There is a lot of confusion over Jim Sullivan, the most banal being that he is not Big Jim Sullivan, the British session guitarist extraordinaire who played on around 1,000 hit singles (and also dabbled in some go-go sitar albums in the late '60s). No, this is the American Jim Sullivan, who moved to L.A. with his wife in 1968, recorded his private-press debut LP U.F.O., and then, with his marriage on the verge of collapse in 1975, headed out to Nashville and simply disappeared. His abandoned VW was found on a desert road; his guitar, wallet, and other belongings were left behind in a hotel.
Like Connie Converse, another enigmatic songwriter who also disappeared without a trace after driving off in a Volkswagen (just a year before he did!), Sullivan remains one of those musicians who really deserved greater renown but simply got lost in the shuffle in the deluge of incredible music made during that goldmine time for rock. Stylistically, he shares similarities with Tim Hardin, especially vocally, and would typically accompany himself with only guitar whenever he played live. The difference, though (and this may be the power of suggestion at play here, considering his probable demise), is that there is an understatedly ominous vibe that colours this record with the sort of unease that accompanies ghost stories told in the dark.
On the U.F.O. sessions, his distinctively deep voice and guitar playing were augmented by Wrecking Crew players Jimmy Bond (bass), Earl Palmer (who drummed on Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and The Righteous Brothers' “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’”), and Don Randi (who played keys for Phil Spector and on The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”). It’s this combo of killer playing and Bond’s orchestrations that place this album in similar territory as such genre-defying works of psych-folk orch-funk as David Axelrod's Song Of Innocence and Songs Of Experience (on both of which Earl Palmer also drummed!), as well as Jean Claude Vannier’s arrangements for Serge Gainsbourg; folkies and beat-diggers alike therefore have much to sink their teeth into with this one.
Every year lost albums are unearthed, though few of them merit much airplay. This past year, impossibly obscure albums by Ted Lucas, Robert Lester Folsom, and Pastor T.L. Barrett were all saved from oblivion by intrepid reissue labels. Sullivan's only effort is pretty near tops in that category, and deserves the scant but fervent attention it has received since resurfacing. In the meantime, the mystery of its author’s fate remains unsolved.