Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1967-71)
- Roy Castleman -- bass, recorder, backing vocals
- Denny Langdale -- keyboards
- Ben Staley (RIP 2009) -- guitar, vocals
- Kevin Svenson -- backing vocals
- Shannon Svenson -- lead vocals
- Randy Thompson -- drums, percussion
- The Barons (Ben Staley)
- The Larson-Staley Band (Ben Staley)
- Northern Lights (Ben Staley)
- Planet Lounge Orchestra (Ben Staley)
- Shannondoah (Ben Staley)
- Silver Dollar Band (Ben Staley)
- Two of Clubs (Ben Staley)
- Whiskers (Ben Staley)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Locksley Hall
Country/State: Spokane, Washington
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: includes insert
Catalog ID: --
Some five decades after being exposed to Alfred Lord Tennyson's poetry, I remain scarred by the thought of having to re-read his dated and sentimental works. Coming across a band that would name themselves after a 97 couplet long Tennyson poem didn't exactly inspire me.
Formed in 1967, Spokane, Washington's Locksley Hall featured bassist Roy Castleman, keyboard player Denny Langdale, guitarist Ben Staley and vocalists Kevin and Shannon Svenson. The members had played in a variety of local bands during and after high school. Pooling their talents, several years on the Northwest club circuit saw the band record a series of demos at Seattle's Audio Records. The demos attracted the attention of Epic Records. The band relocated to Los Angeles, but Epic ultimately elected not to push forward with the project. Within a matter of months the band collapsed, returning to Spokane, quickly disintegrating. The tapes were stored in a shoebox and shelved until 1996 when the Indiana-based OR label released the collection.
There weren't any songwriting credits, but John Johnson's band history insert indicated guitarist Staley was responsible for the majority of these tunes. Unfortunately the combination of horrible sound quality (the band frequently sounded like they were recording at the bottom of a well) and the album's diversity made if hard to get a feel for what they were about. Those criticisms aside, the set wasn't without some enjoyable numbers. Spotlighted on about half of the songs, Shannon Svenson was a decent lead singer. She had a big, raw voice that was at its best when not trying to mimic Janis Joplin. Check out the 'Some Say Love' to hear her at her best. The liner notes don't provide much detail, but I'm guessing guitarist Staley was responsible for lead vocals on the other half of the album. If so, he was quite good. His voice wasn't particularly unique, but his performances were solid throughout and yielded two of the album highlights with the lysergic 'Let Me Blow Out Your Candle' and 'When Autumn Leaves Turn To Gold.' While the lysergic numbers were enjoyable, these guys were also quite good on more commercial efforts like 'Baby Blue Eyes' and the atypical 'Que-Bell.' I won't say it's a great album, but you are left wondering what they could have done with more time and resources.
Hall" track listing:
1.) Locksley Hall (spoken word) (Alfred Lord Tennyson) -1:01 rating: * star
Okay, it may be widely recognized as a classic slice of British poetry, but if I'm an example, it's terrorized millions of high school students who've been subjected to it during their English classes. Reading a couple of the poems' couplets backed by Denny Langdale's scary church organ really didn't make it any more enjoyable, nor did the stoned vocal, or the post-song commentary.
2.) Boy (Ben Staley) - 4:11 rating: ** stars
After the opener virtually anything would have been an improvement. Built on a riff that sounded like if was stolen from Booker T. and the MGs, 'Boy' was an improvement, but the song suffered from Svenson's shrill lead vocals (coming off as another Joplin wannabe) and muddy production that made it sound like they were recording at the bottom of a well.
3.) Let Me Blow Out Your Candle (Ben Staley) - 7:32 rating: **** stars
Opening with some Staley guitar, 'Let Me Blow Out Your Candle' eventually stumbled across a decent lysergic-tinged melody and in the process became one of the album standouts. Unlike most of the songs, this one relegated Shannon Svenson to the background, apparently featuring Staley and Kevin Svenson on lead vocals.
4.) Baby Blue Eyes (Ben Staley) - 4:04 rating: *** stars
One of the album's most commercial offering, 'Baby Blue Eyes' sounded like a mash-up of girls group pop and more contemporary rock moves. Kicked along by a rollicking Staley riff, the song wasn't half bad, but once again poor recording quality didn't help the results.
5.) D-O-P-E (Ben Staley) - 3:08 rating: * star
Ouch. Faux-country with a horrible stoner vibe. Imagine third tier Brewer and Shipley that must have sounded dated even when it was originally recorded. Simply gawdawful.
'Some Say Love' may have been Shannon Svenson's standout performance. Her vocals remained strained and screechy, but not as much on the earlier songs and when coupled with a nice, commercial rocker, the results were quite appealing.
2.) What Does a Lonely Heart Do? (Ben Staley) rating: *** stars
Not sure why, but Svenson's performance on 'What Does a Lonely Heart Do?' has always reminded me of an earlier David Clayton-Thomas and Blood, Sweat and Tears performance. No, there weren't any horns, but there was just something in the combination of her vocal delivery and Denny Langdale's organ fills ... Nice ballad.
3.) Que-Bell (Ben Staley) - 5:48 rating: **** stars
Another tune featuring Staley (?) on lead vocals, 'Que-Bell' was unlike anything else on the album. To my ears it sounded liked a collision between the Free Design and a pop-rock group like The Love Exchange. Different and one of the best things on the album.
4.) Wake Up (Tubby's Tune) (Ben Staley) - 4:30 rating: *** stars
With Shannon back in the spotlight, 'Wake Up' (Tubby's Song)' was an out-and-out pop song. Not my favorite, but the song was catchy and commercial and with cleaner production could have generated some radio play.
5.) When Autumn Leaves Turn To Gold (Ben Staley) - 4:17 rating: **** stars
Opening up with Locksdale church organ, 'When Autumn Leaves Turn To Gold' found the group melding folk, rock and lysergic influences into an extended ballad. There was even a bit of sitar in the mix. The album's most experimental outing, it was also the set's most interesting performance.
6.) Locksley Hall (spoken word) (Alfred Lord Tennyson) - 0:27 rating: * star
The album closed on a disappointing note with another couple of couplets from the Tennyson poem.
In 2019 the Gear Fab label reissued the collection in CD format with an alternate cover (Gear Fab catalog number GF-292). The reissue included two additional tracks: 'After Though' and 'Studio Chatter'.
Staley and Shannon Svenson apparently married and continued their musical partnership (along with Kevin Swenson and Randy Thompson) in the Spokane band Shannondoah. Staley continued performing, working in a number of Spokane bands before passing on in August, 2009 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
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