Ford Theatre made a couple of psychedelic albums for ABC in the late '60s that were average period pieces, but respectable on that modest level. In their use of winding minor-key melodies, hard rock guitar-organ interplay, extended guitar soloing, and earnest, ambitious lyrics, they were similar to other Boston psychedelic bands of the time, but more authentic. They were not one of the bands gathered up and promoted as part of the Bosstown Sound hype, for one thing.
Ford Theatre evolved out of the Boston band the Joyful Noise, and were signed by Bob Thiele of ABC Records after Thiele had been contacted on their behalf by a DJ at Boston's WBZ. Thiele produced Ford Theatre's first album, Trilogy for the Masses, which was centered around two lengthy multi-sectioned pieces, "101 Harrison Street (Who to Belong To)" and "From a Back Door Window (The Search)." Their second and final album, Time Changes, was constructed around more conventionally-timed pieces, and was an early production by Bill Szymczyk, who went on to produce the Eagles. Ford Theatre guitarist Harry Palmer is the uncle of underground cult musician R. Stevie Moore.
Ford Theatre - Time Changes (1969)
TIME CHANGES, is the story of a young man named
Clifford Smothergill (known to his friends as Clifford) and his
search for meaning and significance in life. This musical tale is
based on the life of a very real person, whose true identity is
a matter for very careful consideration, significant as it is.
01. INTRODUCTION (1:00) Being as it is, an introduction.
02. TIME CHANGES (3:09) and so it does. The Chorus (consisting of our main character) discusses our theme.
03. INTERLUDE ONE (1:14) Enter Puck, wandering minstrel, who will introduce the characters in our play, and reappear from time to time to tie together the loose ends of our plot.
04. THAT'S MY GIRL (2:12) a significant scene, wherein, we find Clifford in the midst of his first meaningful love affair.
05. WAKE UP IN THE MORNING (3:08) And upon doing so, Clifford finds himsef a victim of man's eternal adversaries––doubt and insecurity. In short, Clifford panics.06. I'VE GOT THE FEVER (5:17) Finding his doubt and insecurity to be justified as the result of Mary Jane's leaving him in his hour of need, our hero sinks into the lowest depths of despair and experiences frantic moments that severely shake his faith in humanity.
07. CRASH (1:06) Which he did.
08. AT THE STATION (3:51) The possibility of finding some meaningful answers at home occurs to Clifford which prompts him to leave New York and return to Philadelphia.
End of Act I
09. BACK TO PHILADELPHIA (3:58) Bringing it all back home proves to be a futile attempt at solving his problems, and so poor Clifford is left with the realization that his search for meaning must go on.
10. CLIFFORD'S DILEMMA (1:58) A choice must be made, and Clifford considers the two possibilities––a return to New York and to Mary Jane or an aimless wandering.
11. JEFFERSON AIRPLANE (2:59) Our hero decides to wander aimlessly for a while, and in doing so he loses touch with most of the world around him. Clifford Smothergill experiences a journey that few minds can endure. (ed. note––Heavens to Mergatroid!)
12. I FEEL UNCERTAIN (2:26) Who can survive too long a journey such as this?!!? Our hero can take it only so long, and eventually he decides to return to Mary Jane and to resume the love affair. Mary Jane receives him gladly (after having gone through some pretty heavy changes herself), and now Clifford is left once again with haunting feelings of insecurity.
13. INTERLUDE TWO (1:18) Re-enter Puck, who will now enlighten us somewhat concerning a few of the more subtle aspects of our plot.
14. GOOD THING (2:17) Oh, glorious day for Clifford!! Finally, he is convinced that he has found meaning and significance in life. Let us only hope that herein lies the end to our noble hero's desperate search.
15. OUTRODUCTION (1:13) Wherein Puck sums up our story in a most lucid fashion, bringing to mind the philosophical significance of all that has transpired.
Ford Theatre's second and final album is more subdued and song-oriented than their debut. There's still a downbeat tone to the tunes, but they're more reflective and wistful, and less filled with psychedelic angst. The assaultive organ of the debut is definitely toned down. There's still a San Francisco influence in the squiggly tones of the guitar and the minor-shaded harmonies and melodies, particularly on -- what a surprise -- "Jefferson Airplane," the track with the best balance between the pop harmonies and into-the-abyss guitar-organ breaks. Some strings push the record more toward pop, but not to its disadvantage. The words often take the sentiments of someone growing older and more disillusioned with passing time; "I Feel Uncertain" is pretty reminiscent of Tim Hardin's early compositions. "Good Thing," by contrast, could have almost fit on an early Youngbloods album with its buoyant optimism. Oddly, one of the songs from their first album, "Back to Philadelphia," is reprised in a different version. The insertion of several brief instrumental interludes, in common with quite a few other records of the era, give rise to conceptual pretensions which really aren't supported by the album's proper songs, though they have their uses in maintaining the period mood of the record.