It is far and few that I strongly recommend a Pop record achievement from my own country but, here is one of those rare instances when I strongly do; it is nothing short of a mini-masterpiece, the one time collaboration between famous Tarantino "Death Proof" movie soundtrack recording star, April March (in her world known cover of Swingin' Mademoiselle Ye Ye queen France Gall's Serge Gainsbourg-penned "Laisse Tomber les Filles" : "Chick Habit" that was even used later for a national Renault French car advertising campaign)... and French Indie Avant-rock band, Aquaserge, from the southern provincial town of Toulouse, up to here an excellent Robert Wyatt-era Soft Machine influenced combo. Excellent... which in itself is a rare instance among the French indie rock and pop scene enough to mention!
Considering the love, praise and status that The Zombies swan song LP Odessey And Oraclehas (deservedly) received in the last 30 or so years, it's kinda difficult to fathom the fact that the album was a commercial failure upon its early 1968 release, and it wasn't until the spring of 1969 that the single drawn from it, 'Time Of The Season" became a massive hit.
In the interim, vocalist Colin Blunstone left the music business entirely and began working in the insurance industry. To think that this man, who was gifted with one of the greatest voices in the history of pop music, could have stopped singing at such a young age is an awful thought! However, right around the same time that "Time Of The Season" was released as a 45, producer Mike Hurst coaxed Colin into the studio to record again, a collaboration that yielded three singles released in 1969. For their first collaboration together, Hurst chose to re-record The Zombies first hit, 'She's Not There', in a radical new arrangement that matched fuzz guitar, heavy orchestration, moody stop-start sections and of course Colin's incredible vocals. The frantic string arrangement at the coda is especially surprising, and this excellent record became a minor British hit single. The orchestrated, folky flip side, "World Of Glass" (an excellent compositon by producer Mike Hurst) is practically a dry run for Colin's first three brilliant solo albums, which he (wisely) decided to return to using his real name for.
It's unclear why the name Neil MacArthur was chosen, but anyone who heard "Neil's" distinctive vocals here could deny that it was in fact Colin Blunstone, a point driven home by the fact that his photo was used in promotional ads for the records.
The songs of Harry Nilsson became favorites of those in the know during the late '60's, and the gorgeous ballad "Without Her" was a perfect choice for Neil/ Colin's vocal styling, and Hurst once again provided a dense, complex orchestration for the backing track. Sadly, this record did not repeat the modest success of the Neil macArthur "debut". I apologize about the groove damage on my copy (I need to upgrade); however, all of the Neil MacArthur singles are collected on a CD from Big Beat called Into The Afterlife.
The final Neil MacArthur single is the lovely 'Twelve Twenty Nine"; while it may cross over into schmaltzy pop to some ears, the heartfelt vocals from Mr MacArthur are mighty fine to my ears. MOR or not, if the chord change at the climax of the chorus (first heard at :42) doesn't melt your heart, I feel bad for you!
By 1970, Colin reunited with Zombies bassist Chris White (now acting as producer), and in 1971 his solo LP debut One Yearwas released. Back to being Colin Blunstone forever more, Neil MacArthur was now a faded memory.
(Guerssen is fast becoming the Best European reissue label for all things Psych', rare Beat and Freakbeat, occasional Garage-rock, lost Acid-Folk, Turkish Delights and the best in Cosmic Prog'... so even though this French cult Progressive album already saw a couple previous reissues, they've been deleted for some time, quite hard to find and none were as accomplished as this new one from this Spanish label; since I had something to do with the liners of that deluxe gatefold reissue on fine 180grm vinyl, I thought I might give it a plug on Bedazzled by reproducing my writing here... and hope it'll incite you to purchase that revaluated milestone of 70's French Underground rock : )
Everybody knows where now lies the Sahara desert, once was the garden of Eden. So it should come as no surprise that from Eden Rose comes Sandrose, one of the best French post-Psych Progressive bands, and simply one of the Best progressive Pop bands ever ...Brewed in and born from the ashes of Le Système Crapoutchik (and a host of other incestuous bands and backing bands, a real hard to track mish-mash of old Rock Twist and later Beat groups, as is usually the case on the French scene! ), it was the brainchild of French guitar wiz', Jean-Pierre Alarcen, the local genius of his time : the late sixties in France. Eden Rose started with three members out of Les Gardians (sic.) : Henri Garella on keyboards, Christian Clairefond on bass and Henry Castello on drums, who went on tour opening and backing YeYe idol Claude François in 1965 (... Les Gardians would also open the show and back other popular singers like Hervé Vilard and Michèle Torr). After the recording of four singles, the trio joined ranks with the orchestra backing popular MC of the time, Albert Raisner, on his cult Yeye TV program "Âge Tendre et Tête de Bois". While in Massilia, the southern French city they originated from, they'd play with dance orchestra Les Golden... until the Art Director of Katema records (a tiny label run by an appliances industrial who was a great music lover! ) advised them to change their name with the times. Drummer Henry Castello came up with the name : Eden Rose. When Eden Rose split after a criss-crossing tour of France ending at a club in the city of Oran (Algeria ) - following the recording of their cult album : "On the Way to Eden" (1970 on Katema, distr. Sonopresse ) which went nowhere - and drummer Henry Castello decided to join Jacques Dutronc's backing band on tour... remaining bassist Christian Clairefond and organist Henri Garella came in contact with another drummer, Michel Jullien, also from Massilia. Thru the Dutronc connection, they had already met notorious guitarist Jean Pierre Alarcen who also contributed in the recording of their LP. Alarcen when not backing Dutronc had previously recorded with Le Système Crapoutchick - the name of Dutronc's backing band sans Dutronc - two Eps, a single and an LP (« Aussi loin que je me souvienne »; 1969 on Flamophone ). With Jean-Pierre Alarcen in toe, they decided to hire a young girl singer of Polish origins by the name of Rose Podwojny (... a likely first name! ) and rename themselves : Sandrose. Flashback to 1966, Alarcen had cofounded les Mods with Alain Legovic (future huge M.O.R. singer of the mid 1970's and 1980's going by the name "Alain Chamfort", who was also a Claude François protegee... and was once part of Nicolas Nils' backing band Les Murators which famously covered the Seeds!,). Backing around the same time Jacques Dutronc along with Legovic, was Michel Palay and Gérard Kawczinsky (whose unpronouncable Polish name gave way to "Krapoutchick" and "Crapou" which sobriquet Dutronc liked to fool around with, and which of course gave the name to "Le Système Crapoutchick"... ) with whom Alarcen and Legovic would create Le Système. After the Eden Rose project failed, the members of that group, led by guitar virtuoso Jean-Pierre Alarcen opted for a new approach by adding a girl singer, following the mode of then current Progressive rock like Curved Air in the UK, Michaelangelo, Ill Wind, Ultimate Spinach, Fantasy and countless others in the States where the lead came from, Reign Ghost in Canada, Earth and Fire in Holland, Savage Rose in Denmark, and Circus 2000 in Italy... In fact they even sound like Circus 2000 on several songs ("Vision", "Summer is Yonder", "Underground Session" ) with Rose Podwojny's witchy quality in her voice and the dark features of the music itself!
The Los Angeles music scene in the early 1980's was a place of diametric opposites in the early 1980's; the punk scene had become a form of conformity with cartoonish thugs churning out loud for the sake of being loud and held tightly to fashion while the last gasp of the bloated, cocaine driven superstar acts were still massive commercially but beginning to suffer a massive comedown culminating in a crash 'n' burn thanks to the visual media of MTV.
The Rain Parade were formed in 1981 by a pair of roomates- one California native (Steven Roback) and a transplant from Minneapolis (Matt Piucci). The pair were devouring music of the '60's, and found their creative calling within the sound of their The Byrds, The Doors and Love; bands that are the spiritual and geographical older brothers of The Rain Parade. The band drew inspiration from those groups and added the lilting drone of The Velvet Underground to the mix and created something that was entirely out of step with the rest of the L.A scene. The band was rounded out by Steven's brother David, Will Glenn, and
Michael Murphy and within their first year together self released the
incredible single you're about to enjoy. In a recent interview with The Austin Chronicle, Matt Piucci said of the times "When we started playing in Los Angeles, if you weren’t sweating like a
pig in a ripped T-shirt and screaming at the top of your lungs, then you
weren’t cool. It wasn’t valid. And we thought that was bullshit. We
thought it was very punk of us to play waltz tempos slowly with acoustic
guitars at punk clubs. We thought that was punk because nobody else was
I had the pleasure of asking Matt the other day if he had any special memories of the record, and he says
"It sure was a trip seeing that thing
spin around for the first time. Recorded 8 track at Radio Tokyo n Venice
with the late Ethan James. It was a tiny house that had been converted. I remember going in thinking I am putting a sitar in this no matter
Weird coincidence, I later learned that right before Ethan got it (the house that the studio was built in), my wife (who I was yet to meet) had lived there. Good karma"
Much has been made of the so-called 'Paisley Underground", and while the other bands associated with that scene drew on some obvious '60's influences, none matched the sheer blissed-out visionary droning brilliance of The Rain Parade. At this time, the only other band that was even performing were the still developing Bangles, who were known earlier as The Colors, then The Bangs, then by their more famous name. Bangles leader Susannah Hoffs was a neighbor of the Robacks and they all attended Pacific Palisades high school.
Matt's sitar is heard in all its glory on the b-side, the lysergic sugar cube bomb that is "Kaleidoscope".
The Rain Parade went on to release a 5 star LP in 1983 (Emergency Third Rail Power Trip), and a 5 star EP in '84 (Explosions In The Glass Palace), as well as a live album and another studio effort. David Roback left the band after Emergency and formed (the also brilliant) groups Clay Allison (which became Opal), and eventually Opal morphed into Mazzy Star. Steven Roback formed Viva Saturn, and Matt Piucci Gone Fishin' and also played in the (Neil Young less) Crazy Horse.
One of the thrills of my life as a musician was sharing the stage (my band played on the same bill) with the recently reformed Rain Parade, last December at Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco. I stood in awe listening to these magical sounds which I never thought I'd be able to hear live. Several times I had to politely ask people "please talk to me later, as this is a big deal for me to LISTEN to this set!!!" I watched in awe as Matt laid out the same whammy bar moves on the same Gretsch Tennessean as on the videos I've seen of the group back in the early '80's. Check out these two performances of "No Easy Way Down"; the first from 1983, the other 2012. -Derek See
By 1968, the hits had all but dried up for Tottenham's Dave Clark Five. With a run of massive hits recorded between '64-'65, this group was considered STRONG competetion for the Beatles, and many teen magazines speculated the Beatlemania was gonna wane and the Dave Clark Five would come out on top of the world. While history tells a far different tale, the DC5 released many fabulous records, well past the heyday of the British Invasion.
Buried on the b-side of a track that must have seemed like a relic from a bygone era (the downright putrid "Red Balloon") in the heady days of 1968, there's a gem lurking that is not only one of my favorite numbers from this group, but also one which I consider one of the ultimate freakbeat statements, ever. Driven along by Dave Clark's always powerul, upfront drumming and powered into the ether by some downright nasty single guitar notes played with attitude and fuzz tone on "10", "Maze Of Love" is a track that's every bit as forceful as other legendary English psych/ beat records. The boys had undoubtedly been digging the Jimi Hendrix Experience. This is how the song was heard in its release everywhere except for the US, and the picture sleeve shown is a Spanish issue.
For some reason, Epic Records in the US was given a completely different mix of the song. The track is slowed down (perhaps due to an error in mastering), making it sound far heavier, and the vocal is single tracked as opposed to the double tracked vocals as heard on the worldwide release. There's an overall echo added as well (especially heard on the vocals) giving the song a murkier sound. I love both versions, and my pal (and super duper DJ) Major Sean is on record as preferring the US version. When I DJ it, though, I always play the UK mix. The US mix is far rarer, as this single died a death commercially (I've only seen promo copies, never yellow label stock copies).