John Bunyan's Progressive Pilgrims
Band members Related acts
- John Bunyan
- none known
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Apricot Brandy and Albatross
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 6271
The Berkeley, California-based Alshire Records was one of those budget labels that made its money with a seemingly endless catalog of MOR cocktail lounge albums, including the mind numbing 101 Strings series that seem to clog every charity store in the country. The label also dabbled in more contemporary sounds via albums by such studio entities as The Animated Egg and The Electric Firebirds. Add to that short list John Bunyan's Progressive Pilgrims.
Namesake inspiration John Bunyan's probably best known as the author of Pilgrim's Progress,. Given the book describes the journey of a person seeking God and the struggles he encounters after becoming a Christian, one can only guess that the choice of names was meant to be funny. Musically this set wasn't a major departure from the label's earlier stabs at rock and roll, though this time the marketing strategy was to attract fans of English hard rock (okay, "Hot Shot" sounded like something out of the Stax catalog). All but devoid of liner notes, the album says the set was recorded in London with recording director Jack Dorsey. A doubtful claim. In all likelihood 1969's "Apricot Brandy and Albatross" was recorded by anonymous, cash starved studio musicians - perhaps the same group responsible for the label's earlier rock releases. Like the earlier albums, the set offered up a mixture of popular hits and similarly-styled originals. An all instrumental collection, the covers weren't half bad, though the rote performances really didn't add much to tracks such as Fleetwood Mac's "Albatross" or The Who's "Summertime Blues". Elsewhere, credited to Martin Huckridge and Al Sherman, originals such as the freak out "Mozart's Dilemma", "Spaced Out" and "Winter Draws On" were full of fuzz guitar solos and screaming organs, making them surprisingly good for what were clearly throwaway efforts. Like I said earlier, nothing really earth shattering, but all told this is one of the better psychploitation albums out there and well worth looking for.
"Apricot Brandy and Albatross" track listing:
1.) Albatross (instrumental) (Peter Green) rating: *** stars
Their cover of Peter Green's classic 'Albatross' was a pretty, but bare-bones guitar-propelled atmospheric instrumental.
2.) Apricot Brandy (instrumental) (Danny Wiess - Michael Fonfara) rating: **** stars
Ever seen was of the '60s 'B" flicks that has something to do with aimless, stoned young people rebelling against society and featured at least one scene with a rock and roll band in the background ? Well, their cover of Rhinocerous' 'Apricot Brandy' sounded like it was lifted from the sound track for one of those films (so does the un-credited album cover for that matter). The jumpy organ and guitar arrangement was surprisingly catchy. Anyone want to get up and shag ?
3.) Sabre Dance (arranged by Al Sherman) (instrumental) rating: *** stars
Hum, if you ever wanted to hear a fuzz guitar powered version of 'Sabre Dance' here's your chance. Actually, combined with the manic drumming the results were kind of interesting and the organ-powered mid-section had a modest ELP-feel to it.
4.) Mozart's Dilemma (Martin Huckridge) (instrumental) rating: **** stars
I've never gone to a circus spaced out on LSD (and it isn't something I'm advocating), but I imagine 'Mozart's Dilemma' might be the appropriate soundtrack for such an outing. About midway through the song some first-rate fuzz guitar kicked in and the freak-out Irish jig-played-on-synthesizer segment would have made Rick Wakeman proud.
5.) Spaced Out (Al Sherman) (instrumental) rating: **** stars
I guess 'Spaced Out' has a modest spacey feel - nothing to dramatic. It actually sounded like something Booker T. Jones and company might have churned out had they been playing your local supper club. Once again, the anonymous fuzz lead guitar provided the song's creative highpoint. Whoever this person was knew how to turn in some blazing leads.
1.) Hot Shot (Martin Huckridge) (instrumental) rating: **** stars
The organ powered 'Hot Shot' started out with a distinctive Stax flavor and about halfway through exploded with another wild fuzz solo. This one's a blast to listen to on good headphones.. I'm a big Stax and fuzz guitar fan so I enjoyed this track immensely.
2.) Summertime Blues (instrumental) (Eddie Cochran and Jerry Capehart) - rating: ** stars
The liner notes didn't include any writing credits, but their cover of Eddie Cochran's 'Summertime Blues' was okay. The problem with this one stemmed from the fact the original was so raucous their over-the-top fuzzed up version simply didn't bring anything to the table.
3.) Winter Draws On (Al Sherman) (instrumental) rating: **** stars
'Winter Draws On' was basically a bluesy number with some interesting guitar effects slapped on it. I've always wondered what the weird metallic effect was.
4.) Spring without Words (Martin Huckridge) - Al Sherman) (instrumental) rating: **** stars
One of the collection's more pop-oriented efforts and one of the catchier performance, 'Spring without Words' was a breezy organ and guitar dual. It really generated quite a bit of energy as it went along.
5.) Pecadillo (Martin Huckridge) (instrumental) rating: *** stars
About the funkiest thing on the album, 'Pecadillo' found the band going back to a Stax/Booker T. Jones-styled groove. My only complaint with this one was that it simply wasn't long enough. Easily one of the LP highlights.
Curiously, there's also a children's Halloween LP entitled "The Headless Horseman and Other Harrowing Halloween Tales" that is partially credited to a Martin Huckridge. No idea if it's the same person.
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