Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1967-69)
- Bob Claire -- keyboards, cello, guitar
- Ron Cornelius -- lead guitar, vocals
- Joel Davis -- bass, vocals
- Lloyd Perata -- drums
- John Sagen -- harmonica
- Michael Stewart (RIP 2002) -- vocals, rhythm guitar, banjo,
- Captain Zoom (Ron Cornelius and Joel Davis)
- Captain Zoom and the Androids (Ron Cornelius and Joel Davis)
- Ron Cornelius (solo efforts)
- The Untouchables (Ron Cornelius)
- We Five (Michael Stewart)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Country/State: Crockett, California
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 185
West's self-titled 1968 debut isn't particularly rare and it isn't particularly original, but I'll readily admit to enjoying some of the album's country-rock moves.
Having previously recorded a couple of singles with The Untouchables and Captain Zoom and the Android and supported a broad array of acts as a sessions player, singer/guitarist Ron Cornelius was apparently the band's front man and creative focal point. Backed by keyboardist Bob Claire, former Captain Zoom bassist Joel Davis, drummer Lloyd Perata, harmonica player John Sagen, and former We Five multi-instrumentalist Michael Stewart, in 1967 the band found themselves the subject of a major label bidding war, with Epic eventually signing them to a contract. Epic management seemingly had major plans for the group, teaming them with Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel producer Bob Johnston. (Curiously, the front and back photos only showed five members - not sure who was missing.) Regardless, 1968's "West" found the band straddling the musical fence somewhere between The Byrds, Poco, and We Five. The result was a pretty, harmony rich collection of folk-rock that would have benefited from a couple more originals (xx of the 11 tracks were covers), and from a sizable dose of energy. On the plus side, these guys were obviously talented musicians, capable of tackling a wide array of well known covers. They also had a couple of decent singers in Cornelius, Davis and Stewart. The downside is that the set had far too many covers and precious little originality shined through the collection. With the possible exceptions of a nice Byrds-styled cover of Dylan's 'Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues' and 'New England Winter', they came off as little more than an above-average cover band.
"West" track listing:
1.) Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues (Bob Dylan) - 3:07
As a sessions player Cornelius played on a number of Bob Dylan albums so it probably wasn't a major surprise to find West covering a couple of Dylan tracks. Full of jangle guitars and sweet harmony vocals, that gave it a very mi-'60s sound (that was a compliment), their Byrdsy cover of 'Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues' was the best of the lot (and one of the album standouts). That probably explains why Epic released it as an instantly obscure single.
- 1968's 'Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues' b/w Baby You've Been On My Mind'' (Epic catalog number 5-10335) rating: **** stars
2.) Baby You've Been On My Mind (Bob Dylan) - 1:40
Two Dylan covers in a row ... unfortunately their cover of 'Baby You've Been On My Mind' wasn't as impressive. For my ears their country-rock version shifted a bit too far into the country mode. rating: ** stars
3.) Four Strong Winds (Ian Tyson) - 2:50
I never liked Ian and Sylvia's 'Four Strong Winds' very much so this rote folk-rock version of the song didn't win me over. rating: ** stars
4.) Summer Flower (Ron Cornelius - Joel Davis) - 2:20
Even though it was penned by Cornelius and Davis, 'Summer Flower' sounded like a slice of We Five-styled pop-psych. With some nice lead guitar and a cool flute solo (how often do you hear that?), the song had a very 1966-ish feel and was one of the more engaging numbers, though it sounded way out of place on this album. rating: ** stars
5.) Step By Step (Mike Stewart - J. Chambers - B. Jones) - 2:30
Curiously, the Stewart penned 'Step By Step' didn't sound anything like a We Five track, rather sported a cool, if somewhat torturous acid-rock feel. The track would have been even better if they'd dropped the horn arrangement. Epic tapped it as the sophomore 45.
- 1968's 'Step By Step' b/w Summer Breeze'' (Epic catalog number 5-10378) rating: *** stars
6.) Dolphins (Fred Neil) - 3:20
I'm not sure why so many '60s bands felt the need to cover Fred Neil's 'Dolphins'. I guess you had to admire Neil's lyrics and clearly it was important to feel relevant in 1968, but this funeral march tempo cover was simply boring. The flute solo didn't do anything to improve the performance. rating: ** stars
Their cover of 'Six Days On The Road' sounded like early Beach Boys hanging out with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. Strange, and not particularly impressive. rating: ** stars
2.) Everybody's Talkin' (Fred Neil) - 2:10
Two Dylan covers, so why not two Fred Neil songs? I'm not sure how they managed to do it, but they somehow managed to take a strong melody and reduce it to country-rock sludge. Completely forgettable. rating: ** stars
3.) Donald Duck ( Mike Stewart) - 2:00
I've got to admit that Stewart's 'Donald Duck' was a complete mystery to me. An up-tempo good-timey track with some of the strangest lyrics you've ever come across ... I'm guessing it had something to do with recreational drug usage ... rating: *** stars
4.) Settin' The Woods On Fire (F. Rose - E.G. Nelson) - 1:55
A straightforward country number, 'Settin' The Woods On Fire' wasn't without a certain quaint charm, but that charm was going to be lost of rock fans. rating: ** stars
5.) New England Winter (B. Kimmel) - 2:19
My choice for the standout performance, 'New England Winter' had a dark, slightly acid-tinged feel that recalled the best of West Coast bands like The Byrds and Moby Grape. Full of nice jangle guitar and a mournful vocal, it was unfortunate the album didn't include more stuff like this. rating: **** stars
Not something I'd recommend you spend big bucks on, but if you can find a cheap copy, worth checking out.
The band recorded a sophomore album that I've never bothered to track down (1969's "Bridges" Epic catalog number BN-26433). Curiously Conrelius' website (see below) indicates the band recorded a third album for Paramount Records. I'll be darned if I can find a trace of it.
Cornelius also recorded an obscure solo album - 1971's "Tin Luck" (Polydor catalog number PD 5011).
Cornelius is still active in music, serving as the President of Gateway Entertainment.
Michael Stewart died in 2002.
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