Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1969)
- Daryl Burch -- drums, percussion
- Gordon Grant -- keyboards
- Elton Skip Mosher -- bass, flute
- Bob Siller -- vocals, acoustic guitar
- Steve Simone -- vocals, lead guitar
- Fred Tackett -- vocals, guitar, keyboards, trumpet
- Paul Barrer and Fred Tackett
- The Spencer Davis Group (Steve Simone)
- Little Feat (Fred Tackett)
- The Modds (Steve Simone)
- Bob Siller (solo efforts)
- Fred Tackett (solo efforts)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: In Frustration I Hear Singing
Country/State: Norman, Oklahoma
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: unipack sleeve
Catalog ID: --
I had high hopes for this one. In addition to the trippy cover you have to be intrigued by a band who seemingly took their name from the devil whom Faust sells his soul to. Add to that the bonkers title of their debut album. Finally I again I fell victim to hype. In this case my eyes latched onto the terms "psych" and "fuzz guitar" in the handful of reviews I read. Unfortunately the set proved a disappointment to my ears. While there was some fuzz guitar across these grooves, it was largely window dressing as there was precious little psych in these ten songs. The biggest surprise came in discovering the band line-up included future Little Feat guitarist Fred Tackett.
Born and raised in Oklahoma, Steve Simone started his musical career as lead guitarist in the garage band The Modds (renown for the Simone composed single 'In My House'). After the band broke up Simone moved to Los Angeles and began working with fellow Oklahoman Jimmy Webb. Simone provided rhythm guitar on Webb's original recording of 'MacArthur Park'. The Webb recording sessions apparently brought him into contact with bass player Skip Mosher, singer/guitarist Bob Siller and guitarist Fred Tackett. By 1969 they'd formed the core of Mephistopheles. The Webb connection also helped them score a contract with Reprise (which happened to be Webb's record label). By the time they started recording their debut album the line-up was completed by the addition of drummer Daryl Burch and keyboardist Gordon Grant.
Given the band name, someone must have been awake during English class, or at least had an interest in theater. Produced by Dave Hassinger, "In Frustration I Hear Singing" is unlike anything I've ever heard coming out of Oklahoma. In terms of creativity the band had a pretty deep bench. Simone and Tackett were responsible for most of the material, but all of the other members contributed to songwriting across the ten songs. Not everyone is going to agree with these comments, but having listened to this album a couple of times, the band had talent but also a couple of major shortcomings. Chief among them was the absence of a strong lead singer. Siller, Simone and Tackett all handled lead vocals. Unfortunately none had a great voice. I'll leave it up to others to decided which of the three was the most talented. The second issue came in the form of Skip Mosher's flute solos. Luckily flutes weren't featured on all ten songs, but on tracks like the ballads 'Collections' and 'Vagabond Queen' they only served to make bad songs worse. Finally, I'dn argue their Jimmy Webb connection led to some over-the-top outbreaks of pretence. Webb contributed some glowing liner notes to the album. The album title might be perfect example of those influences, to say nothing of song titles like 'Do Not Expect a Garden' and 'Sleeping Deeply'. While most of the album didn't strike a chord with me, there were a couple of pleasant exceptions. It was the album's weirdest song, but 'The Cricket Song' was somehow calming. Bob Siller's 'The Girl Who Self Destroyed' was the album's most interesting composition. With a better singer the band could have enjoyed a hit with it. And then there was the closing ballad 'Elizabeth'. Almost painfully pretty, it didn't sound like anything else on the album. Haunting and easily the album's creative highlight. Can I recommend you spend a lot of time, energy and money on this one? Nope.
Frustration I Hear Singing" track listing:
1.) Take a Jet (Skip Mosher - Bob Siller - Steve Simone - Fred Tackett) - 2:37 rating: *** stars
Siller was responsible for the seriously ragged lead vocals on 'Take a Jet'. Elsewhere the song showcased Simone's prominent fuzz guitar. Interestingly, underneath the fuzz guitar sheen the song was actually more of a country blues-rocker. Energetic, if not particularly tuneful, or memorable Reprise tapped the song as a promotional 45:
- 1969's 'Take a Jet' b/w 'Cricket Song' (Reprise catalog number 0832)
2.) Collections (Steve Simone) - 2:18 rating: ** stars
With Siller on lead vocals 'Collections' was a fragile and somewhat ragged ballad that introduced Skip Mosher's flute shadings. Can't say I was a big fan. Too precious for its own good.
3.) Dead Ringer (Steve Simone) - 3:17 rating: ** stars
Gordon Grant's hyperactive keyboards add a nice and surprising jazzy touch to 'Dead Ringer'. Smone's raw, out-of-breath vocals didn't help the song much ...
4.) Vagabond Queen (Fred Tackett) - 2:48 rating: ** stars
One of five Tackett contributions, in spite of the prominent flute washes, 'Vagabond Queen' was one of the album's prettiest songs. Unfortunately the song suffered from Tackett's horrible lead vocal. His performance was high-pitched, unstable and just plain irritating.
5.) Do Not Expect a Garden (Steve Simone) - 3:54 rating: ** stars
Some folks really like Tom Waits' voice. If you've never heard it, imagine a piece of meat that was tenderized for a week and then soaked in a barrel of lye. That's the mental image I get whenever I hear Simone's voice on 'Do Not Expect a Garden'. I don't even know how to begin describe this one. There's plenty of fuzz guitar, bouncy organ and even a horn arrangement ... Maybe David Clayton-Thomas and Blood, Sweat and Tears after the whole band had been dosed with a bad batch of acid?
6.) In Frustration I Hear You Singing (Fred Tackett) - 2:39 rating: **** stars
On the title track Siller actually sounded pretty good. His voice was well balanced and in tune. The performance was certainly helped by the fact the song sported a strong melody. The song was also interesting given the pleading vocals reminded me of a good Jimmy Webb composition. Plenty of Simone fuzz guitar also helped.
1.) Make Up Your Mind (Fred Tackett) - 3:08 rating: *** stars
Crap, the horns and the flute return. Through most of the song the horns were kept in the background, though they injected an unwelcome Blood, Sweat and Tears vibe when they soloed. The flute solo was also brief and Tackett revealed the album's most commercial song and the album's best (though still flat) vocal.
2.) Searching In the Night (Fred Tackett - Gordon Grant) - 2:08 rating: ** stars
Slow, bluesy ballad with another strained Tackett lead vocal. The churchy backing vocals were nice, but not enough to garner a third star.
3.) The Cricket Song (Daryl Burch - Fred Tackett) - 3:01 rating: **** stars
Admittedly I've never written a song so it's probably unfair for me to criticise someone else's work, but then it's just my opinion. Ignore the comments if you disagree. I'll admit that I really liked Skip Mosher's bass on this one. Can't say the same about the flute. Complete with insect sound effects the song was just plain strange, but there was also something amusing, calming and comforting about it. But, again it was strange.
4.) Sleeping Deeply (Steve Simone) - 3:20 rating: ** stars
With a jazzy vibe and a deep, soulful vocal, when I heard 'Sleeping Deeply' I wondered if I had accidentally slapped on a Frank Zappa tune. That wasn't meant as a compliment.
5.) The Girl Who Self Destroyed (Bob Siller) - 3:27 rating: **** stars
Guitarist Siller's lone solo contribution to the album, 'The Girl Who Self Destroyed' was the album's most interesting tune. Powered by a Motown-ish vibe the song had an interesting lyric and a great melody. Gordon Grant added nice Hammond B3 and killer fuzz guitar pushed throughout the tune. The only downside was Siller's flat and undistinguished vocals. With a better singer, they could have enjoyed a hit with this one.
6.) Elizabeth (Bob Siller - Gordon Grant) - 4:00 rating: **** stars
The fragile ballad 'Elizabeth' didn't sound anything like anything else on the album. Opening up with some beautiful guitar work, the song boasted the album's prettiest melody. I didn't even mind the flute solo. It was another track that sounded like it had a British psych influence. Nice way to end the album and made me which they had pursued more work in this direction.
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