Monday, September 19, 2016

The Glass Prism - 1970 - On Joy And Sorrow

The Glass Prism 
On Joy And Sorrow

01. She's Too Much (Lay Your Body Down)
02. Extention 68
03. What Can We Do
04. Who Loves Me
05. Nothin's Wrong Song
06. Maggie Don't You Hear Me
07. She (On Joy And Sorrow)
08. I Want To Play
09. Here You Are
10. Renee
11. I Laugh

Tom Varano - Guitar, Piano, Vocals
Carl Syracuse - Guitar, Organ, Vocals
Rick Richards - Drums, Vocals
Augie Christiano - Bass, Vocals

Glass Prism's first album, 1969's Poe Through the Glass Prism, was one of the most unusual early concept albums of the psychedelic era. Despite some initial encouraging promotional push from RCA however, it and a single drawn from the LP, The Raven TEl Dorado," didn't make the national impact for which the band and their management had hoped.

Glass Prism did get to put out another album on RCA, On Joy and Sorrow, but not under ideal circumstances, the group's momentum having been curtailed by business complications. Explains Glass Prism guitarist Tom Varano, 'We're pretty sure (our managers) Mort Lewis and Gene Weiss made a deal with RCA that when they released the album, if RCA would do everything possible, they would do everything possible on their end. Which means, they were gonna put us on tour with Blood, Sweat & Tears. That was gonna be a major tour."

The tour was canceled, however, "and as soon as that broke off, RCA shut down their promotional campaign. It killed the whole thing. Because we were gonna be punished, along with Mort Lewis, for losing what was gonna help RCA to sell more records." Complicating the situation was Lewis's withdrawal from the music business, which to some degree is a mystery that's persisted to this day "He managed Dave Brubeck, the Four Freshmen, Simon & Garfunkel and Blood, Sweat & Tears, and we were his fifth act," says Varano. 'That was it. I met Paul Simon at his office, and Paul had listened to our stuff.

I remember Paul saying, 'Hey, why don't you guys write your own words?'" he laughs, Poe Through the Glass Prism having been devoted to the band's adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe works to music. The following year Simon, continues Varano, "married Mori's wife. I'm pretty sure Mort probably had a breakdown. He never, ever again managed anybody. He went down to Florida. I could never reach him again by phone, ever. Gene Weiss went down to Florida, and could not get in touch with him; he was out on his yacht and wouldn't come in. And he never spoke to Gene Weiss again, according to Gene's wife, in all those years." In the meantime, however, "we were still performing.

We still had to make a living, but it was really somewhat depressing because of what happened. We were still trying to communicate '••.in Lewis; It wasn't happening. I didn't know whether something was gonna still happen, whether we were gonna end up still having another shot. Gene called up one day and said, 'Oh, your record contract calls for a second album.' I said, 'Well, are we supposed to do something?1 He said, 'Yeah, you're supposed to record it. And you got eleven days to get ready.'" Taken aback, the band would have to get enough original material together almost on the fly. 'We were writing just a little bit, a few songs," notes Tom. 'We weren t doing any more Edgar Allan Poe stuff.

That whole thing became depressing to us. We would still play 'The Raven' and maybe a couple of songs, 'cause people would ask for them. But we were sick and tired of it. Because of the way things worked out, it wasn't of interest. We were just playing copy music, and there were just a couple of original songs." Nonetheless, "Gene said, 'You have to record an album.' I said, 'We don't even have an album. We don't have songs.' So I went home and just wrote a bunch of songs, and we got together in rehearsals. Augie wrote a couple songs, and we just worked those out within a few days.

When we got to the studio, we weren't ready; we didn't even have enough songs. We had to pull some stuff together in the studio. So you're hearing songs that were all written within a few days for the most part. There may have been one or two songs written on that album that were written before, but not many. We practiced for a few days, and went into the studio and recorded the songs. I don't even remember being in there for the mix." With RCA's diminishing interest in the band, giving Glass Prism more time to prepare and record their second LP did not seem to be a priority, "'cause we didn't have any notice.

I just figured they could care less about the contract, 'cause they shut everything down. They stopped all the ads, they stopped doing everything. We had a great distribution situation; the first album went everywhere, that's why there were so many of those albums around. The second album, it was just part of their contract" - which likely accounts in part for why original copies of On Joy and Sorrow are so much more difficult to find than original copies of Poe Through the Glass Prism. Like Poe Through the Glass Prism, On Joy and Sorrow was recorded in just three days, though this time Glass Prism would use RCA's Studio A in New York, rather than guitar legend Les Paul's studio in Nyack.

One day, Varano reveals, "Pat Boone was upstairs. He had a priest with him that would pray before he would go and record. He ended up leaving early that day, because he just couldn't get it right or something."
Yet despite not being hatched under optimum conditions, On Joy and Sorrow did showcase the distinctive elements of Glass Prism's sound that had been introduced on the musical arrangements of their Poe adaptations. There was bassist Augie Christiano's husky soul-rock singing, balanced by songs on which drummer Rick Richards took lead vocals; B3 organ in the spirit of bands like the Spencer Davis Group (whose "I'm a Man" the band covered onstage), Procol Harum, and Vanilla Fudge; and Varano's versatile lead guitar, equally accomplished at fuzzy hard rock riffs and deft jazz-influenced picking.

Most of the material was written by Tom, with Augie contributing "Maggie Don't You Hear Me" and "Renee," and organist/guitarist Carl Siracuse coming up with "I Laugh." "There are little pieces of each song, I guess, that were kind of interesting, but it never got developed," reflects Tom. "She (On Joy and Sorrow)' and 'She's Too Much' had the theme of the album, and we tried to write songs kind of around that, so we would keep within some kind of a focus. 'Cause we thought we were supposed to; that's what the first album was. I kind of like the song 'She (On Joy and Sorrow)' that Rick sings; the way the harmonies come in, it's a little different, it has some unusual chords in it. 'She's Too Much was going to be a single.

It was kind of like a John Kay and Steppenwolf thing. But again, listening to it, it's like that really needed work to get it where it needed to be." Still, he adds, "I kind of like some of the ideas. 'Maggie Don t You Hear Me' is neat, kind of a rhythm and bluesy thing. The song that a lot of people like, which has two chords in it,'I Laugh,'was written in the studio. It was just, 'Let's fill the album.' It was also kind of a bluesy thing." The jazzy lick that kicks off "Here You Are," he says, has been sampled, as has the wah-wah guitar from Poe Through the Glass Prism's "Dream Within a Dream," and guitar from the same LP's "Hymn."

As for Christiano's two songs named after girls, Varano confirms that both "Renee" and "Maggie Don't You Hear Me" are about real people. That was the Edgar Allan Poe thing, when you write about a girl, but you change her name," he explains. "Maggie"s about one of his girlfriends." Released by RCA with minimal promotion and no accompanying 45, On Joy and Sorrow would be Glass Prism's final record for the label. In retrospect, Varano muses, "we probably should have been sticking with the Edgar Allan Poe thing. We should have been going further with it, and that's what they should have been telling us to do. Because if it was working, why would you want to change it? I know Augie, that's all he ever wanted to do - just do more and more of it, as much as possible.

He thought the second album should have been the same way. But we weren't prepared for that. Even though there were more songs [based on Poe's work] that I had written, I hadn't brought them to the group. When it was time to do the second album, nobody said, 'Do some more.' They just said, 'Come and do an album, do what you have.' All we had was a couple of songs that we were playing live - I think 'She's Too Much' was one of them - that were not even really related." But while Glass Prism's association with RCA had ended, the band continued, if not always under the Glass Prism name.

Playing not just in the northeast Pennsylvanian region that was their base, but also New York, New Jersey, and Ohio, they shared bills over the course of their career with Procol Harum, Vanilla Fudge, Three Dog Night, and Guess Who. In 1971, with Carl Siracuse departing and Louie Cossa joining on bass and keyboards, they evolved into Shenandoah. The self-titled album they recorded was, in Varano's view, "a better album than the first two. We wrote all the songs; we actually figured out how to write our own words." But "it never got released. The guy who was producing, Seth Greenkey, could not get a deal. Almost had a couple deals that never happened." Two years later, in 1976, "we quit." In October 2007, however, this lineup reunited as Glass Prism to play a concert in Philadelphia at the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, naturally featuring material from Poe Through the Glass Prism.

A reunion concert at the Scranton Cultural Center on June 7, 2008 was filmed and used for a recent 55-minute documentary on the band. On Joy and Sorrow: The Glass Prism Story. They're now working on a new studio album {details on their website, that will combine new material, a medley of classic rock tunes, and re-recordings of songs from Poe Through the Glass Prism. "Five of those songs are gonna be on the new album, and they're gonna be different," says Varano. "You're still gonna have the song, but you're gonna have some things that have happened.

Like we've created an introduction to The Raven' that's a piece within itself. It's just a piano and bass; it's like a mood, it brings the song in, and the song itself is much more powerful. You can't change it that much, but we did. We changed it just enough." In addition, "we have a song on the new album that is about Edgar Allan Poe, as opposed to using his words." Summarizes Tom Varano when looking back at Glass Prism's RCA albums, "I think if you listen to the two albums, they're from a long time ago, written by young guys writing their first songs. They're simple. We would have progressed.

We just did what we did, 'cause that's what we liked to do. We didn't really think that we could have done it any different at the time, although listening to it 40 years later, you say, 'oh wow, what about this, what about that, and where are the strings,' you know? You think of all these other different things. But that was the true band in 1969. "Really, it was the Poe stuff that caused the attention. Those songs were being developed based on the theme of the music. 'Can I capture what this guy's trying to say here?' As a musician, I like the fact that something doesn't sound like something else. And something happens maybe by itself."
by Richie Unterberger
(Taken from Rockasteria)

The Glass Prism - 1969 - Poe Through The Glass Prism

The Glass Prism 
Poe Through The Glass Prism

01. The Raven - 4:00
02. To -. - 2:29
03. To One In Paradise - 2:44
04. Eldorado - 2:08
05. The Conqueror Worm - 3:46
06. A Dream Within A Dream - 2:41
07. The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour - 2:58
08. Alone - 2:48
09. Beloved - 2:20
10. Hymn - 2:21
11. A Dream - 2:27

Tom Varano - Guitar, Piano, Vocals
Carl Syracuse - Guitar, Organ, Vocals
Rick Richards - Drums
Augie Christiano - Bass

They began in the early 60's as the El Caminos and spent most of the decade playing gigs around the northeast USA and were popular enough to record a few songs at the Bell Sound Studios in New York.  They were eventually signed to RCA and decided to change their name to The Glass Prism to better suit the concept of the Poe orientated music they were writing.

Taking the words of some of Poe’s poems, Varano and Christiano moulded sounds which could only have been created in the 60's and in America – that ended up as a very distinct piece of work.  Dominated by the organ sound of Carl Syracuse the songs are littered with piano, drums, electric guitar and bass.

The album begins with a majestic organ and piano led version of “The Raven“.  Not all the stanzas are used but the song encapsulates the brooding nature of the poem.  This was the single from the album and it’s epic nature makes it one of the stand-out tracks on the album.

The second track is a cheesey-funky version of the poem “To -” which has a great drum intro that trips into stabbing organ chords.  It is quite impressive to hear how the band managed to fit the music to the words in a way that it doesn’t sound at all awkward.  The lines are sung effortlessly with the arrangement, to such an extent that it is sometimes difficult after hearing the album to read the poems without singing the melody from the songs.

“To One In Paradise” has a dreamy quality, using a range of vocals and at one point a spoken word verse.  It ends with a classic 60's organ sound. Another dreamy mood is evident in “Dream Within A Dream” which opens with a soft and slow tremolo effect on the electric guitar supported by a simple rhythm on the drums (Rick Richards) before the downbeat vocals and chiming organ enter the song.  Where “To One in Paradise” was more up tempo and playful in its dreamy arrangement “A Dream Within A Dream” is far more soporific and mournful in its delivery.  “Take this kiss upon the brow, and in parting from you now…” – 0f all the poems used this is probably the one I sing most readily when reading the original text.

With “Eldorado” we’re back to cheesey-funk and like many of the songs on this album it consists of a few chords repeated on the organ, which effectively makes the music pulsate, the other instruments and vocals providing interesting details.  This song was used as the b-side to “The Raven” but it could have been an A-side because it really grooves – you could almost imagine it on a 60's TV pop show with a load of dancing-girls in brightly coloured mini-dresses.

Another standout track is provided by another standout poem – “The Conqueror Worm“.  Like “The Raven” it has a similarly repetitive but majestic organ and piano lead line which weaves throughout the song, but as always (and as it should be) it is the words, sung with real emphasis, which holds the piece together.

“The Happiest Day The Happiest Hour” is the closest we get to a classic 60's freak-out.  A splurge from the guitar leads to a frenetic drum break propelling the songs to its conclusion, interspersed with short, slightly less manic moments, where the vocals come to the fore.  The following track, “Alone”, is similarly crazed – a piano and fuzzed lead guitar slowly emerge from the silence, emerging with dueling vocals and a crazed fuzzed bass line.  The quieter moments are like pools of calm sprinkled with twinkling piano and subtle organ.

“Beloved” is guitar led and quite poppy.  It has an interesting arrangement and a great lead guitar break in the middle of the song, sounding not to dissimilar to a forgotten early track by Arthur Lee of Love.

The music on this album cannot escape the gloom inherent in Poe’s words and even the more pop-like or uptempo tracks remain plaintive.  The vocals on “Hymn” glide over the organ which uses the smooth and percussive effects, becoming a little jazzy to the end when the guitar comes in for support.

The album ends with “A Dream” – an up-tempo workout between the guitar, bass and drums, complete with chiming cow-bell.  It has the feel of a hit single but Poe scuppers any chance of it catching on with the opening line:- “In visions of the dark night, I have dreamed of joy departed”.
by Prince Cavallo

Peppermint Rainbow - 1969 - Will You Be Staying After Sunday

Peppermint Rainbow 
Will You Be Staying After Sunday

01. Will You Be Staying After Sunday
02. Pink Lemonade
03. And I'll Be There
04. Run Like The Devil
05. Jamais
06. Don't Wake Me Up In The Morning, Michael
07. Walking In Different Circles
08. Sierra (Chasin' My Dream)
09. Green Tambourine
10. Rosemary
11. I Found Out I Was A Woman

Bonus Single versions
12. Pink Lemonade
13. Walking In Different Circles
14. Will You Be Staying After Sunday
15. And I'll Be There
16. Rosemary
17. Don't Wake Me Up In The Morning, Michael
18. You're The Sound Of Love
19. Jamais
20. Good Morning Means Goodbye
21. Don't Love Me Unless It's Forever

*Pat Lamdin - Vocals
*Bonnie Lamdin - Vocals
*Skip Harris - Bass
*Doug Lewis - Guitar
*Tony Carey - Drums

Baltimore's the Peppermint Rainbow got their big break when Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas caught their act at a club in Georgetown, VA, and was impressed enough to help them land a record contract and a management deal. The happy irony is that on their first and only album, Will You Be Staying After Sunday, the Peppermint Rainbow sound much less like the Mamas & the Papas than their rivals on the charts Spanky and Our Gang, right down to their fondness for songs about the first day of the week, and singer Bonnie Lamdin was a dead ringer for Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane.

Paul Leka, the producer responsible for the Lemon Pipers' "Green Tambourine," was the man behind the controls for the Peppermint Rainbow's recordings, and his talent for top-shelf sunshine pop with just a hint of psychedelia is very much in evidence here; the group's two hit singles, "Will You Be Staying After Sunday" and "Don't Wake Me Up in the Morning, Michael," boast splendid harmonies and rich, dynamic arrangements that buoy the arrangements with strings, horns, and well-punctuated drumming. Those two songs are the best things on the album, but the rest of the tracks are more than just filler (except for a curious cover of "Green Tambourine" in which Leka appears to have recycled the backing track from the Lemon Pipers' original version).

"Pink Lemonade" was the group's first single and should have enjoyed the same success as its siblings, the French-accented "Jamais" has a string arrangement the Left Banke would have been proud of, "Rosemary" features a curious "Asian"-flavored arrangement that melds well with the harmonies, and "Sierra (Chasin' My Dream)" is a welcome detour into folk-rock. Will You Be Staying After Sunday is a pleasant surprise, a solid and thoroughly enjoyable album from an all but forgotten band, and it suggests the Peppermint Rainbow might have had a few more hits in them if they'd lasted long enough to cut a second LP.
by Mark Deming

Incredible Bongo Band - 1974 - The Return Of The Incredible Bongo Band

Incredible Bongo Band 
The Return Of The Incredible Bongo Band

01. Kiburi 2:15
02. When The Bed Breaks Down, I'll Meet You In The Spring 2:29
03. Sing, Sing, Sing 4:09
04. Pipeline 3:45
05. Wipeout 4:25
06. Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley, Your Tie's Caught In Your Zipper 2:39
07. Slightly Reminiscent Of Topsy (Part 1,2 & 3)
08. Sharp Nine 3:11
09. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction 3:56
10. Got The Sun In The Morning And The Daughter At Night 1:56
11. Ohkey Dokey 2:45

King Errisson
Harvey Mason
Hal Blane
Jim Gordon
Ringo Starr
Mike Melovin

Liner notes from back cover:

The Incredible Bongo Band is a blend of many multi-talented people. All of the musicians who contributed to the making of this album cannot be listed because of their contractual ties to other labels.
The making of the album in Vancouver served as a retreat for a group of weary super and superstar musicians who combined with many of Canada's finest on this album.
A few of the featured musicians include:
Jim Gordon; Ringo Starr has said, ''Jim is one of the three finest drummers in the world'', (the other two are probably Jim Keltner and Ringo). he has been a member of ''Traffic'' and ''Derek and the Dominoes'' and a regular part of such supergroups as ''Bread''. Jim composed ''Layla'', and contributed to many smash hits.
King Errisson is probably the best percussionist in the world. His bongo and conga playing has contributed to the success of literaly hundreds of hit records, including all the Jackson Five hits, and, in fact, the majority of Motown chart winners over the past seven years. King has toured with Diana Ross and he is truly one of the most colorful musicians in the world today.
Steve Douglas is an immigrated Canadian citizen who loves Canada and doesn't miss the L.A. rat race at all. He is one of the most talented horn men in the world. Steve's experiments with electronic horns, flutes, etc. are truly unequalled. As a producer, Steve is one of the most respected in the states, having chalked up gold records with ''The Lettermen'' and other groups.
Perry Botkin Jr. is a multi-talented triple threat. Perry is a writer, musician and producer of the highest order, who recently received and Academy Award nomination for ''Bless the Beasts and the Children'' (he lost to Isaac Hayes ''Shaft''). He started as a member of ''Cheers'' (black denim trousers and motorcycle boots) and is responsible for dozens of hits for such groups as ''The Lettermen'', ''Vanity Fair'' and Ed Ames'. He has written and worked with such superstars as Harry Nilsson.
Michael Viner formed ''The Incredible Bongo Band'' to be a musical forum for himself and his friends to work with people who like working with one another.Their objective is to try musical ideas, while having fun at the same time. ''The Bongo Band'' has picked up ideas from a multitude of friends ranging from Harry Nilsson to Ringo Starr. Mike Deasy, who played with Elvis Presley for many years, made a large contribution to this album. There are plans to record part of the next album in England with the London Symphony Orchestra. ''The Incredible Bongo Band's'' first single, ''Bongo Rock'' is close to two million sales worldwide and is still one of the most popular discotheque records in the world.
This new album is filled with sounds and new directions.
We hope you like it!

Re-released for the first time since 1974, this is the sequel to the classic 1973 ‘Bongo Rock’, which became a foundation of rap and popular music, up to the present day. This LP has been sampled by Bentley Rhythm Ace, Fatboy Slim, Macy Gray, Group Home and Koushik. Reproduced on heavyweight 180g vinyl and in top-quality Japanese sleeves.

The Incredible Bongo Band is a blend of many multi-talented people. Jim Gordon is one of the featured musicians. Ringo Starr has said "Jim is one of the finest drummers in the world". Gordon composed 'Layla' in association with Eric Clapton.

King Errisson is one of the best percussionists in the world, having contributed to the Jackson Five and most other Motown hits as well as touring with Diana Ross.

Perry Botkin Jr. is a writer, musician and producer of the highest order who received an Academy Award nomination for "Bless the Beasts and the Children" and produced groups such as as The Letterman, Vanity Fair and Ed Ames.

Micheal Viner formed The Incredible Bongo Band to be a musical forum for himself and his friends. The Bongo Band has picked up ideas from a multitude of greats ranging from Harry Nilsson to Rongo Starr and Mike Deasy, who played with Elvis Presley for many years, made a large contribution to this album.

Michael Viner's Incredible Bongo Band - 1973 - Bongo Rock

Michael Viner's Incredible Bongo Band
Bongo Rock

01. Let There Be Drums 2:38
02. Apache 4:54
03. Bongolia 2:14
04. Last Bongo In Belgium 6:55
05. Dueling Bongos 2:56
06. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida 7:42
07. Raunchy '73 3:23
08. Bongo Rock '73 2:35

There's a fun story behind this album, retold in detail in the liner notes. In 1972, Michael Viner was an executive at MGM Records. Asked to put together some music for the soundtrack of an upcoming B-movie horror film, The Thing with Two Heads, he called on songwriter Perry Botkin, Jr., and the two of them whipped up a pair of songs called "Bongo Rock" and "Bongolia." By the middle of 1973, the songs, attributed to the Incredible Bongo Band, began to take off, both in Canada and on the U.S. R&B and pop charts, so Viner and Botkin took the concept to the next obvious level and cut an album, also titled Bongo Rock. Successful enough to scrape into the bottom of the Billboard album chart, the pair put together The Return of the Incredible Bongo Band in 1974 before fizzling out. There are some other pertinent details worth knowing, for example, that Jim Gordon, of Derek & the Dominos fame, was one of the key drummers on the project, and that Ringo Starr supposedly stopped in to bang out a few beats. But some of the best stuff happened long after the demise of the IBB, when early hip-hop DJs such as Kool DJ Herc and Grandmaster Flash, and then the Sugarhill Gang, Massive Attack and others, discovered the Incredible Bongo Band's recordings and began using samples from them. What started as a tossed-off filler session for a crummy flick took on a life of its own.
Bongos aren't the only sound heard, naturally, and fans of both lounge-rock and that crisp, reverby guitar sound prominent in old spy movies and Ventures records will dig what the IBB were all about. Their version of "Apache," the classic '60s instrumental made famous by the Shadows, is the equal of any other, and while that can't be said of their takes on "Satisfaction," "Raunchy," "Wipeout" or even "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," these studio musicians -- most of whom the creators of the IBB don't recall but which may or may not have included some heavyweights -- sure had a good time stepping out on their nights off.