Album of the Week: Nancy Priddy’s You’ve Come This Way Before (1968)

“Feelin’ strange sensations / Familiar old vibrations” – so begins the trippy odyssey of renaissance woman Nancy Priddy’s You’ve Come This Way Before, released on the relatively unknown Dot Records label. Priddy was involved in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 60s and sang back-up vocals on Leonard Cohen’s classic debut (you can hear her on the timeless songs “Suzanne” and “So Long, Marianne”). She also dated Stephen Stills, and eventually turned to acting, often starring alongside her daughter Christina Applegate. You’ve Come This Way Before, then, works as something of a successful one-time experiment for the talented Priddy.

At its best, Priddy’s music achieves a blend of Margo Guryan’s comfy psych-pop and Nico’s more doom-and-gloom baroque songs. “Ebony Glass” employs some eerie harpsichord and strings as well as a child singing “This is the way the world ends”. The rhythm section is tight (courtesy of jazz veteran Bernard Purdie), and the vibe is pure lava-lamp psychedelia. The album peaks early with the frankly incredible “Mystic Lady”, which is everything great about the album and the genres it includes in one track. A shifting opus not unlike “A Day in the Life”, it is in one section an orchestral ballad, another a festive merry-go-round, and finally a jaunty soul show-stopper in the vein of Laura Nyro.

Part of the album’s classic sound is attributable to co-producer and arranger John Simon, who worked with Leonard Cohen, The Band, Janis Joplin and Margo Guryan among others. “We Could Have It All” could be a Mamas & The Papas song. “Christina’s World” is apparently inspired by the painting of the same name, though it works doubly as a tribute to Applegate, who was curiously not yet born when the song was made.

My biggest complaint with this album is that it’s too short. There are 10 mostly brief songs and it barely clocks in at half an hour, with the longest track displaying the most brilliance. It ends on a curious note with the weird “Epitaph”, which leaves me wanting more. I will be seeking out more of Priddy’s music, but she didn’t release another album for decades, and I’m currently listening to 2007’s “Y2k Drinking Song”, which sounds like Jimmy Buffett (read: terrible). However, You’ve Come This Way Before is nothing less than a true hidden gem.

Listen to You’ve Come This Way Before on Spotify.