Monday, July 31, 2023

Could have been trippier, but not bad: The Galaxy Generation--Aquarius, Good Morning Starshine, Hair (1970)


So, um... Who is "The Galaxy Generation"?  Well, in at least four instances, it's Maurice Montez and his groovy organ.  Specifically, four tracks from this LP:

Namely, Star Fall, No Love But Your Love, Lover's Dream, and We Found Our Paradise.

The rest are by ?.  The opening track, which is quite cool, features a small orchestra, whereas Good Morning Starshine and Hair feature a combo with an organ.  Those two might have made good canned music for a hippie-hangout scene in Mannix or Mission: Impossible.

The Sign of the Zodiac, Sun Quadrant, and Gemini feature an accordion and are obviously repurposed--and, needless to say, would not have made the hippie-hangout-music cut (because accordion).  Even Paramount Television wasn't that out of touch.  ("Wait a minute--do college kids dig accordion sounds?  No, let's go with the organ.")  

As tossed-together hit-exploitation Pickwick albums go, this is a very pleasant, if not all that exciting, product.  That is, no one got ripped off if he or she paid a buck.  $1.99?  Then we're getting into ethical territory.  

I wish that the Aquarius musicians had stuck around long enough to give us the other two actual Hair titles--Good Morning Starshine and Hair--but I guess their contract called for one title only.  Too bad, because Aquarius has such a wonderful period vibe, complete with genuinely decent stereo and musicians who sound like they rehearsed.  It's good enough to have merited a legit release on, say, Columbia Special Products.

As for Maurice Montez's "groovy" organ, maybe it sounded groovy upon release in 1966 (when the bar was lower), but come 2023 it sounds more like, um, hip lounge jazz.  Swinging numbers to dine by, but hardly trippy or hippy.  But at least they make good listening.

And I love the cover photo, even if it says "Cheap" in loud font.  And it's not all that bad--it's rather artistically done.  Some genuine thought went into it.  And it certainly conveys the musical's title, Hair, though the LP's main title is actually Aquarius, despite "HAIR" in huge font on the cover.  You want consistency, then stay away from Pickwick.

Frankly, I'm impressed that an entire three tracks are from the show, leaving only seven dishonestly marketed numbers.  By budget standards, that's "as advertised."  And, you ask, how many clicks did I manually remove on MAGIX, even after a pass through VinylStudio's awesome Declicker?  Gosh, at least thirty.  But something pleases me about putting extra work into a junk artifact.  It demonstrates my devotion to vernacular-culture ephemera.  Yeah, that has to be it.

DOWNLOAD: Aquarius--Good Morning Starshine--Hair, Featuring the Galaxy Generation (Design SDLP-302; 1970)


Good Morning Starshine

The Sing of the Zodiac

Star Fall--Maurice Montez

Sun Quadrant


No Love But Your Love--Maurice Montez

Lover's Dream--Maurice Montez

We Found Our Paradise--Maurice Montez



Thursday, July 13, 2023

This Month's 16 Top Hits--Allied TM-2: Unusually good (likely, Pickwick) fakes!


So, I had a post nearly ready to go, but then I got a request for this LP (This Month's 16 Top Hits) at the Brand "X" Records Facebook page, and that struck me as such a good idea, I switched projects.  The rip turned out mostly okay, with the first side sounding fabulous, and the second side sounding... well, not quite so terrific.  Some needle wear and, therefore, some distortion, but nothing too grave.  (I tried a higher VTF with my Stanton 500 cartridge--3 grams--but in vain.)

And a public reminder that vinyl grooves are much more likely to be damaged by 1) a worn stylus and/or 2) tracking error than high tracking force.  Seriously.  We Boomers were fed the urban legend that tracking force is the main consideration--the lighter, the better.  In fact, if the VTF is too low, the needle bounces around in the groove.  And, obviously, that's not good for the integrity of the groove walls.

At least one of these tracks--Surfin' Safari--appeared on a Top 30 Tunes EP, which was a Pickwick product, and so I'll take a chance and name Pickwick as the source for all of these.  And the performances are well above par, with even Safari perfectly decent.  And the Beach Boys rarely received competent budget covers, so this is a track to be savored.  Things start with the famous bossa nova hit (listen for the Bo Diddley beat!) Desafinado, which is so well performed, it's almost suspect!  And the vocals throughout the LP are competent to outstanding, from James Hold the Ladder Steady (a John D. Loudermilk song employing a melody commonly used for Jacob's Ladder) to Susie Darling to He's a Rebel to the Bacharach-David Only Love Can Break a Heart.  Though the latter is an early Burt/Hal hit, the earliest Bacharach budget fake was probably 1957's The Story of My Life (superbly faked on Top Hit Tunes).

All of these do justice to the originals, and, in addition to the surprisingly good Safari, there are expert imitations of Next Door to an Angel, Limbo Rock, Mr. Lonely, and Popeye.  Hard to believe the same outfit later dumped on us the record-settingly awful fakes of Help Me Rhonda and Good Vibrations, the former appearing on Hurrah! Pops and A.R.C. EPs.  Maybe a "Why bother with quality?" ethic had taken over by that point.

And... Here's where things get weird, as they so often do with rack-jobber material.  Namely, this Canadian "Allied Record Corporation" may very well not be the famous Allied Record Corporation (different address, for one thing).  Furthermore--and this is just my intuition; no proof--this Allied label seems related to the American A.R.C. (Allied Record Company) mentioned above (and shown below).  As in, a different Allied Record Company than the Los Angeles label.  Just a hunch, but I strongly suspect a link between this LP and my A.R.C. EPs.

Further proof (though possibly circumstantial) resides in the Premier 16 Top Hits of the Week albums, which seem to be a continuation of this concept.  And Award AS-16-1 (Premier) includes in its 16-track lineup a stereo version of the dreadful Rhonda fake.  Dual-channel awfulness!  I posted the Award LP in 2019 (see above link).

Allied Record Corporation, Premier, Pickwick, and a possibly alternate Allied Record Corporation--wow.  All swapping tapes.  Could Pickwick have been the chief supplier of fake-hit masters?  No, that would be too easy...

DOWNLOAD: This Month's 16 Top Hits (Allied TM-2)


James Hold the Ladder Steady

Next Door to an Angel

Limbo Rock

Susie Darling

That Stranger Used to Be My Girl

Workin' for the Man

Mr. Lonely

All Alone Am I

He's a Rebel

I Remember You

Only Love Can Break a Heart


Surfin' Safari

Warmed Over Kisses

Close to Kathy