Friday, October 2, 2015

Sea Train - 1973 - Watch

Sea Train 

01 Pack Of Fools     4:35
02 Freedom Is The Reason     4:12
03 Bloodshot Eyes     2:58
04 We Are Your Children     3:38
05 Abbeville Fair     4:51
06 North Coast     4:23
07 Scratch     3:43
08 Watching The River Flow     3:20
09 Flute Thing     7:49

Bass, Flute, Vocals – Andy Kulberg
Drums – Julio Coronado
Guitar, Bass, Vocals – Peter Walsh
Keyboards, Accordion – Bill Elliott
Keyboards, Clavinet, Vocals – Lloyd Baskin
Vibraphone – Jim Roberts

A two-year gap, and a change of labels should have warned fans that something was afoot.  Yes, two of the big names and attention grabbers are gone - Rowan and Greene - and without these roots-rock anchors in place the band drifts around from track to track.  But seeing as how their sound had become pretty rote, this is not necessarily a bad thing.  Unfortunately, Seatrain became susceptible to mid 70s trends, adding in funky passages, Shaft guitar and the like.  It is like using a matchbook - when you know what you are doing, the results can be good, but there is a great potential for self-destruction.  Things are good at the start - the opening track "Pack of Fools" is Kulberg/Roberts partnership;s swan song, and new guitarist Peter Walsh gets every opportunity to get loose and funky at the end.  The other times Seatrain tries this sort of thing it backfires completely.  It does not help that the two songs that use it (Kulberg and Roberts' "Freedom Is the Reason" and Baskin's "We Are Your Children Too") are crappy attempts at 70s people-affecting anthems.  The former is the more palatable of the two, squatting in a murky rootsy/gospel area and trying to sound contemplative on "freedom," when all they're doing is sounding like your average contemporary James Gang track.  I believe that Kulberg is the one gracing the song with some weak vocals as well.  "We Are Your Children Too" is much, much worse, affording Baskin the opportunity to sound like some long-haired "with-it" pastor singing a contemplative hymn to God, with Kulberg's flute adds a healthy dose of lameness also.  Toss these out, and the band mainly takes on a distinctly Louisiana sound, driven by new keyboardist Bill Elliot.  Baskin's other song, "Bloodshot Eyes" is a fun ragtime romp with traditional Dixieland backing.  The other glimmer of the Kulberg/Roberts team is "North Coast" which has that "Mabel" sound - a party going on (you can hear the voices ask where Richard Greene is, humorously enough), with some of Elliott's barrel-house piano driving the song.  Continuing the Louisiana theme, "Abbeville Fair" was probably designed to be a Greene piece, but without him (orchestration helps fill in the sound) it is just a decent Cajun/folk dance tune.  Otherwise, "Scratch" is yet another anomaly: a simple folk story that might have come from Twice-Told Tales.   Seatrain was clearly searching for a new sound without roots-rock gurus Rowan and Greene, but they never really found it on Watch.  The songwriting appears to have dried up somewhat, precipitating a decent bluesy take on Dylan's "Watching the River Flow."  It may also be why the album's end is occupied up by a long version of Kulberg's old Blues Project spotlight number "Flute Thing."  He may have considered it his trump card, but I doubt many listeners allowed it to be played.  It might have been interesting to hear them pursue the Cajun or ragtime theme, but their breakup isn't unexpected given this album.



    1. Thanks a lot for this review ! Password please ?

  2. None of my files are passworded... something must have gone wrong there...