Last Next – Shanty Blue Folk
Last Next is one of the odder birds in my collection. Self-released circa 1972 by a group of New York City musicians led by an army veteran songwriter (shown in uniform on the cover), the album is dominated by amateurish country s-sw with a world-weary undertone, like Hoyt Axton or Jim Croce. The band has an intimate, living room sound with unrehearsed drumming and nice use of a 60s-flavored Farfisa organ. The vocals are occasionally off-key, a problem which the group solved by bringing in soul vocalist Frankie Coe (known for “Get It Jerk”) on a few tracks. On side 1, Coe delivers an outstanding performance on “Sarah”, perhaps the only track on the album to live up to the Last Next’s claim of playing ‘Shanty Blue Folk — A Brand New Category Of Music’. A marvy piece of 60s teenbeat with a vague ska influence, “Sarah” is one of two main reasons why this album will never leave the Lama collection.
The other and even more compelling reason can be found at the end of side 2, where we find the unparalleled “Riddle Of The Coming Hurt”. Sounding like nothing else on the LP, this track has been called “…the most stark, scary, vivid, depiction of the horrors of war I’ve ever heard” by a noted NYC musicologist. A 5-minute journey through shell-shock wards which really defies description, I like to think of this song as what Travis Bickle of Taxi Driver might have recorded if he’d aimed for a music career instead of shooting down pimps.
The Last Next songwriter has described the backing band as being Airplane-influenced and traces of “White Rabbit” may be found on this number, if nowhere else on the album. Incidentally, the recording project didn’t reach the success hoped for, and all unsold copies were buried in a landfill long ago. At this point, only 3 copies of “Shanty Blue Folk” are known to exist.
PS thanks to Will at Showandtell for the tracking