A Euphonious Wail


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1970-73)

- Doug Huffman -- drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Bart Libby -- keyboards 
- Suzanne Rey -- vocals, percussion
- Gary Violetti -- bass, backing vocals
- Steve Tracy (RIP) -- vocals, lead guitar 
   

 

 

- none known

 

 


 

Genre: psych

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  A Euphonious Wail

Company: Kapp

Catalog: KS-3668

Year: 1973

Country/State: Santa Rosa, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor ring, corner and edge wear; cut corner; minor soiling

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4261

Price: $40.00

Cost: $1.00

 

The Santa Monica-based A Euphonious Wail considered themselves a psychedelic outfit, heavily influenced by San Francisco bands including Big Brother and the Trucking Company and The Jefferson Airplane.  Personally I don't hear a great of psych in their album.  Instead I'd suggest they had more in common with early-'70s heavy rock bands like Crow and Steppenwolf (who they briefly toured with). They were certainly a talented outfit, though to my ears they were roughly five years behind creative and popular tastes. Not that it seemed to matter given a financially struggling Kapp Records went ahead and signed the quintet to a recording contract.  By the way, or anyone curious "euphonious" means a sound pleasing to the human ear.

 

The band apparently recorded an album's worth of material with producer Richard Podolor (best known at the time for his work with Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night), but for some reason those efforts were ultimately shelved.  The band subsequently return to the studiol with producer Brian Ingoldsby.  (Lowell Levinger of Youngbloods fame reportedly also helped out).  Built around the talents of drummer Doug Huffman, keyboardist Bart Libby, singer Suzanne Rey, singer/guitarist Steve Tracy and bassist Gary Violetti, their 1973 debut "A Euphonious Wail" showcased a band with gobs of talent, but a little less terms of direction, or originality.  Perhaps a holdover from their work with Podolor, I didn't hear a great deal of psych in these grooves, rather lots of early-'70s hard rock in the Crow and Steppenwolf vein.  The set had a couple of nice moments, but for the most part was a bit too derivative and uninspired.  As lead vocalists Rey and Tracy had decent, if unexceptional voices.  Perhaps a reflection o their affection for Big Brother, Rey also occasionally stretched out into screechy territory in her higher registers - check out the bluesy 'Chicken'. The same type of limitations were true of the band as songwriters (all but Huffman contributing material). Taken individually guitar and keyboard propelled rockers such as 'Pony', 'We've Got the Chance', 'When I Start To Live' and 'F#' weren't bad, but stretched over an entire album, there simply wasn't much that really stood out. The band were less successful when they tried slowing things down - check out the ballad 'Did You Ever'.  I will admit the close 'I Want To Be a Star' served as a nice showcase for Rey.  Needless to say, the album vanished without a trace, followed in short order by the band.

 

The Michael Hawes cover drawing was interesting. Depending on how you looked at it you saw something completely abstract, or possibly obscene.  

"A Euphonious Wail" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Pony  (John Brandenburg Jr.) - 4:36  rating: *** stars

Opening up with a nice mixture of Steve Tracy's blazing lead guitar and Bart Libby's Hammond B3 moves, the rocker 'Pony' started things off on a hopeful note.  The good news was the song had a stong melody and nice hook.  The down side is the song introduced their "group" vocals stylings.  Imagine Spanky and Our Gang having decided they wanted to be a rock band.      
2.) We've Got the Chance  (Bart Libby - Suzanne Ray) - 4:09  
rating: **** stars

One of Suzanne Rey's best performances, 'We've Got the Chance' also showcased Doug Huffman's frenetic drums and stood was one of the album's highlights.
3.) Did You Ever  (Steve Tracy) - 3:41 
rating: *** stars

Shaking up things, 'Did You Ever' offered up a pretty, country-tinged ballad.  Tracy and Rey shared lead vocals on this one.
4.) When I Start To Live (Steve Tracy) - 4:50 
rating: *** stars

'When I Start To Live' offered up an interesting stab into a mixture of West Coast jam and progressive moves.
5.) F#  (Steve Tracy) - 3:36  
rating: **** stars

Out of the blue, 'F#' found the band diving headlong into pure Midwest hard rock. There wasn't much originality here, but Gary Violetti turned in some great bass work and If you enjoyed stuff by bands like David Wagner and Crow and even early Uriah Heep (I do), then this was going to be right up your alley.

(side 2)

1.) Chicken  (Gary Violetti - Bart Libby) - 4:32   rating: ** stars

Opening up with a mesmerizing Violett bass pattern, 'Chicken' quickly descended into an extended jam session, before taking a thankless turn into standard blues territory.  Forgettable.
2.) Night Out  (Gary Violetti - Suzanne Rey) - 2:49 
rating: *** stars

Say what you will about the band's limitations, Tracy managed to coax some nice tone out of his lead guitar work.  It was almost enough to make the bluesy 'Night Out' worth hearing multiple times.
3.) Love My Brother  (Gary Violetti - Suzanne Rey) - 4:40  
rating: **** stars

With Rey and Tracy again sharing lead vocals, 'Love My Brother' sported a typical '70s vibe, but the hopeful, uplifting lyrics were actually kind of charming.  It was also a nice track to hear how well the pairs voices could blend when they didn't try to out-sing one another.  Violetti contributed another nice and funky bass line.
4.) I Want To Be a Star  (Bart Libby) - 5:29 
rating: *** stars

Penned by keyboardist Libby, 'I Want To Be a Star'  was a very atypical pop-flavored ballad which served to showcase the best aspects of Rey's voice.  Hard to image she was still in her teens when she recorded it.

 

Hopefully she won't mind the mention - original singer Suzanne Rey has set up a small Facebook page dedicate to the band:

https://www.facebook.com/pg/A-Euphonious-Wail-957167467682445/about/?ref=page_internal

 

Following a battle with cancer, Tracy died in 2018.

 

The album's been reissued several times over the years, but all appear to be of questionable legality, with none of the proceeds making their way to the band members.

 

 

Postscript:  My original album review was posted about a decade back and has been anonymously copied across dozens of websites and blogs.  Easy to spot it, since the original mis-spelled Doug Huffman's name as "Hoffman".

 

 

 

 

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