Friday, May 29, 2015

Spooky Tooth 'The Island Years (An Anthology) 1967-1974 (2015) review


The Ultimate Spooky Tooth Collection!
Spooky Tooth 'The Island Years (An Anthology) 1967-1974 (Universal-Island Records, Netherlands, 470 531-1, 2015)

While it may not be the complete works of Spooky Tooth issued by Island Records between 1967 and 1974, the 9 LP or 9 CD box set 'The Island Years' is by far the largest collection of the band's work ever made available.  So what is on offer here for a pleasantly affordable price?  The 9 LPs or CDs are each based around an album, beginning with 1967's 'Supernatural Fairy Tales' by the Spooky Tooth precursor band, Art, following with the 6 studio albums released by the band on their own, a 1969 album released by Spooky Tooth & Pierre Henry and a previously unreleased 1973 live recording from a gig in Oldenburg, Germany, in which the band reprised many of their best known songs.  

So, what does one find inside the slip cased box sex?  Disc One presents the 12 tracks from 'Supernatural Fairy Tales' in their original mono mixes.  The set opens with 'I Think I'm Going Weird' which would morph into the more familiar 'Weird' that appeared as the b-side of the band's debut single.  But that's jumping ahead too fast.  The version presented here features gorgeous vocals by Mike Harrison and the fuzzed out lead guitar of Luther Grosvenor.  With Harrison's trippy piano and Grosvenor's screaming lead guitar Art's version stands on its own.  The band also recorded an excellent cover of Buffalo Springfield's 'For What It's Worth' retitled 'What's That Sound' for the LP, also featuring Grosvenor's guitar prowess.  The album's title track features Grosvenor's roaring, thundering lead guitar and Mike Kellie's insistent drums locked tightly with the bass of Greg Ridley.  As bonus tracks, stereo mixes of 6 of the album's songs are presented here for the first time.

Disc Two contains the incredible 'It's All About' the 1968 debut LP of Spooky Tooth, the name the band chose when vocalist/keyboardist/songwriter Gary Wright joined the band.  His addition paid immediate dividends as he brought 'Sunshine Help Me' to the band, the song that would become Spooky Tooth's debut single in its mono edit, but is included on the album as well.  The album opens with a cover of Janis Ian's 'Society's Child' a social statement which featured organ and guitar interplay reminiscent of Deep Purple among other bands.  The album also features a Traffic vibe on tunes such as 'Too Much Of Nothin'' and 'Love Really Changed Me'.  The band also offers gritty rhythm and blues in their cover of J.D. Loudermilk's classic 'Tobacco Road'.  The albums 10 tracks are supplemented here by an additional 10 bonus tracks, single sides and BBC recordings.  The only obvious omission is the mono single edit of 'Sunshine Help Me' which is presented in its first mix, LP and BBC versions here so perhaps the compiler, Mark Powell, it would have been overkill to include the single version.  The single mix is available as a bonus track on Repertoire Records' 2005 reissue of 'It's All About' so if you have that compilation be sure to hold on to it.

Disc Three opens with what most consider Spooky Tooth's magnum opus 'Spooky Two' originally released in 1969.  Among the LPs tracks are 'Waitin' For The Wind' a radio friendly tune prominently featuring interplay between guitarist Grosvenor and organist Wright.  The heavy rockin' 'Evil Woman' contains not one but two solos by Grosvenor and stretches out to more than 9 minutes.  If only FM radio had been bigger!  Also among the album's cuts is a 5 minute psychedelic tour de force, 'Lost In My Dream' the title of the 2 CD 'Anthology' Powell compiled for Esoteric Records, UK in 2009.  The disc is filled out with 9 bonus tracks, including BBC recordings, first mixes of 3 tracks and a single side.

'Spooky Two' may well have marked the band's high water mark in the studio but it also marked the end of the band's original incarnation with bassist Greg Ridley leaving to join Steve Marriott and Peter Frampton in the newly formed Humble Pie.  Ridley was replaced by Andy Leigh who would contribute to the band's next album, written by Wright and French electronic music pioneer Pierre Henry, titled 'Ceremony:  An Electronic Mass' released in 1969.  The album, not unlike 'Mass In F Minor' and 'Release Of An Oath' by The Electric Prunes, was controversial due to its religious topic and despite the band making it clear that this was a Pierre Henry album on which Spooky Tooth played, music buyers expressed their opinions by not purchasing the LP.  In all fairness, the band does some excellent work as evidenced by tracks like 'Hosanna' but the album did not sell.  Disc Four gets a bit confusing here as 3 of the single mixes of songs from 'Spooky Two' are included as bonus tracks including 'That Was Only Yesterday' along with a first version and an unreleased song from the 'Ceremony' sessions.

Disc Five begins with the 7 tracks from 1970s 'The Last Puff' released after Gary Wright departed the band late in 1969.  The title was fitting for more than one reason.  First, it was to be the last Spooky Tooth album for 3 years and second it marked the departure of lead guitarist Luther Grosvenor.  'The Last Puff' opens with a 6 minute, 20 second cover of The Beatles' 'I Am The Walrus' featuring Grosvenor's guitar screaming and howling with Kellie's drums driving the beat.  The rest of the album is a mixture of cover versions of songs by such diverse artists as Joe Cocker, Mike Post, David Ackles, Elton John and Chris Stainton, the latter actually becoming a member of the band during this period and it is Stainton's instrumental that is the title track and closes the album and the book on Spooky Tooth until 1973.  Besides Stainton who played keyboards and guitar on the album, guitarist Henry McCullouch and bassist Alan Spenner, Stainton's band mates in The Grease Band who backed Joe Cocker among others.  Bonus tracks on this disc include four single sides such as the incredible 5:15 single edit of 'I Am The Walrus' and a remix of Robbie Robertson's 'The Weight' included on the US LP 'Tobacco Road'.

Disc Six has the 8 tracks which composed one of the best titled albums in rock history, 1973s 'You Broke My Heart So.....I Busted Your Jaw' which marked the return of Gary Wright who had recently disbanded his group Wonderwheel.  Along with Wright, the LP featured only Mike Harrison from days gone by as the band was rounded out by ex-Wonderwheel and future Foreigner lead guitarist Mick Jones, bassist Chris Stewart and drummer Bryson Graham.  Wright wrote or cowrote all the songs on the album, but despite highlights such as 'Wild Fire' with its heavy guitar riff and funky feel and 'Cotton Growing Man' with Jones' clean but fiery playing the album failed to sell and more personnel changes were quick to come.

Disc Seven has the 9 tracks that comprised 1973s 'Witness' by which time Wright, Harrison, Stewart and Jones had been rejoined by Mike Kellie on drums.  'Witness' like 'You Broke My Heart' before it is largely a Gary Wright album as he once again wrote or co wrote all the songs on the album.  The album mixes gentle mid-tempo numbers like 'As Long As The World Keeps Turning' and 'Wings On My Heart' with heavier tunes like 'Things Change' and 'Don't Ever Stray Away' which feature heavy riffs by Jones and some nice organ/guitar interplay.  Unfortunately, critics considered the album inconsistent and it did not sell well.

By the time of 1974's 'The Mirror' the curtain was about to fall on Spooky Tooth.  Mike Harrison and Mike Kellie both exited the band before the album leaving Wright the only original member remaining.  Jones and Graham stayed on joined by Val Burke on bass and Mike Patto on vocals, electric piano, drums, clavinet and organ.  With Eddie Kramer at the controls 'The Mirror' contained some strong material such as 'Hell Or High Water' and 'The Mirror' but the album met a cool reception and Gary Wright decided to return to the US effectively ending Spooky Tooth.  But what a run it had been.

The final disc in the set was recorded live in Oldenburg, Germany on 7 April 1973 and although it is not the original band, thus Mick Jones is on lead guitar rather than Luther Grosvenor, 3 original members of the band, Wright, Harrison and Kellie are joined by long time members Mick Jones and Chris Stewart and in just under an hour they run through 9 of Spooky Tooth's finest, including 'I Am The Walrus' 'Evil Woman' 'Tobacco Road' and 'Sunshine Help Me'.  The sound was captured by the Island Mobile unit and sounds wonderful.  

Alright, so there we have it.  9 CDs containing 114 tracks, or 9 LPs with 78 tracks.  The CDs are each in gatefold mini LP sleeves and the tracks, mastered by Ben Wiseman are sounding better than ever.  The 52 page booklet containing an essay by compiler, researcher Mark Powell as well as complete track annotations, many photos and other memorabilia.  Also included is a poster of 'What's That Sound' by Art.  All in all a wonderful package available at a reasonable price.  This may not be the place for novices to begin but for fans of Spooky Tooth this is one incredible collection!

Review made by Kevin Rathert/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Pretty Lightning - A Magic Lane of Light and Rain (2015) review


Pretty Lightning 'A Magic Lane of Light and Rain' (Cardinal Fuzz/Sound Effects, 2015)

More crunchy, bluesy psych on the German duo’s fourth effort. The lo-fi recordings and minimalist approach (how much can you squeeze out of drums and a guitar?) may offput listeners seeking a fuller, more polished sound, and several tracks do meander aimlessly seeking something resembling tuneage – think of those endless Grateful Dead “Space” jams. Highlights include the Sabbathian sludge of ‘The Rainbos Machine’, the demented slide runs on the eerie ‘Graveyard Howls’, the swampy, waterlogged calliope on ‘Marble Moon’, the superfuzz bigmuff pedal-to-the-metal distortion of ‘Woodlands’, and the hallucinatory instro ‘Hypnooze’ bear up under repeat listens. Even the head-drooping, junkie nod ‘Moonshine Blooze’ bears more than a passing resemblance to vintage Warlocks and Brian Jonestown Massacre. Come to think of it, the deeper I get the stonederer I become, until somewhere around the beginning of “Side 2” (‘A Gift From A Bone To A Bell’), I’m pretty primed and ready for liftoff. As Woody Allen suggested in Annie Hall, we’re “achieving total heaviosity”.

Still, I can’t help thinking I’m listening to the local teenagers making a somewhat incoherent racket in the garage next door. In other words, if Wayne & Garth (cf. Wayne’s World) formed a psychedelic garage band, it might sound like this. It definitely sounds like the guys probably had more fun making this noise than you will listening to it.

Review made by Jeff Penczak/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015

* Listen to their exclusive track, that we premiered awhile ago here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Fade To Black" by Martin Popoff with Ioannis (2012) review


"Fade To Black" by Martin Popoff with Ioannis (Sterling Publishing, 2012)

Packaged in a thick vinyl cover to reflect the subject matter, "Fade To Black" is a coffee table sized tome involving hard rock and heavy metal album sleeves. Concentrating on the years 1965 to 1990, the hefty book not only features eye-popping photos of the albums presented, but the history surrounding these artifacts as well as personal commentary from the authors.

Arranged in order by release date, "Fade To Black" opens with "The Rolling Stones, Now!" by The Rolling Stones and closes with Megadeth's "Rust In Peace." Stuffed between these profiles we're handed a nice balance of certified classics and long forgotten gems. Obvious platters such as Deep Purple's "Machine Head," Aerosmith's "Toys In The Attic," Iron Maiden's "Iron Maiden," Quiet Riot's "Metal Health," Black Sabbath's "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," Led Zeppelin's "Houses Of The Holy," Rush's "Farewell To Kings," UFO's "Lights Out," Blue Oyster Cult's "Fire Of The Unknown Origin," Motley Crue's "Shout At The Devil," ACDC's "Highway To Hell," Judas Priest's "Sad Wings Of Destiny," Metallica's "Master Of Puppets," "Blackout" by the Scorpions, Van Halen's "Van Halen," and Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Brain Salad Surgery" share space with lesser recognized efforts from The Godz, the Boyzz, Quartz, Russ Ballard, Savatage, and Legs Diamond. An ample number of Iron Butterfly, Nazareth, and Uriah Heep albums are examined, along with cob-webbed caked goodies from Angel, Starz, Grand Funk, The Rods, Golden Earring, Budgie, and Dust. Offerings from The Runaways, The Sweet, Mott The Hoople, The Damned, Hanoi Rocks, Cheap Trick, Hawkwind, ZZ Top, Free, and The Ramones are further spotlighted.

Although you can't always judge a record by its cover, some of these albums are so attractive that the graphics alone probably generated sales, or they're so hideous that they never stood a chance in the first place. Containing a staggering mix of panoramic winners and losers, "Fade To Black" encourages readers to revisit these high-decibel delights by either combing through their collections or hitting the local used record store. Smartly-selected entries, combined with witty and knowledgeable  text make this the great book that it is. Pump your fist in the air and rejoice!

Review made by Beverly Paterson/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bazar interview with Bent Patey


Guerssen Records keep on releasing utterly impressive LPs and we should be really grateful, because one of their latest is a release by Norwegian band called Bazar. They were without a doubt one of the most hard-working progressive bands from Scandinavia. This is their killer second album from 1974. Wah-wah fuelled guitar action, organ, flute, melodic vocals and radical lyrics.


When and where were you born?

June 12th, 1952 in Oslo, Norway.

How old were you when you began playing music and what was the first instrument you played?

I started playing classical music at the age of about 10. My main instrument back then was a clarinet. My mother who worked as a piano teacher transposed some sheet music for me, and we played pieces of Haydn and Mozart together. But all of a sudden, a British group called The Beatles appeared on the radio in 1964, and the clarinet went straight into the closet. The electric guitar came in instead and started controlling my life. Our first band at school was formed back then, and I started off playing the bass guitar.

What bands were you member of as a young kid and what types of music did you play?

My first band was called Mc Lords, and we played tunes by Beatles, Rolling Stones, Searches, The Who, The Troggs, Them, Spencer Davies Group, The Animals, Procol Harum, Kinks, Yardbirds, Small Faces, etc..

Was there a certain moment that influenced you to start a band?

The great hit "She Loves You" by The Beatles, followed by other hits and the movie "A Hard Day’s Night" were probably the events that made me spend hours every day playing my bass guitar instead of doing my home lessons. Seemed like my friends suffered from the same psychosis, and we formed a band.

What can you tell us about formation of Bazar?

After finishing high school in 1971, I played more and more guitar, and less bass guitar. I did my best to show up at the University in Oslo to follow lectures, instead of practicing guitar, but I obviously did a poor job. I kept cancelling and postponing exams for the next years, while I played and rehearsed with various bands. I went on my first tour with a freaky band called Sorcery in 1972. We were sent on tour in the summer of 1972 to support a campaign against a potential Norwegian membership in the European Union, and we won the referendum in the autumn of 1972. 

The band Sorcery was totally based on free improvisation. We never knew what to play, and we were even on stage in a concert hall called Chateau Neuf in Oslo in front of more than a thousand people, without knowing what to play (laughs).  Anyway, we came up with some spontaneous ideas and the concert came out very well. Sometime after this, while I was still playing with Sorcery, I was contacted by Rolf Aakervik and Per Vestaby. They needed a new guitar player. The former guitarist in Bazar, Kåre Virud, who played on the first album, had just left the band. I was only 21 years old, my son Thomas was just born, and the only income I had was from a part time job as a teacher at a junior high school. I had many gigs with Bazar right from the beginning, and soon I had to quit my career as a teacher, in order to be able to tour with the band.

What are some memories from early rehearsals?

I have one special occasion from a rehearsal I'll never forget. Sometime in 1974, Bazar was invited to join on a Scandinavian tour with some of the greatest rock'n roll bands in Denmark, Sweden and Finland at that time. Our first gig would be in the concert hall in Gothenburg, Sweden, and at our last rehearsal in Oslo, the day before departure, our present drummer decided to quit. He was simply too nervous to go on tour, because he thought our band sounded way too bad for a concert tour like this. He had been thinking of this for a few days, but hoped that he would be able to build up some courage on our last rehearsal. That didn't happen. Instead, he fell down on the floor in our rehearsal room and started crying like a child. Rolf Aakervik found himself lying on the floor together with the drummer, trying to convince him that the concerts would be just great. That didn't work, and we had to find a new drummer as soon as possible the very same evening. Finally, we managed to find a drummer who had the courage and ability to take off on a grand Scandinavian tour the very next morning... This very special incident made us all pretty nervous, and I do not think we played very well on this tour...

Improvisation must had been a big part of the band? What can you tell us about the song writing process in your band? What music, books or films inspired you at the time?

Improvisation was definitely a big part of the band. But not as far out as my previous band Sorcery. Anyway, the only real improvisation on the Drabantbyrock album is the last track ‘Cm-jam’. Basically, all our tunes had a structure based on written lyrics and melodies, but usually we would play solos that would last much longer than the vocal parts. I went to a Grateful Dead concert in California in 1986, and I kind of recognized the sound, improvisation, structure and lack of structure from our early days (laughs) I think Bazar was inspired by The Woodstock Festival and artists like The Band, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, John Mayall, The Allman Brothers Band and others. We also enjoyed listening to bands in Sweden that were kind of similar to Bazar. Lyrics on our own language and music based on improvisation and rock and roll.

You were probably one of the few underground bands in Norway. What was the scene back then like and what other bands were around?

I think Bazar was pretty unique in Norway during the first couple of years, because most bands here used English lyrics and did cover versions of British and American Bands at the time. We wrote our own music, and the lyrics were basically about topics that young people in Norway were concerned about. In Sweden, however, there were lots of bands similar to Bazar, and I think the political situation in the world, like the Vietnam war and the coup in Chile in 1973 fueled the motivation and inspiration for bands like us.

You got an opportunity to record an LP. When was this and who offered you this opportunity? What were the circumstances behind this?

Bazar’s first album "Det er ikke så enkelt" was inspired by the referendum in 1972 regarding Norwegian membership in the European Union. Also, the global political situation influenced Bazar’s lyrics and music, and the record itself was in fact financed by an idealistic and political organization that opposed membership in the EU. This organization formed the record company "Samspill" which released "Det er ikke så enkelt" in 1973, recorded in Roger Arnhoff studio in Oslo, produced by Harald Are Lund. Later, the record company grew, and the name was changed into MAI Records. Bazar’s second album, “Dabrantbyrock”, was recorded in Scanax studio in Oslo and released at MAI in 1974.

What were some of the strongest memories from recording and producing this LP?

I remember an excited, optimistic en enthusiastic atmosphere in the studio while recording "Drabantbyrock". We were obviously young and not very experienced in studio work. Also, the producer Arvid Esperø, was very enthusiastic, and none of us were able to really take full control over the production. I think that's pretty obvious when I listen to the tempo and energy, particularly in ‘Cm Jam’.

What gear did you use?

I played on an Epiphone Wilshire 1964 model through a 70w Acoustic134 guitar amp, and of course I used a Cry Baby wah-wah on almost every track.

Did you receive any airplay?

Yes, we had plenty of airplay in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. We also went to Stockholm and made a one hour radio program for the Swedish National Broadcasting company.

What can you tell us about the material featured on Drabantbyrock album? Did you have any concept in mind or were songs made each on their own?

I brought in some of my own songs to Bazar, and Rolf Aakervik had a lot of unreleased lyrics that he started to work on with my tunes. Rolf and the drummer/singer Ole Henrik Giørtz also composed some new tunes for the album.

Did Bazar play many gigs?  What were some of the venues you played?  Who were some of the artists you appeared with? Is there any other material, that remained unreleased?

From 1973 through 1975 we were constantly on the road, playing club concerts and festival gigs all over Scandinavia. In Stockholm we met Sten Bergman who was an established musician who had played on records with some of Sweden’s most recognized artists, such as Cornelis Vreeswijk, Bjørn J:son Lind, Bernt Staf and Janne Schaffer. Sten joined Bazar in 1975, and we did even more concerts in Sweden after that. We also recorded some of the concerts at clubs in Sweden. Those recordings were of high quality, and in my opinion probably our best recordings musically as well but they have not been released so far.

How do you feel that after so many years your work with Bazar will get some worldwide exposure?

At first, when Alex at Guerssen contacted me asking if we wanted to make a deal with them for global distribution, I thought it was a joke. A 40 years old Norwegian progrock album with Norwegian lyrics...globally distributed? No way.... Come on (laughs). But I realized that there are some people around that really are interested in our old recording, so it's gonna be interesting to see what will happen. Maybe the rest of the world finally figures that they'll have to learn Norwegian (laughs).

We are really impressed with the overall sound of the album…

That is interesting, because we did not have any of the modern stuff that studios are equipped with today. We only had eight tracks on the one inch tape, and the whole studio was analog, of course. They didn't even have a plate reverb in the studio. Only a spring reverb unit placed under the floor, and if we got too enthusiastic during a song, and started to step on the floor, we activated the spring reverb and destroyed the recording.

What about the cover artwork?

Also... kind of interesting, because the artwork was initially done by one of the greatest designers in Norway at the time, but both the record company and we in the band wanted the opposite of a professionally designed cover. Our basic image was to be everything else than a commercial pop group hanging with all the professionals. Therefore, Rolf gave his wife Gunhild the job, and she drew the record cover for us.

Are there any crazy moments that happened in the band?

I remember once we had a terrible argument in the band after a concert in Guthenburg. This concert was actually the first gig on the tour, and I decided to quit right then. It was in the middle of the night, and I just wanted to go back to Oslo as soon as possible. The opportunity appeared as I realized that the night train from Copenhagen to Oslo stops in Gothenburg round four o'clock in the morning. I went to the train station, and as I waited for the train, I started to think about the money I would lose by leaving the band on this tour. Therefore I decided to be a stowaway passenger on the train to Oslo. I went on the sleeping car and started opening doors to the sleeping compartments, until I found a spare bed. When the conductor came in to check tickets in the morning, I was hiding under the duvet, hoping that the bed should appear unused. But unfortunately, the conductor was too smart and pulled my duvet off. My heart was pounding, but I acted like I was in heavy sleep and not able to have any conversation. The conductor, however, did not give up, and I just had to wake up and pretend like I didn't understand anything... Why am I here? Where is my ticket? Where am I going? Anyway, I ended up paying almost all the money I got from the concert the night before...

Is there a story behind your name?

My full name is Walter Bent Patey, and I'm a British citizen. My father came from England to Norway as a sergeant during world war two, met my mother in Stavanger on the west coast of Norway, got married and settled down in Oslo

What were some musical endeavors following the dissolution of the band?

The drummer and singer in Bazar, Ole Henrik Giørtz, and I started an instrumental fusion band after the dissolution of the band, and still, we both are professional musicians playing with various bands. Also, the bass player ,Per Vestaby, has been a full time musician ever since we left Bazar, and we've all contributed on more than a hundred recordings all together during the years.

What currently occupies your life?

I've had my own band "Pateys Pipe" for more than 30 years with various band members. I also spent four years on Venice Beach, California, playing "Pateys Pipe"-material with American musicians in the band. "Pateys Pipe" is still my main occupation here in Oslo, but I work as a freelance musician with several other musicians as well. This summer, I will play with two great musicians from New Orleans, Peter Novelli and Brian Brignac. I had a great tour with them on the west coast of Norway last September, and they will come over to do some festivals in July/August. Looking forward to that. And of course, looking forward to see ‘Drabantbyrock’ being distributed worldwide.


Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015

Crispian St. Peters - The Pied Piper: The Complete Recordings 1965-1974 (2014) review


The Tragic Musical Mystery Tour Of Crispian St. Peters
‘The Pied Piper:  The Complete Recordings 1965-1974’ (RPM Records Retro D941, 2014)

Mention the name Crispian St. Peters to pop music fans approaching my age (60) who grew up in the United States or United Kingdom and I virtually guarantee that a smile will come to their face and one song will come to their mind, the infectious pop tune ‘The Pied Piper’, one of those instant classics with catchy lyrics and an incredible hook.  In 1966 the tune reached #5 in the UK, #4 in the US and top 5 in New Zealand and Singapore, while placing high on the charts in Canada, South Africa, Australia and much of Western Europe.  Although this level of success was not to be repeated Crispian produced a considerable body of recorded works, the most successful and best known period of which is covered in this 2-CD anthology totaling 50 tracks with a run time of nearly 140 minutes.

Crispian St. Peters, born Robin Peter Smith, began his recording career laying down 2 original compositions ‘At This Moment’ and ‘No No No’, both released in 1965 and both sinking without a trace despite the gorgeous vocal range displayed by St. Peters and bringing to mind the golden voice of Roy Orbison.  Yes, his voice was that dynamic.  Despite the failure of his first 2 singles, Crispian’s label, Decca, released a third single bankrolled by Manfred Mann manager Kenneth Pitt, a cover of Canadian duo Ian & Sylvia’s ‘You Were On My Mind’ which had more recently been a million-selling single by the US folk-pop band We Five.  St. Peters, however, used Barry McGuire’s arrangement, and Crispian’s version sold over 250,000 copies in the UK, topping at #2 on the charts, while it belatedly made Billboard’s Hot 100 singles, peaking at #36.  It was his next single, the previously mentioned ‘The Pied Piper’ that made Crispian a household name and pop star, a status that St. Peters explored to its fullest claiming that only 3 acts had anything to offer:  The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles and the latter he claimed were “past it.”  He claimed that he was going to make Elvis Presley look like The Statue Of Liberty and that he was more exciting than Tom Jones, comparing himself to early Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis saying they all had something in common-“We move!”

St. Peters’ comments were met with outraged complaints, but he kept right on enjoying his fame saying it had all been manager David Nicholson’s idea.  Regardless, after shows he enjoyed women, sex and booze.  Things happened incredibly quickly with Crispian opening for such top acts as Small Faces, Wayne Fontana and Dave Barry.  St. Peters was signed by the Robert Stigwood Organization who represented The Who.  In June, 1966 Decca released his LP ‘Follow Me’ which featured uptempo numbers like ‘Jilly Honey’ and ‘Without You” beside ballads like ‘Your Love Has Gone’ and ‘So Long’.  All but 2 tracks on the UK LP were originals.  The US release was retitled ‘The Pied Piper’ with different artwork and 2 less tracks.  September, 1966 saw his last chart action as Crispian’s cover of Phil Ochs’ ‘Changes’ which crept to #47 in the UK and #57 in the US.

The hit singles may have been in his past, but they did afford St. Peters to record the music closest to his heart, country rock, rockabilly and country and western.  Not exactly hip for the times, but it was his dream and he followed it recording a long series of mostly original singles as well as an EP, with the gradual change in his sound being noticeable as early as 1966’s ‘Your Love Has Gone’.  What followed were a series of solid performances none of which caught the public’s fancy.  The releases ranged from originals such as ‘Carolina’ and ‘That’s Why We Are Through’ to covers such as ‘I Fall To Pieces’ the  Patsy Cline classic.  The one constant, regardless of whether original or cover material, is Crispian’s incredible voice. 

By 1970 Square Records allowed Crispian to realize his dream of recording a country and western album, titled ‘Simply’ released in November, 1970.  The album was produced and arranged by Big Jim Sullivan and featuring Crispian’s friends Nicky Hopkins on keyboards and Vic Flick on lead guitar.  Crispian’s favorite from the album was ‘Soft As A Rose’ although he also really liked ‘Monumental Queen.’  I concur with St. Peters’ choices and also sense his enthusiasm in performing, and highly recommend giving a listen to ‘Wandering Hobo’ and ‘Look Into My Teardrops’.  Unfortunately, ‘Simply’ was the last release by St. Peters until 1974 when Crispian did a one-off 45 for Sandra Powsa coupling mid-tempo country ballads ‘Do Daddy Do’ and ‘Every Time You Sinned’ both penned by St. Peters.  Sadly, the single did not sell and little was heard from the artist for some time.   

Tragically, St. Peters’ brief years of fame and commercial success were followed by a “life of poverty, rendered worse by illness and neglect”.  By 1974 he had suffered three nervous breakdowns, become dependent on alcohol, endured a divorce and was in generally deteriorating health.   But with a hit like ‘The Pied Piper’ he earned enough that Crispian, a prolific songwriter, was set monetarily, right?  Well not exactly.  Sadly, St. Peters said that he earned only 37,000 pounds sterling over a 40 year career as of 2004, having suffered a major stroke in 1995 and spending much of his life in poverty and lingering health problems St. Peters passed away in 2006.

‘The Pied Piper:  The Complete Recordings 1965-1974 documents the musical (mis)adventures of pop star cum country balladeer Crispian St. Peters.  Far from the norm, his heart lie in country music much like highly regarded American Gram Parsons, founding member of the groundbreaking country rockers, The Flying Burrito Brothers.  St. Peters’ beautiful voice is reminiscent of several musical icons:  Roy Orbison, Marty Robbins, Rick Nelson and The Everly Brothers to name but a few.  Crispian St. Peters may not have maintained the level of fame of the previously mentioned artists but he certainly had his fifteen minutes of fame, quite rightly.  Thanks to the folks at RPM Records, UK, you can explore the complete recordings of St. Peters at his prime. The package includes sound mastering by Simon Murphy and a 16-page color booklet including an essay by compiler John Reed, complete track annotations and lots of photos and other memorabilia.  

Review made by Kevin Rathert/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Vanity Fare - Complete Recordings 1966-76’ (2015) review


Much more than 2-Hit Wonder British pop rockers!
‘I Live For The Sun:  Complete Recordings 1966-76’ by Vanity Fare (RPM Retro D960, 2 CD set, 2015)

Best remembered for their international smashes, ‘Early In The Morning’ (UK #8, US #12) and ‘Hitchin’ A Ride’ (UK #16, US #5), both released in 1969, the UK group Vanity Fare was much more than a pop band with two million-selling singles.  Thanks to John Reed and RPM Records all the tracks released by the band between 1966 and 1976 have been compiled on this 2 CD set, supplemented by pre-Vanity Fare tracks released as The Sages and solo single sides by vocalist Trevor Brice .  A total of 47 tracks of bright, sparkling 60s British pop rock sounding better than ever.

Vanity Fare consisted of a core trio:  vocalist Brice, guitarist Tony Goulden and bassist Tony Jarrett, who had previously performed and recorded as The Avengers.  The band had several drummers but the kit was manned by Dick Alix during their heyday.  Brice was described as “Britain’s answer to Frankie Valli” by one commentator and  indeed, Brice’s vocals do bring Valli to mind, especially on early singles like ‘In Her Lonely Room’ and ‘I Live For The Sun’, the band’s debut which made #20 on the UK charts with its light, breezy pop rock filled with gorgeous vocals.  But Vanity Fare was quite different from Valli’s Four Seasons musically.  

Vanity Fare’s sound evolved over time as the band’s music changed with the times, both lyrically and instrumentally.  From the Four Seasons sound, Vanity Fare evolved to Beach Boys’ (who they later opened for) style harmony on performances such as ‘Waiting For The Nightfall’ (the b-side to ‘Highway  Of Dreams’) which also features a driving beat, bass and drums thumping in lockstep and a gorgeous piano interlude, played by Nicky Hopkins, about a minute and a half in.  The song features a great hook and has a very 60s vibe.  The band’s cover of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Younger Girl’ features jangling lead guitar, delicate vocals and driving beat while remaining mostly loyal to the original.  Likewise, a cover of The Righteous Brothers’ ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” builds from gentle acoustic guitar and vocals to flashes of electric lead guitar and pounding drums, creating its own “wall of sound”. Running more than four minutes and released only as an album track, it is evidence indeed of a band learning its chops.    

The band’s fourth single ‘Early In The Morning’ was the game changer.  Its harpsichord intro, played by recent group addition, keyboard player Barry Landeman, previously with Kinsington Lodge, is immediately identifiable.  The bouncing beat gives way to a restrained guitar break before returning to acoustic guitar, harpsichord, bass and drums  all while maintaining a delicate feel.  The song, an international smash, was coupled with another keyboard and acoustic guitar driven tune featuring a harpsichord break, ‘You Made Me Love You’.  Landeman’s addition certainly achieved the goal of filling out the band’s sound as further evidenced by Vanity Fare’s follow up, the infectious smash ‘Hitchin’ A Ride’ whose intro is as memorable as its predecessor’s.  The bouncing piano and accompanying electric piano plus Brice’s gorgeous vocals are absolutely perfect on this light hearted gem which became especially popular among the California hitchhiking crowd.  The back to back smash hits led to European and even a limited US tour among other rewards but the quest for another hit would prove elusive.

While the band would have no more smash hits their sound continued to evolve and some very impressive comparisons come to mind.  Cases in point, both ‘Megowd (Something Tells Me)’ with its organ and electric piano, and ‘On Your Own’ with its organ, fuzz guitar and bass solo bring Traffic (and Steve Winwood) to mind and are indicative of the heavier direction the band was headed.  ‘On Your Own’ seems an obvious a-side choice. Instrumentally it was the band’s strongest effort yet and was the omen of things to come, but it was relegated to a b-side.      

The band’s b-sides became increasingly interesting as the band was given more freedom in their recording.  The band felt they better expressed themselves with the original material contained on the bottom side of singles.  Two 1971 b-sides, both originals, are particularly interesting.  ‘Stand’ opens with a Doobie Brothers inspired guitar intro and features the first evidence of a wah wah pedal being employed by the group as well as an inspired percussion and piano interlude.  “Rock ‘n’ Roll Band’ features wah wah guitar and organ interplay as well as the ever present gorgeous vocals of Trevor Brice.  The song has a percussion and bass break at the 2 minute mark before the guitar and organ return, this time the lead guitar wailing.  A classic 3 minute rocker indeed, the single failed to chart at home or abroad.  

The remainder of the collection is a mixture of mid-tempo pop rock tunes such as ‘At The End Of The Pier’ and ‘Making For The Sun’ and heavy rocking guitar driven rockers such as ‘Take It, Shake It, Break My Heart’ and ‘Fast Running Out Of The World’ as the band chased that ever elusive next hit.  Though there were personnel and sound changes, throughout this document of the musical life of Vanity Fare several things are constants:  first, the incredible vocal range of vocalist Trevor Brice; second, the quality of the songs released by the band; third, the ever evolving sound of the band.  

‘I Live For The Sun’ is the absolute last word on Vanity Fare 1966-1976.  The a- and b-sides of all 15 of the band’s recordings during the period are included as well as LP-only cuts.  The collection features remastering by Simon Murphy and a 16-page color booklet with an essay by Andy Davis, complete track annotations as well as photos and other memorabilia, making this indeed the ultimate Vanity Fare collection.  This set is essential to fans and collectors of 1960s and 1970s harmony pop rock especially and to fans of pop and rock of the period in general.  Thanks again to RPM Records, UK for truly living up to its motto of “By Collectors For Collectors”!   

 Review made by Kevin Rathert/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015

Saturday, May 23, 2015

JAZZ CORNER Presents: Pete La Roca - Basra (1965)


What a sincerely fun piece of work this is ... from the onset, there is a nice heavy bottom created by the piano and bass, evoking an intensely warm feeling ... like winds blowing music across the desert floor.  That south of the boarder feel, is no doubt a response to Pete La Roca’s life time love of Latin Music ... hence the name La Roca.

Of course, when he’s laying down the licks with the like of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins or Jackie Mc Lean, he goes by his given name of Pete Sims ... and interesting consideration being how to file him in your music collection ... less of course you divide your collection into Bad, Fair, Good, and Excellent ... then it’s a no brainer, just use the “Excellent” section. 

I find his use of a sure bottom one of the most interesting aspects on this release ... giving the listener someplace comfortable to return, and as consistently recognizable as a road sign ... you will not loose your sense of direction here.  This is nice playful music that does not demand your attention, so much as it exists all around you, making it as impossible to avoid as the air you breathe ... and just as refreshing.

Review made by Jenell Kesler/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

Föllakzoid - Föllakzoid (2009) review


Föllakzoid - Föllakzoid (Blow Your Mind, 2009)

Föllakzoid are nearly unparalleled in the hypnotic lysergic drenched neo-psychedelic experience.  The band do several things that other bands traveling this course fail to achieve, first there is a sense of restraint, in that the band’s members have managed to keep their egos in check, and thus seeing the music as a whole, as a continuum, devoid from soaring solos that do little for the atmosphere they’re creating.  Secondly there is a more than delicate interplay of concepts and designs, where they’ve calculated the listener’s space, filled that space to the point of drowning, and then seem to pull back before the ceiling is floated away.

The final aspect for you consideration is the sound quality.  Their numbers are tight, seeming to be more of a recipe than a musical script, with every element is carefully dropped into the mix, where these elements evolve, morph, and take on second and third characteristics of luscious dimensions and haunting dreamscapes ... at times light and airy, and at times as inwardly heavy as you can imagine [think Moon Duo meets Hawkwind].

Listening requirements: Stereo, Couch, and a Ceiling to wander off into, with the company of a Good Friend ...

Review made by Jenell Kesler/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chamaeleon Church and The Lost, an interview with Ted Myers

Chamæleon Church – official photo (1968). L to R: Ted Myers, Tony Scheuren, Chevy Chase, Kyle Garrahan.

Chamaeleon Church formed in the '60s and were part of so called Bosstown Sound. The group formed after Ted Myers of garage rock band the Lost got together with some other musicians to complete the lineup (including well known actor Chevy Chase, who was the drummer). The band only released one LP in 1968, which I would consider as one of the very best in psychedelic pop genre, but  lack of promotion made this album slowly fade away. Here's our interview with Myers about how all did come together.

Did your first band, The Lost, all come from the Boston area?

No. I was born and raised in New York City. I went to college at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, and that’s where I met the other musicians who formed The Lost. That was in the fall of 1964. Of the original five members, three came from the Boston area – Willie Alexander, Walter Powers and Hugh Magbie. The drummer, Tony Pfeiffer, came from the Philadelphia area. Within just a few weeks of starting rehearsals, we landed our first gig in Burlington, VT, at a club called the Cave.

The original lineup of The Lost (fall 1964). L to R: Walter Powers III, Ted Myers, Tony Pfeiffer, Willie Alexander, Hugh Magbie.

How did you form Chamaeleon Church?  Did you all come from different bands?

After the demise of The Lost, I moved from Boston to my native NYC. This was in spring, 1967. An old friend of mine, Ray Paret, was managing a Boston band called Ultimate Spinach that was doing quite well. Ray introduced me to their producer, Alan Lorber, who was also producing a number of other bands out of Boston. I played some of my songs for Lorber in his office and he offered me a publishing deal, which gave me an income. He told me that, if and when I formed a band, we could make an album for MGM Records. I met Tony Scheuren through Ray as well. He was working as a road manager for Ultimate Spinach, but was an incredibly talented songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist. Tony and I started writing songs together, and we clicked as collaborators. At the same time, an as yet unknown Chevy Chase, who had been in a college band with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker (later to become Steely Dan), was lobbying me hard to form a band so he could be the drummer. The final piece fell together when I ran into my old lead guitarist, Kyle Garrahan, on the streets of Greenwich Village, and the band was complete. We rehearsed and wrote songs for several months, then went into the studio with Lorber and cut the album.

What inspired you to start playing music?  Do you recall the first song you ever learned to play?

I started taking guitar lessons when I was 13, mostly learning simple folk songs. That same year, late in 1958, a girl in my class in junior high asked me out on a date – my first date. She had tickets to The Dick Clark Show, which was broadcast live from a New York City theatre every Saturday night. This was a concert format, as opposed to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, which was a dance format. The night we went we saw The Diamonds (“Little Darlin’”), Jimmy Clanton (“Just a Dream”) and the piece de resistance, Richie Valens, doing his double-sided hit, “La Bamba” and “Donna.” I was especially taken with Richie, as he both sang and played – electric guitar – and he wrote his own songs. I bugged my parents to get me an electric guitar, and eventually they did. The moist talented musician – in fact, the most talented person – in my school was a blind Puerto Rican kid named Jose Feliciano. One day I brought my electric guitar and amp to school and jammed with Jose. I let him play lead on my electric while I played rhythm on his acoustic. I believe we played “La Bamba.” That must have been right around the time that Richie Valens was killed, along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, in a plane crash in February of 1959. In case anyone out there has not heard of Jose Feliciano, he went on to considerable success, most notably with his version of The Doors’ “Light My Fire,” which made it to #3 on the pop charts in 1968.

When did you begin writing music?  What was the first song you wrote?  What inspired it and did you ever perform the song live or record it?

I think I wrote my first song in my first semester of college. It was no great shakes, and I can’t even remember the title of it. It was slow and the lyric was very self-pitying, but at least it had a fairly interesting and original melody and chord changes. I never recorded it. At that point I had recorded once in a real recording studio when I was in high school, back in 1963. I had formed a folk trio with two sisters (sort of a reverse Peter, Paul and Mary – I guess I was Mary!). Their mother, who was a hipster, knew some guys in a recording studio, so she fixed it for us to go in there and record. We did an old folk song, “The Water Is Wide,” which I had arranged for guitar and three-part vocals. I didn’t record again until the fall of 1964 with the original lineup of The Lost at college. That’s when my songwriting really started to take shape as well. We would tape our rehearsals. A few years ago someone sent me a CD of a live tape of The Lost someone had recoded at Bard College when we went down there and played in 1964. It was pretty raw – I was surprised that a) we had the guts to get up and perform in that inchoate state and b) that people actually liked us and encouraged us to keep going. It was a very different time.

Before we move forward to talk about Chamaeleon Church I would like to hear more about The Lost, an incredible garage rock band you were part of. You released a couple of singles, yes?

Yes. Our college had a work term in the middle of winter, so we would vacate the campus and go get jobs during the months of January and February. We (the original lineup of The Lost) all decided to go to Boston and try to find jobs and also gig as a band. At the end of the work term, Tony and Hugh decided to return to school, but Willie, Walter and I had decided on our career path – to become rock stars – so we dropped out of college. We found two new members – Kyle Garrahan on lead guitar and vocals and Lee Mason on drums – and started our career in earnest. In August of 1965 we were “discovered” at a club in Boston called the Rathskeller (or “The Rat,” as it came to be known) and signed by Capitol Records. We became quite popular in Boston and all over New England and Upstate New York. In those days you could become a “regional rock star” – famous in your local area and completely unknown everywhere else. The Lost never had a nationally charting single, so Capitol never let us release a full album, although we recorded an album’s worth of material. Only two singles were released (three if you count both versions of “Violet Gown,” but that’s another long story), the first, “Maybe More Than You,” charted locally. We were on the bill for several big concerts, opening for The Shirelles with Jr. Walker & the All Stars, Sonny and Cher in Troy, NY, and The Supremes at Brandeis University. In 1966 we toured with The Beach Boys. In 1999, after ten years of trying to license the lost Lost masters from Capitol, Erik Lindgren of Arf! Arf! Records and I were able, with the help of Rhino Records where I was working, to license those unreleased masters and release the definitive Lost compilation on CD.

The final lineup of The Lost (1965). L to R: Kyle Garrahan, Lee Mason, Walter Powers III, Willie Alexander, Ted Myers.

Tell us about the early days of  Chamaeleon Church. Where did you rehearse? Where did you play at the beginning and with whom did you share stages?

When I moved back to New York after the demise of The Lost, I rented a loft in Lower Manhattan with my wife, Eve, and this became our rehearsal space. Chamæleon Church did very few gigs. Mainly, we just rehearsed and cut an album. We appeared on a TV special on ABC Television Easter Sunday, 1968 called Preview, lip-synching our single, “Camillia Is Changing.” After the album was released and bombed, we all moved up to Boston, where Ray Paret, who had become our manager, was able to get us a few gigs. But after playing only three live dates, Kyle and Chevy decided to move back to New York. Tony and I stayed on in Boston and were drafted into the third and final permutation of Ultimate Spinach.

Chamæleon Church in their rehearsal loft, New York City (c. 1967). L to R: Tony Scheuren, Ted Myers, Chevy Chase, Kyle Garrahan.

What's the story behind the band's name?

I think it was Tony who came up with the idea for the song “Camillia Is Changing,” about a mysterious girl who blends into her environment like a chameleon, and out of that was born the name Chamæleon Church. It conveyed spirituality, which I was heavily into, and also the elusive qualities of the chameleon. We used the archaic spelling with the Greek letter æ in there, just to be tricky.

What would you say were some of the band’s influences?

Tony and I were huge Beatles fans. The Fab Four were at the peak of their popularity in 1967 and ’68 when we were writing most of those songs, and one could not help but be influenced by them. But Tony and I both had come from a folk music background, as did Kyle, so a few of our songs were influenced by the Greenwich Village folk scene. I was a big fan of Tim Hardin, Jimmy Webb and also Bert Bacharach & Hal David.

What was the writing and arranging process within the band?

The songs were all written either by me alone or me and Tony. I got Kyle to sing lead on a few of them, since he had this cool blue-eyed soul vocal delivery. We worked up the arrangements for the basic tracks in our loft and laid down demos on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, then played the tapes for Alan Lorber, who made the final decision as to which songs would be on the album.

Where did MGM catch you performing that made them decide they wanted to make a deal with you? What was the original contract?

Alan Lorber had an overall deal with MGM Records. They released anything he brought them. We had little or no contact with the label. Everything was controlled by Lorber, and he still owns the masters.

There was a pretty big promotion effort behind the “Bosstown Sound”…

The notorious hype behind the “Bosstown Sound” ended up backfiring on those who perpetrated it and cast all the bands involved in a negative light. It was like “The Emporer’s New Clothes” – somebody in the press pointed and said “but there is no Boston sound – it’s all over the map.” And then everyone in the press piled on and took great relish in ridiculing Alan Lorber, Wes Farrell (another New York producer who tried to make hay out of the Bosstown Sound), and all the bands involved. As an example of the lack of homogeny between Boston bands, Ultimate Spinach was sort of a knock off of the San Francisco psychedelic sound (which actually was a “sound”), and Chamæleon Church was clearly influenced by The Beatles and the British Invasion. Another band Lorber produced, Orpheus, was kind of pop-rock, like The Association or Gary Puckett & the Union Gap.

How did the critics receive your albums?

I don’t wish to be disparaging toward anyone, but your question forces me to confess that we (the band) all hated the way the album came out. Lorber promised to include us – or at least me – in the entire recording and mixing process. But he wrote and recorded all the orchestration by himself and mixed the album by himself – behind closed doors, as it were. We were, well, “disappointed” would be an understatement. We were appalled. At the time I regarded it as the total annihilation of 11 of my best songs. Everyone else in the band, to a man, felt the same way. So, when it was either panned or not reviewed at all, we agreed with the reviewers. Billboard magazine, a trade publication that never pans anything, called it “pleasant.” That was the kindest thing anyone could come up with!

But, in an effort to be balanced, I add this: Many years later I was interviewed on an Internet radio show called Now Sounds, hosted by Steve Stanley. This show caters to the present-day niche audience of ‘60s psych fans. Now Sounds targets an even smaller sub-group of fans, who are into the softer, loungier psychedelic rock and pop of the late ‘60s. Steve, who is several decades younger than me, told me he thought Chamæleon Church was one of the greatest albums of the decade.

Trying to listen to it through his ears, and with the added objectivity that time affords, I think I can now see some of what Lorber might have been going for. The excessive echo and watery instrumental tracks give the album a dreamy, ethereal quality, which is consistent with a lot of the songwriting. Tony and I had a strong preconception of what we wanted the album to sound like: we wanted Sgt. Pepper’s. But we didn’t play like The Beatles and we didn’t sing like The Beatles, and we could hardly blame Lorber for that. Instead of going head-to-head with The Beatles, Lorber went in a completely different direction and, although heavily flawed, the album does sound quite unique. It’s very hard for an artist to remove himself and his ego from his work, but after all these years, I’ve tried to do that with my early work, and I’ve achieved some level of reconciliation with it.


Did your debut album sell well? By that I also mean did it garner much airplay or chart in any markets?

Absolutely none. It sank like a stone. MGM put no money into promotion at all. I think it was Lorber that got us on the TV show, but that was all.

Where was your debut recorded?  How long did the sessions last?  Would you share some recollections from the sessions? 

The album was recorded and mixed at Mayfair Studios in midtown Manhattan, the only studio in New York City at the time with eight-track mixing capabilities. I think the sessions took place over a period of about two weeks. The engineer, Eddie Smith, was an affable older guy, who, like Lorber, didn’t have a clue about “psychedelic.” It was clear early on that Lorber and I would have creative clashes, and the sessions were fraught with disagreements, which Lorber always won. To say he was dictatorial would be an understatement.

What was the dynamic between songwriting and playing?  

As soon as Tony and I would finish a new song, we would try it out with the band, which would rehearse nearly every day. If it seemed like a good fit for the album (and I don’t remember writing anything that wasn’t), we would work up an arrangement. The arrangements were usually with the full band, but one – “In a Kindly Way – was just Tony and I finger picking electric guitars and Kyle played a very simple line on electric bass. The only percussion on the record was a backwards tambourine. Tony and Kyle both played guitar, bass and keyboards and Chevy was more proficient on piano than he was on drums. This was a good thing for the studio, but it was a bad thing for live shows. We found that it took a lot of time to switch instruments between songs, which made for a slow-moving show. By the time we figured out that we had to approach our live show very differently from recording, the band was ready to break up.

Did psychoactive or hallucinogenic drugs play a large or important role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes?

Most of the songs I wrote back then were informed by the spiritual and philosophical revelations I experienced on psychedelics. There were only a couple of people in my life I felt comfortable tripping with, and I don’t recall ever tripping with any of the band members. I might have with Tony, but I’m not sure. The psychedelic experience did not mean the same thing to everyone, and I couldn’t understand the people who used it as recreation. For me, it was not entertainment, but a deep exploration into my inner self and the true nature of the universe; that which is hidden from us in everyday life. I don’t think Kyle and Chevy ever did the stuff. I would never attempt to perform live or to record while tripping. I actually tripped very infrequently, because the experience was so intense, but you could certainly call it a songwriting tool.

Would you share your insight on the albums’ tracks?    

A1
Come Into Your Life 
The verse melody is somewhat reminiscent of “Elenor Rigby,” and I was hoping for a George Martin- like string ensemble, but it didn’t turn out that way. I love the melody and harmonies on the chorus “And the joy will come into your life…” the melody really reflects that lyric. The lyric definitely preaches the gospel of psychedelia.

A2
Camillia Is Changing 
Tony took the lead in writing this. He also sings lead and I add the high harmonies. That chorus still holds up to this day, although Lorber’s production, with all that backwards and repeating echo, waters it down quite a bit. Tony and I had a good time writing together, and I think it shows here.

A3
Spring This Year 
One of my favorite songs on the album. The verse section with me singing lead and playing acoustic guitar, survived Lorber’s production pretty well, but the chorus did not. He added so many special effects (including Chevy playing the part of a carnival barker, an idea we all thought was great – until we heard how it came out) as to obscure the lyrics and the melody almost entirely.

A4
Blueberry Pie 
I wrote this on my own, but gave it to Tony to sing the lead. A bit of social commentary, and throwing a pie in the face of the ultra-trendy, hipper-than-thou New York crowd, like that at Max’s Kansas City.

A5
Remembering's All I Can Do 
A ballad about heartbreak – one of my specialties. Again, I farmed out the lead vocal – this time to Kyle, because I liked his voice better than mine. I hear Burt Bacharach’s influence here.

B1
Flowers in the Field 
Again, the Beatles influence comes through (“Penny Lane,” perhaps?) and the lyric preaches the psychedelic gospel: “With everything one thing, wouldn’t that be something? Yes, indeed!”

B2
Here's a Song 
I figured if Ringo could sing lead on one song per Beatles album, Chevy could sing one on ours. He was pretty self-conscious about doing it, but I got it out of him. This song was inspired by a book I had just read and loved: Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. The guru in that book kept saying how man wastes so much time always asking “why?” There was another song, in 1975, that also quoted from Cat’s Cradle, “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” by Ambrosia – nearly a decade after mine.

B3
In a Kindly Way 
My favorite track on the album, and one of my favorite songs on the album. My favorite track because it was the track least fucked with by Lorber – just a voice, two guitars, a bass and a backwards tambourine, all recorded straight, without a lot of unnecessary effects. As a song, it withstood the test of time so well that I included it on my 2012 solo album, LifeAfterlife, the only song on that album that had been previously released. This time I did it even simpler – two acoustic guitars, no bass, backwards + forwards tambourine. We duplicated the beautiful lead guitar part that was written by my late comrade, Tony Scheuren, note-for-note.

B4
Tompkins Square Park 
Sometime in 1967 or ’68 my crazy wife moved out of the loft and got herself a lovely apartment on East 7th Street between Avenues A & B, the southern border of Tompkins Square Park. After one of our many reconciliations, I moved in there with her and gave the loft to Kyle and his girlfriend. So this song was written one hazy gray day, as Tony and I sat in that apartment and looked down on Tompkins Square Park. In one of the verses we mentioned “kids on a bench getting high,” and Lorber would not let us say “getting high” on the album, for fear it would be banned some places. He made us change it to “getting by,” which makes no sense at all.

B5
Picking Up the Pieces 
An uptempo rocker. We needed at least one of these, and I wasn’t writing many of them in those days. I thought the fuzz guitar track that Kyle added was a good touch for the arrangement.

B6
Off With the Old 
An obvious homage to George Harrison’s explorations into Indian music. Again, this is Tony singing lead on a song I wrote alone. The sitar and tamboura were added by Colin Walcott, one of the few studio cats in New York who played those instruments, so he was pretty busy in those days. As with all of the tracks that Lorber overdubbed, I was not consulted about the part and was not invited to the session. In spite of this, I think it came out pretty okay.

Your Golden Love
This was recorded but not included on the album. It was released as the B-side of “Camillia Is Changing.” I wrote it alone and thought it would be best suited to Kyle’s voice, and I think he killed it. I was totally blown away by his electric piano part. I had known him for years and years, we had been in two bands together, and I always thought of him as a lead guitarist. I never knew he could play piano like that. It can be heard on the compilation CD Family Circle, Family Tree that Lorber put together for Ace Records UK in 1996.

Was there a certain philosophy in the band?

I was really very much the boss of the band, and I think I laid out my spiritual philosophy pretty well above. I was really into the hippie ideal of peace and love, and spreading it for real around the world. We really thought at that time that our generation, with psychedelics and music and yoga and Eastern wisdom, could change the direction of the human race and lead us to a new state of peace, love and understanding. How naïve we were!

How big were you compared to other bands that were part of so called “Bosstown Sound”?

Not big at all. Chamæleon Church came and went very quickly. The album received no promotion or publicity, it bombed, we only played three gigs and that one TV special, and we were gone. If you sneezed, you missed us! Sorry, but if you don’t want honest answers, best not to ask the questions.

Were you friends with those bands?

I knew people in Orpheus and Ultimate Spinach (a band I ended up joining after Chamæleon Church fell apart). I’m still very close friends with Harry Sandler, who was the drummer in Orpheus and who I met again when he moved to L.A. I think I met some of the guys in Beacon Street Union and Earth Opera. I no longer remember which bands were considered part of the Bosstown Sound. I was friendly with Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band since high school, and Barry & The Remains were very close friends with The Lost back in 1965 and ’66.

What was the actual scene in your city? Where did you hang out? What clubs were hip? 

I guess I should preface this by reiterating that Chamæleon Church were not a Boston band, we were based in New York. In the early ‘60s I would hang out in Greenwich Village a lot and frequent the folk music coffee houses, where I would rub shoulders with people like Richie Havens, Dave Van Ronk and Bob Dylan. When I moved back to NYC in 1967, the cool hangouts were the Tin Angel on Bleecker St., where I met Joni Mitchell and David Clayton Thomas. Across the street was the Garrick Theatre, where I saw The Mothers of Invention in their year-long residency in 1968. And, of course, there was Max’s Kansas City, where a lot of the Warhol set would hang out, but I was not too crazy about them – a bunch of zombies! And there was Steve Paul’s The Scene, which had live music, and where I heard some epic jams, including one night when Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter and Peter Green all got up on stage with The McCoys (who were the house band) with John Lord of Deep Purple on organ. Unbelievable!

What happened next? 

As I mentioned previously, Tony and I joined the Boston band Ultimate Spinach in fall 1968. They had recently fired their founder, leader and songwriter because his behavior was causing all the original band members to quit and he was alienating audiences as well. Tony and I alternated as lead singers, with Tony filling the keyboards slot. There were already two guitarists in the band – Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (who went on to Steely Dan and Doobie Bros. fame) and Barbara Hudson, so, although I played on the album, in our live shows I got to be front man/lead singer sans guitar. Tony and I wrote and cut the third album with them, which bombed, then we went on a tour in the winter of 1969, which culminated with a two-week residency at a club in Aspen, Colorado. Upon our arrival back in Boston, several members of the band were busted for marijuana and, in April 1969, I took off for California, ostensibly for a two-week vacation. I never lived on the East Coast again.

Have you been involved in any musical endeavours following the dissolution of the band?

I feel very fortunate that I have been able to make my living at doing music for my entire adult life. After moving to California in 1969 I was signed to a publishing deal by Tree Music. In 1972 I wrote a song for a movie, X, Y and Zee with Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Caine. It was recorded by Three Dog Night and showed up as the B-side of a hit single and on two multi million-selling albums. I was subsequently signed to a number of publishing deals, but didn’t land another record deal until 1977, when I recorded the album Glider for United Artists Records. (Um, please don’t ask how many copies that sold, or if it received any promotion or good reviews!). I formed and fronted one more band, Incognito, in the ‘80s and recorded an album’s worth of masters that were never released. In 1989 I started my career as a compilation producer at Rhino Records, where I worked for eleven years, picking up a Grammy nomination along the way. After that I worked for Concord Music Group for another four years. Between 2006 and 2012 I recorded one last album (my first solo!) called LifeAfterlife I released it quietly on my own imprint in 2012. If you look, you can still find it on Amazon, CD Baby, etc.

Ted Myers’ 2012 album, LifeAfterlife

Would you discuss some of your most memorable moments in The Lost and Chamaeleon Church and what made them so?  

When The Lost was signed to Capitol less than a year after we moved to Boston, I thought “This is it – nowhere to go but up from here!” But that did not turn out to be the case. The Lost felt like rock stars, though. People in Boston used to recognize us on the street. It was a great time to be alive and making music. During the Chamæleon Church era, Chevy started working with this improv comedy group called Channel One, who would record their bits on video tape and show them on large TV monitors in their little theatre. In one bit, Chevy had us play a naked rock band to Ken Shapiro’s overdressed lead singer. We were actually all naked except for our instruments. Meanwhile, Kenny, who was a short, fat guy with glasses, was dressed like a cross between Janis Joplin and Liberace, with lace-trimmed bellbottoms and dripping in love beads. It was pretty funny.

Thank you very much for taking your time. Last word is yours.

Sorry if some of this came across as a downer. You wanted the real skinny about Chamæleon Church, and you got it. But I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s. The important thing is the journey and the lessons learned. You’ll be able to read about all this and much, much more in my forthcoming memoir, Making It: Music, Sex and Drugs in the Golden Age of Rock. Watch for it in bookstores and gas stations everywhere!


Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015

Beyond the Silver Sea - Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab (2015) review


Beyond the Silver Sea 'Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab' (2015)
“Because everything made sense, no-one ever asked if there had ever been anything that didn’t make sense. But it didn’t matter because, surely, if it hadn’t made sense, it didn’t make sense to believe that it ever existed.”

The malformed lovechild of x and y. Like so-and-so on such-and-such yesteryear drug. Idle comparisons are catnip for amateur musicologists, and generally to be avoided, but what to do when faced with an album as richly referential as Beyond the Silver Sea, the sophomore set from Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab?

Sit back and enjoy yourself, that’s what. Half the fun is figuring out over the course of an hour what main Labmen Stu Kidd and Joe Kane’s record collections must look like. The other half comes from the joyous way they ping from one musical planet to another - mid-song, mid-verse, whenever the mood strikes - all the while remaining in orbit around the solar fulcrum of Adam Smith’s characteristically brilliant storytelling.

Smith - himself a prolific songwriter and artist par excellence - is a long-time conceptual collaborator of Kane’s. Here, he tells the story of Max, a ‘Sense Factory’ worker who spends his days ‘making sense of stray ephemera that hadn’t made sense before.’ After a vision of the mysterious ‘Silver Sea’ instils in him an appreciation of the power of unreality, Max undergoes a Damascene conversion, throwing off the shackles of social conformity that he might find a less cosseted but ‘truer’ way to exist. 

In the grand tradition of eccentric dystopian fiction, the story tackles themes of urban oppression and techno-centric bureaucracy, executed with Lovecraftian prose (‘time vehicle’ instead of ‘time machine’) and a smattering of the sort of hyper-logical, linguistic knot-tying wit familiar to fans of Douglas Adams. 

Bubbling under the narration is another treat for influence-spotters: musical vignettes that pastiche library-music iterations of classic pop. When, for instance, our hero goes back to mid-sixties London, we hear a litigation-proof take on Whatcha Gonna Do About It. Baby You’re a Rich Man (‘The Sense Factory’) and Cabinessence (‘…Something Else’) also get cheeky looks-in.

Styling these vignettes after the soundtrack to a ropy low-budget documentary on the Sixties is a swingin’ idea, further ramping up the meta preoccupations of an album which is - you come to realize - the very ‘time vehicle’ of which it speaks. 

It’s the stellar song-smithery that really takes the listener Beyond the Silver Sea. Psychedelic pop wasn’t born in Glasgow but it’s enjoying semi-retirement there. I’m telling anyone who’ll listen: Dr. Cosmo’s Tape Lab make a Scottish sound. They might not use it to sell whisky to Americans, but they should. It’s subtle, and yes, partly down to the faintly-detected dipthongs and suprasegmentals particular to the accent, but there’s a certain dinnae-ken-whit about it that’s much harder to define. It’s there in Teenage Fanclub and Beta Band. BMX Bandits have it in spades, as does Bandits alumnus Kidd. Paul Morley would probably call it ‘a brooding pop sensibility’ or something. This stuff is peculiar to the west of Scotland, and although it shares commonalities with its more famous west coast counterpart, Glaswegian pop-psych is liable to veer suddenly off-course with a jolting cadence, before returning you to familiar territories.

Those territories include the heavy psychedelic blues of Blossom Toes’ second album (‘Dr. Chester’s Pleasure’); Arthur-period Kinks (‘Face of Another’); and even the rock-spiritual vibe of Pacific Ocean Blue (‘The Stars My Destination’). The best moments are when the influences come thick and fast in a single song, as on ‘The Storehouse of Fools’ which starts out like Gudbuy t’Jane and morphs briefly into Suffragette City before Wild Honey-era Beach Boys sees things home. ‘Pie, Mash & Liqor’ is an unabashed style parody of Chas & Dave and a supremely enjoyable two minutes of music for it. 

Amongst the self-aware nods to vintage sounds is some Grade A pop music. ‘City & the Stars’ and ‘In Lieu of Something Better’ possess all the attributes songwriters hanker after: infectious melodies, pin-sharp harmonies and uplifting progressions. With its tidy cocktail licks and cod-muzak setting, ‘Time Enough for Love’ is a lovely song, unencumbered by the archness and irony that afflicts much 21st Century art. ‘The Mirrors Reflection’ is another gem amongst gems.

That Kane, Kidd and Smith have realized a power-pop sci-fi concept album at all in 2015 is remarkable. The fact it’s such a treat for the ears from start to finish borders on the miraculous. Word on the street is, Sugarbush Records plan to release their equally excellent debut album Ever Evolving Lounge on vinyl later this year which is good news for popsike fans everywhere.

Review made by Nic Denholm/2015
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2015