The Last Ritual
Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1969)
- Mickey Davis (aka Mickey Beskin) -- keyboards, clarinet
- Chris Efthimian -- drums, percussion
- Keneth Lehamn -- sax
- Robert Lightig -- bass
- Sharon Moe -- french horn
- Tony Salvatore -- trombone
- John Scarzello -- trumpet, flugelhorn
- Allan Springfield (RIP 1982) -- vocals
- Bonaroo (Robert Lightig)
- Chelsea Beige (Mickey Davis, Chris Efthimian, Kenny Lehman,
John Scarzella, and Allan Springfield,)
- The Cult
- In Transit (Robert Lightig)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: The Last Ritual
Country/State: Riverdale, Bronx, New York
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve, punch out hole top right corner
Catalog ID: 2267
This one was a complete mystery to me - I'll admit to having bought it for the bizarre cover and the involvement of producer Tom Wilson. I'll also tell you it's a fascinating album. That's not to say it's a great album, perhaps not even a good album, rather it's a nice example of a late-'60s musical timepiece, complete with all the excesses you'd associate with that period - lots of heavy lyrics; complex themes, plenty of Blood, Sweat & Tears-styled horn arrangements, etc. - you've heard this kind of stuff before.
The Last Ritual's roots were in New York City with members having played in The Cult, The Cast Aways, and The Take Five. The Cult recorded an obscure 1965 for 20th Century Fox:
- 1965's 'Fire and Flood' b/w 'I Don't Know' (20th Century Fox catalog number 621)
The Take Five evolved into a fairly well known New York Club band and by the late-'60s the line-up consisted of keyboard player Mickey Beskin (aka Mickey Davis), drummer Chris Efthimian, bassist Robert Lightig, vocalist Allan Springfield, and a horn section featuring Kenneth Lehman, Sharon Moe, Tony Salvatore, and John Scarzello.
While their live shows focused on popular covers, the band recorded some demos featuring original material. They subsequently caught the interest of Capitol Records which signed them, teaming them with producer Tom Wilson. Wilson quickly suggested dropping the Take Five nameplate (inspired by the Dave Brubeck hit), in favor of The Last Ritual. Released in 1969, as alluded to, "The Last Ritual" was very much a time piece. Springfield was responsible for all six tracks which dipped their toes into a wide array of styles including Blood, Sweat & Tears-styled jazz-rock, Aaron Copeland-influenced classical moves (parts of the extended suite 'Bugler's Reveille'), and even soul moves ('Heritage'). The prominent horns, and complex arrangements gave tracks like 'Talk About Time We're Wasting' and 'Amazing Judgement' [sic] a distinctive BS&T feeling. That comparison was underscored by Springfield's deep, rustic voice which has always reminded me a bit of David Clayton Thomas - nah they don't sound alike, but share that gruff, overwhelming sound. Like Clayton-Thomas, Springfield wasn't always the most graceful singer, occasionally substituting power for talent. Add in ponderous, "deep" lyrics and parts of the collection (the epic 'Bugler's Revei'), could be a challenge to sit through.
By the way, the band was featured on the cover - Springfield was the corpse, Moe the lone woman, Salvatore the guy with the massive sideburns, holding a chalice. The others are lost to time.
Ritual" track listing:
1.) Talk About Time We're Wasting (Allan Springfield) - 3:10 rating: *** stars
The first minute of 'Talk About Time We're Wasting" was pretty horrific, but when Springfield's take-the-skin-off-your-face vocals kicked in you forgot about everything else, including the torrents of complex, "important" lyrics. 'Course when he stopped singing you quickly became aware of the bleating BS&T-styled horns.
2.) Awaiting Judgement [sic] (Allan Springfield) - 8:00
'Avaiting Judgement' [sic] opened up with some nice, recital-styled Mickey Davis piano and then went completely off the rails with a weird mixture of Springfield's wild, barely-in-tune vocals, the patented pretentious lyrics, and a discordant horn arrangement. Well, to be honest, I actually liked parts of the horn arrangement - the sections that were melodic. rating: *** stars
3.) Heritage (Allan Springfield) - 7:44
Hum, bunch of New York guys trying to dip their collective toes into soul and country-rock ... Well, the combination of Robert Lightig fuzz bass and Springfield's growling voice was actually surprisingly impressive. Well, until Springfield ran out of steam and started to simply screech the lyrics out. rating: **** stars
'Delighted, Strung Out and 25' was probably the album's most conventional and rock oriented tune. Accordingly it made sense that Capitol tapped it as the single:
- 1969's 'Delighted, Strung Out And 25' b/w 'Talk About Time We're Wasting (Capitol catalog number P-2495)
2.) Not To be Denied (Allan Springfield) - rating: *** stars
Usually anything with a harpsichord captures my attention and approval, and while I liked the tune, Springfield's vocals and ponderous lyrics just dragged this one down. Wonder who the female backing singers were ?
3.) Bugler's Reveille (Allan Springfield) - rating: ** stars
So be warned that 'Bugler's Reveille' stretched out over sixteen minutes and sounded like it was stapled together from a bunch of shorter, unrelated pieces. Parts of it weren't bad, but the lack of a central theme and the fragmented nature of the tune (parts sounded like they'd been copped from a film soundtrack), ultimately left me wishing it would come to a conclusion.
The band apparently played a couple of spotlight dates, including a couple of opening slots at The Fillmore East, but got next to know support from Capitol and splintered into different factions within a couple of months.
Mickey Davis, Chris Efthimian, Kenny Lehman, John Scarzella, and Allan Springfield continued on, recording a 1971 horn-rock album as Chelsea Beige - "Mama, Mama Let Your Sweet Bird Sing" (Epic catalog number BN-26296)
I'd all but forgotten about this album and then one day, out of the blue saw a reference to an article on the band on Facebook !!! That article was in fact an extensive "history" of the band. Here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/ddrtv.mickeybeskin/posts/10152333125690289
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