Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1971-72)
- Greg Bloch (RIP 1989)-- electric violin
- Louis Constantino -- bass
- William Dalton -- guitar , electric sitar, Celeste, keyboards
- John Maggi -- drums, percussion
- Sally Smaller -- vocals
- Lawrence W. Wendelken -- vocals, 12 string guitar
- It's a Beautiful Day (David Bloch)
- The Sot Weed Factor (John Maggi)
- Turnquist Remedy (John Maggi)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: String Cheese
Company: Wooden Nickel
Country/State: Chicago, Illinois
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve
Catalog ID: 2644
Another story showcasing my in-depth knowledge and awareness of all things rock and roll ... I was at a yard sale where this guy literally had 1,000 albums for sale. He'd put the albums in plastic bins and, bless his soul, spent hours alphabetizing them. I started pawing through them, buying dozens and dozens of albums. Those purchases included a bunch of String Driven Thing LPs. I clearly wasn't paying attention since buried in those albums was this unknown release by String Cheese. LOL
One of the first albums released by Jim Golden, Bill Traut, and Jerry Weintraub's Wooden Nickel label, this one's pretty obscure. Perhaps with good reasons.
I'm not the only person to draw the comparison, but yeah, 1971's James Golden and Barry Fasman produced "String Cheese" definitely sounded like the band had been listening to more than their share of David LaFlamme and It's a Beautiful Day. Like that band, String Cheese offered up a mixture of English folk and West Coast psych moves. Lead singer Sally Smaller had a nice voice, though it's always struck me as being a bit operatic - think of a mash-up between a young Judy Collins and Pattie Santos (who replaced Linda LaFlame in It's a Beautiful Day). Similarly the rest of the band were quite good with kudos to William Dalton's multi-instrumental contributions - guitar, harpsichord, electric sitar. Wendelken and Dalton (the latter un-credited), were responsible for most of the material which ranged from incidental film music instrumentals (the opener 'Forage') to Fairport Convention styled folk ('Soul of Man'). Best of the lot were their isolated stabs at straight-forward rock ('We Share') and folk-rock, including 'For Now' and the raga flavored 'Woke Up this Morning', Imagine a mixture of Fairport Convention, Jefferson Airplane, and It's a Beautiful Day and you'll be in the right sonic neighborhood.
Cheese" track listing:
1.) For Now (Lawrence W. Wendelken) - 3:43 rating: **** stars
'For Now' opened the album with a nifty folk-rocker. Interesting time changes, raga influences, cool orchestration, and some nice Jefferson Airplane-styled Smaller-Wendelken vocal harmonies. Shame the whole album wasn't like this.
2.) Crystal (Lawrence W. Wendelken) - 5:14 rating: *** stars
Opening with Greg Bloch's electric guitar certainly underscored the It's a Beautiful Day comparisons. That might, or might not be a good thing. What I will say is that 'Crystal' was one of the album's prettier songs with some nice Smaller-Wendelken harmonies, William Dalton adding in a nice little electric guitar riff, and drummer John Maggi getting to play around with what sounded like Celtic percussion.
3.) We Share (Lawrence W. Wendelken - Scott) - 2:59 rating: **** stars
'We Share' was the album's most rock oriented tune. 'We Share' was the album's most lysergic tinged tune. 'We Share' was one of the album's standout performances and I'll readily admit Smaller sounded quite impressive on this one.
4.) Medley - 6:25
i.) Here Am I (Lawrence W. Wendelken) rating: *** stars
Ah, some tasty Byrds-styled jangle rock ... Overlooking Bloch electric violin fills, this one benefited some nice Dalton electric jangle guitar.
ii.) Empty Streets (Lawrence W. Wendelken - Scott) rating: *** stars
As a medley it's kind of hard to tell where 'Empty Streets' kicks in - my guess is around the 3:55 mark. This was another one where Smaller sounded better when she pulled out her rock voice. As you can tell, I'm not a big electric violin fan, but in this case the combination of Bloch's violin and Dalton's electric guitar wasn't half bad.
1.) Forage (instrumental) (Lawrence W. Wendelken) - 3:00 rating: *** stars
Pretty, if anonymous acoustic folk piece that would have slotted nicely onto a film soundtrack.
2.) Soul of Man (Lawrence W. Wendelken) - 5:01 rating: ** stars
Smaller's voice was an acquired taste. I don't have a musical background so about the best I can do it describe it as arch and operatic. Add in the dour and pretentious lyrics (English majors will be ecstatic with their stab at deep messaging), and Bloch's violin, and this one came off as a challenge to sit through.
3.) Certain Kind of Day (Lawrence W. Wendelken - Scott) - 3:56 rating: *** stars
Who put on the Fairport Convention album ? Well, I loved the opening harpsichord and acoustic guitar melody.
4.) Woke Up this Morning (Lawrence W. Wendelken) - 4:27 rating: **** stars
I wasn't so keen on Smaller's moaning opening section, but 'Woke Up this Morning' improved when the tune shifted over to Wendelken's husky voice and musical direction. Out with the folk moves and headlong into raga-influenced folk-rock. Jefferson Airplane styled harmonies and courtesy of Dalton, there was even electric sitar ... Easily one of the album's strongest tracks.
5.) Coming (instrumental) (William Dalton) - 1:41 rating: ** stars
The album's shortest piece, the orchestrated instrumental 'Coming' was another tune that sounded like a lost piece of incidental film music. Pretty, but hardly essential. Even though this was his only writing credit, Dalton was apparently responsible for writing most of the music on the album. The reason for the oversight had to do with pre-1972 copyright laws which only allowed for lyrics to be copyrighted.
With Wooden Nickel under-capitalized, there was little support for the album and within a year they were history.
Bloch reappeared as a member of Mark-Almond, followed by It's a Beautiful Day, where he briefly replaced front man David LaFlamme. He also briefly played with the Italian progressive band Premiata Formeria Marconi (better known in the States as PFM). He passed on in 1989.
Wendelken went into production work, including The Runaways' debut album.
Not sure what became of Louis Constantino, William Dalton, or Sally Smaller. Hopefully they're living healthy and productive lives.
In 2008 the English Fallout label reissued the collection in CD format (Fallout catalog number COCD2077). As with all Fallout releases, the package was of doubtful legality and included different cover art.
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