Serpent Power, The

Band members               Related acts

- Clark Coolidge -- drums (1966-67)

- Denny Ellis -- lead guitar (1966-67)

- David Meltzer -- vocals, guitar, harmonica (1966-67)

- Tina Meltzer -- vocals (1966-67)

- John Payne -- keyboards (1966-67)

- Jean-Paul Pickens -- banjo (1966-67)

- David Stenson -- bass (1966-67)


- The Loving Spoonful (Denny Ellis and David Stenson)

- Tina and David Meltzer (solo efforts)

- Tina Meltzer (solo efforts)

- Jean-Paul Pickens (solo efforts)


Genre: psych

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Serpent Power

Company: Vanguard

Catalog: VSD-79252

Year: 1967

Country/State: San Francisco, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: small promo stamp on the back cover

Available: 1

GEMM Catalog ID: 4798

Price: $100.00


Oh crap, another poet-turned-wannabe-rock-star ...  Well, guess what?  This time around its not the aural disaster you'd expect!  In fact, this is one of the better early San Francisco psych efforts.  Even better, an original pressing is still affordable!

By the mid-60s' San Francisco-based David Meltzer had achieved some notariety for his work as a poet.  1966 found Metlzer and his wife Tina deciding to try their hands at music.  Recruiting a band that included buddy/fellow writer/drummer Clark Coolidge, lead guitarist Denny Ellis, keyboardist John Payne, banjo player Jean-Paul Pickens and bassist David Stenson, they began playing local clubs and events, including North Beach's Coffee Gallery and Deno and Carlo's.  One of their first shows attracted the attention of Country Joe and the Fish manager Ed Denton, who brought the band to the attention of Vanguard Records (Country Joe's label).

No doubt helped by the fact Ellis and Stenson had previously recorded with The Lovin' Spoonful, 1967's "The Serpent Power" proved a surprisingly accomplished and impressive debut.  With David penning all ten tracks, musically the set bounced all over the genre spectrum, including stabs at country-rock ("Sky Baby"), pop ("Up And Down"), blues ("Nobody Blues") and West Coast-styled psych ("Gently, Gently").  Both David and Tina were decent singers, though occasionally sounding a bit like an Americanized Sandy Denny, Tina was particularly impressive (check out her performance on the beautiful "Flying Away").  To our ears highlights included the rocking "Don't You Listen To Her" and the extended psychedelic closer "Endless Tunnel".  By the way, drawn from his book The Dark Continent, you can read some of David's poetry on the back cover.  It didn't do much for us ...


"The Serpent Power" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Don't You Listen To Her   (David Meltzer) - 2:20

2.) Gently, Gently   (David Meltzer) - 2:36

3.) Open House   (David Meltzer) - 3:31

4.) Flying Away   (David Meltzer) - 4:26

5.) Nobody Blues   (David Meltzer) - 3:49


(side 2)

1.) Up And Down   (David Meltzer) - 3:37

2.) Sky Baby   (David Meltzer) - 2:31

3.) Forget   (David Meltzer) - 3:34

4.) Dope Again   (David Meltzer) - 0:47

5.) Endless Tunnel   (David Meltzer) - 13:13


With Serpent Power calling it quits, the Meltzer's reappeared as solo act with 1969's "Poet Song".  The following year they recorded a second solo effort "Green Morning", however Capitol Records shelved the project, where it sat until 1998.  Tina's also recorded on her own, including a 1984 children's album ("Faces (New Songs for Kids)").


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