T.S. Bonniwell

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  

- T.S. Boniwell (aka Thomas Hardy Boniwell, aka Sean Boniwell)

  (RIP 2011)-- vocals, guitar


  supporting musicians:

- Vic Briggs -- guitar

- Virgil Evans -- trumpet

- Fleetfoot -- 12 string guitar

- Jim Gordon (RIP) -- drums, percussion

- Sharon Hicks -- bass, vocals

- Bill Hinshaw -- French horn

- K. -- congas

- Steve Lester -- guitar

- Jack Libeau -- vibes

- Lyle Ritz -- bass




- The Bonniwell Music Machine

- The Music Machine

- The Raggamuffins

- The Wayfarers





Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Close

Company: Capitol

Catalog:  ST 277

Country/State: San Jose, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: cut out hole top right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2852

Price: $50.00

Sean Bonniwell's first and only solo album ...

After two classic garage rock albums with The Music Machine and Bonniwell's Music Machine, Bonniwell's solo debut (credited to T.S. Bonniwell), marked a major change in musical direction.  Having sold Warner Brothers rights to the Bonniwell Music Machine nameplate, 1969 found Bonniwell signed to Capitol.  Teamed with former Animals guitarist, now-producer Vic Briggs (who also handled the arrangements and provided guitar on 'Something To Be'), "Close" found Bonniwell reinventing himself as a sensitive singer/songwriter.  Exemplifedi by tracks like 'Where Am I To Go', 'Love Is Such a Simple Word', and 'But Not with My Heart', this wasn't music to dance to.  This was highly personal, seriously contemplative material; dark, disturbing, with a fairly deep religious orientation (check out 'Sleep'),  I don't think anyone would describe it as a lot of fun.  That wasn't meant to take any\thing away from Bonniwell's talents.  He had an exceptional voice and while the ballad heavy mix eventually began to suffer from sounds-alike syndrome, there were a couple of standout performances.  To my ears, with modest lysergic tinges, both 'Something To Be' and 'Black Snow' were album highlights.  The other standout and the album's closest thing to a commercial tune was 'Temporary Knife'.


"Close" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Where Am I To Go   (T.S. Boniwell) - 2:52   rating: *** stars


Yeah, anyone who expected to hear Music Machine styled garage rock was going to be in for a major shock with sensitive singer/songwriter material like 'Where Am I To Go'.   Pretty tune and I liked Vic Briggs' arrangement, but it was a bit on the fragile side, though it would probably appeal to Simon and Garfunkel fans.  Capitol released the song as an instantly forgotten single:


1969's 'Where Am I To Go' b/w 'Sleep' (Capitol catalog number P-2551)





2.) Love Is Such a Simple Word   (T.S. Boniwell) - 3:12   rating: *** stars

I love harpsichord so the album's second ballad started out with an advantage over some of the other tracks.  Like the first track, 'Love Is Such a Simple Word' reflected typical '60s sensitivity which may be a little over-the-top for some folks.

3.) Who Remembers   (T.S. Boniwell) - 2:40    rating: *** stars

Jimmy Webb would be proud of 'Who Remembers'...  To my ears it sounded like free word association, but then I've been told I have the sensitivity of a brick.  Giving credit where due, the acoustic guitar accompaniment was nice.

4.) Something To Be   (T.S. Boniwell) - 3:07  rating: **** stars

With a easy-going, jazzy vibe and a multi-tracked lead vocal, 'Something To Be' has always reminded me of a David Crosby tune.  Jack Libeau on vibes.

5.) Black Snow   (T.S. Boniwell) - 4:00  rating: **** stars

'Black Snow'  was another track originally recorded by The Music Machine (and subsequently shelved, though it appeared on the Sundazed issued "Ignition" retrospective set).  Bonniwell's solo version sounds nothing like the heavy garage original.  Reinterpreted as a ballad, with an ominous, lysergic edge, this version was probably my favorite song on the album.  Nice showcase for Bonniwell's exceptional voice.


(side 2)

1.) She Is   (T.S. Boniwell) - 3:06   rating: *** stars

Bonniwell wrote 'She Is' while a member of The Music Machine.  The band apparently even took a stab at the song, but it's easy to see why it never got recorded.  Ever wondered what Jacque Brel would have sounded like if he'd been a native Californian ?   Hopefully not, but if the thought ever crossed your mind - well, check out 'She Is'.  

2.) Temporary Knife   (T.S. Boniwell) - 2:50  rating: **** stars

Even though it sounded like a Scott Walker performance, 'Temporary Knofe' was the album's most commercial tune.  This should have been the single rather than 'Where Am I To Go'.   

3.) Continue   (T.S. Boniwell) - 2:57   rating: *** stars

Almost a bossa nova vibe going on here. Always liked the acoustic guitars on this ballad.  

4,) Where It Belongs   (T.S. Boniwell) - 2:11   rating: *** stars

Normally a country tinged tune like 'Where It Belongs' would send me running for the turntable in an effort to get to the next song.  In this case it made a nice change of pace.  The bouncy melody actually reminded me a bit of a Michael Nesmith effort.

5.) But Not with My Heart   (T.S. Boniwell) - 2:57  rating: ** stars

Heavily orchestrated ballad that might have been a candidate for a crooner like Bennett, or Sinatra.

6.) Sleep   (T.S. Boniwell) - 4:17  rating: *** stars

Here's what Bonniwell had to say about 'Sleep': "... a look at this man who has worked all of his life to support his family, to be a farmer, to grow things, and to know the Lord and walk with him through not an easy life, but certainly not a hard one; one that all men are faced with. And it's the Lord calling him home. It shows how foolish 'Where It Belongs' is, and I did that on purpose. Because it completely turns it around into a life that should be centered not in doubt and unforgiveness, but in faith. That's really the whole context of Close."


Capitol had no idea what to do with the album.  That indifferences was reflected in the label's lukewarm support for the collection and the fact they reported only pressing 5,000 copies of the album.  Frustrated, Bonniwell followed his heart, dropping out of the music business.  He reportedly sold virtually all of his possessions; bought a Volkswagon bus and hit the road exploring his own faith and  America.  He eventually wrote a book "Talk Talk" (later released as "Beyond the Garage"), and didn't resume an active musical career until 2004 when he agreed to undertake a European tour.


Only 71, he died of lung cancer in December 2011.


Shortly before Bonniwell died, Richie Unterberger interviewed him for a schedule reissue of   "Close".  The interview  makes for an interesting, if occasionally dense read with considerable information on the album's individual songs::  http://www.bonniwellmusicmachine.com/close.html


The album's been reissued a couple of times.  Working with Bonniwell who actually re-mastered it before his untimely death, the California-based Real Gone Records released it in 2012 (catalog number RGM 0024) - http://www.realgonemusic.com/news/2012/1/25/ts-bonniwell.html  






Close is a solo album by American rock musician Sean Bonniwell, credited under the moniker T. S. Bonniwell, who had been the creative force behind the innovative garage rock band The Music Machine. The album was released on August 4, 1969, by Capitol Records (see 1969 in music).[1] It marked a total departure from Bonniwell's rebellious protopunk period with The Music Machine, to a soft rock crooning style. In addition, the album blended folk rock and orchestrated influences, and was inspired by Bonniwell's stints in the pre-Music Machine groups, the Wayfarers and the Ragamuffins, along with his desire to be more poetically inclined. The song,"Where Am I to Go", was released as a single ahead of the album, but failed to chart. Like its attendant single, Close was also somewhat commercially unsuccessful, and was the last recording by Bonniwell for the next 20 years.[1][2]






Recording sessions for the album began in mid-1969, and took place in Capitol Recording Studios in Los Angeles, with former guitarist of Eric Burdon and the Animals, Vic Briggs, producing and Paul Buff engineering. Sean Bonniwell was occupied with selling the rights to his former band, The Music Machine, to get out of his recording contract with Warner Bros. Records in the early part of 1969 and, consequently, there was a lack of properly arranged new material for the album.[3] Bonniwell's departure was marked by the limitations to song selections and managerial conflicts. Through a producer from his previous recording company, Bonniwell was signed to Capitol Records under the assertion he was given total control of the album's output. As a result, he was given time to improvise and arrange in the studio, with Briggs playing a pivotal role in enabling Bonniwell to complete the recording sessions under his own terms.[4] Briggs was also instrumental in arranging the orchestrations that complimented much of Bonniwell's lyrical content. The project's only credited songwriter, Bonniwell, recalled the importance of Briggs's contributions to Close during an interview with music historian, Peter Sjoblom: "Vic was a God-send; he insisted I sing and play the songs live for him, two or three at a time, in the late afternoon, near dusk, at his hillside cottage in the Canyon. Basically, he took it from there. As we progressed so did our collaboration.... When the basic tracks were satisfactory he added the orchestration: To say we were on the same page is an understatement."[2] The two songs, "Where Am I to Go" and "Something to Be", were the only exceptions as they were arranged by Bonniwell with session musicians during his time with The Music Machine.[5]

Among the tracks that were recorded for the album were Bonniwell's compositions "She Is" and "Black Snow", which had been recorded by The Music Machine, but had not been released at the time because of their somber contrast to the band's hard-edge sound. "Black Snow" saw an appearance among others of the band's rarities on the 2000 albumIgnition.[6] Bonniwell moved away from the gritty psychedelic rock experimentation, in the group in favor of melancholy folk rock songs, reminiscent of his time as a folk musician, and influenced by lounge music, bossa nova, and flamenco.[7] Richie Unterberger, writing for the Allmusic website, described the album as "...quite subdued, orchestrated singer/songwriter pop, verging on easy listening at times in its arrangements. The gravel-growl that Bonniwell employed for the likes of 'Talk Talk' was totally absent, as he concentrated solely on the sweet, delicate, crooning aspects of his voice."[8] The tracks "Who Remembers" and "Temporary Knife" featured contributions from voice artist Sharon Hicks, who possessed uniquely high vocals.[4]

Close was released on August 4, 1969, but its distribution suffered from only being issued to California and from lack of promotion. Nonetheless, it successfully expanded Bonniwell's musical prowess, and displayed his versatility as a vocalist. However, feeling disillusioned with the music industry, Bonniwell took a long hiatus from recording, and lived a nomadic lifestyle, or as Bonniwell said, "my transcendentalized western guru period", which made Close his last album for the next 20 years.[9] Although it, and its single "What Am I to Do", failed to chart and had gone out of print by the early 1970s, the album's reputation has grown over the years. By the mid-1980s, a revival of interest in Bonniwell's music with The Music Machine had begun, and accordingly Close was met with intrigue. Finally, in 2000 the album was first reissued by Collectables Records, and was rereleased by Real Gone Records in 2012.[5][8]

Track listing[edit]

All tra