It’s Wednesday and this means time again to take a closer look at a tune I’ve only mentioned in passing or not covered at all to date. Today’s pick falls into the latter category, and when I came across the song for the first time not too long ago, I loved it right away: Ridgetop by Jesse Colin Young.
Jesse Colin Young (born Perry Miller) is best known as a co-founder and lead vocalist of ’60s American folk-rock group The Youngbloods. During their original run from 1965 until 1972, they only scored one true hit with the beautiful Get Together, which peeked at no. 5 on the U.S. pop chart Billboard Hot 100 in 1969 after it had been re-released.
Following The Youngbloods’ dissolution in 1972, Young launched a solo career that led to a series of fairly successful albums, especially between 1973 (Song for Juli) and 1977 (Love On the Wing). Young, who on November 22 is turning 81, released his most recent solo album Dreamers in February 2019.
This brings me to Ridgetop, a track from the above-mentioned Song for Juli, Young’s fourth solo album that appeared in September 1973. The smooth and groovy tune was penned by him. In addition to his warm tenor voice, I love the saxophone work, which gives the track a jazzy flavor.
Sadly, Ridgetop wasn’t released as a single, though it’s fair to say that at just over 7 minutes, it wouldn’t have been ideal for radio. Peaking at no. 51, Song for Juli just missed the top 50 on the Billboard 200. It also became Young’s first album to chart in Canada.
Here’s a nice live version of Ridgetop, which apparently was captured in June 2017. In this case, young instrumentalist Jack Sheehan played the saxophone. According to his website, the now 26-year-old “has become a growing force on the alto saxophone, having already performed alongside artists such as Terence Blanchard and John Clayton, to name a few.” He certainly did an outstanding job here. Young’s singing is still pretty cool!
Following are some additional tidbits on Ridgetop from Songfacts:
Jesse Colin Young wrote this song about his home in Point Reyes, California (north of San Francisco) that he called “Ridgetop.” He bought it after moving to the area from New York with his band, The Youngbloods, in 1967 when their song “Get Together” caught on in the region (two years later, the song became a national hit).
Young gives rather specific details when describing the home, singing about the pine needles on the lawn and the ruts in the road. It’s the kind of place that appeals to those looking to keep in touch with nature at the cost of convenience.
In 1995, Young’s Ridgetop home burned to the ground, torched by wildfires that swept through the area. In a Songfacts interview, he talked about losing the home and what it was like performing the song after it was destroyed. “It was difficult when it first happened,” he said. “It was hell. I had to go out on the road right after the house burned down. We were in papers all over the country when that happened, so maybe audiences wanted to reminisce about it too. I still have the property and my recording studio, one of them, is there. It was built down in a gully and that fire was so hot and the trees so tall – big, 100-foot pines – that the firemen said it just sucked all the oxygen out from down low, and way down there in the gully was the recording studio.
There were five scorched boards on the deck and our four-story house was burnt down to like a foot of ash. So, what a blessing that was to save the studio. I guess as time goes on you let pain go and concentrate on the blessings.”
Sources: Wikipedia; Jack Sheehan website; Songfacts; YouTube