Vanguard’s Follow Me Down was released to co-incide with Record Store Day as a double heavy vinyl page.
Side A 1. The Third Power: Getting Together 2. Erik: You Said/But I’ve Got My Way 3. Listening: Stoned Is 4. The 31st of February: A Nickel’s Worth of Benny’s Help >
Side B 1. Elizabeth: You Should Be More Careful 2. Jeff Monn: I Can Understand Your Problem 3. Listening: See You Again 4. Circus Maximus: Travelin’ Around 5. The Frost: Take My Hand >
Side C 1. Notes From The Underground: Where I’m At 2. The Vagrants: I Can’t Make a Friend 3. Serpent Power: The Endless Tunnel 4. The Family of Apostolic: Saigon Girls >
Side D 1. The Third Power: Persecution 2. Notes From The Underground: Why Did You Put Me On 3. The Hi-Five: Did You Have To Rub It In? 4. The Far Cry: Hellhound 5. The Frost: Big Time Spender >
For completeness, Compilation Producers were Stephen Brower and David Katznelson; Foreword by: Isaac Slusarenko of Jackpot Records in Portland, OR; Liner notes by: Stephen Brower, David Katznelson, Isaac Slusarenko; Mastered by Paul Stubblebine; Art direction and package design by Carrie Smith
The packaging is really pretty nice, until you try and digest the liner notes, but it would have been nice to have taken the opportunity to provide some sort of insert with nifty photographs etc.. The liner notes are reproduced below (as provided in the Vanguard Records press release. They provide a few interesting snippets but are woefully short on detail and clearly little or no research has been done to correct this - look, for example, at the entry for the Notes From The Underground "Little else is known of this Berkeley quintet...". However, the pressings are fine quality and the track selection excellent.
If you can find a copy and have an interest in the subject, scarf it up.
The 31st of February Originally forming in 1965 under the moniker The Bitter Ind – short for Independents, this Florida band had a hard time getting steady work at local clubs until a helping hand from Greg and Duane Allman of the Allman Joys scored them a steady gig at The Beachcomber in 1967. After the end of the engagement, the band moved to Miami, changed their name and recorded their lone album for Vanguard Records. The band disbanded shortly thereafter, and drummer Butch Trucks was invited to join the Allman Brothers as a permanent member. Despite the band’s Jacksonville roots, the track featured here, A NICKEL’S WORTH OF BENNY’S HELP, is oddly reminiscent of the more adventurous sounds that were streaming out of Texas during the same time period – such as The Moving Sidewalks or 13th Floor Elevators, and is propelled by a powerful rhythm track of foot-stomping, echoed drums that transition in and out with soulful keyboards and mutated post-R&B vocals. Not “out there,” but contained within.
Circus Maximus Presented in the center ring of an electric circus. Under a visual “big top” of flowing, multi-colored light…Circus Maximus is the biggest circus. The circus of the mind….Theatered in a tent of imagination… - From the original album notes. Originally signed by Sam Charters as The Lost Sea Dreamers, someone, likely from the label, must have thought the name’s LSD reference too overt and insisted on the change to Circus Maximus. The band recorded two albums for Vanguard, a self-titled 1967 outing and 1968’s follow-up Neverland Revisited. Each album is driven by the dual songwriting contributions of the band’s leaders and co-founders, Bob Bruno and Jerry Jeff Walker, with the band gaining most of its still-modest notoriety from Bruno’s 8- minute epic “Wind,” which became a minor hit on FM radio at the time. It is TRAVELIN’ AROUND, however, the blistering lead track from 1967’s Circus Maximus, that is featured here. The track rides on Gary White’s walking bass line and crescendos with a frenetic, whirling-dervish guitar freakout by Bruno, with the guitarist wailing away on 12-string Rickenbacker instead of his usual Fender Strat, a change that contributes to the solo’s singular sound. After the release of Neverland Revisited, Bruno and Walker apparently disagreed on the band’s direction and parted ways, with the latter releasing his landmark solo debut Driftin’ Way of Life for Vanguard in 1969 and finding great fame as a Texas troubadour in the mid-seventies.
Elizabeth Originally from Philadelphia, Elizabeth recorded their self-titled debut effort for Vanguard in 1968. Much of the album colors well within the lines of non-aggressive, paisley-printed rock, pairing lilting pop arrangements with drummer Hank Ransome’s rock-solid backbeat and Steve Bruno’s wheezing organ. In fact, YOU SHOULD BE MORE CAREFUL, the track featured here, starts out much the same, a straightforward rock song with baroque harmonies. Straightforward, that is, until guitarist Steve Weingart grips the reins and the song quickly transitions into a stewed, wild guitar dirge that rumbles and echoes electrifying intensity only to be grounded once again.
Erik Erik Heller released his only album, 1968’s Look Where I Am, for Vanguard under the nom-de-rock Erik. Much of Heller’s debut record has a soft lit folk-pop bent reminiscent of Donovan or fellow Vanguard artist Eric Andersen. The screaming exception, of course, is YOU SAID/BUT I’VE GOT MY WAY, featured here. This nearly six-minute dirge stands out from the rest by virtue of its simple, heavily distorted guitar riff, which carries the track and serves to mirror the underlying lyrical paranoia. The song ultimately evokes a darker-shade-of-Dylan quality that ambles into Zen-like repetition. This is the sort of soft spoken psyche featured on the early Pebbles garage rock compilation lp’s. A rare treat.
The Family of Apostolic John Townley opened the state-of- the-art Apostolic Studios, complete with a 12-track setup that predated both the Record Plant and Electric Ladyland, in downtown New York in 1967. The studio was an instant success and would play host to such luminaries of the period as the Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, The Fugs, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, and countless others. On the heels of the studio’s East Coast success, Apostolic opened a second studio in San Francisco and expanded into management and publishing, in addition to securing a label imprint deal with Vanguard. Releases by Larry Coryell, the Far Cry, and others would bear the Vanguard Apostolic imprint during the period, as would a sprawling, self-titled double album credited to The Family of Apostolic. This record is among the most wildly experimental in the Vanguard catalog, its twenty two tracks roaming freely from baroque pop to mountain folk to baldy shapeless musique concrete and back again. Very much a document of the experimental and collective environment surrounding Townley and Apostolic Studios at the time, the album is an intense and curious experience. Its closing track (and against-all-odds single choice), SAIGON GIRLS, is featured here, itself a two and a half minute burst of loping melody, faux found sound fragments, unhinged howls, and bizarre political theater.
The Far Cry The Far Cry might be considered an accidental Vanguard artist. In fact, the story of Far Cry is paved with unexpected occurrences, chance encounters, and a simple mantra: let it flow, smoke some weed, and play some music. They came from different places: guitarist Paul Lenart grew up playing Yugoslavian music, sax player and botanist Dick Martin cut his teeth blowing in South America while collecting herbs, and David Perry was taught guitar by a then-unknown Carlos Santana. This collective, along with signature vocal howler Jere Whiting, played rock and roll with a crazed free jazz spirit and a complexity that only desert dwellers like Captain Beefheart were brain-baked enough to try in those days. The Far Cry puddled around Boston before heading to South Hampton to take up residence at The Alley. It was there that bass player Sean Hutchinson introduced friend and Apostolic Studio cohort John Kilgore to the band, who proceeded to hook them up with Apostolic heads John Townley and Johnny Weiss. Apostolic was looking to record new bands, and had the aforementioned imprint arrangement with Vanguard. Thus, the quintessential first and only Far Cry record was recorded for Apostolic/Vanguard. Most of the songs on the album had been played no more than a handful of times and are chocked full of seductive, meandering moments…always connecting a groove with blistering guitar work. Things seemed to be going well for a band that never anticipated going anywhere. Soon, two managers approached them, only to later admit that one was an ex-FBI narcotics officer and the other was still in the agency! Yet it was for naught, since after another recording session, the band faded into history with Lenart going on to tour with T-Bone Walker and Big Mama Thornton. The surviving track featured here, HELLHOUND, screams off the grooves of this record, thrusting together the band’s signature vocal howls, guitar attack, and free jazz blowing with reckless abandon.
The Frost Detroit’s The Frost are likely the most well known of the Vanguard bands included on this compilation. Front man Dick Wagner would later find fame as a sideman for, amongst others, Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Alice Cooper, a notoriety which has aided greatly in rock music devotees discovering the Frost’s three Vanguard albums in the years since their release. Borne of the same polyglot Michigan scene that gave rise to such disparate acts as the Stooges, the MC5, Grand Funk Railroad, and Ted Nugent, the Frost’s largely straightforward approach exhibits elements of what made each of those acts famous. The two tracks featured here, TAKE MY HAND from 1969’s Frost Music and BIG TIME SPENDER from 1970’s Through the Eyes of Love, showcase fully the breadth of the band’s ability. “Take My Hand” starts slowly, its marching-band snare drum and rumbling bass line recalling the West Coast haze of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” before giving way to harmony-laden vocals reminiscent of the AM radio gold of Grand Funk or the Guess Who. “Big Time Spender,” on the other hand, is a riff heavy, rough hewn burner that wouldn’t sound out of place on an MC5 record of the period. The song’s huge outro and multiple false endings highlight the kind of decadent, apocalyptic sound the Frost could ably achieve.
The Hi-Five The story of the Hi-Five is one of those classic rock and roll tales of a band that was so very close to superstardom, but fell short. They appeared early on in the Greenwich Village scene in the 60s, where they were peers with the Big Three (a pre-Mamas and Papas vehicle for Cass Elliot) and the Au Go Go Singers featuring Stephen Stills. The Hi–Five were regulars at the famous Café Wah (one of the few clubs that looked kindly on the band featuring girl member Pam Robins), many times appearing on bills that featured comedy (Richard Pryor or Bill Cosby) and headliner Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Around the same time that Animal Chaz Chandler appeared at the Wah and whisked Jimmy James off to England, birthing the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Beatles manager Brian Epstein walked into the club and signed the Hi-Five to management. Soon after, labels like RCA and Columbia were cutting demos on the band, and their future seemed destined for greatness. But when Epstein died at 32 of a drug overdose, the doors that had been opened were slammed shut. It was then that Vanguard, who had also had been interested in the band, offered them a single deal. “DID YOU HAVE TO RUB IT IN?” a Mamas-and-Papas-esque groover and one of the best titled rock songs of all time, had been the decided a-side but was swapped for “You’ll Never Know What’s In My Heart” while the band was on tour, leaving the former, featured here, as a forgotten gem left for record collectors to discover years later. With the non-event around the single release, the Hi-Five's tenure at Vanguard was over. Bass player Jeff Comanor went on to compose the soundtrack for Midnight Cowboy and write for The 5 th Dimension and Dr. Hook and guitarist Seth Evans performed for the original US cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and ended up in San Francisco playing with the Beach Blanket Babylon ensemble.
Listening Originating under the name PPMWW, so-named for band members Peter Ivers, Peter Malick, Michael Tchsudin, Willie Loco Alexander, and Walter Powers (Peter, Peter, Michael, Willie, and Walter), this Boston band was eventually reconfigured to a four piece lineup of Tchsudin, Malick, Powers, and drummer Ernie Kamanis, and re-christened Listening, before recording their lone album for Vanguard in 1968. A signature band of the nascent Bosstown Sound scene of the era, Listening was driven by Tchsudin, who is credited with composing each of the tracks on the self-titled album. On STONED IS, featured here, Tchsudin’s woozy vocals and haunted organ mingle beautifully with Malick’s bluesy, gently psychedelic guitar leads and Powers’ pointed bass line. Conversely, SEE YOU AGAIN, also featured here, is a more immediate and driving track, with Malick’s near-constant soloing competing for space with Powers’ incessant bass acrobatics. Notably, both of these players would find greater renown after Listening disbanded, Powers as a member of Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground, and Malick with The Peter Malick Group, a jazz ensemble that famously featured a young Norah Jones.
Jeff Monn Jeff Monn is most well known in collector’s circles as the front man of New York’s The Third Bardo, whose lone 1967 single “I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time” was included on the landmark Nuggets compilation. Reality, Monn’s only Vanguard album, and the only album recorded under his own name before he pursued a solo career under the name Chris Moon, would follow in 1968. The album is a strange brew of post-Dylan folk ballads, oddly lush production choices by Vanguard founder and album producer Maynard Solomon, and Monn’s pleading, often vulnerable vocal and lyrical stylings. From this record, the brooding I CAN UNDERSTAND YOUR PROBLEM is featured here. Monn’s yearning and increasingly desperate vocal is backed by jangling acoustic guitars, muted horns, a shimmering tambourine, and a forlorn organ laid low in the mix. A heady stew indeed.
Notes from the Underground [From the original album notes: The Notes from the Underground is-are?- a very different kind of rock band. While a lot of people are trying to push rock into a feedback hum of electronic experimentation the Notes are only trying to push rock forward – they’re trying to push it back a little – and off to both sides, too. Rock gets very serious – very serious – but here’s a group that doesn’t take itself all that seriously. They’ve found – in more than two years of a lighthearted Berkeley existence – that rock can be fun. As proof of it they’ve made this record – and a lot of it’s fun too. There is a serious side, but this is mostly a record just to enjoy. Don’t worry about expanding the frontiers of the sensory experience, just lie down on the nearest floor and listen. Who knows – you might laugh at some of it and some of it may turn you on to some new sounds and some new things – and this is an experience in itself. ]
Little else is known of this Berkeley quintet, whose one and only LP was produced by Sam Charters for Vanguard in 1968. The two tracks featured here, WHERE I’M AT and WHY DID YOU PUT ME ON, do indeed feature a decidedly lighthearted distillation of jug, jazz, and rock experimentation. “Where I’m At” is perhaps the more representative of the album as a whole, with Mike O’Connor and Skip Rose’s tossed off, even goofy, lyrics backed by a jug band shuffle, group vocals, and Fred Sokolow’s trilly guitar fills. “Why Did You Put Me On,” by contrast, shows that the band could take on rougher-edged rock, with Rose’s organ and Sokolow’s distorted guitar anchoring the driving track.
Serpent Power [From the original album notes: A poet’s song and music – The serpent power – a form, expression of the poet David Meltzer. It is San Francisco poetry – out of the poetic renaissance – grown into another flowering as San Francisco music – the imagery, the moods of the poems flowing into the imagery of his songs and music…]
California in the mid-sixties. The band was led by beat-poet-turned-proto-hippy David Meltzer and featured two original members of The Grass Roots, Denny Ellis on lead guitar and David Stenson on bass. In 1966, Sam Charters, A&R legend for Vanguard, was turned-on to the band while in Berkeley with his act Country Joe and the Fish. The band released their debut (and only) record for Vanguard in 1967, though David and Tina Meltzer would also release the more explicitly literary Poet Song for Vanguard in 1969. The self-titled Serpent Power showcased the band’s folk sound, but concluded with the 13 minute and 13 second, raga-infused, organ-laden epic THE ENDLESS TUNNEL, which is featured here. The blend of eastern music with the acid-tinged grooves of the day created a signature and influential sound, further driven by Meltzer’s poetry and J P Pickens’ electrified 5-string banjo. Shortly after the Vanguard record was released, vocalist Tina Meltzer left, along with Stensen and Ellis. Serpent Power never recorded as a band again.
The Third Power Hailing from Farmington Hills, MI, outside of Detroit, Third Power was the heaviest, hardest psychedelic band of any Vanguard artist. Despite establishing a solid reputation on the Motor City club circuit, 1970’s Believe would be the band’s lone release. Long a favorite of rarities collectors, the power trio routinely incurs comparisons to Cream, but when hearing their singular sound, it’s readily apparent they were no paisley-wearing pop art dandies, but rather a hard driving, swampy rock band with psychedelic blue smoke coming off their collective engine. GETTING TOGETHER and PERSECUTION, the two tracks from Believe featured here, each showcase the monstrous guitar work of and soulful, aggressive vocal style of front man Drew Abbott. It’s no wonder, then, that Abbott would go on to become a staple member of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band after the demise of Third Power.
The Vagrants Long Island garage pioneers The Vagrants, whose version of Otis Redding’s “Respect” was included on the original Nuggets compilation, have been a source of inspiration for countless bands, most notably the Ramones. I CAN’T MAKE A FRIEND, included here, was one of only two singles the band cut for Vanguard, and was a minor hit for the band in 1966. The track’s propulsive, freewheeling rhythm is bolstered by the screaming guitar of Leslie West, who would later find success as a founding member of the proto-hard rock band Mountain, whose “Mississippi Queen” is a staple of the classic rock canon. The Vagrants recorded output has recently been exhaustively compiled on the Light in the Attic Records release Vagrants - I Can’t Make a Friend 1965-1968, released in January of this year. Finally, from Isaac Slusarenko's Foreword: Charters and Vanguard scouted the cutting edge (and at times the cutting-cutting-edge) of music from the greatest counter-cultural scenes of 1960s America. From the East Village of New York to the Jabberwock crazed-folk of Berkeley and the auto-factory clang and chop of Detroit, Vanguard schizophrenically strove to present to its audience new sounds and new grooves. And while the wildexperimentation of John Fahey’s Requia and the crazed jams of Country Joe are still beloved byaudiences and readily available, those records present only a small part of the story.