Band members Related acts
- Johnny Arcesi (aka Johnny Arcessi, John Arcesia,
Tony Conti, Don Darcy, Johnny Darcy) (RIP 1993) -- vocals
- none known
Rating: 3 stars ***
Company: Nine Little Indians
Country/State: Sayre, Pennsylvania
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: # 288 out of a 400 pressing
Catalog ID: 5349
Rating: 3 stars ***
Catalog: GUESS 141
Country/State: Sayre, Pennsylvania
Grade (cover/record): NM/NM
Comments: gatefold sleeve; sealed
Catalog ID: 5349
There are certainly some odd stories in the annals of rock and roll, but by any token Johnny Arcesi deserves to be in the 'executive summary'. Even if parts of his story are nothing more than fiction (the LSD links are of dubious merit), and much of the info on the web is outright wrong (he was apparently born in Pennsylvania, not Rhode Island, his album album wasn't released in 1968, more than 50 copies were pressed), it's still a whopper of a tale.
There's a ton of material on the web about Arcesi (pronounced 'R-ce-ce') so I'm just going to hit the biographical highlights ... He was born in Sayre, Pennsylvania in 1917 and as a child decided he wanted to be a singer. After a decade spent performing locally, as a 15 year old he moved to New York City in an effort to break into the big time. In New York he found a day job working for Harvey Mills' Mills Publishing Company. He also began working and recording with a number of big bands including Lud Gluskin and His Orchestra and The Claude Hopkins Orchestra. Boss/mentor Mills suggested Arcesi might consider a more anglicized name leading to a switch to the performing moniker 'Don Darcy'.
Over the next decade he toured nationally and occasionally recorded with a string of big bands and orchestras.
In 1952 he was signed to a recording contract by Capitol at which time he decided to revert to his original name. Over the next seven years he recorded a series of nine singles, enjoying his biggest brush with success as a result of an infamous marketing ploy that claimed Arcesi's voice could send young women into a trace.
It's doubtful any of the early 1950s singles will appeal to anyone reading this blurb, but for anyone curious, here's at least part of the discography:
- 1952's ''Wild Honey' b/w Moonlight Brings the Memories' (Capitol catalog number 2206)
- 1952's 'I'm Alone Because I Love You' b/w 'I Promise You' (Capitol catalog number 2270)
- 1952's 'It's Over' b/w 'Lost In Your Love' (Capitol catalog number 2300)
By the mid-1950s Arcesi's recording career was largely over. Turning his attention to the business side of the house, under the name Tony Conti he began working as a songwriter, producer, talent scout and record label owner (Orpheus Records). Through the 1960s Arcesi apparently spent most of his time living in Palm Springs, California semi-retired. And then it got weird.
For some reason Arcesi decided to return to California and resume recording in the early 1970s. Co-produced by Arcesi and Alexander Furth and credited to 'Arcesia', 1971's "Reachin'" was a major trip. Even in his crooner mode Arcesi was no Frank Sinatra and on this album he was stepping into complete foreign territory - namely acid-tinged rock. Saddled with a voice that was flat and had an irritating nasal twang, the man didn't have much range and seemed to have three performance modes - confused, constipated, and pissed off (check out the earlier link to the performance clip if you doubt the description). Those weren't exactly the characteristics most of us look for in a singer, but in this case they only served to underscore the strange 'real person' appeal the album had. Backed by an anonymous but competent rock ensemble, the eleven Arcesi originals (the Nine Little Indians reissue liner notes listed him as 'Arcessi') bounced across the musical spectrum, including fascinating stabs at MOR ballads (the title track and 'Summer Love') and some equally engaging stabs at outright psych (the acid tinged 'Soul Wings' and 'Panther Bones'). As wild as the performances were, Arcesi's sophomoric lyrics were even better. Songs like 'Pictures In My Window', 'Butterfly Mind' and 'Summer Love' were guaranteed to make most folks simply cringe in pain. I do a lot of technical writing and thought I was immune to such overwrought performances. Wrong. Stuff like 'a mechanical doll went from man to man and when she found him his eyes they glowed alone read goodbye and flashed out of nowhere ...' literally had me gasping in pain - c'mon how could anyone survive a couplet like 'that ... Truly too strange to accurately describe, about the closest I could come was having you imagine your grandfather fronting the post-Jim Morrison Doors after they'd spent a week on bad dope.
Okay, those comments all sound incredible snide. For all of Arcesi's writing and performance limitations, the album reflected a real sense of emotion, enthusiasm and commitment to the music. Perhaps the fact his longtime wife Louise Marie de Lesseps Arcesi had died the year before, but there was something special about the album. Maybe not something most of you'd want to contemplate too long, but for a couple of folks out there, this will be a major pleasure.
Many reviews claim the album's unique sound was inspired by Arcesi's discovery of LSD. While there's no denying the album's unique attributes, the LSD link is apparently nothing more than an urban myth. Housed in a plain white cover reportedly only 300 copies of the album were originally pressed. That makes originals highly sought after and highly priced collectables (just look at the price of this reissue to get a feel for what an original would set you back.)
"Reachin'" was originally released in 1972 on the small Alpha Records label, catalog 103.
"Reachin'" track listing:
1.) Pictures In My Window (Johnny Arcessi - LeJon) - 2:31 rating: **** stars
Imagine your uncle having gotten stoned at a karaoke night at the local Irish bar and being unable to keep him from getting up a freelancing a song he's never heard before. 'Pictures In My Window' was one of those tunes that was so bad, it actually boomeranged into fascinating territory. The instrumental backing was actually surprisingly tight and I have to admit that while Arcessi sounded like he'd gotten his hand slammed in a car door, there was a certain weird charm to this one. The song was late tapped as the "B" side to Arcesi's 'Reaching' single.
2.) Soul Wings (Johnny Arcessi - LeJon) - 4:01 rating: **** stars
The combination of droning organ and fuzz guitar was promising as was Arcessi's demented uncle screeching vocals. One of the most lysergic drenched songs I've ever heard, yeah, it was definitely over-the-top, but you had to be impressed by the man's earnestness and there was a great fuzz guitar solo at the end of the track.
3.) White Panther (Johnny Arcessi - LeJon) - 2:31 rating: **** stars
Well. I'll admit Arcessi sounded pretty impressive on the bluesy 'White Panther'. Kicked along by some nice Farfisa or Vox Continental organ moves, the tune had an enjoyable garage-drone vibe going. Although I've listened to it dozens of times I have no idea what the hell the song was about.
4.) Leaf (Johnny Arcessi - LeJon) - 3:00 ratiig: ** stars
Hum, 'Lead' was an off-the-rails ballad ... yeah, I don't know how to describe this aural train wreck.
5.) Voice of Love (Johnny Arcessi - LeJon) - 2:34 rating: *** stars
Guess he got his hand stuck in the car door again ... This time around it sounded like Arcessi had hijacked the International String Band to provide support to his spur-of-the-moment lyrics. Just remember that "outsider" art is a hit, or miss proposition for most folks. I'm not a big ISB fan so this one didn't do a great deal for my ears.
I'm guessing the breezy ballad was an updated and stoned approximation of what Arcessi might have sounded like in his big band prime. Its actually kind of funny to imagine a bunch of older couples sitting in a lounge listing to Arcessi belt his way through this number. It was a pretty painful experience to my ears. Gawd only knows why, but having moved to Hawaii in the mid-1970s, in 1979 Arcesi released the song as a single on his own Orpheus/Alephia label.
- 'Reachin'' b/w 'Pictures In My Window' (Orpheus catlog number AIR 912X16)
2.) Summer Love (Johnny Arcessi - LeJon) - 3:14 rating: *** stars
Wow, Arcessi getting down and low, striving for that sexy baritone. The band must have been having a hoot on the 'Summer Love' recording session.
3.) Mechanical Love (Johnny Arcessi - LeJon) - 1:51 rating: **** stars
Well. I'll admit Arcessi sounded pretty impressive on the bluesy 'Whi
How could you go wrong with a song title like 'Mechanical Love'? And Arcessi didn't disappoint. Imagine a totally sh*tfaced Jack Klugman at a Kareoke night and you'll get a feel for this one.
4.) Butterfly Mind (Johnny Arcessi - LeJon) - 2:52 rating: **** stars
Mr. Magoo tripping out of his mind ??? I'm sure Arcessi was being earnest with these lyrics, but it was all I could do to not laugh myself silly -"don't let a gnat grab you."
5.) Desiree (Johnny Arcessi - LeJon) - 3:02 rating: **** stars
Love the underlying bass lines. The bass provided a perfect backdrop for Arcessi's highly personal life musings. His howling vocals were perfect for the tune. Always wondered if this was a reflection on his recently departed wife.
6.) Rainy Sunday (Johnny Arcessi - LeJon) - 3:25 rating: **** stars
The beach sound effects were a nice touch for the three minutes of howling pain that followed. Just Arcessi acompanied by acoustic guitar and occasional sound effects, take an aspirin and see me in the morning.
Here are a couple of other snippets of information.
The album's been reissued a couple of times. An unapproved project, the German Nine Little Indians label released it in vinyl format in 1999. An approved release, the Spanish Guerssen label reissued a remastered copy in 2014 (Guerssen catalog number GUESS41).
After a couple of years in Hawaii Arcesi returned to Palm Springs where he died in April 1983.
Irwin Chusid included a brief Arcesi write-up in his book Songs In the Key of Z.
There's also small Arcesi website at: http://www.arcesia.com/
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