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Monday, August 2, 2021

Krokodil - Don't Make Promises / Hurra! Alive (1969) [Mono Single]

Krokodil - "Don't Make Promises" b/w "Hurra! Alive"

Original German 45 RPM Mono Single
Liberty 15 229  (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip in 96kHz / 24bit FLAC + full high-res scans!~

These two songs were included on the 1999 Second Battle reissue of the debut Krokodil LP (see below) as bonus tracks. Unlike the main album tracks, however, these tracks seem to have been sourced from an original 45, not tapes. While not an altogether bad rip, the Second Battle bonuses suffer the same bad EQ, compression, & limiting as the LP tracks, so this "flat" high-res transfer inevitably sounds far more natural in comparison. Audiophiles and cheeserock (gruyèrerock?) fans rejoice!

Major thanks to the record phantom C.F. for sharing his Krokodil records in the name of blogdom!

Track listing:
1) "Don't Make Promises" -- 4:03
2) "Hurra! Alive" -- 3:07

Vinyl condition: M-
Dynamic Range: DR12

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 8 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.5.1 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)

B-side also on YouTube here:

Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!

Enjoy!  :)

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Krokodil - Krokodil (1969) [German Original]

Krokodil - Krokodil (1969)

Original German Pressing
Liberty LBS 83 306 I  (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip in 96kHz / 24bit FLAC + full high-res scans!~

Though the average foreigner may suppose that everyone in Switzerland is still dancing to the accordion and yodeling off mountaintops, it turns out that the central European country had some pretty hip bands even way back in the 1960s/70s, which are worth exploring to psych-heads as much as the Alps are to adventurous sportsmen. In such an endeavor into Swiss rock, there's no better place to start than the first Krokodil LP. Though the band was/is based in the Schweizerdeutsch-speaking city of Zürich, Krokodil's early records are entirely in English, which will certainly appeal to the monolinguists amongst us. "Krautrock" seems to be the genre most attributed to Krokodil, though their style is clearly distinct from the usual sauerkulprits of Can, Amon Düül, Agitation Free, etc. While the later LPs voyaged deeper into heavy prog territory, this debut is firmly rooted in blues-rock, and with the aid of significant Eastern influence the sound is not unlike Kaleidoscope (US) or maybe even J.K. & Co. 

Major thanks to the record phantom C.F. for sharing his Krokodil LPs in the name of blogdom!

What a front cover. Drummer Düde Dürst (ex-Les Sauterelles) discusses his artwork in this phenomenal interview with Klemen Breznikar of It's Psychedelic Baby Magazine:

Sigi E. Loch knew that I had already designed many LP covers and posters for various bands. He ordered me to draw something. My idea was to make the Liberty logo as a crocodile. My illustration was enthusiastically accepted and printed by the record label. The US record company did not want this cover, on the grounds that their logo should not be defaced. We insisted on our version, which then led to the rejection of production. Various US stores have then simply imported the LP.

The design is undeniably a twisted Swiss production, with half-naked Helvetia holding the Swiss coat of arms, as her stoned counterpart on the Confoederatio Helvetica coin (drawn to look like Dürst himself) smokes a joint; an open wheel of Emmental rests on a cutting board near an aroused Holstein; with the collage topped by an Alpine peak in front of the westward setting sun. Wow. The design is reflected on the back cover, along with the usual listing of tracks and credits, also drawn by Dürst himself.

As you may have guessed, Krokodil (pronounced like "kroh-koh-deal") translates to "crocodile" in English, though the word has also been used regularly in "street" terms to refer to the opiate desomorphine, manufactured by the Swiss healthcare company Roche. Whatever the meaning, it is clear that Krokodil's sound had no small influence form the stoned-out '60s sounds of bands like the Grateful Dead and Iron Butterfly. The striking Bonnie Dobson tune "Morning Dew" -- which many will know from the Dead's or West Coast Pop Art's debut LPs -- opens this album, and is immediately followed by one of the band's best tracks, "You're Still A Part Of Me." Other highlights are "Prayer" and "Dabble In Om," with the latter having an Arabic-influenced intro of misshapen oboe figures over a resonant middle-eastern drone. It's closer to Yusef Lateef than anything I've ever heard in psych music before, and the following 10-minute trip is an adventure across equally stunning architecture.

The third Krokodil LP is apparently the one which has really become a cult item, but this debut is perhaps currently still the favorite for me. There's not one boring moment on this record, even if the straight-ahead riffage / 'telephone call' on "Mis Blues" isn't the mind-blasting apocalypse of its neighbors. 

Krokodil hanging out in some sort of industrial facility

This record, along with the later Krokodil LPs, has been reissued from the master tapes on CD via the Second Battle label circa 1999. Unfortunately, though, the mastering was ruined by heavy-handed EQ along with digital compression and limiting. The result is that over 50 years later the extremely well-pressed original LPs (which were manufactured a tad north of CH in Munich, Bavaria) are still superior in fidelity to anything that came after. Thus I have manually restored this high-resolution transfer for your enjoyment, which turned out to be barely any work at all, given how well C.F.'s copy performed. Stay tuned; there is much more to come. 

Track listing:
1) "Morning Dew" - 4:42
2) "You're Still A Part Of Me" - 6:30
3) "All Alone" - 3:58
4) "Mis Blues" - 3:19
5) "Prayer" - 4:15
6) "Watchn' Chain" - 6:58
7) "Dabble In Om" - 9:34

Vinyl condition: M-

Dynamic Range: DR11

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 8 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.5.1 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)

Full album available on YouTube here:

Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!

Enjoy!  :)

Monday, July 5, 2021

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Vol. 2 (1967) [Mono Mix]

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Vol. 2

Original 1967 Mono LP Mix
2017 Jackpot Records JPR 039 (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip at 96kHz/24bit FLAC + full high-res scans!~

If you were to ask three different guys what their favorite West Coast Pop Art LP is, you'd probably get three different answers. By and large, WCPAEB remains one of the most well-known psychedelic rock bands from the L.A. scene (that is, well-known to those who care about such things), and although their album output was quite consistent, none of their records have really stood up as the timeless masterpieces you'd expect given the hype; nonetheless, like all experiments, some are unsuccessful, while others are breakthroughs. The band's second major-label offering, aptly titled Vol. 2 (also Volume II or Volume Two (Breaking Through), depending on where you look), features some of their best tracks, namely "Smell Of Incense," "Suppose We Give A War And No One Comes," and the less-oft-mentioned "Carte Blanche," but otherwise remains relatively inconsistent, for me. Nonetheless, those tracks justify having this album on my shelf in both its stereo and mono forms.

With a band name like this, you immediately get an idea of what to expect from this album. There are elements of experimental music, folk ballads, and of course fuzzed-out acid explosions. The style is admittedly quite varied, which is a plus, but the lyrical content on this album was strongly influenced by bankroller Bob Markley, and frequently ventures into creepy territory -- and not in a good way: it feels like reading a precursor to Nabokov's Lolita while listening to a talented group of guys try their best to make weird, haunting pop songs. Here are some of the my favorite cringe-worthy lines:

"This is an African tribal chant that we wrote" -- spoken by a bunch of white American hippies

"You have a perfectly round tongue... Let me in, let me in! I'll give you candy." -- proclaimed by an emphatic Markley

"You're too young, you're just a child... when you're older, there'll be a place for us" -- oh, God...

"I'd take her riding on my BSA" -- with "BSA" pronounced suspiciously like "penis, eh?"

Several vocals are pretty weak and even a bit out-of-tune, but with the major-label engineering, it was dealt with properly: for example, "Smell Of Incense" wisely used double-tracking with lots of reverb, working to good effect. At the very least, this is a unique LP which has earned its spot in history as a representation of the experimentation that the '60s music scene seems to have come to embody.

Back cover artwork, with Bob Markley's stare occupying most of the real estate

This dedicated mono mix has never (yet) been reissued digitally, which is a bit of a curiosity.  I heard through the grapevine a couple years back that a mono CD boxset was in the works, but it still hasn't appeared, so... here's this. The mono does offer better balance than the stereo version, typical of this period. I bought this reissue a couple years after it came out, and was pleasantly surprised at how excellent it sounded. The audio was sourced from the original 15ips 1-track (mono) mixdown master tape, though probably with some (high-resolution?) digital intermediary. The mastering is pleasant, and the pressing quality is totally superb. It's one of the best reissues I've bought in the last few years. The original might sound better -- but I suspect that it could also sound worse, with the high-end roll-off and inner-groove distortion expected from a '60s mono pop LP. Note that the original mastering notes pictured above call for "HP 55 | LP 12.5," meaning for a high-pass filter at 55 Hz and a low-pass at 12.5 kHz, which isn't that much better frequency response than AM radio.

My dub is from this album's virgin playing, and a full manual restoration only took the matter of a few hours. There is a little bit of noise here and there which is actually on the master, which I left intact: "The Arena" has some audible static, and the baby crying at the end of "Suppose They Give A War" seems to have been dubbed from an LP itself, so there's some light clicks there. I won't enumerate the rest, but you can rest assured that this restoration represents as closely as possible the sound of the mono master tapes as is currently available.

Track Listing:

1) In The Arena -- 4:13
2) Suppose They Give A War And No One Comes -- 3:41
3) Buddha -- 2:09
4) Smell Of Incense -- 5:49
5) Overture - WCPAEB Part II -- 1:32
6) Queen Nymphet -- 2:21
7) Unfree Child -- 4:00
8) Carte Blanche -- 2:45
9) Delicate Fawn -- 2:31
10) Tracy Had A Hard Day Sunday -- 4:27

Vinyl Condition: Mint (virgin playing)
Dynamic Range: DR12

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 7 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.5.1 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)

Full album available on YouTube here:

Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!

Enjoy! :)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Relatively Clean Rivers - s/t (1976) [Original US Private Press]

 Relatively Clean Rivers - self-titled

Original 1976 USA private pressing LP
Pacific Is PC 17601  (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip in 96kHz / 24bit FLAC + full high-res scans!~

"[Relatively Clean Rivers] is the most flawless snapshot of the California seventies underground scene
you will ever hear." ~Clark Faville

"[One] of the most admired albums among rare LP collectors... which could be taken as a harmonious summing up of the whole psychedelic era... as told by one of the surviving believers." ~Patrick Lundborg 

I am so glad to finally release my restoration of this folk-psych masterpiece to the world. While most people "in the know" will agree that this is one of the finest records ever produced, its sheer rarity means that Rivers has too long awaited a proper digital transfer. Though it was made in the mid-1970s, this unique SoCal alt-rural trip has deeply-seated American '60s influences, and with closed eyes the line blurs between listening to music and journeying from the vibrant Pacific coastline to the high California desert. For such an obscurity, this album certainly has everything one could hope for (and more).

Relatively Clean Rivers is so good that I can't believe it took so long for me to hear it; I came upon this rather casually some years back, but even upon initial impressions it cut quite deep. The style has been compared to Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, and even Van Morrison, among others, but really it is because of its own original style that it leaves such a unique impression. The album was carefully assembled, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, where at one moment you'll be listening to a soft acoustic guitar prelude and the next you're thrown into the cacophonic whirlwind of distortion and backwards-recorded effects, finally erupting into a chorus of, "so where have you been today, and what have you done; have you asked for an answer anyone?" The headspace is extraordinary and its ever-changing feel is not choppy and random like some raw, mid-century musique concrète assemblage; rather it is a smoothly-flowing, social and, yes, environmental message which unfortunately resonates more than ever today.

Major thanks to our friend C.F. for his immense help and research. Without him this post certainly would not exist. Also thanks to Psych Trail Mix for his constant encouragement for me to finish this important project.
Finally, thanks to Phil Pearlman for his endorsement to share his music freely here!

Original front cover artwork, created by famed artist Jim Evans a.k.a. T.A.Z.

The story of Relatively Clean Rivers begins after the dissolution of The Beat Of The Earth, Phil Pearlman's earlier psychedelic recording act based in Orange County, California. 1969 had seen the recording of The Electronic Hole, and its "release" in 1970 was quickly abandoned after the club of the same name came to naught. The era that followed lacks clarity; the likely story is that Phil, disheartened by the commercial failure, decided to focus on other aspects of his life for several years before the appearance of Rivers, though of course it could be possible that there is yet another album in the Pearlman archives which has yet to make an appearance.

Pearlman, whose father was Jewish and mother Protestant, remained apparently areligious until a fateful stroll along the ocean shore, where he randomly stumbled upon a copy of the Holy Bible and decided to start reading. By his account, this day marked Pearlman's conversion to Christianity -- and subsequently, his music began to absorb its deep spiritual influence. Don't worry, there is nothing preachy about Relatively Clean Rivers; if you weren't paying attention, you wouldn't even notice the subtle religious allusions that are at play amongst the larger, more existential context. "Easy Ride," Pearlman writes, "the inevitable journey we all must take (past, present, or future) through the vast Orwellian wilderness; a prayer of hope, living; unknowing pawns in the ever evolving spun web of international non-détente; achieving relative perfection in our own special tiny corner of the universe; a struggle not only to relate to where we're at, but to where we're not at besides..."

[A historical note: US President Gerald Ford had signed the Helsinki Accords in 1975, but President Carter ended Cold War-era détente with the USSR only a few years later, after Rivers had already been released. A futuristic vision, perchance?]

Rear cover of Relatively Clean Rivers, including a telling Pearlman poem

The formation of the band also seems to be shrouded in some mystery. There does not appear to be any evidence for public performances, so they were likely a studio act only; the band probably hoped that their album would gain some major-label attention, which it never did. Not for Pearlman's lack of trying, of course; after spending more than a year completing the album and getting around 1000 copies pressed, paid out of his own pocket at surely no small expense, Pearlman utilized his own novel style of advertising. He left copies of Rivers on park benches, on college campuses, and even smuggled them into stores to neatly place amongst the stock (a process he dubbed "reverse-shoplifting") all around the L.A. area -- and all to little avail.

In an attempt to advertise the project's release, Pearlman had green promo banners printed, reading "RELATIVELY CLEAN RIVERS IS COMING." These were hung on street corners around Los Angeles some weeks or months beforehand (humorously, one record store clerk apparently recognized the album from memory of that banner during an aforementioned deposit). But without the proper distribution channels at his fingertips, and with no major-label connections, the project disappeared as swiftly as it emerged.

And the award for least effective advertising slogan ever goes to...

Musically the album certainly deserved more recognition, between the classic-rockin' intro of "Easy Ride," the stoned desert mood of "Valley Of O," the flipped-out psych jams of "Babylon" (an allusion to the biblical city, where Nebuchadnezzar forced 4,600 Jews into exile after destroying all of Judah)... On the flip a reversed-tape excerpt from "Last Flight" quickly fades into "Hello Sunshine," the shimmering ode of jubilation and eye-of-the-storm for this otherwise sociologically critical LP. "The Persian Caravan" even incorporates a surprising middle-eastern influence and trippy drum effects... It's impossible to pick a favorite moment from a never-ending flow of greatness, but the closer, "A Thousand Years" is perhaps Pearlman's golden memorandum. Lyrically it juxtaposes cynicism about Western "rushed life" ideals with Armageddon imagery and resolves this dissonance with the uplifting / optimistic closing verse, where we're told the clouds are beginning to clear.

"Behold, He is coming with the clouds," as John wrote in the Book of Revelation; this is the end which Pearlman foresaw, and so it is no surprise that he once tried producing eye-catching stickers that read "APOCALYPSE" to affix upon a few of the album covers. Once he learned that Mahavishnu Orchestra had released an album by the same name, though, this idea was discarded. In the end this abandonment was probably for the better, since the raw cover artwork is untouchably phenomenal. 

Replica of the "Apocalypse" sticker using the album's characteristic Windsor typeface

I think part of what gives Rivers its uniqueness, though, is its level of production. There is no jarring wall of studio effects when the needle drops, and while stereotypical psychedelic sounds do appear (including the aforementioned backwards tape, middle-eastern instruments, and vintage fuzztones), they are delicately balanced within the songs and seem completely natural. There is also a degree of rustic crudeness which when woven into the tapestry dramatically increases the album's depth. Homegrown technique manifests in the guitar solos via the slight echo of the studio booth picked up by the mic'd amp; or endearing realness from the drummer's slight tempo fluctuations in "Hello Sunshine." This is not sloppiness, but authenticity, and gives the impression of musicians who are not necessarily after a hit single, nor some slaves to executive puppeteers after a dollar; rather, the band creates music out of sheer desire and naiveté, content to remain in the underground, preferring to openly caricaturize and question an over-technologized, over-produced lifestyle. I mean, who wants to have relatively clean rivers? As the river flows, where is its mountain, and where is its sea?

Content with anonymity, Phil Pearlman's design for the album cover featured no photos of the band; however, his bandmates did desire some recognition for their efforts. To quell them, Pearlman designed and printed up photo inserts on thin paper and stuck them inside the covers. Kurt and Dwight's photos are bright and clear, whereas Pearlman's is dark, with his face mostly obfuscated. Pearlman's original cover design also featured a plain greyscale gatefold without any lyrics, but when the printing facility informed Phil that they would add color for free to test out their new printing press, Phil rushed home to add green squares with lyrics, creating the design which was eventually released. After this run was completed, Phil paid for an additional run of 100 covers with just his garden photo and no lyrics, since he was "curious what they'd look like," and "thought they should exist." Neither cover design nor the photo insert earned anyone any fame, but they have become interesting collector items nonetheless. 

Phil Pearlman's original "no words" gatefold design with a plain photo from his garden

That is, unfortunately, the birth and death of Relatively Clean Rivers -- though it is not quite the end of the story.

Scenery from the Phil Pearlman goat farm
After the downfall of Rivers, which probably felt like yet another musical disappointment in his life, it seems that Phil Pearlman gave up his creative aspirations for good. In the early 1980s, Pearlman proved again that his barebones yearnings were genuine by upending his uncomfortable, chaotic city life and moving with wife Jennifer, young daughter, and sons Adam and Omar to a tiny town in Riverside County amongst the withered foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains. An attempt to find his own Garden Of Eden, it was there he took up, of all things, goat farming. Pearlman claims to have invented a more-humane method of slaughter; this surprised several of his later-reconnected friends, who said that they didn't think Pearlman's gentle spirit was capable of killing anything at all.

I won't remark on the pursuits of Pearlman's eldest son Adam, as they are (I think) quite tragic and of little relevance here, though widely known amongst a larger crowd. The relevant New Yorker article is here.

Original Relatively Clean Rivers paper insert, with Pearlman's dark photo on the right

Phil Pearlman's reclusive Eden
Fast forward to the early 1990s, when the album is rediscovered by a set of dedicated collectors. The hunt to track down the elusive Pearlman -- who had lived totally off-grid in a self-built cabin without such amenities as running water, a telephone, or a mailing address -- began. It was common in those days for dealers of these obscure albums to track down artists, buy their remaining stock of original LPs for cheap, and then peddle them at exorbitant prices to whoever would pay, usually Europeans. The first to succeed with Rivers was record dealer Michael Piper, who discovered through Pearlman's father the previously-unknown connection to The Beat Of The Earth. Armed with that knowledge, dealer and Rockadelic label owner Rich Haupt, who had already tracked Pearlman down for The Beat Of The Earth debut as early as 1986, made the second connection.

When contacted in the mid-1980s, Pearlman sold a quantity of his remaining Beat Of The Earth LPs for around $25 each. A few years later, curious of its true value, Pearlman visited a local record store and enquired as to the going price (without, of course, revealing his identity). After being informed by the shop owner that The Beat Of The Earth was worth $300 or so – which had to be quite surprising – he came to the conclusion that the $25 price for which he'd sold them "just wasn't equitable."  As a result, when contacted in the early 1990s about Relatively Clean Rivers, his negotiations were more well-informed. By the late 1990s, Pearlman had begun the practice of letting out only a limited number of LPs per year. The number of Rivers sold per year has decreased from around 10 sold through two separate dealers in the 1990s to x-out-of-5 for any LP connected to Pearlman (combined total) through his remaining California-based dealer acquaintance.

The enormous demand coupled with the miniscule supply has caused the prices for these albums to skyrocket over the decades, with most routinely selling for thousands of dollars. With such a demand, bootlegs began to appear, first on James Plummer's Radioactive / Phoenix / Fallout axis of labels, which still appear in regular circulation today. One has to wonder, then, with such popular demand, why has Pearlman not reissued his albums to the masses? Is he not happy that he has finally achieved the acclaim he so yearned for?

The final gatefold design for Rivers, including all of the album's lyrical content

One reason is apparently the fear that some record dealer might buy up all copies of a new reissue and bring the price from something cheap and reasonable to something equally exorbitant, which could not be prevented; this surely has occurred in the past, but if I were in the drivers' seat, I would say, "great! Sell them all, then I'll call up the pressing plant and order another run, and this time we'll sell them for one dollar cheaper than before." Clearly, the bootleggers are having no such problem.

Philip Pearlman / Gadahn in 2007
Another justification is that Pearlman, who is compulsive about controlling every part of the manufacturing process, could never allow an external company to reproduce his music in good conscience; he would need to be present in order to ensure that everything meets his artistic standards. Pearlman proved however that he is quite capable of releasing new material on his lonesome when Our Standard Three Minute Tune appeared in 1994. It is quite the shame that, given his high artistic standards, he has only made available lo-fi pressings of his LPs from the 1960s / 1970s.

It is an unfortunate fact that seemingly every copy of Relatively Clean Rivers on Earth is, to some degree, warped. They range from mild edge warps, to dish-like warps, to wild, needle-hopping-out-of-the-groove warps, but they're all warped. Pearlman sold sealed copies of Rivers for years through Michael Piper, who did not offer any returns when buyers found them to have such issues; these days Pearlman opens and plays them on a relative's turntable before shipping them off, to certify that they are at least functional. The change-over to this procedure is when the rule of "5 copies per year" (of any Pearlman records combined) began, so presumably some non-negligible volume of Rivers are found to be totally unplayable. However, Pearlman still maintains his "no returns" policy on anything exported from the goat farm.

We should be grateful that Pearlman lets out records from his stash at all, but the fact that he annually sells his albums for thousands of dollars from a cache of warped, noisy LPs, while the master tapes rot away, is surely pretty distressing. In all fairness, Pearlman is a circa-75-year-old grassroots hippie, certainly not an audiophile, and has totally moved on with his life from these musical projects; but since he happens to have saved a stack of these old records which, to his surprise, have garnered interest worldwide, Pearlman is able to capitalize on forgotten projects of 40 years past as a sort-of surprise 401k. If I were in his shoes, I'd probably do the same thing; yet, while this business is totally justified, my inner audio freak is saddened that Phil prefers to maximize profits rather than ensure his music gets the proper reissue treatment it deserves. And one can only imagine his amazing collection of sessions, outtakes, and demos which will probably never be heard; though, perhaps this is all in the artist's intention, for better or for worse.  

At least the person who deals with Pearlman directly these days has been honest in paying him his fair share (and actually accepts returns if buyers are unhappy). There are too many multi-thousand-dollar LPs in existence featuring the art of musicians who remain in total poverty, or damn close, and Pearlman deserves to make some money from his work. Of course, people like myself could simply be the minority, as other experts who are personally involved have submitted. From a public forum:

In any case, from the man who asked, "whose face do you see on the coin? Not God's," Phil Pearlman has given permission for his music to appear online free of charge to the masses. Please avoid bootlegs of his music; the bootleggers have made huge strides with this one, and online marketplaces have remained typically tolerant of them. Nonetheless, as for any other album, I suggest we separate the man, and his family, from the music, which in this case really is a near-perfect artistic expression. I, for one, have made the conscious decision not to let any real or perceived corruptions of time and money dethrone this masterpiece from being one of my top-10 favorite records of any genre. And now it can be heard by all, freely, in quality unmatched anywhere else. 

Like the bootlegs of other Phil Pearlman-related LPs, the Radioactive / Phoenix releases have some serious problems. The artwork is hazy, and the vinyl dub was done off-center, introducing noticeable "wow" (sinusoidal speed & pitch variations) throughout. It was also dosed with a good amount of compression and a little CEDAR Quality Reduction System™ for good measure. Yeah, no thanks. 

I've searched for years to find a perfect copy of this album, including 4 unplayed copies from the goat farm. Thanks to our friend C.F., I now have one that is certainly the best of the bunch, actually one of the first ~100 pressed, which was used for this transfer. After properly centering and clamping down the record, there was still some ultra-light flutter. I applied some necessary corrections using a self-devised special technique along with Celemony's Capstan software, but nobody to whom I sent comparison clips could tell the difference anyway. So, I'm fairly certain that this remastering is not only the best out there, but as perfect as this album may ever be.

There are a few weird noises which appear at various points throughout this album. These include thumps from rough tape splices (e.g. in "Valley Of O,"), single-channel audio not mixed perfectly to the center, etc. I've left all these intact, except for some weird non-musical hiss/clicking artifacts in "A Thousand Years" which I removed individually, manually, without affecting the integrity of the actual music. Moments that are in true mono (including the entirety of "Easy Ride") were also corrected as such.

Relatively Clean Rivers:
- Phil Pearlman: guitar, bass, vocals, English flute (alto recorder), bağlama (sahz), harmonica, synthesizer
- Kurt Baker: guitar, vocals
- Dwight Morouse: drums, special effects on 8 & 9

Additional accompaniment:
- Hank Quinn: drums on 8
- John Alabaster: conga on 8

Track listing
1) "Easy Ride" -- 3:49
2) "Journey Through The Valley Of O" -- 4:13
3) "Babylon" -- 5:52
4) "Last Flight To Eden" -- 2:44
5) "Prelude" -- 0:29
6) "Hello Sunshine" -- 3:36
7) "They Knew What To Say" -- 3:26
8) "The Persian Caravan" -- 3:49
9) "A Thousand Years" -- 5:33

Vinyl condition: M- (minor dish warp, clamped down)
Dynamic range: DR14

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 7 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Celemony Capstan (occasional flutter fixes)
– Foobar2000 v1.5.1 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)

Full album on YouTube here:

Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!

Enjoy! :)   (and here are a couple more good photos that I couldn't manage to fit in...)

Phil Pearlman / Seth Gadahn in his private backcountry oasis, circa 2007

The gated entrance to Phil Pearlman's private residence, baked golden brown from the dry California heat

Saturday, June 5, 2021

MU - Press Kit (1971) + Promo Video (1987)

There is no vinyl restoration in conjunction with this blog post, because one is not needed; the MU album (and successive Hawaiian sessions) have already been reissued from the tapes by Sundazed with excellent sound quality (Discogs link here / Rockasteria link here). However, I felt it necessary to share these scans of the demo kit, which was sent with some white-label promo copies of the LP, since they are very cool to see and provide some interesting reading. 

Simultaneously, I am providing a digital transfer of the MU (pronounced like "moo") / Merrell Fankhauser promotional VHS tape, which was manufactured in 1987 but contains some nice footage of the band from 1972-1974. Towards the end of the tape is Fankhauser's music video for "Don't Give Up The Rock," which is a bit cringe... but the MU stuff at the beginning/end is great, and some home-video-quality Maui shoreline is included to nice effect.  

You can click on the photos below to bring up the full-screen versions for easier viewing & reading.

The original promo VHS tape was transferred to DVD at XP speed using the equipment outlined below. The video was then ripped losslessly to MKV, and deinterlaced using the YADIF method (mode=1) with ffmpeg. The original audio of the video consists of studio-recorded tracks with some minor edits. For this project, two different audio streams have been muxed into an MKV container with the deinterlaced video stream. The first (and thus default) audio steam is a lossless WAV with the audio reconstructed from master-tape CDs, where available, and offers the superior sound quality, and is in stereo; the second audio stream is that which was originally included on the DVD untouched, and seems to be in mono. For YouTube I upsampled the video to 1080p in order to minimize reencoding artifacts; the video file shared here is at the original 480p resolution (originally 480i). 

Video tracks:
1) "Nobody Wants To Shine"
2) "One More Day"
3) "The Land Of MU"
4) "Make A Joyful Noise"
5) "Children Of The Rainbow"
5) "Don't Give Up The Rock"
6) "Calling From A Star"

Video lineage:
- VHS machine: Toshiba W-605
- DVD Burner: Panasonic DMR-E80H (at XP speed)
- DVD ripped to lossless MKV using MakeMKV v1.16.3
- ffmpeg (with options -vf yadif=1 -preset slow -crf 16 -c:a copy)
- MKVToolNix (splitting off beginning/end, de/muxing audio)

Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!

Enjoy! :)

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Spirits & Worm - Spirits & Worm (1970) [USA Original]

Spirits & Worm - Spirits & Worm

Original 1970 pressing
A&M Records SP-4229  (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip in 96 kHz / 24 bit FLAC + full high-res scans~

Imagine if the hard-edged guitar of Kak united with the mesmerizing vocal harmonies of the Mamas & Papas, and you'll have a basic idea of how Spirits & Worm sounds. Comparisons to Birmingham Sunday are not out-of-line, but are probably useless unless you're a private press fanatic. This band should be more famous than any of those groups, but for some reason their major-label album immediately disappeared upon initial release, dooming the music to permanent obscurity. Dealer hype has rumored that the cover artwork (depicting two goats laying on a grave) was deemed too occult-like and Satanic... but really, it seems that this album was just test-marketed in the New England area, and when no sales or radio airplay resulted, the release was simply cancelled. 

Since there has never been a proper reissue of this album, I am proud to present here a top-quality digital master for your enjoyment and archival preservation.

This LP presents a somewhat diverse collection of styles. Some tracks start out as heavy rockers, pointing the way towards Zeppelin and Sabbath ("She's The One"), but there are also some flimsier pop-oriented influences, including prominent horns ("Every Little Bit Of Love"). The songs of interest to readers of this blog are likely those that have higher-dimensional soundscapes with good guitar licks and perfect harmonization; for me the title track is probably the best, though the 45 tracks "You And I Together" / "Fanny Firecracker" are also favorites, along with the album closer "She's So Good." I wouldn't call this album a masterpiece, but... is it still a good f'n album? Yes, yes it is.

It seems that the standard reference texts give this a 1969 release year, but I think that is incorrect: this album received a 4-star review in Billboard on 28 March 1970 and appeared two weeks later in the New Album Releases for April, strongly suggesting that copies were not sent out until that spring, 1970. After that, it vanished. The album has been highly sought-after since its discovery in the 1980s, though a handful of sealed copies were found circa 1989 and sold through Goldmine magazine. The band was apparently from Long Island, New York, and I believe that the cache of LPs were also found in that vicinity.

I had known of this record for some time, but had essentially resolved that I'd never own it by the time one seemingly fell into my hands. I begrudgingly opened this sealed original copy in order to desecrate its sacred virginity for the purposes of this blog post (you're welcome for the imagery). The sound quality is exactly what you'd expect for a sealed A&M LP – phenomenal. Since there have only been mediocre, noisy, Nth-generation vinyl dubs reissued over the years, this digital mastering far outpaces the competition and will likely stand as the definitive version for many years to come. 

Carlos Hernandez - lead guitar
Alfred Scotti - rhythm guitar & vocals
Tommy Parris - bass guitar & vocals
Artie Hicks, Jr. - drums
Adrianne Maurici - vocals

Track listing:
1) "You And I Together" -- 2:47
2) "Every Little Bit Of Love" -- 2:39
3) "She" -- 3:19
4) "Fanny Firecracker" -- 2:41
5) "Sunny Please Hold Me" -- 3:44
6) "Spirits & Worm" -- 2:59
7) "All I Need Is A Little You" -- 4:03
8) "She's The One" -- 3:04
9) "You're Dynamite" -- 3:12
10) "She's So Good" -- 3:58

Dynamic Range: DR12
Vinyl condition: Mint (sealed)

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 8 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.5.1 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)

Full album available on YouTube here:

Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!
Note that the Artwork directory is fairly large (4.5 GB) and may require downloading separately. 

Spirits & Worm band photograph

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

San Francisco Sound – Fifth Pipe Dream – Volume I (1968)

San Francisco Sound – Fifth Pipe Dream – Volume I

Original 1968 Stereo LP  (Discogs)
San Francisco Sound S7-11680
~ThePoodleBites rip in 96kHz / 24bit FLAC + full high-res scans!~

Fifth Pipe Dream – Volume I is a collection of recordings from Matthew Katz's roster of bands as it stood during the spring/summer of 1968. The most familiar group is It's A Beautiful Day, who made their debut here, before their self-titled album (finally) appeared on Columbia the following year. Tripsichord Music Box add three consistently great tracks, backed by the astounding contributions of West Coast Natural Gas (misattributed to Indian Puddin' & Pipe) and Black Swan, a more pop-oriented group.

This album is famous enough that most '60s guys are at least vaguely familiar with the notion that it exists, but it only recently occurred to me after conversing with several people that many folks are seemingly confused by the notion of this being a "compilation" album. Yes, this record contains tracks by various artists, but it is not a Nuggets-style comp of previously-released psych hits; rather, this is the first-issue for all of the songs here, and over 50 years later it remains the only tape-sourced release for any of this material. 

Thanks must be given to the usual suspects: to C.F. for his massively extensive (!!!) help with research and for
all the wonderful artifacts shared from his archives; to Psych Trail Mix for invaluable information retrieval;
and to members of Tripsichord and WCNG for some invaluable fact verification.

Credit due: many poster scans here are from
Split Fountain Hieroglyphics by Scott McDougall. Find it, if you can!

Original greyscale cover artwork for Fifth Pipe Dream – Volume I

This album has two cover variations: one in greyscale, and another with added color. Collectors have debated for years which came first, and although no definitive proof has been given one way or the other, the greyscale version seems a little rougher around the edges and is lacking an extra design credit, which seems to suggest that it was the earlier of the two. The cover drawing was created by Katz's then go-to artist, Donna Cohen (née Wallace), and credited simply to "Wallace Studio," as was her usual signature in those days. Here is what Donna has to say about this debate: 

"The greyscale is my original. I have no idea who added color... although I wish they hadn't, or at least had chosen better colors. I did lots of posters for Matthew, however this was the only album I designed for him."

Original colored cover artwork for Fifth Pipe Dream – Volume I

... though I'm admittedly partial to the colored version, which "pops" a bit more than the lifeless grey print. The album's title is of course a play on the phrase "pipe dream," which means something fanciful or unrealistic. The origin of this phrase is more revealing: the Oxford English Dictionary writes that the etymology is "apparently with reference to the kind of visions experienced when smoking an opium pipe." The red flowers on the cover are probably poppies.

"Fifth Pipe Dream" was in fact one of several names that producer Matthew Katz had invented, copyrighted, and forced upon his unsuspecting musicians when they signed with his label. Owning the name of the band gave Katz (who insists his name is pronounced like "Cates") full legal control of any performances or recordings which bore it. When Jefferson Airplane split from Katz to pursue a major-label contract, an action that was soon followed by Moby Grape and It's A Beautiful Day, endless legal pursuits ensued. These groups had already spent considerable time and resources building a following under those monikers, so they could not simply change names, but they had no right to perform or record without permission from the original copyright holder.

After the departure of Moby Grape and a subsequent legal ruling that the name was still owned by Katz, a new band was assembled under the same name for touring purposes, which consisted primarily of members from Tripsichord Music Box, West Coast Natural Gas, and others. This assemblage played Moby Grape songs under the Moby Grape name, and sometimes even dressed like Moby Grape did on their debut album cover, but none of Skip Spence/Jerry Miller/Don Stevenson/etc were present. Although Tripsichord guitarist Frank Straight remembers that this was "well-accepted within the crowd," there are several accounts of disappointed or enraged fans demanding refunds for their tickets. Katz seems to remember this somewhat fondly: "Tripsichord made a great job of it. They did a better job than the original guys. They were disciplined, they worked better together, they liked each other and they listened to each other and they sang better (except for Bob Mosley, of course – he was an excellent singer). When Frank Straight played the Moby Grape stuff, he played it as well as Jerry Miller did, but he added his own flavor to it – it was actually better. They went over well, but the audience gave us a bad rap – the people with the attitude."

The "Fifth Pipe Dream" band performing in Phoenix, Arizona, circa Easter (14 April) 1968.
L to R: Kris Larson, guitar (WCNG), Burke Wallace, guitar (new Moby Grape), Jeffrey Cohen, guitar (Black Swan), Skip Bowe, bass (new Moby Grape), Tommy Rowe (Games), Oliver McKinney, organ (Tripsichord Music Box). Drummer is either Randy Gordon (Tripsichord) or Pat ? from Seattle (new Moby Grape). [Thanks to Pat Craig for help with the identification!]

Katz has become a controversial figure over the years, and he has been the subject of much scrutiny for his production approach, and for being a "vexatious litigant" – a description apparently assigned to him by a presiding judge – which sadly impacts his artists even today. One can simultaneously imagine, however, how disheartening these developments must have been for Katz, who gave these unknown bands a jump-start into a new worldwide sensation, yet was slowly abandoned by those he had originally fought for, not against.

While Katz was the sole originator and proprietor of San Francisco Sound, he is joined in production by Mark Uzilevsky a.k.a. Marcus a.k.a. Rusty Evans, the infamous acidhead bandleader behind The Deep, The Third Rail, The Freak Scene, and other studio groups. In fact, Uzilevsky also appears here as a songwriter and performer, as Pat Craig recalls:

"Aquarian Dream is a song that Katz put together after It's A Beautiful Day split with him so that he would have a B-side and could release Bulgaria as a single. I am playing on the cut along with Mark Uzilevksy (Rusty Evans), who is the singer and guitarist and producer, and June Richards (Katz's girlfriend). I think Jeff LaBrache may have been playing drums, but I'm not sure. Frank [Straight] from Tripsichord did the lead guitar."

Original San Francisco Sound "It's A Beautiful Day" sticker on red-orange DayGlo paper. Design by Donna Wallace-Cohen

Original IABD 45 for San Francisco Sound, probably released contemporaneously with the Fifth Pipe Dream LP

It's A Beautiful Day at this point in time included David LaFlamme (violin, vocals), his wife Linda LaFlamme (electric piano, organ), Mitchell Holman (bass), Val Fuentes (drums), and the beautiful Pattie Santos (vocals, tambourine, bells). The band had no guitarist. The version of "Bulgaria" which appears here is totally different from the one released on their debut album, but (contrary to Patrick Lundborg's unfounded claims) it is not mistitled. A demo tape recorded at the Avalon Ballroom on 9 April 1968 boasts an eleven-and-a-half-minute version of this tune with both segments melded together, which proves that these two tracks are in fact the same, but that two different sections were chosen for the Fifth Pipe Dream versus Columbia sessions. This could have been because of the length, or purely due to copyright reasons, as commission already had to be paid to Katz for use of the band's title. 

The uncredited band on the flip side definitely contained Mark Uzilevsky (vocals, guitar), June Richards (vocals on chorus), Frank Straight (lead guitar), and Pat Craig (organ, piano); other musicians are believed to include David Zandonatti, bass (Tripsichord) and Jeff LaBrache, drums (WCNG). No one seems to recall who played the French horn, so it probably was a local session musician; the trumpeter may have been Saul Chait from Black Swan, but this is unconfirmed. 

These SF Sound stickers were all seemingly manufactured with two color variants: red (pictured above) and green (pictured here). These colors, and the different designs, appeared somewhat randomly throughout this time and were apparently used primarily as promotional items. 

It's A Beautiful Day was not the only band to have its Katz-given name applied incorrectly. Four tracks appear from the Seattle, Washington-founded band West Coast Natural Gas, but by the time of this album's release, that band had ceased to exist, and credit given to a follow-up act called Indian Puddin' & Pipe (another Katz name). Pat Craig explains: 

Screen print poster for The Frye Hotel,
3 Dec 1966 (artwork by Milo Johnstone)
"[Our recordings] took us until early 1968. At that time we went back to Seattle for several weeks and played the club circuit up there. I had switched from just vocals to playing piano and organ and we really had gotten tight. We went back down to San Francisco without Steve Mack and went on a tour with Katz where he put out a group of guys (all good players and great guys) as Moby Grape. We played Denver, St. Louis, and Phoenix. It was a shoestring tour and by the time we got back we were done with Katz. The band broke up and went back to Seattle. Katz released a single – Go Run And Play / A Favor on his S.F. Sound label under the name WCNG. Later he released a compilation album—the first San Francisco Sound sampler—called Fifth Pipe Dream. [The Fifth Pipe Dream tracks] were recorded by WCNG and relabeled Indian Puddin' And Pipe."

Obviously Katz was aware of the group names, but this "mistake" was likely intentional. Owning the band name, and popularizing the music under that name, Katz gained effective control over the use of those songs. Pat Craig adds some additional frustrations:

"Again, because of the manipulations of our manager, Matthew Katz, and because he did not own the name West Coast Natural Gas, all of the recordings that The GAS did were credited to Indian Pudding and Pipe after WCNG broke up—one of the great kerfuffles of the psychedelic era. THIS RECORDING IS NOT INDIAN PUDDING AND PIPE!!! It is West Coast Natural Gas, which was a great band in its OWN right... The GAS was a five piece Folk-Rock band. The PIPE was a 10 piece Fusion Jazz orchestra. Huge difference."

Those five members included Pat Craig himself (piano & organ), Kris Larson (12-string guitar), Steve Mack (lead guitar), Dave Burke (bass), and Jeff LaBrache (drums). The four WCNG tracks included on this set are well-known collector favorites, especially the two tracks which open side 2, "Hashish" and "Water Or Wine." For a transcription and explanation of the lyrics for "Hashish," you can see the spotlight in Psych Trail Mix #10, available here (there's a PDF!). 

Offset litho poster for the "Happening," 24-26 Nov 1967 (artwork by Tony Schmid) 

Original greyscale gatefold design, with photo montage of the bands and several uncredited others

The colored cover featured largely the same design, save for the purple hue and an additional design credit
Along with WCNG, two strong segments here are performed by none other than Tripsichord Music Box. The eight-and-a-half-minute "Family Song," easily the longest track here, is interstellar. The extended guitar + organ solos suggest to me a comparison to the Doors' "Light My Fire," but feature Frank Straight's hectic, feverish guitar lines, the kind you would expect from a top-notch Bay-area band. The songs have more obvious psychedelic influence than can be heard on their later full-length album, which would drop Oliver McKinney on organ but gain Bill Carr as second guitarist and songwriter. As with much of their later material, all of the songs here were penned by bassist David Zandonatti. While their later lyrics are religiously focused, that influence does not seem to manifest here. One can only imagine the foothold this well-founded band could have established if they had been touring under their own name instead of somebody else's. 

S.F. Sound artwork by Donna Wallace-Cohen; November (above) and December (below), 1967

The album is concluded by two tracks from a band called Black Swan, who make their sole public offering here. The first of these songs, "Lady Blonde," is a lightweight pop tune with horns that sounds like it was ripped off a Sonny & Cher LP. The closer, though, "She Encircles Me," is an enchanting, melting psychedelic fire, a forgotten classic whose dramatic 3/4 time seems to bring the perfect conclusion to this San Francisco conglomeration. The few lyrics that C.F. and I have been able to definitively make out seem to be highly-stoned characterizations of female beauty (think the Elevators' "She Lives") and sex... totally fitting subject matter for the free-lovin' Californian '60s. I may even suggest that this conclusive female image is depicted in Donna Wallace-Cohen's front-cover artwork:

Face of rain and voice of river
Gently spoken words deliver
Message of the sea

Ribbon hair and swirling eyes
Assuring me that therein lies
My dream, so it would seem...

As our thought-dreams crystallize
Looking out, we realize
All is as it seems

The line-up of Black Swan at this time was extensive, and included Bruce Good, lead guitar (later of The Good Brothers), Jeffrey Cohen, guitar & keyboards (later writing for Herbie Hancock and others), Saul "Soul" Chait, bass & trumpet, Tom Bright, drums, and Mark Hanesworth, guitar & harmonica. Most of the band members also sang, and they gigged regularly with the other S.F. Sound groups.

Original concert ticket for Valentine's Day week (Wed.-Sat., 14-17 February), 1968

With the sheer amount of talent that is collected here, it is no surprise that this album was musically quite strong. What is surprising, though, is how much of a smoothly-transitioning concept piece this turned out to be. While there are several bands appearing here, with seemingly little connection to one another, it feels in some cases as if they lead into one another, or at least knew exactly where their pieces fit. In 1968 this concept – surely devised by Katz – was pretty novel, and in the liners he writes:

"If you like hearing four groups on one album write us, as the musicians would dig to continue this idea. This record is so different that if you, the music lover, do not demand it, then the company won't be able to evaluate the idea & therefore won't do it again. All the songs are available on single records and reproduced on song posters and in the San Francisco Sound Music Book. For more information or whatever, write to: San Francisco Sound General, Del. 94101, S.F."

The fact that there never was a Fifth Pipe Dream – Volume II (Sixth Pipe Dream?), nor individual singles, nor a San Francisco Sound Music Book, seems to imply that response to this album was weaker than anticipated, or that interest quickly waned. Since Katz simply did not have the same distribution channels as a major label like Columbia, this was probably through no fault of his own. It is criminal that West Coast Natural Gas never received the studio time it deserved for full-album treatment, but the tracks here, plus their non-LP 45, plus a couple acetate tracks and commercial ads were compiled and reissued a few years back as Two's A Pair on Raymond Dumont's label out of Switzerland. Apart from a recently-surfaced acetate, Black Swan made no other recordings, though Jeffrey Cohen and Bruce Good would go on to be in other recorded musical acts. Tripsichord of course would go on to record their full-length LP with San Francisco Sound, which was treated to major-label distribution on Janus, albeit years after the band had dissolved. 

"Merry Christmas" S.F. Sound sticker, which may have been included with some promo copies of the Fifth Pipe Dream LP

Article in Billboard Magazine, 26 Oct 1968
The album appeared, probably simultaneously with the IABD 45, on or around 15 November 1968, as revealed by a period article in Billboard. In that same article, it is mentioned that Katz is flirting with the idea of recording these bands at sea, which presumably was his idea for future Fifth Pipe Dream compilations or for the Tripschord solo album; neither of which actually occurred. Under the assumption that the color gatefold variant was designed and released after the greyscale version, the time necessitated by a full reprinting operation would imply that the color variant was probably not released until the next year, though there are of course several extrapolations made in this retroactive dating.

Although some wishful thinkers have quoted uncited claims for the pressing sizes for each of these variants, the number of each cover has fluctuated over the years, and while both are rare, it does not seem at present like one is particularly rarer than the other. The greyscale variant was indeed considered far rarer until a quantity of sealed copies were located in the last couple years, and now it seems that the grey one is several factors easier to procure. The discs contained in both versions are identical, and according to the deadwax etchings, they were manufactured by the well-known Monarch facility in Los Angeles, California. While Monarch is usually known today for their high-quality, well-mastered LP products (and their low-quality styrene 45s), this album is pretty lo-fi. 

Unfortunately, several mastering (or recording) issues plague this LP. The audio has a frequency cut-off around 12kHz, which could have been from a low tape recording speed, generational losses from the excessive processing and duplication needed to compile this release, or simply as a low-pass filter aimed towards AM radio; who knows. The cutting has obvious harmonic distortion, even on mint copies played back with any hi-fi equipment. I also noticed after dubbing my first copy that there was a weird hiss that repeatedly turns on-and-off during the entirety of side 2. I figured at first this was purely a pressing fault with the copy in hand, but after dubbing four different M- copies of this album and seeing the exact same hiss in the exact same location on all four, as well as on several other needledrops reissued throughout the years, I realized that this is actually a fault with the master lacquer, or maybe even the master tape. 

Even though most mint-looking copies of this album play with unusable levels of noise, I was able to create a pristine master out of the cleanest-playing copy I've ever heard, courtesy of C.F.'s collection. As mentioned above, several of these tracks have been comp'd elsewhere, but nothing compares in sound quality to the original without any EQ, compression, NR, or other digital fuckery. S.F. Sound self-released a CD of this with exactly those issues, as did RD (Two's A Pair) and Akarma (Tripsichord). So for full historical accuracy, I've decided to leave the oscillating hiss on side 2 intact, since that's just how this album sounds. I guess that most of you old hippies that frequent my blog will not hear or care about this anyways.

Comparison of the printed track listing between the grey and colored variants, in particular showing
the less-polished editing that is seen on the greyscale version (thought to have been manufactured first).
For some reason the title is printed here as "Fifth Pipedream" (one word); this is the only place where this is the case.

Track listing:
1) "Bulgaria" by It's A Beautiful Day -- 2:39
2) "Aquarian Dream" by unnamed, Mark Uzilevsky-led band -- 2:47
3) "You're The Woman" by Tripsichord Music Box -- 3:39
4) "It's Not Good" by Tripsichord Music Box -- 3:13
5) "Two's A Pair" by West Coast Natural Gas -- 4:15
6) "Beyond This Place" by West Coast Natural Gas -- 2:34
7) "Hashish" by West Coast Natural Gas -- 3:03
8) "Water Or Wine" by West Coast Natural Gas -- 3:38
9) "Family Song" by Tripsichord Music Box -- 8:25
10) "Lady Blonde" by Black Swan -- 2:08
11) "She Encircles Me" by Black Swan -- 2:09

Dynamic Range: DR12
Vinyl condition: M-

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 7 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.3.3 (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.5.1 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)

Full album is available on YouTube here:

Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!

Note that the Artwork directory is pretty large (9.7 GB) and may require downloading separately. Or, alternatively, you can click any image on this page to bring it up full-screen, then right-click and "Save image as..." to save the JPEG on your computer, if you are low on bandwidth. 

Thanks for visiting my blog, and enjoy! :)  Here are some more of Donna's S.F. Sound posters from 1968:

West Coast Natural Gas lighting up (source)
I leave you with a quote from Matthew Katz, as given in Richard Morton Jack's book Psychedelia, 1966-1970"I'm very proud of the contribution I've made to music, the spirit and the feeling. In the UK, George Martin is Sir George Martin. Why is Matthew Katz not thought of like this as well? I did as much as George Martin—I did more than George Martin."