The Cryan' Shames actually were a big deal in Chicago in the mid- and late '60s, when a bunch of their singles hit the local Top Ten; some of them were small national hits as well. The biggest of these was "Sugar and Spice," a cover of a Searchers song that made the Top 50 in 1966 and was later featured in Lenny Kaye's renowned Nuggets anthology of '60s garage bands. In their original incarnation, the Shames leaned toward the pop end of garage. Borrowing heavily from the Beatles, the Byrds, and the Yardbirds, guitarist James Fairs wrote a clutch of energetic guitar pop/rockers with sparkling harmonies. After 1966, the group pursued an increasingly mainstream pop direction featuring saccharine ... Read More...
1 Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David Smith & Jones Fairs, Guillory 2 Baltimore Oriole Carmichael, Webster 3 It's All Right Bryan, Carter, Holder 4 Your Love Kerley 5 A Master's Fool Guillory 6 First Train to California Fairs 7 The Painter Guillory 8 Sweet Girl of Mine Kerley 9 20th Song Kerley 10 Let's Get Together Valente 11 Symphony of the Wind Guillory
by Richie Unterberger
Synthesis is an apt name for an album that, like its predecessor, A Scratch in the Sky, proved the Cryan' Shames to be among the most versatile mainstream pop/rock groups of the late '60s. Versatile does not mean great, though, or especially interesting, and can also mean an absence of a solid identity. This record is more eclectic than it is exciting, though the material is well arranged and the group were accomplished harmony singers in particular. On "Greenburg, Glickstein, Charles, David Smith & Jones" they get heavy; with the cover of Hoagy Carmichael's "Baltimore Oriole," they get jazz/folk-rock progressive; on "It's All Right," it's jaunty country-rock; on "First Train to California," there's an almost-self-conscious straining for an MOR AM radio hit. The segueing together of tracks and occasional insertion of spacy instrumental and production flourishes indicate that they wanted to leave the impression of making a progressive statement. But it sounds for the most part like 1960s AM radio filler trying to get hipper with a touch of the far-out, the problem being that 1960s AM radio filler intrinsically cannot get too hip or far out. The 2002 Sundazed CD reissue of this odd mix of sunshine pop and mild pop-psychedelia adds eight bonus tracks. No less than six of them are single versions of tracks from the LP; the other two present both sides of their 1969 single, "Bits and Pieces"/"Rainmaker," which matched a country-rock original with a Harry Nilsson cover.