Perth County Conspiracy

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1969-71)

- Michael Butler -- bass 

- Terry Jones -- vocals, guitar 

- Richard Keelan -- vocals, guitar 

- Cedric Smith -- vocals, bass, guitar


   line up 2 (1973-75)

- Bob Burchill -- vocals, guitar, fiddle

- Michael Butler -- bass 

- Terry Jones -- vocals, guitar

- Richard Keelan -- vocals, guitar 

- Cedric Smith -- vocals, bass , guitar

- George Taros -- keyboards 


  line up 4 (1975-77)

- Larry Brown -- bass 

- Paul Gellman -- vocals, keyboards, violin, percussion

- Dorit Learned -- vocals, recorder, psaltery

- Richard Keelan -- vocals, guitar, percussion

- Cedric Smith -- vocals, guitar


  line up 5 (1977) as Cedric Smith and Terry Jones

- Paul Gellman -- vocals, keyboards, violin, percussion

- Jerome Jarvis -- percussion, vocals

- Terry Jones -- vocals, guitar

- Dorit Learned -- vocals, recorder, psaltery

- Dita Paabo -- keyboards, accordion, vocals

- Cedric Smith -- vocals, guitar

- David Woodhead -- bass, banjo, guitar, autoharp, vocals, mandola





- Benzene Jag

- Bob Burchill (solo efforts)

- IndyKlez

- The Misty Wizards (Richard Keelan)

- Cedric Smith and Terry Jones

- The Spike Drivers (Richard Keelan)



Genre: psych

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  The Perth County Conspiracy Does Not Exist

Company: Columbia

Catalog: ELS-375

Year: 1969

Country/State: Stratford, Ontario Canada

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve with original lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4945

Price: $80.00


I'm a big fan of Canadian psych acts and even though they're not the acid drenched burnouts some high priced record dealers would have you believe, Stratford, Ontario's Perth County Conspiracy is a long standing personal favorite.  I'll readily admit that these artsy/fartsy counterculture communal goofballs may not have the world's most original musicians, but to my ears there's just something immensely appealing about their Canadian variant of standard West Coast psych (love the communal group photo found on their Columbia debut).


While I'm not sure how mainstays Richard Keelan and Cedric Smith first crossed paths, I do know that Keelan had been a member of Detroit's The Spikedrivers.  Like many other young Americans, in the late 1960s he headed north to avoid a draft notice.  


1970's "The Perth County Conspiracy Does Not Exist" was the band's third album; their first for Columbia (I'd love to know how they attracted the attention of a major label like Columbia).  Co-produced by John Williams and the band the results were prime hippy-era west coast-styled acid-folk !!!  (I'd normally cringe when hearing something like that, but this time around its a pretty apt descriptor.)  Musically original material like 'Midnight Hour', the CSN&Y-styled 'Easy Rider' and 'Truth and Fantasy' mixed strong melodies and nice vocals from both Keelan and Smith with entertaining if dated and occasionally pompous lyrics.  Imagine the International String Band had they copped an English degree and been tough enough to survive in Canada and you'll be in the right aural neighborhood.  Extra credit for the band's willingness to borrow from the likes of Dylan Thomas ('Midnight Hour') and even William Shakespeare ('Excerpt from "as you like it"').  Best of all is the stunning closer 'Crucifixation Cartoon' ... I can't eve begin to describe how good this track is.   The set isn't perfect - the kids reciting poetry t the start of 'Listen To the Kids' is pretty lame, as are some of the spoken word segments and 'The Dancer' is merely dull.  Still, maybe because it's so unique this one's definitely a keeper and even more attractive to me given it's an album that you can still find at an affordable price.


"Perth County Conspiracy Does Not Exist" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Midnight Hour   (Cedric Smith - Richard Keelan - Dylan Thomas) - 6:37

2.) Epistle To the Borderliner   (Cederic Smith) - 2:01

3.) Easy Rider   (Richard Keelan) - 4:42

4.) Truth and Fantasy   (Richard Keelan - C. Logue - Cederic Smith) - 5:43

5.) Don't You Feel Fine   (Richard Keelan) - 2:40

6.) You Have the Power   (Cedric Smith - Richard Keelan) - 4:45


(side 2)
1.) Keeper of the Key   (Richard Keelan) - 3:16

2.) Lady of the County   (Cedric Smith) - 3:27

3.) Listen To the Kids   (R. Lewis - Richard Keelan) - 2:59

4.) Trouble On the Farm   (Cedric Smith) - 2:16

5.) Excerpt from "as you like it"   (Williams Shakespeare - Richard Keelan) - 1:23

6.) The Dancer   (Richard Keelan) - 5:36

7.) Crucifixation Cartoon   (Cedric Smith - Richard Keelan) - 6:21






Genre: psych

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  The Perth County Conspiracy Alive

Company: Columbia

Catalog: GES-90037

Year: 1972

Country/State: Stratford, Ontario Canada

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve double LP set

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4946

Price: $80.00


Recorded at Toronto's Bathurst St. United Church, 1972's "The Perth County Conspiracy Alive" was a live, 13 track double album set.  Largely acoustic, the performances were all surprisingly good, showcasing some nice vocal harmonies and the band's penchant for crafting exceedingly pretty melodies. All of that came as a surprise to me since I didn't expect these guys to sound nearly as tight.  Highlights included the opening Dylan cover 'You Ain't Goin' Nowhere', the pretty ballad 'Broken Wing' and the radio friendly 'Take a Look at the Light Side' (the latter track being one of the few that seems to have undergone significant post-production work).  The fact that these guys actually had a sense of humor ('Stratford People') was an added bonus.  While the set had a lot going for it, one minor complaint stems from the emphasis on pained ballads which eventually started to take a toll on listeners (or maybe I'm just not sensitive enough).  For what its worth, the album would have benefited from a couple of up-tempo numbers.  Once again produced by John Williams, the set sported crystal clear audio and sounded marvelous on a good stereo, or headphones.  


"Perth County Conspiracy Alive" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) You Ain't Goin' Nowhere   (Bob Dylan) - 3:30

2.) Sailboat   (Terry Jones) - 4:23

3.) Broken Wing   (Cedric Smith) - 5:32


(side 2)
1.) Take a Look at the Light Side   (Richard Keelan) - 5:30

2.) Stratford People   (Cedric Smith) - 3:38

3.) People Are Out of Tune   (Richard Keelan) - 3:52


(side 3)

1.) Hezakaiah - 3:14

2.) Stories of Old   (Terry Jones - Richard Keelan) - 4:10

3.) Pilgrim   (Cedric Smith) - 5:35

4.) Welcome Surprise   (Richard Keelan - Cedric Smith) - 5:35


(side 4)
1.) I Spun You'out    (Milton Acord - Cedric Smith) - 3:03

2.) Tractor Song   (Cedric Smith) - 5:28

3.) Uncle Jed   (Billy Batson) - 5:12



Genre: psych

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Breakout To Berlin 

Company: Rumour V

Catalog: KC 1015

Year: 1976

Country/State: Stratford, Ontario Canada

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 226

Price: $50.00


I'd love to know how it happened, but in one of the stranger Cold War musical interludes, Canada's Perth County Conspiracy somehow managed to get an invitation to play at 1975's International Festival of Political Songs.  Sponsored by the East German government's Community Youth Movement, the festival was an annual musical event that went on for about 20 years (1970-1990).  I'm guessing East German officials might have been attracted by the band's communal base and their hippy-dippy leanings, though there wasn't anything particularly socialist in these grooves,.  Still, who knows what the East German Stasi internal police were thinking ...   The band's performance apparently pleased East German officials, who allowed the band to record an album in East Germany and then signed the band to a distribution agreement that saw the resulting album "Kanada" issued on the East German Amiga label (catalog number 855 424). 


And here's where it gets weird.   Released the following year on the band's own Rumour label, "Breakout To Berlin" seemingly replicated the same tracks on the "Kanada" album.  While the packaging gave you the impression this was a live set, it offered up the same track listing and based on the crystal clear production sound, was clearly a studio set.   As alluded to above, you were also left to wonder what East German officials were thinking about when they signed these guys to perform.  With the possible exceptions of 'Military Spectatorship' and their anti-Nixon rocker 'Richard's Down', their performances were about as revolutionary as Pete Seger, or Woody Guthrie ...  Down with the proletariat brothers and sisters - free Labatts for all !


- Showcasing a weird mix of Americana and country influences, the acoustic medley 'Old Ways/Hurray for the Farmer' must have sounded odd to an East German audience.  'Old Way's was actually quite likeable, sounding a bit like a Neil Young number. With a country hoedown tinge and Woody Guthrie-styled lyric, 'Hurray for the Farmer' did less for my ears.  rating: ** stars

- While still countrified, 'Heart of the Beast' found the band upping  the rock quotient with one of their prettiest melodies and some tasty Dead-styled lead guitar.  The song also showcased some beautiful harmony vocals.  rating: **** stars

- Showcasing some tasty electric guitar and another pretty melody, 'Breaking Down the Walls' was one of my picks for standout performance.  rating: *** stars

- An acoustic blues number, 'Mother's Blues' was a surprisingly funky performances driven by a cool acoustic guitar riff (love to learn how to play it) and (I can't believe I'm going to say this), some effective Paul Gellman violin.   rating: **** stars

- Another medley 'Memory Stains the Pages/Lining Up To Go' started out as a beautiful ballad capturing an old man's memories of a long dead soldier/son.  Smith's spoken word segment was a bit over-the-top, but as the father of a twenty year old, you couldn't argue with the sentiments.  With a slightly more subtle anti-war lyric, 'Lining Up To Go' sounded like something inspired by Woody Guthrie.   Yeah, perhaps a bit heavy handed, but still quite nice.

- 'Live with Me On Earth' was a pretty, is slightly sappy acoustic folk ballad.  Dorit Learned provided the crystal clear, pseudo-operatic harmony vocals.  Geez, this sure didn't sound like a live performance.   rating: *** stars

- 'Touch a Spark' was another track that sounded a bit like a Grateful Dead number - more Bob Weir than Jerry Garcia this time around.  Like much of the Dead catalog, the song had a melody buried in the mix, but it only came out in fits.  Shame the song wasn't a bit more focused.   On the positive side, once again the song showcased the group's wonderful harmony vocals and some tasty piano from Paul Gellman.  rating: ** stars

- In spite of a Firesign Theatre edge to it, with it's references to the CIA, Kissinger, Chile and IT&T,  'Military Spectatorship' was the album's most blatantly political statement.  That said, the plotline will probably be largely be lost on anyone who wasn't reading a newspaper, or watch the news in the mid-'70s.  That said, you weren't missing a great deal here ...  rating: ** stars

- 'Richard's Down' was a rockin' tribute to Richard Nixon's downfall.   rating: ** stars

- Another track with an English folk flavor, 'Dance of the Fat/You Growing' had some of the album's most intriguing and colorful lyrics including some obviously anti-Vietnam lyrics ('course active American military involvement in the war had ended a couple of years earlier).   rating: ** stars

- With a western-themed lyric, 'Pioneer Song' boasted another pretty melody and some nice lead vocals from Smith and Learning.   rating: *** stars

- I'm not really sure how to describe 'Voice In the Wilderness' - folk-psych?   With one of the album's fuller arrangements including some nice jazzy lead guitar and an impressive Larry Brown bass line, this was another keeper.   rating: **** stars


Nah, it wasn't nearly as good as the first Columbia album, but was still worth hearing.



"Break Out To Berlin" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Old Ways/Hurray for the Farmer    (Cedric Smith/Cedric Smith - Milton Acorn) - 2:42

2.) Heart of the Beast   (Richard Keelan) - 3:40

3.) Breaking Down the Walls   (Paul Gallman) - 4:40

4.) Mother's Blues   (Richard Keelan) - 3:45

5.) Memory Stains the Pages/Lining Up To Go   (Malcolm Acorn/Cedric Smith - Milton Acorn) - 3:40

6.) Live with Me On Earth   (Cedric Smith - Milton Acorn)  - 2:42


(side 2)
1.) Touch a Spark   (Richard Keelan) - 3:32

2.) Military Spectatorship   (Cedric Smith) - 1:48

3.) Richard's Down   (Richard Keelan) - 3:50

4.) Dance of the Fat/You Growing   (Cedric Smith - Milton Acorn) - 3:08

5.) Pioneer Song   (Cedric Smith) - 3:02

6.) Voice In the Wilderness   (Richard Keelan) - 4:56



Fascinating band and the best overview you can find on their roots was written by Patrick Lundborg (with an assist from Keelan).  The write-up originally appeared in a 2010 issued of Ugly Things magazine, though you can find a copy of the article on Patrick's wonderful Acid Archives website: