Wisconsin native Curt Boettcher's work is some of the most highly regarded in the world of so-called "sunshine pop"; taking cues from the harmonies of The Beatles and Beach Boys, this movement of sorts that was rooted in the studios of Los Angeles in the mid to late 60's often contains a darker undercurrent that makes the records so appealing and sophisticated.
Curt Boettcher (who died of a lung infection in 1987 at the shockingly young age of 43) got his start in the folk group the Goldebriars, where his sophisticated harmony arrangements began taking shape; the group released two albums for Epic records in 1964. Sometime during this period, Boettcher relocated to L.A, where he signed on to produce the debut album for The Association, where he also arranged their first hit, the controversial (the "Mary" here is marijuana, of course) and groundbreaking single "Along Comes Mary".
While the Association's followup single ("Cherish") was an even bigger hit, the group replaced Boettcher with another producer (Curt insisted on studio players, while the self-contained Association wanted to play on their own records). Curt met Columbia staff producer Gary Usher around this time, where Usher helped get Curt a production gig at Columbia records, which borught about the two most revered albums of Boettcher's career- the reputation building Present Tense by Sagittarius and Begin by The Millenium.
During the recording of Present Tense, Curt put together his dream lineup of musicians (along with co-producer Keith Olsen who worked often with Curt) and became The Millenium. The Millenium's lone LP is considered by many to be the highpoint of Boettcher's career. The album failed commercially, and it's typically blamed on the fact that the group could not recreate the sophisticated arrangements live and on tour. My favorite track from the album is 'It's You"; a fabulous number that is very reminiscent of early period Bee Gee's (especially the driving bass); perhaps the odd bridge section of the song where the time and rhythm shifts (a Boettcher trademark) slowed the commercial success.
Sagittarius was a studio project spearheaded by Usher in which Boettcher was enlisted to be a part of; in fact, Boettcher's childlike innocence dominates the record. Like so many others, I was blown away by Lenny Kaye's original double LP Nuggets which I was lucky enough to purchase when I was very young; the one track that stood out was Sagittarius' "My world Fell Down". "My World Fell Down" is a work that (like so much of Boettcher's work) may seem slight on the surface but beyond the top layer holds a basis of melancholy. This juxtaposition makes the work so appealing and addictive. Several singles were released from the album, none of which went anywhere commercially. The cool picture sleeve shown here is a French issue.
Surprisingly, "Another Time" is a Gary Usher production and arrangement, although the sound is pure Boettcher (so was the common vision that the two shared during the project). Written by Curt alone, the song captures the mood of the end of a relationship that is rarely explored. I don't like to say that any track is a definitive favorite, but to me, this track embodies the man's greatness in a way that moves me in a major way. My 45 suffers from styrene distortion, but if I were you, if you have gotten this far and don't already own it, purchase Present Tense on LP or CD immediately.
After the failure of Sagittarius and The Millenium, both Boettcher and Usher were ousted from Columbia Records. The dynamic duo of Curt and Keith Olsen were once again behind the mixing board together in 1968 for a new project, a (prseumably) studio concoted group called Eternity's Children. The lovely male female vocals bore the unmstakable Boettcher stamp on this track, and as it floats along eteherally a wicked fuzz tone guitar solo comes in and pushes the track into another realm entirely. Once again, this group saw no commercial success, and the original LP is incredibly rare. A very underrated gem from the oeuvre!
Usher and Boettcher reunited for a less-than-magical second Sagittarius record (released on Usher's failed Together Records label, along with a few other projects) and after this brilliant run of music that failed to create any commercial stir, Boettcher slowed downed significantly. In 1971, Elektra's Jac Holzman gave Curt a shot, and the LP There's An Innocent Face (1973), two years in the making and also featuring a strong role from Usher, became yet another commercial failure. The album lost much of the whimsy of the earlier work, but as we hear on this 45 drawn from the LP, Boettcher didn't lose any of his melodic edge, and the track stands proudly alongside of early '70's power pop gems from the likes of Badfinger, Big Star and Emmitt Rhodes (Boettcher was also involved in mix assitance for Rhodes' final LP, Farewell To Paradise).