Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Summerhill - Summerhill (1969 us, smart noisy baroque psychedelia, 2011 reissue)

Most reviews I've seen of 1969's "Summerhill" have been less than overwhelming, though it's apparently fairly rare as was included in one of Hans Pokora's "Record Collector Dreams" books (think it's in the 5th volume).  Accordingly my expectations for this one were pretty low and when I finally stumbled across a copy of the album it actually sat in my 'to-listen-to' pile for a couple of months before I bothered giving it a spin.  To say the least, I was pleasantly surprised by the collection and found it far better than most of the heavily hyped crap out there.  

Produced by David Briggs, "Summerhill" showcased a talented line up in the form of keyboardist Doug Burger, bassist Larry Hickman, lead guitarist Alan Parker, and drummer  Del Ramos.  Featuring ten original compositions, all four members contributed material giving the album a diverse, but occasionally unfocused feel.  The set certainly sported a late-1960s West Coast vibe ('course it was recorded a Wally Heider Studio), bouncing all over the musical spectrum, including conventional rock ('Bring Me Around'), sunshine pop ('Soft Voice'), psych ('Follow Us'), a touch of jazz ('What Can I Say'), and brushes with more experimental moves (check out the aural meltdown on side two's 'The Bird').  

Elsewhere the album was interesting for showing the band as an early exponent of true country-rock.  Parker's pretty country-flavored ballad 'The Last Day' was every bit as good as anything being released by The Byrds, The Buffalo Springfield, or Poco (who's Rusty Young provided pedal steel guitar)'.  Speaking of The Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds, Parker's fuzz guitar propelled 'My Way (Hard for You)' would have sounded right at home on one of their early albums. Even better was the fuzz and feedback drenched 'It's Gonna Rain'.  A great slice of harmony rich, lysergic soaked rock.   

While nothing here was exactly trend setting, it made for an album that was fun to listen to with headphones and play 'spot-the-influences'.  Try playing it with 'Friday Morning's Paper'.)  In fact, there's only one out-and-out turkey in the form of an overblown ballad (the closer 'Summer Days').  One of the better albums I've stumbled across over the last couple of years and well worth digging up. 
1. Soft Voice (Larry Hickman) - 3:49
2. Friday Morning's Paper (Alan Parker) - 2:35
3. Bring Me Around (Del Ramos,  Alan Parker) - 2:23
4. The Last Day (Alan Parker) - 3:36
5. Follow Us (Larry Hickman) - 3:49
6. The Bird (Del Ramos,  Larry Hickman) - 1:22
7. My Way (Hard For You) (Alan Parker) - 3:02
8. What Can I Say (Larry Hickman) - 2:39
9. It's Gonna Rain (Del Ramos,  Alan Parker) -3:18
10.Summer Days (Alan Parker) - 4:05

*Doug Burger - Keyboards
*Larry Hickman - Bass
*Alan Parker - Vocals, Lead Guitar
*Del Ramos - Drums, Percussion