Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Arnold Bean - 1971 - Cosmic Bean

Arnold Bean
Cosmic Bean

01. The Long Stretch Of Blue
02. I've Got The Key
03. Indian Summer
04. Daddy's Got The Clap
05. Really Haven't Got The Time
06. Penny, Dear
07. I Can See Through You
08. Listening To The River
09. Fortune And Fame
10. Captain Marvel
11. Nature Boy

Recorded at Playground Studios, Valparaiso, Florida
Mentioned at the newest releases, page 28, in Billboard 10. Juli 1971

(Track list on covers and on center labels is different in different order)

Obscure rock and roll band based in Georgia in late 1960's/early 1970's; produced one Album "Cosmic Bean" (SSS International vinyl LP, bootlegged on 8-track tape) and appeared onstage with Black Oak Arkansas, Atlanta Rhythm Section, and prog-rockers YES, among others; in later years, re-badged as Michael Guthrie Band (MGB), the core trio of original members toured Europe and appeared at reunions of their older, wiser (HA!) friends and fans.

Athens rock lifers Mike and Herb Guthrie are well known for their decades of dedication to The Michael Guthrie Band. But theirs is a story that stretches back to the ‘60s, back to a band called Arnold Bean. 
When the teenage Guthrie brothers returned to the U.S. in 1966, after living in Germany where their father was stationed in the Army, they were pretty well-seasoned as musicians. The pair had already started their first band overseas, The Illusions, and it wasn’t long before they formed their first band in the States, The Bitter End, in Columbus, GA with friend Gary Burnette. Their father’s acceptance of a civil service job in the Augusta suburb of Grovetown moved the pair briefly, but it was long enough for their new Augusta-area presence to have a significant impact on the band that would become Arnold Bean.
“There was a kid at school that was forever saying, ‘My brother plays in [legendary Southern pop group and Roy Orbison’s backing band] The Candymen, blah blah blah.’ Later, they came to Augusta, and he introduced us!” explains Mike. “They knew we were in a band because we dressed like one—of course we were in awe because The Beatles had opened for them with Roy Orbison and they had just finished a package tour with the Small Faces.
They suggested we get up and play a short set during their break… We did, and ripped through some Jimi [Hendrix]-style feedback jams and made a mark, somewhat.” Fast-forward a year, and The Candymen were booked for a two-week stand at Mr. K’s Klassic Kat, a Saigon-themed club and, as Mike puts it, “sleaze hole Columbus nightspot,” and the Guthries’ band, now known as Arnold Bean (a thumbed-nose response to what Mike calls the then-popular “Bill & the So-and-So” type of band name), convinced the owner of the club to let them play the 15-minute intervals between The Candymen’s sets. He went for it and offered the group $50 a night.
The Candymen remembered Arnold Bean from the previous year and, impressed with their sound, suggested they travel to Valparaiso, FL to play their stuff for Playground Studios owner and known Southern producer Finley Duncan. Duncan thought they had something, and secured a two-LP deal through SSS International Records, a division of Sun Entertainment (i.e., Memphis’ Sun Records) best known for releasing Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.” The label’s staff, who didn’t seem to have much love for Arnold Bean, chose the album title Cosmic Bean instead, and assembled suitably spacey artwork for the band’s 1970 debut without any input from any of the bandmembers. A couple friends of the band managed to push the album steadily to hipper customers at Columbus, GA record shop Dr. Jive’s, but, needless to say, it didn’t catapult the band to fame. They never recorded that second LP (“The label didn’t ‘get’ my new songs,” says Mike), although Cosmic Bean has become something of a collector’s item in the 46 years since its release.
In the beginning, Arnold Bean played school dances, army bases (including a riotousgig that got them banned from Ft. Benning), frat parties, etc., but as the era of outdoor festivals spread across the country and into the South, the band played more events of that type. A favorite venue, though, was the short-lived underground Columbus club The Electric Toadstool. “Arnold Bean was very eclectic. We were counterculture… and it was also the outlet for my first original songs. [That’s] no big deal now, but in 1971 we would show up and play hours of unheard originals,” says Mike. “We were a bit radical and ahead of our time, so trouble often ensued.” When Burnette decided to take a break from the band in 1973, bassist Ritchie McNally took his place, and the group evolved into The Michael Guthrie Band. Although the Guthries and Burnette (Herb on drums, Mike on guitar and Gary on bass) were the sole constants of the group, they also had several keyboard players (John Aiken, Mike Griffin, Tommy Lambert, Brad Robertson, Ed Locke and Todd Christiansen).

Virtually everyone I know that has bought this album has been disappointed with it. This almost entirely due to the misleading packaging. Granted, some might expect this to be a little "hokey", with a name like his, but he obviously doesn't take himself too seriously, even working in a play on his name in the album title. But with a title like "Cosmic Bean", and a cover like this on a 1970 album, most would assume that this has considerable psychedelic potential. To say that that potential is completely unrealized would be an understatement. But the real shame is that so many are disappointed over what this is not (psych), rather than embracing it for what it is (folk/rock). I'll describe it as mostly folk flavored rock, with some country/rock moves, and subtle psych influences. It's got a nice blend of soft and somewhat harder mat'l, and features plenty of 12 string guitar, piano/organ, some limited use of steel guitar, and surprisingly good song writing. 
An excellent example of that old warning "don't judge a book by it's cover". Listen to this with a completely open mind, and you won't be disappointed!