Gale Garnett (and the Gentle Reign)
Band members Related acts
line up 1 1968-69)
- Michael Aragon -- drums, percussion
- Gale Garnett -- vocals, guitar, kazoo
- Tony Hill -- keyboards
- Bruce Horiuchi -- lead guitar
- Rob Fischer -- bass
- Bob Ingram -- vocals, guitar
- Paul Robinson -- percussion
- Dick Rosmini (RIP 1995) -- acoustic guitar
- Dick Rosmini (solo efforts)
Rating: ** (2 stars)
Title: An Audience with the King of Wands
Country/State: Auckland, New Zealand
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: original inner sleeve; 360 surround sound label; minor ring wear
Catalog ID: SOLD4960
Price: SOLD $25.00
Attracted by the picture of an attractive young woman wearing the come hither look and the tight knitted dress, I bought this one at a yard sale not realizing that this was the same woman who'd scored a top-10 hit with the sunshine pop song 'We'll Sing in the Sunshine'. Had I known who she was, there's a good chance I wouldn't have bought her LP - which would have been my loss (yes, I probably would have bought it for the knitted dress).
Namesake Gale Garnett started out as a folkie and actress. By by the late 1960s she'd already recorded a series of six folk-oriented albums. At that point in time she apparently got caught up in the same wave propelling everyone and their parents to San Francisco and the happening world of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Dropping her folk act, Garnett set out to become a rock act, recruiting the band The Gentle Reign featuring drummer Michael Aragon, keyboardist Tony Hill and lead guitarist Bruce Horiuchi. I've read several pieces that indicate the Gentle Reign had previously released an album, but I've never been able to track down a copy, or any details on it.
Signed by Columbia Records, 1968's "An Audience with the King of Wands" stood as Garnett's first true rock album. Co-produced by Chuck Victor and Mickey Baker, the album stood as a showcase for Garnett's impressive voice, songwriting and other attributes. Gifted with a voice that was deep and resonant, at least to my ears she was more than a match for contemporaries as Carolyn Hester, Judy Henske, or even Grace Slick. Unfortunately, Garnett and company couldn't figure out what audience demographic they wanted to appeal to. Propelled by an Eastern flavored raga complete with sitar solo 'Breaking Through' started the album with a killer slice of psych. 'Fall In Love' was radio-ready Bacharach-David-styled pop. 'Big Sur' was patented California hippy-folk, 'That's Not the Way' boasted a bluesy feel, etc., etc. Elsewhere, guitarist Bob Ingram handled the lead vocal on the band's cover of Fred Neil's 'Dolphins'. The then-popular use of connecting song fragments such as 'Mini Song #1 - Ophelia Song' was also a major irritant. The album certainly had its moments, but was simply too unfocused to make much of an impact.
"An Audience with the King of Wands" track listing:
1.) Breaking Through (Gale Garnett - D. Fuller Jr.) - 4:05 rating: **** stars
If you had to grab a song to represent that unique San Francisco '60s-sound, 'Breaking Through' would be a good, if lesser known choice. Built on an Eastern-flavored dirge, the track was sprinkled with plenty of Bruce Horiuchi's electric sitar and Indian percussion. Add the topical lyrics and Garnett's treated and slightly stoned vibe, and you had a first rate psych ballad that easily gave Grace Slick and company a run for their money. Columbia tapped it as a single:
- 1968's 'Breaking Through' b/w 'Fall In Love Again' (Columbia catalog number 4-44479)
2.) Fall In Love Again (Gale Garnett) - 3:04 rating: *** stars
Perhaps meant to assure her folk base Garnett had not gone totally off the psychedelic deep end, 'Fall In Love Again' was a breezy, MOR-ballad that would not have sounded out of place on a Dionne Warwick album. Come to think of it, the y arrangement had kind of a Bacharach-David flavor. No matter what you thought of the tune, you had to admit Garnett had one helluva a voice.
3.) Mini Song #1 - Ophelia Song (Gale Garnett) - rating: ** stars
'Mini Song #1' was the first of a series of irritating song fragments. Propelled by Tony Hill's barrel house piano, it sounded like something written for a chase scene in a silent film. While Garnett's brief vocal was nice enough, probably the most interesting thing here was the panning effect with the sound moving from one channel to another.
4.) Song for F. Scott Fitzgerald (Gale Garnett) - rating: ** stars
'Song for F. Scott Fitzgerald' framed Garnett as a sultry, blues singer. She got the sultry part down. The bluesy part was diluted by the song's heavy orchestration.
5.) Big Sur (Gale Garnett - Bob Ingram - G. Fantages - B. Terwillger) - rating: *** stars
Psych for people who lived in a suburban track home ... No it wasn't the least bit psychedelic. Complete with big MOR arrangement, 'Big Sur' was the kind of "hip" song you would have seen Sonny and Cher covering on their variety television show.
6.) Mini Song #2 - Tropicana High (Gale Garnett) - rating: *** stars
Pretty harpsichord flavored song fragment.
7.) That's Not the Way (Gale Garnett - Bob Ingram) - rating: *** stars
Opening up with some nice folk-rock moves, when Garnett's vocals kicked in 'That's Not the Way' veered into blues territory. Garnett certainly had the chops for the idiom and she wasn't as shrill as many of her contemporaries.
Side two opened up with an another pop-oriented tune with a surprisingly biting lyric. Again the song wasn't any great shakes, but her voices was pretty amazing. The song highlight was provided by Tony Hill stabbing organ solo.
2.) Believe Me (Gale Garnett) - rating: ** stars
Supper club ballad ... waste of her talents.
3.) Mini Song #3 - Lament for the Self Sufficient (Gale Garnett) - rating: ** stars
Guess her years in the music business had left a little edge on Ms. Garnett ...
4.) You Could Have Been Anyone (Gale Garnett) - rating: *** stars
Framed by some pretty Dick Rosmini electric guitar, the ballad 'You Could Have Been Anyone' was a nice showcase for Garnett's low and sultry voice.
5.) Bad News (Gale Garnett) - rating: *** stars
Not necessarily a good thing, 'Bad News' injected a goody time feel into the grooves. The result was another tune that sounded like it belonged on the Sonny and Cher television show. Come to think about it, Garnett actually sounded a bit like Cher on this one.
6.) Dolphins (Fred Neil) - rating: *** stars
'Dolphins' was the album's lone non-original and the only performance where Garnett handed over vocals - in this case to guitarist Bob Ingram. To be honest, the stark performance was pretty enough, but the world really didn't need another cover of this one. It also seems to go on and on and on ...
7.) Mini Song #4 - Tropicana Low (Gale Garnett) - rating: ** stars
So the mini songs may have seemed like a cool idea on paper, but in reality they were merely irritating and distracting.
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: Sausalito Heliport
Country/State: Auckland, New Zealand
Grade (cover/record): NM / NM
Comments: sealed copy
Catalog ID: 4444
If 1968's found singer Gale Garnett and The Gentle Reign dipping their collective toes into the counter culture,1969's "Sausalito Heliport" found them doubling up on their investment. Here's what the liner notes have to say:
"There isn't a musician, singer or groupie in the San Francisco Bay area who doesn't know the Saulsito Heliport. The Heliport is a musical commune housing about ten bands including The Gentle Reign. If someone accidently wanders into the complex when all the amps are on, he will probably have his head ripped off. He will also probably come back to have it ripped off again. The scene goes 24 hours every day winter and summer It was started two years ago by Don McCoy, a beautiful affluent "digger" who looks like Christ played by a halfback. There are no ego trips at the Heliport - all the bands help each other. Mike Bloomfield gives guitar lessons to the Ace of Cups, The Buddy Miles Express borrows the Quicksilvers' studio, Clapton, Dino Valente, Elvin Bishop, David Crosby and the Procol Harum will sit in and jam with every and anybody. Gale Garnett makes beef stew in the winter and everybody scores. People run from studio to studio - borrowing and lending amplifiers, cords, strings, axes, whatever. There's a lot of love at the Heliport - and a lot of music."
Co-produced by Garnett and Paul Robinson, the album was worlds away from Garnett's mid-'60s folk catalog. Listening to material like the bizarre six minute rant against the straight world 'Freddy Mahoney', you'd be hard pressed to recognize this as the same woman who sang 'We'll Sing in the Sunshine'. Like the previous LP, Garnett was responsible for most of the material - writing or co-writing nine of the eleven tracks. Still, this time it was more of a group effort with keyboardist Tony Hill credited with penning two tracks himself. As you could tell from the song titles, tracks like ' Peace Comes Slowly To the Thrashing Fish', 'Deer In the City', 'Water Your Mind' and 'My Mind's Own Morning' was very much a time piece full of thoughtful (some would argue goofy), lyrics, with much of the set sporting a distinctive West Coast feel. Garnett certainly had a nice voice (much deeper than I realized), though her delivery was occasionally a bit on the campy side ('Deer In the City'). She also had an uncanny knack for sounding a bit like a hard rocking Cher - check out the blazing 'Pretty Is Gone'. It's doubtful anything here will change your life, but the album's probably weird enough to make you smile. Personal favorites were the previously mentioned 'Water Your Mind' and the rocker 'Pretty Is Gone'. Unlike most folks, I actually prefer the first album over this one.
"Sausalito Heliport" track listing:
1.) Freddy Mahoney (Tony Hill) - 6:19 rating: ** stars
'Freddy Mahoney' wasn't so much a song as it was a spoken word diatribe taking dead aim at the middle American 9-to-5 lifestyle and family structure. Kind of a Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention vibe. Not sure if it was meant to be earnest in 1969, but today it sounds almost comical anad you had to wonder what Coumbia marketing was thinking letting the band start the album with this one.
2.) Peace Comes Slowly To the Thrashing Fish (Gale Garnett - F. Olson) - 4:07 rating: *** stars
Thankfully the enigmatically titled 'Peace Comes Slowly To the Thrashing Fish' found Garnett and company stepping back in a more conventional direction - namely a breezy, pop-flavored mid-tempo ballad.
3.) Pretty Is Gone (Gale Garnett) - 3:36 rating; *** stars
Garnett's vocal on the rocker 'Pretty Is Gone' has always reminded me of Cher ... Well, Cher if she's ever decided to record a straight ahead rocker. Perhaps the album's most conventional performance, it was also one of the standout performances with Bruce Horiuchi providing a tasty extended guitar solo. Would have made a nice FM single, but Columbia seems to have given up on the band, not bothering to float a single.
4.) This Year's Child (Gale Garnett - Fred Olson - Bob Ingram) - 5:26 rating: *** stars
Songwriters stitch together material from different songs all the time, but seldom does it sound as obvious and poorly blended as on 'The Year's Child'. Worth hearing for Tony Hill's Uriah Heep on speed organ solo.
5.) Berkeley Barb Want Ad (Gale Garnett) - 3:10 rating: *** stars
As I've repeatedly said, Garnett had a wonderful voice, but it was repeatedly wasted on subpar material like the quasi-jazzy 'Berkeley Barb Want Ad'. Hearing her reduced to trying to scat her way out of what sounded like an incomplete tune was just sad.
6.) Deer In the City (Gale Garnett - Michael Aragon) - 4:38 rating: *** stars
Wow, this one was worth hearing just for the lyrics. I'm not saying this was a great tune; it wasn't but the abrupt switches in direction coupled with those hysterical lyrics made it worth a spin.
In case you couldn't guess from the title, powered by Garnett's lysergic vocals and an extended Bruce Horiuchi solo, 'Water Your Mind' was the album's most psychedelic performance. The lyrics were certainly prime mid-'60s fodder. Ahh, the '60s.
2.) My Mind's Own Morning (Gale Garnett - Tony Hill) - 3:32 rating: *** stars
Pretty, subdued country-tinged ballad.
3.) Trip Note Song (Gale Garnett - Rob Terwilliger) - 4:38 rating: ** stars
'Trip Note Song' was kind of a tuneless mishmash of notes and genres - blues, jazz, psych tinges. The combination just didn't make much of an impact on my ears.
4.) Man In the Middle (Gale Garnett - Tony Hill) - 3:27 rating: *** stars
Finally another song with a decent, memorable melody ...
5.) Freely Speaking (Tony Hill) - 3:30 rating: *** stars
The second Tony Hill composition, 'Freely Speaking' actually was a song that might have fit on one of Garnett's earlier folk-oriented albums.
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