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David Ackles’s eponymous 1968 debut is a rich emotional experience rife with poignant balladry and evocative lyricism. The era’s market was unprepared for such a singular songwriter, but the cult of Ackles is a potent force and this reissue obliges its demands. Elton John, Bernie Taupin and Elvis Costello are Ackles acolytes—the latter even championed him as “perhaps the greatest unheralded songwriter of the late ’60s.” As a staff songwriter for Elektra and avid composer for theatre and film, Ackles developed a maverick style. Indeed, David Ackles materialized when Elektra couldn’t imagine a singer more suitable for the material than its composer. David Ackles boasts wonderfully restrained arrangements that only enhance its power. The widely covered opening track “The Road to Cairo” features Ackles at the pinnacle of his emotive ability. With marvelous dramatic grace, he evokes the weary traveler’s wisdom and turmoil as it devolves to a devastating breaking point. It’s a gut-wrenching moment, though one quickly tempered by the melancholy “When Love Is Gone” and beatific “What a Happy Day.” Perhaps akin to Randy Newman, Scott Walker or the darkest Van Dyke Parks (at least for their inimitability), Ackles’s debut sounds peerless today. As critic and archivist Richie Unterberger writes in the liner notes, “About 45 years later, the record is more durable than many a high-charting singer-songwriter statement of the time, precisely for the idiosyncratic qualities that kept it shrouded in obscurity at the time of its release.” This record is an extraordinary achievement—it belongs to a universe bordering on Tim Buckley and Leonard Cohen, not to mention Scott Walker and Randy Newman, but with a starkness all its own.