Wish I knew more about this guy, if only due to the fact his 1970 LP stands as one
of my favorite discoveries of 2004 - certainly my favorite double LP over the
last couple of years. That
said, I'll readily admit initially being a little skeptical of this one.
Most of the online reviews I'd seen were rather lukewarm and for goodness
sake it was a double LP ... c'mon, when's the last time you were knocked over
by a double LP?
Smith was apparently a member of various Los Angeles-based bands including
The Lid and Silverskin. It would also be interesting to learn how he
came to be signed by the L.A.-based Kent Records which was better known for
it's R&B recording roster. Although
1970's "The Visit"
featured support from eight musicians (including Darryl Dragon (credited as
Captain Keyboard)) and Mothers of Invention keyboardist Don Preston), the focus was clearly on namesake Bob Smith. In addition
to handling all of the vocals and lead guitar, Smith wrote all 14 tracks,
arranged, directed, and along with Mark Taylor, co-produced the
album. Musically the set was quite diverse, taking credible
stabs at pop, blues ('Source You Blues'), hard rock, psych, jazz ('Ocean Song') and even occasional detours into
outright experimentation. Luckily aural experiments such as the
instrumental 'Indian Summer' were far and few between, leaving most
of the set with a surprisingly commercial sheen. Exemplified by tracks
like the harpsichord-propelled 'Please' and 'The
Wishing Song' Smith had one of
those flexible and likable voices that allowed him to find a nice balance
between commercial and non-commercial moves. Material like 'Constructive Critique' and 'Source Your Blues'
also demonstrated Smith was quite an accomplished guitarist. Personal favorites included the
opener 'Please', 'Don't Tell Lady Tonight' and the scorching rocker 'Can You
Jump Rope'. (Anyone seen the John Kress poster insert that came with the
album? It's supposedly quite cool.) Bottom line;
this one's a keeper
that should be in every psych collector's stash.
cover: top row right to left: Dragon - Latini - Keiser - Preston
row right to left: Schneider - Degreve - Curtis - Chapman
So that's what I
wrote some six years ago. Literally a day after I posted those
comments, someone read the review and bought my copy of the LP. Since
that time it's stood as one of those rare LPs I wish I'd held onto.
Well, as fate would have it, I bought a replacement copy and almost
immediately stumbled across another copy at a yard sale. Needless to
say, I threw myself at the record and wasted no time revisiting it (no pun
intended). For what they're worth, my updated comments and thoughts
are found below.
Kicked along by harpsichord, some nice bass moves from Latini, and Smith's
fuzz guitar, the mid-tempo ballad 'Please' has always reminded me of a bit
of The Association on an extended acid kick. In part due to the nice
harmony vocals, the song was surprisingly commercial, but it also exhibited
a distinctive lysergic edge. Nice way to start the album.
rating: **** stars
Maybe it's just my damaged ears, but on 'Don't Tell
Lady Tonight' Smith's voice recalled something Michael Nesmith might have
recorded on a post-Monkees album. 'Course Nesmith's never recorded a
song that rocked as hard, nor turned in a blazing solo like the one that
graced this song. rating: **** stars
Critique' had two things going for it: 1.) one of the album's
prettiest melodies, 2.) one of the album's best lead guitar solos.
rating: **** stars
The first disappointment, 'Ocean
Song;' sounded like an in-studio jam that was included to pad out the double
album set. Ponderous and ill-focused, the combination of Smith's
lengthy, jazz-tinged solo, some lame spoken word lyrics ("my
love is the sun for all to see; my love if the spring after winter's flow..."),
and irritating ocean sound effects made this one to forget.
rating: ** stars
Side two opened up with what was probably the album's most commercial song -
'Wishing Well'. The song started out as a pretty acoustic ballad,
before morphing into a platform for an extended Smith fuzz guitar
solo. It's bugged me for years, but on this performance Smith's voice
always reminded me of some top-40 act ... it'll come to me
rating: *** stars
better, 'Can You
Rope' was a catchy rocker in spite of the fact it featured a weird time
signature and flutes. To my ears this one sounded like something David
Crosby might have recorded with CSN&Y ... The track featured
another tasty Smith guitar solo. rating:
While I liked the song, 'Latter Days Matter' had some clunky lyrics
and about halfway through the song morphed from catchy pop number, to jazzy
jam, and then back to pop number. The sudden changes were
somewhat jarring.. rating: ** stars
was a rather discordant instrumental ... Complete with what
sounded like freak out sitar, clunky keyboards, synthesizer burps and chirps,
and a persistent police siren in the background, it would have fit well in
the acid meltdown scene from one of those 1960s 'B' flicks where the hero accidentally
gets heavily dosed with bad acid and goes stumbling through alleys
... Clocking in at almost eight minutes, this one quickly got
rating: ** stars
While I've never been a big blues fan, after surviving the painful 'Indian
Summer', 'Source You Blues' sounded pretty friggin' good. Yeah, it was
a rather pedestrian blues number and to be honest, Smith didn't really have
a great blue-styled voice, but the song and performance (particularly
Smith's meltdown lead guitar), were 100 times better than the earlier discordant
Dedicated to the Elmore James, 'Sunlight Sweet' slapped together a acid
tinged melody with some heavily
treated vocals and Smith's James-styled acoustic slide guitar. Definitely
one of the stranger songs on the LP.
rating: *** stars
'Of She, Of
Things' was a nifty country-rock number. Great vocal, great melody,
and nice effects laden solo ... rating:
Kicked along by John Latini's amazing bass line and
Larry Chapman somewhat irritating violin, 'Mobeda
Dandelion; was easily the album's funkiest offering. The title was
somewhat cryptic since the entire lyric was Smith singing 'moving on down
the line' on and on ...
rating: *** stars
Another likeable and commercial country-rocker,
Stan Keiser's flute gave 'The Path Does
Have Force' kind of Marshall Tucker Band vibe. Okay, maybe not a great
comparison, but it's what came to mind. Regardless of whether you
agree with the comparison it was a very nice performance.
rating: *** stars
I've always liked the closer 'Try, Try To
Understand Yourself' due in large part to the fact it was so damn
weird - imagine a top-40 pop song, with fuzz guitar, jazzy xylophone
backing, and uplifting hippy dippy self help lyrics. Very much an
early 1970s timepiece, but quite cool.
rating: **** stars
also stumbled Across a January 2000 interview Smith did with a Florida
newspaper where he talked about the album explaining it as: "It
was supposed to evoke every human emotion, from philosophical pondering on
two beers to whether their love life was successful and where they fit into
the big picture. It was supposed to change the world.'' You
can see the entire interview below.
"The Visit" track listing:
(Bob Smith) - 2:08
2.) Don't Tell
Lady Tonight (Bob Smith) - 3:10
Critique (Bob Smith) - 4:40
Song (Bob Smith) - 4:50
Wishing Song (Bob Smith) - 5:04
2.) Can You Jump
Rope (Bob Smith) - 5:48
3.) Latter Days
Matter (Bob Smith) - 3:29
Indian Summer (instrumental)
(Bob Smith) - 7:55
Source You Blues
(Bob Smith) - 6:02
Sunlight Sweet (Bob Smith) -
1.) Of She, Of
Things (Bob Smith) - 3:16
Dandelion (Bob Smith) - 3:13
3.) The Path Does
Have Force (Bob Smith) - 5:23
4.) Try, Try To
Understand Yourself (Bob Smith) - 4:14
There's also a 1990s Swiss CD reissue (on Virgo Records catalog CD1518),
which may be a bootleg and apparently suffers from crappy sound quality.
In 2000 Raymond
Dumont tracked Smith down and signed a deal to reissue the album on his RD label.
Recorded from the master tapes that Smith had retained,, the result was a
three LP boxed set entitled "Stop
for a Visit Down Electric Avenue" (RD catalog RD6).
The compilation included the
original double LP, plus a third album of material drawn from two
subsequent, never-released LPs (1971's "Stop" and 1972's
"Electric Avenue"). The package also included a copy of the poster original found in
Living in Orlando,
Florida, the reissues were apparently enough to motivate Smith to start
performing again. Forming The Visit (), he started playing local clubs
and recorded another album on his own Southern Rose label - "The
Visit - Destiny 2000" Anyone seen, or heard
internet is an amazing communication vehicle. My original comments on
this album indicated I wanted to know more about the band. Lo and
behold, I got an email from bassist John Latini.
early background included touring and played bass with an R&B singer by
the name Johnny Daye. Daye recorded for Stax and was considered by
some to be one of the greatest blue-eyed soul singers. Supporting Daye
I did concerts opening for The Staple Singers, Alex Chilton and The
Box Tops, etc. With a 30 minute rehearsal, I even got a chance to
back up The Marvelettes at a concert.
in early 1969 Bob Smith, James Curtis, Mike Degreve and I hung out together for
about a year and half. At the time
Mike [ Degreve] and I were recording "The Visit" we were in
actually in another group. That group
was called Truth, and it included a husband and wife from New
York who were singers
and actors. The vocals sounded similar to The Mama &
Papas. We had an album on James Brown's People label, which was run by former
Motown Vice President Mickey Stevenson who was dabbling in "hippie" (for
lack of a better word), type music,
after he moved to LA. We did a promo concert at the Palladium in
Hollywood, with Blue Cheer
and Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids. Unfortunately, the husband and
wife split from each other and
that group went by the wayside. That's an album you might want to look for. I'm sure it's hard to find.
It had a lot of Eastern Religion ideas combined with 60's social stuff,
mixed with oddball songs
and even a touch of Southern Gospel.
"The Visit" liner notes only show him as playing hand drums
(congas), James Curtis was the original drummer, along with Bob Smith on
vocals, and guitar and myself on bass. The three of us developed a lot
of the basic arrangements for most of the album's songs like 'Can You Jump
Rope', 'Of She of Things', 'Don't Tell Lady Tonight' and others. We
played clubs in Hollywood like The Experience (where Hendrix frequently
jammed) and met a bunch of acts including Alice Cooper when they were just a
local act playing the Whiskey on the Strip. We almost got signed with
ATCO Records and actually met in the 9000 building to discuss a record deal
which would have put us along side such acts as Iron Butterfly. At the
time we had a lead singer with an operatic styled voice. After the
ATCO deal fell apart Bob decided to do his album, asking me to play bass.
couple of other recording tidbits. A few days before we started
recording my 1963
Fender Precision bass was stolen from my apartment in Hollywood. I
rushed out and rented and eight string bass which had a warped neck and was
extremely hard to play.
Darryl Dragon played
keyboards under the name 'Captain Keyboard' Dragon later
became the Captain of 'Captain & Tennille fame. We rehearsed for
"The Visit' at Darryl's home in the San Fernando Valley right after
he returned from an Australian tour backing The Beach Boys (he was he keyboardist who made that eerie
sound on the Beach Boys song 'Good Vibrations'). Don Preston used a Mellotron on
many of the songs.
The much sought after
poster was done by an artist named John Kress. Kress was known for
doing these amazing collage artworks
and sold his works like paintings around LA. back in those days.
I still play bass part time around the
California area and work on musical projects here and there."
John Latini (April 2005)
a copy of the January 2000 Orlando Sentinel interview with
Bob Smith had been
writing and playing country songs most of his life, except for the rogue
'60s and early '70s when he was grinding out psychedelic rock 'n' roll in
wild and freaky Los Angeles.
He had recorded enough
mind-bending music to fill 10 albums, but only one made it onto vinyl.
In 1970, now-defunct
Kent Records of L.A. gave the talented young guitarist the key to the
studio. For four months he was given the artistic freedom that most
struggling musicians only dream about
The result was The Visit
from Bob Smith, a double album filled with introspective and poetic
messages about life and love delivered in a hailstorm of jingle-jangle
guitar, lilting flute and violin and whirling keyboard sounds.
The Visit was recorded
with top-notch musicians, including Daryl Dragon of Captain & Tennille
fame, and was distributed worldwide. But it didn't reach the level of the
psychedelic powerhouses - the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane
or the legendary Jimi Hendrix.
Smith never received a
royalty check as The Visit faded into obscurity. He recorded two
subsequent albums of psychedelic music, but neither was released.
As the '70s turned into
the '80s, Smith yearned for a more stable family life. He moved his family
to Deltona in 1985, set up Southern Rose Recordings in his house and began
cataloging the 300 country tunes he had written. In 1997, he produced a
country CD called Love Don't Burn.
Smith wore cowboy boots,
drove a pickup and earned a living playing country music in local bars.
The youthful psychedelic guitarist Bob Smith was gone. He had become Buck
The Visit was forgotten
- or so Smith thought.
In Europe, The Visit
from Bob Smith had become a cult classic - a vinyl collectible in great
demand by lovers of obscure psychedelic music and memorabilia.
Since the mid-1970s, a
legend shrouded in mystery had grown up around the album and the
long-haired guitarist pictured on the cover of The Visit, surrounded by
Was Bob Smith the real
name of the musician who produced this spiritual, supernatural
masterpiece, or was a common name chosen to represent the universal man?
Rumors spread that it was the work of renowned Finnish guitarist Garrett
As collectors debated
the existence of Bob Smith, the legend grew - and with it the popularity
of The Visit from Bob Smith. The original album and colorful, mystical
poster insert was commanding up to $400.
Smith knew nothing about
all of this until one day in November 1997 when a man named Raymond Dumont
called from Graenichen, Switzerland.
The past echoed in
Dumont's first words, ``Is this Bob Smith, from The Visit?''
``He had been looking
for me for five years because he heard a rumor that I was a real person,''
said Smith, 53. ``I was a mythological character. Everybody wanted to know
whether I was for real.
Dumont, a chemist by
profession, said in a phone interview from Switzerland that he had become
increasingly attracted to the pure artistry evident in the psychedelic
music in the '60s and '70s. Tracking the musicians became a hobby for him.
``I was interested in
obscure recordings - that means records that didn't make it,'' he said.
``There are albums that I don't know of and you don't know of, but they
are fantastic. The artists did something for themselves. It is not
A BREAK IN WYOMING
He was particularly
interested in Smith because of the peculiar legend surrounding The Visit.
``I wanted to find out
who this Bob Smith was. His name sounded so normal I thought it was a
pseudonym,'' Dumont said.
``There are a lot of
mysteries in this music - the '60s and '70s obscure music. On a whole lot
of these albums, you have absolutely no information about who is behind
the music. Maybe you have the name, some song titles, but nothing about
Dumont, 43, had heard
the rumors that Bob Smith was actually the Finnish guitarist.
``Garrett Lund made a
fantastic album in the mid-'70s in California. If you look at the picture
on his album and compare that to the photo of Smith, you can well pretend
that it's the same guy - although in the '60s and '70s a lot of guys
looked the same way,'' he said.
About three years ago,
Dumont tracked Stan Keiser, who played on The Visit, but the flutist had
lost touch with the other musicians. The contact only intensified his
interest. He kept searching.
Finally he stumbled
across the phone number of rhythm guitarist Mike DeGreve in Cheyenne, Wyo.
DeGreve had kept in touch with Smith and gave his home telephone number to
A BREAK IN WYOMING
the years, Dumont had turned his hobby into a sideline, releasing old
psychedelic music under the RD Records label. He and Smith struck a deal
to compile a three-album compilation that includes The Visit and two
subsequent albums - The Stop and Electric Avenue - that never were
released. It also includes a copy of the original poster. The package,
which retails for about $65, is called Stop for a Visit Down Electric
They now are working on
another package that will combine two of Smith's first albums - The Lid
and The Lid II.
UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY
As it turns out,
collectors were hunting The Visit and trying to unravel the mystery of Bob
Smith on both sides of the ocean.
``At the same time record
collectors in Europe were looking for copies of The Visit, record collectors
in the U.S. also were looking for copies of The Visit,'' said Stan Denski of
Aether Records in Indianapolis, the U.S. manufacturer and distributor for RD
Records. ``That reputation developed on both sides of the ocean and in Japan
at the same time.''
U.S. collectors doubted
the existence of Bob Smith just as their European counterparts had.
``One guy on the East
Coast had a theory that he had worked out - that there was really no Bob
Smith, that it was really Thomas Pynchon, the novelist,'' Denski said.
``Pynchon is notoriously reclusive.''
Denski said collectors
focused on hard-to-find psychedelic music made until the late-1970s. When
Punk Rock became popular, a network of small shops popped up throughout
America. Small bands no longer had trouble marketing their music.
What the obscure records
have in common is an unfiltered emotion that attracts collectors.
``When it gets commercial,
usually the thrill is gone,'' Dumont said. ``The artist is unfiltered. The
emotions and the feelings are just as he wanted it to be and that's
fascinating and that's different from the mainstream you hear on the
Denski, 47, said he most
appreciates the unfettered amateurism apparent in much of the collectible
``To me it's a struggle
with articulation,'' he said. ``Most of these people are in their teens and
20s, and they are struggling to articulate something - the big answers to
the big questions.''
The Visit was more
professionally done but still captured the struggle to articulate, he said.
`THE VISIT' - A SEQUEL
That's pretty much how
Smith explained The Visit: ``It was supposed to evoke every human emotion,
from philosophical pondering on two beers to whether their love life was
successful and where they fit into the big picture,'' he said. ``It was
supposed to change the world.''
This newfound popularity
may be all part of a lost world of rock 'n' roll subculture, but it has
changed Bob Smith.
He is no longer Buck
Smith. He is back in the bars playing classic rock and doing quite well.
last thing to add - sadly Smith died from
a heart attack in 2007.
And another member
of the Bob Smith extended family checks in ...
was just reading your article on Bob. I was co-manager of this group when
the first LP dropped. I do have a few sealed copies, on the Kent Label
still. These are not promo LP's but ones we took from shipping. They all
have the foldout mural in the insert. Yes, I have been offered in excess of
$400.00 for one. I also have the Silverskin acetate that was recorded at
Columbia Studio's before the name change. I doubt there is another one in
existence at this time. It has been played rarely and packed away for a long
time. I read Bob passed away, that's too bad. I had talked to him prior to
this about re-releasing this LP but we couldn't come to an agreement on how
things would work.