The Five Americans


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1963-64) as The Mutineers

- Johnny Coble -- drums

- John Durrill (RIP) -- keyboards 

- Norman Ezell  (RIP 2010) -- guitar

- Jim Grant (RIP 2004) -- percussion, bass

- Mike Rabon -- vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar

 

  line up 2  (1964-68) as The Five Americans

- John Durrill -- vocals, keyboards 

- Norman Ezell (RIP 2010) -- guitar, harmonica

- Jim Grant (RIP 2004) -- bass

- Mike Rabon -- vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar

NEW - Jimmy Wright (RIP 2012) -- drums, percussion (replaced 

  Johnny Coble)

 

  line up 3  (1968-69)

NEW - Lenny Lee Goldsmith -- vocals, keyboards (replaced

   John Durrill)

- Jim Grant (RIP 2004) -- bass

NEW - Bobby Rambo -- guitar (replaced Norman Ezell)

- Mike Rabon -- vocals, rhythm guitar, lead guitar

- Jimmy Wright (RIP 2012) -- drums, percussion

 

 

 

 

- John Ryan Durill (solo efforts)

- Norm Ezell (solo efforts)

- Gladstone (Michael Rabon)

- The Mutineers

- Michael Rabon (solo efforts)

- Michael Rabon and the Five Americans

- Stoneground (Lanny Lee Goldsmith)

- Sweathog (Lanny Lee Goldsmith)

- Mel Taylor and the Dynamics (John Durill)

- Ventures (John Durill)


 

Genre: garage

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  I See the Light

Company: Hanna Barbera

Catalog:  HLP 8503
Year:
 1965

Country/State: Durant, Oklahoma

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2738

Price: $40.00

Today The Five American are largely relegated to the one-hit-wonder bin (in fact, that's where I found my copy of this album), though they actually enjoy a modest string of radio success.  That's criminal given what a talented outfit they were.  Adding to the crime, the majority of reviews cast them as one-hot wonders with little or no originality.  Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.

 

Keyboardist John Durrill  and guitarist Mike Rabon initially crossed paths while attending Oklahoma State College.  Durill was playing in a local band when Rabon met him at a frat party and suggested a musical collaboration.  Recruiting drummer Johnny Coble, guitarist Norman Exell and percussionist/bass player Jim Grant, they quintet started playing surf instrumental as The Mutineers.  I've never been able to track down a copy, but a couple of online references indicate the band even managed to record a 1963 single: 

 

- 1963's 'Jukin' Around' b/w '???' (unknown label)

 

Like every other band in America, by 1964 Beatlemania had impacted their view of music and life.  Replacing drummer Coble with Jimmy Wright, the group moved to Dallas where they started playing locals clubs.  One of their performances caught the ear of John Abdnor, Jr. who invited them to audition for his father's Abnak Record label.  Abdnor Sr. signed the group, but only after insisting on a change in  name - hence The Five Americans.

 

Over the next year the band released a string of three singles for Abnak's Jetstar subsidiary:

- 1964's 'It's You Girl' b/w 'I'm Gonna Leave You'  (Jetstar JS-104)

- 1965's 'I'm Gonna Leave You' b/w 'Say Thaat You Love Me' (Jetstar catalog number J-104)

- 1965's 'I'm Feelin' Okay' b/w 'Slippin' and Slidin'' (Jetstar catalog number JS-105)

- 1965's 'Say That You Love Me' b/w 'Without You' (Jetstar catalog number JS-106)

 

 

While I don't understand how it came about, there was also a 1965 single for ABC Paramount:

 

- 1965's 'Love Love Love' b/w 'Show Me' (ABC Paramount catalog number 45-10868)

 

 

 

 

The group's commercial breakthrough came with their debut on Abnak Records.

 

- 1965's 'I See the Light' b/w 'The Outcast' (Abnak catalog number A 109)

- 1965's 'I See the Light' b/w '' (HBR catalog number HBR 454) # 25 rock

 

While it sounded like it was recorded in someone's bathroom, the ragged 'I See the Light' offered up an odd, but awesome collision of folk and garage idioms.  Kicked along by John Durrill's stabbing Vox Continental organ and Durrill and Mike Rabon's shared howling vocals, the tune was initially released as a single in the Dallas/Fort Worth market by the Dallas-based Abnak label and when it started to catch on, Hanna Barbera Records leased the 45, releasing it nationally.

 

With the single going top-30 on the national charts, the resulting attention which included a brief California clubs tour and a number of regional television appearances was enough for HBR to finance an album - 1966's "I See the Light".  As was standard for the time, the album offered up a mixture of originals material  rounded out by a couple of throwaway popular cover tunes ('Twist and Shout' and a nice take on Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say').  Largely penned by Durill, Ezell and Rabon, the originals reflected a mixture of musical genres including stabs at folk-rock ('The Outcast'), early country-rock ('The Losing Game'), pop ('I'm So Glad') and garage (the title track).  Ignoring their label's attempts to clean up their image with matching suits and  Beatles-styled haircuts, it was on the garage numbers that they excelled.  along with the title track, the bluesy 'The Train', 'Don't You Dare Blame Me' and a decent cover of Ray Charles 'What'd I Say' were all highlights.  Lots of folks are less than impressive by their Vox and guitar song structures, but I'm a big fan of the sound and the fact they didn't have a great lead singer wasn't a show stopper given their ragged group leads were usually quite energetic.  Certainly not a most-own set, but a nice time piece with quite a few strong performances.

 

"I See the Light" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) I See the Light   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 2:10   rating: **** stars

While it sounded like it was recorded in someone's bathroom with their ten year brother hitting the drums with a baseball bat, the ragged 'I See the Light' offered up an odd, but awesome collision of folk and garage idioms.  Kicked along by John Durrill's stabbing Vox Continental organ and Durrill and Mike Rabon's shared howling vocals, the tune was initially released as a single in the Dallas/Fort Worth market by the Dallas-based Abnak label and when it started to catch on, Hanna Barbera Records leased the 45, releasing it nationally: 

- 1965's 'I See the Light' b/w 'The Outcast' (Abnak catalog number A 109)

- 1965's 'I See the Light' b/w 'The Outcast' (HBR catalog number HBR 454) # 25 rock

YouTube has a great clip of the band lip synching the tune on Ron Chapman's Sump' Else Show:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NSJb9rombI

2.) The Losing Game   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 2:28   rating: **** stars

Powered by Norman Ezell's pretty, Western-flavored acoustic guitar, 'The Losing Game' was a surprisingly enjoyable country-rock flavored ballad with some nice harmony vocals (and remember this was recorded in 1965).  The song's dark, foreboding sound and unexpected ending gave it a nice edge.  The tune reappeared as the flip side on their 'Good Times' 45.

3.) Goodbye   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 2:00   rating: **** stars

'Goodbye' started out with kind of a folk vibe, but John Durrill's Vox gave the tune a droning, slightly lysergic aura that's always reminded me a bit of early Jefferson Airplane with a touch of John Lennon throw into the mix.  Once again the band's raw and rugged vocals added to the overall appeal.  Shame the song was so short and ended on such an unimaginative note.

4.) I Know They Lie   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 2:50   rating: ** stars

The ballad 'I Know They Lie' blatantly ripped the opening jangle guitar chords from Roger McGuinn and company and generously borrowed from the Fab Four for the vocal arrangement.  Ezell and the band were lucky they didn't get slapped with copyright lawsuits.   The first disappointment, other than the jangle rock guitar, the tune really didn't have much going for it.  

5.) Twist and Shout   (B. Russell - Phil Medley) - 1:55  rating: * star

Given ever '60s band was required to cover 'Twist and Shout', their version wasn't anything special.  In fact, their arrangement came off as pretty tame and forgettable.   Instead of wasting two minutes on this one,  I'd suggest you watch Matthew Broderick's lip synch version in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".

6.) She's-a-My Own   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 1:40   rating; *** stars

I'm a sucker for ox organ so 'She's-a-My Own' grabbed me from the opening.  Nice sunny day garage tune.   The backing vocals are hysterical.  Again, it was sad the track wasn't longer.

 

(side 2)

1.) The Train   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 2:37   rating: **** stars

The album's most atypical performance, 'The Train' offered up a mixture of blues with some lysergic tinges.  Initially the tune didn't do a great deal for me, but the combination of searing group voices; dark flavor and Ezell's tasty guitar grew on me.

2.) It's a Crying Shame   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 2:25   rating; *** stars

'It's a Crying Game' was a return to straight forward garage rock.  Nothing spectacular, but for some reason the strained, dry  vocals have always reminded me a bit of The Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin.

3.) I'm So Glad   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 2:00  rating: ** star

' I'm So Glad' was probably that album's most convention pop tune.  Melodically this one didn;t have much going for it.  Not sure who handled the lead vocals, but the performance was strained at best.  

4.) Don't You Dare Blame Me   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 3:02   rating: **** stars

Kicked along by a pounding Jim Grant bass line,  'Don't You Dare Blame Me' rocked harder than anything else on the album and would have made a decent single.  They don't so much sing as spew the lyrics.  The song was subsequently tapped as the "B" side for their 'Evol - Not Love' single.

5.) The Outcast   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 2:10

'The Outcast ' reflected a folk-rock sound that wasn't half bad.   

6.) What'd I Say  (Ray Charles) - 2:32   rating; *** stars

It certainly was a throwaway performance, but their cover of this Ray Charles classic was surprisingly energetic and enjoyable.  Nah, it won't make your forget the original, but it was fun and painless.

 

 

This is one of those band's with a high mortality rate.

 

Ezell dropped out of music, becoming a teacher and a pastor.  He died of cancer in May 2010.

 

Grant died of a heart attack in November 2004.

 

Second generation drummer Wright became a professional photographer.  He died in January 2014.

 

 

Rabon continued in music for a number of years, including a stint in Gladstone.  he eventually got a Masters Degree in Public School Administration working for the Oklahoma School Systems for several decades.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: garage

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Now and Then

Company: Abnak

Catalog:  ABST 2071
Year:
 1969

Country/State: Durant, Oklahoma

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: double LP; gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 40004

Price: $40.00

 

Credited to Michael Rabon & the Five Americans, everything about 1969's "Now and Then" reflected change.  In terms of the line-up, original keyboardist John Durrill and guitarist Norman Ezell were gone (though their songwriting credits were represented on four songs), replaced by Lenny Lee Goldsmith and Bobby Rambo.  While their third album, 1967's "Progressions"  had introduced a psychedelic element into their sound, that moved continued with this set - note the psychedelic tinged album cover, the members' long, stylish hair and zodiac pendants around their necks; to say nothing about the 21 track double album format ...

How the band managed to convince John Abdnor, Jr.'s small Abnak label to fund a double album is a mystery.  In addition to the costs, double album sets tend to be rounded out with lots of  filler and musical castoffs.  The fact this set started off with a remake of their 1967 hit 'I See the Light - 69' set off all sorts of alarm bells.  Bands doing remakes of their own material are never a good sign.  Luckily the remake wasn't a major change from the classic original, making this collection all the more intriguing.  Front man Rabon remained the prime songwriter, but this time around new members Goldsmith and Rambo both contributed to the songwriting, further broadening their sound.   Produced by the band, songs like the 'I See the Light' remake and 'Scrooge' clearly reflected their garage roots, but those efforts were exceptions to the overall sound.  For the most part the band used the album to expand their musical horizons into a series of more contemporary areas.  'Molly Black', 'Pink Lemonade' and '8 To 5 Man' reflected psychedelic leanings; the latter throwing a touch of social commentary into the mix.  'Peace and Love' and 'Big Sur' offered up competent Rascals-styled blue-eyed soul.  The grooves also retained plenty of radio friendly pop-rock numbers including the single 'Virginia Girl' and 'You're In Love'.  Perhaps the biggest change in direction, 'A Change On You' and 'Ignert Woman' (their spelling, not mine), found the band going for a more FM rock oriented sound.  

The album wasn't a complete success.  'Jondel' and 'She's Too Good To Me' were lame, Association-styled AM ballads that sounded hopelessly dated and out of place. Still, of the 21 tracks, I found 14 to be truly enjoyable.  Two thirds is a pretty impressive statistic anyway you look at it.  In fact my biggest complaint was not the caliber of the material, rather the broad variety.  Spread over four sides, t was hard to come away with a feel for what these guys were about.  At time is was almost like listening to one of those K-Tel various artists hits collections.

"Now & Then" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) I See the Light - 69  (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 2:33   rating: **** stars

Normally a band remaking one of their earlier hits spells trouble (if not outright desperation), so I was a little disturbed to see the album opening up with 'I See the Light - 69'.  The good news is the remake wasn't all that different than the original.  Nah, it didn't add anything substantial to the original, but it didn't really do anything to hurt the classic garage tune.  Nice intro the the band's roots for anyone who had missed the debut album.   The track was tapped as the album's second single:

 

 

 

- 1969's 'I See the Light - 69' b/w 'Red Cape' (Abnak catalog number AB-139)

 

 

 

 

 

2.) A Taste of Livin'  (Mike Rabon) - 3:24   rating: **** stars

Powered by Mike Rabin's rugged voice and Lenny Goldsmith's stabbing organ fills, 'A Taste of Livin'' was one of the best mash-ups of garage and psych I've stumbled across.

3.) Molly Black  (Mike Rabon) - 3:00   rating: **** star

While it retained a commercial sheen, 'Molly Black' found the band dipping their collective toes into more of a psych-tinged sound.  Thick echo effects, nice stretched out lead guitar solo and lysergic harmonies have the tune a nice edge.

4.) Medusa  (Mike Rabon - Lenny Goldsmith) - 3:35   rating: **** star

With a stomping rhythm pattern, excellent Bobby Rambo guitar solo and some sweet harmony vocals, had 'Medusa' been written and released a couple of years earlier, it would have been a prime top-40 candidate.

5.) A Change On You  (Mike Rabon) - 3:15   rating: **** stars

The first tune to feel like the band had fully moved on from their earlier garage sound, 'A Change On You' sported a far more conventional rock attack.  The song also featured one of Rabon's most impressive vocals and some awesome Bobby Rambo fuzz guitar work.  For some reason this one makes me think of a cross between early Three Dog Night and The Rascals at their most rock oriented.

6.) Jondel  (Mike Rabon - Lenny Goldsmith) - 2:18   rating: *** stars

'Jondel' offered up a pretty, slightly MOR-ish ballad.  Kind of an Association vibe going on here and while it wasn't horrible, it wrecked the momentum side one had generated.

 

(side 2)

1.) Ignert Woman  (Mike Rabon - Jim Grant - Jimmy Wright - Bobby Rambo - Lenny Goldsmith - 5:15   rating: *** stars 

No idea what the title meant, but 'Ignert Woman' found the band diving headlong into late-'60s  blues-rock.  Imagine an American version of Free and you'd get a feel for this one.  Abnak tapped it as the album's lead single:

 

 

 

 

- 1969's 'Ignert Woman' b/w 'Scrooge' (Abnak catalog number AB-137)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.) Amavi  (Mike Rambo - Jim Wright) - 2:13   rating: **** stars

Quite unlike anything up to this point, 'Amavi' was a sweet, top-40 pop-oriented ballad with a wonderful melody, sterling Rabon vocal and a tasteful Rambo lead guitar solo.

3.) Big Sur   (Bobby Rambo) - 2:59   rating: **** stars

Written by new guitarist Rambo, 'Big Sur' offered up a mixture of blue-eyed soul meets California hippy lifestyle ...  It  may not sound like a great mix of musical genres, but I have to admit that the tune was surprisingly enjoyable.  

4.) Red Cape  (Mike Rabon) - 2:45   rating: **** stars

Kind of a musical throwback, 'Red Cape' reflect a nice Byrds'-styled folk-rock sound with Rambo adding a tasty George Harrison-styled guitar to arrangement.  Atypical, but one of the album highlights for me.

5.) 8 To 5 Man   (Bobby Rambo) - 4:25   rating: *** stars

Since it was 1969, why not throw in a touch of social criticism?  It wasn't the most subtle commentary on the American lifestyle, but the effects treated vocals and Goldsmith's lysergic keyboards made it moderately entertaining.

 

(side 3)

1.) Virginia Girl  (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill)  - 2:17   rating: **** stars

With the writing credits reflecting the Five Americans mark 1 line-up, 'Virginia Girl' was apparently another older tune.  That made no difference given the song's glistening pop melody.  Add in shining vocals, harpsichord and a nice horn arrangement and you were left to wonder why the tune bombed as a single ...  Another album highlight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   US release:

- 1969's 'Virginia Girl' b/w 'Come On Me' (Abnak catalog number AB-137)

  French release

- 1969's 'Virginia Girl' b/w 'Come On Me' (Polydor catalog number 421 429)  

2.) 7:30 Guided Tour  (R.H. Brians)  2:35   rating: **** stars

Previously released as a single, '7:30 Guided Tour' was a clear homage to the Fab Four circa "Magical Mystery Tour".  Along with all the lysergic production effects, the song also benefited from a touch of Beach Boys' Southern California harmonies.  

 

- 1968's '7:30 Guided Tour' b/w 'See-Saw Man' (Abnak catalog number AB-126) # 96 pop 

3.) Pink Lemonade   (S. Pinz - Paul Leka)  - 2:00   rating: ** stars

I was familiar with this song from it's appearance on an album by The Peppermint Rainbow.  It was also released as a single.  While there wasn't anything wrong with their version, with it's fey, "toytown" sound, this was another tune that simply sounded out of place on this album - way more 1967 than 1969.  

4.) Peace and Love  (Mike Rabon) - 3:25   rating: *** stars

'Peace and Love' was another track that had a Rascals'-styled blue-eyed vibe.  Well, at least the first two thirds of the song. The closing section found the band lapsing into a conventional blues motiff.  Lyrically it was pretty trite, but given I'm a big Rascals fans, this one had quite a bunch of appeal to me.

5.) You're In Love  (Mike Rabon) - 2:15   rating: **** stars

The album's best ballad ...

 

(side 4)

1.) She's Too Good To Me  (Paul Williams - Roger Nicols) - 2:18   rating: *** stars

One of three non-originals on the set, the Paul Williams an Roger Nichols' composed 'She's Too Good To Me' sounded like something off an Associations album.   It was also one of the album's most blatantly commercial tunes.  Nice, if slightly saccharine, it sounded like it had been written for some television sitcom soundtrack.  It was also tapped as the fourth and final single:

 

 

 

 

- 1969's 'She's Too Good To Me' b/w 'Molly Black' (Abnak catalog number AB-142)

 

 

 

 

 

2.) Generation Gap   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 2:53   rating: **** stars

The time piece title simply makes me smile - easily one of the bounciest social commentaries ever recorded by an American band.  For some reason the tune has always reminded me of The Beatles 'Revolution' with a touch of The Who's 'My Generation' thrown in for good measure.  Again, there wasn't much to the song in terms of lyrical content - Rabon basically repeating the title over and over and over.  Fun tune.

3.) God Didn't Smile On Me   (Mike Rabon) - 2:46   rating: *** stars

I suspect Brian Wilson would have loved the title and this sappy heartbreak ballad.  While the tune had a nice melody, the heavy orchestration didn't do it any favors, but Rabon turned in a nice vocal performance, displaying a gasping Gibb Brothers talented.  Come to think of it, this would have made for a nice Bee Gees tune.

4.) Disneyland   (Mike Rabon) - 3:18   rating: **** stars

Cloaked in a shiny pop-psych arrangement with amusement park sound effects, the lyrics were a hoot, suggesting a trip to the Disney empire was better than any other tip you could engage in.  Surprising Disney didn't buy rights to the song for a promotional campaign.   

5.) Scrooge   (Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell - John Durrill) - 2:28 rating: **** stars

'Scrooge' closed the album with a return to their garage base and provided another album highlight in the process.  Complete with some tasty Stax-styled horns, it was impossible to sit still through this one.  Hard to understand why it had been relegated to the "B" side on their 'Ignert Woman' single.

 

 

 

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