Ohio Express, The


Band members               Related acts

  line up 1 (1966-67) (as Sir Timothy & the Royals)

- Tim Corwin -- drums, percussion
- Doug Grassel -- rhythm guitar 
- Dean Kastran -- bass, backing vocals
- Jim Pfayler (aka Jim Phahler) (RIP 2003) -- keyboards,

  backing vocals 
- Dale Powers -- vocals, lead guitar 

 

  line up 2 (1967-69) (as The Ohio Express)

- Tim Corwin -- drums, percussion
- Doug Grassel -- rhythm guitar 
- Dean Kastran -- bass, backing vocals
- Jim Pfayler (aka Jim Phahler) (RIP 2003) -- keyboards,

  backing vocals 
- Dale Powers -- vocals, lead guitar 

 

  supporting musician:

- Graham Gouldman -- vocals (1969-70)

- Joey Levine -- vocals (1968-69)

 

 

- The Ohio Ltd.

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Beg, Borrow and Steal

Company: Cameo

Catalog: CS 20.000

Year: 1968

Country/State: Mansfield, Ohio

Grade (cover/record): VG- / VG

Comments: ring wear; couple of pops

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5879

Price: $15.00

 

You have to feel bad for The Ohio Express.  These guys were quite talented and in a brief career than saw the release of four studio albums over a two year period. they enjoyed more 'hits' than 99% of their competition.  Unfortunately a combination of bad luck, poor decisions, and greedy management served to essentially derail their careers, while showing how ugly the intersection of artistic and business interests can be. 

 

Drummer Tim Corwin, rhythm guitarist Doug Grassel, bassist Dean Kastran, keyboard player Jim Pfayler, and lead vocalist/guitarist Dale Power first came together while attending high school in Mansfield, Ohio. Originally known as Sir Timothy &  the Royals the quintet began playing dances and local clubs, eventually winning a series of Columbus, Ohio battle of the bands contests.  Those wins captured the attention of New York-based A&R men Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz.  As owners of the Super K label, the pair quickly signed the group (then 17 and 18 years old) to a contract, quickly convincing them to drop their name in favor of the hipper sounding The Ohio Express.  

 

Kasenetz and Katz were interested in the band for more than their talent.  As it turned out the pair had previously signed the Brooklyn-based band The Conquests.  A track they had recorded with The Conquests was released by Super K affiliated Attack label under the name The Rare Breed:

 

- 1966's 'Beg, Borrow, or Steal' b/w 'Jeri's Theme' (Attack catalog number AR 1401 A/B)

 

That was followed-up with another instantly obscure single:

 

- 1966's 'Come And Take A Ride In My Boat' b/w 'Take Me to This World of Yours' (Attack catalog number AR 1403 A/B)

 

Neither single did much commercially and within a matter of months The Conquests/Rare Breed and Kasenetz and Katz had ended their partnership. Convinced that 'Beg, Borrow, or Steal' could be a hit, Kasenetz and Katz decided to remix and reissue the single as The Ohio Express' debut.  

 

Signed by Cameo-Parkway, the remixed single went top-40:

 

   

 

- 1967's 'Beg, Borrow and Steal' b/w 'Maybe' (Cameo-Parkway catalog number C-483)

As was standard marketing procedure, Cameo wasted no time taking advantage of the band's surprising success rushing the band into the studio to record a supporting album.  Produced by Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, the cleverly titled "Beg, Borrow and Steal" spotlighted the earlier hit, along with a slapped together mixture of true band originals and some tracks featuring vocalist Powers supported by New York sessions players.  Musically the set showed the band trying to find a balance between their own blue-eyed soul stance ('Soul Struttin''), top-40 pop (much of it penned by Kasenetz and Katz) and a hipper, mildly psych sound ('It's Too Groovy').  Perhaps not the year's most original effort, the results weren't half bad, particularly on their original material where they seemed to avoid being over produced (the raw 'Let's Go' and 'Try It' were particularly good).  Elsewhere the band was lucky it didn't get slapped with a plagiarism suit for having swiped Cream's 'Crossroads' lock, stock and barrel.  In the end it didn't make much difference since Cameo-Parkway went bankrupt leaving the set without much promotional support.  

 

The album was also tapped for a follow-on single in the form of:

 

 

- 1967's 'Try It' b/w 'Soul Struttin'' (Cameo catalog number KC-2001)

 

"Beg, Borrow, Steal" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Beg, Borrow and Steal   (Day - Zerato) - 2:54
2.) And It's True   (Sepulveda) - 1:45
3.) Had To Be Me   (Jim Pfahler) - 2:10
4.) Let's Go   (Jerry Kasenetz - Jeff Katz - Dean Kastran) - 2:18
5.) Soul Struttin'   (Tony Orlando - Thau) - 2:59

(side 2)

1.) Try It   (Joey Levine - Bellack) - 2:40
2.) I Know We'll Be Together   (Jim Pfayler) - 2:09
3.) I Fine I Think of You   (Walsh) - 2:10
4.) Stop Take a Look Around   (E. Chiprut - Jerry Kasenetz - Jeff Katz) - 2:50
5.) Hard Times   (Jim Pfayler) - 2:41
11.) It's Too Groovy   (Tim Corwin) - 2:52

 

 



Genre: pop

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Ohio Express

Company: Buddah

Catalog: BDS 5018

Year: 1968

Country/State: Mansfield, Ohio

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5937

Price: $15.00

 

 

With Cameo-Parkway's 1967 collapse, Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz took their Super K organization, along with The Ohio Express over to Neil Bogart's newly formed Buddah label.  

 

Creative control had been a clear issue on the debut Ohio Express album and a quick check of 1968's "Ohio Express"  track listing indicated it remained an issue of contention.  With Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz again serving as producers, this time out the album was more equitably split between original numbers (four tracks) and material from outside hired guns such as Kenny Laguna and the songwriting team of Joey Levine and Artie Resnick (seven tracks).  As you'd expect, that also led to some interesting choices in musical direction.  Producers Kasenetz and Katz and the record label were clearly interested in continuing the band's earlier commercial successes, hence outside tracks such as 'Yummy, Yummy, Yummy', 'Down At Lulu's' and 'Mary-Ann' offered up more highly commercial bubblegum moves.  In sharp contrast, originals like 'Into This Time' and 'It's a Sad Day' saw the band trying to stretch their wings into more creative and experimental directions.  The results were occasionally jarring and somewhat disconcerting, but in the end that versatility made for what I'd pick as the best Ohio Express album.

 

- While it was their biggest and most widely recognized hit, 'Yummy, Yummy, Yummy' also served as an early indicator of factors that would quickly kill the band.  Yes, the tune was credited to The Ohio Express, but it was written and performed by Joey Levine and New York-based studio pros with virtually no input for the band.  The track was supposedly intended as nothing more than a demo for the band to learn and record on their own, but Buddah president Neil Bogart apparently liked the track the way it was and had it released in the demo form without bothering to tell the band.  That did nothing to detract from the fact the song was a classic in the bubblegum pop genre.  Kicked along by an instantly recognizable melody, a fantastic bass line, Levine's nasally snarl, and those dumber than dumb lyrics ("yummy, yummy, yummy I got love in my tummy And I feel like a-lovin you ...") it was easy to see why the song was tapped as a single.    rating: ***** stars

- It took me a couple of spins to latch on to the breezy 'Winter Skies'.  Lyrically it was a throwaway, but musically the track had a couple of things going for it, including some nice phased rhythm guitar and a great acoustic guitar solo.     rating: *** stars

- I'm a pushover for fuzz guitar so Dean Kastran's rocker 'Into This Time' had me from the opening bar.  Largely abandoning their trademarked bubblegum sound, this one sported a distinctive rock attack with a likeable slightly psychedelic tinge that was still radio friendly.  Curiously, The Shadows of the Knight recorded an instrumental version of the song with the alternate title' From Way Out To Way Under'.   rating: ***** stars

- Clearly intended to show the audience they were more than a top-40 pop band, 'First Grade Reader' was a driving slice of psychedelic rock.  Complete with fuzz guitar and sound effects, this was one of the album highlights.  Hard to believe this was the same band that released 'Chewy Chewy'.     rating: ***** stars

- Written by Kenny Laguna, 'Mary-Ann' found the band returning to disposable top-40 pop.  Again, it wasn't bad, merely somewhat predictable.    rating: ** stars

- Side two opened up with the second Levine-Resnick composition - 'Down At Lulu's'.  Hardly the year's most original composition and nowhere near as good as 'Yummy, Yummy, Yummy' but with the 'ba-ba-ba' background vocals it was fun in a goofy kind of fashion.   Easy to see the band having a heart attack at the thought of having to perform the song in concert.    rating: *** stars

- The first of three compositions by singer/keyboardist Jim Pfayler, 'Turn To Straw' was a fantastic psych gem.  A completely unexpected slice of lysergic soaked pop, the track sported acid-tinged lyrics ("10,000 harpsichords blowing in the wind; multi-colored magic-ness swirling in your head"); nifty sound effects (backward tapes, hypnotic beats, treated vocals, etc.) that simply had to be heard with a good pair of headphones.     rating: ***** stars 

- With 'Vacation' Pfayler made it clear the band were capable of writing material that was just as commercial and radio friendly as anything the outside guns could bring to the table.  Yeah, he sounded a little uncomfortable singing in the higher ranges, but so what?   rating: *** stars

- The third Pfayler composition and one of the album's most interesting compositions, 'She's Not Coming Home' displayed an intriguing Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys influence.  A beautiful ballad complete with angelic group harmonies, this one was a keeper.  I've played it for friends who've mistaken it for a lost mid-1960s Beach Boy track..   rating: ***** stars 

- With a pounding beat, plenty of fuzz guitar, snotty lead vocal, and some nice harmony vocals, 'It's a Sad Day' marked a likeable return to the band's rawer garage roots.  Surprisingly likeable and enough to make you wonder how things could have turned out ...   rating: **** stars 

- Penned by Kenny Laguna ,'The Time You Spend with Me' was the one outside number that served to showcase the band's heavier/psych side.  An acid-soaked meltdown,    rating: **** stars

 

The album was tapped for a pair of top-40 singles:

 

 

- 1968's 'Yummy, Yummy, Yummy' b/w 'Zig Zag' (Buddah catalog number BDA 38)  # 4 pop

- 1968's 'Down At Lulu's' b/w 'She's Not Comin' Home' (Buddah catalog number BDA 56)  # 33 pop

 

As mentioned, this would be my pick for the band's most enjoyable LP.  Shame they weren't given an opportunity to exhibit more of their own creativity.


"Ohio Express" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Yummy, Yummy, Yummy   (Joey Levine - Artie Resnick) - 2:18

2.) Winter Skies   (Kenny Laguna - S. Laguna) - 2:58

3.) Into This Time   (Dean Kastran) - 2:45

4.) First Grade Reader   (P. Karwan) - 3:03

5.) Mary-Ann   (Kenny Laguna) - 2:20

(side 2)

1.) Down At Lulu's   (Joey Levine - Artie Resnick) - 1:55

2.) Turn To Straw   (Jim Pfahler) - 4:05

2.) Vacation   (Jim Pfahler) - 1:45

3.) She's Not Coming Home   (Jim Pfahler) - 2:52

4.) It's a Sad Day   (Kenny Laguna) - 2:46

5.) The Time You Spend with Me   (Kenny Laguna) - 5:05

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Chewy, Chewy

Company: Buddah

Catalog: BDS 5026

Year: 1969

Country/State: Mansfield, Ohio

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5877

Price: $20.00

 

 

No, bubblegum pop isn't going to change your life, but it's a genre that should bring a smile to anyone that still has a pulse.  And within the bubblegum universe 1969's  "Chewy, Chewy" was a pretty good example of what was good and what was less impressive within the genre.  While the cover showed a mod looking quintet, by the time the album was released the band had effectively become little more than a nameplate for Joey Levine and Artie Resnick and other outside writers and producers.  In fact, unlike earlier releases, this time out there wasn't a single band original; Levine and Resnick were responsible for the majority of the eleven songs.  Levine also apparently handled most of the lead vocals.  For what it was worth, in practical terms the creative shift didn't have a major impact on the overarching sound which remained dominated by short, highly commercial pieces of pop fluff.  This was music as product with the clear goal being radio play and massive sales.  While some folks will recoil from the notion of art as commerce, I'd point out that's the case for most things in life so why should this be any different.  Add to that the fact most of these tracks were quality pop and what wasn't to like?   Okay, the between-song comedy bits were outright irritating and on occasion the push for commerciality was simply overwhelming (check out 'Yes Sir').

 

- Yes it owed more than a passing nod to the earlier hit 'Yummy Yummy Yummy', but all hyperbole aside 'Chewy, Chewy' was even better and may be one of the finest three minutes in American bubblegum.  Mindless fun and insidiously catchy, you couldn't shake the stupid thing out of your head once you've heard it.  Gawd forbid it was the first song you heard when you woke up.   Easy to see why it was tapped as a single.   rating: **** stars

- With Levine employing a dry and raspy lead vocal, it took a little while for 'Nothing Sweeter Than My Baby' to kick into gear, but when it did the song was as good as anything else on the album.  Nice pounding bass line.   rating: *** stars

- With a slinky edge, 'So Good, So Fine' was interesting in that it found the group aiming for a harder song.  Shame it faded out so fast.   rating: ***

-  Fellow bubble gummers 1910 Fruitgum Company enjoyed the hit, bit this version of '1,2,3 Red Light' was every bit as good.  Actually it didn't sound all that different from the hit version.   rating: ***

- Another Levine-Resnick effort, 'Yes Sir' was the first real disappointment.  Mind you, complete with oboe solo, the song wasn't bad, rather sounded even more calculated than the rest of the set.  It actually sounded like a bad Herman's Hermits song had Peter Noone been an American.  rating: ** stars

- Side two started out with the album's most psychedelic tune - 'Let It Take You'.  Of course it wasn't an acid soaked slice of experimentation, but within the commercial confines imposed on Levine and company it wasn't half bad.  The lysergic backing vocals were kind of cool.   It was also interesting to hear Levine turn in his best Paul McCartney-the-rocker vocal.   rating: ***

- 'Little Girl' was interesting given it mixed a nice fuzz-propelled garage rocker with some exceptionally lame vocals.  Shame, since it could have been a great song with a better set of lyrics.  rating: ** stars

- 'Fun' was a pretty, but forgettable mid-tempo ballad.  It would have made a good candy bar commercial.  rating: ** stars

- One of the album's most commercial numbers 'Firebird' was also one of the standout performances.  Great, mindless summer fun with a hook that was perfect for radio.  Hard to understand why General Motors didn't buy rights to the song in order to use it as a commercial for the Firebird nameplate.   rating: **** stars

- 'Simon Says' was another tune farmed out to a number of Buddah bands.  Like '1,2,3 Red Light' 1910 Fruitgum Company enjoyed the hit version, though this one sounded pretty much the same.  In fact it might even be the same backing track with Levine's vocals slapped on top of it - never bothered to do a side-by-side comparison.  Maybe someone out there knows.   rating: ** stars

- 'Down In Tennessee' sounded like a weird hybrid of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys and The New Vaudeville Band.  In fact it sounded like Levine had borrowed more than a little from 'Winchester Cathedral'.   rating: ** stars

 

Buddah also tapped the album for a single in the form of:

 

- 1968's 'Chewy Chewy' b/w 'Firebird' (Buddah catalog number BDA 70)  # 15 pop

 

Ironically the hit single also spelled the end of the band.  With the band touring the country, Buddah management released the single without any bothering to inform them it was happening.  They reportedly discovered the single when they heard it on the radio while traveling to a concert performance.   Already frustrated with the state of affairs including financial disagreements with the label, singer/keyboardist Jim Pfayler was the first to leave (or was fired depending on what story you listen to).  He was followed out the door by singer/bassist Dean Kastran and lead guitarist Dale Powers.  Within a matter of months the latter two were drafted and ended up doing tours of duty in Vietnam.

 

"Chewy, Chewy" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Chewy, Chewy   (Joey Levine - Artie Resnick) - 3:19

2.) Nothing Sweeter Than My Baby    (S. Gordon) - 2:47

3.) So Good, So Fine   (Joey Levine - Artie Resnick) - 1:42

4.) 1,2,3 Red Light   (S. Trimachi, B. Trimachi) - 2:17

5.) Yes Sir   (Joey Levine - Artie Resnick) -2:09

(side 2)

1.) Let It Take You   (Joey Levine) - 2:47
2.) Little Girl   (
Joey Levine - Artie Resnick) - 2:02
3.) Fun    (
Joey Levine - Artie Resnick) - 2:10
4.) Firebird    (
Joey Levine - Artie Resnick) - 2:32
5.) Simon Says   (E. Chiprut) - 2:11
6.) Down In Tennessee   (
Joey Levine - Artie Resnick) - 3:00

 

If anyone's interested, YouTube has a clip of the band lip synching 'Chewy, Chewy':

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvVSQauwnBM

 

 

 

11/2009 SRB

 

 


Genre: pop

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Mercy

Company: Buddah

Catalog: BDS 5037

Year: 1969

Country/State: Mansfield, Ohio

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+

Comments: --

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD $20.00

 

 

By the time 1969's "Mercy" was released the original Ohio Express line up was already a piece of history.  That fact clearly didn't stop the band's management team (Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz), or record label from continuing to mine the band's still lucrative bubblegum audience.  So how did they do it?   Well, when you had a talented  secret weapon in the form of singer/songwriter Joey Levine it became relatively easy.  The ultimate creative 'hired gun', Levine and his collection of New York-based studio players had already worked with The Ohio Express, recording several of their earlier 'hits' with little or no participation from the band.  Accordingly the absence of a band wasn't much of a problem to Levine who apparently wasted little time churning out what proved to be final The Ohio Express studio album.  With Levine responsible for writing or co-writing eight of the eleven tracks, the results weren't a major change in direction; tracks like 'Mercy', 'Sha La La' and 'Gimme Gimme' offering up a glistening, if occasionally diabetic coma inducing set of bubblegum pop that remained highly commercial, but was clearly beginning to lose some of the buying and listening audience that had powered earlier sales..

 

- Penned by Levine the title track offered up a classic slice of bubblegum complete with a top-40 melody and one of those insidiously catchy nursery rhyme hooks Levine so effortlessly churned out.  Easy to see why this one was tapped as a single.  My only complaint was  the fact Levine employed his most nasal voice on this one.   rating: *** stars

- Kicked along by a great barrelhouse piano, 'Lucky' was another exceptionally commercial track with top-40 written all over it.  Perhaps because it didn't sound quite as manufactured as some of the other tunes, this one's been a longstanding favorite.   rating: **** stars

- 'Sha La La' was a perfect example of Levine's talent for crafting catchy tunes; in this case the title refrain made up about 75% of the track.   rating: ** stars   

- 'Nighttime' was interesting given it found Levine taking a stab at writing and performing a slice of blue-eyes soul.  Great track with a nice Young Rascals vibe to it.   rating: **** stars  

- I'm a gigantic bubblegum fan, but 'Peanuts' was simply too cutesy even for my tastes ...  this one basically sounded like a commercial that had been reutilized as album filler.   rating: ** stars  

- On the heels of one of the album's weakest tracks, 'Up Against the Wall' offered up a totally unexpected slice of political and social commentary.  One of the hardest rockers ever credited to the band, this one simply took no prisoners.  Hard to imagine that the tune was even allowed on the album !!!   rating: **** stars 

- Side two opened up with another throwaway bubblegum number in 'Sweeter Than Sugar'.  Catchy, but insipid, this was another one that would have been better utilized as a commercial for laundry detergent or some other disposable product.   rating: ** stars  

- In spite of the nasal vocal, 'Jacksonville Station' was one of the better performances on the album.  Another slice of blue-eyed soul, this one was actually mildly funky.  Nice guitar.   rating: **** stars 

- Lyrically there wasn't a great deal to 'Ooh La-La' but it had a nifty garage vibe that made it stand out from the rest of the collection.   rating: *** stars 

- Opening up with a bit of electric guitar 'Come On Down Maryann' was one of the album's more rock oriented efforts.  The were results were still very pop oriented, but not quite as bubble gummy as most of the set.   rating: *** stars

- 'Gimme Gimme' actually sounded like something off of one of the earlier albums.  It was clearly a slice of bubblegum, but retained a semblance of the band's earlier garage roots.  Very nice and the horn charts were great.   rating: **** stars

 

Buddah and Super K tapped the album for a series of singles in the form of:

 

- 1969's 'Sweeter Than Sugar' b/w 'Bitter Lemon'  (Buddah catalog number BDA-92)  # 96 pop

- 1969's 'Mercy' b/w 'Roll It Up' (Buddah catalog number BDA-102)  # 30 pop

- 1969's 'Pinch Me (Baby Convince Me)' b/w 'Peanuts' (Buddah catalog number BDA-117)  # 99 pop

 

For his part Levine grew increasingly dissatisfied with the pressure to churn out material and the lack of fair compensation and together with songwriting partner Artie Resnick ended their business partnership with Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz, signing a deal with Mike Curb.  Ironically the deal with Curb proved even more disastrous ultimately barring Levine from releasing any new material for a number of years. 

 

In case anyone cared, the track listing order shown on the back cover was wrong.  The correct sequence is shown below.

 

"Mercy" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Mercy   (Joey Levine) - 2:25

2.) Lucky   (J.J. Woods - B. Levine) - 2:08

3.) Sha La La   (Joey Levine) - 2:21

4.) Nighttime   (Joey Levine - S. Feldman) - 1:48

5.) Peanuts   (G. Bengert) - 2:08

6.) Up Against the Wall   (J.J. Woods - B. Levine) - 2:40


(side 2)

1.) Sweeter Than Sugar   (Joey Levine - S. Feldman) - 2:05

2.) Jacksonville Station   (Joey Levine - L. Martine) - 2:55

3.) Ooh La-La   (Joey Levine - K. Resnick) - 2:07

4.) Come On Down Maryann   (Joey Levine) - 2:42

5.) Gimme Gimme   (Joey Levine) - 2:36

 

 

 

Levine's departure didn't spell the end to The Ohio Express.  More than willing to wring whatever commercial viability the band still had Kasenetz and  Katz found another hired gun in English singer/songwriter Graham Gouldman.   With backing from a precursor version of 10cc, Gouldman wrote and sang lead on the first of five non-LP singles:

- 1969's 'Sausalito (Is the Place to Go)' b/w 'Make Love Not War' (Buddah catalog number BDA-129)  pop #86

- 1969's 'Cowboy Convention' b/w 'The Race (That Took Place)' (Buddah catalog number BDA 147)  # 101 pop

- 1970's 'Love Equals Love' b/w 'Peanuts' (Buddah catalog number BDA 160)  didn't chart in the States

- 1970's 'Hot Dog' b/w 'Ooh La-La' (Super K catalog number SK 14)  didn't chart in the States

 

There's also a hard to find mid-1970s single credited to Ohio Ltd.

 

- 1973's 'Wham Bam' b/w 'Slow and Steady' (Buddah catalog number BDA 386)  didn't chart in the States

 

 

YouTube has a couple of promotional clips:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWaQyVnNZHw

Sausalito (Is the Place to Go)'

 

 

For anyone interested, original drummer Tim Corwin apparently owns the band name and continues to perform under the moniker.  He has a small website at:

 

http://www.theohioexpress.us/

 

 

Dean Kastran still lives in Ohio and plays bass in the country and bluegrass band Faces Made for Radio.

Jim Pfayler died in March 2003. 

 

 

 

2/2010 SRB

 

 

 

 

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