Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chrysalis - Definition (1967 us, glowing baroque jazzy pop psychedelia, 2005 expanded edition)

The recent deluge of mid-'60s relics that continue to rise from the vinyl crypt for a little modern re-consideration are too often more miss than hit. For every Pete Dello or Comus reissue there are seven or eight barely mediocre offerings from bands like Eclection or the Vejtables. Chrysalis, a colorful quintet from Ithaca, New York who dabbled in everything from folk, rock and jazz to Middle Eastern music fall somewhere in the middle, and their one and only recording, 

Definition remains a fascinating, if uneven lesson in the fine art of psychedelia. Frank Zappa, who championed Chrysalis as "a group that has yet to destroy your mind" was originally asked to produce, but was in the throes of removing himself from a bitter contractual dispute with MGM/Verve. In the end, Definition went through numerous production teams who all left for various reasons -- none relating to the music or musicians -- which makes it all the more curious that it sounds so defined and cohesive. 

Frontman Spider Barbour, who had appeared on both Zappa's We're Only in It for the Money and Lumpy Gravy -- and who is now, ironically, a naturalist devoted to the lives of moths and butterflies -- brings a great deal of early Mothers of Invention aesthetic to the table. Jazzy piano motifs flitter about truncated worldbeat rhythms, while short comedy skits provide segues between songs that deal with insects, yodeling girls, and hippie culture. 

It's all very Sgt. Pepper's, but there is an adventurous glee to the songs and arrangements that's equally matched by the talent behind them. It's the kind of brainy yet daft art rock that collegiate drug users, music school geeks and even children can find common ground in, and Rev-Ola's extensive liner notes and inclusion of eight bonus tracks from the sessions makes for a rewarding listen whoever you are. 
by James Christopher Monger

1. What Will Become of the Morning - 2:33
2. Lacewing - 3:24
3. Cynthia Gerome - 3:56
4, April Grove - 2:54
5. Father's Getting Old - 2:24
6. 30 Poplar - 2:28
7. Baby, Let Me Show You Where I Live - 2:35
8. Fitzpatrick Swanson - 2:33
9. Lake Hope - 2:16
10.Piece of Sun - 1:50
11.Summer in Your Savage Eyes - 2:22
12.Dr Root's Garden - 4:14
13.The Dues Are Hard (Paul Album, Ralph Kotkov) - 2:58
14.Gimme Your Love - 3:23
15.Sink in Deeper - 3:04
16.Window Shopping - 2:42
17.Wheel I Can Ride - 2:48
18.Cold and Windy City - 2:35
19.Cynthia Gerome - 4:19
20.Dr Root's Garden - 4:55
All compositions by J. Spider Barbour except where indicated

*J. Spider Barbour - Bass, Guitar, Vocals
*Ralph Kotkov - Keyboards, Vocals
*Dahaud Elias Shaar - Percussion
*Paul Album - Bass, Vocals
*Jon Sabin - Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals
*Nancy Nairn - Vocals

Free Text


  1. When I was 12 years old and this record was brand new, my big brother brought it home (have no idea how he discovered it) and I fell in love with it.

    Since the 1970s, I have heard it only once, when a music reviewer friend lent me his copy of this expanded edition. It's dated, of course, but still full of great ideas and shimmering melodies.

    Thanks for the chance to enjoy it again!

  2. Just wonderful. Thanks a lot for this, Marios

  3. thank you so so much for all your posts. you have a goldmine!

  4. bought this when it came out on vinyl have never stepped playing it.

  5. and to add my 2 bits to the tale. This is a concept album more or less- for all the commentary in the description about unbalanced content- various producers etc. I can say as a life time listener to the original album ... that it version of the album is quite unified in its vision as it plods on to the climatic final cut in a fine way. When I got the bonus cuts somewhat recently -these various out takes/alternative versions are in my opinion exactly the confusion that the reviewer describes. So for all the Zappa Drama- and MGM issues in the tale when the vinyl was assembled I believe Spider Barbour's vision was fulfilled just fine.