The guys at Rev-Ola really know their stuff - and they really show their knowledge of great, obscure 1960s pop nuggets on In The Garden: The White Whale Story, volume one in a compilation series called Phantom Jukebox. White Whale is a 1960s record label best known for the hits It Ain't Me Babe and Happy Together by The Turtles, but the label was a hotbed for lesser known talent as well. One label spotlight already exists - Happy Together: The Very Best of White Whale Records on Varese Sarabande, and there is very little duplication between the two compilations. So anyone who has already heard that compilation, or has a curiosity about White Whale, you can't go wrong by picking up both compilations. This compilation is also a good way to put your ear to the ground when it comes to what's new on Rev-Ola, as many of the artists featured have also had entire cds reissued by the British label.
Granted, most of the hits White Whale were known for are included on the Varese Sarabande cd; but for 1960s pop music buffs that is a good thing, because that leaves room for the lesser known artists. Also I did question some of the sources of the music - surely these weren't sourced from master tapes - over all though I was pleased just to be able to hear this music on cd, perhaps keeping in mind the fact that master tapes may be lost or gone forever. Here's a rundown of what is included here:
Dalton & Montgomery - These guys were in the Beatles influenced band called Colours and were a songwriting team for fellow labelmates The Committee, Harper & Rowe, Nino & April, and The Spiral Staircase. All at once starts out the compilation with a shivering Beatles inspired melody which only guys like Dalton & Montgomery were able to pull off. Tomorrow's Women is a more playful, Lovin' Spoonful styled song, banjo strumming in tow with beat harmonies.
Matthew Moore Plus Four - both Codyne (She's Real) and You've Never Loved Before are gems. The former is an angsty take on the oft cover song; the latter is more subdued but still has that questioning folk rock sound. Matthew later formed The Moon with ex-Beach Boy David Marks. Both Moon albums have been reissued on Rev-ola (and include Matthew Moore Plus Four music).
Lyme & Cybelle - Lyme & Cybelle were a male-female duo which (occasionally ) featured a young Warren Zevon as Lyme in the early days of songwriting. They are heard here in a Curt Boettcher production. Also featured is fellow Ballroom friend Jim Bell, and as I understand it Warren Zevon had been replaced as Lyme by this point. Song # 7 and Write If You Get Work both feature that elfin, sublime, silly, wonderful sound of a Curt Boettcher production, and it's a true delight to hear these two gems.
Nino Tempo & April Stevens - Trying to keep up with the hip and hopping mid 1960s, but stay true to the Spectorian roots, this duo released a fantastic platter in 1966 called All Strung Out, which was recently reissued by Rev-ola. You'll be Needing Me Baby and The Habit of Lovin' You are both excellent lesser known songs by this duo, highlights from their 1966 album.
The Laughing Gravy - Aka Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean, Dean recorded the Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks Vegatables - and Brian produced it. This catchy song from the Smiley Smile Beach Boys' era was also recorded circa Dean's wonderful Save For a Rainy Day sessions -a true favorite of mine.
Triste Janero - Triste Janero's insanely rare Meet Triste Janero LP has recently been reissued by Rev-Ola. Somehow this Dallas, Texas band meets half way between the Brazilian influenced sound of Sergio Mendes and the 1980s revivalist like The Marine Girls or Felt. This latin music influenced outfit are a true delight, with a light touch. I think both songs Rene De Marie and In The Garden surely would've influenced a whole new scene in the 1980s, if only they'd been given the chance to be heard.
Harper & Rowe - Harper & Rowe have been favorites of mine ever since I picked up their solo lp on World Pacific. The reason they are a favorite of mine is Harper & Rowe have that Scott Walker and The Walker Brothers' groove, but without the sadness or angst. They released one single on White Whale. Keep on Dancin' is also featured on their lp in a different mix, and is one of their best, grooving-est tunes. But it was the b-side, On The Roof Top, that I was most excited to hear, since it doesn't appear on their lp, and it too is an incredible gem. Harper & Rowe were way to un-prolific - a real shame; their music is also sorely lacking on the cd market, so anything that is available is exciting. Check these guys out!
Liz Damon's Orient Express - Included here is the B-side to this Hawaiian easy listening combo's White Whale single 1900 Yesterday. You're Falling in Love is lounge pop sung Liz Damon style. I've heard varying opinions on Liz, but I think I'll reserve judgment until I've heard more of her. She has had an album reissued by Rev-Ola.
Horses - A fascinating country rock outfit featuring songs written by Tim Gilbert & John Carter - the guys who wrote The Strawberry Alarm Clock's Incense & Peppermint, as well as a very young Don Johnson of Miami Vice fame. Featured here is a song called Freight Train which fits the Midnight Cowboy mode of song - songs about traveling to NYC to find yourself and losing yourself along the way.
The Dilliards - An under appreciated country rock outfit, The Dilliards are heard hear covering Dylan's One Too Many Mornings. I have to admit I'm sucker for a many Bob Dylan cover, and this is another one under my cap of favorites.
The Clique - The Gary Zekley production, also heard hear under the alias Bittersweet; The Bittersweet song is a pale Elvis impersonation (circa the late 1960s era). Soul Mates (released under the name The Clique) is much more my style, sounding like The Turtles' Elenore, there's a crisp tension to this pop confection.
The Brothers - A mystery group, heard here covering an early Warren Zevon composition called The Girl's Alright, as well as an early Randy Newman tune called Love Story. Sounding like demos more than true blue songs, the tunes show these young songwriters in a remarkable, early light.
The Everpresent Fullness - A wonderful country rock band who were mysteriously left hanging when White Whale failed to release their lp. White Whale waited until around the time of the label's demise, and two years after the band's demise to finally release an lp. Darlin' You Can Count on Me is a lost gem which combines angsty vocals with a baroquely rocking backing, sort of like the Dylan influence on Arthur Lee's Love or Mouse & The Traps.
The Committee - These guys swoon and sway in a Curt Boettcher-like production, with a definite Mamas and Papas song structure. If It Weren't For You was penned by Dalton & Montgomery, also featured here.
Dobie Gray and Freddie Allen both do commendable jobs on Roger Nichols/Paul Williams songs - the former artist does Do You Really Have a Heart? a tune worth hearing for its playful lyrics; the latter artist does the very first released version of We've Only Just Begun, before The Carpenters hit with it. It's strange to hear this version out of Karen Carpenter's capable hands: here it retains the original angst that Paul Williams had in his demo performance.
Sugar and Spice - I've never been a big fan of Sugar & Spice, and I'm still not insanely thrilled by the Guess Who's Randy Bachman solo composition Not To Return as performed by this girl led group.
Keith Colley - The Spanish vocally sung Enamorado didn't do much for me. Either did the pointless instrumental that ends the compilation - The Quiet Side of Life by The Hangtown Fry.