ARS Nova


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1967-69)

- Maury Baker -- percussion, keyboards 
- Wyatt Day -- rhythm guitar, backing vocals 
- Bill Folwell -- trumpet, bass, backing vocals 
- Jimmy Owens -- trumpet, cornet
- Giovanni Papalia (RIP) -- lead guitar 
- John Pierson -- vocals, bass trombone 
- John Raskin -- bass, guitar, backing vocals 

 

  line up 2 (1969)

NEW - Warren Bernhardt - keyboards 
NEW - Sam Brown - lead guitar (replaced Giovanni Papalia) 
- Wyatt Day - rhythm guitar, backing vocals 
NEW - Joe Hunt - drums, percussion (replaced Maury Baker)
NEW - Art Koenig - bass (replaced John Pierson)
- John Pierson - vocals, bass trombone 

NEW - Ronnie Puddu -- trumpet (replaced Jimmy Owens)

NEW - Stu Wasserman -- bass (replaced John Raskin)


  

 

 

- Arista Allstars (Warren Bernhardt)

- Warren Bernhardt (solo efforts)

- L'Imagine (Warren Bernhardt)

- Mainhorse (Warren Bernhardt)

- Steps Ahead (Warren Bernhardt)

- The Terminal Barbershop (Wyatt Day and John Pierson)

- White Elephant (Warren Bernhardt)

 

 

 


 

Genre: psych

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  ARS Nova

Company: Elektra

Catalog: EKS-5002

Year: 1967

Country/State: New York City, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: unipack sleeve; minor ring wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 80

Price: $20.00

Cost: $1.00

 

1966 found classical musicians Wyatt Day (flamenco guitar) and John Pierson (bass trombone) having dropped out of Manhattan's Mannes College of Music.  With the pair sharing a taste for rock and roll, they were increasingly frustrated with their inability to pursue their own musical interests, let alone make a decent living in music.  Paying their bills teaching music and through other menial jobs, the pair occasionally got together with friends for a series of jam sessions in a Bronx church.  Those sessions included drummer Maury Baker, trumpet player Bill Folwell, lead guitarist Giovanni Papalia, and bass player John Raskin.    One of those sessions caught the attention of Doors producer Paul Rothchild.  

 

Signed by Rothchild to Elektra Record, the group put in several months of intense rehearsals, including a single September, 1967 concert in Philadelphia, before going into the studios to record an album under Rothchild's guidance.   Released under the name ARS Nova (a Latin term for Renaissance music),1968's "ARS Nova" found the band equally at home with classical inspired ballads (the Baroque-influenced single 'Pavan for My Love'), precursor Blood, Sweat and Tears horn arrangements ('General Clover Ends a War') and prototype heavy rock ('And How Am I To Know').  Day provided the majority of material (much of it co-written with either Pierson), but since the group didn't have enough material stockpiled for a full album, non-member Gregory Copeland was brought in to co-write several tunes.  The group's efforts to blend classical and rock elements was interesting, if occasionally a tad pretentious. Imagine a less bubble gummy version of The Left Banke and you'll get a feel for the set. Personal favorites, the sweet ballad 'And How Ma I To Know' and  the popish single 'Fields of People'.   In spite of decent reviews, including an extensive write-up in the June 1968 edition of Life, the set failed to sell. (The album was originally released with a unipack sleeve.  The back cover photo showing band member life masks was a bit creepy) 

Short of ground breaking, and an album that takes some time and effort to get into,  but it's a collection that I've come to enjoy and appreciate more and more over the years.

 

Elektra's marketing machine certainly didn't do the band any favors and after an ill-advised and horrible performance opening for The Doors at New York's Fillmore East, the band fragmented with original members Baker, Folwell, Owens, and Papalia quitting.

"ARS Nova" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Pavan for My Lady   (Wyatt Day) - 2:45    rating: **** stars

If I had to pick a song that exudes that unique '60s Summer of Love vibe, 'Pavan for My Lady' would be in the finally running.   A wonderful pastoral ballad complete with sweet harmony vocals, a Renaissance flavor, and subtle psych influences, fifty years after being released it remains a blast to hear.  Elektra tapped it as a promotional single, though it was apparently too unique to get a full commercial release:

 

 

 

 

- 1967's 'Pavan for My Lade' b/w 'Zoroaster' (Elektra catalog number EK-45621)


 

 

 

2.) General Clover Ends a War   (Gregory Copeland - Wyatt Day) - 2:12    rating: **** stars

Opening up with some pounding BS&T-styled horns, 'General Clover Ends a War' was an unexpected change in direction.  Yeah, the lyrics were very mid-'60s ...  and having listened to the song dozens of times I still don't have a clue what the song's about.  Interestingly the secret sauce on this tune came in the form of  drummer Maury Baker who literally tore the song up.  
3.) And How Am I to Know   (Wyatt Day) - 4:45   
rating: **** stars

Sweet ballad with the late Giovanni Papalia kicking in a fall-on-the-floor dazzling fuzz guitar solo at the 2:23 mark.
4.) Album in Your Mind   (Wyatt Day - Jon Pierson) - 3:01  
rating: ** stars

The first disappointment, 'Album in Your Mind' sounded like these guys had been listening to a little too much West Coast jug band music.  Complete with treated vocals and a bouncy melody, it was just too cute for their own good.
5.) Zarathustra (instrumental) - 3:30

Interesting choice of a song to cover and I quite like their twangy version of the song; maybe even more than the better known "2001 A Space Odyssey" version.  Once again, check out Baker's killer drum work on this one.


(side 1)

1.) Fields of People  (Wyatt Day - Jon Pierson) - 2:52

'Fields of People' was their most successful melding of old and new genres and probably the album's standout performances.   Interesting Roy Wood and the Move covered the tune on their "Shazam" LP.  Elektra tapped it as the leadoff single:

- 1967's 'Fields of People' b/w 'March of the Mad Duke's Circus' (Elektra catalog number EK 45631-A)
2.) Automatic Love   (Wyatt Day) - 4:06 
  rating: ** stars

Another tune that sounded like they've been listening to too much Lovin' Spoonful.  Second-tier jug band pop.  Pass.  You could hear a little of Day's Flamenco background at the end of the song.
3.)  I Wrapped Her in Ribbons   (Gregory Copeland - Wyatt Day) - 2:18  
rating: **** stars

Featuring Day's acoustic guitar, ' I Wrapped Her in Ribbons' was a stark, pretty ballad.  Checkout John Raskin's stunning bass line on this one.
4.) Song of the City  (Gregory Copeland - Wyatt Day) - 2:08  
rating: *** stars

One of four tracks co-written by non--member Gregory Copeland, 'Song of the City' was the album's most conventional and commercial track.  If they'd added a big of Hammond B3 to the mix, it would have sounded a bit like a Procol Harum tune.
5.) March of the Mad Dukes Circus   (Gregory Copeland - Wyatt Day) - 3:17
   rating: **** stars

Showcasing their classical music backgrounds, I'll readily admit 'March of the Mad Dukes Circus' took a couple of spins to showcase it's charms.   Imagine a cross between The Association and Fairport Convention.

 



 

 


Genre: psych

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Sunshine and Shadows

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD-8221

Year: 1969

Country/State: USA

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD $20.00

 

The first ARS Nova LP went nowhere, leaving the band fractured by musical and personal disagreements.  After a disastrous Fillmore East concert opening for The Doors, original members Maury Baker, Bill Folwell, Jimmy Owens, Giovanni Papalia, and John Raskin quit.  When things finally settled down, Wyatt Day and Jon Pierson stood as the only survivors.  

 

Having already invested $75,000 in the band, Elektra pressured  Day and Pierson to continue the band.  Elektra suggested the remaining band members travel to California in order to recharge their creative batteries and prepare material for a sophomore set.  Things didn't work out and after driving back to New York, Day and Pierson recruited a new lineup consisting of keyboardist Warren Bernhardt, guitarist Sam Brown, drummer Joe Hunt, Art Koenig, trumpet player  Ronnie Puddu, and bassist Stu Wasserman.  The revamped band also ended their relationship with Elektra, being signed by Atlantic. 

 

Released in mid-1969, "Sunshine and Shadows" found the band working with producer Arthur Gorson.  This time out Day providing the majority of material, again working with lyricist Greg Copeland and separately with Gail Collins. Perhaps a leftover from the earlier album , the jazzy instrumental 'You Had Better Listen' was credited to former member Owens).   To my ears the results were far less impressive. The group were clearly under pressure to up their commercial quotient and while material  such as the title track, "I was Once" and "She Promises Everything" retained the band's "arty" leanings, the results sounded strained.  Elsewhere, 'Round Once Again' and 'Walk On the Sand' offered up pastorial melodies, folkish harmonies, and thoughtful lyrics that came close to the debut. 'Well, Well, Well' was far better, if only due to the atypical rock tempo and Brown's screaming fuzz guitar solo. Another commercial nonentity, the collection vanished without a trace. 

 

In case anyone cared, Jon Borgzinner, who had authored an article on the band for Life magazine, contributed the liner notes.  If you're curious. you can read the Life article at:  http:tinyurl.com/pdrx41K  

 

Shortly after it's release the group called it quits.

"Sunshine and Shadows" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Sunshine & Shadows   (Wyatt Day - Gail Collins) - 3:02   rating: *** stars

The title track was far more commercial and mainstream than most material on their first album, but in a good way.  The track sported one of those instantly attractive melodies and one of Day's sweetest vocals.  Curiously, the opening's always reminded me a touch of early Yes.   Atlantic tapped it as a promotional single, but seemingly didn't bother releasing stock copies:

- 1969's 'Sunshine & Shadows' b/w 'Walk On the Sand' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2625)
2.) I was Once  (Wyatt Day) - 2:57  
rating: **** stars

Kicked along by some tasty Sam Brown fuzz soaked lead guitar, 'I was Once' stood as the band's hardest rocking tune.  
3.) Temporary Serenade   (Wyatt Day - Greg Copeland) - 3:00  
rating: ** stars

Painfully sappy ballad that would not have sounded out of place on an album by Richard Harris, or Jimmy Webb.  Well, at least Day's acoustic guitar work was nice.
4.) She Promises Everything  (Wyatt Day - Gail Collins) - 3:18  
rating: *** stars

Geez, 'She Promises Everything' offered up another heart-rendering ballad.  Not as bad as the previous song, but give me The Association any day ...


(side 1)

1.) Well, Well, Well   (Wyatt Day) - 2:55   rating; **** stars

Probably my favorite ARS Nova rock tune ...  Driven by a killer Sam Brown fuzz guitar figure, and a seriously catchy refrain, this is the song Atlantic should have tapped as a single.
2.) You Had Better Listen (instrumental)   (Jimmy Owens) - 4:07  
rating: *** stars

Given the writing credit, the instrumental 'You Had Better' appeared to be a leftover from the first album.  Musically it was an interested meld of soul and jazz moves.   Think along the lines of The Holt Young Trio with backing from Steve Cropper and The Memphis Horns.  
3.) Round Once Again   (Wyatt Day) - 3:16  
rating; **** stars

The sweet ballad 'Round Once Again' was one of the few songs that echoed the debut's affection for Baroque sounds.  maybe that's why it's been a long time favorite.
4.) Walk On the Sand  (Wyatt Day) - 6:20  
rating; **** stars

With what sounded like a bossa nova edge, 'Walk On the Sand' was the album's biggest change of pace and surprise. Awesome tune with a Ronnie Puddu trumpet solo for folks who don't like trumpet solos.  Yeah, I'd be the first to admit this one sounded like a slice of MOR-cocktail jazz, but it was hypnotic with new Day turning in some stunning acoustic guitar (showcasing his Flamenco roots) and the  Joe Hunt and Stu Wasserman rhythm section simply crushing it.
5.) Rubbish   (Wyatt Day) - 3:28 
  rating: ** stars

Credit the band with truth in advertising.  A good timey track, 'Rubbish' has always reminded me of the kind of stuff Command Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen recorded.  Not my cup of tea.

 

 

So here's an interesting email related to the band:

 

 

ATCO catalog number SD 33-301

 

Hi, Pierson and Day did a 3rd album that was mostly the lineup of their 2nd album.  It it was on ATCO and included versions of the play "Hair" a-la ARS Nova style.  Pretty cool if you like ARS Nova (I do !).  You can find it on vinyl from Amazon and probably eBay every so often. 

Tom McKee

August 2011

 

 

 


10.) Please Don't Go (Wyatt Day) - 5:41

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