Will and James Ragar - Forever / Bayou Paradise
BBE Music announces the first-ever re-issue of this sun baked folk/jazz hybrid 45 by Louisiana brothers Will & James Ragar. First released in 1981, this private press 7″ showcases Will & James’ songwriting skills, refined performance and sophisticated compositions.
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Remastered by Frank Merritt the re-issue has an analogue warmth that the brothers say sounds even more pleasing than the original.
Will & James Ragar began as the Will James Band performing on the popular ‘Crawfish Circuit’ of Southern Louisiana – this circuit included New Orleans, Thibodaux and Baton Rouge. They played blues, rock and jazz combos, covering everything from James Taylor to Jimi Hendrix. Eventually evolving into an acoustic folk-rock duo by the time they entered the studio in 1980.
Both tracks on the 45 were recorded at River City studios in Baton Rouge in 1980. The engineer had the Allman Brothers on his list of recording credits, so they felt they were in excellent company.
“Bayou Paradise” was an ode to the beauty of Southern Louisiana. The famous Sunshine bridge over wetlands as the sounds of migrating geese echo overhead on their journey down the Mississippi River flyway. The Atchafalaya river basin flows into the Gulf of Mexico near Lafayette creating a large wetland area and lush lakes connected by endless bayous. Miles and miles of lush swamps with many uninhabited areas just waiting to be explored.
“Forever” captures the exhilaration of new love, focusing on its intoxication and ecstasy without looking ahead to the reality of a life on the road. The soulful chorus inspires motion and enthusiasm. The shadow of Woodstock had a defining role against tradition. Things were changing socially. Loving someone forever was always part of the dream but seemingly broken in an age of break-ups and divorce. The optimistic hope that “love will survive” was half dream and half pessimistic glance forward at the social trends of relationships that were to follow.
The studio band included Will & James. John Smart on keyboards, he’s solo on “Forever” was achieved with the Legendary Analog Prophet synth and saturated the studio with rich layers of its distinctive sound, driving the up-tempo chorus. Dave D’Aubin, a versatile bass player whose resonant tone is very present on both songs. Tommy Jefferson is on drums, an alumnus of the Southern University jazz program, the same place Randy Jackson and Billy Cobham studied. Tommy used a tight higher pitch snare drum on the recording, a sound that would soon become very popular, but at that time was a little ahead of the curve.
The session was recorded on analogue tape using the 24-track MCI recorder and mixed down to analogue tape for the single. Will & James added vocal harmonies and soaked up the fidelity during mix-down.
The release coincides with the long-awaited re-issue of the brothers’ album ‘Will & James Ragar One’. This much sort after private press long-player was originally released in 1980 and sold locally in a limited run has now been fully remastered by Frank Merritt. BBE Music presents the album in a glorious gatefold with extensive sleeve notes. This time the vinyl will be pressed over 2 discs to produce the best sound possible.