Monday, September 2, 2013

The Charlatans - The Amazing Charlatans (1965-68 us, prime psych folk rock)

The Charlatans were, by dint of timing, effort and wardrobe, the first on the scene of the 60s San Francisco psychedelic rock bands. The folkie jug-band scene going down in the Bay Area, circa 1964, was destined to be electrified. The Charlatans achieved this on several levels.

The man behind the Charlatans was architecture student George Hunter, who couldn't play a musical instrument, but wanted to be in a rock 'n' roll band. His concept and ambition were joined by Haight-Ashbury musician and entrepreneur Michael Ferguson's artistic and theatrical bent.

During 1964, the nascent group - which included Richie Olsen and Sam Linde - not only rehearsed, but also filmed and photographed themselves, as Hunter thought a successful band should. Some of that early footage may be seen in the film "The Life And Times of the Red Dog Saloon". The only thing missing was a paying gig, which the band was yet to have.

Drummer Linde eventually left the band, and Dan soon took his place, allegedly when he happened by the band's pad to score pot.

In the summer of 1965, The Charlatans were recruited by Chandler Laughlin to audition as the house band for the newly-opened Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada. Dan was skeptical and somewhat reluctant to go, but the other members prevailed upon him, and their LSD-fueled audition at the Red Dog was a success.

The Charlatans' groundbreaking summer engagement at the Red Dog inspired musicians and promoters from San Francisco to begin what was to become a "golden era" of psychedelic music at the various SF dancehalls.

The Charlatans had several recording sessions from 1965 to 1968, and released a single on Kapp Records – "The Shadow Knows" b/w "32-20". The band wanted "Codine" to be the A-side, but the label deemed the subject matter to be too controversial.

Dan left the band in 1968 to concentrate on developing His Hot Licks, which had become an opening act for the Charlatans. After Dan's departure, a Charlatans album was released on Phillips.

Most of Dan's songs from this era are well-known to his fans today: "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away", "By Hook Or By Crook", and "'Long Come A Viper". But his classic anthem of hippie relationship ennui, "We're Not On The Same Trip", should have had the success he envisioned for it. As Dan put it, "That could have been a fuckin' hit. man."

The tracks on the CD are from several sessions; The Autumn Demos (Coast Recorders, SF CA, 8/65), The Kama Sutra Sessions (Coast Recorders, early '66), The Golden State Demo (Golden State Recorders, SF CA, 7/67) and The Pacific High Sessions (Pacific High Recorders, Sausalito CA, early '68).

The Charlatans were not fated to get swept up in the massive SF Band Signings by major labels in the 60s. As Dan says in the liner notes, "We were just cast to be local, just doomed, that was it. Whatever the circumstances were."
1. Codine (Buffy Sainte Marie) – 2:22
2. Alabama Bound (Traditional, Arr. M. Ferguson, D. Hicks, G. Hunter, R. Olsen, M. Wilhelm) – 6:24
3. I Always Wanted A Girl Like You (G. Hunter, R. Olsen) – 1:31
4. I Saw Her (Traditional, Arr. M. Ferguson, D. Hicks, G. Hunter, R. Olsen, M. Wilhelm) – 2:06
5. How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away (D. Hicks) – 2:22
6. 32–20 (Robert Johnson) – 2:27
7. We're Not On The Same Trip (D. Hicks) – 3:12
8. Walkin' (G. Hunter, R. Olsen) – 3:08
9. Sweet Sue, Just You (Will Harris, Victor Young) – 3:40
10.East Virginia (Traditional, Arr. P. Gogerty, D. Hicks, G. Hunter, R. Olsen, M. Wilhelm, T. Wilson) – 1:40
11.The Shadow Knows (Jerry Leiber, M. Stoller) – 2:14
12.I Got Mine (D. Hicks) – 2:27
13.Steppin' In Society (Alex Gerber, Harry Akst) – 1:14
14.Devil Got My Man (Skip James) – 2:46
15.By Hook Or By Crook (D. Hicks) – 2:24
16.'Long Come A Viper (D. Hicks) – 2:41
17.Sidetrack (Traditional, Arr. M. Ferguson, D. Hicks, L. Hughes, G. Hunter, R. Olsen, M. Wilhelm) – 2:26
18.Alabama Bound (Traditional, Arr. M. Ferguson, D. Hicks, G. Hunter, R. Olsen, M. Wilhelm) – 2:45
19.Number One (M. Wilhelm) – 4:15
20.Baby Won't You Tell Me (John Hammond) – 3:41
21.Jack Of Diamonds (Traditional, Arr. M. Ferguson, D. Hicks, G. Hunter, R. Olsen, M. Wilhelm) – 4:49
22.The Blues Ain't Nothin' (M. Wilhelm) – 4:58
23.Groom N' Clean Ad (Traditional, Arr. M. Ferguson, D. Hicks, G. Hunter, R. Olsen, M. Wilhelm) – 0:40

The Charlatans
*George Hunter – Autoharp, Percussion, Vocals
*Michael Ferguson – Piano, Vocals
*Mike Wilhelm – Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Richard Olsen – Bass Guitar, Clarinet, Vocals
*Dan Hicks – Drums, Rhythm Guitar, Vocals

The Spike Drivers - 60's Folkrocking Psychedelia From The Motor City (1965-68 us, exceptional psych garage rock)

The Spikedrivers had two line ups between 1965 and 1968 when these (largely) demo recordings were made. With dual male and female vocals some of these tunes are resonant of early Jefferson Airplane (Often I Wonder, Strange, Mysterious Sounds, Baby Let Me Tell You) whilst here and there, there is a definite Fairports influence (e.g. Portland Town). 

Many of the first nine cuts along with tracks 14 & 15; Can't Stand The Rain and I'm So Glad (no, not the Cream song) are infectious and you will soon find yourself humming them all day. There is a small patch of five numbers from their second incarnation though which have been over-recorded (in a rehearsal room seemingly) and which are supposedly ragga based, but which actually descend into over-amped acid-fried mayhem (Grocery Store, Everybody's Got That feeling, I Know, Time Will Never Die, Sometimes) which you will either love or skip past. 

So, an uneven set, but not surprising given that most are demo and rehearsal recordings from two different line-ups covering the transition from folk-rock to (heavy) psychedelia. As an all-round package and artefact however, it has history, a story to tell, colour and great hooks - I would grab it with both hands!
by Paul Martin 
1. Often I Wonder (Ted Lucas) - 5:49
2. Strange, Mysterious Sounds (Ted Lucas) - 5:31
3. Baby, Let Me Tell You (Richard Keelan) - 4:32
4. Blue Law Sunday (Tony Wright) - 4:01
5. Baby, Can I Wear Your Clothes? (Joel Myerson) - 3:51
6. Got The Goods On You (Joel Myerson) - 3:45
7. High Time (Joel Myerson) - 2:29
8. Portland Town (Daryl Adams, Sid Brown) - 5:29
9. Grocery Store (Marshall Rubinoff) - 3:30
10.Everybody's Got That Feeling (Marshall Rubinoff) - 4:26
11.I Know (Marshall Rubinoff) - 5:18
12.Time Will Never Die (Marshall Rubinoff) - 3:08
13.Sometimes (Marshall Rubinoff) - 5:56
14.Can't Stand The Pain (Joel Myerson) - 2:30
15.I'm So Glad (Ted Lucas) - 2:28

The Spike Drivers
*Marycarol Brown - Vocals
*Ted Lucas - Guitar, Vocals (1-7, 14,15)
*Richard Keelan - Bass, Vocals (1-7, 14,15)
*Larry Cruise - Drums (1-13)
*Sid Brown - Guitar, Banjo
*Ron Cobb - Bass, Keyboards (8-13)
*Marshall Rubinoff - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar (8-13)
*Steve Booker - Drums (14-15)

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