Gandalf


Band members               Related acts

- Davy Bauer (RIP 2007) -- drums, percussion

- Frank Hubach -- keyboards

- Bob Muller -- vocals, bass

- Peter Sando -- vocals, lead guitar

 

 

- The Barracuda

- Peter Sando (solo efforts)

 

 

 


 

Genre: pysch

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Gandalf

Company: Capitol

Catalog: ST-171
Year: 1968

Country/State: Greenwood Lake, New York

Grade (cover/record): NM / NM

Comments: --

Available: not for sale

Catalog ID: not for sale

Price: not for sale

 

For a brief period in the late 1960s Capitol Records abandon it's staid corporate image to sign a series of surprisingly cutting edge bands.  Among those acts benefiting from the company's sudden and short lived willingness to experiment was Gandalf.

 

Gandalf showcased the talents of drummer Davy Bauer, keyboardist Frank Hubach, bassist Bob Muller, and lead guitarist Peter Sando.  The group's roots trace back to the Greenwood Lake, New York based Thunderbirds who morphed into The Rahgoos (great name that was actually inspired by the spaghetti sauce) and became staples on the New York City/Jersey Shore club circuit.  A chance meeting with songwriters Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon won the band a pair of major boosters who brought them to the attention of producers Charles Koppelman and Don Rubin who immediately signed them to their newly formed Hot Biscuit Disc Company and then helped them score a contract with Capitol.  The pair also pressed for a name change which the quartet reluctant agreed to in the interests of scoring a wider audience.  Drummer Bauer reportedly came up with the name while reading The Hobbit

 

Musically the set offered up an interesting mixture of originals (both 'Can You Travel The Dark Alone' and 'I Watch The Moon' penned by Sando) and an eclectic group of covers including three Tim Hardin numbers and a stab at Eden Ahbez's 'Nature Boy'.  A quick word of warning here.  If you were looking for something totally original and life changing, this probably wasn't going to be your cup of tea.  These guys were certainly talented, but as a band they lacked anything that you could point to as a unique sound.  That wasn't meant to be a criticism since they managed to take a host of obvious influences including nods to Byrds commerciality, H.P. Lovecraft-ish creepiness, and Zombies-styled angst and meld them into a consistently enjoyable set.  The band also benefited from a pair of capable singers in Bob Muller and Peter Sando, and tight ensemble playing with special notice going to keyboardist Hubach.  Curiously, the quartet's out-and-out stabs at top-40 pop ('Scarlet Ribbons' and 'Tiffany Rings') were among the bigger disappointments.  They were much better when left to their own devices - aka the two Sando originals.   

 

Sando actually described the background behind some of the songs on his website.  Hopefully he won't mind that I've included those comments below.

 

- You wouldn't think an old chestnut like 'Golden Earrings' (originally sung by Murvyn Vye; Peggy Lee had a late 1950s hit with it as well) would lend itself to a heavy psychedelic update, but these guys somehow pulled it off, giving the song a weird, druggy aura that sounded a bit like something out of the H.P. Lovecraft catalog.  Very nice.  "I always was intrigued by the standards. My older sister Toni and I thumbed through a fake book and picked this one out to arrange for the band. It was from a movie with Marlena Deitricht and Ray Milland from 1947. The mystical gypsy lyric and minor key lent itself well to a psychedelic treatment. Garry and Alan loved it and I believe it sold K&R on the Rahgoos."   rating: **** stars

- Kicked along by an entrancing keyboard pattern, their cover of Tim Hardin's 'Hang On To A Dream' had an even thicker lysergic atmosphere.  The sudden shift from martial paced ballad to up-tempo segments was quite cool.    Kudos to Frank Hubach for the tasty keyboard solo.  "Never Too Far, Hang On To a Dream, You Upset The Grace of Living- Tim Hardin hung out at the Night Owl and was signed to K&R. He was most influential on my early songwriting with his economy of words and soulful folk style. These are three favorites. We attempted to do Hardin like the Byrds did Dylan."   rating: **** stars

- The album's second Tim Hardin cover, 'Never Too Far' sported some fantastic fuzzed-up Peter Sando lead guitar.  One of the album's most conventional rock tracks, it was also one of their best performances.   rating: **** stars

- The first disappointment, the harpsichord-propelled ballad 'Scarlet Ribbons' was pretty, but Bob Muller's vocal sounded flat, uncomfortable, and was ultimately too touchy-feely for my tastes. "Scarlet Ribbons, by The Browns, spun wizardry of a divine nature and seemed to fit the mood. Frank's baroque harpsicord (sp) and Bob's gentle vocal made it happen."   rating: ** stars

- The album's final Tim Hardin cover, 'You Upset The Grace Of Living' was another standout performance.  Sando turned in one of his best vocals and the start-and-stop arrangement was catchy.   rating: **** stars

- The first of two Sando originals, 'Can You Travel In The Dark Alone' was one of the standout performances.  Boasting a gorgeous melody, dark and disturbing imagery, and some interesting instrumentation including great Hubach organ, electric sitar, a cool bass (anyone know how they got the unique sound) and vibes, the song was highly commercial.  "Can You Travel In The Dark Alone- I wrote the lyric as a poem in Accounting class at FDU. It was originally called In The Dark Alone, but Don Rubin changed the title on his own accord. As it stands, it is too long and incorrect, as the song lyric is ....could you travel... I have always loved lighthouses and especially Barnegat Light in New Jersey. The symbolism is obvious.    rating: ***** stars
- Even if they didn't know who the hell Eden Ahbez was (they'd apparently heard the Nat King Cole cover), you had to give them a nod for covering such an offbeat song.  Very nice droning take on the song with a fantastic Sadno fuzz guitar solo. "Nature Boy- It was a smash for Nat King Cole and seemed to be a perfect twin for Golden Earrings. The guitar solo was one take - just a practice. They never gave me a second shot."     rating: ***** stars

- Clearly selected for its commercial potential, 'Tiffany Rings' was also the second disappointment.   To my ears it sounded like a bad Turtles castoff. "Me About You, Tiffany Rings - Garry and Alan were churning out hits for the Turtles and Three Dog Night. They played us all their songs and we picked these two laid back beauties."    rating: ** stars

- The second Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon cover, thanks to some powerhouse drumming from Davy Bauer and Sando's heavily treated lead vocals, 'Me About You' was far better than 'Tiffany Rings'.  In fact this one rapidly grew on you if given a chance.  Very nice.    rating: **** stars

A killer up-tempo slice of hard rocking psych, 'I Watch the Moon' was easily the album's standout performance.  Written by Sando, it's always struck me as being the song The Zombies were looking for ...  "I Watch The Moon - This was a song of loneliness and teenage angst that was like.... the Ronettes meet Procol Harum. I never liked the mix in the refrain- background vocals hanging out too far- not enough drums and bass. It still gets airplay!"    rating: ***** stars


Capitol also tapped the album for a single:

 

 

- 1969's 'Golden Earrings' b/w 'Never Too Far' (Capitol catalog number P-2400)

 

Unfortunately having finished the album Capitol executives decided not to release the project.  The band subsequently called it quits.  As part of a business deal with producers  Koppelman and Rubin the album was released the following year, but without a band to support the collection, there was no incentive for Capitol to promote the album.  That certainly goes a long way to explaining why it's one of the rarer offerings in the Capitol catalog and the asking price for original copies.  Shame they weren't able to keep it together for a second release.

 

"Gandalf" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Golden Earrings    (J. Livingstone - V. Young)  

2.) Hang On To A Dream    (Tim Hardin) 

3.) Never Too Far    (Tim Hardin)  

4.) Scarlet Ribbons    (J. Begal - E. Danzig) 

5.) You Upset The Grace Of Living    (Tim Hardin)  

 

(side 2)
1
.) Can You Travel In The Dark Alone    (Peter Sando)  

2.) Nature Boy    (Eden Ahbez) 

3.) Tiffany Rings    (Garry Bonner - Alan Gordon) 

4.) Me About You    (Garry Bonner - Alan Gordon) 

5.) I Watch The Moon    (Peter Sando) 

 

 

 

The LP has been a favorite target for bootleggers including a picture disc version by the British bootleg label Radioactive.  There have also been a couple of legitimate packages including a 1991 CD release by the British See For Miles label (catalog number SEE CD 326).  

 

 

Bauer went on to play in Albert King's touring band.  He died in 2007.

 

Hubach also remained active in music, but on the business side of the house, working as a recording engineer supporting scores of acts, ranging from Alice Cooper, to Donnie Hathaway, and the late Frank Zappa.

 

Sando subsequently continued his 'partnership' with Bonner and Gordon, handling lead vocals on a pair of 1969 45s credited to The Barracuda:

 

 

- 1969's 'The Dance at St. Francis' b/w 'Lady Fingers' (RCA catalog number 47-9660)

- 1969's 'Julie (The Song I Sing I For You)' b/w Sleeping Out the Storm' (RCA catalog number 47-9743)

 

He's remained active in music playing with a number of East and West Coast bands, as well as recording some solo material.  He has an interesting website at:

 

http://www.petersando.com

 

 


Genre: psych

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Gandalf 2

Company: Sundazed

Catalog: SC 6199
Year:
 2007

Country/State: Greenwood Lake, New York

Grade (cover/record): --

Comments: --

Available: --

Catalog ID: --

Price: --

 

It's been on my list of album's to check out, but I haven't gotten there yet ...  In 2007 the Sundazed label released "Gandalf 2".  Released with Peter Sando's active cooperation, technically this wasn't really a Gandalf album since it included a number of non-Gandalf tracks; notably three selections from guitarist Peter Sandolf's post-Gandalf Barracuda project.  That said, the collection included a mixture Gandalf acetates and demos that may have been intended for a shelved sophomore album.  There were also a pair of live tracks.  Interestingly folks either seem to love this one, or detest the results ... very little in the middle of the pack. 

"Gandalf 2" track listing:

1.) Bird In the Hand   (Peter Sando) - 3:55

2.) Days Are One Here and Gone   (Peter Sando) - 3:31

3.) Smokey Topaz   (Peter Sando) - 3:03

4.) Ladyfingers   (Bonner - Gordon) - 2:28 *** The Barracuda ***

5.) No Earth Can Be Won   (Peter Sando) - 4:16

6.) Bad Dream   (Peter Sando) - 2:58 (demo)

7.) I Won't Cry No More   (Peter Sando) - 3:10

8.) The Dance At St. Francis   (Bonnor - Gordon) - 2:52 *** The Barracuda ***

9.) Julie (The Song I Sing Is You)   (Bonner - Gordon) - 2:52 *** The Barracuda ***

10.) Over This Table   (Peter Sando) - 3:18

11.) Golden Earrings   (Evans - Livingston - Young) - 6:09 (demo)

12.) Tears of Ages   (Peter Sando) -  2:59 (live)

13.) Downbound Train   (Berry) - 6:43 (live)

 

 

I also need to track down a copy of Sando's solo album - 1998's "Creatures of Habit" (High Point catalog number HP41004).

 

 

 

 

 

 

BACK TO BADCAT FRONT PAGE

BACK TO BADCAT CATALOG PAGE

BACK TO BADCAT PAYMENT INFORMATION