Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1969-70)
- Chuck McCabe (RIP 2010) -- vocals, guitar
- Tiran Porter -- bass, backing vocals
- Homer Swain - drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Mike Walch -- vocals, keyboards, percussion
- The Doobie Brothers (Tiran Porter)
- Chuck McCabe (solo efforts)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; minor wear
Catalog ID: --
You'd think a band with a connection to The Doobie Brothers would have more publicity. Not the case for the short-lived, Southern California-based Phoenix. In fact, good luck finding much biographical information about the band. The late Chuck McCabe's website doesn't even mention the group, nor do any of the website associated with Tiran Porter.
Still a a rarity in the late-'60s/early-'70s, Phoenix sported a racially integrated line-up in the form of singer/guitarist Chuck McCabe, future Doobie Brothers bassist Tiran Porter, drummer Homer Swain and keyboard player Mike Walch. (Perhaps I'm over thinking it, but I've always wondered if the fuzzed out album cover was an effort to hide the integrated line-up.)
The band signed with ABC Records in 1969, making their debut with the Bob Todd and Don McGinnis produced "Phoenix". (Tip, never name your band Phoenix since there are dozens of acts that have recorded under that name.) With McCabe responsible for most of the eleven tracks, this was another band struggling to come up with a distinctive musical identity. McCabe had a decent voice and the rest of the band were clearly capable players (particular bassist Porter), but the band struggled to come up with any kind of distinctive sound, instead bouncing from one genre to another without any clear identity. Sure there were a couple of standout performances, but they were far and few between. Among the highlights, the rocker 'In Leaving, You Arrived' featured a strong melody with a touch of psych in the grooves. 'Words I Have To Say' was a smooth and catchy ballad. Even better, the ballad 'Baby I'm Sorry (What Else Can I Say)' sported the album's prettiest melody. Professional, but far from monumental. The set's also very short, clocking in under 35 minutes.
"Phoenix" track listing:
1.) Julia's Face (J. Goffin - L. Ware) - 3:10 rating: *** stars
The opening rocker 'Julia's Face' served to introduce the combination of McCabe's gruff, blue-eyed soul voice and Porter's trademarked melodic bass. While the standard early-'70s horn arrangement was irritating and detracted from the rest of the song, Porter's bass essentially served as the song's lead instrument. ABC's marketing arm certainly had hope for the song, releasing it as the second single:
- 1969's 'Julia's Face' b/w 'Postmark N.Y.C. ' (ABC catalog number 45-11263 )
2.) Music On My Mind (Chuck McCabe) - 2:28 rating: ** stars
McCabe's squealing fuzz guitar started 'Music On My Mind' with a distinctive West Coast vibe, but then his vocals injected a good-timey feel into the mix (kind of a Moby Grape thing). The mid-song string arrangement gave the song an even weirder feel.
3.) I Can't Lose You Now (Chuck McCabe) - 2:10
Showcasing McCabe at his most commercial, 'I Can't Lose You Now' was an unexpectedly MOR-ish ballad. Complete with big horn arrangement, this one sounded like something off a Gary Puckett and the Union Gap album.
4.) Hello Nashville (Chuck McCabe) - 1:50 rating: * star
I have a deep dislike of faux-country songs which goes along way to explaining why I think 'Hello Nashville' is such a loser. Perhaps meant to showcase McCabe's dry sense of humor, the result was simply a horrible song and horrible performance.
5.) Thanks For Nothing (Tommy Kaye) - 2:53 rating: *** stars
The acoustic-tinged ballad 'Thanks For Nothing' was pretty enough, but the band's attempt at social commentary was less than subtle. The string arrangement threatened to swallow the song.
6.) Too Many Words (Chuck McCabe) - 3:58 rating: *** stars
Given McCabe's rugged voice, the ballad 'Too Many Words' was another tune that would have been far better without the elaborate horn arrangements and shrill female backing vocals.
1.) Do Something To Make Me Happy (Chuck McCabe) - 3:20 rating: *** stars
'Do Something To Make Me Happy' was a rollicking country-rocker that sounded like it had been slapped together from a host of different songs. I have to admit the "uplifting" lyrics irritated me and the end-of-song roller rink organ was lost on my ears.
1.) In Leaving, You Arrived (Chuck McCabe) - 4:00 rating: **** stars
One of the standout performances, the rocker 'In Leaving, You Arrived' finally brought everything together - great double tracked McCabe vocal, nice melody; mild psych influences, killer fuzz guitar solo and an awesome Porter bass line.
3.) Postmark N.Y.C (Chuck McCabe). - 2:15 rating: * star
Just when you thought they'd taken a stab at every genre know to mankind, 'Postcard N.Y.C.' added supper club blues to the listing. There's a short online review that compared this one to a Doors track. To me it sounded more like an old SNL lounge act segment.
4.) Words I Have To Say (Chuck McCabe) - 2:50 rating: **** stars
Another heavily orchestrated ballad, 'Words I Have To Say' at least benefited from a nice melody, a fragile McCabe vocal and some nice acoustic picking.
5.) Baby I'm Sorry (What Else Can I Say) (Chuck McCabe) - 3:26 rating: **** stars
Wrapped in a slightly lysergic string arrangement, the ballad 'Baby I'm Sorry (What Else Can I Say)' was the album's prettiest and most outright commercial performance. Easy to see why ABC tapped the track as a promotional single:
- 1970's 'Baby I'm Sorry (What Else Can I Say) ' b/w 'Postmark N.Y.C.' (ABC catalog number 45-11249)
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