Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1968-69)
Michael Stanley Gee (aka Michael Stanley) -- vocals, bass, guitar
- Harry Porter -- guitar
- The Browns All Star Band (Michael Gee)
- The C.A.R.E. Sessions (Michael Gee)
- Frenz (Randy Sabo)
- The Ghost Poets (Michael Gee)
- Oedipus Rex (Randy Sabo)
- Rock City (Randy Sabo)
- Michael Stanley Band (Michael Gee)
- Tree Stumps (Michael Gee and Randy Sabo)
Rating: ** (2 stars)
Title: Smooth As Raw Silk
Country/State: Cleveland, Ohio
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve
Catalog ID: 4927
This short-lived Cleveland-based outfit is probably best known for having served as a springboard for singer/guitarist Michael Stanley Gee of future Michael Stanley band fame.
Like half of the teenagers in the United States, by 1965 the combination of girls and money proved irresistible to the teenaged Gee, who started his career playing in a number of local groups including The Scepters. By 1968 Gee was attending Hiram University and joined a late-inning version of Cleveland's Beatles-inspired The Tree Stumps showcasing the talents of Gee, guitarist Chris Johns, drummer Courtney Johns and keyboardist Randy Sabo. Playing dances and local clubs won the band a cult following and released a couple of singles, but met with little financial reward and by 1969 the Stumps had morphed into Silk. Silk did little and on the verge of calling it quits, a performance at a Cleveland club attracted the attention of producer Bill Szymczyk who'd been sent on the road by ABC Records to look for talent. (The same trip saw him sign Joe Walsh and the James Gang to a contract.)
t's a set I've listened to dozens of times over the years and while the collection had flashes of real talent, ultimately it wasn't consistent or original to make the cut. Maddeningly inconsistent; almost sounding like a wedding band trying to show they could cover all sorts of musical genres ... The album actually managed to hit the top-200 charts (peaking at # 191) but with little support from ABC (the company didn't even release a single), the quartet subsequently called it quits.
"Smooth As Raw Silk" track listing:
1.) Introduction - 1:12 rating: * star
'Introduction' started out with a sound collage; airline pilot, airplane engines reviving up ... interesting way to start the album, but nothing in terms of musicality.
2.) Foreign Trip (Chris Johns - Bill Szymczyk) - 4:07 rating: *** stars
Chris Johns displayed some nice electric guitar chops at the start of 'Foreign Trip' before the song abruptly shifted into a slightly lysergic rocker (the lyrics were definitely a '60s timepiece), complete with some un-credited freak-out horns. Gee had a decent enough voice, though the his delivery was a bit flat this time out and the backing vocals were simply irritating. Again, the real star here was guitarist Johns.
3.) Long Haired Boy (Tim Rose) - 3:38 rating: *** stars
One of two covers, the band's version of Tim Rose's 'Long Haired Boy' was nice enough. Propelled by Randy Sabo's Hammond organ and harpsichord flourishes, it had a very mid-'60s The Left banke Baroque-pop feel that you'll either love, or find cloying.
4.) Not a Whole Lot I Can Do (Michael Gee) - 3:07 rating: **** stars
Opening up with some tasty Gee bass and some Stax-styled horns, 'Not a Whole Lot I Can Do' found the band switching orientation with a killer slice of blue-eyed soul. Showcasing how good Gee's voice could be, this track actually rocked out.
5.) Custody (Steve Karliski - Larry Kolber) - 2:19 rating: ** stars
The second cover, 'Custody' was a strange, straight-forward country tune. With songwriter Steve Karliski's then-daring lyric about divorce and child custody, it was definitely different. I guess they were playing it straight ...
6.) Scottish Thing (Michael Gee - Richard Sabo) - 4:47 rating: **
1.) Skito Blues (Michael Gee - Richard Sabo - Chris Johns - Bill Szymczyk) - 4:34 rating: **** stars
Easily the album's standout performance, 'Skito Blues' was a full fledged Hammond and guitar powered rocker with a propulsive melody and some nice multi-tracked Gee lead vocals. Harry Porte added to the track's appeal by chimed in with some killer fuzz lead guitar.
2.) Hours (Michael Gee - Richard Sabo) - 2:48 rating: ** stars
Opening up with some irritating skitterish studio noise, 'Hours' was a lysergic-tinged ballad complete with weird tape effects, The tune found found Gee and Sabo sharing lead vocals. Sabo also contributed some unexpected jazzy electric keyboard moves.
3.) Walk In My Mind (Michael Gee) - 4:18 rating: ** stars
Gawd only know what they were thinking with the good-timey intro to 'Walk In My Mind' ... when the song kicked into gear the pretty, heavily orchestrated ballad sounded a bit like something Jimmy Webb might have written for Glen Campbell. One of the more commercial tracks on the album, but kind of formulaic and not what I'd consider a highpoint.
4.) Come On Down Girl (Michael Gee - Richard Sabo - Bill Szymczyk) - 3:45 rating: **** stars
My pick for the album's other highlight, the hard rocker 'Come On Down Girl' has always reminded me of a good Steppenwolf rocker. Very commercial with a great rockin' melody and some wonderful Sabo keyboards - ABC should have tapped it as a single.
5.) For All Time (Michael Gee) - 4:23 rating: *** stars
Perhaps the album's prettiest performance, the acoustic ballad 'For All Time' ended the set on another highlight. Spare arrangement, but quite memorable.
Sabo was briefly a member of the Cleveland band Frenz.
Gee went on to considerable success under the name Michael Stanley (aka The Michael Stanley Band). For anyone interested, he has an extensive website at:
Here's what Stanley's website has to say about the album:
was actually on the verge of breaking up when they were offered a gig they
couldn't refuse, and they figured they could at least go out on top. Bill
Szymczyk was sent from New York to Cleveland to find talent. He found two
groups, the James Gang (with Joe Walsh) and Silk (with Michael Gee). He was
impressed enough from their live gig to offer a record contract, and the
result was "Smooth As Raw ". In Tunes like "Not A Whole Lot I
Can Do", "Walk In My Mind" and "Come On Down Girl"
(the first tune that he ever heard on the radio), we get a glimpse of what
was to come.
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