There are three Rebeccas and three Farmers in this sextet from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and California, whose 1969 debut for Musicor is believed to be the first recorded project of superstar pop songwriter, Lauren Wood (here, using her given name of Ilene Rappaport), who would go on to mega-success as the author of ?Fallen? from the ?Pretty Woman? soundtrack and score a Top 3 hit (?Please Don?t Leave?) with The Doobie Brothers? Michael McDonald. (Her website at www.laurenwood.com
lists her many other vocal and songwriting credits.) Wood?s cousin, Ilene Novo and her amazing viola playing would also later grace many a recording by the likes of Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson, and some of you may recognize the cousins, along with bassist Ernie Eremita from their two self-titled 70?s? albums as Chunky, Novi & Ernie. [As an aside, Zappa freaks may recognize ?Chunky? as the voice of ?Cleetus? on his ?Grand Wazoo? album; check out this link for related biographical info: http://www.united-mutations.com/w/laurenwood_info.htm
Eremita?s rolling bass and Novog?s choppy viola supplement guitarist, Mickey Kapner?s ferocious screeching that provide a perfect combination of tension and trepidation on opener, ?Oh Gosh (Running Through The Forest)? to the point that you can practically feel the hot breath of the wolves breathing down Kapner?s neck! The three female vocalists (including Ki-Ki) provide a soft harmonic backdrop to the eclectic mix of folk, pop and jazz that is sprinkled liberally throughout the ten self-penned (by Wood and/or Kapner) tracks.
Unusual time signature changes on tracks like ?David & Sally? have an almost progressive, suite-like arrangement to them, which may have contributed to the album?s failure as listeners found it difficult to determine just exactly what the band was trying to convey: were they a pop band?, a jazz hybrid?, a folky sunshine AM radio hit machine? All these elements (and more) are present, but none in sufficient quantity to entice an audience into purchasing the record. And when you add in Wood?s Joplinesque bluesy wail on her composition, ?Love? would seemingly have attracted the attention of open-minded hippies looking for an alternative to the standard AM radio pop fodder that was all the rage. Nevertheless, the deeper Wood gets into the track, the more she pours her soul onto the studio floor to the point where almost sounds like either she?s about to loose a lung or collapse into a psychotic break. ?Over the top? doesn?t begin to describe this one!
The band wisely follow up this exercise in wallowing self-pity with one of the album?s lightest, fluffiest, poppiest track, Wood?s ?Endless Trip,? which is 2 ? minutes of perfect pop with a perfect little harmonica (Wood) and viola (Novog) solo in the middle to keep the melody stapled into your brain for days! The album?s centerpiece may be side two?s opening 6-minute political polemic, ?Better Dead Than Red.? The gals gorgeous soft harmonies soften the blow of the soapbox sermonette, while their complex, avant garde psychedelic jamming suggests that the band may have gone down a storm on opening slots for Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull and the more jazz-oriented Blood, Sweat & Tears. Kapner?s jolly little organ-driven two-step, ?All These Ties? lightens the load a bit with another potential single before the band climb back on their soapboxes for ?What Do You Think Of The War,? with Novog?s ferocious opening viola solo doing for that old patriotic march (the one that goes ?Three Cheers for the Red, White & Blue?) what Hendrix did for the ?Star Spangled Banner!? The track itself is a typical-for-the-period rap/attack against the government, placing it within the realm of Country Joe & The Fish?s ?Tricky Dick? for sheer kitschy entertainment. Finally, Wood?s ?Ma-Ma? is a swinging little bachelor pad, cha-cha-cha, and its carnival-like atmosphere washes away the sour taste of their vitriolic polemics and helps lighten the load on the back half of the album, for which terms like ?eclectic? and ?complex? immediately sprint to mind. With original vinyl copies of this thing changing hands for upwards of $200, Fallout?s CD reissue may be one of the best bargains of the year! 7/10 -- Jeff Penczak (31 July, 2007)