in fact, had come together with a good feeling, reuniting the band
with their old friend and engineer Billy Anderson, who’d worked on their earlier
records Down Colorful Hill and the two self-titled releases (Rollercoaster and
Bridge by their covers). Sessions in San Francisco, Mendocino, California and
Austin, Texas resulted in several hours’ worth of music being recorded. The band
had spread out and worked up various arrangements for a majority of the tunes.
Sadly, a twenty-minute version of “Michigan” fell to the cutting room floor.
Once freed from their major label commitments, reputable independent labels bid
for the band’s services. This, however, is the album exactly as it was
intended—untouched—three years to the month of its completion. Good news: The
wait is officially over.
• Double LP
• Gatefold Jacket
• Limited Time Download Card
2. Byrd Joel
4. Between Days