The Ashes

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1965-66) as The Young Swingers

- Al Brackett -- bass, vocals 

- Jim Cherniss -- guitar, vocals 

- Spencer Dryden (RIP 2005) -- drums, percussion

- John Merrill -- guitar, vocals 

- Barbara "Sandi" Robison (aka Barbara Jeane Moyer, aka 

  Sandi Peanut Butter)

  (RIP 1988) -- vocals 


  line up 2 (1966) as The Ashes

- Al Brackett -- bass, vocals 

- Jim Cherniss -- guitar, vocals 

- Spencer Dryden (RIP 2005) -- drums, percussion

- John Merrill -- guitar, vocals 

- Barbara "Sandi" Robison (aka Barbara Jeane Moyer, aka 

  Sandi Peanut Butter)


  line up 3 (1968) 

- Al Brackett -- bass, vocals 

- John Merrill -- guitar, vocals 

NEW - Pat Taylor (RIP 2020) -- vocals (replaced Barbara Robinson)

NEW - Jim Voight -- drums, percussion (replaced Spencer Dryden)



- Alan Lee Brackett (solo efforts)

- Dinosaurs (Spencer Dryden)

- Fish 'n Chips (Spencer Dryden)

- A Letter Home (Pat Taylor)

- The Jefferson Airplane (Spencer Dryden)

- The Barry Melton Band (Spencer Dryden)

- The New Riders of the Purple Sage (Spencer Dryden)

- The Peanut Butter Conspiracy (Al Brackett, John Merrill,

  Sandi Robison and John Voight)

- Sumpin' Else (John Merill)

- The Young Swingers





Genre: folk-rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Ashes Featuring Pat Taylor

Company: Vault

Catalog: 125

Year: 1971

Country/State: Santa Monica, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4618

Price: $100.00



Formed in Santa Monica, California and originally known as The Young Swingers (don't you love that proto-typical '60s band name?), bass player Alan Brackett, singer/guitarist Jim Cherniss, drummer Spencer Dryden, singer/guitarist John Merrill and singer Barbara Robinson began playing local clubs, eventually releasing a pair of instantly obscure singles for the small Los Angeles-based Courtney and Portofina labels:

- 1965's 'Love Her Every Day' b/w 'Or Else You'll Cry' (Courtney Records catalog 746

- 1965's The Winds up High' b/w 'Let's Take Our Love' (Portofina Records catalog number 901).


By 1966 the band had opted for a name change, opting to go with the more happenin' The Ashes,.  They also underwent a change in personnel - original bassist Cherniss dropping out, while drummer Dryden quit in order to join The Jefferson Airplane.  The band continued on, signing a contract with Vault Records that saw them debut with a  cover of Jackie DeShannon's 'Is There Anything I Can Do':





- 1966's 'Is There Anything I Can Do' b/w 'Every Little Prayer' (Vault catalog number V 924).  






That was quickly followed by a John Merrill original:


- 1966's 'Roses Gone' b/w 'Dark On You Now' (Vault catalog number V 936) 


Unfortunately, neither 45 did anything commercially and within a couple of months Brackett and Merrill had abandoned the project, moving on to form The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.




1968 saw Brackett and Merrill drop out of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy and reform The Ashes with new vocalist Pat Taylor and drummer John Voight.  I've always wondered how Taylor ended up replacing Barbara Robison on the album.  I've read multiple explanations including she was pregnant at the time.  I've also read it had something to do with contractual limitations associated with her Columbia recording contract as part of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.  Frankly I don't have the answer.  Someone out there will know ...  Produced by Jackie MIlls, "Ashes Featuring Pat Taylor" offered up an entertaining mix of country, folk, rock and lite-psych touches. Taylor proved a more than capable replacement for Robison, gifted with a razor sharp voice that I've always felt simply beat the crap out of contemporaries like Grace Slick.  Her performances on material like 'Gone To Sorrow', 'Return Home' and 'Look Around Rock' were all first-rate.  While Taylor handled most of the vocals, Merrill's three performances weren't half-bad.  'The Now' and 'Rainbows' both sported catchy country-rock melodies that would have sounded great on the radio.  Merrill was also responsible for writing most of the material.  For some reason the album was subsequently shelved by Vault where it sat until the label unexpectedly released it in 1971.  At the same time 'Homeward Bound' was released as a single.  I guess I can understand why the label wanted to go with a known quantity as a single - who doesn't like a good Paul Simon song, but it was just a crappy choice given how many of the band originals were far stronger.  Not quite an essential album, but all told a very nice slice of mid-1960s Southern California lite-rock. 


"The Ashes" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Gone To Sorrow  (Jackson Browne) - 3:07 rating: **** stars

Spotlighting Taylor's crystalline voice and a nice recorder solo (geez, how often have you heard that?),  'Gone To Sorrow' was a beautiful ballad with an "ear candy" refrain.  Kudos to the band for turning in one of the earliest Jackson Browne covers.  Browne supposedly wrote it when he was 16.

2.) Sleeping Serenade (John Merrill) - 2:47 rating: *** stars

This time introducing a touch of country to the mix, 'Sleeping Serenade" offered up another pretty ballad, though this one made less of an impact than the opening cut.

3.) Homeward Bound (Paul Simon) - 2:34 rating: ** stars

Their cover of Simon and Garfunkel's 'Homeward Bound" didn't stray too far from the original arrangement.  Yeah hearing a male-female vocal arrangement was momentarily surprising, but ultimately this was just kind of bland.  Dumb choice for a single:





- 1971's 'Homeward Bound' b/w 'Sleeping Serenade' (Vault catalog number V 975)






4.) Sands of Love (John Merrill) - 2:18 rating: ** stars

Hum ... another pretty ballad, but this one came awfully close to MOR territory.  It wasn't a stretch to imagine Dionne Warwick doing a cover of this one.

5.) My Life Has Changed (John Merrill) - 3:14 rating: *** stars

Powered by Brackett's melodic bass lines 'My Life Has Changed' added a touch of psychedelia to the mix. The album also showcased how well Taylor and Merrill's voices blended together.


(side 2)
1.) Return Home (Alan Brackett) - 2:23 rating: **** stars

One of the album highlights, 'Return Home' was written and recorded by the Peanut Butter Conspiracy with Sandi Robison on lead vocals.  Intended for their third studio album "For Children of All Ages" it didn't make the final cut (though it did appear on an expanded 1996 reissue on the Collectables label).   Brackett's only composition on the Ashes album, this version sped the song up, underscoring a breezy folk-rock melody.  I like it way better than the slower, blusier original.

2.) Her Invention (John Merrill) - 2:14 rating: ** stars

With Merrill handling lead vocals, 'Her Invention' was a straight-ahead country-folk number.  The opening always reminds me of a Peter, Paul and Mary tune.  Not something I found particularly appealing.

3.) Look Around Rock (P. Nichols) - 2:34 rating: *** stars

The flute backing gave ' Look Around Rock' an almost jazzy flavor.  The track also found Taylor singing in a deeper than normal register.  Intriguing.

4.) The Now (John Merrill) - 2:52 rating: ** stars

Forgettable folk-rock tune.

5.) Rainbows (John Merrill) - 2:17 rating: *** stars

Another Merrill lead vocal, 'Rainbows' is one of those folk-rock tunes that screams mid-'60s rather than 1970.  Why'd Vault wait to years to release the album?

6.) Simple Complexities (John Merrill) - 2:06 rating: ** stars

I like the guitar opening, but 'Simple Complexities' has always reminded me on an unfinished Mamas and the Papas track.. To my ears Taylor's vocals recall the late Cass Elliott.  



Sadly original singer Robison died of toxic shock syndrome in 1988.  She was only 43.



I haven't spent any time trying to verify the information, but I saw am online blurb about Taylor.  She participated in at least one more recording - a 1975 album by Buddy Washington's band A Letter Home ("Have a Good Old Fashioned Christmas" BLAP catalog number LRS-RT-6152).  She had two children and focused her attention on a Burbank vintage clothing store - Hubba Hubba.  She also wrote a newspaper column focusing on local theater.  Taylor passed on in June 2020.





You'll find a nice band history at: