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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Part One (1967) [Mono Mix]

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band - Part One

Original 1967 Mono Promo LP
Reprise Records R 6247 (Discogs)
~ThePoodleBites rip at 96 kHz / 24 bit + full high-res scans!~

"Formed in Los Angeles, California in 1965, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band created music
that possesses an eerily atmospheric and at times sinister quality that is bluntly political, childlike, and bizarre."
~Jackpot Records reissue sticker

The major-label debut from the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band (what a mouthful!) is probably one of the strongest contenders for the band's best LP output. Fittingly matching with the band's title, the album is basically a '60s pop LP comprising, yes, some experimental moments, along with the more mainstream-sounding tracks. A long-time favorite for many collectors, many of the band's most well-remembered recordings fill these grooves. The trippy painting which envelops the sleeve has undoubtedly only contributed to its allure. While not quite attaining "masterpiece" status for me, this record is certainly still a cool and unique part of California hippie-rock history and remains very enjoyable from beginning to end, even 55 years after its release.

Front cover illustration on the first mono pressing of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band Part One

Perhaps most importantly, the band's main detractor, the controversial lyrics of Bob Markley, seem to make little appearance here, apart from perhaps the tracks "I Won't Hurt You" and "Leiyla". But being pinched between the heavily-stoned compositions like "Shifting Sands" and "1906", and even being heavily stoned-out themselves, it's pretty hard to notice. Other highlights include the great psych-rocker "Transparent Day" and the garagey mushroom-eater "'Scuse Me, Miss Rose". The song credited solely to Dan Harris, "Will You Walk With Me", is actually a cover of the classic Bonnie Dobson track "Morning Dew", though it is so different from the Tim Rose and Grateful Dead versions that you may not recognize it at first. (Unfortunately I've heard so many versions of that song now that it's hard not to liken it to the "Louie, Louie" of psych-folk.)

A cover of Frank Zappa's "Help, I'm A Rock" is attempted as well, and although it's a nice tribute, it's still a far cry from the freakiness of the Mothers' original. Being from L.A., though, it's understandable why these guys had to try. One of the more interesting numbers is a rendition of P.F. Sloan's composition "Here's Where You Belong", which was apparently influential enough that the Grassroots also took a crack at cutting it the following year (but WCPAEB did it much better!). The album is closed out with an instrumental version of Van Dyke Parks' "High Coin", which may be more familiar to some from the Charlatans' version, later released on their LP on Philips in 1969.

Back cover artwork, featuring psychedelicized photos from a live performance of the band

The stereo mix of this album has been available on CD since Sundazed reissued it from the tapes in 2001. While not a totally perfect remaster (it is a bit too loud in some places), it is generally a quite nice-sounding CD; nonetheless, since this album was also treated to both mono and stereo variants upon initial release, many still have rightly wondered what the original album sounded like in its rarer monaural form. In 2017, Jackpot Records finally reissued the first three WCPAEB records in mono, using high-resolution transfers from the original tapes. However, for Part One, there seems to have been some problem with the analog transfer; "choppiness" of the tape noise suggests that the mono tape may have suffered some age-related degradation, or that it was simply transferred using a stereo tape head, producing two channels ever-so-slightly out-of-phase which, when collapsed to mono, caused partial cancellation of the audio during some parts of the recording. 

After hearing this problem on the 2017 reissue, I decided to invest in this clean original white-label promotional copy in order to share it here. I was delighted to find that the disc played flawlessly, making this one of the quickest clean-up jobs I've had for a used LP in recent memory. The sound quality is excellent as well: while there's a low-pass filter applied at about 17 kHz, this exactly matches the stereo mix and the mono Jackpot reissue, so it was apparently baked into the master itself.

After recovering from the initial shock of the wide stereo mix disappearing, I became curious about how this mix actually compared to a stereo fold-down. Indeed, while this does appear to be a dedicated mono mix, don't expect any extraordinary missing elements to suddenly appear here: from my comparisons, which I've noted below, it seems that most of that changes between the two are rather small, and were probably intended to "balance out" the sound in mono as opposed to the wide stereo version. I also noted that folding the stereo version sometimes resulted in phase cancellation issues similar to those described above, whereas the original mono LP plays perfectly with no such problems.

Tr. 1-2: Guitar marginally louder, more balanced in the mix
Tr. 3: Lead vocal marginally louder, can be heard above background "ahh" vocals
Tr. 4: Softer vocals. Less loud mix in first half of the song, crescendos more in second half
Tr. 5: Much more balanced mix: louder guitar & xylophone, quieter vocals. Less reverb
Tr. 6: Guitar marginally louder, entire track more dynamic
Tr. 7: Percussion marginally louder, very similar otherwise
Tr. 8: Quieter drums (almost buried) & louder guitars
Tr. 9: Better balance between instrumental track (louder) and vocals (quieter)
Tr. 10: Clearer (louder?) drums, especially the snare
Tr. 11: Drums quieter in intro, but slightly louder & clearer in the "main" part of the song

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band performing live
Track Listing:
1) Shifting Sands – 3:56
2) I Won't Hurt You – 2:27
3) 1906 – 2:21
4) Help, I'm A Rock – 4:28
5) Will You Walk With Me – 3:02
6) Transparent Day – 2:19
7) Leiyla – 2:56
8) Here's Where You Belong – 2:51
9) If You Want This Love – 2:52
10) 'Scuse Me, Miss Rose – 3:03
11) High Coin – 2:02

Vinyl Condition: M-
Dynamic Range: DR 12

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 (96 kHz / 24 bit)
– 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 v1.6.6 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)
 
 
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And as usual, enjoy!  :)

18 comments:

  1. One of my all time favs. Thanx a lot for sharing this mono promo. You're a champ!

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  2. Thanks a lot for the mono-mix - WCPAEB is one of my westcoast favorites, great sounding (via Audirvana), take care, cheers, Karl

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  3. Thanks for this, I haven't heard the mono mix, interesting!

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  4. Fantastic, thank you for the share. I have another rip of the mono mix taken from an original pressing, which I am sure your version will trounce!

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  5. Thanks so much for this classic. Its a big upgrade on the version I already have.
    Its great that you lovingly share these brilliant albums.
    Thanks again.

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  6. Thank you for this sweet sounding Vinylrip!

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  7. Thank you for this post, and the continued greatness of this blog!

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  8. Thanks a bunch for this! First time to hear this in mono.

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  9. Thanks a lot, Poodle, no doubt this will be very interesting trip in fantastic sound. Always happy when I discover a new post at Your blog. Best wishes - Causinger

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  10. So thankful for this! "What a drag it is being a rock" haha amazing

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  11. Many thanks for this mono pressing, what an amazing album, as always, great rip !!

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  12. thanks a lot for this great mono rip, TPB :)

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  13. "Will You Walk With Me", is actually a cover of the classic Bonnie Dobson track "Morning Dew"

    I can play both on the guitar and, yet, I never spotted that before.

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    Replies
    1. It surprised me too! They must've known they could get away with it, because they "forgot" to give Bonnie Dobson a songwriting credit, LOL...

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  14. I've always loved I Won't Hurt You, so it's very cool to hear the other stuff they were making at the same time. Thanks for the lovely rip!

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