A while back, I included today’s selection on an episode of the Iron Leg Radio Show devoted to Pineywood Productions.
A songwriting/production cooperative formed by Ellie Greenwich and Mike Rashkow in the late 60s, Pineywood made records by a variety of performers, but the main showcase for their work was the trio of 45s by the Definitive Rock Chorale.
An assemblage of NY-based studio musicians and singers, the DRC released their records between 1967 and 1969 for the Philips and Bell labels.
Today’s selection is not only their best work, but in my opinion one of the best and most interesting, highly imaginative 45s of the era.
Released in 1967, ‘Variations…’ uses the Barry/Greenwich composition ‘Hanky Panky’ (most famously done by Tommy James and the Shondells) as its base, then taking off in a wild variety of stylistic direction.
It opens with an orchestral fanfare, moving into a straight pop reading of the song. It then moves on into a baroque interpretation, then – surprisingly – into a fairly faithful boogaloo take on the song (en Espanol, of course). Next up is a Free Design-style choral round, then into a soul shouting take, then into folk-psych, then again (have whiplash yet?) into a brassy, show-bizzy vibe, before disappearing in an echo chamber.
It’s crazy stuff, but not so crazy that it shouldn’t have made a splash on AM radio, which it did not, with the exception of weirdly scattered regional play on the East coast and the Midwest in the Spring of 1968.
The group’s biggest success was with their debut 45, ‘Mirrors of Your Mind’ in the Fall of 1967 (the tune was also recorded by Anthony and the Imperials on their groovy 1967 ‘Reflections’ album).
For a deeper look at Pineywood Productions, dig into Iron Leg Radio Show #84.
I hope you dig the track, and I’ll see you all next week.
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