Crome Syrcus

Band members                             Related acts

  line-up 1 (1967-68)

- John Gaborit -- lead guitar
- Lee Graham (RIP 2009) -- bass, flute, vocals
- Rod Pilloud -- drums, percussion
- Dick Powell -- vocals, harmonica, keyboards
- Ted Shreffler (RIP 2009) -- keyboards


  line-up 2 (1968-73)

- John Gaborit -- lead guitar
- Lee Graham (RIP 2009) - - bass, flute, vocals
NEW - James Plano -- drums, percussion (replaced Rod Pilloud)
- Dick Powell -- vocals, harmonica, keyboards
- Ted Shreffler (RIP 2009) -- keyboards



- Ted Shreffler (solo efforts)

- The Tickle Tock Typhoon (John Gaborit)




Genre: psych

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Love Cycle

Company: Command

Catalog: RS 925 SD

Year: 1968

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; still in shrink wrap (opened); mono pressing in spite of catalog number

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $80.00


Until I stumbled across a copy of Don Rogers' Dance Halls Armories and Teen Fairs, I didn't even know The Crome Syrcus were from Seattle, Washington.  For some reason I was under the impression they were a San Francisco-based outfit.  Turns out they were San Francisco transplants.



Lead guitarist John Gaborit and singer Dick Powell had been founding members of Seattle's The Mystics.  With that band calling it quits the pair set about recruiting talent for a new enterprise.  They ended up with a line-up featuring bassist Lee Graham, drummer Rod Pilloud and keyboardist Ted Shreffler.  As The Crome Syrcus (what a great '60s band name), they started to attract some attention playing dances and Seattle clubs.  Their initial break came when John Chambless recruited them for his Berkeley Folk Festival.  




Their Berkeley performance brought the band to the attention of choreographer Robert Joffrey.  As head of New York's Joffrey Ballet he commissioned the group to adapt music for the ballet "Opus 65".  They accepted the commission. At Joffrey's request in mid-1967 the band relocated to New York City where they continued their collaboration with Joffrey spending several months working on a multi-media ballet entitled "Astarte" (named after the Greek goddess representing birth, renewal and war). Essentially the dance world's first psychedelic ballet, the performance incorporated film, a light show and the Crome Syrcus' soundtrack.  When the show debuted in September 1967 at New York's City Center Theater the band even served as the "pit band" during live performances.  The PBS American Masters television program devoted an episode to the ballet and you can hear some of the Crome Syrcus material: Joffrey: Film Excerpt - Astarte | WETA  It's pretty trippy.  LOL



1968 saw the  band make their recording debuted with a pair of obscure singles for the Northwestern Piccadilly and Merrilyn labels.


- 1968's 'Long Hard Road' b/w 'Lord In Black' (PIccadilly catalog number 256)

- 1968's 'White Korte Feather (In My Life) b/w 'Blue Morning' (Merrilin catalog number 5303)


Crome Syrcus' work with The Joffrey Ballet certainly didn't hurt their reputation and in 1968 Peter Kamin  signed them to a recording contract with Enoch Light's ABC affiliated Command label.  It was an interesting partnership given Command was best known for it's roster of classical, MOR and jazz acts.  Teamed with producers Loren Backer, Robert Byrne and Katmin, in terms of musical genres, "Love Cycle" stands as another one of those mid-60s' albums that's been labeled "psych" and slapped with a correspondingly high asking price.  Unlike some of the competition, beyond the suitably mod cover art, this one actually didn't have a lot of psych going for it. Gaborit occasionally threw in a touch of fuzz guitar, but that was it other than the trippy 'Crystal' and parts of the side long title track.  It certainly wasn't a counterculture masterpiece.  Largely penned by Graham. material such as the lead off rocker 'Take It Like a Man' and the pretty ballad 'You Made a Change In Me' side one featured a series of five shorter numbers that were surprisingly commercial in nature.  In contrast, the side long title track suite showcased their more experimental side.  Speculation on my part, but the song's complex, disjointed  structure and classical underpinnings sure seemed a reflection of their earlier work with Robert Joffrey. That guaranteed this wasn't going to strike a chord with wide segments of the record buying public. Still, this is actually one of those albums that gets better with repeated spins.  The only true miscue was Shreffler's goofy Vaudevillian 'Woman Woman'.




Daniel Pezza served as the art director for Command Records.  Starting in the early-'60s he designed dozens of the label's album covers.  This is one of my favorites.  For a label that focused on classical, jazz and MOR acts it was quite radical, but managed to nail that mid-'60s zeitgeist.





"Love Cycle" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Take It Like a Man (Lee Graham) - 3:34 rating: *** stars

Having been signed by Command, I guess I wasn't shocked to hear 'Take It Like a Man' had a distinctive jazzy vibe.  I'm making that comment as a compliment.  A smooth, keyboard powered ballad, the vocals made the tune quite radio friendly with John Gaborit's squealing fuzz lead guitar outbursts adding a nice psychedelic edge.  I can see why the song was tapped as the single.  The song's also bother me for years given the melody reminds me of another tune - darn if I've ever been able to figure out what that song was.







- 1969's 'Take It Like a Man' b/w 'Crystals' (Command catalog number RS-4111)







2.) You Made a Change In Me (Lee Graham) - 5:29 rating: *** stars

Featuring Graham's sweet, slightly lounge act voice, 'You Made a Change In Me' was a beautiful, straightforward slice of radio-friendly pop. Ted Shreffler's Hammond B3 added nice coloring to the performance.  Surprising Command didn't release this one as a single.

3.) Crystals (Lee Graham) - 3:00 rating: **** stars

Well Graham's lyrics certainly seemed had a lysergic edge.  That was underscored by Gaborit's acid dripping guitar solo, Shreffler's stabbing B3 and Rod Pilloud's manic percussion.  And at the same time, there was a jazzy feel to the performance.  Quite cool.     

4.) Never Come Down (Lee Graham) - 3:45 rating: **** stars

'Never Come Down' had a nifty blue-eyed soul vibe with Powell's vocals reminded me a touch of the late Roy Orbison.  "Get nasty brother John ..."    Extra star for the awesome Gaborit guitar solo.

5.) Woman Woman (Ted Shreffler) - 1:47 rating: * star

I guess it was meant to be cute, or perhaps showcase their versatility, but the Vaudeville-influenced 'Woman Woman' was terrible and marred what had been an enjoyable side one.  Yech.  I'd actually rather hear something by the insipid Winchester Cathedral.


(side 2)

1.) Love Cycle (Ted Shreffler) - 17:30 rating: ** stars

I'm probably reading way more into it than deserves, but the side-long title track certainly seems to have been influenced by their earlier "Astarte" experiences.  The piano and spoken word introduction screamed '60s excesses.  Though it was brief, Lee Graham's extended flute solo seemed endless.  When the operatic vocals kicked in, I started to lose all hope.  Seventeen minutes of this ...  If you could get through the first five minutes, the suite opened up into a decent pop-rock segment with one of the album's better melodies. And from there the tune just went all over the musical spectrum - Gregorian chants, barbershop quartet, more pastoral flute solos, stoned in-studio noodling, etc.




I've never seen a copy, but Command supposedly also released a non-LP promotional single:


- 1969's 'The Pain I Feel' b/w ''We're a Winner' (Command catalog number 921)



In 1969 the Seattle Jerden label released what was to be the band's final efforts:


- 1969's 'Elevator Operator' b/w 'Lord In Black' (Jerden catalog number 921)


Having completed his military service, in 1969 original Mystics drummer James Plano returned to the band, replacing Rod Pilloud.  The band actually stayed together playing clubs and occasional local festivals until 1973, though no additional material was released.





Gaborit and Powell continue to work under The Crome Syrcus flag and have a small Facebook page: The CROME SYRCUS | Seattle WA | Facebook.  In 2019 the recorded a new CD "12 Ring Syrcus" (CD Baby catalog number # 5639654051).  You can hear some of the new songs on YouTube.  Not a criticism, but be warned they sound nothing like the "Love Cycle" material.