We all remember weatherbeaten Michael Martin Murphey from his 1970's Top 40/AOR heyday ("...she went and called him Wiiiiiiiiiiiilldfiiiiiiiire...") and perhaps a few folks also recollect his involvement in the early '70s Texas "outlaw" scene, or his long and abiding interest in cowboy songs. A varied career, for sure! Murphey started out in the Southern California pop/folk scene, pitching songs to the Monkees and other artists, but like some country singers back East, he chose to drop out of the big city scene and return home to Texas, where he went off the grid along with Willie, Jerry Jeff and others... His success on the disco-era pop charts, and as a country hitmaker, gave him the freedom to pursue a career as a latter-day cowboy troubadour, a role that he's filled for the last couple of decades. Here's a quick look at his work...
Michael Martin Murphey "The Ultimate Collection" (Hip-O, 2001)
Early on, Murphey sat on the edge of the "outlaw" scene -- he wrote a bunch of great hippie-ish songs that other people recorded with a fair amount of success, tunes like "Geronimo's Cadillac" and "Backslider's Wine." His own versions were shaky and fragile, but there was a genuine charm to his thin, strained performances... Things went to hell in a handbasket after he had a Top Ten hit: for those of you who hated "Wildfire" in the '70s, the first half of this CD may come as a revelation; the second half, with it's tepid John Denver-isms, will send you screaming from the room.
Michael Martin Murphey "The Best Of Michael Martin Murphey" (Liberty, 1995)
In which he turns into Dan Seals, more or less. Includes early '80s remakes of some of his better songs from the '70s, such as "Geronimo's Cadillac" and "Carolina In The Pines," and some rootsy pickers like James Burton, Ricky Skaggs, John McEuen and Bobby Hicks lurking in the background. The whole approach, including Jim Ed Norman's poppy production, is all a bit leaden. Stick with his old stuff.
Michael Martin Murphey "The Best Of Michael Martin Murphey" (Raven, 1998)
Michael Martin Murphey "Michael Murphey/Lone Wolf/Peaks Valleys Honky-Tonks" (2010)
A reissue of three long-out-of-print early albums from cosmic cowboy Michael Martin Murphey: 1973's Michael Murphey, Lone Wolf from 1978, and Peaks Valleys Honky-Tonks, from 1979.
The Lewis And Clark Expedition "The Lewis And Clark Expedition" (Colgems, 1968)
Michael Murphey "Geronimo's Cadillac" (A&M, 1972)
Michael Murphey "Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir" (A&M, 1973)
Michael Murphey "Michael Murphey" (Epic, 1973) (LP)
Michael Murphey "Blue Sky - Night Thunder" (Epic, 1975)
His big hit pop album, with "Wildfire" and "Carolina In The Pines," this record sold over a million copies, and made Murphey a household name in the mid-1970s.
Michael Murphey "Swans Against The Sun" (Epic, 1976)
Michael Murphey "Flowing Free Forever" (Epic, 1976)
Michael Murphey "Lone Wolf" (Epic, 1978) (LP)
Michael Murphey "Peaks, Valleys, Honky Tonks & Alleys" (Epic, 1979) (LP)
Michael Murphey "Hard Country" (Epic, 1981)
Michael Martin Murphey "Michael Martin Murphey" (Liberty, 1982) (LP)
Michael Martin Murphey "The Heart Never Lies" (Liberty, 1983) (LP)
Michael Martin Murphey "Tonight We Ride" (Warner, 1986)
Michael Martin Murphey "Americana" (Warner, 1987)
Michael Martin Murphey "River Of Time" (Warner, 1988)
Michael Martin Murphey "Land Of Enchantment" (Warner, 1989)
Michael Martin Murphey "Cowboy Songs" (Warner, 1990)
Michael Martin Murphey "Cowboy Songs II: Cowboy Christmas" (Warner, 1991)
Michael Martin Murphey "Cowboy Songs III - Rhymes Of The Renegades" (Warner, 1993)
Michael Martin Murphey "Sagebrush Symphony" (Warner, 1995)
Michael Martin Murphey "Horse Legends" (Warner, 1997)
Michael Martin Murphey "Cowboy Songs Four" (West Fest, 1998)
Michael Martin Murphey "Cowboy Christmas II: Acoustic Christmas Carols" (West Fest, 1999)
Michael Martin Murphey "Playing Favorites" (Real West, 2001)
Michael Martin Murphey "Playing Favorites II: Cowboy Classics" (Real West, 2002)
Michael Martin Murphey "Cowboy Christmas III" (Wildfire, 2002)
Michael Martin Murphey "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" (Smith's Music, 2002)
Michael Martin Murphey "Heartland Cowboy: Cowboy Songs, Vol. 5" (ACME, 2006)
Michael Martin Murphey "Buckaroo Blue Grass" (Rural Rhythm, 2009)
(Produced by Ryan Murphey)
Apparently, Murphey also had roots in the bluegrass world -- in addition to his association with the Monkees, he also pitched songs to Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, and over the years he's used a bunch of high-power bluegrass players as sidemen on his albums. So it's no big surprise, and a bit of a treat, to find him doing bouncy acoustic remakes of some of his old songs, many of which hold up remarkably well after all these years. "What Am I Doing Hanging 'Round" sounds great, and the other songs are sure to provoke smiles of recognition and nostalgia as well... Among the musicians pitching in on this understated album are mandolinists Sam Bush and Ronnie McCoury, dobro whiz Rob Ickes, fiddler Andy Leftwich and even Rhonda Vincent on harmony vocals. Murphey's voice doesn't soar up as high as it used to, but he sings with feeling and conviction -- if you're a fan, or if you just like good, simple folk-Americana, this album's a fine choice.
Michael Martin Murphey "Cowboy Classics: Old West Cowboy Collection" (Rural Rhythm, 2009)
Michael Martin Murphey "Lone Cowboy: Live & Solo" (Western Jubilee, 2010)
Michael Martin Murphey "Buckaroo Blue Grass, v.2: Riding Song" (Rural Rhythm, 2010)
Michael Martin Murphey "Tall Grass And Cool Water" (Rural Rhythm, 2011)
(Produced by Ryan Murphey & Pat Flynn)
A sweet acoustic set, merging cowboy-oriented "western" songs with bluegrass arrangements, the simple, old-fashioned verse structures beefed up with fiddle, banjo and mandolin, with performances by several acoustic music heavy-hitters: Sam Bush, Pat Flynn, Andy Hall, Andy Leftwich, Ronnie McCoury and others. As on Murphey's other cowboy albums, the repertoire includes a lot of well-chosen but dimly-remembered Public Domain tunes, along with golden oldies such as "Cool Water" and "Springtime In The Rockies." Little bit of yodeling in there as well... Quite nice!
Michael Martin Murphey "The Horse Legends" (Rockbeat, 2011)
Kenny Rogers & The First Edition "The Ballad Of Calico" (Reprise, 1972) (LP)
A 2-LP country-rock concept album with songs written by Michael Murphey and Larry Cansler...
Hick Music Index