Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1968-69)
- Robin Batteau -- vocals, violin
- John Parker Compton -- vocals, guitar
- David Reiser -- bass
- Euene 'Gene' Rosov -- cello
- Tony Ackerman -- guitar
- Jimmy Alcamo -- drums, percussion
- Bob Colomby -- drums
- Al Kooper -- guitar, harpsichord, keyboards, vibraphone
- Fred Lipsius -- sax
- Romeo Panque -- oboe
- Artie Schroeck -- drums, percussion
- Robin Batteau (solo efforts)
- Batteaux (Robin Batteaux)
- Buskin and Batteau (Robin Batteau)
- John Parker Compton (solo efforts)
- Pierce Arrow (Robin Batteau)
Rating: 4 stars ****
Country/State: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: still in shrink; opened and torn; includes lyric insert
Catalog ID: 5628
Inspired by the booming mid-1960s folks scene, while still in their teens singer/guitarist John Parker Compton and high school buddy/violinist Robin Batteau were playing coffeehouses in their native Cambridge, Massachusetts. Compton and Batteau eventually recruited bassist David Reiser and cello player Gene Rosov (both attending Harvard at the time) and began playing parties and local festivals. A well-to-do patron offered to fly the group to New York to audition for major labels. Certain they were going to major stars, in 1968 an 18 year old Compton and partner Batteau took up the offer, approaching a series of New York-based labels without success. While waiting to talk to A&R staff at Columbia the pair started performing for office staff. Perhaps nothing more than urban legend, but supposedly producer Al Kooper was walking by and signed them on the spot, recording demos with them that evening.
Produced by Kooper (who also provided keyboards and occasional guitar) with a big assist from Blood, Sweat and Tears members Bob Colomby (drums) and Fred Lipsius (sax), 1969's "Appaloosa" was unlike any other pop/rock album released that year. Of course that shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone actually looking at the LP since the cover art featured a group photo with a pensive looking Rosov cradling a cello - not exactly what you'd expect from your standard 1960s-era rock instrumentation. With Compton having penning all eleven tracks over the previous two years while attending a New York boarding school, the album offered up a unique blend of classical, folk, jazz, and pop influences couple with a mix of rampant teenage lust and naiveté. Imagine The Left Banke's Baroque-pop moves with less of a top-40 inclination, ARS Nova with a softer classical sound, or perhaps Nick Drake if he'd been American ... (I can just see many of you scratching your hears 'What the ^&%$ is he talking about?".) Truthfully this was simply one of those albums that you had to hear to appreciate. While Compton's lyrics were occasionally on the clunky and fey side, I'm sure female college aged English majors were sent into fits of delirium by the sensitivity and insight reflected in numbers like 'Tulu Rogers' and 'Pascals Paradox' (how many times do you hear a song that references the artist Kandinsky?). To be fair he had a great voice and sounded way older than 18. Admittedly the set's arty and delicate feel coupled with those touchy-feely lyrics spelled instant obscurity, but what a way to go down in flames. Highlights included the jazzy 'Thoughts of Polly' (complete with backwards sax), 'Bi-Weekly' (which thanks to Charlie Calello's arrangement was one of the most commercial efforts), and 'Rivers Run To the Sea' and 'Georgia Street' (which thanks to Kooper's contributions were the most commercial songs and would have made nice singles). A fascinating obscurity that I find more appealing every time I hear it ...
"Appaloosa" track listing:
1.) Tulu Rogers (John Parker Compton) -
2.) Thoughts of Polly (John Parker Compton) -
3.) Feathers (John Parker Compton) -
4.) Bi-Weekly (John Parker Compton) -
5.) Glossolalia (John Parker Compton) -
6.) Rivers Run To the Sea (John Parker Compton) -
2.) Yesterday's Roads (John Parker Compton) -
3.) Now That I Want You (John Parker Compton) -
4.) Georgia Street (John Parker Compton) -
5.) Rosalie (John Parker Compton) -
The group toured in support of the album, opening for the likes of Sam and Dave (!) and Laura Nyro. Unfortunately while the album attracted favorable reviews Columbia's promotion efforts were minimal and the LP did little commercially.
The following year Compton and Batteau subsequently headed for California and briefly continued their professional partnership as a duet releasing a follow-up set entitled "Compton & Batteau in California" but by 1972 they had gone their separate ways.
Columbia catalog number C 30039
Compton released an obscure 1972 solo album "To Luna" (Ageless catalog number A 9847) and then largely disappeared from the music scene. He unexpectedly returned with a 1995 set entitled "Mother of Mercy" (CD Baby catalog number 7270240). Released in 2006 there's also a live set that captured Compton giving a 1968 solo performance at the Turk's Head Coffeehouse - "Live At the Turk's Head Coffeehouse" (CD Baby catalog number 707541804424). The set also included eight selections featuring Compton and Batteau during a live performance on Harvard University's WHBR FM radio.
In the mid-1970s Batteau reappeared as a member of Batteaux. He recorded a pair of albums with Pierce Arrow and a pair of albums with David Buskin and in 2008 issued a solo album "Voices from the Hole In the Wall" (CD Baby catalog number 634479756351)
In November 2005 Batteau, Compton, and Reiser reformed Appaloosa for a concert at Harvard University's Sanders Theater. YouTube has a clip from the reunion performances:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHQlPGZFD98: 'Where Did He Go'
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