Archive for the ‘Reissue’ Category

Various Artists – The Complete Christmas on the Ponderosa

Friday, December 7th, 2018

A warm and inviting Christmas with the Cartwright clan

Originally released in 1963 just as television’s Bonanza was climbing to #1 in the Nielsen’s, Christmas on the Ponderosa was one of several commercial tie-ins that accompanied the show’s success. Released by RCA, the thirteen tracks feature the golden throats of Bonanza’s four stars – Dan Blocker, Lorne Greene, Michael Landon and Pernell Roberts – performing in character, along with the backing vocals of the Ken Darby Singers. The album is structured as a story, with the Cartwright clan’s caroling neighbors invited into the Ponderosa’s ranch house for a Christmas party. The music includes both traditional and new Christmas songs, and they’re held together by continuity that includes toasts, elegies, dramatic conversations and humorous dialog.

Pernell Roberts proved himself the family’s standout singer on his lone track,“The Newborn King.” His solo album, Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies, was also released by RCA the same year, and here he sings in a similar folk style. Michael Landon is appealing on “Oh Fir Tree Dear” and the novelty “Santa Got Lost in Texas,” and though Dan Blocker gives it a go on “Deck the Halls,” his gifts are better applied to the recitation of “The First Christmas Tree.” Lorne Greene uses his sonorous voice to conjure both gravitas and humor in his performances, as he would later employ on the chart-topping single, “Ringo.” In addition to the Christmas album’s thirteen tracks, this reissue adds the first-ever CD release of Lorne Greene’s 1965 seasonal album, Have a Happy Holiday, and both sides of his 1966 single “Must Be Santa” b/w “One Solitary Life.”

The Bonanza characters provided a surprisingly sturdy platform for acting, singing and merchandising. The Christmas album followed the cast’s initial 1962 foray into recording, Ponderosa Party Time, and was in turn followed by Lorne Greene’s 1964 album Welcome to the Ponderosa (both of which are included in Bear Family’s Bonanza box set). This Christmas collection includes remastered audio by Mike Piacentini at Sony’s Battery Studios, liner notes by The Second Disc’s Joe Marchese, and rare cast photos. Christmas on the Ponderosa’s sing-along party theme will add a celebratory spark to your own holiday gathering, and the addition of Lorne Greene’s follow-up album and single adds another gift under the tree. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Lefty Frizzell: An Article From Life – The Complete Recordings

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

The exquisite, final word on a country legend

Born in Texas, and raised in Arkansas, William Orville “Lefty” Frizzell took in the seminal influences of Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Tubb and others, and forged an original vocal style that impacted an entire generation of singers. His next-generation disciples included Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, George Jones and Roy Orbison, and his influence continues to reverberate today through the works of Brennen Leigh and many others. His 1950 debut topped the charts with both “If You’ve Got the Money (I’ve Got the Time)” and its flip, “I Love You a Thousand Ways,” and the hits that followed stretched into early 1953. But Frizzell was a mercurial artist, firing his manager and band in 1952, joining and quitting the Grand Ole Opry, and moving to Los Angeles, where he joined the Town Hall Party. His 1954 single “I Love You Mostly” would be his last Top 20 hit for four years, and though he’d move to Nashville and regain the top slot with 1964’s “Saginaw Michigan,” his health and success steadily declined until his death at the age of 47 in 1975.

Bear Family has pulled out all the stops to honor Frizzell’s legendary career, gathering 361 tracks on 20 CDs, including all of his singles (45s and 78s) and albums, demos and session material, and a wealth of newly discovered material. The discs are packaged in double digipaks, which are themselves housed in a 12-½” x 12-½” x 3” box that includes a massive 264-page hardcover book. This box set represents the third iteration of Bear Family’s archival work on Frizzell, having previously issued the 14-LP set His Life, His Music in 1984, and the updated 12-CD set Life’s Like Poetry in 1992. This is a superset of both earlier releases, and though a few scraps might still be hiding in a dusty vault, this is likely to be the definitive statement on Frizzell’s recording career. In addition to complete coverage of his 25-years of commercial releases, the demos, private recordings, radio airchecks and U.S. military program transcriptions stretch back into the 1940s. The set’s final eight discs feature Frizzell’s younger brother David reading his biography I Love You a Thousand Ways.

Discs 1 through 9 repeat the same commercial material as was originally offered on Life’s Like Poetry. Discs 10-12 include demos, radio airchecks and transcriptions that provide a rich picture of the artist in development. These latter recordings vary in quality, and some of the earliest material is rough in spots, but Frizzell’s voice always manages to emerge from the surface noise of acetates and metal parts. New to this box are two dozen full and partial demos and non-session recordings, including late-40s covers of Ernest Tubb (“I’ll Always Be Glad to Take You Back” and “I’ll Always Be Glad to Take You Back”), Jimmie Rodgers (“My Old Pal of Yesterday,” “Jimmie the Kid” and “California Blues”), Ernest Tubb (“Mean Mama Blues”), Hank Williams (“I’m a Long Gone Daddy,” “Last Night I Heard You Crying in Your Sleep” and “There’ll Be No Teardrops Tonight”), and 1950 band recordings of Frizzell originals “If You’re Ever Lonely Darling,” “I Love You A Thousand Ways” and “Lost Love Blues.” Of particular interest among the new tracks are three solo acoustic takes of “I Won’t Be Good For Nothin’” that show how Frizzell developed his approach to the song.

The transfers and mastering of the studio material highlight the microphone’s love for Frizzell’s voice. His presence is palpable sixty years after he first stood and sang these numbers, and his feel for a song’s tempo remains unerring, never rushing a lyric, but never dragging the beat. As described by Merle Haggard, Frizzell would “hold on to each word until he finally decided to drop it and pick up the next one.” Charles Wolfe’s biographical essay, updated and revised by Daniel Cooper and Kevin Coffey, pieces together Frizzell’s personal and recording history from a variety of sources. Frizzell was apparently not fond of being interviewed, and the authors augment the artist’s own memories with those of his family, friends, supporting musicians and colleagues. The book (weighing in at a somewhat unwieldy five pounds) is laced with archival photos, and supplemented by Richard Weize and Kevin Coffey’s detailed discography. This collection is the epitome of the Bear Family box set, overwhelming in its completeness, attention to detail and love for the artist. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Permanent Green Light: Hallucinations

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

After the Three O’Clock

In the late ‘80s, after an EP and four LPs with the Three O’Clock, bassist/singer/songwriter Michael Quercio found himself without a band for the first time in a decade. His long-time association with Game Theory led to touring and recording in San Francisco, but by the early ‘90s he’d returned to Los Angeles. Back in the southland he connected with guitarist/singer/songwriter Matt Devine, and together with drummer Chris Bruckner, formed Permanent Green Light – the group’s name seemingly lifted from the closing song of the Godz 1967 album Godz 2. As a trio, the band returned Quercio’s to the pre-Three O’Clock format of the Salvation Army, but with a co-founder sharing singing and songwriting duties, PGL had more range to draw upon.

The band debuted in 1992 with the single “We Could Just Die.” The song’s signature guitar riff and vocal hooks put this in a class with Michael Quercio’s most memorable songs. The trio played with the sort of fervor that had electrified the Salvation Army, but with less overt psychedelic and punk undertones. The single’s B-side, “The Truth This Time,” opens with a funky wah-wah guitar riff, but breaks into the sort of melodic verse for which Quercio is known. The single begat a self-titled EP, from which Quercio’s “Ballad of Paul K.” is included, but Matt Devine’s songs and and lead vocals are left behind.

A fuller picture of Devine’s contributions is drawn from tracks selected from the band’s first and only full-length alum, 1993’s Against Nature. The six tracks anthologized here include solo writes from from both Quercio and Devine, as well as several co-writes that include the single “(You and I Are the) Summertime.” Devine’s “Marianne Gave Up Her Hand” has a baroque-rock feel, while “Portmanteau” adds Spanish-styled acoustic guitar to the trio’s near prog-rock. Devine’s voice is pleasant, though not the instantly recognizable, idiosyncratic instrument that is Quercio’s. The jointly written “Wintertime’s A-Comin’, Martha Raye” recalls the tripiness of Quercio’s early songs with the Three O’Clock.

Fans will enjoy this collection’s vault finds, starting with 1991 demos of “(You and I Are the) Summertime” and Quercio’s otherwise unknown “Lovely to Love Me.” The former is played faster and harder than the single, the latter highlights the quirkiness of Quercio’s voice, with Merseybeat harmonies sung against crashing cymbals. The B-side “Street Love” is served up in demo form that’s more raw and urgent than the final version, and stray tracks from Flipside’s RAFR compilation and a Sassy magazine phone promo round out the rarities. Those new to the band will find this a balanced intro, but with such a slim catalog, the original EP and LP are worthwhile follow-ups. Those who are already hooked will dig the demos and other bonus tracks. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

The Persian Leaps: Pop That Goes Crunch!

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Power pop revisited, re-recorded, remixed and remastered

Minnesota’s Persian Leaps have been making catchy, guitar-based power pop since their formation in 2012. They’ve released an EP-per-year since their debut with 2013’s Praise Elephants, and now pause to reflect on the intersection between what they knew then and what they’ve learned since. In particular, their first full-length cherry picks seventeen of their previously released tracks and reworks them with remixing, re-recording and remastering that injects into the recordings the lessons they’ve learned from playing these songs live. Some of the changes find the band tweaking the mixes, while others are more radical. The single “Entropy” was entirely rebuilt atop the original bass and drums, and “Not That Brave” substitutes a live radio appearance for the original studio take. Artists often revisit their songs, but rarely their recordings, so it’s interesting to hear the band consider how their deepened familiarity with the material impacts their view of a song’s best presentation.

The band’s stated influences – Teenage Fanclub, Guide by Voices and the Smiths – are easy to hear, but traces of Eddie & The Hot Rods, the Feelies, Velvet Crush and Material Issue also echo through their music. Singer/guitarist Drew Fosberg can write the requisite power pop odes to budding, failing and failed relationships, but even here he sketches more in poetic images than on-the-nose laments. His protagonists are optimistic as they step past obstacles to make a move, but once inside they’re too late in catching on to their failings, and end up wallowing in the aftermath a few minutes too long. Beyond romantic trevails, Fosberg writes about social anxiety, the ostrich-like posture of climate change deniers, and in 2014’s “Truth = Consequences,” an equation that seems oddly out of synch with today’s political realities. Those who’ve already met the Persian Leaps through their EPs will enjoy the reconstructions offered here, but those new to the band will find this full-length a great introduction! [©2018 Hyperbolium]

The Persian Leaps’ Home Page

Robbie Dupree: Robbie Dupree & Street Corner Heroes

Monday, November 12th, 2018

1980s Yacht Rock classics reissued with bonus tracks

Brooklyn native, and working musician, Robbie Dupree hit it out of the box at the age of 32 with his first single, “Steal Away,” a song whose soft soul sound may be as emblematic of “Yacht Rock” as anything else in the canon. His self-titled 1980 debut album spun off a second top twenty hit with the romantic “Hot Rod Hearts,” and though he was nominated for a Grammy (losing out to Christopher Cross as best new artist in 1981), he’d only manage one more album and charting single before dropping off Elektra’s roster. He continued his career as a musician, returning to top-line status with 1987’s “Girls in Cars,” but despite steady work and a catalog of solo releases over the years, he never regained the commercial momentum of his debut single. His debut album offers a solid set of originals that suggest the sound of Michael McDonald-era Doobie Brothers, but without the earworm magic of the hit single.

1981’s Street Corner Heroes failed to fully capitalize on the commercial buzz of the debut, with the lead single, “Brooklyn Girls,” topping out at #54, and the album failing to crack the Top 100. Despite its lackluster commercial performance, the album, like the debut, is a solid set of early ‘80s soft rock and soul. Dupree remained a fetching vocalist, sounding a bit less like Michael McDonald than on the debut, and his original songs are complemented here by material from soft rock and country pros Bill LaBounty, Rafe Van Hoy and Roy Freeland. The album’s highlight is a left turn into a cappella doo wop with a cover of the Chessman’s “All Night Long,” reaching back to Dupree’s early years on the street corners of Brooklyn. Perhaps there was no career in doo wop singing in 1981, but Dupree’s enthusiasm for the genre infuses more life in this track than the laid back soul that dominates the rest of the album.

Dupree has remastered both Elektra albums with bonus tracks and released them via Blixa Sounds. The debut is augmented by four Spanish-language translations of album tracks that went unreleased in 1980, while the follow-up includes the single edit of “Saturday Night” and a Spanish language version of “Lonely Runner.” These are nice additions for fans who may own previous reissues, and these reissues renew everyone’s opportunity to listen beyond the iconic hit single. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Robbie Dupree’s Home Page

Jim Ford: Harlan County

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Your favorite’s favorite country-soul singer-songwriter

You may have never heard country-soul singer-songwriter Jim Ford, but you’ve likely heard his songs, and you’ve certainly heard his fans. Ford co-wrote P.J. Proby’s hit single “Niki Hoeky,” an album for the Temptations, and songs recorded by Bobby Womack, Aretha Franklin, Bobbie Gentry, Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. The latter named Ford as his biggest musical influence, and recorded Ford’s songs with his pub rock group Brinsley Schwarz and as a solo act. This 1969 debut was the only full-length release of Ford’s lifetime, which also included singles, unreleased albums for Capitol and Paramount, and a wealth of session tracks that slowly found their way out of the tape vault.

Recorded in Los Angeles with support from James Burton, Dr. John, Jim Keltner and Pat and Lolly Vegas, Ford laid down an unusual mix of funk, soul, country and swamp pop. Burton’s guitar figures combine with soulful backing vocals, horns and strings, to create an album that sounds as if it could have just as easily been recorded in Memphis as in Southern California. The title track looks back at the poverty and back breaking work from which Ford ran away as a teenager. The song’s breakdowns into hymn contrast with full throated pleas for relief, as Ford recounts the sort of living that wears a man down by his early twenties. His early years inform his recording of Delaney & Bonnie’s “Long Road Ahead,” and his move from New Orleans to California is essayed in the autobiographical “Working My Way To LA.”

Oddly, for an album by a songwriter, half the selections are covers, including Stevie Wonder’s “I Wanna Make Her Love Me,” a swamp-boogie take on Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful,” and a vocally strained rendition of Alex Harvey’s “To Make My Life Beautiful.” Ford’s originals include the broken hearted road metaphors of “Under Construction,” the emotionally satisfied “Love on My Brain” and the not-too-subtle drug references of “Dr. Handy’s Dandy Candy.” None of this made an impression on radio programmers or record buyers, and the album quickly disappeared. Ford eventually made his way to England where sessions with Brinsley Schwarz and the Grease Band failed to generate releases, and additional masters recorded for Paramount were shelved.

Ford drifted into partying and out of the music industry, eventually ending up in Northern California’s Mendocino County, where he passed away in 2007. Bill Dahl’s liner notes tell the story of Ford’s career leading up to, through and following this album, and the booklet reproduces the album’s front and back cover art. The original ten tracks have been reissued several times on vinyl and CD, including a 2014 release by Varese, and an expanded 2013 edition by Bear Family. Additional volumes [1 2 3 4] of previously unreleased material have also been issued, but if you’re new to Ford as a performer, this 1969 debut is the place to start. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Bob Seger: Heavy Music- The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

The pre-fame Cameo sides of a Detroit rock ‘n’ roll legend

When Bob Seger broke out commercially with 1976’s Live Bullet and Night Moves, he seemed to those outside the Motor City to spring fully-formed out of nowhere. But Seger had been paying his dues with a string of albums for Capitol that dated back to 1969’s Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man, and before that, a string of singles for the Philadelphia-based Cameo label. In the wake of his 1976 breakthrough, Capitol reissued several of Seger’s earlier albums, but what remained obscure were his earlier singles. As half of the Cameo-Parkway equation, Cameo was best known for the hits of Bobby Rydell, Dee Dee Sharp and the Orlons, but by 1966, the label, briefly reinvigorated by Neil Bogart, had signed ? and the Mysterians, and a young Bob Seger.

Cameo released five Seger singles over ten months of 1966-67, but the label’s failing fortunes kept all but the last from breaking nationally. The fifth single, “Heavy Music,” scraped the bottom of the Billboard chart at #103, but it failed to represent the commotion that Seger was generating in his native Detroit. That local success begat a contract with Capitol, which provided a moment of fame with 1968’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” but it would be eight more years of slogging away before international fame came calling. Cameo-Parkway withered away in the shadow of American Bandstand’s relocation from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, and the labels’ catalogs went dormant for many years. Select reissues of Chubby Checker and others have been released over the past few years, and now, finally, Seger’s singles.

Seger’s first recording was a demo with his group the Decibels, but his first released record was Doug Brown and the Omens frat-rock R&B single “T.G.I.F. (That Goodness It’s Friday),” on the Punch label. The group’s second single, a Beach Boys pastiche titled “Florida Time,” was released on a subsidiary of Punch (as the Beach Bums), and backed with an anti-draft dodger parody of Barry Sadler’s “The Ballad of the Green Beret.” Seger had begun writing and producing for the Hideout label, and in 1966 he recorded the gritty, socially trenchant “East Side Story” as the first single to be released under his own name. The success of the single’s local issue caught the attention of Cameo, which reissued the title later in the year. Seger’s second Cameo single, “Sock it to Me Santa,” shows off James Brown’s influence on the young Seger, suggesting the sort of rocking soul with which Mitch Ryder stormed the charts.

Seger’s third single, “Persecution Smith,” has a distinctly Dylan (or perhaps Mouse & The Traps) vibe as the lyrics lampoon half-hearted protestors. His fourth, “Vagrant Winter” has a poetic lyric and a melody that leans to psychedelia, and Seger’s last single for Cameo, “Heavy Music,” had a Detroit groove that helped fuel Seger’s breakthrough with an eight-minute workout on 1976’s Live Bullet. The B-sides include the catchy R&B of “Chain Smokin’,” the soul ballad “Very Few” and a replay of the Beach Bums’ “Florida Time.” The variety packed into the five singles is impressive, and it’s hard to imagine how Seger’s rock ‘n’ soul grooves could take so many years to catch on. Jim Allen’s liner notes, a sessionography, label reproductions and period photos round out a must-have package for Seger fans. For chronological play, program 2, 10, 8, 7, 4, 3, 5, 6, 1, 9. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Bob Seger’s Home Page

Buck Owens: Country Singer’s Prayer

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

Buck Owens’ previously unreleased final album for Capitol

Don Rich’s death in a 1974 motorcycle accident had a well-documented impact on Buck Owens. With his musical drive in neutral, his chart success declining and his Capitol contract expiring, Owens departed his longtime label, recorded a pair of albums for Warner Brothers and faded into a musical hiatus. Lost in the shuffle was this final album Owens recorded in 1975 for Capitol at his Bakersfield studio. Two singles – “The Battle of New Orleans” and “Country Singer’s Prayer” – were released to little chart action, and anthologized on the album that turned out to be Owens’ last Capitol release, The Best of Buck Owens, Vol. 6. The remaining tracks, shelved for more than forty years, are released here in their original running order, from the master tapes, for the first time. Both singles and their B-sides are included alongside liner notes by Scott B. Bomar and new interviews with Buckaroo Jim Shaw, and songwriters Robert John Jones and Dennis Knutson.

The album opens with Homer Joy’s New Orleans-tinged “John Law.” Joy played an important role in Owens’ career as the writer of his comeback vehicle “Streets of Bakersfield,” and here he writes a tale of a colorful night in a county jail. The song’s opening lyric tips its hat to Don Rich, who plays guitar on this 1973 track. By this point in Owens’ career, he wasn’t writing much, but he collected good material from RJ Jones, Jim Shaw, David Knutson and David Frizzell. Though still grieving the loss of Don Rich, he puts on a brave face for a few up-tempo numbers, but really digs into the sad songs of cheating spouses, lost souls and fraying relationships. The title track’s reminiscence, written by Jim Shaw and RJ Jones, proved dear to Owens as he thought back on the road traveled with Rich and the Buckaroos, and “A Different Kind of Sad,” again by RJ Jones, could easily have been written for Owens about Rich.

Owens’ distress eventually sapped his drive for recording, but it never dented his talent or star power. The mood here is more sedate than the explosive performances of his early, groundbreaking years, but Owens poured his sorrow into his singing, and found enough resonance with this material to re-record many of these songs for Warner Bros. The studio hands that backed those later recordings, though Nashville pros, didn’t muster the deep connection that Owens found with his Buckaroos, and Owens himself didn’t sound as emotionally invested as he had on these original drafts. After more than forty years, it’s a real treat for Owens’ many fans to have this album finally released. It’s a more fitting bookend to his Capitol career than a sixth volume of hits, and shows that even amid in his personal and professional grief he found solace in music. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Buck Owens’ Home Page

Willie Nelson: Things to Remember – The Pamper Demos

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Expanded helping of Nelson’s early songwriting demos

For a songwriter of Willie Nelson’s stature, it’s surprising that his early ‘60s Nashville demos have received so little attention. A few slipped out on compilations and bootlegs, but it wasn’t until 2003 that Sugar Hill pulled together fifteen for Crazy: The Demo Sessions. And it was thirteen more years until Sony expanded the catalog with two volumes of digital downloads on The Demo Project. Real Gone now collects the latter two volumes into physical CD and LP releases, augmenting the twenty-eight tracks with liner notes by Colin Escott, and photos from the archives of Bear Family founder Richard Weize. As with the previous releases, the recordings are clean and compelling, and with only partial overlap of the 2003 Sugar Hill disc, this is an essential addition to any Willie Nelson fan’s collection.

Nelson signed a publishing deal with Pamper Music in 1960 and commenced to churning out songs and demos with his guitar and in off-hour sessions with Nashville A-listers. The material includes many of his most iconic compositions – “Crazy,” “Funny (How Time Slips Away),” “Hello Walls,” “Night Life,” “Pretty Paper” – first turned into hits by Patsy Cline, Faron Young, Ray Price, Roy Orbison and others. But also heard here are the initial takes on songs that would populate Nelson’s early albums for Liberty and RCA, and fully flower in the years after he’d shucked off Nashville’s stylistic straightjacket. His idiosyncratic vocal phrasing had yet to fully form, but you can hear its roots here, and the sophistication of his songwriting was already steps ahead of the Nashville mainstream.

The band tracks are two-steps and shuffles, and though Nelson sings straight to the beat, his voice, melodies and lyrics are distinctive. The violence of “I Just Can’t Let You Say Goodbye” probably wouldn’t be released as a single today, but Nelson actually had middling success cutting it for RCA in 1965. The low strings on “Little Things” sound like Nelson’s guitar playing, though they don’t have the tone of Trigger, and the walking bass line of “I’m Gonna Lose a Lot of Teardrops” and the acoustic blues guitar and fingersnaps of “Night Life” offer changes of pace. Nelson turned out numerous songs of romantic dissolution, each colored with a unique shade of self-pity, anger or remorse, and “I Gotta Get Drunk” sounds like something Hank Williams might have written had he lived into the 1960s.

Comparing these demos to their later incarnations provides an interesting lesson in what songwriters, singers, musicians and producers each contribute to a hit record. The lyrics of “Pretty Paper” provide a sympathetic portrait of the song’s subject, but the demo couldn’t anticipate the level of pathos that would be brought to the hit by Roy Orbison, producer Fred Foster and arranger Bill Justis. Similarly, Nelson’s demo of “Crazy” suggested the phrasing that would turn it into a hit, but didn’t take it to the crooning extreme that made it a signature for Patsy Cline. The talking guitar that threads through “Hello Walls” is a nice period touch, but only a placeholder for the answer vocals on Faron Young’s hit. As memorable as are the hits, it’s a treat to hear these early sketches and enjoy Nelson’s early burst of songwriting genius. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

Willie Nelson’s Home Page

The Rose Garden: A Trip Through the Garden – The Rose Garden Collection

Monday, August 6th, 2018

Charming, but little-known mid-60s folk-rock band

You might be excused for thinking John Einarson’s fascinating, detailed liner notes for this reissue are an early draft of the script for That Thing You Do! Much like the fictional Wonders, the Rose Garden managed to catch breaks and side-step many of the pitfalls that line the path to fame, only to be pulled back to shore by the tide that grounded many of the bands that followed in the Beatles’ wake. They pulled together a band, worked hard to gain local notice, crossed paths with an artistic mentor, signed with well-connected managers, scored a major label contract with the Atlantic subsidiary Atco, recorded an album, had a hit single, toured on package bills, and appeared on American Bandstand. The group reached the Top 20 with “Next Plane to London,” but internal conflicts and two members awaiting disposition from their draft boards led to label disinterest, a stillborn follow-up single (“If My World Falls Through),” foundering and disbandment.

Had the Rose Garden been nothing more than a studio concoction, their epitaph would have been an endlessly anthologized needle drop of the hit single. But the group had more going for it than their brief brush with fame might suggest, and their album, augmented here by the post-album single and fourteen bonus tracks, provides a lesser-seen view of the culturally fertile mid-60s Los Angeles music scene. The Beatles and the Byrds may have been the group’s north stars, but influences also included the Seekers, Mamas & Papas, Lovin’ Spoonful, Beau Brummels and early Grass Roots. The group played nearly all the instruments on the album – unusual for the time – but didn’t write any of the material. The one song credited to the group, “Flower Town,” is a rewrite of Derroll Adams “Portland Town” that substitutes “flower” for “Portland” and elides the song’s most stridently anti-war verses. What the group did bring to the song is a new approach that turned the original folk vocal and banjo arrangement into a languorous, flute-lined flower-power tune.

Of specific interest to Byrds fans are two songs given to the band by Gene Clark: “Till Today” and “Long Time,” the former of which Clark recorded with the band as a demo that’s included among the bonus tracks. Additional material was drawn from Bob Johnston & Wes Farrell, and in an original arrangement, Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me.” John Noreen’s 12-string Rickenbacker lends a Byrdsian tone to many of the album’s tracks, but none more so than Pat Vegas’ “Coins of Fun,” with a terrific duet vocal from Jim Groshong and Diana De Rose. The wide range of writers from which the material was drawn, and the shuffling of lead vocal duties might have produced an album with no band identity, but the collection hangs together as it ranges through beat pop, sunshine harmonies and flower power. The band suggests that their instrumental abilities were shortchanged by their managers’ lack of production prowess, but the forward mix of the vocals is quite engaging.

The bonus tracks make this edition a must-have upgrade from earlier reissues of the album. Included are the group’s follow-on single (in both both mono and stereo), with backing harmonies on the top side and absent on the flip, suggesting that internal band conflicts might have already been taking their toll on the group’s harmony. Previously unreleased tracks recorded for an uncompleted second album include a cover of Neil Young’s “Down to the Wire,” the First Edition’s “Charlie the Fer De Lance” and Al Kooper & Bob Crewe’s “The World is a Great Big Playground.” Also included are five live tracks from August of 1967 that find the band singing their hit, covers of the Byrds’ “So You Want to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “She Don’t Care About Time,” Sonny & Cher’s “It’s the Little Things,” and Willie Cobbs’ “You Don’t Love Me.” The bonuses provide a nice coda to the career of a band whose talent and opportunity carried them far, but whose luck ran out before they could make an indelible commercial mark. [©2018 Hyperbolium]

The Rose Garden’s Archived Home Page