Thursday, June 8, 2017

The New Apocalypse - 1969 - Stainless Soul

The New Apocalypse
Stainless Soul

01. Stainless Soul 4:07
02. Domicela 2:57
03. Comin' Home Baby 4:09
04. Junk Shop 3:11
05. Wichita Lineman 5:23
06. Watch Your Step 2:47
07. Three Shades Of Gray 3:33
08. Get Outta My Life Woman 3:05
09. Eleanor Rigby 3:54
10. Labyrinth 4:13

Bass – John Garrison
Drums – Dennis Meros
Guitar – Greg Novik
Organ – Christopher Lynch
Saxophone – Gene Meros
Trumpet – Keith Vinroe

Hailing from the Baltimore suburb of Brooklyn Park, The Apocalypse came together in the early-1960s, making a name for themselves playing a mixture of jazz and more rock oriented instrumentals on the mid-Atlantic college and club circuit.  By 1968 the band had gone through a series of personnel changes, musical realignments and a name change - the creatively updated The New Apocalypse  Signed by the small Maryland-based ID label, they made their recording debut with a 1968 jazz-rock single: 
- 'Junkshop' b/w 'Labyrinth' (ID catalog number 2614) 

The single did nothing commercially and the band continued touring.  By the time the band signed with the Decca affiliated MTA Records, the line-up featured bassist John Garrison, keyboardist Christopher Lynch (replaced Mike Meros), drummer Dennis Meros, sax player Gene Meros, guitarist Greg Novik, and trumpet player Keith Vinroe. 

So before going on any further, a quick work of warning - if you don't want to be disappointed, ignore any of those high prices catalog listings that tag this one  as being acid-tinged, or psychedelic.  The most psychedelic thing on 1968's "Stainless Steel" were the negative photos found on the back cover.   Produced by Bob Thompson (George Massenburg engineering), the album featured an all-instrumental set that found the band trying to find a niche for themselves amidst the public's growing indifference to Stax-styled soul; offset by rising interest in Chicago-styled horn rock.   (Okay 'Get Outta' My Life Woman' included a brief vocal segment.)  Judging by these ten instrumental tracks, these guys were clearly a talented band, capable of handling a wide array of genres.  Unfortunately, the absence of vocals put them at a significant disadvantage versus the competition.  Material like title track, '' and '' had a nice Stax-vibe, but by 1969 the collection must have already sounded dated.  That's not meant as a criticism, rather just pointing out one of the reasons the album failed to sell and is now quite hard to find. 

- Judging by the slightly funky title track instrumental, these guys had been listening to more than their share of  Booker T. & the MGs styled southern soul.  If you liked the genre (and I'm a big fan), then the combination of Lynch's organ, Novik's guitar fills (which bore more than a passing resemblance to Steve Cropper's work) and the punchy horns made 'Stainless Steel' a pleasure, though by 1969 this must have already sounded dated.   'Course that didn't stop MTA from tapping the song as the second single.
- 'Domicela' was a bluesy number that gave sax player Gene Meros a brief shot at the spotlight.  A surprisingly enjoyable atmospheric ballad, it was actually one of my favorite performances.   
-  Maybe it was Dennis Meros' Latin-tinged percussion, or Novik's lead guitar, but  'Comin' Home Baby'  has always struck me as having a bit of Santana influence.  I've also always liked the abrupt mid-song shift where the song suddenly lunged off in a much tougher, rock oriented direction.   
- As mentioned above, 'Junkshop' had previously been released as their debut single.  Imagine The Young-Holt Trio with a slightly funkier edge and you'd have a feel for what this one sounded like.  
- It took a couple of seconds for melody to kick in, but once it did, their version of Jimmy Webb's 'Wichita Lineman' was reduced to cocktail jazz status.  That's a shame since the intro section was killer.   Too bad they didn't keep down that track.   You were left to wonder why MTA tapped it as the second single.
- Yeah, I know it was meant to be hip  and I'll readily admit that the opening 20 seconds was great, but 'Watch Your Step' has always sounded like a piece of throwaway music that you might have heard during a commercial break for the Dating Game.
- Putting a jazzy edge on Novik's guitar, 'Three Shades of Gray' was actually a pretty cool number.   Once again, the unexpected shift in direction was quite nifty with Novik turning in his most impressive performance. 
- While it couldn't compete with Allen Toussaint original, or Albert King's classic version, these guys turned in a nice cover of 'Get Outta' My Life Woman'.   Not sure who handled it, but there was even a brief vocal on this one.  
- The first part of their 'Eleanor Rigby' gave it a Young-Holt styled jazz-soul arrangement and then the horns went into full out jazz mode.  It didn't last long and then it was back to the rote cover.   
- The 'B' side to their 1968 single, 'Labyrinth' was also the album's most jazz-rock-ish tune.   Normally something like this wouldn't have done a great deal for me, but the twin tracked sax was actually quite impressive.  Maybe it had something to do with the classical undertones throughout the Song?  

As mentioned, the album spun off two singles: 

- 1970's 'Stainless Steel' b/w 'Last Train To Liverpool' (MTA catalog number 185) 
- 1970's 'Wichita Lineman' b/w Stainless Steel' (MTA catalog number 190) 

For what it's worth, the album's repeatedly been sampled ...  Chuck D, Cypress Hill, and scores of other acts. 

With the album vanishing into cutout bins, the band called it quits in 1971.

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