Posted - 03/07/2012 : 14:23:17
| An fine 60's psych garage band...lead singer is the singer on "Incense & Peppermint" and there is a definite Strawberry Alarm Clock vibe here. FANTASTIC, rw!
In Relation To Our Times
Castles (In The Sand)
Supposedly a reissue (Akarma AK 134 / 2001) of an untitled 1968 album, allocated a catalog # of All-American AA-5733-LPD (it sez), that only made it to the test-pressing stage. One copy surfaced in 2000 with a price-tag of $1500. This group/project was in Bill Holmes' All-American stable of inter-twined groups from in and around the Santa Barbara, California area. Greg Munford had been with Thee Sixpence up to the point that they recorded the Incense And Pepermints (sic) 45 and became The Strawberry Alarm Clock. Crystal Circus would appear to have been his next venture. He was involved in other projects and a 45 released in '67 by The Shapes Of Sound - Lost Weekend / Twisted Conversation (All-American 343) - is a likely candidate, given that Twisted Conversation turns up on the Crystal Circus LP. Munford, Solomon and Bielan were certainly involved with another band on All-American, The Indescribably Delicious, and are credited on the I.D. LP reissue - Good Enough To Eat (Akarma AK 046) 2000. Bob Feldman also pops up amongst the composer credits. If this is a bona fide album, one has to wonder why it was not released, given the success of the Strawberry Alarm Clock. The vocal style and arrangements on the soft-centred pop-psych numbers (In Relation, Merry Go Round, Circus And Zoo World) are uncannily similar. There are trippy vibes and elegant baroque gestures (Castles, Twisted Conversation) counterbalanced by harder material that harks back to the sounds of Thee Sixpence:- strident garage-pop with blistering guitar (Don't Say I Didn't Warn You), Cream-like fuzz-grunge (The Difference Between Us), and brass-pop bombast (Never Again). Whatever the real truth behind it, this reissue unearths a fine selection of '67-'68 confectionery - recommended.
(Max Waller in "Fuzz, Acid and Flowers")
- In Relation (To Our Times)
- Don't Say I Didn't Warn You
- Girl Like You
- Sittin' & Thinkin'
- Twisted Conversation
- Circus And Zoo World
- Never Again
- Castles (In The Sand)
- Sweet High
- The Difference Between Us
- The World Of Seas & Rivers
HIGH ALL THE TIME...
Edited by - lemonade kid on 27/08/2013 16:45:05
Posted - 27/08/2013 : 16:39:04
| Strawberry SAC-Crystal Circus
all tracks..listen and read on
In 1968, a band calling itself Strawberry SAC, featuring Greg Munford (who'd sung lead on Strawberry Alarm Clock's "Incense And Peppermints") recorded twelve songs for a planned album on All-American. Two songs ("In Relation" and "Merry Go Round") were pressed onto a rare promo DJ 7", but the rest of the recordings were only released in 2001, on a vinyl LP from Akarma credited to Crystal Circus and titled after the a-side of that promo 45, In Relation To Our Times.
Crystal Circus - In Relation (To Our Times)
By Beverly Paterson, The Lance Monthly
"The title cut of this disc is particularly fetching, with its sun-kissed ba-ba-ba harmonies placed neatly against the backdrop of a racing keyboard and rows of exuberant melodies."
Crystal Circus featured Greg Munford, who sang lead on the Strawberry Alarm Clock's number one smash hit single of 1967, "Incense And Peppermints." No, Greg wasn't an official member of the band, but he just so happened to be in the studio at the moment they were recording and was tagged to sing on "Incense And Peppermints" because for whatever reason, their front vocalist was not available.
Anyhow, Crystal Circus did indeed have connections to the Strawberry Alarm Clock. Both bands shared the same manager, Bill Holmes, and recorded for the same label, All-American. Not surprisingly, they also sound quite a bit alike. In fact, "In Relation (To Our Times)" could easily be mistaken as a Strawberry Alarm Clock album, which is certainly a very good thing!
The title cut of this disc is particularly fetching, with its sun-kissed ba-ba-ba harmonies placed neatly against the backdrop of a racing keyboard and rows of exuberant melodies. As is the story with the remainder of the material on the CD, the nifty tune was penned by the band, who surely possessed the ability to cough up imaginative songs devised of daring arrangements and thoughtful lyrics.
A generous serving of dive-bombing acid-flavored guitar work manifests on "In Relation (To Our Times)," specifically in the form of "Don't Say I Didn't Warn You," which firmly echoes the dark and brooding stance of the Music Machine. . . . Conveyed by a rush of brash hooks and heated vocals that mean business, "Sweet High" and "The Difference Between Us" are two other immediately seizing songs on the record that key right in on the aggressive side of Crystal Circus.
Slipping instruments such as flutes, clarinets and saxophones into the set, "In Relation (To Our Times)" translates into a model example of what was going down in the late sixties. Touches of experimentation are sprinkled throughout the band's tunes, be it the cool and jazzy vibe of "Girl Like You" to the slow and spooky ambiance of "World Of Seas & Rivers." But overall, "In Relation (To Our Times)" is dominated by psychedelic pop laced pieces, heavy on flower power imagery and windy choruses.
The music of Crystal Circus was left for dead at the hour it was recorded, and is no doubt more appreciated today than it was when the band was active. My only complaint about "In Relation (To Our Times)" is that it lacks liner notes. An interview with the band would have made this disc even greater than it already is! www.akarmarecords.com
The album contains some fantastic, creative music. Too bad it wasn't released at the time. the Crystal Circus moniker was conjured up solely for the album. A much better band name than the derivative Strawberry SAC, which the "In Relation" 45 was released under in 1968.
-Matthew David Hoffman Dec 31, 1969
Gary Solomon - flute/sax/vocals
Stage name Gary Solo. Member of The Marauders prior to Strawberry SAC. Also managed Indescribably Delicious and played on sessions which comprise their album. Had an independently released Solo album out in the early 1980's.
Greg Munford - rhythm guitar/vocals
Formerly with Shapes Of Sound, who released a single on All-American in '67. Sang lead on SAC's megahit "Incense & Peppermints".
Bob Feldman - bass/vocals
Previously a member of The Minutemen, who had a residency at Pandora's Box. Hosted the TV special Ripoff. Later ran a talent agency for child actors. Bob's son Corey achieved fame as an actor in films such as The Goonies & Stand By Me.
Jack Bielan - keyboards/vibes/vocals
Own group The InMates at the age of 15. Went on to receive a gold record for his arrangements on James Taylor's "Sweet Baby James" LP. Became a staff writer for Motown in the 70's. Toured with Bobby Vinton as keyboardist & conductor, eventually becoming Bobby's producer.
Bruce Turner - lead guitar/vocals
Ex-member of Torrance-based Indescribably Delicious, who released a single ("Brother, Where Are You?") on All-American in 1967. Went on to tour with Wolfman Jack, Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers and soul singer Carla Thomas.
Terry Rae - drums/vocals
A mainstay of Hollywood bands for over 2 decades. Some of the groups he has played with are The Driftones (pre-Yellow Payges), The Palace Guard (house band at the Hullabaloo), Sweet Wine, Space, The Flamin' Groovies, Blue Cheer & The Hollywood Stars. After the Strawberry SAC project, formed Strawberry Jam(!) who changed their name to Jamme - check out their excellent album produced by John Phillips.
"Don't Say I Didn't Warn You" was based on a lyric of Jack Bielan's mother, Rose Kaufman.... hence the co-writing credit. Needless to say, Mrs. Kaufman was not a member of the band!
Norma Dunman was a co-writer of Gary Solo's. Nick is a figment of Holmes' imagination, as are all of his writing credits on the album.
Comments from the keyboard player,Jack Bielan
Nicely done, guys. A couple things to add:
1) Bill Holmes never wrote anything on that album - not a word, not a note.
2) With regard to "In Relation", Bob & I wrote it directly as a sound-alike follow-up to "Incense And Peppermints", because Holmes asked for it, and it was the first time Greg's vocal talent was available. (By the way, Greg was - and remains to this day - a lovely man.). I deliberately used the same Farfissa organ sound and guitar sounds as on "Incense" (plus Hammond B-3, which is my first love). I also remember that there was a legitimate vocal coach on the project who knew his stuff and arranged a lot of the harmonies for us. I have a feeling he probably worked with the original group as well.
3) Re "Merry Go Round", Gary had a chorus which I liked a lot. I think Norma Dunman (whom I never actually met) may have contributed to it. I wrote the rest of the words and music. Always liked that song - got a kick out of using calliope on it and the filtered sound of a carnival barker.
The band, which was called "Strawberry Alarm Clock", "Strawberry S.A.C." and "S.A.C" - depending on the time of day and the legal status of whatever bout was being waged regarding the Alarm Clock name, did some memorable t.v. shots - local L.A. shows of the time like "Groovy" and "9th Street West". Also did some shows where we got to know Wolfman Jack - what a hoot!
Looking back all those years on the whole project, especially given that we were all kids, I realize there was some wonderful musicianship in that thrown-together band. Bruce was a terrific guitar player and Terry was a great drummer. Greg was a wonderful writer and his voice on "Incense" was obviously just one of music's magical moments.
A few years ago I had occasion to see the real Alarm Clock band in a reunion concert of sorts in Malibu. They did a great job. Afterwards I felt motivated to write them an email via their website, which I did, apologizing for my role in the whole knock-off band debacle. Of course I had no idea at the time what was really going on, but I'm glad I let them know.
FYI, I found out about the whole Crystal Circus thing by accident on the web. No one ever contacted me, never asked my permission for anything. I tracked Holmes down and asked for some kind of remuneration, and was refused.
Finally, despite never having significantly profited financially, I regard the whole experience as a valuable one, and I'm grateful for it.
I learned a lot about the dark side of the music industry, and how young musicians can be exploited. But more importantly, at 18 I learned a whole lot about the process of recording and working in studios. The engineer was a brilliant guy named Paul Buff, and I was lucky to learn whatever I could from him.
And I did crack-up when I saw my Mom's name listed as a band member on the Crystal Circus credits. She was a wonderful writer in her day, but I doubt she'd have liked wearing psychedelic dresses.
Again guys, nice job on straightening things out. Best of luck to you.
Terry Rae, drums/vocals
After the SAC broke up I went to the local 47 to ask for fees due to us for the session.They stated the studio never reported the event so no money was due.
Funny how that works huh?
Old hippies never die, they just ramble on.
Edited by - lemonade kid on 27/08/2013 16:50:47