Band members               Related acts

- Curt Boettcher (RIP 1987) -- vocals, keyboards, guitar

- Glenn Campbell -- vocals, guitar

- Ron Edgar -- drums

- Mike Fennelly -- guitar

- Bruce Johnston -- vocals, guitar

- Doug Rhodes -- keyboards, guitar

- Sandy Salsbury -- vocals

- Joey Stec -- vocals

- Gary Usher (RIP 1990) -- vocals, keyboards




- Ballroom (Gary Usher)

- Curt Boettcher (solo efforts)

- Crabby Appleton (Mike Fennelly)

- Goldebriars (Curt Boetcher)

- Millennium (Curt Boetcher)

- Bruce Johnston (solo efforts)

- The Music Machine (Ron Edgar,  Keith Olsen and 

  Doug Rhodes)

- Sandy Salsbury (solo efforts)

- Joey Stec (solo efforts)

- Gary Usher (solo efforts)






Genre: pop

Rating: 5 stars *****

Title:  Present Tense

Company: Columbia

Catalog: CS-9964 (stereo)

Year: 1968

Country/State: California

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: minor ring wear; demo stamp on back cover

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 5362

Price: $75.00


The late Gary Usher's a fascinating guy and someday I'm going to have to spend some time looking into his early career which includes slews of surf and drag racing themed releases.  He's basically done everything - writer (including serving as an early Brian Wilson collaborator), producer, label owner and an artist in his own rite.

It may be little more than one of those music industry myths, but the story goes that Sagittarius traces its roots to 1967 and Usher's stint as a producer.  Working with Chad and Jeremy he supposedly became frustrated with the duo's unwillingness to record outside material including a John Carter/The Ivy League song that he thought had more commercial potential than some of their original material.  With Chad and Jeremy passing on 'My World Fell Down', Usher gather together some friends, including studio musicians Glen Campbell and Bruce Johnson and recorded the track himself.  Credited to 'Sagittarius', Usher subsequently placed the song with Columbia Records which quickly released the song as a single - 'My World Fell Down' b/w 'Libra' (Columbia catalog number 4-34163).  With Beach Boys sidekick Glen Campbell on lead vocals (Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher on backing vocals), the result was a wonderful slice of sunshine pop with a strange 'musique concrete' bridge.  With the song hitting the top-100 Columbia subsequently asked Sagittarius/Usher to tour in support of the song.  Discovering that Sagittarius was a studio entity, Columbia green-lighted a follow-up 45 'Hotel Indiscreet' b/w 'Virgo' (instrumental) (Columbia catalog number 4-44289) and a supporting album.

First I'll be honest and spell out my personal biases - as a big fan of sunshine pop I consider 1968's "Present Tense" to be one of those rare albums that lives up to the hype surrounding it and deserves to be considered a true lost classic.  Usher recorded the album with a big assist from  former Goldenbriars/Ballroom front man Curt Boettcher (the two reportedly met while Boettcher was recording an album with the band Ballroom and Usher was working in a neighboring studio with Brian Wilson) and a collection of studio friends including Campbell, Johnston, guitarist Mike Fennelly, and singer Joey Stec.  As was standard marketing procedure the album offered up a mixture of the earlier singles (Columbia president Clive Davis demanded that they be included in drastically abridged versions - the experimental instrumental segments were deleted) and new studio material.  If you had to categorize the collection it was probably best described as sunshine pop, though that's a misnomer given the set's cfoss-genre charms.  Given their collective musical backgrounds which including working with such name acts as The Association (whose group harmonies were aptly mimicked throughout the set), The Beach Boys, and The Byrds, nobody should have been surprised to discover that Boettcher and Usher were capable of effortlessly penning insidiously catchy material.  Simply try to escape the hook filled clutches of 'Song To the Magic Frog (Will You Ever Know)' or 'Would You Like To Go'.  The album should have carried a warning sticker since virtually every one of the eleven tracks was hopelessly addictive.  That said, the pair were also interested in pushing the musical boundaries via elaborate orchestration, sound effects, and occasional subtle acid influences.  When those divergent elements came together (witness the raga flavored 'Glass' or the out and out psychedelic closer 'The Keeper of the Games' the results were truly memorable.  Elsewhere while the liner notes lacked performance credits Boettcher apparently handled most of the vocals, while Usher's heavily treated voice was featured on 'Truth Is Not Real'. Elsewhere Columbia tapped the album for a series of three follow-on singles:


- 1968's 'Another Time' b/w 'Pisces' (instrumental) (Columbia catalog number 4-44398)

- 1968's 'Truth Is Not Real' b/w 'You Know I Found a Way' (Columbia catalog number 4-44503)

- 1968's 'Keeper of the Games' b/w 'I'm Not Living Here' (Columbia catalog number 4-44613)


Unfortunately with little promotional support the parent album did little commercially.  (Anyone into sunshine pop or "Smile" era Beach Boys simply owes it to themselves to own this album.  Again, a must-own classic.)


"Present Tense" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Another Time   (Curt Boettcher) - 

2.) Song To the Magic Frog (Will You Ever Know)   (Curt Boettcher - M. O. Malley) - 

3.) I Know I've Found a Way   (Curt Boettcher - Lee Mallory) - 

4.) The Keeper of the Games   (Curt Boettcher) - 

5.) Glass   (L. Marks - E. Sheldon) - 

6.) Would You Like To Go   (Curt Boettcher - G. Alexander) - 


(side 2)
1.) My World Fell Down   (John Carter - Geoff Stephens) - 

2.) Hotel Indiscreet   (Michael Z. Dordon - James A. Griffin) - 

3.) I'm Not Living Here   (Curt Boettcher) - 

4.) Musty Dusty   (Curt Boettcher) - 

5.) Truth Is Not Real   (Gary Usher) - 


1997 saw the Sundazed label reissue the LP in CD format with seven bonus tracks (Sundazed catalog number SC 11053):


1.) Artificial Light (Of All the Living Lies)

2.) Get the Message

3.) Mass #586

4.) Love's Fatal Way

5.) Lonely Girl 

6.) The Keep of the Games (demo version)

7.) Sister Marie



Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Blue Marble

Company: Together

Catalog: STT-1002

Year: 1969

Country/State: California

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: minor ring wear; promo copy

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: 5363

Price: $50.00


Increasingly unhappy with Columbia Records, in 1969 Usher left the label, setting up his own Together label.  His first project was a sophomore Sagittarius LP.  


Initially 1969's "Blue Marble" didn't strike me as being all that different from the debut LP.  Sunny California pop, it's one of those album that you'll either love, or run screaming from. (I fall in the former category.)  That said, multiple hearings underscored some significant differences from the debut.  On the first album Millennium's Curt Boettcher was responsible for writing much of the material.  This time out Gary Usher moved into the forefront. In addition to producing most of the set, Usher handled most of the lead vocals and was credited with writing most of the ten tracks.  Partner/buddy Boettcher was represented by one track - 'From You Unto Others'.  While material like 'Gladys' and in spite of a bad synthesizer pattern 'Lend Me a Smile' was prime late-1960s sunshine pop, the other big difference was Usher's discovery of the Moog synthesizer.  While a cutting edge effect in 1969,several decades down the road it made for a very dated sound.  Occasionally sounding like a bad Atari game ('I Sing My Song'), Usher's ham fisted use of the synthesizer didn't exactly endear some of the songs.  So what were the highlights?  Originally co-written with Brian Wilson, Usher's cover of 'In My Room' with Boettcher on lead vocals was nothing short of wonderful.  'Will You Ever See Me' was a harmony rich country ballad for people who don't like country and the title track made for a surprisingly effective pro-environmental statement.   Released as a single 'In My Room' b/w the non-LP side 'Navajo Girl' (Together catalog number T-105) went top-100. Unfortunately Tomorrow quickly ran into financial problems..  With little promotional support the LP quickly vanished.



Ah, talk about optimism.  This is lifted from the LP liner notes:


Suspended with grace in a sea of black velvet hangs the blue marble. Slowly it revolves, warming its sides against a cosmic furnace. It is but an oasis in an empty desert of black sand, a garden in the infinite fertileness of time.
It is bound by universal laws that are as mystifying and magnificent as its mountains and seas. Yet that which is on it, is bound by nothing except the will to say I am. As the universal constant strikes it with wave after wave it is all we see in the blue pacific as we lie under white spiraling clouds; in the sand playing marbles.
Gary Usher


"Blue Marble" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) In My Room   (Gary Usher - Brian Wilson) - 2:09

2.) From You Unto Us   (Curt Boettcher) - 1:47

3.) Will You Ever See Me   (Gary Usher) - 2:14

4.) Gladys   (Gary Usher - J. Piersol) - 2:46

5.) I Sing My Song   (M. O'Mally - D. Adams) - 2:45


(side 2)
1.) The Blue Marble   (Gary Usher - L. Mallory) - 2:59

2.) Lend Me a Smile   (Gary Usher) - 3:11

3.) I Still Can See Your Face   (Gary Usher) - 2:42

4.) I See In You   (Gary Usher) - 3:14

5.) Cloud Talk   (Gary Usher) - 2:42


One final non-LP single and Sagittarius came to an end:


- 1969's 'I Guess the Lord Must Be In New York City' b/w 'I Can Still See Your Face' (Together catalog number T-122)



In 2001 the British Poptones label reissued the LP in CD format (Poptones catalog number MC 5036).  The CD included five bonus tracks:


1.) I Guess the Lord Must Be In New York City

2.) Navajo Girl

3.) In My Room (alternate version)

4.) I Can Still See Your Face (alternate version)

5.) Will You Ever See Me (alternate version)


Only 51, Usher died of lung cancer in 1990.




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