Friday, June 18, 2010

Chad & Jeremy-Redemption

CHAD STUART & JEREMY CLYDE-Of Cabbages And Kings  U.S. Columbia LP CS 9471 1967

Chad & Jeremy have taken a lot of slagging over the years, probably more based on the fact that because, as one book referred to them, they were "Hollywood's Brits".  You couldn't watch a U.S. 60's TV show without them being there, the token un-offensive, well spoken, intellectual Brits ("Batman", The Dick Van Dyke Show" etc) with their TV friendly smiles and nerdy demeanour. Like some badly manufactured Hollywood creation like "The Potato Bug" they became pretty much an anathema to any serious rock n' rollers, and though I sang praises of "A Summer Song" in my April 17, 2010 entry, that's pretty much how I felt about them till I stumbled upon this LP.  Like many other LP's my friends have urged me to pick up, it's taken me awhile. Keep in mind that when 99% of your friends have similar musical tastes it's fiscally hard to heed all their recommendations and this was one that repeatedly fell through the cracks these past 10 years or so.

Long after the British Invasion bubble burst and they were resident Californians somehow someone at Columbia had faith and let them record and release this magnum opus.  Fans of 60's masterpieces like Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends" and Duncan Browne's "Give Me Take You" will have no trouble getting their head around it. Like their previous hit and miss material it's based on their folky duo concept only built up considerably by witty numbers ensconced in layers of sitars, horns, flute, and every other studio instrument they could dig up. They got "serious" by using their surnames and with help of the legendary Gary Usher set about recording this wonderful LP.  Of course it went absolutely nowhere, by this point anyone interested in records with psychedelic album covers wasn't about to investigate a band they'd seen acting dorky on a half hour TV show and anyone who found their act charming wasn't about to buy a record with two psychedelic looking nerds on the cover! The first side is light poppy/orchestrated numbers while the second side (titled "The Progress Suite-Movements) contains orchestrated instrumentals amongst vocal numbers while the band's new friends, the zany folks at the Firesign Theater, provide spoken word snippets on contemporary topics ranging from the Vietnam War to the industrial complex, computers and yes,banks.  See kids things aren't much different than they were 43 years ago!

The opening cut on Side One (also in abbreviated form it was the LP's sole single), "Rest In Peace" is a tapestry of sitars, trumpets, black humor, churchy organ and an opening melody that seems almost too similar to Kaleidoscope's "The Murder Of Lewis Tolani".  It's my fave of the lot and a good omen to the rest of the LP. "The Busman's Holiday" is Donovan (esp. the woodwinds and harpsichord) meets Ray Davie's on "Face To Face", delightful stuff chronicling the life of a touring musician interspersed with screaming girls shrieks.  Really. "Can I See You" again reminds me of Kaleidoscope (the U.K. variety) with glimpses of the "old" Chad & Jeremy. "Family Way" anticipates "The Conqueror" by Genesis and parallels Cat Steven's first two Deram LP tracks with the unwed pregnancy topic (no doubt lost on American listeners who were probably unfamiliar with the phrase). "I'll Get Around To It When I Can" strikes me because, on a personal note it addresses time. But it's a choral poppy delight that I find myself playing as often as the opening cut.  The harmonies are beautiful, just beautiful.

Side Two opens with ominous "Prolouge" full of jazzy trumpet, flute, woodwinds, timpani, sitar, strings, the kitchen sink and the lot.  It's like some opening credits music to one of those powerful films made in the 60's that have never been bettered! "Decline" is a vehicle for the Firesign Theater's socio-politico commentary on top of zany music, like the incidental music behind a production line churning out washing machines, gas guzzling cars or weapons of war scene. The sitar and trumpet backed social observation choral pop of "Editorial" returns the lads vocals that seems to recall childhood innocence ("eat up your rice Billy Grey, there's starving in India they say").  I know I had that one growing up, though sometimes it'd be "China" (and then an uncle would quip "let the Communists starve"). "Fall" repeats the formula of "Decline" with the above mentioned spoken word sound bytes that shifts into an angelic church choir, weird yet creepy singing "Onward Christian Soldiers", like the bomb worshippers in "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" before degenerating into combat sound effects. "Epilouge" reminds me of the jazzy brilliance of David Axelrod's late 60's tracks before sliding into the vocals with baroque piano string plucking (ala Lalo Schiffrin) and sitar with some wild chord/tempo changes.  Positively an amazing way to close an LP!

Sundazed re-released the LP on CD (and probably vinyl knowing them) in 2002 and unlike most of their other re-issues (West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band for one) it's still in print and available.

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