Iron Leg Halloween – Wizards From Kansas – She Rides With Witches

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Listen  – The Wizards From Kansas – She Rides With Witches

Greetings all.

It’s time to close out the Iron Leg Halloween thing, with yet another witch-related tune.
Last year I was on vacation in Maine with the family, and as if often (almost always) the case, I managed to crowbar a little digging into the trip. There was a store in downtown Portland that I had been in before, but our schedule, and the store’s oddball hours of operation conspired to keep me away. As luck would have (thanks to my lovely wife) we found a way to go to Portland on our way out of the area and I was able to make a quick stop.
Good thing too, because in addition to a couple of nice jazz/soul jazz records, I pulled a copy of the ‘Wizards From Kansas’ LP out of the ‘psych’ bin. The group’s name was familiar, it looked like my kind of thing, and since it was less than ten dollars I decided to give it a try and put it in the keeper stack. Much later that day, when we had settled in at our next stop, I logged on to the interwebs and started Google-ing my finds, when much to my surprise I discovered that the ‘Wizards from Kansas’ LP was actually worth a lot more than I paid for it.
The group was in fact from Kansas, and had recorded the LP in 1970. Though they hailed from the land of tornados, they sounded as if they’d come up in the ballrooms of San Fran, with touches of the Dead, late-period Moby Grape and even Kak in the mix.
The ‘Wizards from Kansas’ LP is a great slice of low-key, psyched out sounds that capture the ballroom sound right before it turned into something much heavier.
The tune I bring you today is ‘She Rides With Witches’, which aside from an era-appropriate, yet still clearly ill-advised drum solo, is a pretty groovy, somewhat spooky number. The band kicks back in after the drum solo with a jazzy rave up, with a very nice guitar solo. I’m not entirely sure that it makes up for the drum solo, but you take what you can get.
Apparently the Wizards From Kansas were another example of peaking too early, falling apart not long after their album was released, causing it to become a valuable obscurity. It has been reissued a couple of times, and there’s a comp out there featuring unreleased material.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll be back on Monday with something groovy.
Happy Halloween!

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some more Halloween-osity…

The Return of My Fave Halloween Garage Tune!

Greetings all.
This is a relatively unprecedented mid-week post, bringing back last year’s Halloween tune. This is in my humble opinion the greatest slice of Halloween garage punk ever created, and it was a throwaway for a movie soundtrack. Ain’t that a bitch?
I hope you dig it and I’ll be back on Friday with something groovy (and new).
Peace
Larry

Originally posted 10/30/2008

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Little Tibia & the Fibias

 

Listen – Little Tibia and the Fibias – The Mummy – MP3

Greetings all.

I wasn’t planning on posting again this week, but I got my hands on something cool and couldn’t let Halloween pass without posting it.

I’ve been a fan of Rankin & Bass’s ‘Mad Monster Party’ since I was a kid, when it was an annual event of sorts on Channel 5 in NYC.

Back in the day, when I was hanging out on the pageboy, fuzztone, granny glasses scene, I began to notice on part of that movie in particular (and if you scope out the picture above, you’ll know why).

Right there, in the middle of ‘Mad Monster Party’, was a smoking number by what I consider to be the greatest ‘fake’ band of all time, Little Tibia and the Fibias.

When I say “fake band” I refer only to the fact that the band was created especially for the movie (and the fact that the ‘band’ we’re referring to is in fact an animated/reanimated group of skeletal punks). There’s obviously a real band making the music. Unfortunately – aside from vague, unsourced rumors that Rex Garvin and the Mighty Cravers may have been involved – the identity of the real life performers has been buried in the sands of time.

That, my friends, is a goddamn shame, because as will be demonstrated when you extract the ones and zeros from the interwebs, ‘The Mummy’ is a wild ass-kicker of the first order.

You get the pounding drums, the combo organ, and a vocal that sounds like the singers were good and drunk.

And the words!

“Mad mummy dance!

He’s in a trance!

All wrapped up in himself tonight!

It’s the mummy!’

Oh, hell yes!

If this was a real 45, recorded by a “real” band, people would be kicking each other to death trying to get their hands on a copy. As it stands, the only place this was ever released was on the soundtrack to ‘Mad Monster Party’. ‘The Mummy’ is so good that I’ve often considered taking it and having a dub plate made to DJ with.

For now, just download, pop the song on the MP3 delivery system of your choice, and let it rip.

Happy Halloween.

Peace

Larry

 

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Buy Mad Monster Party DVD at Amazon.com

Buy Mad Monster Party Soundtrack at Amazon.com

 

PS Head over to Funky16Corners

PSS Check out Paperback Rider too…

Iron Leg Halloween – Super Session – Season of the Witch

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Listen – Super Session – Season of the Witch – MP3

Greetings all.

Welcome to the  Iron Leg Halloween Spookfest, during which yours truly dips into the crates for a taste of something groovy with which we might all enliven our Samhain festivities.
The tune I bring you today was digi-ma-tized early this year and tucked away for just this occasion.
I have no idea if Donovan had any idea what he was whipping on the world when he wrote and recorded ‘Season of the Witch’. Not only was it a hit on its own, but spawned a ton of cover versions (my fave being the Lou Rawls classic).
While I love me some Dono-Leitch, we here at Iron Leg Industries never take the direct route between two points, so nothing less than a cover version of the source material would suffice.
The recording you’ll hear today appeared on the Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills ‘Super Session’ album in 1968. Oddly enough, though all three principals (Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills) were working rock musicians, none of them could be described as big stars as of 1968, with Kooper coming off the founding of Blood Sweat and Tears, Bloomfield leaving the Electric Flag and Stills between Buffalo Springfield and acquiring his license to print money with David Crosby and Graham Nash.
The session came together through the workings of Al Kooper who booked a block of studio time with Bloomfield, Harvey Brooks and Barry Goldberg of the Electric Flag and LA sessioner ‘Fast’ Eddie Hoh (who had played with the Mamas and Papas among many others).
This group recorded the first side of the LP in a day, after which Bloomfield disappeared and was replaced by Stephen Stills, who recorded the second side of the album in a similarly speedy fashion.
The version of ‘Season of the Witch’ posted today is from the Stills half of the record, which aside from the Bloomfield-led version of Howard Tate’s ‘Stop’ is far superior to the flip side. I remember hearing this song for the first time during my bong-rattling college years, a hazy period where the slow, sinuous groove of this particular ‘Season of the Witch’ fit perfectly into the musical rotation. While I would describe Stills as one of my favorite musicians – due in large part (but not exclusively) to his Buffalo Springfield period – I will admit that he had an unfortunate tendency to dip in the white-boy soul screamer thing. I’m happy to say that his performance in ‘Season of the Witch’ is a comparative model of subtlety, both vocally and on guitar.
The cut was popular on the progressive FM dial, making the ‘Super Session’ album a fairly substantial hit.
I hope you dig the song, and I’ll be back later in the week with something cool.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some more Halloween-osity…

Iron Leg Digital Trip #28 – I Just Want To Be Your Friend: The Sounds of Curt Boettcher

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Iron Leg Digital Trip #28 – I Just Want To Be Your Friend:
The Sounds of Curt Boettcher

Playlist
Goldebriars – Pretty Girls and Rolling Stones (Epic) +
Association – Along Comes Mary (WB)
Jacobson & Tansley – Dream With Me (Filmways)
Lee Mallory – Take My Hand (Valiant)
Sunshine Company – I Just Want To Be Your Friend (Imperial) +
Tommy Roe – Aggravation (ABC)
Tommy Roe – Leave Here (ABC)
Sagittarius – Another Time (Columbia) +
Sagittarius – I’m Not Living Here (Columbia) +
Sunshine Company – If You Only Knew (Imperial) +
Millennium – I Just Want To Be Your Friend (Columbia) +
Millennium – The Know It All (Columbia) +
Eternity’s Children – Mrs Bluebird (Tower)
Association – Just About the Same (WB)
Hep Stars – Would You Like To Go (Cupol) +
Hep Stars – Another Time (Cupol) +
Sandy Salisbury – Do Unto Others (Together)
Sandy Salisbury – Cecily (Together) +
Curt Boettcher – Levis Commercial +
Phyllis Brown – Another Time (Barnaby) +
Curt Boetcher – I Love You More Each Day (Elektra) +
Curt Boetcher – Malachi Star (Elektra)
Curt Boetcher – Love You, Yes I Do (Elektra) +
Curt Becher & California – Happy In Hollywood (WB)
Brady Bunch – I Just Want To Be Your Friend (Paramount) +

+ denotes a song written or co-written by Curt Boettcher


This mix can be heard in the Iron Leg Digital Trip Podcast Archive

Greetings all.
I hope the new week finds you well.
The mix I bring you this week is the end result of the Curt Boettcher project that I’ve been hinting about for months.
This one took a long time to come together. When I started thinking about putting something together, I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted to do it. As time went on and I kept uncovering more and more material I considered splitting this into a couple of different mixes/posts concerned alternately with Boettchers performances, productions and covers of his songs. Ultimately it seemed like the whole thing would be better served by combining the three aspects in order to provide a more complete picture.
I first heard of Boettcher somewhere more than 15 years ago, when the first waves of the soft rock revival (as it was) were starting to reach my ears. Interestingly enough, in stark contrast to my current level of interest, my initial appraisal of the stuff that I was exposed to was perched somewhere between indifference and disgust.
That this says less about the music itself and more about my own evolving tastes should come as no surprise to anyone that reads either of my blogs (or back in the day, my zines). I have admitted repeatedly that over the years, the things I like musically have changed drastically. However, use of the word “like” isn’t entirely appropriate since as far as I can tell the situation has much more to do with understanding different sounds in the proper context, with my own level of personal appreciation coming in a distant second.
I mention this because the first time I heard some of the things being hailed as ‘lost classics’, at least in the realm of soft rock or ‘sunshine pop’, much of it struck me as insubstantial, like so much fluff floating in the breeze.
This had as much to do with the kinds of things I was hearing (some of it bordering on kitsch) as with my inability to really dig into it.
As the years went on, and I started to wind my way down various stylistic back alleys I eventually discovered all kinds of incredible music. I’m only sad that it took me so long to open my ears wide enough to realize how much I was missing.
Back in the day, when I found something new to dig into I had a tendency to latch on like a pit bull with an intense focus that created a kind of tunnel vision (hearing?). It was thus, back in the late 80s when I dropped everything to make a study of modern jazz, buying, reading about and listening to little else for almost five years. It’s what I was feeling and I kept at it until the fire dimmed enough that my attention could be pulled elsewhere.
This is not to say that the soft rock/sunshine pop world isn’t ultimately an acquired taste, because it is, and I know enough about it now to realize that it’s not for everyone. Even given the years of acclimation that I’ve had, I’m not sure some people would be able to really dig it because in the end it’s all a matter of personal taste and not everyone wants to immerse themselves in the purest of pop.
That said, it was in the course of this grand musical quest that I discovered myself becoming obsessed with the oeuvre of Mr. Curt Boettcher.
It’s a testament to the level of obscurity attendant to the genre(s) that the largely unknown Boettcher is one of its patron saints. Mention him to most people, even devoted music fans with an elevated level of knowledge about lesser known artists and the chances are that very few of them will be familiar with his name, let alone his work.
However, work your way down the soft rock/sunshine pop rabbit hole, get close to the right groups of people and you’ll discover that there are few artists in that world – at least those that could be considered its auteurs – that are held in the reverence that Boettcher is.
This mix is an attempt on my part (by no means exhaustive) to provide you with something akin to a frame of reference through which you might understand why. I include the following caveat: despite the cavalcade of pop obscurity before you, I am far from an expert on Boettcher-iana. There are folks out there, far more devoted to this specific cause that make me look like a piker. I have done my best to get the facts straight, but if I have failed in this endeavor, please let me know. I’d be more than happy to make corrections where necessary.
I should also mention that these songs are not presented in strict chronological order. Boettcher’s career, especially in regard to his vast catalog of work as a producer for hire, and the exceptionally high volume of unreleased material that has trickled out over the years has made it very difficult to place a date on everything. The vast majority of music included in this mix, with the exception of the Goldebriars and Boettcher’s  70s  work was recorded between 1966 and 1969. There is a significant overlap in the timeline as regards the many projects he was involved with. I have provided dates where possible.*
If you notice something odd in the track list above, I should mention that Curt Boettcher changed the spelling of his last name no less than twice in the 1970s, first to Boetcher, and then again to Becher.  Though the set list includes the name changes where applicable I have used the original spelling of his last name through this piece.
It helps to begin by mentioning that there’s very little out there in the way of biographical information about Curt Boettcher that doesn’t relate directly to his work. I can tell you that he was born in Wisconsin in 1944 and passed away in 1987. Other than that, almost everything I know about him is reflected through the prism of the music he wrote, arranged and/or produced between 1964 and the mid-70s. I’d be willing to say that it’s almost better that way.
Aside from knowing what his formative musical influences were, I can’t imagine a deeper level or personal detail adding that much to the story that you can string together by listening to the music in this mix.
I’ve attempted to include something from every important period of his career, including records he arranged and produced, records he performed on, and songs that he wrote as interpreted by other artists. There’s a kind of sonic thread that runs through all the selections herein that given time and the proper level of appreciation might paint a picture some of you will find pleasing enough to encourage you to delve further into his work.
Boettcher got his start with the first group included in this mix, the Goldebriars, a band that combined the dying strains of the commercial folk movement and the onrush of Beatle/Byrds era electrified pop. While hardly the deepest work Boettcher ever did there are elements in the Goldebriars sound that he carried with him through the next decade. I almost considered placing this earliest track at the end of the mix to show that parts of his signature sound were present at the beginning. It should also be noted that it was in the Goldebriars that Boettcher would work with Dottie Holmberg, a singer who’s voice Boettcher would employ in many of his most important productions.
The second track in the mix is the one that the vast majority of you will be familiar with, but you may be surprised as to why. The Association’s ‘Along Comes Mary’ was a big hit in the Spring of 1966, and it was produced and arranged (as was the group’s entire debut LP) by Curt Boettcher. The story goes that although the song is credited solely to Tandyn Almer (an interesting character on the periphery of LA pop in the 60s, popping up frequently in the Beach Boys orbit among others), that it was presented to the Association in a very different form, performed at a much slower pace. Boettcher is said to have restructured/rearranged the song into its familiar form, so much so as to have deserved a co-writing credit which he ultimately did not receive. I have seen a couple of different stories about how this played out, but placed in the context of his body of work, the tight harmonies and propulsive pop of ‘Along Comes Mary’ fit comfortably in the Boettcher catalog. Oddly enough, though the first Association LP was a big hit, the band decided to drop Boettcher as producer, replacing him with Jerry Yester.
It was around this time that Boettcher formed the Ballroom with Michele O’Malley, Sandy Salisbury (both of whom became important members of his circle) and Jim Bell. I don’t include anything by the Ballroom here because I’ve never been able to get my hands on a copy of their rare single**. Like many Boettcher projects, the Ballroom had a fairly large portion of their recorded work held back from release until decades after their demise. There are a bunch of comps out there of unreleased Boettcher and related recordings from his mid-to-late 60s heyday. If you dig what I put in this mix and wish to investigate further there’s a lot out there to explore.
The next two tracks are Boettcher productions from this era that are great examples of his signature sound. Boettcher was first and foremost a master of vocal arrangement, creating waves of brilliantly harmonized voices. He had the ability to take the right combination of singers (including himself), apply them to great pop songs to create moments of absolute aural bliss. In some ways this is the most important connective tissue here. Boettcher was an excellent songwriter, producer and arranger, but it was how he combined these elements that made most of the records he worked on, even those by other performers “Curt Boettcher” records.
Brian Wilson is considered by many to be the true giant of mid-60s American pop. He and Boettcher are connected not only by anecdote (Wilson supposedly encountered Boettcher at work in the studio and was awed by what he heard) but also by their approach to record making. Ultimately the music they made was often very different – with Wilson indebted to Phil Spector to an extent that Boettcher was not – but they both endeavored to create sounds that pushed the limits of the human ear (and mind). Any competent professional could make records, but only sonic visionaries like Wilson and Boettcher (and for a short time Spector himself) took the elements at their disposal – granted they both worked with unusual palettes – and created something truly extraordinary.
Try as I might I have not been able to track down any information as to who Jacobson and Tansley were. The song presented here, ‘Dream With Me’, though relegated to the b-side of their sole 45 for Filmways (produced by Boettcher) was actually a regional Top 40 hit in the summer of 1966. Opening with some tight percussion, ‘Dream With Me’ is the very definition of pop on its way to psychedelia, even without any of the now clichéd studio tricks. It’s all about the hooks and especially the harmonies. Listen to the way the voices are layered in the bridge, with the backing vocals almost as loud as the leads, creating a kind of natural phasing. Boettcher was spending a lot of time during this period producing a wide variety of one-off singles and ‘Dream With Me’ is a great example of how he put his stamp firmly on someone else’s song via the arrangement/production.
Lee Mallory is another important supporting player in the Curt Boettcher saga. Boettcher produced both of Mallory’s 1966 singles for the Valiant label and Mallory would work with him on the Sagittarius sessions and later as a member of the Millennium. Both of his 45s are excellent mid-60s pop (I have all four sides on a Brazilian EP from the period), and one of them ‘That’s The Way It’s Gonna Be’ was apparently the production that blew Brian Wilson’s mind. I felt that for the purposes of this mix, ‘Take My Hand’ was a better fit. It features a dense, yet still bright production, with a throbbing bass supporting waves of glockenspiel, rhythm guitar and of course layer upon layer of harmony vocals. I’ve read that Tandyn Almer supposedly played on this session but I have not been able to confirm it.
One of Curt Boettcher’s finest original songs, ‘I Just Want To Be Your Friend’, appears here in its original recorded version by the Sunshine Company, a group that recorded three very nice sunshine pop albums for Imperial in 1967 and 1968. Their take on ‘I Just Want To Be Your Friend’ starts off with an easy/bossa vibe in the verse, escalated into pop nirvana in the bridge. The group’s albums are neither expensive or terribly hard to find, and are recommended.
This is a good place to discuss Boettcher’s work as a songwriter. Though he did have a tendency to wander off into a fog of whimsy (‘Song to the Magic Frog’, ‘Musty Dusty’ both demoed early but ultimately seeing release on the Sagittarius LP ‘Present Tense’) he also had a masterful touch when it came to constructing classic pop hooks and the talent to take the raw material into the studio and create complex arrangements, and ultimately brilliant records. When you’ve given the whole mix a listen, go back and compare Boettcher’s recordings of his own songs (I’ve annotated the track list to indicate which tunes are Boettcher compositions) and the interpretations of the same material by others. It has often been said of Burt Bacharach that the arrangements he created of his songs really became recognized as part and parcel of the songs themselves. Boettcher worked in the very same capacity, realizing that even if he created wonderful songs like ‘Another Time’ or ‘I Just Want To Be Your Friend’, when he got the chance to surround himself with talented collaborators in the recording studio, he was able to build those same songs into something even more substantial.
The next two cuts hail from what I consider to be the finest work Boettcher did solely with someone elses material, the Tommy Roe LP ‘It’s Now Winter’s Day’. Though the credit ultimately went to someone else, Boettcher is believed to have been the producer behind Roe’s 1966 smash hit ‘Sweet Pea’ (regarded by some as the ur bubblegum 45). The following year Boettcher went into the studio with Roe, bringing along his own crew, including Sandy Salisbury, Dotti Holmberg, Michele O’Malley, and Lee Mallory. The resulting album was not only a radical departure for Roe (and a bona fide lost classic) but also the purest example of Curt Boettcher’s ability to put his sonic stamp on someone else’s record.
‘It’s Now Winters Day’ is packed with wonderful music from start to finish. I’ve featured cuts from this album in a couple of previous Iron Leg Digital Trips, but I save my two favorites for this mix.
‘Aggravation’ and ‘Leave Her’ both bear the influence of 65/66 era Beatles, including fat sounding guitar and bass, rich electric piano and hard hitting drums. Boettcher took the time to create a heavier, more forward thinking, pure rock sound that was new to Roe, and then (as was his custom) laid on layer after layer of bright, razor sharp harmonies. I mentioned before that Boettcher often employed the same group of singers. It was as if he had happened upon the perfect vocal formula and carried it with him wherever he went (the biggest and most reliable gun in his arsenal). If ‘Aggravation’ uses the chorus sparingly, in ‘Leave Her’ they become the most prominent feature of the record. Slap on a pair of headphones and listen to how Boettcher almost paints with the voices, laying on broad swaths of harmony, then, when you think it can’t get any better slaps on even brighter washes of audio sunshine. It is among my favorite records he made where he himself was not the featured performer.
The history of the Sagittarius project is an unusual one. Originally conceived of by producer Gary Usher, once he encountered Boettcher he brought him in on the record. Assembled piecemeal – there are some tracks with no Boettcher involvement at all – the album eventually included six of his compositions, and once again many of his troupe of singers and musicians. It also gave Boettcher the opportunity to revive songs that he had started working on for other projects, including the Ballroom. Some of these existing tracks were enhanced for the Sagittarius LP ‘Present Tense’ and others were re-recorded entirely.
The first of the two tracks here is what might be considered Boettcher’s signature song on ‘Present Tense’ (or anywhere else for that matter), the beautiful ‘Another Time’. Also featured in two interesting cover versions, I’d have to say that as usual, Boettcher’s original is the definitive version. He combined a wonderful lyric and melody with an arrangement that is full of detail without ever sounding “crowded”. The song starts off with acoustic guitars, bass and drums before Boettcher’s voice (double tracked) comes in, followed by understated harp and strings. Listen closely for what sounds like a layer of Hammond organ (through a Leslie speaker) running underneath the verse. ‘Another Time’ is the perfect example of Boettcher’s ability to add subtle psychedelic touches (in this case mainly the backing vocals) to his records.
‘I’m Not Living Here’ is a slightly heavier (only slightly, mind you) effort with ringing acoustic guitars (one of them sounding as if it had also been fed through the Leslie speaker) and organ dueling with those patented Boettcher harmonies. There are stabs of fuzzed out bass and guitar poking in and out of the mix as well as rhythmic acoustic piano.
The next track, ‘If You Only Knew’ is a track composed by Curt Boettcher, demoed (in a somewhat faster version) but only released in a recording by the Sunshine Company. Great song.
The Millennium is another Boettcher-related group that I’ve featured in this space before. Formed before Sagittarius (with their LP being released second)***, the Millennium was in effect the Boettcher supergroup, featuring Curt, Sandy Salisbury, Lee Mallory, Joey Stec, Michael Fennelly, and Ron Edgar and Doug Rhodes of the Music Machine (Edgar had also played in a late era, non-recording version of the Goldebriars). Featuring songwriting contributions by every member of the group (Boettcher wrote or co-wrote about half the tracks on the album) ‘Begin’ is an absolute masterwork. I cannot stress the following point strongly enough: If you consider yourself a fan of 60s pop and rock and you haven’t heard this album in its entirety you need to drop whatever you’re doing and find one post haste. I’ve already used the term ‘lost classic’ in this piece (deservedly so), but the Millennium’s ‘Begin’ is the album that the phrase was invented for.
Filled wall to wall with incredible songs (performed and produced incredibly) ‘Begin’ – at the time the most expensive album ever recorded for Columbia records – is the finest thing that Boettcher ever did. It may have been surrounded by moments of brilliance, but ‘Begin’ is the representation of everything that’s important about his music. The production – by Curt and Keith Olsen (also an ex-member of the Music Machine) – is remarkable, revealing hidden wonders with every listen.
‘Begin’ is the record that ought to be the starting point for any appreciation of Curt Boettcher’s work, especially for rock fans. While all the gossamer touches of his other work are present in varying degrees, ‘Begin’ is also filled with cutting edge psychedelic rock. That much of that trippy fabric is wrapped around often sweet pop hooks is the thing that makes ‘Begin’ such a wonder. Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Song of Myself’ contains the oft-quoted line “I am large, I contain multitudes”, and the same can be said about the Millennium’s ‘Begin’. Give the album a casual listen and you’ll find yourself catching bits of sugary bubblegum, Beatle-esque psychedelia, west coast sunshine pop and folk rock, the catch being that while all of those threads are present, they are woven together in such a way that none of those styles ever comes entirely to the fore. Boettcher and the band had stumbled upon a unique blend of all the best elements of 1968-era music, creating a record of singular quality. That this combination never really caught on with the public, depriving the Millennium of the chance to record a second LP is a crime.
If you don’t already have it, track yourselves down a copy of the 2001 Sundazed set ‘Magic Time’, which across three discs assembles a huge helping of recordings from the Ballroom to the Millennium (it contains ‘Begin’ in its entirety, and a wealth of bonus material). Along with the reissue of Sagittarius’ ‘Present Tense’, this set should provide more than enough for the casual Boettcher fan, and just enough of a taste for the fanatics to travel down more obscure avenues.
The two tracks included here are the Millennium’s epic take on ‘I Just Want To Be Your Friend’ (one of the finest pop records made in the late 60s by anyone) and ‘The Know It All’. These two songs illustrate the yin and yang at work in the Millennium, contrasting lighter sounding pop with more aggressive rock sounds.
The bridge in ‘I Just Want To Be Your Friend’ is once again (like the earlier Sunshine Company version) a jumping off point, but the Millennium take it and run with it to create just over 30 seconds of utter bliss.
‘The Know It All’ is about as dark as Boettcher ever got (with any group), featuring swirling keyboards, chugging rhythm guitar and Ron Edgar’s wonderfully avant garde percussion (drum fills seem to drop in out of nowhere).
Boettcher and Olsen went on to produce a number of projects together, one of which was the Mississippi band Eternity’s Children. If you get a chance to pick up a reissue of their first LP do so, since it’s a great bit of sophisticated sunshine pop with quality songwriting. Interestingly enough, the two best songs on that album appear on two sides of the same, fairly affordable 45. The better of the two (and it’s a tough pick because both songs are excellent) is the song ‘Mrs. Bluebird’. The production and vocal arrangement are pure Boettcher, wrapped around some very interesting chord changes and a great acid-tinged guitar solo.
Boettcher and Olsen would also produce one side of a single by the Association. The song, ‘Just About the Same’, written by Doug Rhodes, Joey Stec and Michael Fennelly had been recorded by the Millennium (it appears on ‘Magic Time’) and was slated to appear on their last 45, which was never released. The Association arrangement stays fairly close to the Millennium original (it sounds like a new vocal was dubbed over the original instrumental track).
The next two tracks are the result of one of the most unusual musical connections in the Curt Boettcher story. Steve Clark who ran the business end of Boettcher’s production company (who had parted ways with Curt) hooked up with the management of the Swedish pop group the Hep Stars. The biggest Swedish band of the 60s, the Hep Stars included in their ranks one Benny Andersson, later of ABBA. Clark thought he could break the Hep Stars in the US and took the reins of their career. He dismissed several band members, and took those that remained into the studio, and in an odd twist had them record a number of Curt Boettcher and Sandy Salisbury songs, as well as the title track from Tommy Roe’s ‘It’s Now Winters Day’. The resulting album ‘It’s Been a Long Long Time’ was a flop, with only one 45 (‘Musty Dusty’) ever seeing release in the US. The two songs featured here are their cover of Sagittarius’ ‘Another Time’ and ‘Would You Like To Go’ by the Millennium. I’d go as far to say that they had more success with the latter, though they bring a nice sense of melancholy to ‘Another Time’.
Following the recording of ‘Begin’, Sandy Salisbury began to work on his own album. Ultimately, all but one 45 would remain unreleased for decades. The songs on that 45, produced by Curt, Keith Olsen and Gary Usher, give one cause to wonder why the album was shelved. ‘Do Unto Others’, which features heavy, proto-glam guitars and a chorus that echoes the Tremeloes’ ‘Silence Is Golden’ could have been a hit. The flipside, the country inflected ‘Cecily’ (co-written by Salisbury and Boettcher) is a much gentler, more melodic number. If you can find a copy of the reissue of the unissued album (entitled ‘Sandy’ or ‘Do Unto Others’ in another version), pick it up because it really is excellent.
The next cut is something I happened upon accidentally in a download of 60s radio spots. Curt Boettcher recorded at least two promos for Levis jeans, one of which is featured here. The subject may be stretch Levis, but the sound is pure Boettcher.
Though Boettcher kept busy with productions inside and outside his circle, its commercial failure made the Millennium album the high water mark of his career. He wouldn’t have another album (where he was the driving creative force) released until his first solo LP in 1973 (more on that in a minute).
The next track is something I discovered only recently. As far as I can tell, the vocalist Phyllis Brown recorded her one album in 1971, and it included a great cover version of ‘Another Time’. Some of the names on the record indicate that it may have been recorded in Nashville. I have no idea how she came to record the ‘Another Time’ but she really digs into the lyric.
By the time Boettcher recorded his solo album ‘There’s An Innocent Face’ times had changed. Gone were the psychedelic flights of fancy that marked Sagittarius and the Millennium, replaced by a kind of milder, less distinctive west coast country rock. Gary Usher was still credited as an executive producer, but Curt had begun working with a musician named Web Burrell. Boettcher co-wrote only two of the album’s eleven tracks (no less than five tracks were written by Don Gere, who’s main credits were a couple of exploitation movie soundtracks in the early 70s) , and the overpowering style of his earlier work is largely absent. There are however unmistakable touches of the old Boettcher magic here and there (both Dotti Holmberg and Michele O’Malley sing on the record).
There are three tracks from the LP in this mix. The first, ‘Love You More Each Day’ one of two Boettcher compositions wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the Top 40 of 1973. It’s a cool song, if lacking in the adventurous reach of his classic work. ‘Malachi Star’ was composed by Waddy Wachtel and Judi Pulver, members of another band that Boettcher had worked with in the studio, Twice Nicely . The song has a kind of ‘cosmic country’ vibe and features a great vocal by Curt and a wonderful arrangement. ‘Love You Yes I Do’ features Curt and Web Burell singing in harmony. All told ‘There’s An Innocent Face’ isn’t a bad record, but it does seem light years away from the Millennium.
I’ve included one track from the California project of the mid-70s. Though Curt was the “leader” on the sessions, there was intermittent involvement by Gary Usher, Terry Melcher, Bruce Johnston and even Brian Wilson. It was as if the mid-60s California surf music mafia decided to get together and storm the charts one more time. Unfortunately, proving the old saying about the difficulties of too many cooks, the surviving tracks, as gathered on the reissue ‘California Music’ is a truly odd mix of pop, poorly chosen cover material and even ill advised forays into the world of disco. The track included here, ‘Happy In Hollywood’ reprises the mid-70s west coast feel of some of the tracks on ‘There’s An Innocent Face’, yet I hear a touch more of the ‘old’ Curt shining through. Oddly enough he wrote very little of the material on the sessions (this song was written by David Batteau).
The final track in the mix was another pleasant surprise. While trolling the web one day in search of Curt Boettcher information I stumbled on the almost incomprehensibly cool fact that ‘I Just Want To Be Your Friend’ had actually been recorded and released by the Brady Bunch. There on their 1972 LP ‘Meet the Brady Bunch’ alongside covers of several contemporary pop hits was a very nice version of Boettcher’s ‘I Just Want To Be Your Friend’. I have no idea how their handlers got their hands on the song but against all odds it ended up sounding quite good.
After the mid-70s, Boettcher scaled back his production work almost completely, working extensively as a backing vocalist on albums by the likes of , Helen Reddy, Dennis Wilson, Bob Crewe, Bruce Johnston, Tanya Tucker, Elton John and the soundtrack to the movie ‘Grease’. He did work in the studio on a number of projects in the Beach Boys ‘family’, including albums by Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and the Beach Boys themselves, including their 1979 disco single ‘Here Comes the Night’.
He produced a few more albums, by Geno Washington and the doowop group the Diamonds among others, but never really returned to the studio with the vision of his creative heyday.
Boettcher was only 43 when he passed away in 1987. One can only imagine what he might have been capable of if he’d had the chance to work again after his rediscovery be a new generation of fans. The temptation is to see the Curt Boettcher of the 70s and 80s as some kind of lost man, having been stripped of his ability to create his art by a fickle and ignorant marketplace. It’s also possible that his vision was one that would not translate outside of that mid-to-late 60s ‘anything goes’ creative explosion. The kind of genius he was able to commit to tape may simply have been pushed out of style as the 60s came to a close. His sound wouldn’t fit in the overly serious, self-indulgent progressive sound, but at the same time was too elaborate to fit into the birth cries of the stripped down era of power pop. Perhaps time and fashion had simply passed him by, and instead of crafting a 70s-centric version of his 60s self, he decided not to wrestle with it and went, as they say, with the flow.
As it is, his legion of devoted fans have brought his body of work (some of it more essential than others) back into print, exploring the back alleys of his recorded work exhaustively. The previously mentioned ‘Magic Time’ comp (centering on the Ballroom and Millennium sessions) is filled with great work. Released by Sundazed (the finest 60s reissue label out there), the set is well annotated, as is the Sagittarius ‘Present Tense’ reissue on the same label. The second Sagittarius album – which featured much less Boettcher material – has also been reissued, as have a number of collections of demos and unreleased sessions. Millennium member Joey Stec has created the label Sonic Past to issue Boettcher-related material, and the comp ‘Another Time’ features demo versions of many familiar songs (including ‘Along Comes Mary’) and a lot of other cool stuff.
There are also a number of reissues of many Boettcher-related projects that I did not include material from, including LPs by Bobby Jameson, Michele O’Malley, and later material by Eternity’s Children that should keep Boettcher completists busy for some time.
I hope you dig the mix, and that it opens up another musical avenue for you to explore.
See you next week.

Peace
Larry


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* There are also a number of other Boettcher-related tracks that didn’t fit into this mix stored in the Iron Leg archives for future use
**Aside from the Levis commercial and the two Hep Stars tracks, everything here is recorded from original vinyl.

***I had originally placed the formation of the Millennium after the Sagittarius project. Millennium member Michael Fennelly wrote to correct this (see comments) and I made the chage accordingly.

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some funk.

PSS Check out Paperback Rider too…

The Bad Seeds – King of the Soap Box

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Listen -The Bad Seeds – King of the Soap Box – MP3

Greetings all.

I hope everyone has had themselves a nice week and is preparing for an even nicer weekend.
Here in NJ, if we want “nice” it’ll have to be indoors since we appear to be in the middle of an extended monsoon.
That said, listening to fine vintage music is always a great indoor activity, guaranteed to make you forget that the rain is preventing you from ogling the fall foliage or picking apples (maybe it’s better you stay indoors after all??).
The tune I bring you today is the flipside of a track that was featured in an Iron Leg Digital Trip mix a while back.
I can’t tell you much about the Bad Seeds, other than this set of pips hailed from Kentucky, as opposed to the more famous Texas group from the 60s (or the much later Nick Cave backing band, but I don’t suspect you thought it was them anyway). I’ve also seen a reference that this 45 was actually recorded in New York City, but I cannot confirm it.
The tune I feature today is the jingly-jangly ‘King of the Soap Box’. Featuring some excellent production (from someone named Mersey*) and a vocalist who sounds a LOT like Sal Valentino of the Beau Brummels, ‘King of the Soap Box’ is a bit of period-specific, sub-Dylan protest/folk rock. I mention the production because unlike hundreds of other similar records, the Bad Seeds 45 sounds like it was actually recorded in a fancy, high-falutin’ studio, as opposed to a converted chicken coop in Dust Fart, Texas. There are folks out there who would attempt to convince you that such an attribute is a negative thing, praising the Dust Fart “sound” as the ne plus ultra of all things garage, but as someone who enjoys listening to music for reasons other than “authenticity” (i.e. the excuse a lot of heads use when they are confronted with records suffering from a wide variety of technical limitations), I really dig the booming snare drums and chiming guitars on ‘King of the Soap Box’.
I wish I knew more about the band, but I don’t. If you do, drop me a line.
I hope you dig the jangle and I’ll be back on Monday.

Peace

Larry

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*Interestingly enough, Robert Mersey spent the majority of his time producing and arranging decidedly middle-of-the-road fare by the likes of Bobby Vinton, Patti Page, Andy Williams and Doris Day. How he ended up twisting the knobs on this one I do not know.

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for news on another guest mix.

Kaleidoscope – Egyptian Gardens / If The Night

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The Kaleidoscope

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Listen -Kaleidoscope – Egyptian Gardens – MP3

Listen -Kaleidoscope – If the Night – MP3

Greetings all.

I hope the arrival of a new week finds you well, or at least well enough for some tasty, Sunset Strip, belly-dancer, psyched up folk rock.
“Wha?” you say…
That would certainly be an appropriate reaction to such an oddball description, but when you hear ‘Egyptian Gardens’ by the Kaleidoscope I think you will agree with all of the above.
If you’re not hip to the US Kaleidoscope – and I make the distinction because the UK had its own incredible psyche band of the same namethen I suggest that after listening to today’s selection you head on over to Amazon and grab yourself a comp of their recordings.
Formed in 1965 the Kaleidoscope featured accomplished bluegrass musicians David Lindley and Chris Darrow, world music head Solomon Feldthouse, Chester Crill and John Vidican. If you have a chance to check out their debut LP ‘Side Trips’ it is immediately apparent that even in the ever expanding musical environment of the mid-60s they may have been too diverse for their own good. Equally apt playing folk rock, psyche, old time/good time jug band sounds or world music pastiches, the Kaleidoscope never really hit big at any level, though they managed to record four albums for Epic between 1967 and 1970.
‘Egyptian Gardens’ is a wild, trippy journey to a Middle Eastern bazaar with the sounds of the oud and finger cymbals riding a standard 1966/67 guitar riff. If the verse is in any way jarring, wait until they let loose in the chorus.
‘If the Night’ is a much more conventional slice of 1967, with solid folk rock guitar and harmonies flavored with a touch of baroque harpsichord.
Interestingly enough, the Kaleidoscope would go on to a couple of very interesting collaborations, recording a 45 with Larry Williams and Johnny Guitar Watson, and backing Leonard Cohen on a couple of the songs on his debut LP ‘Songs of Leonard Cohen’. David Lindley went on to a major career as a studio musician and with his own band El Rayo-X.
I hope you dig the tunes and I’ll be back later in the week with something cool.

Peace

Larry

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for stomping soul.

Linda Ronstadt – (She’s a) Very Lovely Woman

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Linda Ronstadt

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Listen -Linda Ronstadt – (She’s A) Very Lovely Woman – MP3

Greetings all.

I’m going to make this short as I’m in the middle of some real world moves that preclude long form composition.
Today’s post is yet another object lesson in the appearance of an artist that you never imagined you’d see on Iron Leg.
If you’ll step into the wayback machine (way back a few weeks) I posted the tune ‘Live’ by the Merry Go Round.
Not too long before that, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to a video of Linda Ronstadt appearing on the old Johnny Cash TV show. The Cash show as legendary for the consistently high quality of its musical guests, not to mention the Man in Black himself.
I’ve always been interested in the early part of Linda Ronstadt’s career including her time in the Stone Poneys and the music she made between leaving that group and having hits on her own.
When I clicked on the link, and the song started playing I was instantly hit with the feeling that I was hearing something familiar in an unfamiliar setting, a feeling that was borne out after about five seconds.
The song in question was a cover (with the gender POV reversed) of the Merry Go Round’s ‘You’re a Very Lovely Woman’. Aside from the Fairport Convention and Bangles covers mentioned in the previous post I had no idea anyone else had ever interpreted Emmit Rhodes’ MGR-era material.
The next – obvious – step was to hit the intertubes so that I might ascertain whether or not Ronstadt’s version of the song had come out on a record.
Indeed it had, as a 1971 45-only release on Capitol records.
I found a copy for the entirely agreeable price of one single US dollar (not including shipping, natch) and made the purchase forthwith.
Good thing too, because even though the single lacks the raw guitar of the live version from the Cash show, it’s still a great interpretation of the song, maintaining the darkness of the original, wrapping it in a slightly fuller arrangement with electric piano and strings.
All in all a nice surprise.
I hope you dig it too, and I’ll be back on Monday with something groovy.

Peace

Larry

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for funked up library music.

The Beau Brummels – One Too Many Mornings

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The Beau Brummels

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Listen -The Beau Brummels – One Too Many Mornings – MP3

Greetings all.

How’s about something lively to get the week off to a banging start?
I have been a Beau Brummels fan for a long time. I always dug their jangly Merseyside via the Golden Gate sound, but they really dug themselves a hole in my brain the first time I watched the spectacularly awful mid-60s exploito film ‘Village of the Giants’. When I say ‘spectacularly awful’, what I mean is that it is in many ways truly spectacular, while simultaneously defining awfulness in a very ordinary way.
How else would you describe a movie that features a wild cast – including Beau Bridges, Ron Howard, Tim Rooney (son of the Mick and star of ‘Riot On Sunset Strip’), Toni Basil, and Disney/Beach Party stalwart Tommy Kirk, as well as Freddy Cannon and none other than the Beau Brummels.
I first saw this movie through a haze of vile, cheap beer at a party that followed a Phantom Five gig out in the wilds of Pennsylvania. I was sucked in by the wild, mid-60s drive-in vibe, but what really got me was when the opening guitar riff of the Beau Brummels’ ‘When It Comes to Your Love’ came shooting out of the TV.
Even in my polluted condition I was all ‘Whoa dad! Where has this song been all my life?’*
When I eventually remembered the song, I tracked it down only to find out that it only ever appeared on the soundtrack to that movie. I eventually got someone to dub me a copy and from that I ran a line from the TV to my tuner and made a rough cassette dub of the song that I played to death until a few years later when it was included on a Rhino ‘Best of’ CD.
This is all – of course – neither here nor there, serving only to let you know that I once dug the Beau Brummels, only to find myself digging them even more at a later date.
That said, the Beau Brummels are a great example of unfulfilled promise, in that they had a boatload of talent but were all but a done deal by the late 60s. This may have had something to do with an ill-advised/ill-timed all-covers album, ‘Beau Brummels ‘66’, recorded after they jumped to Warner Brothers records. The label did not control the group’s publishing, so in 1966, when the rest of the rock world was branching out and experimenting, displaying their artistic growth to the world, the Beau Brummels were covering those songs instead of doing the same.
Today’s selection is proof that they should still have been taken seriously. Itself a cover (of a Bob Dylan tune) ‘One Too Many Mornings’ is a great bit of countrified garage (or is it garagey country) with a stomping fuzz guitar opening up onto waves of jangly rhythm guitars. It’s a harder take on the kinds of sounds the Byrds would soon be working with, and I imagine that had they run with this vibe they might have risen to another level entirely.
Instead, they hobbled into their acknowledged masterpiece with an album that wasn’t heard by nearly enough people, the wonderful ‘Triangle’.
In fact, ‘One Too Many Mornings’ was the last Beau Brummels record to hit the charts, reaching the Top 40 in the Spring of 1966.
If you’re already hep to the Beau Brummels, dig the tune. If you’re not, grab the first two albums, as well as ‘Triangle’ and ‘Bradley’s Barn’ and dig into a truly underrated American band.

Peace

Larry

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*This, and the fact that the band appeared in cartoon form on the Flintstones (as the Beau Brummelstones, natch…)


PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some blue-eyed soul from an unexpected source.

Don and the Goodtimes – I Could Be So Good To You

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Don and the Goodtimes

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Listen -Don & the Goodtimes – I Could Be So Good To You – MP3

Greetings all.

I hope all is groovy in your corner of the universe.
Things are cool hereabouts, with some very cool new vinyl either safely cached in the vault or jetting its way to me as we speak. The new acquisitions include some unusual pop stuff, killer garage punk and a couple of additions to the ongoing Curt Boettcher-related project (which seem to be in a constant state of flux).
The tune I bring you today represents the commercial apex of one of the truly great Pacific Northwest bands of the 60s, Don and the Goodtimes.
Coming together in Portland Oregon, Don and the Goodtimes included in its ranks both Jim ‘Harpo’ Valley (later of Paul Revere & the Raiders) and Jack Ely (the cat who sang ‘Louie Louie’ for the Kingsmen).
Garage heads will be familiar with Don and the Gootimes’ OG version of the PNW garage standard ‘Little Sally Tease’ (written by Valley) on Dunhill*. The group recorded for that label (charting regionally), as well as for Wand and the ‘local’ imprint Jerden.
They were spotted by Dick Clark in 1966 who made them the house band on the TV show Where the Action Is. They were signed to Epic records and recorded the LP ‘So Good’. Today’s selection ‘I Could Be So Good To You’ hit the Top 40 in 1967.
A long way from the PNW/punk roots, ‘I Could Be So Good To You’ is a bright, sunny slice of good time pop with a singalong chorus. The tune was co-written and produced by no less than the mighty Jack Nitzsche.
Don and the Goodtimes would graze the charts one more time in 1967 with ‘Happy and Me’ before breaking up. Some of the members reformed as Touch in 1969. Don Gallucci went on to produce the Stooges ‘Fun House’ LP.
Sundazed has put out an outstanding CD comp of all the early Don and the Goodtimes material, including ‘Little Sally Tease’. Pick it up at Amazon.com.

I hope you dig the tune and I’ll be back on Monday.

Peace

Larry

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**Keep your eyes and ears peeled for a great version of that particular song in the coming weeks.

PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a West Coast funk 45

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