Ivar Avenue Reunion

Ivar Avenue Reunion was a blues-rock-soul sextet, formed in Los Angeles by Canadian bassist Neil Merryweather and his American girlfriend, singer Lynn Carey. They released Ivar Avenue Reunion on RCA in 1970, backed by musicians Merryweather used on a prior album. In 1971, the couple cut the duo album Vacuum Cleaner, then formed Mama Lion for a two-album run.

Members: Charlie Musselwhite (harmonica, vocals), Barry Goldberg (keyboards), Lynn Carey (vocals), Neil Merryweather (bass), John Richardson (guitar), J.J. Velker (keyboards), Robin Boers (drums)


Background

In 1969, Merryweather came to Los Angeles with his namesake psych-rock band, originally from Toronto. Signed to Capitol, they released two albums within a four-month span, Merryweather and Word of Mouth. For the latter (a two-LP set), Merryweather welcomed several musical guests, including harpist Charlie Musselwhite and keyboardist Barry Goldberg.

Musselwhite served as a blues harpist on 1965–68 albums by Tracy Nelson, John Hammond, Harvey Mandel, and the Barry Goldberg Blues Band (Blowing My Mind, 1966). In 1968, he formed the Charley Musselwhite Blues Band for the Vanguard release Stone Blues, produced by Goldberg. They also interacted on Hammond’s 1967 Vangaurd release Mirrors.

Goldberg followed Blowing My Mind with The Electric Flag, a brass-rock big band that he co-founded in San Francisco with guitarist Mike Bloomfield and drummer Buddy Miles. Goldberg served as their keyboardist for the 1967/68 albums The Trip (OST) and A Long Time Comin’. He followed Bloomfield out of the band for the 1968 Columbia release Super Session, a joint effort with (ex-Blood Sweat & Tears) keyboardist Al Kooper and (ex-Buffalo Springfield) guitarist Stephen Stills.

Also in 1968, Goldberg played on Living With the Animals, the debut album by Mother Earth. With Musselwhite and Mandel, he formed the Barry Goldberg Reunion for the Buddah release There’s No Hole In My Soul. Under his own name, Goldberg cut the 1969 Buddah albums Street Man and Two Jews Blues, the second with Musselwhite.

In 1970, Goldberg and Musselwhite met again with Merryweather at RCA Studios on Ivar Avenue. Merryweather had just released an album (Neil Merryweather, John Richardson and Boers) on Kent, a small blues-rock label. For that album, he enlisted three Ontarian musicians: ex-Ugly Ducklings drummer Robin Boers, ex-Nucleus guitarist John Richardson, and ex-49th Parallel keyboardist J.J. Velker.

The two parties decided to cut an album with the addition of Merryweather’s girlfriend, Lynn Carey, an Angeleno singer and actress who recently fronted soul-rockers C.K. Strong for a 1969 album on Epic.

The seven-piece named its venture Ivar Avenue Reunion: a reference to their meetup spot (Ivar Avenue) and the fact that Merryweather worked once before with Musselwhite and Goldberg, who headed an earlier project with the word “Reunion.”


The Album

Ivar Avenue Reunion appeared on RCA Victor in September 1970. It features three joint-written songs by Carey and Merryweather (“Ride Mama Ride,” “Fast Train,” “Run, Run Children”), a track apiece by Musselwhite (“My Daddy Was a Jockey”) and Richardson (“Magic Fool”), and Goldberg co-writes with Carey (“Charlotte Brown”) and Merryweather (“Walkin’ Shoes”). The one cover is “After While” by bluesman Otis Spann.

Due to Goldberg’s presence, Velker only plays on three cuts: electric piano on “Ride Mama Ride” and organ on “Magic Fool” and “Run, Run Children.” Musical guests include wind players Louise Di Tullio and Jim Decker (“Charlotte Brown”) and clarinetist Sidney George (“Walkin’ Shoes”). Ivar Avenue Reunion was co-produced by Merryweather and Morey Alexander, who worked on Goldberg’s Buddah albums.

The album’s cover was designed by Dean Torrence (ex-Jan & Dean) of Kittyhawk Graphics (The Turtles, Harper and Rowe, The Sunshine Company, Canned Heat, Sagittarius). The front shows Carey, Merryweather, Goldberg, and Musselwhite (watercolored) below the Ivar Ave. street pole. On the back, all seven members are seated in the grass. At Merryweather’s suggestion, Carey wore a large bouffant wig for these photo-shoots.


Later Activity

RCA wanted to promote Merryweather and Carey as a duo. The couple obliged with the 1971 release Vacuum Cleaner, recorded with Richardson, Velker, Boers, and a second drummer, Cofi Hall, a member of Merryweather’s earlier namesake band.

In a break from RCA, Merryweather formed Mama Lion with Carey, Hall, and two newcomers: guitarist Rick Gaxiola and keyboardist James Newton Howard. They released two soul-rock albums in 1972/73 on Family Productions. The musicians (sans Carey) concurrently cut two hard rock albums as Heavy Cruiser.

After those projects, Merryweather made the acclaimed 1974/75 albums Space Rangers and Kryptonite with backing band the Space Rangers. Carey resurfaced a decade after Mama Lion as a jazz singer.

Musselwhite played on the 1970 Blue Thumb release Coming Home by the Chicago Blues Stars and remained prolific as a solo artist.

Goldberg issued further solo albums on Buddah (1971) and ATCO (1974). He also played on albums by (ex-Stone the Crows) singer Maggie Bell and singer/songwriter Buzzy Linhart. In 1976, he and Bloomfield teamed with drummer Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Cactus), bassist Ric Grech (Family, Blind Faith), and singer Ray Kennedy in the super-group KGB, which issued two albums that year on MCA.

Ivar Avenue Reunion got an unofficial CD reissue by US archivists Mandala, the label behind a diverse set of reissues (Hungry Wolf, Blackfoot Sue, Bull Angus, Jericho Jones, Ahora Mazda, Et Cetera, Ungava, Atila, Moonrider).


Discography:

  • Ivar Avenue Reunion (1970)

Sources:

1 thought on “Ivar Avenue Reunion

  1. Ivar Avenue Reunion is one of my most beloved albums from 1970. I always thought that if it had been promoted properly that it would have been huge. Glad to see that it is appreciated here.

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