Sunday, June 6, 2010

Birmingham Sunday - A Message from Birmingham Sunday (1968)

Good sounding late 60's psychrock from USA.
Feat great organs + a wonderful female voice v/s male voice.

Ward Johns, Debbie Parks, John Kvam,
Jean Heim, Joe LaChewand Phil Gustafson.

Birmingham Sunday группа из Невады , Карсон - сити. Четверо из музыкантов учились в одной школе где и сформировали группу. Группа играла в местных клубах по всей северной Неваде и в Каролине . В 1968 году им удалось заключить контракт с продюсером Strawberry Alarm Clock Билл Холмс и его лейблом All American Record. Винил был издан как пробный , ограниченым тиражом ( 100 экземпляров )

Birmingham Sunday was a late 60's psychedelic/folk/pop band whose members hailed from northern Nevada -- primarily Carson City. The album back cover lists band members as: Ward Johns, Debbie Parke, John Kvam, Jean Heim, Joe LaChew and Phil Gustafson. Four of the band members (WJ, JK, JLa & PG) attended Carson High School during the late 60's and were the raison d'etre for this garage band's formation. Although Monty Johns (Ward's younger brother) does not appear on the back cover photo, he is listed as penning three of the album's 10 songs which clock in at 33:10. Joe LaChew, a 1967 Carson High School graduate, is credited with writing wholly or in part, the remaining seven songs and also takes over most of the male vocal duties.
The band played live in local venues throughout Northern Nevada and California (circa late 60's) and was lucky enough to land a contract in 1968 with Strawberry Alarm Clock's Producer, Bill Holmes, on his All American Records label. The vinyl album was originally released as a limited edition test pressing of just 100 copies. One of the dozen or so surviving copies recently sold on eBay for $1100, making it one of the rarest of all collectors' albums. I have a memory of walking into Mirabelli's Music City in the Park Lane Mall in Reno, NV shortly after the album's release and seeing a stack of these vinyl beauties on display -- now if I only had enough sense and/or money in 1968 to buy a few copies??? Fortunately, the CD version of this rare album was released in a digipak sleeve on the Akarma label (Italy) in 1998.
Although the band played a variety of styles "in the day", its emphasis on their only album was a folk based psychedelic pop sound with strong vocal harmonies, alternating between Joe LaChew's baritone and Debbie Parke's breathtaking high notes. The lyrics are set against a wall of sound utilizing guitars and wind instruments, intermixed with organ and synthesizer music. The overall sound quality is good, but could have been better, perhaps due in part to the irregular quality of the master tapes. The first track, "Egocentrik Solitude", written by Monty Johns is a beautiful introspective ballad that reminds me of a Moody Blues harmony but with a female vocal on the order of a Linda Thompson or better. Tracks 2 (Wondering What to Feel) and 3 (Prevalent Visionaries) are melodic harmonies that also could have jumped out of any of the Moody Blues albums. Track 4 (You're Out of Line) is a pure 60's psychedelic track with LaChew soloing against a screeching lead guitar -- alternately shouting and straining ala Jim Morrison. Track 5 will put you right back into those petulie oil laced black lit rooms, with period 60's lyrics like, "but I think I'll never come down". Track 6 (Mr. Waters) kind of starts off like the Seeds, "Pushing too Hard" and then calms down into an organ dominated vocal. During the song lead in, the fading sound quality is apparent. Track 7 (Fate and the Musician) sounds a lot like track 6 and is pretty much forgettable. Debbie Parke takes over on track 8 (Peter Pan Revisited) and her singing is definitely the high point of this track, but not nearly as good as in Track 1. The lyrics of this song sound ridiculously dated (sorry Joe, but these lyrics don't stand the test of time). "Time to Land" (Track 9) features Joe LaChew taking lead vocal responsibilities once again with background music containg twinges of Ray Manzarek-like organ rifts and Jorma Kaukonen-like guitar work - too bad the lyrics were not a bit more sophisticated, but this was the 60's and the band members were teenagers. Track 10 (Don't Turn Around) winds up the album with a very good cut - kind of soft and bluesy with the wonderful LaChew/Parke vocal interplay that was the strength of this 60's group.

Track List

01 Egocentric solitude 3:20

02 Wondering what to feel 2:36

03 Prevalent visionaries 2:52

04 You're out of line 2:56

05 Medieval journey 2:37

06 Mr. waters 2:53

07 Fate and the magician 1:59

08 Peter pan revisted 2:17

09 Time to land 3:04

10 Don't turn around 2:37

Apparently only ever released as a test pressing, a handful of original copies of A Message From Birmingham Sunday are in existence, making the odd volume fluctuation on the reissues a smaller deal than they might otherwise have been. I don't know anything about the band at all; in fact, all I can tell you about this is that it's fairly typical West Coast harmony pop with male/female vocals, operating at the lighter end of the Jefferson Airplane. Oh, and the Mellotron. Or, given the time, the Chamberlin, which seems far more likely in California in 1968.

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