Monday, July 11, 2022

The Moonrakers - Together With Him (1968 us, groovy garage psych, Vinyl issue)

From Denver, Colorado, this outfit started out as a fine punk band releasing four 45s for Tower. Amongst these are the frantic garage-punker You'll Come Back, plus excellent covers of I'm All Right and Baby, Please Don't Go. The flip to their fourth 45 was also a cover of The Guilloteens' folk-rocker.The Moonrakers evolved out of surf act The Surfin' Classics, when vocalist/guitarist Doug Dolph was replaced by Denny Flannigan. As The Surfin' Classics, they'd performed a lot of Beach Boys/Ventures material, but their name change came about when they got matched in a Battle of The Bands with Colorado's Astronauts and needed a more 'with-it' name. 

Bob MacVittie thus renamed themselves after the book he was reading at the time, Ian Fleming's novel "Moonraker".The band obtained their deal with Tower through their manager Roger Christian, a well-known L.A. disc jockey. Christian (who co-wrote Little Deuce Coupe and Don't Worry Baby with Brian Wilson), had 'connections'... The Moonrakers thus got to open for many major groups in Denver, including The Dave Clark Five, the Righteous Brothers and Sonny and Cher. The even got to meet The Beatles and Bill Haley and The Comets when they played for 50,000 screaming fans at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains. 

The band also helped promote a Denver concert with The Byrds around the time of Mr. Tambourine Man in the Ballroom at Lakeside Gardens Amusement Park, home of one of the greatest old-time rollercoasters in the world. Veeder Van Dorn:- "The Byrds parked their tour bus at the Moonraker's bass player's parents house for a few hours while they prepared for the concert, but when they all arrived at the Amusement Park, Joel's hair was dyed orange and he was mumbling 'the colors are flowing.... can you see them... can you see them?' about all the rainbow colors flowing around the Concert Hall!"With the onset of the psychedelic era came a dramatic charge of style in The Moonrakers music which is apparent on their album. Full of psychedelia with religious overtones, the cover shows the group below an altar and there is some good psychedelic guitar work plus great lyrics on The Pot Starts To Boil.Veeder Van Dorn, also claims to be the first person to play an electric banjo in a rock band:- "I purchased a steel-rimmed Ode banjo at the Denver Folklore Center from the owner Harry Tufts, and installed a simple magnetic pickup under the wooden bridge. It was used on the Moonrakers' Tower release Time And A Place, which was selected by the radio stations in Colorado Springs, sixty miles South of Denver, as the A side instead of Trip And Fall, and went to No. 1 there".During the recording of the album, Webber (ex-The Soul Survivors) and MacVittie left being replaced by Randy Walrath and Bob Sauner. 

Van Dorn also quit to join The Poor, where he got to know Bruce Palmer at a gig with Buffalo Springfield at Hollywood's 'Whisky A-Go-Go'. Shortly afterwards, Van Dorn, MacVittie, Corbetta and Webber formed Sugarloaf, although Van Dorn left after a few months (he wrote one song Things Gonna Change Some on their debut album Spaceship Earth). He then formed Mescalero Space Kit with Sam Fuller and Kip Gilbert (both ex-Rainy Daze), and Mark Kincaid (ex-Electric Prunes). Van Dorn:- "Kip Gilbert's brother Tim, who'd had a songwriting hit with Incense And Peppermints, arranged a demo session with Saul Zaentz at Fantasy Records in Berkeley. At the time Fantasy was having a huge success with Creedence Clearwater Revival. One of the original songs we recorded Earth Ain't A Jail was soon translated into I'm Just A Singer In A Rock And Roll Band by the Moody Blues...".Joel Brandes later went on to manage Eric Burdon and War.
1. Talk To The Soldier's Son (Veeder Van Dorn) - 4:08
2. He Knows Why (Veeder Van Dorn) - 3:37
3. Not Hidin' Anymore (Veeder Van Dorn, Bob Webber) - 3:00
4. He's A Comin' My Lord (Veeder Van Dorn) - 2:52
5. The Pot Starts To Boil (Veeder Van Dorn) - 3:50
6. No Number To Call (Denny Flannigan, John Collingwood Phillips) - 3:14
7. Look Outside At The Sun (Veeder Van Dorn) - 3:52
8. Take A Friend (Veeder Van Dorn, John Collingwood Phillips) - 3:54
9. Love Train (Veeder Van Dorn, John Collingwood Phillips) - 2:48
10.Find Me (Veeder Van Dorn) - 3:36
11.Together With Him (Denny Flannigan) - 3:48

The Moonrakers
*Denny Flannigan - Piano, Organ, Vocals
*Joel Brandes - Bass
*Randy Walrath - Guitar, Vocals, Harmonica
*Veeder Van Dorn - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica
*Bob Saunar - Drums
*Jerry Corbetta - Drums (Tracks 3-5, 9)
*Bob Webber - Guitar (Tracks 3-5, 9)