Never heard of this band? I’m not surprised. Bernie Leadon was an original member of the Eagles. Michael Georgiades was a working L.A. musician/songwriter, often with Johnny Rivers.
After pouring a bottle of beer over the head of Glenn Frey, Leadon quit the Eagles, this was before the album Hotel California. According to Leadon’s own story, he didn’t like the changing direction of the band. Leadon was a roots player, bluegrass and country, two thing Hotel California was not. Joe Walsh took over Leadon’s role.
Glyn Johns was brought in to produced the duo’s debut. Johns had worked with rock groups like The Who, the Kinks and The Rolling Stones, but also country-rock bands like the Eagles and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Johns had a sensitivity for acoustic instruments and even a well-known setup for micing drums. He liked his instruments to breathe.
In the late 1970s, Leadon, the ex-Eagle, still had a lot of Street cred in L.A. Leadon found a kindred spirit in Georgiades, they started writing songs together and recorded some demos.
Johns has produced the Eagles first two albums, so he knew Leadon. Leadon and Georgiades signed a deal with Asylum Records with Johns as producer/engineer.
The resulting album, Natural Progressions, got a big push when it was released. It was easy going, well-constructed, sophisticated soft rock. It reminds me of unplugged versions of The Who By Numbers. The record company might have thought this was the next Loggins & Messina.
Leadon and Georgiades are decent writers but this album is really unfocused. It is a Brewer & Shipley album or a Steely Dan project. Unfortunately, they can’t pull off their style. They needed a stronger arranger of a producer, someone like Louie Shelton, Jackson Browne or George Martin. Johns tried to emphasize their strength, their acoustic-based song and Leadon’s playing. He put the vocals back in the mix, which only points out that singing was not their strength.
It might sound like I am dismissing this album; I’m not. These songs have a lot to offer, but it you want strong polished hits, you won’t find them. The album feels like a dressed-up set of demos. The arrangements are not tight, they meander and often hide the strongest aspects of the songs. These guys are not the Eagles or Poco, the lack of a strong vocalist hurts this project. These guys offer ten songs that are better than average. There is nothing to dislike about these songs, but you really want to like them more.
Unfortunately, Natural Progressions didn’t sell and the duo never got a chance for a follow-up. I think they could have done better, but by the late 1970s, the window on songwriters like this was closing fast.
“Callin’ for Your Love” 4:30 Written by Georgiades Laid-back groove, nice instrument arrangement, a bit like Crosby & Nash, but weaker vocals. A very good effort and it is a pleasant song, unfortunately it does not break into a powerhouse song like it hints at. There is a great instrumental break in the middle but it doesn’t really lead anywhere.
“How Can You Live Without Love?” 3:46 Written and sung by Leadon. Very pleasing acoustic fare, with just enough mandolin and steel guitar to give it a bit of country.
“Breath” 3:27 Written by Georgiades who proves he knows his way around some nice chord changes as a singer/songwriter. He’s just not a strong vocalist.
“Rotation” 6:18 Written by Georgiades An acoustic art-folk song. I don’t know what that means, but is has a progressive feel of what is a folk song at heart. The electric guitar is buried in the mix. I would have liked hearing this song in concert, I bet it would have been a smoking journey.
“You’re the Singer” 4:21 Written by Georgiades This song has some nice grooves, one of the best on the album. The vocals are pretty weak, too bad. This song has hit written all over it.
“Tropical Winter” 4:33 Written by Georgiades For some reason, the vocals are mixed too far deep in the song. Normally, I like the way Johns mixes his albums, but this time it hurts the vocals. The guitar work is good, but they needed a stronger hook to shift into a stronger gear. The song is good, but just under written.
“As Time Goes On” 3:09 Written and sung by Leadon Not a rock song, more like an Air Supply or Ambrosia pop song. Leadon is not a great singer, in the hands of Kenny Loggins or Roger Daltrey, this song might have had a chance. An example of some nice songs but the wrong singer/players.
“The Sparrow” 3:29 Written by Leadon One of the best and completely written songs on the album. This might have been a really nice Eagles song, gentle, country-rock song. Imagine Linda Ronstadt with a song like this.
“At Love Again” 4:19 Written by Georgiades A rollicking bar tune, with a bit of Rolling Stones guitar.
“Glass Off” 6:45 Written and sung by Leadon. Gentle breezy guitars, with enough strings to give it a sultry, jazzy SoCal groove. A bit adventurous like the Eagles were on the One of These Nights album. A very pleasant song.
Bass, Brian Garofalo
Drums, David Kemper
Keyboards, Steven Goldstein
Lead Guitar, John Bandini Brennan
Percussion, Bobbye Hall
Vocals, Guitar Georgiades
Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo, Steel Guitar, Bernie Leadon