Thanks For The Breath Of Fresh Air, Child

Entire Album, Zipped (YSI)

:: Lying Here Loving You ::

:: Goodbye Unspoken ::

:: Cross Country Driver ::

:: She's My Lady ::

:: Sweet Street Lady ::

:: Dues ::

:: Let My Imagination ::

:: Also Ran ::

:: Goodlight (Show Me Home) ::

:: Picture of Mom And Dad ::

Note from Tony: Alec is a good friend of ours who shares a similar interest in weird and wonderful vinyl, and whose ".25¢ Record Collection" CD's have amused and bemused us for years. If it weren't for people like him, we wouldn't be doing shit like this. This is his first post for us, but we hope he'll be doing more. Take it away, Alec...

The Mark Holly album is an interesting specimen, which is not an easy feat considering he's a kind of soft rock-ish songwriter from 1973. He has a decent voice, is a competent songwriter, and the album is well-produced. Much of it is so competent, in fact, that it would otherwise blend into the vinylscape unnoticed and unnoteworthy, if it were not for a few peculiar distinctions.

First there is that amazing cover photo, where he's wearing a black belt over a beige jumpsuit. He stands there, clearly in a rather low-rent photo studio, in front of a blue pull-down backdrop, striking a pose that announces his readiness to take on the world. But there's that jumpsuit, and that ruddy, boy scoutish face…something's not right. And then there's the record company logo, Grit Records. Isn't it exactly the same as that phony Grit newspaper they used to try to get kids to sell? They used to advertise in comic books with an ad that said "Everyone loves GRIT!" Even as a ten-year-old I knew Grit was bunk.

The brief liner notes on the back cover tell us that Mark originally hailed from St. Petersburg, Florida, then moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where it is readily admitted that "life for Mark was very difficult here." It seems like a strange detail to include, when you only have one paragraph to promote the artist. But that's nothing when, a few lines later, we learn that "a two year stint in the Navy ended tragically with his internment in the Neuro-Psychiatric ward of the Philadelphia Naval Hospital." What?! These grim facts are laid out side by side with checking off other details like club dates, moving to L.A., and fronting a group that opened for "The Rolling Stones" – in quotation marks, making one wonder if that really happened or not. I've done a few online searches for Mark Holly but haven't turned up anything, other than someone selling another copy for sixty bucks, noting that Larry Carlton is on it (true), and classifying the record as "RARE". Perhaps "OBSCURE" is more accurate, but clearly I'm not a salesman. Nor am I a rare record collector – I got my copy for twenty-five cents. But I do keep it in a plastic bag and treasure it. It's not like it's about to come out on CD with bonus tracks anytime soon.

Like the liner notes and the cover photo, the songs alternate between two distinct approaches: trucker-type numbers about "bein' on the road" and "payin' dues" as a traveling musician, counterbalanced with soft, sensitive ballads. The swaggering numbers are, unsurprisingly, not all that convincing, but Mark Holly's kind of like a kid on the block you can't help but tolerate because he's so harmless. It's impossible to not see that he's just a well-meaning, rather innocent guy who has a fantasy of being a really cool touring musician. And if the liner notes are true, he did do some touring. But the innocence never rubbed off, somehow – most of Mark's traveling songs eventually confess to falling head over heels for some random tramp met along the way, who, he always seems to assume, has probably already forgotten him.

Although I've had this record for years, it has only been in the last few weeks that I've listened to all of it. I was mesmerized all this time by "Lying Here Loving You," which displays an amazing imbalance of studio session cheese, David Gates-ish sincerity, and then one magnificent vocal performance gaffe. Not precisely a gaffe; more an eyebrow-raising, highly questionable stylistic choice: the way he suddenly floors it on the word "me." It's that unexpected surge that makes the song so fantastic and memorable. The dramatic bridge in "Sweet Street Lady" comes close to this pinnacle, but "Lying Here Loving You" is really the gem.

Many of the other songs might be quaint but forgettable if not for those liner notes and that cover photo, which after awhile become a little bit haunting. You begin to wonder if there aren't far darker implications in lines like "I wonder if I'll ever know the man I thought I was" and "Just a picture of Mom and Dad/The only love you ever had." But overall, the record makes for pleasant, sunny Saturday listening, some of the guilty pleasure variety, some tinged with greater irony than that - I mean, periodically Mark Holly adopts an unconvincing penchant for lingo, replete with an unnatural twangy accent, and there's a big Jesus number that kicks off side two. But after awhile, his genial songs just appeal to you directly, and that tinge of irony kind of 'does a fade.'

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Thursday, June 19, 2008 11:55:00 AM

he seems solemn enough, wispy even... another great find!

I remember you posting Ken Nordine's "Cracks In The Ceiling" a long ways back-- any chance we can get that lp (Stare With Your Ears) from '79 posted??    

Thursday, June 19, 2008 2:47:00 PM

That guy kinda dresses like Jim Leahy from The Trailer Park Boys.
Wonder if he's a trailer park supervisor?    

Thursday, June 26, 2008 12:49:00 AM

Ha, your description really cracked me up
Thanks for the upload
There are some very nice middle-of-the-road ballads, like Cross county driver or Picture of Mom and Dad, with a cool veiled voice
Too bad for the, er, bizarre rockers    

Sunday, June 29, 2008 4:30:00 PM

You're right. For the mostpart, this is total crap. There are a couple of songs that have some redeeming value. If you've listened to, or worked in Canadian radio over the years (like me), you'd have to admit that this sound is standard fare. He sounds amazingly Canadian! This is the kinda fodder that would be programmed late Sunday night. No one is listening anyway (except truckers and cab drivers), so why not play this shit?    

Thursday, November 13, 2008 10:10:00 PM

Guess what? Mark had been a touring member of The New Christy Minstrels, along with Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes, in the very late 60's.

Nice guy ... lived in LA in the 70's - when this record was apparently made. Lost track of him after this time.

Interesting that you found this recording & your commentary is hilarious.    

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 10:31:00 PM

KANISS, CHARLES H., 66, of St. Petersburg, died Saturday (Oct. 7, 2006) at St. Anthony's Hospital. He was a St. Petersburg native. He was a singer, songwriter and guitar player. He performed under his stage name, Mark Holly, with Kenny Rogers and The New Christy Minstrels, Randy Sparks and Back Porch Majority, and locally with the band Impacts. He was a Navy veteran and earned a bachelor's degree in nursing. He was Protestant. Survivors include a brother, Paul E., Belen, N.M. David C. Gross Funeral Homes and Cremation Center, Central Avenue Chapel, St. Petersburg.    

Thursday, December 11, 2008 9:06:00 AM

I went to high school with Chuck back in the late 50's. He was a very likable and cool guy. He wrote a song (ballad) thet died with him named "I GOT'EM" This was about an old black guy that roamed the streets of St. Pete pushing an old cart selling most anything that he could find. His call was "I Got'em You got the money you got'em. Chuck is missed.    

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 7:54:00 PM

I knew Mark in Visits in my home in Nashville in the 70's. He was always Upbeat and kind.We had music in common as I was a studio musician.Had often wondered of his whereabouts.Mark will be missed by my wife and I.
Billy S.    

Thursday, February 16, 2012 7:43:00 AM

This comment has been removed by the author.    

Sunday, January 13, 2013 8:05:00 PM

I knew Mark Holly, and have very fond memories of him. He mentored me while working for People Plus and promoting motivational seminars. I was fresh out of high school and yes, I swooned at his kind heart and ability to relate with people. He made each person feel unique and special. He also worked with developmentally delayed children with his music therapy.
I may still have some pictures of him from some of our events.
I remember he told me of his friendship with Kenny Rogers and the New Cristi Minstrels. He also continued his friendship with the band, Association. He still held his actors card and had been on a western called Alias Smith and Jones. I remember last time we talked he said he was going back to Studio City to get a new gig.
I learned so much from him. He convinced me that my attitude was my most important attribute and I have taken that with me the last 32 years. Glad we did have time to get to know one an other. I would love to have the copy of this album, you have a real find, it is more valuable than you know. RIP..My friend, Mark

Peaceful, Georgianna    

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 10:36:00 PM

I could write a book about Mark. I loved him very much. He was highly intelligent, yet innocent. Mark cared for me & my 4 sisters while being our Mama's nurse as she lay in a coma after a heart attack. We flew in his 1940's model SkyRanger airplane, rescued animals, & shared life to its fullest every minute. I will write again,as his memory & love still burn in my heart.    

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