Sunday, February 5, 2023

The Yellow Balloon - The Yellow Balloon (1967 us, beautiful sunny baroque psych)

The Yellow Balloon is basically the story of one producer & songwriter Gary Zekley who, disappointed with the results after having Jan and Dean record one of his songs, decided to record it again himself. Then, with an unexpected smash hit song on his hands, quickly recorded a full album of material with studio musicians, then contacted his friend, multi-instrumentalist & singer Don Grady (better known as Robbie Douglas from the TV show My Three Sons) to assemble a “real” five-piece band to work up a live set and make a bunch of TV appearances in the wake of the hit. 

Beginning with album opener “How Can I Be Down?” the material has an unapologetically positive and uplifting vibe, heavily influenced by the “Good Vibrations”-era Beach Boys sound and the sunshine pop of the period (think Millenium, The Association, Sunshine Company, etc.) full of melody, simple happy-go-lucky rhythms, fun lyrics that intentionally eschew the social consciousness of the times, and meticulously arranged elaborate multi-part vocal harmonies. 

All songs are all short, no-nonsense pieces that concisely showcase and support the songwriting, and although musicianship is top notch throughout, there’s not a lot of room here for solos. Songs like “Follow the Sunshine,” “Stained Glass Window,” “Baby Baby It’s You,” and “Springtime Girl” are all as strong as the better known title track. Eight bonus tracks include singles, demos, and four cuts by Don Grady and his pre-YB Windupwatchband. All taken, an important, if somewhat obscure slice of 60s pop history. 
by Peter Thelen, Published 2005-03-01

A songwriting assignment from Dean Torrence led to a rich musical career for Los Angeles pop- genius Gary Zekley. Zekley - a man whose body of work stands up to any of the precocious Brill Building bunch from five years earlier - originally penned the song "Yellow Balloon" for Jan and Dean, but also recorded the tune himself. When Zekley's version went Top Thirty in April of 1967, he assembled a band, called the Yellow Balloon (natch), with the likes of lead singer Alex Valdez and multi-talented drummer/vocalist Don Grady, already a TV superstar as Robbie, Fred MacMurray's oldest kid on My Three Sons.

The Yellow Balloon album itself, is a day-glo gem- a wispy bridge spanning the lush yet trippy studio wizardry of Sagittarius and the mindbending delights of The Beach Boys' Smile-era recordings. Sundazed's Yellow Balloon disc contains 20 tracks, including the complete original stereo album, vintage single-only sides, a Zekley demo, both ultra-rare Don Grady singles, and a 20 page booklet stuffed with striking color outtakes of the group's photo sessions, acquired from the original band members-all of whom were interviewed by West Coast studio-expert Domenic Priore for the liner notes-and a penetrating on-disc interview with the late Gary Zekley, himself. Lush, plush and gorgeous!!!
1. How Can I Be Down (Don Altfeld, Gary Zekley, Jill Gibson) - 2:14
2. Stained Glass Window (Don Agrati, Gary Zekley) - 2:03
3. Baby Baby It's You (Dick St. John, Gary Zekley) - 1:57
4. Panama Red (Gary Zekley, Jay Lee) - 1:34
5. I've Got A Feeling For Love (Don Altfeld, Gary Zekley, Jay Lee, Jill Gibson) - 2:18
6. Yellow Balloon (Dick St. John, Gary Zekley, Jay Lee) - 2:16
7. Good Feelin' Time (Don Agrati, Gary Zekley) - 2:12
8. Follow The Sunshine (Patrick Ferrell, Paul Byrne) - 2:35
9. Springtime Girl (Patrick Ferrell, Paul Byrne) - 2:06
10.Can't Get Enough Of Your Love (Dick St. John, Gary Zekley, Mariene Anthony) - 2:16
11.Junk Maker Shoppe (Don Agrati) - 2:37
12.Noollab Wolley (Dick St. John, Gary Zekley, Jay Lee) - 2:16
13.The Children Of St. Monica (Don Grady) - 3:10
14.A Good Man To Have Around The House (Don Grady) - 2:34
15.Impressions With Syvonne (Don Grady) - 2:50
16.Leaving It Up To You (Don Grady) - 2:10
17.Can't Get Enough Of Your Love  (Dick St. John, Gary Zekley, Mariene Anthony) - 1:32
18.Follow The Sunshine (Patrick Ferrell, Paul Byrne) - 2:34
19.How Can I Be Down (Don Altfeld, Gary Zekley, Jill Gibson) - 2:04
20.Gary Zekley Interview - 7:09
Tracks 13-14 as Don Grady With The Windupwatchband
Tracks 15-16 as Don Grady
Tracks 19-20 as Gary Zekley

*Gary Zekley - Vocals
*Don Braucht - Bass, Rhythm Guitar, Tambourine, Percussion, Backing Vocals
*Luke R. Yoo - Vocals, Drums, Electric Piano, Keyboards, Vibraphone
*Alex Valdez - Vocals, Drums, Tambourine, Washboard 
*Mike Deasy - Guitar 
*Paul Cannella - Lead Guitar, Glockenspiel, Percussion, Backing Vocals
*Frosty Green - Vocals, Organ, Harpsichord, Tambourine, Piano, Clavinet
*Stan Farber - Vocals
*Bob West - Acoustic Bass, Piano
*Joe Saxon - Cello
*Eddie Rubin - French Horn, Percussion
*Mike Post - Guitar
*Carole Kaye - Bass
*Jack Schulman - Violin
*Gary Nuttycombe - Viola
*John DeVoogdt - Violin
*Jim Gordon - Drums
*Dennis Buddimir - Guitar
*Don Peake - Guitar
*Mike Rubini - Harpsichord, Keyboards
*Don Randi - Piano, Organ
*Ron Benson - Bass
*Al Casey - Guitar 
*Jerry Cole - Guitar
*Bill Hinshaw - French Horn
*Jim Horn - Saxophone
*Lou Blackburn - Trombone

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