Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1973-74)  

- Bob Brien -- vocals, guitar

- Mark Cipolla (aka Mick Smiley) -- vocals, bass, keyboards

- Kurt Kearnes -- vocals, guitar

- Steve Parsons -- vocals, drums, percussion



- The Boy Blues

- Colours (Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) 

- Noel & the Red Wedge (Kurt Kernes)

- Steamliner (Bob Brien)





Genre: pop

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Hamlet

Company: Capitol

Catalog:  ST-11152

Country/State: Chico, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: punch hole top right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $30.00



Bob Brien and Mark Cipolla grew up in Choco, California.  They met in elementary school, worked in competing local bands before deciding to collaborate in The Boy Blues.  Still in their teens, they began attracting local attention, including backing a young Sonny and Cher at a local concert.  Signed by Arvey Andrews' Vardan Records, they released a 1966 single that attracted regional attention:





- 1966's 'Living Child' b/w 'Think About It Baby' (Vardan catalog number 538-A/B)






That was followed by a single on Andrews' Frantic label, with the "A" side 'Coming Down' sounding like it was heavily inspired by The Batman Theme.


-1966's 'Coming Down To You' b/w 'Loving Child' (Frantic catalog number CR 2132





Busted for pot possession, the resulting adverse publicity saw their sales momentum vanish and the band splinter.  Brien and Cipolla subsequently recruited guitarist/singer Chuck Edwards, keyboard player Ed Seymour, and drummer Par Varvel for the new band Colours (not to be confused with Jack Dalton and Gary Montgomery's Oklahoma based Colours).  Relocating to San Francisco, Colours attracted the attention of Johnny Rivers who hired the band to back him of his psych-oriented "Realizations" LP.  Planning to sign the band to his Soul City Records label, Rivers funded some demos, but further plans came to an end when Soul City was purchased by Liberty.  With the collapse of Colours, the group continued on as Chirstian, playing throughout the Bay area and recording some additional material.  Whereas the other Colours (Dalton and Montgomery) released a pair of entertaining, late-60s folk-rock albums for Dot Records, Brien and Cipolla's Colours and Christian catalogs didn't see the light of day until 2009 when the Frantic label released the double CD retrospective "Voluptuous Doom" (Frantic catalog 3333).  


Left without a contract, Brien and Coipolla soldiered on, picking up occasional sessions work and playing small clubs, including an extended stint as the featured band at the Waikiki Sheraton Hotel.


By 1973 the pair were ready to give recording another shot.  Recruiting singer/guitarist Kurt Kearnes and drummer Steve Parsons, they started performing under the name Hamlet.  


Signed by Capitol Records the quartet was teamed with producer/engineer Charlie Dryer; their label debut coming in the form of a single:


- 1973's 'I Feel Like Smiling (Tonight)' b/w 'Voodoo Man' (Capitol catalog number 3716)





While it may not be the most original project you've come across, I have to admit that "Hamlet" is an impressive debut.  It's even better given it remains largely unknown and you can find still affordable copies without too much effort.  As chief songwriters Brian and Cipolla had great tastes when it came to musical influences.  Exemplified by originals like 'I Should Have Known' and 'Tonight' the pair had a knack for crafting highly melodic, Beatles-esque tunes.  The handful of other reviews I've seen point to Badfinger and Eric Carmen and the Raspberries as influences.  Those are certain apt comparisons, but I would point to Emmit Rhodes for comparison purposes.  There's definitely more of a McCartney influence here than John Lennon.  The band was also blessed in that both Brien and Cipolla had strong voices that blended together for some glistening performances.  In the production role Dryer gave the album a clean, crisp sound.  Nothing fancy; you got the impression these eleven tracks had been cut quickly.  While there were a couple of clunkers - the faux Cockney music hall number 'Jimmy Watts' was horrible, my only other complaint was that many of the performances were too short.  The awsome 'I Should Have Known' was just over a minute long.


Well worth searching out.


"Hamlet" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Little You Say   (Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) - 2:25   rating: *** stars

I'm a big Paul McCartney fan.   I'm a big Badfinger fan.  I'm a big Emmit Rhodes fan.  If you fall in any of those categories then the harmony-rich opener 'Little You Say' should strike a chord.  The track was released as an American promo single:





- 1973's 'Little You Say' (mono) b/w 'Little You Say' (stereo) (Capitol catalog number PRO 6668)






2.) Just a Touch   (Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) - 3:38  rating: **** stars

While it wasn't the most original song you've encountered, opening with some bouncy Cipolla barrelhouse piano, 'Just a Touch' was one of the album's most overtly commercial performances.  Kind of an Emmit Rhodes worshipping at the Paul McCartney shrine vibe going on here. Capitol tapped the song as a promotion 45:





- 1973's 'Just a Touch' b/w 'I Should Have Known' (Capitol catalog number P-3543)






3.) Jimmy Watts   (Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) - 2:25   rating: * star

Affecting an irritating mock-Cockney accent, the music hall-styled 'Jimmy Watts' sounded like a bad Day Jones tune that had been slapped on a Monkees album to pad the running time.  Bad idea and horrible performance.

4.) Bound To Redream You   (Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) - 2:17   rating: *** stars

Eric Carmen and the Raspberries would approve.

5.) Garden of Girls   (Cipolla - Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) -  1:56

6.) Tonight   (Kurt Kernes - Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) - 2:13  rating: **** stars

Previously released as a single under the extended title 'I Feel Like Smiling (Tonight)', the track offered up a breezy, country-rock tinged melody. To my ears 'Tonight' was as good as anything country-rock bands like Firefall and Poco were churning out.  Nice showcase for Brien and Cipolla's blended lead vocals.  It was unfortunate radio wasn't paying attention.


(side 2)

1.) Voodoo Man   (Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) - 2:49

2.) I Should Have Known   (Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) - 1:14  rating: **** stars

One of my picks for standout performance, 'I Should Have Known' sounded like a mash-up of early-Bealtes, Badfinger and The Raspberries, which in turn sounded like a good Emitt Rhodes composition.  With an urgent melody and flawless Brien-Cipolla vocals, the only flaw in this one was that it was simply too short.

3.) Time for Love   (Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) - 3:19

4.) Lazy Summer   (Kurt Kearnes - Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) - 1:51  rating: **** stars

'Lazy Summer' sounded like the band had been listening to a bit of Crosby, Stills and Nash.  great track only undercut by the fact it was way to short.

5.) Curtains   (Bob Brien - Mark Cipolla) - 7:52



Turns out Kearnes has a Facebook account though there isn't more than a brief mention of Hamlet: Kurt Kearnes | Facebook