Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1967-69)
- Maury Baker --
line up 2 (1969)
NEW - Warren Bernhardt - keyboards
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)
Rating: **** (4 stars)
Title: ARS Nova
Country/State: New York City, New York
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: unipack sleeve; minor ring wear
Catalog ID: 80
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.
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.
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
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.
ballad with the
late Giovanni Papalia kicking in a fall-on-the-floor dazzling fuzz
guitar solo at the 2:23 mark.
'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.
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.
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)
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.
Day's acoustic guitar, ' I Wrapped Her in Ribbons' was a stark,
pretty ballad. Checkout John Raskin's stunning bass line on
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.
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.
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Sunshine and Shadows
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: minor ring wear
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.
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
along by some tasty Sam Brown fuzz
soaked lead guitar, 'I was Once' stood as the band's hardest rocking
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
Geez, 'She Promises Everything' offered up another heart-rendering ballad. Not as bad as the previous song, but give me The Association any day ...
1.) Well, Well, Well (Wyatt Day) - 2:55 rating; **** stars
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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