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Stephen K. Peeples: Barish bares 'Restless Soul'

All Access: Random musical notes from the SCV and beyond

Posted: April 22, 2011 6:00 a.m.
Updated: April 22, 2011 6:00 a.m.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist, flutist and harmonica player Jesse Barish bares his soul in the 18 songs on his seventh and latest solo album, "Restless Soul." Singer, songwriter, guitarist, flutist and harmonica player Jesse Barish bares his soul in the 18 songs on his seventh and latest solo album, "Restless Soul."
Singer, songwriter, guitarist, flutist and harmonica player Jesse Barish bares his soul in the 18 songs on his seventh and latest solo album, "Restless Soul."

Some of us find what we're looking for early in life, but many of us spend a lifetime looking for love, peace and happiness. That's the kind of journey renowned singer and songwriter Jesse Barish recounts on his seventh and latest solo album, "Restless Soul" (VoidEcho Records).

The 18-song album is a weave of musical styles, including pop, folk, rock, soul, but there's a common thread to Barish's heartfelt lyrics about his experiences and lessons learned along the way -- peace and love, loss and regret, youth and age, fulfillment and redemption. It's a collection of reflections from someone who's been around, lived a full life, but still has a lot of living left to do.

"'Restless Soul' a big, sprawling lot of songs," said Barish, who recently turned 65 and lives a block from the beach in Venice. "But I just need to tell the story I need to tell, with however many songs it takes."

The album's title tune, also its leadoff track, sets the stage for the rest of "Restless Soul" to play out.

"Being at this point in my life and looking ahead and looking back, I'm realizing I've been on a great, strange journey, and songs like ‘Restless Soul' just come out," Barish said. "It seems like as I get older, I just become more philosophical. But there's a positive spin on all these songs."

The music and messages certainly resonated with this writer; on a recent road trip I listened to "Restless Soul" three times in a row and enjoyed it more each time.

Barish, a prolific composer who's written more than 600 songs including the BMI-certified million-played "Count on Me" (as recorded by Jefferson Starship in 1978) and "Hearts (Is Everything All Right?)" (a solo hit for Starship's Marty Balin in 1981), worked on his latest project with longtime collaborator, producer/arranger/musician Jeff Pescetto.

"I write the songs and then play Jeff a song and we come up with a little rhythm track," Barish said. "I kind of know the tempo that I want, then I just lay down a guitar track. Once I get that little guitar track with a very basic drum thing, I do a bunch of vocals. And then Jeff adds more instruments and brings the whole thing to life."

Born in Brooklyn and raised there and in South Florida, Barish headed to the West Coast in 1963, and spent the next several years bouncing between the music scenes in L.A. and the San Francisco Bay area.

He performed with The Orkustra (an experimental outfit which also included David LaFlamme before he founded It's a Beautiful Day), and toured as a sideman with former Mamas & Papas leader John Phillips (they performed the legendary 1970 Big Sur folk festival). Barish then fronted his own group, Jesse, Wolf and Whings, which recorded an album for Shelter Records during the label's "Shelter people" heyday.

A few years later, living and writing in Marin County, Barish through a mutual friend connected with Marty Balin, then co-lead singer of Jefferson Starship. The band recorded Jesse's "Love Lovely Love" and "St. Charles" (the latter co-authored with the Starship) for its "Spitfire" album, which went multiplatinum in 1976.

Barish's songs were included on Starship's next album, "Earth," including "Count on Me," a Top 10 pop, A/C and AOR smash, and "Crazy Feeling," a Top 30 hit. The LP went multiplatinum in 1978.

That led to a solo deal with RCA, the Starship's label. Balin produced "Jesse Barish" (1978), which included the author's own version of "Count on Me" and was voted Best Debut Album by readers of BAM (Bay Area Music magazine), winning the Bammie Award. He followed up with "Mercury Shoes" (RCA, 1979), and performed with his band in the greater San Francisco area.

In 1981, Balin recorded Barish's "Hearts (Is Everything All Right?)," a Top 10 hit in the States. The single also topped the charts in Japan, France and Israel, and was a Top 5 hit in many other countries. Balin's next single, "Atlanta Lady," also penned by Barish, made the Top 30. For Balin's 1983 follow-up album, "Lucky" (also EMI America), the singer recorded Barish's "Do it for Love."

Barish songs were covered as the 1980s progressed by Lenny Williams (lead singer of Tower of Power, including "Always," a Top 40 R&B hit, and "You Know What I Like," co-written with Terry Shaddick, composer of the Olivia Newton-John hit "Physical"), and The Manhattans ("Back into the Night"), produced by R&B legend Bobby Womack. Legendary French chanteuse Dalida also recorded a version of "Hearts" that scored a major hit in France (search YouTube for videos of her performing the song).

Moving south to Venice, where he focused on writing during most of the ‘90s, Barish returned to recording in 1995 with an album of acoustic guitar and vocal duets with his then-grown son A.J. titled "Farther Sun," his first indie collaboration with Jeff Pescetto.

Barish and Pescetto followed that with the folk-rock "Cherry Road" album in 2001, the jazzy, tropical "Flute Salad" in 2006 and the in-the-moment "Wheel Keep Turning" in 2008, all independently released.

With songs penned in the couple of years since then, "Restless Soul" brings Barish's journey into the present. As he put it, "It's the Now. It's the Zen. It's me."

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A veteran music journalist, Peeples is also a Grammy-nominated record producer, an award-winning radio producer ("The Lost Lennon Tapes," Westwood One, 1988-1990) and editor of the award-winning Signal website. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily anyone else's, including The Signal's.



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