Sweet Toothe


Band members                         Related acts

- P.D. (Pierce) Bratton - bass

- Michael Chilco - drums

- Emerson R. Conley - lead guitar

- Michael Hopkins - vocals

- David Leedy - guitar

 

 

- Emerson (Emerson Conley) (solo efforts)

- The Lost Soul (Emerson Conley)

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Testing

Company: Dominion

Catalog: NR 7360

Year: 1975

Country/State: Bluefield, West Virginia

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: top and bottom seams  largely split; original pressing - not one of the 400 Void reissues; LP plays great

Available: SOLD

Catalog ID: SOLD  4

Price: SOLD $275.00

Cost: $66.00

 

Buying rare music is very much a crap game. Many dealers erroneously equate rarity with quality. Add to that the fact dealers are frequently trying to generate a market for their wares ... The end result is that many highly praised rarities are simply not that good.  Line up something as popular and common as "Revolver" against many sky high priced obscurities and guess which one you're more likely to repeatedly listen to ... Against that backdrop, once in a blue moon dealers get it right.  Here's one of those rare instances.

There are literally thousands of bands out their with stories similar to Bluefield, West Virginia's The Sweet Toothe.  You've heard the plotline before - group of buddies record an album for a small private label which pressed a handful of instantly obscure copies; the band then enjoy fifteen minutes of pseudo-fame (in this case opening for a mid-'70s reunited Iron Butterfly), before vanishing into the mists of rock history.  What makes these guys different (bassist Pierce Bratton, drummer Michael Chilco, lead guitarist Emerson Conley, singer Michael Hopkins and rhythm guitarist David Leedy), is the fact their sole album was actually really good.


Produced by Benny Quinn and Patrick Glossop, 1975's "Testing" was  \released by the small Nashville-based Dominion Records.  Interestingly, on those rare occasions it shows up on sales lists, the LP is frequently billed as psychedelic.  It isn't.  Sure, thanks in large measure of Conley's fuzz guitar, there were occasional psych touches, the most notable being the lyric to 'All the Way Home', but the majority of the album offered up more conventional hard rock structures. Propelled by Hopkins' attractive voice and Conley's nifty fuzz guitar, tracks such as 'Karen', 'Music's Gotta Stay', 'You Know How To Love Me and 'E.R.' sported great melodies and a sense of enthusiasm that must have made these guys a great live act.  Even their isolated stab at country bar band material ('Wind and Water') was likeable.  True, there wasn't anything particularly original, or earth shattering across these ten tracks, but the performances were uniformly energetic and enjoyable with some roaring lead guitar.  Even more impressive, for a small private pressing, credit producers Quinn and Glossop with giving the album a wonderful, deep and full sound.  Played loud on a quality stereo system, this LP rocks !!!  One of my all time favorite obscurities.

 

- Opening up with some of the prettiest fuzz guitar you've ever heard (not a description you normally associate with the effect), 'Karen' was a breezy, bluesy ballad with some highly eccentric sci-fi-ish lyrics.  I've listened to the song dozens of times and don't have a clue what it's about ...   The song was also tapped as the 'A' side for a promo single.   rating: **** stars

- More cowbell please ...  'Music's Gotta Stay' found the band taking a step toward being funky !   No you weren't going to mistake them for The Ohio Players, but the song actually had a enjoyable slinky feel.  Conley and David Leedy turned in some fantastic dual lead guitar work.   rating: **** stars

- Kicked along by some great harmonica (and I'm not a big fan of the instrument), 'Wind and Water' found the band switching musical gears, offering up a likeable slice of country-rock.  Great melody that I unexpectedly find myself humming on a regular basis.   rating; *** stars

- Like most mid-1970s bands, I have absolutely no doubt that these guys got screwed over royally by everyone they dealt with in the music business.  Those experiences seem to be the basis for ' Live In Concert' and it's dark and cynical the-music-business-sucks narrative.   Kudos to the band for including an anti-drug stance in the lyric when it wasn't a very popular thing to do, and to P.D. Bratton who turned in some amazing bass work.   rating: **** stars

- Not exactly a pop tune, but buoyed by some surprisingly attractive harmony vocals (and killer lead guitar), 'You Know How To Love Me' was definitely one of the album's more commercial numbers.     rating: **** stars

- 'Just Loved Look' opened side two with a hard core blues-rock number ...  very Allman Brothers sounding.  Great if you liked Duane and Greg, but may have been a bit too pedestrian for others.   rating: ** stars

- Another change of pace, the mid-tempo ballad 'In the Beginning' was the most conventional and radio-friendly number.  Pretty melody, uplifting lyrics, and it closed out with some of Conley's most energetic playing. What wasn't there to like on this one ?   rating: **** stars

- I have no idea who 'E.R' was, but powered by Bratton's bass, this was one killer rock track.  In fact my only complaint was the song's abrupt ending.    rating: **** stars  

-  'All the Way Home' offered up a likeable slice of Foghat-styled boogie rock.  Another personal favorite with Conley and Leedy just tearing the studio apart and the band again demonstrating some surprisingly sweet harmony vocals.   rating: *** stars

- 'Swamp Fox;' was another boogie track with a slinky edge. Fun, though the falsetto harmonies were a bit shrill.   rating: *** stars

 

There was also a limited edition promo single.  According to one of the band members, only 200 copies were pressed:

 

 

- 1975's 'Karen' b/w 'Music's Gotta Stay' (Dominion catalog number NR7224-1)

 

Reportedly only 1,000 copies were pressed, going a long way to explaining the high prices original copies fetch.


(side 1)

1.) Karen - 4:47
2.) Music's Gotta Stay - 3:21
3.) Wind and Water - 3:04
4.) Live In Concert - 5:06
5.) You Know How To Love Me - 3:28

(side 1)

1.) Just Loved Look - 3:55
2.) In the Beginning - 4:23
3.) E.R. - 4:00
4.) All the Way Home - 3:11
5.) Swamp Fox - 3:14

I'm guessing that it was a bootleg, but the album was also released with an alternative cover.  Like the original, the alternate version was credited to the Dominion label under catalog number NR7360-2.   

There's also a legitimate 400 pressing run by the small Void label (with altered cover art and pressed in white, red, and green vinyl).  Guitarist Emerson apparently remastered the tape for the reissue project.  Probably not a smart thing to tell you, particularly since I'd like to sell my original copy, but the reissue should run you about $25 (rather than my stiff, but reasonable asking price for the classic original).  In case you're impressed by stuff like this, the LP is listed in Hans Pokora's 1001 Record Collector Dreams.


I've never seen a copy, but Conley apparently remained active in music, reappearing under the name 'Emerson' with a 1992 album on the small LGM label ("The Power of Love" catalog number 2222).


It's a work in progress, but the band has a small website at:

www.SweetTootheTesting.com

 

 


 

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