Automatic Man


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1975-76)

- Bayete (aka Todd Cochran) -- vocals, keyboards, guitar 
- Doni Harvey (RIP 2011) -- vocals, bass 
- Michael Shrieve -- drums 
- Pat Thrall -- guitar

 

  line up 2 (1976-77)

- Bayete (aka Todd Cochran) -- vocals, keyboards, guitar 
NEW - Jerome Rimson -- bass (replaced Doni Harvey) 
NEW - Glenn Symmonds -- drums (replaced Michael Shrieve)
- Pat Thrall -- guitar (1976-77) 


  

 

 

- Abraxas Pool  (Michael Shrieve)

- Asia (Pat Thrall)

- Bayeté Umbra Zindiko

- Todd Cochran (solo efforts)

- Cookin Mama (Pat Thrall)

- Fuse One (Todd Cochran)
- Go (Doni Harvey, Jerome Rimson. Michael Shrieve, and Pat Thrall)
- Hagar, Schon, Aaronson, Shrieve (Michael Shrieve)

- Doni Harvey (solo efforts)

- Hughes/Thrall (Pat Thrall)

- Novo Combo (Michael Shrieve)

- PM (Todd Cochran)
- Santana (Michael Shrieve)  

- Glenn Symmonds (solo efforts)

 

 


 

Genre: progressive 

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Automatic Man

Company: Island

Catalog: ILPS-9397

Year: 1976

Country/State:  San Francisco, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor cover wear; embossed cover; original custom inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 922

Price: $10.00

Cost: $1.00

 

I've owned the two Automatic Man albums since they came out in the mid-'70s and every time I've sold a copy I've quickly regretted the decision and gone out and found a replacement copy.  To be honest, I can't tell you either LP is a lost classic, but it spite of significant flaws, each exhibits some engaging attributes that make them keepers.  Ironically, until recently front man Bayete's background was largely unknown to me.   The good news is the Never Enough Rhodes blog site has an extensive write up on the man: 

 

http://neverenoughrhodes.blogspot.com/2008/08/lives-of-todd-cochran.html

 

1972's "World Around the Sun" (Prestige catalog number PR 10045) and 1973's "Seeking Other Beauty" (Prestige catalog number PR 10062)

 

The website link provides an extensive examination of Todd Cochran/Bayete's career (we're talking stalker level detail), so I'll limit my own comments to the fact before adopting the stage name Bayete, singer/multi-instrumentalist Cochran recorded a pair of instantly obscure jazz-oriented albums for the Prestige label. 

 

                 back cover photo left to right:

             Shrieve - Bayete - Thrall - Harvey

 

1975 found Cochran-cum-Bayete collaborating with bassist Doni Harvey, former Santana drummer Michael Shrieve (the band Santana had recorded Cochran's 'Free Angela' on their 1974 live "Lotus" album), and guitarist Pat Thrall.  Harvey, Shrieve, and Thrall had previous played with Stomu Yamashta and Steve Winwood in the band Go.   As Automatic Man, the quartet generated considerable attention in their native San Francisco, culminating with a recording deal with Chris Blackwell's Island Records (which had also signed Go).  Co-produced by the band and Lou Casabianca, 1976's "Automatic Man" featured an erratic, but occasionally engaging  blend of Hendrix-styled guitar ('Geni-Geni'), Sly Stone-styled funk moves, keyboard powered jazz-rock fusion (One 'N One"), and patented mid-'70s science fiction influenced lyrics.   While Bayete's voice was no great shakes (he occasionally recalled the late Fleetwood Mac's Danny Kirwan), on material such as 'Comin' Through' and 'My Pearl' the band's energetic performances and spacey keyboards compensated for other shortcomings. To my ears the album's never less than entertaining, though it wouldn't have suffered from a little less in the wandering jazz-rock realm.  

"Automatic Man' track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Atlantis Rising Fanfare (instrumental)   (Bayete) - 1:37

Not sure how to describe the lead-off instrumental Atlantis Rising Fanfare' other than spacey, but surprisingly cool ....   rating: *** stars
2.) Comin' Through  (Bayete -
Doni Harvey - Michael Shrieve - Pat Thrall ) - 3:35

The lone group composition, 'Comin' Through' managed to blend a funky bass line with some tuneful keyboards and synthesizer moves, a highly commercial melody, and some nice group harmonies - imagine early Ambrosia with a soulful lead singer.   One of the songs that could have enjoyed some radio play with a bit of effort by their label and an album highlight.   rating: **** stars
3.) My Pearl  (Bayete) - 3:41

The album's most overtly commercial tune, 'My Pearl' had everything needed for radio success including an insidiously catchy melody and some tasty soul vocals.  Island even tapped it as a single, but did little to promote the 45.   rating: **** stars
4.) One and One  (Bayete) - 6:01

I'm usually not a big jazz-rock fan, but the breezy 'One and One' served as a rare exception.   Yeah, the science fiction lyrics haven't aged all that well (not that they were particularly impressive back in 1976), but built on some unusually tasteful synthesizer touches, and one of Bayete's best vocals, the song was tuneful and actually quite relaxing.   Always wondered how drummer Michael Shrieve got the interesting percussion sounds.  rating: **** stars
5.) Newspapers  (Bayete) - 3:59

Side one's most progressive tune, 'Newspapers' has actually always reminded me of a Danny Kirwan and Fleetwood Mac  tune.   Like Kirwan's best material, the tune managed to meld a slightly goofy sci-fi lyric was a pretty melody.   rating: *** stars

6.) Geni Geni  (Bayete) - 5:33

With a cool jammin' melody and some of the band's best vocals, 'Geni Geni' was another nice example of the band's ability to meld funk, pop, rock, and space rock moves into a unified package.    You could actually dance to this one.   rating: **** stars


(side 2)

1.) Right Back Down  (Bayete - Lou Casabianca) - 5:56

One part Hendrix rock, one part Sly funk (on this one Bayete's ragged voice bore more than a slight resemblance to Stone) , and one part Jeff Beck jazz-rock fusion ...   Doesn't sound all that appealing, but the fact of the matter is 'Right Back Down' was a simply killer tune.   rating: **** stars
2.) There's a Way  (Bayete - Doni Harvey - Michael Shrieve - Pat Thrall - Lou Casabianca) - 5:15

The second group penned track (co-producer Casabianca helping out with lyrics), it took awhile to kick in gear, but when it engaged, 'There's a Way' morphed into the album's heaviest performance, complete with some Pat Thrall meltdown lead guitar.   rating: **** stars
3.) I.T.D. (Interstellar Tracking Devices)  (Bayete - Lou Casabianca) - 5:14

The album's first true misstep, ' I.T.D. (Interstellar Tracking Devices)' was a bluesy number that fell victim to a forgettable melody and some goofy lyrics that must have sounded dated even back in 1976.  Imagine Steely Dan overdosing on 'ludes and bad Ray Bradbury novels.   rating; ** stars
4.) Automatic Man  (Bayete) - 4:54

Overlooking the Atari Space Invaders sound effects, the title track was a pretty good jazz-rock number with Bayete turning in some of his best vocals.   rating: *** stars
5.) Atlantis Rising Theme (instrumental)  (Bayete) - 3:17

The album closed out with a jazz-rock instrumental that would have made Jeff Beck happy, though probably didn't do a great deal for most other listeners.  rating: ** stars

 

 

A single (with a non-LP 'B' side) was floated off the album:

 

-- 1976's 'My Pearl' b/w 'Wallflower' (Island catalog number IS 063-1/B)

 

For some reason Island also elected to release a  four track 12" EP in England (Island catalog number ATMAN-1)

 

"Automatic Man" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) My Pearl  (Bayete) - 3:41

2.) Geni-Geni  (Bayete) - 5:33

 

(side 2) 

1.) Wallflower

2.) Automatic Man  (Bayete) - 4:54

 

The collection attracted generally favorable reviews, but in an era of disco madness and punk mayhem, proved too quirky for radio, peaking at #120.

 

Harvey died in June, 2011.

 



 

 


Genre: rock 

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Visitors

Company: Island

Catalog: ILPS-9492

Year: 1977

Country/State:  San Francisco, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes embossed cover and lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 921

Price: $10.00

Cost: $1.00

 

 

Following a bout of creative infighting Automatic Man underwent a personnel upheaval that saw front man Bayete (aka Todd Cochran) can original drummer Michael Shrieve and bassist Doni Harvey.  They were replaced by sessions drummer Glenn Symmonds and bassist Jerome Rimson (who had previously played with guitarist Pat Thrall in Stomu Yamashta's band Go).   When the personnel dust settled Automatic Man mk II released 1977's Michael Lloyd produced  "Visitors".   Unlike the debut which included a couple of group-penned compositions, this time out Bayete was in full artistic control, credited with writing all nine tracks.  Other notable changes included the fact Bayete seemed much more comfortable as lead singer.  He still wasn't a great vocalist, but his performances seemed far more consistent this time around.  Bayete also trotted out far more synthesizer work this time around giving the album kind of an '80s feel - you'll recognize it when you hear it.  Unfortunately, whereas the debut featured an intriguing blend of Hendrix-styled rock, Sly Stone-styled funk moves, keyboard powered jazz-rock fusion, and patented mid-'70s science fiction influenced lyrics,  the new collection featured an enjoyable, but far less innovative collection of funk-rock.  Side one in particular seemed devoted to following a more commercial path.  Exemplified by songs like the title track, 'Here I Am Now', and 'What's Done', side two exhibited some of the spacey progressive edges that made the debut a fun listen.  Bottom line is that anyone who liked the debut's quirky approach was probably going to find this one disappointing.  On the other hand, while the album wasn't spectacular, several songs, including 'Give It To Me' and 'Live Wire' had some real  top-40 radio potential. 

"Visitors" track listing:

(side 1)
1.) Give It to Me   (Bayete) - 3:49

'Give It To Me' started the album off with a breezy slice of radio friendly mild funk.  Complete with female backing singers and synthesizer washes, this sounded like something from the mid-'80s..  Okay, if you liked the genre. rating: *** stars
2.) Live Wire   (Bayete) - 4:45

The synthesizer propelled 'Live Wire' was probably the album's standout performance with a nice, pounding melody, great Rimson poppin' bass, and a hook that was extremely catchy.   rating: **** stars
3.) So You Wanna Be   (Bayete) - 4:00

Well, Rimson added some nice bass touches, but otherwise the ballad 'So You Wanna Be' was a forgettable slice of love man ballad-cum-elevator music.  Pretty horrible no matter how you listen to it.  rating: ** stars
4.) Y2 Me   (Bayete) - 4:18

Hum, Automatic Man overdosing on Johnny Guitar Watson love man-funkster ?   Not their most original outing.   rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) Visitors   (Bayete) - 3:50

With it's B movie sci-fi lyrics and Atari sound effects synthesizers, the title track was probably the closest thing to the debut's quirky blend of genres.   Sadly, most folks probably never got through side one in order to hear it.   rating: **** stars
2.) Here I Am Now   (Bayete) - 5:14

Hum, 'Here I Am Now' was interesting and actually kind of funny in its haphazard attempt to meld Bayete's sci-fi interests with a funky musical base.  Extra star for Thrall's attempt to clone Brian May's "bell" guitar sound and for lyrics like "the electric people all love you so, fascinated and charmed by your magnetic glow."   rating: **** stars
3.) There's a Way
   (Bayete) - 4:26

Perky melody with more sci-fi lyrics.   Goofy and kind of fun.   rating: **** stars

4.) Daughter of Neptune   (Bayete) - 4:13

Well, 'Daughter of Neptune' at least gave guitarist Thrall an opportunity to trot out some Hendrix-styled guitar pyrotechnics.    rating: ** stars
5.) What's Done   (Bayete) - 6:22

Nice blend of funk bass, hard rock guitar, and one of Bayete's best vocals ... it was also the album's closest brush with progressive moves ...   rating: **** stars

 

 

 

The album  actually sold better than the debut, hitting #109, but after relocated to London,  the band subsequently called it quits.

 

 

 

 

 

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