Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Dino Valente - Dino Valente

Dino Valente


Released 1968 on Epic
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 09/10/2000ce


Dino Valente ain't everybody's cup of tea, some complain his voice was a nasal whine, but being a huge fan of both Sky Saxon and Sonny Bono I like it just fine. Dino's real name was Chester Powers and was born in Danbury,Connecticut (about 25 miles from my home turf of Bridgeport,Connecticut) he sadly died in the mid 90's after a long illness.

Chester underwent a name change in the mid 60's and became Dino Valente (sometimes spelled Valenti). Dino hit the New York folk scene in the mid 60's and became fast friends with Richie Havens among others like The Youngbloods, in fact he wrote The Youngbloods classic peace anthem "Get Together" which the "bloods" recorded for their splendid 1967 debut album ("Get Together" became a worldwide hit in 1969 when re-issued to tie in with a UNICEF campaign.)

Dino had a restless spirit and he also had a talent for telling "tall tales", one of his best known stories was that his parents ran carnivals and that he grew up traveling with the circus, which may just be a story, who knows?. Somehow Dino made it to the West Coast by the mid 60's and wound up in the San Francisco bay area. He took his lone folkie act onto the coffee house circuit along with others hopefuls like David Crosby, Paul Kantner, and David Freiberg. Around this time (1966) many West Coast groups began playing a song called "Hey Joe" which many like Love credited to Dino Valente, whether he wrote it or not is unknown but it did help to build Dino's reputation as an ace songwriter.

Dino's frienship with David Freiberg led to the duo forming the original Quicksilver Messenger Service. Yet just before Quicksilver were to get into action Dino was busted on a dope charge and went to jail, he was replaced briefly by Jim Murray. Quicksilver had an agreement with Dino that he could re-join the group as soon as he got out of jail and as a show of strength they recorded Valente's "Dino's Song" for their debut album in 1968.

Dino did hit the streets again in 1968 but instead of joining Quicksilver he signed to Epic as a solo act and recorded this spectacular album which quickly faded into obscurity. This album really justifies the tag of "unsung" and is a winner from beginning to end. It remains Dino's finest ever work. Dino would later rejoin Quicksilver in 1970 after a failed attempt to get together a group called The Outlaws with QMS guitarist Gary Duncan. Oddly enough due to a contractual problems Dino's new songs with QMS would be credited to Jesse Oris Farrow! Whew!

Anyway now to the record Dino Valente opens with a spacey acoustic ballad called "Time" which features just harpsichord and light percussion, Dino's guitar and his eerie multi-tracked voice, in fact much of this album follows this formula with smashing results. "Something New" is a longish jazzy piece that looks forward to QMS numbers like "Gone Again" it's well played and well sung, a knockout. "My Friend" adds some tasteful flute and piano and trumpets, Dino plays some icy solos on guitar and as usual his vocal is out of sight!. "Listen To Me" is a truly spooky mellowed back Death Valley acoustic ballad that brings to mind Tim Buckley's "Lorca" album.

Up next is "Me and My Uncle" written by John Phillips and also recorded by The Fortunate Sons and The Grateful Dead. Dino's version knocks the spots off The Grateful Dead version, Dino really brings the song to life with a passionate vocal and some dazzling guitar work. "Tomorrow" could have been selected as a possible single it has hit written all over it, it's a beautiful romantic song which is aided by some lovely strings.

"Children Of The Sun" is a tripped out psychedelic trance ballad where Dino sounds a lot like Marty Balin circa "Comin' Back To Me". The next track "New Wind Blowing" follows suit and is also superb. "Everything Is Gonna Be OK" is absolutely killer!, Dino's voice has loads of echo on it which makes it sounds like 5 people are singing with him, and he plays aggressive guitar lines similar to "Me and My Uncle". The final song is a total psychedelic freakout called "Test" this one has a bizarre Skip Spence ring to it, it features flute guitar and a really way out vocal, it's a great way to end the album it just leaves you hanging there.

The good news is Sony (USA) have actually re-issued "Dino Valente" on CD with 2 great bonus tracks "Shame On You Babe" and "Now And Now Only". So I would suggest you jump on this baby quick before it's deleted. This is a warm and beautiful record that deserves to be in any serious record collection. God bless you Dino! and thanks for the wonderful music.


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