Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Peanut Butter Conspiracy - Is Spreading / The Great Conspiracy (1967-68 us, wonderful psych rock)

If you want to know why producer Gary Usher is revered in some circles, play The Peanut Butter Conspiracy Is Spreading next to the pretty much self-produced For Children of All Ages. A name as trendy as the Jefferson Airplane -- and a sound that is absolutely the Airplane -- meets the Mamas & the Papas; the '60s guitars sound smart; the 1967 liner notes by Lawrence Dietz tell you nothing about the group; and the front cover looks like something Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper encountered during Easy Rider. "It's a Happening Thing," like much of this record, tries too hard. 

Decades after it was recorded, there is charm in a band like the PBC (which rhymes with PCP) being such an authentic figment of someone's countercultural imagination. Sandi Robison is stunning on "Then Came Love," and the production by Gary Usher really is impressive -- it makes the record something special. But if the intro to "Twice Is Life" sounds like the Monkees (and it does), The Peanut Butter Conspiracy ends up sounding like an FM version of Spanky & Our Gang. Spanky McFarlane's hits are what made her so hip, and the PBC's lack of hits makes for an interesting trip back to the days of flower power, and not much else. "You Took Too Much" has gorgeous harmonies, a sing-songy guitar riff, and lyrics bogged down by blatant references to the hippy-dippy mindset of a record company trying to cash in. "Second Hand Man" could be Peter, Paul & Mary on mescaline. That's not a knock; the song actually works in its audacity. 

A very hip oldies station could play this and attract listeners. It's just hard to take songs like "Why Did I Get So High" seriously when artists like Marty Balin and Grace Slick were freaking out their record label and doing this for real. 
by Joe Viglione

The Great Conspiracy, the second long-player from the Los Angeles-based Peanut Butter Conspiracy, was much more a reflection of their live sound than their debut effort, the pop-driven Peanut Butter Conspiracy Is Spreading (1967). Around 1964, the quintet was literally born from the Ashes (another burgeoning L.A. rock combo whose personnel featured soon-to-be Jefferson Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden). After solidifying their lineup, they inked a deal with Columbia Records, which assigned staff producer Gary Usher to work with them. His well-meaning but over-the-top production style diffused the band, which came off sounding more like the Mamas & the Papas than the Jefferson Airplane or It's a Beautiful Day -- both of whom also sported female lead singers. 

However, by the time of this release the Conspiracy were sonically asserting themselves with a decidedly hipper approach. This is especially evident on the stretched-out and psychedelic "Too Many Do" and the deliciously trippy "Ecstasy" -- which sports frenzied and wiry fretwork similar to that of Quicksilver Messenger Service string man John Cipollina. Equally inspired are "Lonely Leaf" and the somewhat paranoid and darkly guilded "Time Is After You." These contrast with the somewhat ersatz hippie fodder "Turn on a Friend (To the Good Life)," the 38-second throwaway "Invasion of the Poppy People," or the simply wretched "Captain Sandwich." [In 2000 the Collectables reissue label coupled both The Peanut Butter Conspiracy Is Spreading and The Great Conspiracy on a single CD. Also included were the 45-rpm sides "I'm a Fool" and "It's So Hard" as well as the previously unissued track "Peter Pan."
by Lindsay Planer
1. It's A Happening Thing (Alan Brackett) - 2:24
2. Then Came Love (John Merrill) - 3:41
3. Twice Is Life (John Merrill) - 2:47
4. Second Hand Man (Daniel Walter Dalton) - 3:23
5. You Can't Be Found (Alan Brackett) - 2:45
6. Why Did I Get So High (Alan Brackett) - 2:07
7. Dark On You Now (John Merrill) - 2:19
8. The Market Place (Lance Fent) - 4:02
9. You Should Know (John Merrill) - 2:10
10.The Most Up Till Now (Alan Brackett) - 2:33
11.You Took Too Much (John Merrill) - 2:06
12.Turn On A Friend (To The Good Life) (Alan Brackett) - 2:20
13.Lonely Leaf (John Merrill) - 3:52
14.Pleasure (John Merrill) - 3:24
15.Too Many Do (Alan Brackett) - 6:30
16.Living, Loving Life (Alan Brackett) - 3:18
17.Invasion Of The Poppy People (John Merrill) - 0:38
18.Captain Sandwich (John Merrill) - 2:09
19.Living Dream (Alan Brackett) - 4:18
20.Ecstacy (John Merrill) - 6:17
21.Time Is After You (Alan Brackett) - 3:02
22.Wonderment (John Merrill) - 4:09
23.I'm A Fool (Alan Brackett) - 2:35
24.It's So Hard (Alan Brackett) - 2:31
25.Peter Pan (Alan Brackett) - 3:18
Tracks 1-11 from "The Peanut Butter Conspiracy Is Spreading " 1967 LP 
Tracks 12-22 from "The Great Conspiracy" 1967 LP 
Tracks 23,24 1968 single  
Track 25 previously unreleased

The Peanut Butter Conspiracy
*Barbara "Sandy" Ronbinson - Vocals
*Alan Brackett - Bass, Vocals
*Jim Voigt - Drums
*John Merrill - Vocals, Lead Guitar
*Lance Fent - Lead Guitar (Tracks 1-11)
*Bill Wolff - Guitar, Harmonica (Tracks 12-22)
*James Burton – Guitar (Tracks 1-11)
*Glen Campbell – Guitar (Tracks 1-11)

1967-68  The Peanut Butter Conspiracy - Living Dream
1969  Peanut Butter Conspiracy - For Children Of All Ages (2008 bonus tracks remaster)