Flower Machine Records [second press]
“21 course smorgasbord of US pop-sike & other delights 1965-69”
And so to the tricky second album… Fading Yellow Volume 2 draws inspiration from across the pond.
There is a fairly sustained mood throughout – minor key, surprisingly melancholy, not dark, as such, more like sunshine breaking through overhanging branches or firelight patterns on the walls – so this collection works well listened to as a whole (perhaps omitting tracks 17-21, interesting curios which nevertheless feel a little as if they are tagging along to flesh things out).
Cover artists Disraeli appear in matching red hunting-style jackets, white polo-necks and sporting immaculate side-partings leading you to think they’re a garage band or a Paul Revere outfit turned serious for the psychedelic dawn (though this is from 1968). B-side to Spinnin’ Around, What Will the New Day Bring *** is gently chugging, dreamy folk-pop with a fateful or even foreboding mood – a little Spanish guitar decorates strummed guitars and lazy (in a good way) vocals. This is very well regarded by many and its premier position suggests Fading Yellow’s Jörgen Johansson recognises a strong lead-off when he hears one but I can’t get why it’s so mightily favoured.
‘We played our pipes for you but you didn’t dance’… There is a Curt Boettcher influence in the arrangement for The Network’s Ears of Stone *** recalling tracks like It’s a Sad World and Glass but lacking the melodicism of the former and the inspiration of the latter to lift this to four stars. Percussion, sitar, woodwind, organ and strikes of electric guitar conjure a shadowy atmosphere but the song never quite transcends itself.
The Whispers’ Knowin’ *** is energetic garage pop with a soulful vocal, a mournful oboe and a crazy but short-lived instrumental freakout.
The child-woman who inhabits many ’60s psych songs flits through The July Four’s sunshine elegy, Frightened Little Girl **** ‘looking for a world, one that she doesn’t know.’ Some might say this is cheesy but there’s a good song here and I like its air of innocence wrapped up in those ba-ba-ba vocals.
Calliope’s I’ll Take It Back *** is harmony-rich tambourine driven guitar-pop with nice electric guitar work and a surprise change of pace for an extended lead off.
Never Mind, I’m Freezing *** – a great arresting title which turns out to be an early single from HP Lovecraft vocalist George Edwards. It comes with peeling guitars and an insistent heavy drum beat. I know this single has its fans but it’s a bit of a dirge for me I’m afraid.
After a light start, How Many Tears *** by The Poor emerges as slow building folk-rock with lovely soft vocals and a detuned leaping octave electric lead-off.
Then this collection hits its stride with three fine tracks, following on from each other…
Mellow, melodic, mellotronic
It took three listens for me to fall for The Happy Return’s mellow, melodic, mellotronic harmony-pop, I Thought I Loved Her *****. A summer-turned-to-autumn mood pervades, melancholy verses giving way to cathartic choruses and an unusual wavering motif around the title. There’s something of a Moody Blues sound here, though less magisterial, of course… maybe it’s the flute-like mellotron and chorus vocals. I’ve found myself humming this one.
From the start Don’t Say No ***** by The Oracle sounds unmistakably like a Curt Boettcher production and indeed it is produced by Curt and Keith Olsen. The song was written by one ‘Friedmann.’ Is that Curt on vocals? The register is too low, surely. The Oracle were presumably another band that he lent his talents to, working wonderful magic with sitar, oscillating wind effects and cascading vocal harmony choruses. This can sit proudly alongside anything produced by The Millennium.
Sung in a distinctively deliberate fashion, The Rites’ Hour Girl ***** is flickering flamed, cool shaded, prime psychedelia in a neat pop package. I really like the economical precision to the playing and performances. It sounds as if The Rites have set up their stall in one of those ’60s ‘caverns in a hollow where the sun never shone’, the band silhouetted in close fitting black with ‘velvet flamed’ shadows dancing across the walls. I’ve been humming this one too. More on The Rites
Minor key moodiness
There is more minor key moodiness courtesy of The Dynamics’ All She Said *** and then we have The Holy Mackerel’s Scorpio Red ***. It’s interesting how well this Mackerel piece fits into the Volume 2 template. Paul Williams’s songwriting nous is unmistakable through the psychedelic lens.
Track 13, Trust, by The Peppermint Trolley Company ***** is probably the loveliest thing on Volume 2. Arranged by Chad Stuart (Chad & Jeremy) with flutes and harpsichord aplenty, The Trolley provide the harmonies to this great Paul Williams and Roger Nichols song. No great originality is added to Paul Williams’s own version on his 1969 solo album Someday Man, but this is a highly enjoyable piece all the same, deserving five stars even if it is a straightforward cover. And here they are in action, looking just like a Peppermint Trolley Company should.
The Summer Skies by The Higher Elevation *** is Volume 2’s sunniest offering – ‘let’s pretend the whole world is made out of great big red balloons’ – and this was co-written by John Carter and Tim Gilbert of The Rainy Daze (they also co-wrote Incense and Peppermints).
Chris and Craig’s Isha **** is an insistent and exotic eastern skewed piece with crazed harpsichord from the future Penny Arkade duo whilst Where Is Mary? by The Backseat *** is of interest as it was written and produced by Larry Tamblyn of The Standells.
There is a slight dip in quality for the remainder of Volume 2 (final track excepted, as we shall see). Tracks 17-21 just seem less remarkable than most of what has gone before.
The Poor’s Come Back Baby *** is a nice mellow piece with chiming guitar but the lyrics are a tad uninspired.
The Cascades I Bet You Won’t Stay ** is where frat-pop meets the Fading Yellow’s outer fringes. Apart from some nice vocal harmonies, the main interest here is that this is the same group who had a major hit with Rhythm of the Rain back in 1962.
Tracks 19, 20 and 21 come from an undated Canadian promotional EP, Live from Vancouver so these are real curios. The three songs are the competent soul-psych-pop of The Sound Set’s Mind in a Bottle *** , Sea of Dreams by The Reign *** – enjoyable guitar/drums interplay which takes off into a brief garage phase before echoing out – and the sunny day but slightly pedestrian psych-pop of In a Whirl by The Look *** If sound quality is important to you, you might want to take away a star for tracks 19 and 20.
Expecting the very last track to be either another obscurer than obscure obscurity or a triumphant finale, what we get instead is a perky little instrumental. And very welcome it is too. Mystery Track 22 is Mr Miff ***, the B-side to Track 4. It’s a really nice mid-’60s guitar-led piece with a playful air and it turns out to be the perfect way to round off Volume 2. I’m tempted to give it four stars.
1. Disraeli – What Will the New Day Bring?  ***
2. The Network – Ears of Stone [n/d] ***
3. The Whispers – Knowin’ [n/d] ***
4. The July Four – Frightened Little Girl  ****
5. Calliope – I’ll Take It Back  ***
6. George Edwards – Never Mind, I’m Freezing  ***
7. The Poor – How Many Tears  ***
8. The Happy Return – I Thought I Loved Her  *****
9. The Oracle – Don’t Say No  *****
10. The Rites – Hour Girl  *****
11. The Dynamics – All She Said [n/d] ***
12. Holy Mackerel – Scorpio Red  ***
13. The Peppermint Trolley Company – Trust  *****
14. The Higher Elevation – The Summer Skies  ***
15. Chris and Craig – Isha  ****
16. The Backseat – Where Is Mary  ***
17. The Poor – Come Back Baby  ***
18. The Cascades – I Bet You Won’t Stay  **
19. The Sound Set – Mind in a Bottle [n/d]***
20. The Reign – Sea of Dreams [n/d] ***
21. The Look – In a Whirl [n/d ]***
22. [Bonus track] The July Four Mr Miff  ***