The Oxpetals


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  (1967-70)

- Daniel "Ace" Aliison (RIP) -- drums, percussion

- Benjamin Herndon -- vocals, lead guitar

- Guy Phillips -- vocals, bass

- Steven Pague -- vocals, guitar

- Robert Webber -- keyboards

 

 

 

- Winged Heart Band (Steven Pague)

 

 

 


Genre: country-rock

Rating: 3 stars *** 

Title:  The Oxpetals

Company: Mercury

Catalog:  SR 61289
Year:
 1970

Country/State: Roanoke, Virginia

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3280

Price: $20.00

 

One of those talented late-'60s/early-'70s bands that's been lost in the dust of time.

 

Calling Roanoke, Virginia home (one well known reference work ties them to update New York), the band debuted with an obscure garage and fuzz guitar powered 1967 single on Musicor:

- 1967's 'Prune Growing In June' b/w 'Walking Down the Sunny Side' (Musicor catalog number MU 1274)

 

Dropped by Musicor, the band struggled on, going through a couple of personnel changes.  By 1970 the personnel line-up consisted of drummer Daniel "Ace" Aliison, singer/guitarist Benjamin Herndon, bassist Guy Phillips, singer/guitarist Steven Pague, and keyboard player Robert Webber.  Signed by Mercury, they relocated to Moosepack Lake, New Jersey, recording  their self-titled debut at Mercury Studios in New York City.  Produced by Steve Boone (of Lovin' Spoonful fame, "The Oxpetals" featured an all original set of material with all five members contributing to the writing chores.  With Herndon and Pague responsible for the majority of songs, exemplified by tracks like 'I Still Remember' and 'What Can You Say' the predominant sound was melodic country-rock.  Both Herndon and Pague had nice voices, with the band showing off a talent for writing nice melodies and sweet harmony vocals (check out the opener 'Don't Cry Mother').  I've listened to the album dozens of times and with the exception of 'Silent Partners', there's not a bad song in the collection.  Curiously the band were actually at their best on atypical tunes like the rockers 'The Lazy Station', 'You Can't Hide from the Rude Owl ', and the country-rock closer 'Glory of the Skies'. The thing to remember is the first side gets off to a slow start.  It's not until the second half of the "A" side and the flip side that the band starts to reveal their considerable gifts.

 

"The Oxpetals " track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Don't Cry Mother  (Benjamin Herndon) - 3:41   rating: *** stars

It started out with some great, jazz-tinged bass before morphing into a breezy, laidback country-rock tune.  The interesting thing is that to my ears 'Don't Cry Mother' sounded like a British band trying to do American country-rock.  Nice harmony vocals throughout.

2.)  I Still Remember   (Steven Pague) - 3:29   rating: *** stars

A bit too country-tinged for my tastes, but the lyrics were sweet and there was a distinct Neil Young, Havrest-era influence on this one.  Good thing if you were a Neil Young fan ...

3.) Doin' It    (Robert Webber - Benjamin Herndon) - 3:14   rating: *** stars

Always liked Webber's jazzy keyboard fills on the slightly funky 'Doin' It'.  Yeah, it sounded more like a studio jam than a fully fleshed out song, but it had a certain, low-fi charm.  

4.) What Can You Say   (Steven Pague) - 3:30   rating: **** stars

Can a country song have a lysergic flavor?  Well, to my ears the laidback vocals on 'What Cat You Say' certainly gave it that kind of vibe.  Love this one.

5.) The Lazy Station  (Benjamin Herndon) - 2:57   rating: **** stars

'The Lazy Station' was interesting for demonstrating the band could do more than country-rock.  Not exactly hard rock, but certainly had some FM radio potential and Herndon turned in a sterling guitar solo.  One of the album highlights.

6.) March 22  (Benjamin Herndon) - 3:45   rating: *** stars

Cellos upfront !!!   I'm partial to this pretty acoustic number in part due to the fact my younger son plays cello.

 

(side 2)

1.) Declaration of Oneness  (Benjamin Herndon) - 4:50  rating: **** star

It took awhile for 'Declaration of Oneness' to kick into gear and reveal its charms.  Once it got through the rather bland ballad opening it morphed into a decent mid-tempo rocker with some nice  Herndon guitar work.

2.) Down from the Mountain   (Guy Phillips) - 4:00    rating: **** star

Powered by Webber's pretty, if unconventional keyboards, 'Down from the Mountain' was the album's prettiest number.  I won't argue that it was commercial in a conventional fashion, but there was something immensely appealing in the song's slightly ragged delivery and the '60s-styled messagre.  Mercury tapped it as an instantly obscure single (I've only seen one stock copy):

- 1970's' 'Down from the Mountain' b/w 'What Can You Say' (Mercury catalog number 73143)

3.) Silent Partner  (Benjamin Herndon) - 3:05  rating: ** stars

I'm guessing the slightly jazz ballad showcased Herndon and Pague sharing vocals.  A bit rough and lounge act-ish for my tastes.  

4.) Stephanie  (Guy Phillips) - 1:34   rating: *** stars

I'm guessing songwriter Phillips handled the lead vocals on the acoustic ballad 'Stephanie'.   He didn't have a great voice, but the ragged, gruff delivery sounded quite attractive on this one.  Shame it was so short.

5.) You Can't Hide from the Rude Owl  (Benjamin Herndon) - 3:00   rating: **** stars

Not sure what the story was with respect to the goofy title, but 'You Can't Hide from the Rude Ow'l made it clear these guys could easily handle CSN&Y-styled rock.   Awesome fuzz guitar work from Herndon.

6.) Glory of the Skies   (Daniel Alison - Benjamin Herndon - Guy Phillips - Steven Pague - Robert Webber)  - 3:10   rating: **** stars

'Glory To the Skies' closed the album with another highlight - a shimmering folk-rocker that sported a wonderful melody and some of their sweetest harmony vocals.  

 

 

The band apparently called it quits after their album tanked.  Several members have remained active in music.

Pague formed the Winged Heart Band in 1975 and has kept it on the road to this day.  He's also recorded some solo material, including a 1980 folk-rock collection - "Watch the Ocean Roll" (Ark Angel catalog number 805-44)  Together with Herndon, they're also regulars on the Hudson Valley club and vineyard circuit.

 

Drummer Aliison has passed on.

 

Other than the fact Steven Boone produced their album, Ilways wondered what their relationship was to The Lovin' Spoonful (three of the members were interviewed for a retrospective book about the band - Do You Believe in Magic?

And for the hardcore Oxpetal fans out there, this may be of interest.   Making a long, convoluted story short,  in 1976 the small Odyssey label released an album by the Steve Drake Band.  Entitled "Cold Sweat", the album was actually the work of the late Steve Kaczorowsk.  Kaczorowsk release a series of three obscure albums, but the interesting catch was that none of the songs were his work.  No, they weren't even cover tunes.  Kaczorowsk literally stole the songs, in most cases overdubbed his own vocals and occasional instrumental segments to the original tracks, pawning the results off as Drake original.   "Cold Sweat" included three Oxpetal songs.  Again, these weren't covers.  He just swiped the entire song adding his voice to the mix.   The three Oxpetal tunes "borrowed" were:

 

1.) Oxpetals' Don't Cry Mother reappeared as 'Cold Sweat/Don't Cry Mother'

2.) 'Declaration Of Oneness' was re=titled 'Glimpses Of The Future' 

3.) 'Down From The Mountain' morphed into 'Do You See Now'

 

 

SRB 11/2017

 

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