I've been sorting off a lot of random LPs lately trying to make the cave a bit less packed-in. Along with the final few dupes still hanging around (no, I don't need to keep two copies of the last Litter LP), some marginal oddball late '60s rock discs are heading out the door and back into the wilds... including these!
The Last Ritual: The Last Ritual
I usually pick up unknown '60s-'70s Capitol titles, as the label's attempts at co-opting the psychedelic/hippie rock movement are nearly always fitfully interesting at the very least. The Last Ritual's lone LP from 1969 is definitely a step above that dubious wheelhouse, and if it was in better condition, I'd probably hang on to it and spend more time trying to decipher its weirdness. Many of the elements are there: good, occasionally heavy guitar work, a mix of long and short cuts, crazed, rambling lyrics, production work from Tom Wilson, etc. There's also lots of horns -- never fear, it's not horn rock, and the arrangements are very well done -- and maybe too much rambling.
The Last Ritual is more proto-prog rock than psych and features shifting tempos and styles from country to chamber music, heard best/worst and most seemingly random on the near-17 minute album closer, "Bugler's Reveille." Conducted, composed and arranged by one Allan Springfield, there's nearly nothing about this album or band online; in fact, many listings on discographies or the occasional copy for sale seem to think there's no band name for some reason.
One intriguing snippet comes via a comment (by a child of one of the horn players) on a blog post seeking information about the group, and states that the album was recorded mostly live rather than tracked in pieces -- which would be truly impressive considering the complexity of much of this material. A few clues here and there also turn up info about a direct follow up band named Chelsea Beige. (Capitol, 1969)
Hey, who kidnapped David Clayton-Thomas? Singer Steve Jason is doing a pretty good impression on Goliath, yet another self-titled 1969 debut. I'm betting Jason is also Steve D'Amico, co-arranger and co-writer of much of the original material here along with organist Ted Barbella, who has remained a professional since Goliath and still performs full-time in the New York area.
A sample lyric -- and the fact that they're covering songs such as "Man's Temptation" and "Eleanor Rigby" -- will give you a feel for what they're up to: "Yesterday's children will never play in a field of tomorrow/they'll never understand why." Musically, it's organ/guitar/drums/bass, with nice harmonies and "special effects" which I guess must include that flute which pops up here and there. It's all well played and recorded but just sort of sits there like a very, very, very serious version of Vanilla Fudge. One side note: This would be a great LP for hip-hop samples if nobody's used it yet. (ABC, 1969)
Joyfull Noise: Joyfull Noise
Aaaand ... another self-titled debut and lone release by a band mostly lost in the mists of time. There is a bit of info to be found online about Joyfull Noise, largely from old Billboard articles discussing their signing to RCA.
The group was a part of an RCA promotional campaign called "The Groupquake" attempting to generate buzz for eight new bands, with The Youngbloods being the only one of which went on to much sales success. The other bands were an intriguing who's who of obscure 1968 RCA youth market titles by Autosalvage, The Loading Zone, The Family Tree, Stone Country (Steve Young's first band), The Status Cymbal and Group Therapy.
The Joyfull Noise LP is among the more pop oriented LPs of these, featuring all original songs and a sort of Lovin' Spoonful-esque sense of humor just sly enough to occasionally poke fun at the audience their label was attempting to court. How can they not be, with song titles like "What Me Worry?" and "Wrapped in the Hide of a Yellow Cow"? The band's eclecticism is augmented by string and horn arrangements by Al Gorgoni. While the album occasionally lapses into generic late '60s rock like "People Get Together" and "Yes She Did," those moments are more than balanced by super weird songs like "Puppets and Pearls." Joyfull Noise is definitely worth checking out for fans of oddball '60s rock. (RCA, 1968)