Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Michele - Saturn Rings (1969 us, west coast folk psych gem, 2006 release)

Saturn Rings by Michele O'Malley, issued on ABC in 1969, is truly one of the lost psychedelic pop masterpieces. O'Malley was a member of the Ballroom, and was a session vocalist in Los Angeles, singing backup on Tommy Roe's It's Now Winters Day and Sagittarius' Present Tense. West Coast popster and legendary crazy man Curt Boettcher (leader of the Ballroom) was heavily involved, with arrangements by Michael Melvoin and session players including Lowell George (pre-Little Feat), Bobby Notkoff (pre-Rockets), Elliot Ingber, Gordon Alexander, and Bobby Jameson (aka songwriter Chris Lucey). Boettcher either wrote or co-wrote seven of the album's 11 cuts, and sings backup on the sessions as well. To say the album bombed is an understatement. It disappeared almost upon release, and O'Malley never made another one.

Ξ€here are some truly amazing moments such as "Fallen Angel," with its beautiful sawing electric violin floating through the mix above the acoustic guitars, tabla drums, and electric bass. O'Malley's voice just soars and glides between Western melody and Eastern modalism effortlessly. Some of the psychedelic pop arrangements have the feeling of some stranger than strange nostalgia -- like a sound that is familiar, but its textures are strange and alien, such as on "Spinning, Spinning, Spinning," with a harpsichord and either an oboe or soprano saxophone and strings. O'Malley wrote "Song to a Magic Frog" for Sagittarius, and the arrangement on this version is lush, full of elegant textures and richly layered instrumentation. 

Her voice is where the real "magic" lies, however. She moves through the melody with a meld of passion and restraint and creates hooks where there are none. The truth of the matter is, that with bands like Belle & Sebastian out there, if Saturn Rings were released today it would be regarded as a quirky masterpiece. Its production and arrangement excesses for the time -- which made it inaccessible to the masses -- would now be heard as the work of genius. Three cheers for Fallout for making this little-known classic available again. 
by Thom Jurek

1. Would You Like To Go (Bobby Jameson) - 2:33
2. Blind As You Are (Michele O'Malley) - 2:54
3. Song To Magic Frog (Michele O'Malley) - 3:43
4. Fallen Angel (Michele O'Malley) - 3:32
5. Spinning, Spinning, Spinning (Curt Boettcher, Lee Mallory) - 3:24
6. Know Yourself (Bobby Jameson) - 4:39
7. Musty Dusty (Curt Boettcher, Tandyn Almer) - 5:08
8. Lament Of The Astro Cowboy (Curt Boettcher) - 8:09
9. White Linen (Bobby Jameson, Michele O'Malley) - 2:31
10.Misty Mirage (Curt Boettcher) - 3:51
11.Believe You (Curt Boettcher) - 4:00

*Michele O'Malley - Vocals
*Lowell George - Flute, Harmonica
*Elliot Ingber - Electric Guitar
*Bobby Notkoff - Electric Viola, Electric Violin