David Garfield Reimagines “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” With Boz Scaggs

Thank God for the foresight of David Garfield.

Videos by American Songwriter

Every day in every corner of the world, there are thousands and thousands of new pieces of music being created. Studios, songwriting rooms, living rooms, tour busses, Zoom chats; they’re all abuzz every day. While that is fantastic, there’s a downside to it as well. Unfortunately, when you mix societies ever-shrinking attention span with the breakneck speed record labels and artists need to maintain to keep up their content machine; a lot of great songs get buried way before their time.

That’s why the world needs more guys like David Garfield because that doesn’t sit well with him.

An multi-talented keyboardist, composer, arranger and recording artist, Garfield has spent a lifetime working with many of music’s all-time greats. Smokey Robinson, David Sanborn, Michael McDonald, Cher, Freddie Hubbard, Spinal Tap, The Rippingtons, Larry Carlton, Oleta Adams, Boz Scaggs, Michael Bolton, Natalie Cole, Brenda Russell and Rick Braun; that’s just a small portion of his list of co-creators.

These days, Garfield is on a mission to make sure people don’t miss out on some of the musical magic that, as far as he’s concerned, didn’t get its fair shake. His newest project, entitled Guitar Heroes OTB Volume 2, is a four-song EP featuring a riveting take on the Bob Dylan classic “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.”  Recorded back in 1996, this newly remastered track features an all-star crew with Boz Scaggs, Eddie Van Halen, Paul Barrere and Richie Hayward from Little Feat, Jim Keltner on drums, Neil Stubenhaus on bass and Larry Klimas on horns. 

“The song has a really slow and mysterious groove,” explains Garfield. “I made a special arrangement and Boz found a fourth verse of alternate lyrics.

“This actually came out in ‘97 and it was incredibly popular in Japan. In the States, it was distributed with a label that even though they were Warner distribution, they were kind of just in the jazz corner. They only promoted one song that was more smooth jazz, so we really never got anybody to pay attention to this track, which I always thought was a jewel.”

In addition to Scaggs turning in a performance for the ages, there are so many reasons for this performance to be brought back into the spotlight. This track alone brings alive what most might consider new-to-you music by Eddie Van Halen, Barrere and Hayward. In Garfield’s eyes, the fact that the bulk of their fans were never turned on to these performances is nothing short of a crime.

“Ed’s a buddy and we’d done some gigs together. With his passing, I was getting a lot of people listening to my songs with him. I had him on some other stuff and that made me think about putting this out properly, remastering it with the special iTunes, digital mastering and re-releasing it.

“It’s very special and that’s the idea behind it. I don’t think very many people knew about this track. The right people never got it. I think there’s a lot of people that would like this but just didn’t know it was there.”

It’s not just the performances that move Garfield but where they were recorded as well. Working in some of Hollywood’s most hallowed studios where some of the biggest songs of all time have been recorded, the walls mean almost as much as the songs themselves.

“Some of these studios we worked at like Village and Capitol, these are where a lot of hit records were made and I had vision that someday in the future, they won’t be operable. They won’t be available. So, I went in and cut a few tracks here, a few tracks here, and it just kept mushrooming. It’s turned into like six CDs, five EPs, twenty singles, YouTube videos. It expands across every area you can get music out to people.”

A credit to his foresight, David started creating these all-star sessions for various projects decades ago. As the calendar kept moving along and years slipped into the past, along the way we lost some of the guys. While they may be superstar musicians that fans love and idolize, to David these guys were dear friends. To dust off those master tapes and hear their voices and their music come alive through the speakers again, that was a very emotional experience for Garfield.

“It feels very weird, but at the same time, very warm. It’s a very warm experience because when you’re working on the music and you’re in your studio with your eyes closed…it’s like they’re still alive. It’s like nothing happened. Going through the outtakes and hearing where we were just screwing around before the track, oh, it just takes you right back to the session. Right back to the day.”

When it comes to “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” Garfield is beside himself with excitement. Even after forty-five years, he still recognizes things in the moment and appreciates how special those moments are. This session, and this song in particular, was one of those times.

“Paul Barrere is incredible. I mean, oh my God, what an underrated, under recognized guitar player he was. I have to say how amazing Little Feat was. Ever since I came to California in 1974, I always heard about Little Feat. They never became superstars, but they were supposed to be. They were just an amazing band so to get to work with the guys from Little Feat was a real thrill. It was a highlight for me, and I think that’s part of the attraction for Ed. I think he was delighted to join in with them.

“For me to play with those musicians and, just to come back to Boz, I’ve worked with Boz many, many times over the years. For Boz to come in and do something with me? Collaborate with me? I’d say that’s one of the biggest thrills of my life.”

Guitar Heroes OTB Volumes 1 and 2 are out now with two more slated for release in 2021.

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