Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Lemon Pipers - Green Tambourine (1967)







The Lemon Pipers included singer Ivan Browne, guitarist William Bartlett, keyboardist R.G. Nave, bassist Steve Walmsley, and drummer William Albaugh. The group is best known for their number-one bubblegum hit "Green Tambourine" and several followups, all written by the team of Paul Leka and Shelley Pinz. The group actually wanted to play more psychedelic music; they only recorded "Green Tambourine" because their label would have dropped them had they refused. They eventually got the artistic control they wanted and ended up dropping off the charts for good with their first self-produced album. They broke up in 1969, with Bartlett joining Ram Jam.
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Unlike the majority of bubblegum bands, the Lemon Pipers' albums are actually quite good, not least because they were one of the few bubblegum bands who were a proper band with their own songwriters (although outside writer/producers did provide the two hits, the inescapable "Green Tambourine" and the actually even better "Rice Is Nice," a sweet, harp-laden depiction of a wedding day). Even the album tracks are pretty groovy, like the Cat Stevens-like character sketches "Shoeshine Boy" and "The Shoemaker of Leatherwood Square," which effectively use trippy string sections and playful harmonies. The snottier folk-rock of "Ask Me if I Care" and the far-out "Fifty Year Void," to say nothing of the nine-minute freakout "Through With You," give Green Tambourine a harder edge than most bubblegum albums, though it's still closer to, say, the Cyrkle than Cream. Seek it out, bubblegum snobs: you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised.
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