Marks and Lebzelter


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  (1968)

- Martin Alter -- reeds

- Theodore Anderson -- vocals

- Michael Berardi -- rhythm guitar

- Alberta Bradford -- organ

- Alex Bradford -- vocals, piano

- Laurence Cook -- percussion

- Andrew Cyrilla -- percussion

- William Draper -- reeds

- Clarence Drayton -- guitar

- Blaine Farris -- keyboards

- Steve Furfado -- trumpet

- Cecil Garret -- drums

- William Graff -- vocals

- Janet Graham -- vocals

- Burton Grene -- keyboards

- Nick Gregfroh -- drums

- Hilda Harris -- vocals

- Gerald Hayes -- reeds

- Jake Jacobs -- lead guitar

- Bruce A. Johnson -- bass

- Shipen Lebzelter (RIP 1986) -- vocals, synthesizers

- Gerry Kuczunski -- 

- Greater Abyssinian Baptist Choir -- vocals

- Gustav Marks --

- Johnny Marks (Jamake Highwater) (RIP 2001) -- vocals, guitar,

  synthesizers

- Bradley Meek -- vocals

- Carol Miller -- vocals

- Mickey Most -- spoken vocals

- Jean Nibblelink -- vocals

- Jimmy Owens -- trumpet

- Larry Packer -- electric fiddle

- Michael Ripley -- trumpet

- Roswell Rudd -- trumpet

- Jonathan Sachs -- rhythm guitar

- Alan Silva -- cello

- Warren Smith -- percussion

- The Gregg Smith Singers -- vocals

- Harley Tyler -- guitar

- Bob Walker -- rhythm guitar

- Susan Zaher -- vocals

 

 

 

- The Tree Community (Shipen Lebzelter)

 

 


 

Genre: experimental

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  Rock and Other Four Letter Words

Company: Columbia Masterworks

Catalog:  MS 7193
Year:
 1968

Country/State: New York, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3302

Price: $50.00

If the album cover didn't scream '60s at you, then the track listing most certainly did ...   Seriously, track titles like 'Other four Letter Words', 'Greatest Hits - Love Your Nave', and the classic 'Poop for Sopranos and Orchestra' just had that unique '60s zeitgeist (always wanted to use that word in a review).

Produced by John McClure, 1968's "Rock and Other Four Letter Words" was the brainchild of the New York based duo of Johnny Marks and Shipen Lebzelter.  The album grew out of a series of interviews  Marks had previously done with a bunch of '60s rock stars including Eric Burdon, Jimmy Page, Mickey Most, Grace Slick, Pete Townshend, and Brian Wilson.  Those interviews served as the basis for a book Marks had written  - "Rock and Other Four Letter Words - Music of the Electric Generation".   Linda Eastman (the future Linda McCartney), provided the accompanying photos.  Transferring the interviews (I counted 27 individuals and bands), to a musical setting these 13 tracks offered up an experimental mixture of spliced tapes (featuring the earlier rock star interviews), Moog synthesizers, jazzy interludes (Marks and Lebzelter somehow managed to recruit some first tier jazz players to work on the project), lysergic sound effects, and spoken word segments.  Admittedly my tastes are pretty pedestrian so about the best thing I can say is the album's an interesting time capsule.  There was nothing particularly melodic, musical, or memorable across these two sides.  In fact, the overall feeling was of a couple of bombastic and pretentious guys with too much time and money on their hands.  If you took delight in the likes of  The United States Of America 1968 LP, Zappa's "Lumpy Gravy" album, or the Musique Concrete genre, this might have some interest for you.  Otherwise ...   probably not.  To my ears the set had kind of "aren't we too clever for everyone" vibe that was likely to piss off more people than it attracted. All that said, there's a group of listeners who will find this one fascinating. 

 

I will admit the liner notes included one of my favor dedications: "This album is dedicated to Karlheinz Stockhausen, who destroyed our ears so we could hear."

 

"Rock and other Four Letter Words" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Other Four Letter Words    (Johnny Marks - Shipen Lebzelter) - 6:23  rating: ** star

Well, the list of folks interviewed was impressive.  Can't say the same of the lysergic sound collage that accompanied the first third of the track.  The next third at least sported a nice rock feel.  The last third was interesting if you liked to play recognize the artist.

2.) Essence of Is Own   (Johnny Marks) - 5:50  rating: ** stars

Did you really want to hear Marks repeat the title track dozens of times before the trippy sound effects kicked in ?   Probably not.

3.) It's True   (Gustav Marks) - 3:17   rating: *** stars

Opening up with what sounded like a Japanese Koto, 'Its True' abruptly morphed into a Western rock tune that might have been decent were it not for the seemingly tone deaf female vocalists.  I've always wondered if Hilda Harris and Carol Miller were purposely singing off-key, or simply didn't realize how horrible they were.  Kind of a Shaggs vibe going on here.

4,) Greatest Hits - Love Your Navel   (Johnny Marks - Shipen Lebzelter) - 2:24   rating: * star

Almost unlistenable, drunken old time feel that was interesting for the supposed guests - Peter Townshend, Eric Burdon, Bill Graham, Terry Kirkman, and Graham Nash.

5.) In the Middle of Nothing   (Johnny Marks - Shipen Lebzelter) - 4:14

More interview snippets surrounded by disjointed sound collages and some purposely offensive conversation snippets.  The highlight - hearing Mickey Most say "It's hard to believe that 200 million people who live in e United States are that gullible."  

6.) Baked Beans   (Johnny Marks - Shipen Lebzelter) - 3:37

Yes, directed by Alex Bradford, it really was The Greater Abyssinian Baptist Choir singing about baked beans.  The choir didn't sound band, but the concept was totally lost on me.   rating: * star

 

(side 2)

1.) They're Through   (Johnny Marks) - 5:53   rating: * star

Well, the liner notes credit Marks with the spoken word segments and tthe Gregg Smith Singers, but to my ears this one sounded like a bunch of trashed Satanists deciding they wanted to record something for a throwaway slasher film.  Complete with news clip sound effects and operatic snippets, it was more funny than ominous ...  The most interesting thing about this one was the fact Columbia Masterworks actually released it as a promotional single credited to "Rock and Other Four Letter Words":  Easy to see radio stations scratching their corporate heads in confusion ...

- 1968's 'They're Through' b/w 'Do You Understand What I'm Trying To Say?' (Columbia Masterworks catalog number JSZP 139146 )

2/) Today   (Johnny Marks) - 1:26   rating: **** stars

Geez something that came off as a real song - interestingly it sounded like early Fred Schenider and the B-52s. 

3.) Eine Kleine Hayakawa   (Shipen Lebzelter) - 1:25   rating: ** stars

I'm guessing the intent behind 'Eine Kleine Hayakawa' was to show rock stars were stuttering idiots.  Nice tape splicing, though they were looking Capitol Records didn't sure them for appropriating the Beatles snippets.

4.) Do You Understand What I'm Trying To Say?   (Shipen Lebzelter) - 3:19  rating: ** stars

The opening sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks on speed.  From their it morphed into a bunch of stoned hippies who seemingly had forgotten the lyrics and decided to simply la-la-la their way through three minutes of a pleasant pop melody.  for some reason this one makes me picture the kids singing the Coke jingle on top of the mountain.  At least this one had a recognizable melody.

5.) Trouble   (Johnny Marks) - 2:18   rating: **** stars

'Trouble' was another atypical performance given it had a recognizable rock structure with an Alex Bradford providing an enjoyable lead vocal.  Tasty fuzz guitar too boot.

6,) Poop for Sopranos and Orchestra   (Johnny Marks - Shipen Lebzelter) - 7:57  rating: * star

Even if the song was crap, the title made it a keeper.  Seriously, you have to admit 'Poop for Sopranos and Orchestra' brings out the seven year old kid in you.  Once again singers Hilda Harris and Carol Miller managed to inject a shrill and thoroughly irritating lilt into what were already discordant proceedings.  One of those songs you just wished one come to an end ...

7.) This Is the Word   (Johnny Marks - Woody Guthrie) - 1:41   rating: ** stars

Applying Woody Guthrie's words to a weird mixture of Gregorian chant and discordant horror film incidental music was ...  suitably weird.

 

 

Lebzelter went on to form The Trees Community, releasing a sought after 1975 album "The Christ Tree".  He died in 1986

 

After Marks changed his name to Jamake Highwater, he focused his interests on making film documentaries, writing, and running a foundation dedicated to American Indian art and culture.  He passed-on in 2001.

 

 

 

 

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