Band members Related acts
line up 1 (19
- Bill Block -- bass
- Mike Houlihan -- guitar
- Phill Haase -- percussion
- Jack Kruck -- percussion
- Bruce Riddiough -- guitar
- Denny Tabacchia -- synthesizers
- Blind Date (Bruce Riddiough)
- The Next Five (John Kruck)
- Woodbine (Bruce Riddiough)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Grade (cover/record): NM/NM
Comments: sealed copy; tear in shrink wrap
Catalog ID: --
I have a friend named Ben who knows more about 1960s and 1970s rock than the rest of us combined. Ben seems to have owned, or heard virtually every rock album known to man. Not only has he heard them, but his detailed knowledge of band memberships, discographies, histories, etc. is mind boggling. The guy's a walking discography and music biography rolled into one resource. Anyhow, over the years Ben's spent some big money on rock rarities and he's frequently been disappointed by the results. So when Ben mentions an album he likes that is unknown and affordable, I tend to pay attention. Which gets me to Apothecary.
On the surface 1973's "Apothecary" wouldn't seem to have a lot going for it. The band was signed to Paramount which to my ears didn't have the most sterling line-up of bands. The band's choice for a name was lousy (seriously who thinks taking a name from medieval pharmacists was a good idea?). The album cover was hideous. A quick scan of the nine song titles left me with the sinking feeling these guys might have a non-secular orientation. Finally Peg Gidion's brief touchy-feely liner notes did little to allay any of my fears:
"Whatever else we are or ever hope to be, we are "Everyman." All life depends on measured breathes and metered beats. We are linked to each other by the chain of common experience. Apothecary sings the songs of you and me, claiming their lyrics from the shared experiences of millions of timeless men, picking at your brain with easy lyrics, poking a hole in your soul with their melodies. And as "Minstrels of the Common Man," they ask only that "I think of you and you think of me."" Wonder if the millions of timeless women felt the same way about the band ...
The good news is the album wasn't as bad as I feared. The bad news is it wasn't the lost classic others seem to hear. Recorded at East Detroit's G.M. Studios with Wesley Willard and Guy Marasco co-producing, I've struggled to bin these guys. With all six members contributing to the writing chores, the nine tracks were quite varied. There were at least three singers, though the lack of performance credits made it impossible to figure who was who. Listening to the collection I've heard everything including America-styled folk-rock ('People for Peace') pop-rock ('Sometime, Somewhere') and even an occasional foray into non-secular themes ('The Christian'). The one genre I've seen others mention that escaped my ears was progressive. It's a stretch, but perhaps the weird song structure would allow you to argue 'My Love To You' was progressive (in the same fashion Styx might be tagged progressive). Elsewhere if these tunes were progressive, my ears missed it. Exemplified by the opener 'Holding You' , I'd argue soft ballads were not their forte. That merely underscored the fact these guys were so much better on rockers like the group-penned 'Sunset', 'Fly' and should've been a hit 'Say Goodbye To Me'. I'll call it a pleasant listening experience and a good value for the price.
"Apothecary" track listing:
1.) Holding You (Phill Hasse - Jack Kruck) - 4:48 rating: ** stars
The album got off to a disappointing start. 'Holding You' was a fragile, slightly country tinged ballad that devolved into mind-numbing sing-along ("holding me, holding they, holding you, holding life" repeated time after time after time ... Okay, here's a dollar for the commune. Make it stop.
2.) Sometime, Somewhere (Mike Houlihan) - 3:46 rating: *** stars
Penned by guitarist Mike Houlihan, 'Sometime, Somewhere' at least had an up-tempo, bouncy pop-rock melody. Kind of a Badfinger vibe going on here. Not sure if Houlihan was handling the vocals, but whoever it was struggled to stay in tune. The backing vocals were also pretty ragged. Looking for something nice to say Houlihan turned in a nice guitar solo.
3.) The Christian (Phill Hasse) - 3:47 rating: *** stars
I will admit that 'The Christian' was a beautiful song. Drummer Haase had a knack for sweet melodies and he was featured on lead vocals, he had a pretty voice. Les enjoyable was the messaging. I was born and raised Catholic and still take comfort in my faith. I'm happy to see others who feel the same way and are willing to express it in the hope others might benefit. Personally I have no interest in proselytizing. If you're going to do it, try to be subtle. Nobody likes "in-your-face" lecturing. I'll let people reach their own conclusions. In the fifty years I've listened to music I've never heard a lyric that included "your architectural edifice is glistening in the sun ..."
4.) Sunset (Phill Hasse - Bruce Riddiough - Mike Houlihan - Jack Kruck - Bill Block) - 6:24 rating: **** stars
The group-penned 'Sunset' was another AOR-styled rocker with some nice slide guitar moments. The absence of detailed liner notes made it impossible to know who was singing, but for a moment it sounded like a woman. Note, no women in the band. Not sure why, but on my album the tune had a distant, slightly muddy sound and the lead vocal sounded like it was recorded in some distant phone box. Still, it was the best song on side one.
1.) Say Goodbye To Me (Bruce Riddiough ) - 4:05 rating: **** stars
Finally a song that I liked from start to finish ... Penned by guitarist Riddiough, 'Say Goodbye To Me' had everything going for it. Awesome melody, nice lead vocal, nice harmonies, blazing slide guitar work... If anyone had been paying attention, this would have made a dandy single.
2.) People for Peace (Mike Houlihan) - 2:40 rating: **** stars
'People for Peace' was a ballad done right. Beautiful melody built on some first rate acoustic guitars; sweet lead vocals and Mike Houlihan's topical lyrics were subtle and thought provoking.
3.) My Love To You (Mike Houlihan) - 2:53
The song structure was interesting and I guess you could stretch the definition to say 'My Love To You' was slightly progressive.
4.) Fly (Phill Hasse - Bruce Riddiough - Mike Houlihan - Bill Block) - 4:51 rating: **** stars
The album's driving melody, 'Fly' reminded me a bit of a mash-up between CS&N and Styx. I'll give it an extra star for the ARP arrangement and it did generate some energy as it went along.
5.) In the End (Bill Block) - 4:12 rating: **** stars
And finally the bass player gets a shot at the spotlight ... The aptly titled 'In the End' was actually one of my favorite performances. If he was the lead singer Block had a nice voice and this slinky country-rocker had an awesome guitar riff. Note sure what happened at the end of the tune ... sounds like the tape recorded broke down ...
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