domenica, gennaio 30, 2011

Edison Electric Band - Bless You, Dr. Woodward (1970 us hard prog)

Edison Electric Band - Bless You, Dr. Woodward

For a city renown for it's soul music scene, I'm always amazed at the number of good, but largely unknown 1960s and 1970s era bands that popped up out of Philadelphia. Add The Edison Electric Band to the list. It also happens that when I started collecting LPs back in the early 1980s, this was one of my first purchases - $1.00 at a local yard sale.
Bassist Dan Friedman and singer/drummer David Stock met in 1966 when they were attending The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Interested in forming a rock band they quickly recruited fellow students keyboardist Mark Jordan and lead guitarist Mark Ziegler. As The Thomas A. Edison Electric Band the quartet began playing local Philadelphia dances and parties, getting their first break when they were signed by Cameo-Parkway. The following the year they released their debut single:
- 1967's 'Methyl Ethyl' b/w 'The Name Of The Game' (Cameo-Parkway catalog number C-490)
While the single didn't do anything commercial, they were then hired to provide music for a quickie exploitation album on Cameo-Parkway's Wyncote budget label. Released in 1967 and credited to The Chimps, the album featured a collection of Monkees covers and throwaway garage numbers ("Monkey Business" Wyncote catalog W-9199).
Frustrated with their inability to break commercially the group followed the rest of the country, heading for San Francisco in 1968. Having shortened their name to The Edison Electric Band, in 1970 they scored a contract with Atlantic's Cotillion subsidiary, releasing their debut album; the Joel Dorn and Jack Shaw produced "Bless You Dr. Woodward". In an unfortunate turn of events during the recording sessions Ziegler broke his arm in motorcycle accident and T.J. Tindall (who'd already recorded a single as a member of the Trenton, New Jersey-based The Galaxies IV) was brought in as a replacement. Showcasing a largely original set of material, the album was quite diverse with the band taking shots at a broad array of genres including blues, country-rock, pop, and conventional rock. Showcasing Stack's likeable voice and a line up with more technical proficiency than most of the competition, virtually all of the performances were good, but the absence of a distinctive sound certainly didn't help their cause. In fact the set was so diverse at times you almost wondered whether it was the same band. It almost sounded like they were recording a marketing demo intended to showcase their ability to handle any genre.
- Opening up with a breezy pop melody, ''Ship of the Future' started the album with a surprisingly commercial orientation. Even better was Jordan's cool mid-song synthesizer solo. Not sure what he was playing, but it had a mesmerizing sound. rating: *** stars
- 'Over the Hill' began with an atmospheric church organ segment before morphing into a pretty mid-tempo ballad, and finally ending as an Allman Brothers-styled guitar workout. The track also served as a nice platform for Stack's attractive and commercial voice (which had just enough edge to be FM friendly). rating: *** stars
- Their instrumental cover of Percy Mayfield's bluesy 'Please Send Me' marked a sudden change in direction. Propelled by Jordan's piano, a nice Friedman bass, and a restrained Tindall solo, the results were attractive in a supper club kind of way. Nothing all that special. rating: ** stars
- 'Baby Leroy' found the band pursuing a nice blue-eyed soul feel. Imagine something Delaney and Bonnie might have recorded. rating: *** stars
- 'Royal Fool' started side two with a nice country-rock number. Pretty melody with a nice electric keyboard from Jordan made this one quite radio friendly. Stack turned in one of his best vocals on this one. rating: *** stars
- 'West Wind' was a standard and pedestrian blues-rocker. The first real disappointment, the best things here were Friedman's busy bass pattern and the nice call and response harmony vocals. rating: ** stars
- It's funny, I'm normally not a big R&B fan but their cover of Doc Pomus' 'Lonely Avenue' was one of the standout performances. Stack's hesitant vocals (it almost sounded like he was singing it phonetically), and Jordan's Hammond B-3 gave the song an interesting edge. Very nice ! rating: **** stars
- Another abrupt shift in musical direction, 'Island Sun' found the band turning in a Latin-flavored rocker. Sporting heavy percussion and some nice twin lead guitar, this one sounded like a Manassas outtake. rating: *** stars
- So why not take a stab at a heavy metal song? Okay, here's 'Smokehouse'. With Stacks spoken word segments this one sounded like a Black Oak Arkansas throwaway (not that wasn't a good thing). rating: ** stars
- Tacked on to the end of the album, Tindall's only contribution, the brief instrumental 'Lebanese Packhorse' was also the standout performance. It didn't even last a minute, but the track had an instantly appealing ominous feel. Wish they'd included a longer take. rating: **** stars
Cotillion also tapped the album for a single in the form of:
- 'Ship of the Future' b/w 'West Wind' (Cotillion catalog number 45-44071
Shame they weren't able to imprint more personality on the album. Largely panned by critics (bless his soul Robert Christgau was one of the few exceptions), the album didn't do much commercially and within a couple of months the band had called it quits.
From RYM (rdten1)

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