Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sapphire Thinkers - From Within (1968 us, fine west coast sunny psych, 2010 remaster)

It doesn't happen very often, but here's an album that I instantly fell in love with ...  Unfortunately there's little or nothing to be found about The Sapphire Thinkers in either hardcopy or on-line reference works.  So here's what little speculative material I can add to their slim biography.  Given their album was mastered at Pasadena's Artisan Sound Recorders and released by the Hobbit label which was a subsidiary of the L.A. based GRT Records, they were probably from California.  

Judging by the back cover photo and performances credits they were a five piece, with a lineup consisting of bassist Tim Lee, singer/multi-instrumentalist Bill Richmond, vocalist Peggy Richmond, drummer Stephen Richmond and lead guitarist Chuck Spehek.  Produced by Richard Kaye, their album was engineered by former Merry Prankster sound man Sandy Lehman-Haupt.

Curiously, at least one well known reference work compares the mysterious Sapphire Thinkers to Grace Slick and The Jefferson Airplane.  While there's nothing wrong with being compared to such a stellar outfit, it doesn't really do this outfit a favor since it's not a particularly accurate comparison.  With Bill Richardson credited with penning eleven of the twelve songs, 1969's "Sapphire Thinkers" reminds me of a heavily drugged out version of The Mamas and the Papas, Spanky and Our Gang, or perhaps a less eccentric, but heavily dosed version of The Free Design.  

Like those groups, these folks had a penchant and talent for crafting gorgeous, highly commercial sunshine pop - though their version was assisted by the consumption of various illicit substances (yes, I do believe those were mushrooms on the Kevin Leveque cover art).  Complete with mesmerizing melodies and hypnotizing harmony vocals (both Bill and Peggy Richardson had great voices), songs such as 'Get Along Boy', 'Let Her Come In' and 'Please Understand' would have sounded great on top-40 radio.  Even better was 'There's a Woman'.  You just had to scratch your head and wonder how radio missed the song.  

The main difference with their better known competitors was that while catchy and commercial, tracks like 'I Feel A Bit Strange', 'Feel It From Within' and 'Blind with a Borrowed Light' had a distinctive psych edge.  Propelled by some neat studio effects including harpsichord, pulsating organ, Peggy's occasional flute, droning vocals ('Please Understand'), and Spehek's fuzz guitar (check out his work on 'Blind with a Borrowed Light' and, 'Doin’ Alright', or his equally impressive jazzy moves on 'From Within'),  the album sported a definite acid fueled aura.  Fantastic through and through ...  
1. Melancholy Baby   (E. Burnett,  G.A. Norton) - 2:11
2. I Feel A Bit Strange - 2:42
3. Get Along Boy - 1:57
4. Blues On You - 3:03
5. From Within - 2:23
6. I Got To You - 2:45
7. Not Another Night - 2:51
8. Let Her Come In - 2:17
9. Please Understand - 2:56
10.Blind With A Borrowed Light - 2:30
11.There Is A Woman - 2:40
12.Doin’ Alright - 4:17
All songs by Bill Richmond except where noted.

Sapphire Thinkers
*Tim Lee - Bass, Backing Vocals
*Bill Richmond - Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar
*Peggy Richmond - Lead Vocals, Flute
*Stephen Richmond - Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
*Chuck Spehek - Lead Guitar

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  1. The Sapphire Thinkers was an American Psychedelic band who he recorded only one album,"From Within", (Hobbit Records 503) in 1968. The band's founder, Bill Richmond, currently lives in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley and continues to write and produce original music.

    Excellent 1968 Californian band who with their mix of male and female vocalists and fuzz lead guitar bear comparisons with Yankee Dollar or Peanut Butter Conspiracy. Their album features some excellent harmonies and nice trippy touches in particular the Doors like keyboards and backward effects.... end result is consistent and convincing, with plenty of strength in the songwriting and arrangements melodic/harmony Psychedelic, instantly likable and strong enough to hold your attention for repeat plays "Melancholy Baby"/"Blues On You" ("Hobbit Records" HB 42002)These are the technically brilliant keyboard backing on most tracks, the stunning lead guitar breaks that really lift several
    of the tracks, and the sprinkling of flute over the album,the title track "From Within" and the amazing "I Got To You" which is contains the best harmony work on the album and some beautifully introspective guitar pieces. This is another talented band that did not get due recognition which certainly deserves.

    Thx Marios.

  2. A really welcome upgrade for me, thanks again my friend! Hi Adam!!!! :D :D :D

  3. Such a fine album. Thank you for the upgraded post!

  4. I can help you with the details on this band. I interviewed Bill and wrote an official history here:

  5. This is very interesting that I came across this band on the internet yesterday afternoon while searching for some family history. I in fact have an uncle Charles Spehek, the brother of my father Albert Spehek. I will do some asking around and maybe supply some details if I find any.

    Nik Spehek

  6. Is this the same Bill Richmond of Billy and the Kid who recorded a single for Decca ("Shut Down Again" b/w "Troubles of My Own") in '66?

  7. Thanks . but what is the password for the Rar ?

  8. I knew Chuck spehek. He was a fine musician and a wonderful friend. I just lost him Sept 23, 2021. I am so glad many of you still celebrate the Sapphire Thinkers music. I know Chuck would be thrilled to see do many still enjoy the music!