Listen – The Smell of Incense – MP3
I’m taking advantage of a small, precious bit of quiet time this morning to get a song posted.
This post ought to be subtitled, ‘The Groovy Roots of AM Radio Hell’, as the group playing today’s fine selection, the Southwest F.O.B. included in its ranks none other than England Dan (Seals*) and John Ford Coley.
But first – as if you didn’t see this coming – a little background.
I first heard ‘The Smell of Incense’ back in the mid 80’s garage/psych days when I saw a fuzzy, many times duplicated video of the group playing the song on a local Texas dance party show. If memory serves (as the video is long gone) I was struck first not by the song (which I came to love) but by the ultra-mod lime green pant suits that the band was wearing. The day-glo effect provided quite the jarring contrast to the mellow, trippy vibe of the song.
I had never heard of the band before, but started looking for their record immediately. Oddly enough I found a copy of their album long before I grabbed the 45 you see above, which is strange because the song was a minor hit (just outside the Top 50), and the single is actually pretty common.
‘The Smell of Incense’ is actually a cover, with the original version having been recorded a year earlier in 1967 by the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band on Reprise (there was also a cover by a group called the Abstracts). The Southwest F.O.B., which hailed from Dallas recorded their version in 1968, and it was initially released locally on the GPC label). After the record saw some success the group was signed to the Stax subsidiary HIP Records. They went on to record the LP ‘The Smell of Incense’ for HIP – which also included an excellent cover of the Buffalo Springfield’s ‘Rock’n’Roll Woman’.
The Southwest F.O.B.’s version of ‘The Smell of Incense’ – which I prefer to the original – is a slice of late 60’s commercial pop-psyche perfection. It manages to be lightweight and heavy at the same time, teetering on the edge of faux-hippy cheesiness while managing to retain a kind of rough edged (dig the heavy guitars), paisley dreaminess.
It’s the kind of record I have to give multiple plays whenever I dig it out.
I hope you dig it.
The fine folks over at Sundazed Records (by far the best label for this kind of stuff) have done an excellent job with the reissue, including several bonus tracks.
I’ll be back later in the week with a cool ‘joint’ post with Funky16Corners.
*Making a case of 1970’s AM Radio domination, England Dan Seals (who went on to a very successful country music career) is brother to none other than Jim Seals of Seals & Crofts…