Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Boston Tea Party – The Boston Tea Party (1968)

The Boston Tea Party :
 Travis Fields (lead singer),
Mike Stevens (lead guitarist),
Richard DePerna (bass),
 Robert DePerna (keyboards),
Dave Novogroski (drums).

The group’s name led people to believe they were tied into the Bosstown Sound movement, but were actually from Burbank California, having formed in 1963.
The album is made up of all original material and is pretty decent west coast pop psych.

This album, released in 1968 on the Flick Disc label, constitutes most of The Boston Tea Party’s recorded output, apart from a few singles. The cover suggests a psychedelic (or at least colorful) affair, but the record, production- and instrumentation-wise, is more straightforward garage pop, with a strong organ presence and murky presentation. Songwriting-wise, though, it’s less straightforward–for a band’s debut album of completely original material, The Boston Tea Party seem to have definitely found their voice or whatever, and only a few tracks later on fall into typical low-production rock fare.

Opener “I’m Tellin’ You” is like a presentation of the band’s manifesto–”We’d like to tell you, you’d better listen, we’ve got that somethin’ that you’ve been missin’”–which is kind of goofy and bland, but the tune is good and it features a cool call-and-response coda and what is probably one of my favorite guitar solos of all time. “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, “Fantasy”, “Free Service” and “Please Be Glad” are the band at their best, at times calling to mind a carparkier Mothers of Invention (particularly on “Fantasy”), but largely defying ready comparison (or at least comparison that would diminish it). “I Found a Way” is the anomaly of the record, an upbeat toe-tapper, as close to breezy as the muddy production would allow. It’s great, though; Mike Stevens (guitarist, songwriter) had a gift for chord progressions, and the rhythm section keeps it particularly lively. “We Have Already Died” is the most psychedelic track, owing to some feedback and studio trickery; the melody and lyrics are great, and the track would be right at home on a Nuggets comp.

A couple of the b-side tracks are forgettable, mainly the straightforward rocker “Just Pretend You’re Sherry” and the six and a half-minute jam “The Time Being”, but by and large this is a great record. The dominant opinion about this one, though, seems to be that it doesn’t really merit having an opinion about, which stance I don’t understand at all and recommend ignoring. The popsike/Ebay Stores value for this one is pretty inflated–if you keep an eye out for Ebay auctions you can probably pick it up for less than $20. Their film appearance (mentioned below) would be in 1969′s The Cycle Savages (“The leader of a biker gang takes exception to an artist sketching them, so he makes plans to crush the artist’s hands”).

Sleeve notes:
 “A new historical fact has come to light which is destined to shake up teachers of history, writers of textbooks and unshakeable New England traditionalists: The Boston Tea Party didn’t take place in Boston in 1775. At least not in the musical sense.

The Boston Tea Party actually happened in beautiful, downtown Burbank, where five young guys got together in 1963 to strike out for their own brand of musical independence. Truly revolutionary in spirit, the group is unique in that it has no “leader”. Each of the members, all accomplished musicians, contributes his share of musical ideas. The result of this communal effort is an infinite variety of messages with more precise musicianship, more exciting performances, than might have happened under the tutelage of a single driving force. Richard DePerna, bass guitarist and arranger, insists that the group’s in-person sound be as excellent as their recorded performances. Mike Stevens, lead guitarist, writes much of the material which is original, topical and abundant in richly poetic imagery. Organist Robert DePerna and Drummer Dave Novogroski are the men responsible for holding together The Boston Tea Party’s tight ensemble sound. Travis Fields, lead singer–who also writes material for the group–has that rare gift of addressing the listener in a very personal way. He cares. As does every member of the group.

Visually, The Boston Tea Party is a knock-out (you’ll see them in a forthcoming American-International film) in costumes of the 1775 era. But there the gimmicks end. After all is said and done, it’s the music–a pure, unique, accomplished sound–of The Boston Tea Party that’s going to make history.”

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