Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Insect Trust - The Insect Trust (1968 us, superb jazzy blues folk psych)

Back in the '60s, most white blues fans trying to play the music took the approach of struggling to sound as serious and authentic as possible, and a big part of the charm of the Insect Trust's debut album is that, by accident or design, they went in an entirely different direction. 

While the Insect Trust were clearly and affectionately influenced by classic blues and folk, they were also eager to mess around with it, and Robert Palmer and Trevor Koehler's horns and woodwinds often throw this music into a loopy, atonal, and acid-infused direction while the loose, slightly rickety sound of Bill Barth and Luke Faust's guitars and banjos honors the styles found on vintage 78s just as their rock-oriented chops keep the results from sounding as if they spent much time actually learning the original riffs. 

Given the loose but insistent backporch funk of this music -- perhaps held in place by guest musicians Bernard Purdie, Hugh McCracken, and Chuck Rainey -- the sweet tone of Nancy Jeffries' vocals seems a bit out of place, but she never seems less than committed, and she gives "World War I Song" and "Declaration of Independence" a full-bodied reading that fits their meaning, if they don't sound especially "bluesy." 

And the final two cuts, "Mountain Song" and "Going Home," take off into a never-never land of pastoral avant-garde whimsy that exists in a world all its own. the Insect Trust refined their worldview on their second, last, and finest album, 1970's Hoboken Saturday Night, but their debut has more than its fair share of lovely moments and is an engaging example of roots music fans letting their freak flag fly with righteous joy. 
by Mark Deming
1. The Skin Game - 4:07
2. Miss Fun City - 5:04
3. World War 1 Song - 3:18
4. Special Rider Blues - 7:45
5. Foggy River Bridge Fly - 1:07
6. Been Here And Gone So Soon - 3:29
7. Declaration Of Independence - 2:30
8. Walking On Nails - 3:12
9. Brighter Than Day - 2:31
10.Mountain Song - 2:49
11.Going Home - 5:10

*Bill Barth - Electric, Steel, Bottleneck Guitar, Percussion
*Steve Duboff - Percussion,
*Luke Faust - Banjo, Guitar, Harmonica, Percussion, Vocals
*Nancy Jeffries - Percussion, Vocals
*Trevor Koehler - Upright Bass, Drums, Piano, Piccolo, Baritone Sax, String Arrangements, Wind
*Joe Mack - Bass
*Hugh McCracken - Guitar
*Bob Palmer - Alto , Soprano Recorder,  Clarinet,  Percussion,  Alto Sax, Wind
*Bernard "Pretty" Purdie - Drums
*Chuck Rainey - Bass
*Buddy Saltzman - Drums
*Buddy Southman - Drums

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  1. The Insect Trust were an interesting group whose sound was based around the vocals of Nancy Jerries. Jerries and Barth had earlier played with Peter Stampfel (see Holy Modal Rounders) in an outfit called The Swamp Lillies. A year earlier, Trevor Koehler had also played on a couple of tracks Octopus' on sole album.

    The Insect Trust released two albums, their self-titled 1968 debut on Capitol, and their second and final LP, Hoboken Saturday Night in 1970.

    There are two theories that differ on from which source came the name The Insect Trust. The New York Times suggests that it comes from William S. Burroughs's novel Naked Lunch, a story where huge bugs try to control Planet Earth. However, The Band’s Guitarist Bill Barth had another Idea, he says that the name comes from the Insect Trust Gazette journal, published by Bill Levy. Levy took his name from Burroughs Novel so it means the source is the same, nonetheless the way of coming up with the name differs a lot.

    I was reading an interview with lead vocalist Nancy Jeffries, and came across this awesome quote- "Bill (Barth) was the leader because he was the biggest asshole." Funny, but also telling... when the group came together, Nancy & Bill were dating. Their breakup happened simultaneously with the bands breakup, and was definitely a factor in them disbanding. Another large factor was the fact that they actually weren't a complete band. The official line up didn't include a bass player or drummer, and though it worked out pretty well when it came to studio recordings (those were some impressive session players they snagged), it was a pain for live performances & touring, as they had to hire new people for each show. Despite that, they did open for some greats during their short career, such as Frank Zappa, the Doors, and Santana. Robert Palmer passed away in 1997, Bill Barth in 2000, and Trevor Koehler- the sax player who's name is only mentioned one other time in this entry, in 1973. Interesting(?) story behind that one... allow me to quote his bandmate Luke Faust on the matter- "Trevor went to New York and accidently killed himself. We would always stage these suicides. He needed attention so he would be sure to have a network of friends that would come bail him out if he didn't answer his phone. Then one night in '73, he stuck his head in the oven and the phone lines went down and that was it. I was really upset. I got pissed at him that he would do that to himself and waste that beautiful talent and all that gorgeous music he could play. It was such a waste. We lost a lot when we lost him."

  2. They were a classic east coast band taking in a multitude of influences from folk, blues, psychedelia, rock n’ roll, country, jazz, ragtime and bluegrass. Nancy Jefferies had a strong, clear voice while Bill Barth and Bob Palmer were always experimenting with exotic instruments. Their debut album was a combination of various aspects of strands ot country music and most of the material was written by the band. They utilised a wide range of woodwind and stringed instruments.

    'The Skin Game' is typical of their approach, starting off as a country blues shuffle then exploding into a slide guitar freakout that is quite marvelous.

    'Miss Fun City' is a trippy slice of Americana with some great hypnotic banjo, a most excellent composition! 'Bee Here And Gone So Soon', has to be the most classic track on this legendary album. It opens up with some classic hippy dialogue, then bursts into a magical folk-rock song. Their style was varied, ranging from the bluesy 'Special Rider Blues' through the string instrumental 'Foggy Bridge Riverfly', to the harmonious 'Been Here And Gone So Soon' and 'Going Home'. Also of interest is the unusual instrumentation of another track' Mountain Song'.

    In 1970 they released another Album called Hoboken Saturday Night, which is far more famous (even though none of their Albums was at least known by most people) but never gained any importance. This continued their experimentation and included the unusual, brassy Somedays, successful ballads like Our Sister The Sun and The Eyes Of A New York Woman, the big band sound of Reciprocity, strange woodwind accompaniment of Now Then Sweet Man, strange attempts to merge stringed and woodwind backing in Glade Song, and ends with a brassy instrumental jam, Ducks.

    I haven’t found any information of when they broke up so I guess it was still in 1970 after the release of the last Album. But this is only a guess. Nancy Jeffries went on to work as a talent scout for various labels Elektra, Virgin and A&M, and signed such acts as Iggy Pop, Ziggy Marley, and Lenny Kravitz. Robert Palmer pursued his first love of music journalism- contributing to Rolling Stone, the New York Times, worked as a producer, penned several books about the history of music, and much much more..This two were ones who managed to make it big,the rest of them continued to live in obscurity.

    Thx Marios.

  3. I've sampled the band over on YouTube and they seem very interesting, very distinctive! So, I'm going to listen to this, thanks! Any chance you will post Hoboken Saturday Night???

  4. Someone Sometimes with visits your blog and recommended it in my experience to read as well. The way of writing is excellent and also the content is top-notch. Thanks for that insight you provide the readers!
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  5. I hate to "Bug" you Marios, can you RE-up Insect Trust for us please? loving Ur collection mate!!