Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1972-72)

- Jock Davis - bass

- Baird Hersey - lead guitar

- Kim Ornitz - vocals 

- Ricky Slater - drums, percussion



- FX (Baird Hersey)

- Baird Hersey (solo efforts)

- ODO OP8FX (Baird Hersey)

- The Year of the Ear (Baird Hersey)





Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Swampgas

Company: Buddah

Catalog: BDS-5102

Year: 1972

Country/State: Long Island, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2223

Price: $100.00

Cost: $66.00


Other than this little review, good luck finding much information about this band on line, let alone actually finding a copy of the LP ...  It took me a year to get my hands on a copy.


Originally the only biographical stuff I could up with on this outfit came from the liner notes accompanying 1972's "Swampgas".  The line up consisted of bassist Jock Davis, guitarist Baird Hersey, singer Kim Ornitz and drummer Ricky Slater.  The album was recorded at New York's A&R Studios, with Artie Kornfeld and the band co-producing.  


With Hersey serving as the prime writer (he was credited with penning seven of the eight tracks), the album was quite diverse and impressive.  This comparison probably won't trigger everyone's imagination or interest, but on material such as the molten opener 'Potato Strut' and 'Trapped In The City' the combination of Ornitz's grizzly drawl and Hersey's guitar recalled 38 Special, or Skynyrd had they been interested in pursuing a tougher, mildly psychedelic and progressive sound.  Hersey's licks also made it an album that should have appealed to folks who liked Hendrix-influenced guitar (check out the blazing Southern rocker-tinged 'Eulogy' and the way he saved 'Pala').  The handful of ballads were equally impressive - 'The Waiting, E Train Blue'.  Weirdest (and coolest) track here - the raga influenced 'Egg Shells' !!!   It's one of those album's that wasn't particularly psychedelic. but had an interesting, slightly dark, and lysergic feel.   A great album to play on a cold, dark evening when you just don't want to go deal with the social duties that come with your professional or private life.


As luck would have it, I managed to track down Baird Hersey's email address and after a little hesitation, he was kind enough to provide a little bit of background/history on the band.  With his permission (thanks Mr. Hersey), here are his comments:


"Here is what I can tell you.  We started out near the end of Long Island NY.  About the time we were making the record two records came out with southern roots : Johnny Winter and The James Gang that had certain similarities. I think it's the heavy blues influences: Ray Charles in the vocals early B.B. King and Muddy waters in the guitar, that pulled us in that direction.


We were plucked from obscurity by Artie Kornfeld who was one of the three producers of Woodstock.  His wife saw us at a concert where we opened for the Gratetful Dead.  We made the record, but  Artie's record label had financial troubles. The record looked like it wasn't going to come out which tore the band apart.  About a year after we broke up Buddah Records which was the parent company of Artie's label put the record out without even notifying anyone in the band.  With no support budget and no band to play the music the album floundered and we all slid back into obscurity. 


Have you seen the movie Rock Star? That's gives you a pretty good idea of what we all thought it was going to be like. We worked hard on that record and made the best music that we could. I am glad you like it. We really enjoyed playing it.


I haven't seen any of the band members in more than 30 years. Although I have continued in music my entire life what I do now is very very different.  I have played in rock bands most of my life but also had a big Band (jazz) called The Year of the Ear. We did three records two of them for Arista. It's pretty wild stuff. Did a solo guitar/synth record ODO OP8FX (mellow synths/crunchy guitar) then did a record with a synth band called FX. We were on MTV in the early 80's (There was another jazz group around after us with that same name).  After that I did music for TV for quite a while.  It was a horrifying thought the first time my music aired on TV  (it was the theme for a Magazine show in the Late 80s on ABC out of NYC) that more people heard my music in that one moment that had heard all of the other music I had made in my entire life combined. During that period I had a band called Artificial Intelligence (well before the Movie). Most recently I played guitar and sang with David Hykes. The guy who evolved and pioneered the kind of singing I do now. That was about five years ago. As you can see most of my musical life has been well below the radar."

"Swampgas" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Potato Strut   (Baird Hersey) - 5:05

Opening up with some Baird Hersey heavy metal guitar moves, 'Potato Strut' got the album off to an impressive start.  Molten blues-rock that wasn't particularly original, but captured the genre at its best.  rating: **** stars

2.) Don't   (Baird Hersey) - 4:40
'Don't' found the band taking advantage of Kim Ornitz's growling voice for a track that combined boogie rock with a touch of Steve Cropper-styled soul.    Another nice performance.   rating: *** stars
3.) The Waiting, E Train Blue   (Baird Hersey) - 7:21
'The Waiting, E Train Blue' started out with some nice Baird acoustic guitar moves that have always reminded me of something out of David Crosby's catalog., About a minute into the song it shifted into what could have passed for an early CSN-meets-30 Special tune.  Pretty, with a slightly ominous feel - bassist Jock Davis was the unrecognized hero on this one.   rating: *** stars 
4.) Trapped In The City   (Edlen) - 6:20 
Another molten rocker, though towards the end this one threatened to degenerate into outright jam session.   Probably would have given it another star except for the needless hardcore acoustic blues segment that closed the song.   rating: *** stars

(side 2)
1.) Eulogy   (Baird Hersey) - 3:16

Powered by Ornitz's dry and ragged voice, 'Eulogy' was one of the album's best performances and one of the tracks that most recalled classic Southern rock.   It was also a great example of Hersey's talents.   rating: **** stars

2.) Frolic Child   (Baird Hersey) - 5:39
The country-flavored ballad 'Frolic Child' was the album's first misstep.   Boring and a bit too portentous for their own good.   rating: ** stars
3.) Pala   (Baird Hersey - Kim Ornitz) - 4:40
It opened up with some screaming Hersey lead guitar but then settled into kind of a mundane blues-rock.   Other than Hersey' guitar the results weren't bad, nor were they great.   rating: *** stars
4.) Egg Shells   (Baird Hersey) - 7:07   The opening sounded like this was going to be another country flavored ballad and in fact the first minute and a half were pretty dull.  And then the Indian instrumentation kicked in giving the song a totally different feel.    rating: **** stars

In 2005 the British Radioactive label reissued the album in CD format (catalog number RRCD127).   The released seems to have been without the band's knowledge or cooperation so I'd suggest staying away from it.

Hersey reappeared in the late 1970s/early 1980s with a couple of jazzy/experimental solo efforts.  He continues to perform and record, though judging by a review of one  his recent releases, his interests are a little more eclectic - "... deep and calming meditations with only Tibetan cymbals, reverberation and his voice".  


Ornitz also seems to have remained active in music, though as a producer and sound mixer.  He's worked on literally dozens of movies and film series.  


No idea whatever happened to Davis and Slater ...