Propinquity


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1970-73)

- Jeff Harper -- drums, percussion

- Pat Hubbard -- vocals, guitar, piano

- Jason Potter -- vocals, guitar

Carla Sciaky -- vocals, guitar

- Mel Stonebraker -- vocals, guitar

 

 

 

 

- Intervox (Jeff Harper)

- The Mother Folkers (Carla Sciaky)

- Carla Sciaky (solo efforts)

- Sing In Boulder

 

 

 


 

Genre: folk-rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Propinquity

Company: Owl

Catalog: OWL 23
Year:
 1972

Country/State: Boulder, Colorado

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $90.00

 

I had no idea what the band name referred to so I looked it up: The state of being close to someone or something; proximity    It turns out the name was borrowed from a tune Michael Nesmith wrote and recorded on his "Michael Nesmith and The First National Band" album.  The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band also recorded the song.

 

I'm sure it's out there, but I haven't found a great deal of biographical information on this outfit.  The core of the band, including  singer/guitarist Carla Sciaky, apparently met while attending high school in Boulder, Colorado.  With a line-up featuring a then 18-year old Sciaky, drummer Jeff Harper, keyboardist Pat Hubbard and guitarists Jason Potter and Mel Stonebraker, they started playing throughout the Boulder area - school gymnasiums, dances, clubs.  Their efforts culminated in a contract with Oak Thorn's small Boulder Owl label which saw one of their songs 'Where I'm Bound' included on a 1970 compilation of local groups; "Sing-In Boulder - Did You Ever Feel Happy for No Good Reason?" (Owl catalog number ORLP-19)

 

 

 I actually found an interview with Sciaky where she briefly talked about the band's roots: "When I was in high school I was asked to play for a political rally and I asked a friend to sing with me and after that, we continued to play together. A few months later we added a third person and then a fourth and fifth and we became a band called Propinquity. By then I had graduated from high school and my band was touring all over Colorado and later the Midwest and east coast and we recorded an album."

 

The band's true debut came the following year.  Produced by Thorn, 1972's "Propinquity" showcased a group blessed with four writers and four string vocalists.  Harper was the only member not contributing to the writing chores, or handling vocals.  It's an album that some dealers have erroneously labeled and hyped as psych, or acid-folk.  It's not.  I'm not even sure I'm willing to call it folk-rock since most of the album features acoustic arrangements.  The good news is these folks were quite talented and the album is full of pretty melodies and even prettier harmonies (check out 'Tappan Square'). Judging by tracks like the single 'People Come' and 'Sea Song' Potter probably had the most commercial and conventional voice.  His performances reminded me a touch of Greg Lake.  In contrast, Sciaky's "little girl" vocals were fragile and occasionally shrill, but performances on 'And I a Fairy Lady' and 'Miles Before Sleeping' were fascinating. Very much a '70s timepiece, there's a distinctive "hippy" vibe in these grooves. Bell bottom blue jeans, vests, long frizzy hair, echoes of Fairport Convention, Steelye Span and even CSN&Y.  If you approach this one with the right frame of mind, it's a charming collection.

 

The band never recorded a follow-up, but continued to tour through 1973 at which point they called it quits, Sciaky going on to a lengthy solo career.

 

"Propinquity" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) People Come (Jason Potter) - 4:14 rating: **** stars

As far as '70s folk-rock goes, 'People Come' is quite impressive.  It started out rather non-descript, lots of strumming guitar and Potter's nice voice, but as it went along and the full band arrangement kicked in you discovered Potter had crafted a sweet, guitar powered melody that aptly showcased Sciaky's crystalline voice intertwining with his leads.  The track was released as a single:

 

 

 

 

 

- 1972's 'People Come' b/w 'Standing In the Doorway' (Owl catalog number 4048 A / B)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.) And I a Fairy Tale Lady (Carla Sciaky) - 3:20 rating: **** stars

The first of two Carla Sciaky compositions on the "Propinquity" album, 'And I a Fairy Tale Lady' was a pretty ballad powered by Pat Hubbard's piano.  I've always found Sciaky's "little girl" voice a little sharp on this song, but there's no denying how pretty the underlying melody is and when the band's harmony vocals kick in the song becomes way more impressive.  Kind of a Fairport Convention vibe on this one.  I almost hate to admit it, but yes I've caught myself humming this one.  By the way, this is the song that spawned a mini-Propinquity revival.  In 2006 Numero Group owner Rob Sevier found a copy of the "Propinquity" LP in a used record store.  EVen though it was credited  as a Sciaky solo effort, he included this track on the label's  Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies from the Canyon compilation (Numero Group catalog number NUM008) and then tracked down the band members to reissue the original album with a couple of bonus tracks.

3.) Tappan Square (Pat Hubbard) - 2:52 rating: *** stars

The group vocals were glorious, but Hubbard's 'Tappan Square' initially veered a little to close to country for my tastes.  It got better when the tempo picked up, but was still a bit twee.

4.) You Don't Have To Hurry (Jason Potter) - 3:27 rating: ** stars

Even though the melody wandered into jazzy alleys, I found ' You Don't Have To Hurry' a little to John Denver-ish for my tastes.  It was also the first track that didn't had a memorable melody.

5.) Standing In The Doorway (Pat Hubbard) -  2:12 rating: ** stars

Since he wrote it I'm assuming Hubbard handled the lead vocals. 'Standing In The Doorway' was another ballad that was too country for me.  Also this time Hubbard's vocals sounded quivery and unsteady on this one.

6.) Dorian: 240 Lament (Mel Stonebraker) - 2:53 rating: *** stars

'Dorian: 240 Lament' was Mel Stonebraker's lone contribution to the songwriting chores.  I liked his slightly flat voice and I have to admit the Sciaky's recorder added a nice medieval folk touch. Playing recorder in elementary school band scarred me for life ... I feel even worse for the poor older gentleman who had to listen to my efforts.

 

(side 2)
1.)
Window  (Pat Hubbard) - 3:35 rating: *** stars

The fragile ballad 'Window' has always reminded me of something Jessie Colin Young and the Youngbloods might have recorded.  Hubbard and Sciaky's voices blended together nicely.

2.) Binghamton  (Jason Potter) - 3:27 rating: ** stars

Imagine Peter, Paul and Mary deciding they wanted to inject a bit of jazz into their repertoire.  Note sure who was handling the lead vocals at the moment, but there's a section where he reaches for a high note and it all comes falling down.  

3.) I'll Be Here In The Morning (Townes Van Zandt) - 3:25 rating: *** stars

The album's lone cover tune, their cover of Townes Van Zandt's 'I'll Be Here In The Morning' was respectful, but I'm not sure why you wouldn't listen to the original over this one.  Extra star for covering such a nice song.

4.) Ohio  (Pat Hubbard) -  3:38 rating: ** stars

Surrounded by strings and woodwinds, 'Ohio' was another gentle melody, but  just never shifted into gear.

5.) Miles Before Sleeping (Carla Sciaky) - 2:33 rating: **** stars

Not sure how to describe 'Miles Before Sleeping' - folk-meets-waltz?  I'm fascinated by Sciaky's voice.  Her sharp, little-girl delivery is irritating, but there's something that draws you back to it.

6.) Sea Song (Jason Potter) - 2:35 rating: *** stars

Potter may have had the band's most commercial voice and on 'Sea Song' he reminds me a bit of Greg Lake.  

 

 

In April, 2016 the band reunited for a one-shot reunion at a Boulder synagogue. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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