Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Moon - Without Earth & The Moon (1968 - 1969)

Moon was a short-lived, late-'60s psych-pop supergroup, notable for featuring ex-Beach Boy David Marks on lead guitar. Twenty-year-old Marks had already enjoyed quite a career. At 14, circa 1962, he joined the Beach Boys as a rhythm guitarist (the Wilsons were his neighbors in Hawthorne, CA) when Al Jardine left their lineup to attend dental school. Marks appeared on the first four Beach Boys albums and several hit singles, including "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Surfer Girl." When Jardine returned, Marks, just 16, became the leader of Dave & the Marksmen, who had localized hits with "Cruisin'," "I Wanna Cry," and "I Could Make You Mine." Marks then formed the Band Without a Name, who recorded two singles for Tower and Sidewalk and were the house band at two Sunset Strip clubs, circa 1965-1966. After leaving this group, Marks formed Moon with organ/pianist/vocalist Matthew Moore, who penned most of the band's songs. Moore's previous group, Matthew Moore Plus Four, had recorded for GNP Crescendo, and he had also recorded solo material for White Whale and Capitol. The other Moon members were bassist David P. Jackson (ex-Hearts & Flowers, who had two LPs on Capitol in the late '60s) and drummer Larry Brown (ex-Davie Allan & the Arrows and a veteran of countless film soundtracks and those Sidewalk/Tower releases that were produced by Mike Curb). The members of Moon literally moved into Continental Recorders in Hollywood, where they recorded two albums -- 1968's Moon Without Earth and 1969's Moon -- for Imperial. Today, Marks admits these were produced under the influence of LSD, and sound "like a cross between the Bee Gees, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix." The group's membership also included bassist Andy Bennett, with session drummer Jim Keltner occasionally filling in. 

After Moon dissolved, Marks began working as a studio musician with Denny Brooks, Delaney & Bonnie, and others. Marks, Moore, and Jackson later worked together -- alongside members of Colours and the East Side Kids -- on Buzz Clifford's See Your Way Clear album. In August 1997, Marks re-joined the Beach Boys, who were unable to tour due to Carl Wilson's cancer. Marks also joined Mike Love's Beach Boys, but was forced to leave due to his own battle with Hepatitis C. He founded the non-profit Artists Against Hepatitis foundation and became the national spokesman for the Hep C Hope Foundation. More recently, he still finds time to tour with Beach Party!, made up of former members of the Beach Boys' touring band. Moore, meanwhile, joined Joe Cocker's 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour, which was captured on vinyl and film for posterity's sake (Cocker performed Moore's "Space Captain"). Moore then went on to have a successful career as a session vocalist and keyboardist, recorded solo albums, and even had his own label, New Decade. David P. Jackson went on to become the bassist with Dillard & Clark. Larry Brown played with Gunhill Road, Tony Allwine, and was the official voice for Mickey Mouse.

01. "Mothers and fathers" 2:06
02. "Pleasure" 3:20
03. "I should be dreaming" 2:34
04. "Brother Lou's love colony" 3:58
05. "Got to be on my way" 2:01
06. "Someday girl" 2:42
07. "Papers" 1:00
08. "Faces" 2:07
09. "Never mind" 1:51
10. "Give me more" 2:49
11. "She's on my mind" 2:22
12. "Walking around" 1:57

13. "Pirate" 2:55
14. "Lebanon" 1:45
15. "Transporting machine" 1:41
16. "Mary Jane" 2:16
17. "Softly 17" 3:01
18. "Not to know" 2:43
19. "The good side" 2:59
20. "Life is a season" 2:22
21. "John Automaton" 2:18
22. "Come out tonight" 2:48
23. "Mr. Duffy" 2:56

24. "Pirate song" 2:38
25. "Not to know(mono 45 mix)" 2:42
26. "Face in the crowd (Matthew Moore Plus 4)" 2:05
27. "White silk glove (Matthew Moore plus 4)" 2:15
28. "Come on home(Matthew Moore plus4)" 2:59

Moon were a sort of second-tier supergroup in the late 1960s, led by pianist and songwriter Matthew Moore, drummer and producer Larry Brown (late of the Bel-Aires and Davie Allan & the Arrows), and ex-Beach Boy David Marks on guitar, with Andy "Drew" Bennett on bass (Bennett was replaced by the time of the group's second album by David Dawson, formerly of Hearts & Flowers). For all that pedigree, though, Moon received little support from their label, Imperial Records, and the group's two albums, 1968's Without Earth and 1969's Moon, went virtually unheard when they were released. Fans of period pop psychedelia found the albums irresistible, however, and the group has enjoyed a kind of low-key cult status ever since, leading to Rev-Ola's reissue of both albums on one CD, along with a handful of bonus tracks that include a couple of mono 45 mixes and three tracks from Moore's pre-Moon band, Matthew Moore Plus 4. Sounding a bit like a low rent version of the Zombies or the Left Banke, it is easy to see why fans of baroque-'60s pop are so enamored of Moon, but like many bands from the era who fell under the influence of the Beatles, the absence of strong songs and melodies all too often renders the heavily phased and string-laden arrangements forgettable as soon as the next track begins. Not that the group doesn't get close to |pop-psych heaven here with songs like "Someday Girl," the goofy, sitar-laced "Brother Lou's Love Colony," or the ultra-Beatlesque "Give Me More" (all from Without Earth), it's just that the swirl of the arrangements can't hide the fact that none of these songs are particularly front line. The songs from the second album, Moon, fare better, as Brown (both albums were recorded at his Continental Sounds studio) cuts back a bit on the orchestration and Moore simply delivers better material, like the haunting, beautiful "Lebanon" or the intriguing "Life Is a Season," which has Moore singing lines like "comprehension wields the sword that kills the fear" with agile, melodic ease. Also worth mentioning is the reincarnation revenge song "Pirate," which has a plot line so bizarre that it can't help but be memorable. When all is said and done, one wishes Moon had gotten a crack at a third album, since they were clearly inching toward the kind of uniqueness that might have allowed them to rise above their influences.
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