Born Chester William Powers Jnr, son of a carnival family where his early career aged just three was enticing punters into shows of scantily clad and even less ladies "Dino" as he came to be known (chosen because of the connotations of being a hard man) clearly had show business in his blood. "Valenti", misspelt on this release, was chosen when he was offered a residency in an Italian restaurant in Connecticut.
He had talent, he would star on the same bills in Greenwich Village as Bob Dylan, Fred Neil and Tom Paxton to name but three. He wrote the hippy love and peace anthem "Let's Get Together" which was covered by folkies The Kingston Trio, turned into a Top Ten hit in the States by The Youngbloods and in the UK by the Dave Clark Five (it would be their last single Top Twenty hit).
It was a fame he earned little from, having already sold the publishing rights in 1963 to the Kingston Trio.
Yet he was considered a star. He had written songs and had them published. He was admired by his peers. From this background came the beginnings of the San Francisco Bay group Quicksilver Messenger Service to whom he would have a long but fragmented relationship.
An association that was over almost before it started. Busted on a drugs charge and arrested again whilst on bail for a similar offence, the American Civil Court system threw the proverbial book at him. It would be four long years before Dino saw the light of day.
Quicksilver carried on and was the last of the Bay Coast groups to sign a recording deal preferring to wait until their former leader was released from jail.
Released he was, then, having listened to the twin guitar, acid fuelled, rhythm and blues turned psychedelic rock that QMS had become so loved for, he turned his back and decided to do his own thing.
Columbia Records duly signed Dino up for a single album deal and straight away regretted it as Ritchie Unterberger reports in a conversation with QMS luminary Gary Duncan in Ritchie's thoroughly engaging book "Eight Miles High". Valenti, after recording an complete album of short radio friendly nuggets with Jack Nitzsche as producer then rejected it all in favour of returning to tracks lasting an hour.
Bob Johnson, the legendary producer of Dylan and Lindisfarne amongst others, was brought in and after two days of studio time where the pair just flew paper aeroplanes the LP finally began in earnest.
So what was the outcome?
Dino Valente is an album filled with romanticism, with psychedelic acid folk, for the main part just voice and guitar. Track after track is a stream of consciousness that basically suggests that only he is capable of understanding the young ladies of his focus that he singing about.
Either a womaniser or a modern man ahead of his time you have to make your own judgement.
Only on one track "Tomorrow" which includes a full band with gorgeously lush and lavish orchestration does Valenti reach the pop peaks of "Let's get together". Dino fought hand and tooth to restrict the record to just himself, whilst "Tomorrow" was given the full treatment after he left the studio.
But then that's not the point.
Short of the "lost commercial album" ever turning up, " Dino Valente" is a moment in time.
It's glorious and an essential for any fan of Quicksilver Messenger Services latter albums such as "Just For Love" and "What About Me" by which stage Valenti had finally rejoined the band, writing virtually all the material under the pseudonym of "Jesse Oris Farrow".
It captures an period in time and whilst it sank without a trace on release, ( C.B.S. gave up and offered no promotion) for me it's one of those records that make you feel as though you were a part of the hippy dream even if you were born too late.
All credit to Floating World Records for re-releasing "Dino Valente" which replaces the hard to find as hen's teeth R.P.M. (Cherry Red) version of 2004.
|Various Artists: American Epic:The Sessions||Rob Jungklas: Blackbirds|
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