Monday, March 18, 2013

West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Volume One (1965-67 us, raw psychedelic rock, Sundazed expanded edition)

Despite an ever-increasing following from collectors since their demise, for the past thirty years the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band have stubbornly resisted attempts to uncover the truth behind their mythology. Almost every aspect of the group seems to beg unanswered questions.

To begin with there was the name itself. Long and unwieldy, it seemed designed to defy recollection and sink the heart of poster designers everywhere. Was it a six-word manifesto of creative intent, or simply a cynical attempt to climb aboard the 'psychedelic' bandwagon? Then there were the song credits and album photos, according to which a certain Bob Markley was the band's driving force, a position seemingly confirmed by the appearance of his final 'solo' LP: 'A Group'.

Yet, somewhat confusingly, on the back of that album's sleeve there appeared - for the first time since the band's debut on the Fifo label - pictures of all four original members. Last, and definitely not least, there were the songs themselves. Along the way the music encompassed almost every musical genre - harmonic guitar pop, acoustic folk, psychedelic rock, jazz and avant-garde; and then there were those extraordinary lyrics - some starkly political, others naive and child-like; at times dark and sinister, at others simply insane.

As Brian Hogg observed in his sleeve notes to Edsel's mid-80s compilation 'Transparent Day': "(t)here are few groups as enigmatic, as mysterious or as plain contradictory..." This article does not pretend to be a definitive account of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - indeed, it now seems clear that some questions will never properly be answered - but the story which emerges is fascinating nevertheless, not least as an insight into how extraordinary music could emerge from a group driven by internal conflicts and held in the thrall of a man driven by dubious motives.

This album was originally issued in 1966 on the tiny "FIFO" label, which was a Hollywood concern specializing mainly in R&B. Probably only 100 or so were ever made!
A mint original copy of this LP was sold in '95 to a private collector for a substantial sum, who in turn reissued it (unauthorized, of course) on LP and CD. The CD featured three songs as bonus tracks that had turned up on the Raspberry Sawfly "Legendary Unreleased Album" bootleg from 1980, the excellent Sassafras and Obviously Bad (released as a single under the name California Spectrum in 1967) and a cover of the Left Banke's She May Call You Up Tonight.

It seems that much of the material was already completed by the time Markley became involved. However, the inclusion of certain tracks - 'Don't Break My Balloon' [a prime example of Bob's 'singing'] and 'If You Want This Love' - indicates that he must have had some influence over the sessions and, more to the point, their subsequent release on vinyl.

The rudimentary album included contemporary hits and original compositions and was recorded in a self-made studio in a strore-front place on San Vincente, just outside of Beverly Hills.
by Tim Forster
1. Something You Got (Chris Kenner) - 2:53
2. Work Song (Oscar Brown, Nat Adderley) - 2:11
3. Louie, Louie (Richard Berry) - 2:46
4. Don't Break My Balloon (Bob Markley) - 3:12
5. You Really Got Me (Ray Davies) - 3:05
6. Don't Let Anything!!! Stand In Your Way (Markley, Kim Fowley) - 2:12
7. I Won't Hurt You (Michael Lloyd, Shaun Harris, Markley) - 2:10
8. If You Want This Love (Sonny Knight) - 1:33
9. Insanity (Markley, Fowley)
10.It's All Over Now, Baby Blue (Bob Dylan) - 3:02
11.She Belongs To Me (Dylan) - 1:53
12.She Surely Must Know (Lloyd, Shaun Harris) - 1:57
13.Sassafras (Dan Harris, Lloyd, Shaun Harris) - 1:59
14.She May Call You Up Tonight (Michael Brown, Steve Martin) - 2:25
15.One Day (Lloyd) - 2:01
16.Funny How Love Can Be (John Carter, Ken Harper) - 1:38
17.Obviously Bad (Lloyd, Shaun Harris) - 1:30
18.Endless Night (Shaun Harris) - 2:15
19.Tell Me What You Want To Know (Lloyd) - 1:46
20.Just You & Me (Lloyd) - 1:54
21.Chimes Of Freedom (Dylan) - 3:03
22.Scuse Me Miss Rose (Bob Johnston) - 2:37

West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
*Bob Markley - Vocals
*Shaun Harris - Bass Guitar
*Dan Harris - Guitar, Vocals
*Michael Lloyd - Guitar, Vocals

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Alan Bown ‎– Stretching Out (1971 uk, incredible progressive jazz rock, 2010 Esoteric extra track issue)

 From the mid-'60s through the early '70s, Alan Bown's bands had played in a variety of styles that were popular in the U.K. during that period without achieving wide popularity, although they were among the more respected musicians on the scene. This wasn't entirely due to bad luck.

Their songs weren't as impressive as their chops, and their shifting stylistic identity probably also worked against them with the record-buying public. This record found Bown very much in a progressive phase, favoring long, shifting compositions (all written by Alan Bown and Jeff Bannister save for John Anthony Helliwell's "Turning Point" and a cover of Richie Havens' "Up Above My Hobby Horse's Head") that must have been hell in some respects to play by memory.

As the liner notes to the 2010 CD reissue rightly point out, there were some similarities to British progressive rock groups like Traffic and Procol Harum, though these were on the slight side and tended to be found on the more reflective compositions. Some of Frank Zappa's influence could also be heard on the lengthy "Turning Point," particularly in the horn sections.

The horn parts are generally the most distinctive aspects the record, which otherwise is a little on the unmemorable early-'70s progressive rock side, though with a jazzier flavor than usual owing to the horns. The 2010 CD reissue on Esoteric adds a bonus track, "Thru the Night," that appeared on the 1971 Island sampler El Pea; it's punchier and more soul-influenced than the songs on the LP, and was written by Helliwell, who would join Supertramp.
by Richie Unterberger

1. The Messenger - 7:56
2. Find a Melody - 5:18
3. Up Above My Hobby Horse's Head (R. Havens) - 4:23
4. Turning Point (The Alan Bown, Antony) -  7:12
5. Build Me a Stage 3:31
6. Stretching out 8:27
7. Through The Night (J. Anthony) - 4:16
All compositions by Alan Bown, Jeff Bannister except where stated.

*Vic Sweeney - Drums, Percussion
*Andy Brown - Bass, Vocals
*Tony Catchpole - Electric,  Acoustic Guitar
*Jeff Bannister - Piano, Organ, Flute
*John Anthony - Alto, Tenor Saxophone, Recorder, Clarinet
*John Hemmings - Trombone
*Alan Bown – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
*Gordon Neville - Vocals
1970  The Alan Bown!
1970  Listen

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