Wednesday, October 22, 2014

First Edition - The First Edition First And Second (1967-68 us, amazing country folk sunny psych, 2014 remaster)

Ex-members of the New Christy Minstrels (with the exception of the drummer, Mickey Jones ) run the fun gamut on The First Edition, and had they disappeared after this effort it would have been a huge collector's item. The cardinal sin of Lenny Kaye's masterpiece Nuggets collection is that "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" did not follow the Electric Prunes as the second track on volume one of that revered collection, or show up on it at all. 

The psychedelicized Top Five hit from the winter of 1968 produced by Mike Post and arranged by Al Capps might have a few lyrics that would make Bob Dylan blush, but the song's fuzz guitar, attitude, and hook are unstoppable. The rest of the album is top-notch as well, sounding like the Mamas & the Papas meets early Jefferson Airplane with Signe Anderson on vocals. It's Thelma Camacho who never got the name change or the recognition she deserved, but she sounds great on "I Get a Funny Feeling" and "Hurry Up Love," and the album benefits from her presence. "Shadow in the Corner of Your Mind" may be a title that conjures up images of Bob Lind and Ted Nugent hammering out a song over the dinner table, maybe because they still look like the New Christy Minstrels on the cover, and Tom Smothers gushing on the liner notes is unique, but it was television that was instrumental in launching this group into the mainstream and the hit song does well surrounded by this musical environment. 

Tunes like Mike Post's co-write "Dream On" rock out much harder than "Green Green," "Saturday Night," and "Today," Christy Minstrel's hits prior to Rogers joining the group. "Home Made Lies" has that "someday I'll teach you real fine" riff from the Animals' "It's My Life," Mike Settle lifting from here and there, while "Marcia: 2 A.M. sounds like Peter, Paul & Mary jamming with Paul Kantner and "Hurry Up Love" wants desperately to be girl group. The album's one drawback is that the band and producer don't go all the way in exploring these different styles the way they did on the hit "Just Dropped In." "Just Dropped In" not only made Kenny Rogers' voice the most familiar first, it's an all-out assault on the senses, its wild abandon necessary but absent from the other aspects of this disc. "Church Without a Name" explores -- or maybe toys with -- the blues, just adding to the feel of a band looking for a sound. They eventually found that sound during their run of hits from early 1968 to late 1970. But this debut is splendid and it is fun to hear them emulating Marty Balin right off the bat with the first track, "I Found a Reason." A lost gem worth rediscovering. 

A more focused '60s album than 1967's First Edition, what is missing from this follow-up LP is a hit single like "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," though the group more than makes up for that with solid performances. This was again produced by Mike Post, with arrangements by veteran Al Capps, who brought so much to Johnny Mathis, Cher, and many others. "Charlie the Fer de Lance" is indicative of this effort, with phasing fuzz guitar and Kenny Rogers as a hippie delivering odd lyrics on an interesting tune which isn't as direct as the group's first hit. Mike Settle's voice leads the pack on the second track, the Rogers/Williams co-write "If I Could Only Change Your Mind," another nice period piece that works well in this setting but wasn't going to burn up the charts. 

This is the First Edition as a real group, a full band before Kenny Rogers would start exerting more control on the third outing, First Edition '69. Mike Settle's "A Patch of Clear" is yet another vague essay from this era -- as odd as the opening track. Settle sounds great on Bob Stone's "A Good Kind of Hurt" and Thelma Camacho (who they have listed on the back cover as "Comancho") is just wonderful on her own composition "I Passed You By." The band works the Paul Williams/Roger Nichols little-known title "Only Me" to good effect to end side one. 

The song is chock-full of 1960s pop clichés and would have fit nicely on an album from the Monkees or maybe an airline commercial. Songwriter Mickey Newbury's "Are My Thoughts With You?" opens side two and features Kenny Rogers performing in the style which would bring him his eventual solo success, delivering the most commercial performance on this 11-song collection. Four members of the International Graphoanalysis Society give profiles of the four singers from the First Edition on the back cover, making for one of the more interesting sets of liner notes from any album released in 1968. It's not just the almost astrological look at the musician's personalities through their handwriting which makes this disc special, it -- like the Fifth Estate's Ding Dong the Witch Is Back -- is a very special album from a special time that '60s cultists have completely overlooked. 

The First Edition were an excellent psychedelic folk-pop group, and First Edition's Second should be a much-sought-after collectors' item. Like the aforementioned Fifth Estate, they were left off of Lenny Kaye's Nuggets collection, perhaps because they conquered the charts seven separate times. Kenny Rogers and Mike Settle are the songwriters on the final four tracks, and they are all extraordinary journeys into the psyche of the '60s. Rogers' "Things Can't Be So Bad," followed by Mike Settles' "Rainbows on a Cloudy Day" and "The Sun Keeps on Rising," two songs about the weather, has that mood that fans of the genre adore. 

Mike Post's production brings it all home. Thelma Camacho and Terry Williams' voices helped make this group an underground Mamas & the Papas, and their vocals closing the disc out by embracing Kenny Rogers' wonderful "Look Around, I'll Be There" very well could have made it a sleeper hit and changed the band's history. Rogers would take over right after this, and as valuable as his contributions to country/pop would eventually turn out to be, the First Edition were more than just one person; The First Edition's Second proves that. It's by no means the lost Sgt. Pepper's, but it does have lots to offer and should be dusted off and given new life. 
by Joe Viglione
1. I Found A Reason - 2:47
2. Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) (Mickey Newbury) - 3:20
3. Shadow In The Corner Of Your Mind - 2:52
4. If Wishes Were Horses - 2:32
5. Ticket To Nowhere - 2:24
6. I Get A Funny Feeling - 3:49
7. I Was The Loser - 3:05
8. Dream On (Mike Post, Walt Meskell) - 2:45
9. Home Made Lies (Mike Settle, Terry Williams) - 2:20
10.Marcia: 2 A.M. - 2:20
11.Hurry Up, Love (Mike Post, Walt Meskell) - 2:35
12.Church Without A Name - 3:15
13.Charlie The Fer De Lance (D. Dunn, T. Mccashen, D. Lottermosser) - 2:52
14.If I Could Only Change Your Mind (K. Rogers, T. Williams) - 2:30
15.A Patch Of Clear - 2:30
16.I Passed You By (Themes Lou Camacho) - 2:33
17.A Good Kind Of Hurt (Bob Stone) - 2:25
18.Only Me (R. Nichols, P. Williams) - 2:35
19.Are My Thoughts With You? (Michael Newbury) - 3:07
20.Things Can't Be So Bad (Kenny Rogers) - 2:35
21.Rainbows On A Cloudy Day - 3:23
22.The Sun Keeps On Rising - 2:30
23.Look Around, I'll Be There (Kenny Rogers) - 2:28
All songs by Mike Settle except where Stated

First Edition
*Mike Settle - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Thelma Lou Camacho - Vocals
*Kenny Rogers - Bass, Vocals
*Terry Williams - Guitar, Vocals
*Mickey Jones - Drums

Related Act
1963  Barry McGuire And The New Christy Minstrels - Star Folk (2007 remaster)

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