Monday, July 12, 2010

Nuggets Vol. 11: Pop, Pt. 4

RNLP/RNC 70035
Nuggets Vol. 11:
Pop, Part 4
Various Artists

Solid collection of slightly psychedelic-influenced, progressive '60s pop. Fine hits by The Left Banke, Fever Tree, and the Grass Roots, neat tracks by The Blues Project, Lee Michaels, and Gene Clark, worthy obscurities by The Magicians, Montage (a Left Banke spinoff), The Critters, and Keith.
Review by Richie Unterberger [allmusic]

Label : Rhino Rec.
Catalog#: RNLP 70035
Format: Vinyl, 12",
Country: USA
Released: 1986
Genre: Rock
Style:Psychedelic , Progressive, Pop , 60's
Mp3@320 & Scans
Filesize: 96.83 MB

Let's Live Take it Here[zp]
or Here [ff]

Side A'

Let's Live For Today - The Grass Roots
Pretty Ballerina - The Left Banke
I Shall Call Her Mary - Montage
Echoes - Gene Clark
Happy - The Sunshine Company
Invitation To Cry - The Magicians
San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native) - Fever Tree

Side B'

Hello - Lee Michaels
Run Run Run - The Third Rail
Mr. Dieingly Sad - The Critters
I Can Hear The Grass Grow - The Blues Magoos
No Time Like The Right Time - The Blues Project
Step Out Of Your Mind - The American Breed
Ain't Gonna Lie - Keith

Pop music was a wide-open territory from 1966 to 1968, a dayglo Land of Oz with a surprise around every turn of the radio dial. It was an especially fertile period that found the standard formulas governing song composition bending in the wake of an emergent experimentalism, a charge led by the Beatles and by hallucinogenic drugs. (Let's not play coy here; Spiro Agnew was right all along, and you and I know it.) During this two-year blip on the pop-culture time line, a torrent of great music-too much to be properly absorbed, appreciated or even catalogued, as it turns out-was released. Listen closely and you'll hear a dialogue being worked out between discipline and excess, short songs and long songs, screaming and crooning, guitars and violins, Utopia and apocalypse, druggy liberation and old-fashioned hand-holding in the park. Fortunately, compromise worked all to the good in the halfway house of AM radio.
 Keith, he of the Top Ten hit "98.6," is as normal sounding a singer as you'll find on this (or any) Sixties pop collection. "Ain't Gonna Lie" was the first single from the warm-voiced Philadelphian (James Barry Keefer to his mom and dad), who enlisted the Tokens to sing back up. It hit #39 for one week in late '66, a couple of months before "98.6" went Top Ten, and would have gone higher had hundreds of thousands of records not been pressed off-center. The low-key jazz-pop sound of Keith's records owes much to Jerry Ross, who mined a similarly brassy groove as producer of Bobby Hebb's classic "Sunny." "He has star quality!" radio-tipsheet king Kal Rudman raved of Keith on the sleeve notes to his first LP. "His will be a big career?' The U.S. Army deemed other¬
wise, spiriting him from the concert stage to the oblivion of a New Jersey barracks at the height of his popularity.
 The loveliest singles of the Sixties were recorded by The Left Banke, who proved that a pop ballad could incorporate aspects of classicism without sounding effete, and that a rock band could sing and play sensitively without sounding effeminate. "Pretty Ballerina" was well-nigh perfect in its well-tempered execution, owing to the compositional genius of Michael Brown and the mannerly vocal delivery of Steve Martin, who sang it as if he were reciting an Elizabethan love sonnet "Pretty Ballerina" sounds as sweet and disciplined as a Bach piano etude, and the public applauded it all the way to #15 in early 1967.
 In some quarters, The Blues Project were regarded as "the Jewish Beatles," but their incipient blues and jazz leanings ultimately denied them broad exposure or even so much as a Top Forty single. Al Kooper was the closest thing they had to a pop messiah, and every now and then he would come up with a gem like "No Time Like the Right Time." It has the sound of '67 all over it, in the urgency of Kooper's vocal and the galloping beat, the psychedelic organ stabs and, of course, a tambourine, shaken for all it's worth on the chorus. Oh, and not forgetting Kooper's mind-bending solo on the "ondioline-a keyboard that made a high-pitched Middle Eastern whine every bit as mysterious as Kooper's up-and-down career.
 Another set of "blues" musicians, The Blues Magoos, were no mere acid-rock dilettantes; they were full-tilt, falling-off-the-face-of-the-earth psychedelic. They wore electric suits that lit up onstage, called their first album Psychedelic Lollipop (lick at your own peril) and even marketed a Blues Magoos lava lamp. The Blues Magoos' brand of acid had a lot of speed mixed in with it; led by the garage vocals of Emil "Peppy" Thielhelm, they made a trio of albums that remain classics of the genre. "I Can Hear the Grass Grow'-written by Englishman Roy Wood, leader of the Move-appeared on Basic Blues Magoos. "My head is attracted to a magnetic wave of sound," sang Peppy, and, hearing this, you couldn't doubt him.
 More down to earth (pardon the pun) were The Grass Roots. The group was blest with a steady stream of pop/protest songs from the talented team of PR Sloan (author of "Eve of Destruction") and Steve Barri. Rob Grill sang the Sloan/Barri songbook with the air of troubled earnestness that they demanded, and the Grass Roots—L.A. natives all, and originally the "13th Floor-racked up hits all the way into the Seventies. "Let's Live for Today" is a late Sixties' milestone, with Grill's cathartic vocal betraying the uncertainties of a generation grappling with drugs, the draft and dropping out.
 The Critters represented the flip side of the pop coin. They were all sweetness and light and mellow vibes-New Jersey's answer to the Lovin Spoonful, without benefit of a summer in the city. "Blue be your eyes, blonde your hair," they sang to a comely inamorata on "Mr. Dieingly Sad." their #19 hit from the fall of 1966. The quasi-jazzy arrangement, complete with vibes, wistful vocals and a samba-like lilt, was reminiscent of Keith's several singles Both the Critters and Keith, if truth be told, seemed to derive no small inspiration from Chris Montez, the jazzy pop singer (and Ritchie Valens protege) of "Call Me" and "The More I See You."
 The Chicago-bred American Breed hit the charts in 1967 with a timely invitation to "Step Out of Your Mind." Never as psychedelic as they pretended to be, for currency's sake, the American Breed were really a white soul band trapped in paisley boutique clothing. A couple latter-day members wound up co-founding the Seventies soul-funk group Rufus. In their heyday, the .American Breed sounded something like Britain's Amen Corner. Amen. who. you ask? Ah, that's another story. Suffice to say that both groups had a large-scale hit, in their respective countries, with "Bend Me. Shape Me" (available on Pop. Part III of the Nuggets series).
 There has never been a burst of feedback to rival that which closes Fever Tree's ode to ''San Francisco Girls''-it sounds like an amplified swarm of killer bees, capable of turning healthy minds to head cheese at twenty paces This stentorian footnote to the psychedelic era comes from a guitarist known only as Michael. He, along with producers Scott and Vivian Holtzman. wrote "San Francisco Girls," Fever Tree's brilliant burst of neon-rainbow psychedelia. It's quite a different ode to the city by the sea than the one Tony Bennett popularized. Almost suite-like in its movements, it passes from pastoral rhapsody to ear-splintering rave-up in the time it takes to say "Hey Joe," which it resembles.
 Lee Michaels arrived on the recording scene with his heavy organ, and ex-Paul Revere and the Raiders guitarist Drake Levin, in 1968. "Hello" was just that: an electrified hail-fellow-well-met from a formidable L.A. keyboardist who followed the Jefferson Airplanes siren call north to the psychedelic ballrooms of San Francisco. His first album, Carnival of life, was a nine-song smorgasboard of pithy meditations on the human condition. In addition to "Hello," there was "Love," "Tomorrow" and "Why." Michaels' second album, Recital, remains his most virtuosic work-and one of the quintessential albums-as-albums of the Sixites.
  Montage was one of Michael Brown's infrequent projects, formed in the wake of his one-album stint with the Left Banke. He wasn't even a bonafide member of Montage, (Is this a guy with a commitment problem, or what?) On Montage's lone album, he was given "special thanks... for all keyboard instruments and vocal arrangements." He also, incidentally, co-wrote nine of the ten songs, and they are all wonderful, per usual. In a sense, The Montage can be regarded as The Great Lost Bank Album, insofar as Brown's prowess and participation are concerned. "I Shall Call You Mary" bears the thrilling orchestral-pop hallmarks of the Left Banke's classic "Desiree."
  The Sunshine Company cast themselves in the mold of Peter, Paul & Mary, Spanky and Our Gang, and the Mamas and the Papas: folk-rock groups with girl/guy harmonies whose mission was to sling lovey-dovey good vibes 'round this here planet (or at least the West Coast). Mary Nance's hearty alto meshed nicely with Maury Manseau's gentle tenor on "Happy," a Summer of Love single whose cup runneth over with happiness. Taking a good thing one step further, they titled their first album Happy Is the Sunshine Company and filled it with such Aquarian Age love polemics as "Children Could Help Us Find the Way" and "Love Is a Happy Thing." Groovy stuff, but where's they go? Up, up and away?
  Disciplines of late Sixties pop frequently find themselves chasing obscure, scratchy 45s through the dustbins of time and trying to answer such zen koans as, "Who are The Third Rail?" The Wizards of Id behind The Third Rail were Artie Resnick and Joey Levine, a pair of songwriters in the employ of the Kasenetz/Katz bubblegum hitmaking machine; the Ohio Express and the 1910 Fruitgum Company were among their beneficiaries. "Run Run Run" is a whimsical bit of social commentary. As a putdown of the nine-to-five rat race, its judgments are harsher than the bubblegum vocals, complete with Jan and Dean-style falsetto swoops, might otherwise suggest.
  There's no mistaking the heart-on-the-sleeve emotions of The Magicians' "Invitation to Cry." This waltz-time weeper, a failed 45, fairly bleeds romantic duress. For a brief while in 1966, the Magicians, who had solid musical credentials and a strong following around New York City, seemed poised to make it. "Invitation to Cry" was the strongest of their three singles. The Magicians welded the Long Island R&B sound of the Young Rascals and the Vagrants with the surging power of Massachusetts garage bands like the Remains and the Barbarians. In hindsight, the Magicians' greatest trick, however, was their vanishing act. Guitarist Allan "Jake" Jacobs later re-surfaced as the leader of Jake and the Family Jewels, and drummer Alan Gordon and guitarist Gary Bonner teamed as songwriters to amass a trunkload of late-Sixties pop gems like "Happy Together" and "Celebrate."
  After Gene Clark quit the Byrds, he cut a little-heard album with a pair of country singers, Vern and Rex Gosdin, and such stellar L.A. sidemen as Leon Russell and Glen Campbell (just back from his half-year as a Beach Boy). Clark also got his solo flight off the ground with the help of a few Byrds: Chris Hillman, Mike Clarke and Bryd-to-be Clarence White. "My inspirations, as I remember, were Rubber Soul and early Mamas and Papas," Clark reflected years later. "Echoes" seems to pay homage to Bob Dylan as well, in the elusive symbolism of its lyrics. One of the first solo albums as such, Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers was here and gone, like a mist, in 1967; it appeared again, remixed and annotated, in 1972, only to drop from sight just as quickly.
Parke Puterbaugh.

Nuggets is a series of releases dedicated to preserving the hits
and undiscovered gems of the first psychedelic era...

Vol. 01 Vol. 02 Vol. 03 Vol. 04
Vol. 05 Vol. 06 Vol. 07 Vol. 08
Vol. 09 Vol. 10             Vol. 12


  1. Great series!
    The music inside are superlative!
    Please post the entire collection!
    These volumes are very precious and rare!
    Thank you so much & greeting from Italy!

  2. Πολυ καλη συλλογη.Ευχαριστω πολυ Κιμων

  3. Per Claudio .
    Ciao amico mio . Grazie per il tuo commento . Piano piano , posteremo tutti gli albums di questa superba collezione . Abbi un po di pazienza .
    Dimmi di che citta sei ?

  4. Sono di Alessandria.E' da tanto tempo che cercavo questi volumi!
    Grazie ancora!

  5. As per request - the links to this one are no longer available. On another note, thanks for the exposure to some great music!