The Pleasure Fair
Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1966-68))
- Steve Cohn -- lead guitar
- Michelle Cochrane -- vocals
- Tim Hallinan -- bass
- Robb Royer -- keyboards, vocals
- Bread (Rob Royer)
- Radio Dixie (Rob Royer)
- The Rainy Day People (Steve Cohn, Michelle Cochrane,
Tim Hallinan and Robb Royer)
- Toast (Rob Royer)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: The Pleasure Fair
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 119
I'll be the first to admit that The Pleasure Fair' 1967 album may not be the most creative thing you've ever heard, but there's something about "The Pleasure Fair" that seems to perfectly captures that particular moment in time.
The band's brief history actually reads like a Hollywood script waiting to be auction off. Tim Hallinan and Robb Royer met while attending California State University at Northridge (then known as San Fernando Valley State College). Sharing an interest in music the two started writing and playing together as Robb & Tim (clever name). The line up was expanded with the addition of vocalist Michelle Cochrane (they renamed themselves The We Three) and then added CSUN graduate Stephen Cohn on lead guitar (he'd actually majored in classical guitar).
left to right: Robb Royer - Tim Hallinan - Michelle Cochrane - Steve Cohn
As The Pleasure Fair the group's initial break came when Troubadour owner Doug Weston signed on as the group's manager. With his support they started to play L.A. clubs, eventually getting signed to Hanna Barbera's short lived record label. Produced by Snuff Garrett and released in 1966 under the name The Rainy Day People, they made their recording debut with:
'Junior Executive' b/w 'I'm Telling It To You' (HBR catalog number HBR 512)
While the single did little commercially, it attracted the attention of manager Arnie Mills and ultimately MCA Records Uni subsidiary which promptly signed the quartet. Produced and arranged by a young David Gates, the ground made their debut with:
1967's 'Morning Glory Days' b/w 'Fade In Fade Out' (Uni catalog number 55016)
Once again the single did little (in his blog Hallinan jokingly says it was played on the radio once), but Uni went ahead and released a supporting album - 1967's "The Pleasure Fair". At least to my ears the album's interesting on multiple levels, including the fact Uni allowed the band to record their own material. I'm not sure if that was a reflection of Uni's faith in the Cohn - Hallinan - Royer songwriting team, or pure indifference on the label's part, but is was certainly rare for 1967 and an unknown quantity like The Pleasure Fair. Regardless, showcasing a mixture of eight originals rounded out by four covers, this set manages to encapsulate that unique mid-1960s L.A.-based folk rock sound. Showcasing Cochrane's surprisingly accomplished voice and the group's stellar harmony vocals, at its best ('Turnaway' and 'Fade In Fade Out'), the collection managed to blend catchy pop melodies with ornate and creative arrangements and an occasional touch of pop-psych experimentation ('Nursery Rhyme'). It wasn't a perfect collection with way too many tracks falling victim to bland MOR arrangements ('Remember Who I Am' and 'Barefoot In The Park'). but anyone who enjoyed The Association, The Free Design, The Mamas and the Papas, Spanky and Our Gang, etc. was probably going to enjoy this set as well.
Pleasure Fair" track listing:
1.) Stay Around For The Good Times (Robb Royer - Tim Hallinan - Steve Cohn) - 2:31 rating; *** stars
If you like that classic mid-1967s L.A. folk-rock sound (think The Mamas and the Papas, Spanky and Our Gang), you should enjoy the harmony rich ''Stay Around For The Good Times'. Yeah, today it sounds quite MOR, but the track had a nice melody and showcased the group's sugary sweet harmonies.
2.) Turnaway (Robb Royer - Tim Hallinan - Steve Cohn) - 2:01 rating: **** stars
Complete with harpsichord (I'm a sucker for the instrument), 'Turnaway' featured some of the album's prettiest vocal harmonies. Very intricate and almost classical in stature. Great tune.
3.) Come To The Sunshine (Van Dyke Parks) - 2:58 rating: ** stars
'Come To the Sunshine' was the first cover (Van Dyke Parks) and the first disappointment. Opening up with a cheesy faux Vaudevillian flavor, he song quickly morphed into a forgettable slice of pop. Would have made a dandy theme song for a forgettable television comedy.
4.) Nursery Rhyme (Robb Royer - Tim Hallinan - Steve Cohn) - 2:29 rating: **** stars
A glorious slice of sunshine pop with just a hint of psych embedded in it, 'Nursery Rhyme' had a driving melody, sly social commentary lyrics, and some of the album's best harmony arrangements. I would have picked this one as the single ...
5.) Remember Who I Am (Robb Royer - Tim Hallinan - Steve Cohn) - 2:10 rating: ** stars
A pretty, but heavily orchestrated and slightly anonymous ballad, 'Remember Who I Am' was chiefly notable for showcasing Cochrane on lead vocals.
6.) Barefoot In The Park (Johnny Mercer - N. Hefti) - 2:04 rating: ** stars
Well, at least their cover of 'Barefoot In The Park' was short and forgettable. I'll blame this one of Uni management forcing the group to appeal to middle class audiences.
An ornate, heavily orchestrated ballad, as mentioned above, tapped as the lead off single, perhaps unintentionally 'Morning Glory Days' had a slightly lysergic tinge that made for interesting listening.
2.) Fade In Fade Out (Robb Royer - Tim Hallinan - Steve Cohn) - 2:16 rating: **** stars
While it offered up another slice of heavily arranged pop, 'Fade In Fade Out' stood as one of the album's most interesting arrangements with what almost sounded like a jazzy edge. Nice oboe and I'd love to know who was beating the crap out of the drums ... they almost sounded like gunshots going off.
3.) East West (Graham Gouldman) - 2:15 rating: ** stars
Redone with a waltz edge, their cover of Graham Gouldman's 'East West' wasn't anything special, though it was better than the Herman's Hermits version.
4.) The Things We Said Today (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 2:57 rating: **** stars
Probably the album's biggest surprise, Cochrane's energetic lead vocal gave their cover of The Beatles' 'The Things We Said Today' a nifty edge.
5.) Talk (D. Gere - Ssteve Cohn) - 2:00 rating; *** stars
With an elaborate vocal arrangement and some Baroque horns, 'Talk' was more Free Design than Mamas and the Papas. Guess that's why I gave it the extra star.
6.) Put It Out Of Your Mind (Robb Royer - Tim Hallinan - Steve Cohn) - 2:05 rating; *** stars
With a catchy melody and their patented harmonies, the album closed with what may have been the set's most straightforward commercial song - 'Put It Out Of Your Mind'.
A nice mid-1960s timepiece full of sweetness and hope ... easy to see why people become nostalgic for the era.
The group released one non-LP follow-up and then called it quits:
1968's 'I'm Gonna Have to Let You Go' b/w 'Today' (Uni catalog number 55078)
For anyone interested, a couple of the band members are online.
Halliman drifted into a career as a mystery writer and has a blog which includes a nice piece about a 2011 reunion of the members and what life held for them post Pleasure Fair:
Royer went on to enjoy success as a founding member of the band Bread. He eventually turned his attention to songwriting, moving to Nashville where he's the owner of NashFilms Records. Here's a link to the company's website: http://nashfilmsrecords.com/index.html
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