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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.  

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: 

"[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!). 

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. 

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...

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 an 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJiIkBdmw_Q

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 (6 GB) and may require downloading separately. 

Thanks for visiting my blog, and enjoy! :)

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."

25 comments:

  1. Awesome.......I Don't have this album. What a fantastic rip, sounds great, thanks poodleBites.

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  2. Oh... I've never heard this version of 'Bulgaria'....wow.

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    1. Heh, wildly different, eh?
      When David LaFlamme asks you to come with him on a voyage within... you GO!

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  3. This is an awesome post TPB, you are always surprising us with fantastic stuff, a real labour of love. MANY thanks for share !!

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  4. This is really amazing (if not quite as amazing as apparently Mr. "Cates" thinks). Thanks so much to all responsible.

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  5. Groovy. Looking forward to spinning this one over the weekend. Thanks!

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  6. thanks to C.F., Psych Trail Mix, members of Tripsichord and WCNG and of course TPB for this great stuff :)

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  7. Again....How can I thank you for yet another chestnut from the past that I knew nothing about as well as the history lesson to boot. I love compilation albums of the time to begin with and this one is right in the middle of one of my favorite time and places in music history. ..Cheers !

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  8. I was in Haight Ashbury back in the day. Wonderful times. ABSOLUTELY.

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    1. Steve, what was your favorite of the SF bands? :)

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  9. The Airplane even when they were awful. But when they played well they played very well. FYI, in a high school gym we saw GD. Spent the night there and woke up two people away from Jerry. As pre Med my buddy Jim and I used to make acid in the chem labs. Always cutting classes and still garduating with honors ... Neither Jim or I became medical doctors.

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  10. Crawford Hall, UCI, worked backstage and got to hang with Neil and Janice. Even went to Monterey Pop, but not Woodstock.

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    1. Thanks for the stories Steve! Monterey Pop was "the one" ...
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIcj3kNCPA0
      Cheers :)

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    2. Hey Steve, did you know Phil Pearlman at UCI? He produced the "Grape Jelly Plot" shows (Oxford Circle late 1966, Big Brother & Holding Co early 1967, ...)

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  11. It's A Beautiful rip TPB thank you :)

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  12. Thanks PoodleBites! Appreciated.

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  13. Thanks for this wonderful relic from the past.

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  14. Some interesting news about Matthew Cats

    http://berkeleyfolk.blogspot.com/2010/06/this-katz-where-its-happening.html

    Great comments at the bottom of the page. A sentiment that I happen to share.

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    1. Thanks for the link. Katz lost his Malibu home in 2018 to the Woolsey fire, along with everything relating to his music career; original artwork, master tapes, etc. Last I heard he was in good spirits, and thinks that it is God's way of telling him to let go of the past.

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    2. Thanks for the extra info on Katz ... I just hope that his legacy (good or bad) isn't lost. One way or another, he was there documenting an important music scene and the San Francisco Sound label recordings should not get forgotten in the grand scheme.

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  15. Dear Poodle, I love these obscurities ... thanks a lot for this.

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  16. Thanks so much for your care and labor (of love). Everythin is a freaking delight - the text, the images, and the downloads.

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