THE REFUGEES – California

Wabuho 2023

Echoes from the Canyon bring back a little ensemble that loathe to rest on their laurels.


Once upon a time there were FUGEES and then there was another trio, THE REFUGEES, whose pedigree couldn’t be more stellar: among their many credits, Deborah Holland is known as one third of ANIMAL LOGIC, Wendy Waldman as a Grammy-nominated songwriter for Vanessa Williams and NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND, and Cidny Bullens as an also a Grammy-nominated warbler prominent on the “Grease” OST. They got together in 2007 to release two LPs and one EP – only to stop in 2018 and come back five years later with an album of songs firmly associated with the late ’60s scene, the mostly serene pieces with multi-part harmonies that colored the period between the Summer of Love and Woodstock and are quite faithfully reproduced here. Given a slightly modern twist to confirm these numbers’ relevance, the classics still sound captivating and still caress the listener’s psyche in various ways.

It’s not that the group’s treatments of “So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star” and “Sin City” evokes – through the former’s sinister instrumental intro redolent of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” and the latter’s slow burn – the Manson menace of the otherwise blissful era and passes the male voices of the originals to the female vocals, anchored at the bottom end by Bullens, a man now. It’s their tremendously spiritual renditions of “Sail On, Sailor” and “Good Vibrations” that build a sisterhood vibe where a brothers’ unity used to simmer, and it’s their imbuing Stephen Stills’ perennials with a fresh sensibility that turns the tremulous “You Don’t Have To Cry” and “For What It’s Worth” which bookend this album and set Appalachian gloom into the Hollywood Hills’ groove, plus “Carry On” sitting in the record’s very heart, into milestones of our age again and again. For the same reasons, if “Monday, Monday” and “Dedicated To The One I Love” explore familiar, romantic avenues with a new passion and a new sonic punch, Sly Stone’s “Stand!” has lost both the exclamation mark from the title and the vehemence from the delivery – all in favor of sweet lyricism oozing from “California” and lighting the world.

It’s that good.


May 10, 2023

Category(s): Reviews
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