Symphonic Metamorphosis

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1970-72)

- Thomas Bacon -- keyboards, trumpet, French horn

- Robert Cowart (RIP 1987) -- bass, English horn, oboe, flute,

   tenor, sax, clarinet

- Donald Haas -- trumpet

Arthur Krehbiel - French horn, trumpet, bass

- Ervin Monroe -- vocals, guitar, bass, flute

- Robert Pangborn -- percussion

- Dennis Smith -- trombone

- Sam Tundo -- percussion




- Metamorphosis





Genre: horn-rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Symphonic Metamorphosis

Company: London

Catalog: PS 573

Country/State: Detroit, Michigan

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $25.00


In 1970 Thomas Bacon, Robert Cowart, Donald Haas, Arthur Krehbiel, Ervin Monroe, Robert Pangborn, Dennis Smith and Sam Tundo were all members of The Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The eight were apparently all bitten by the rock and roll bug, deciding to form their own band.  The result was Symphonic Metamorphosis.  Signed by London Records, the band was teamed producer Don Griffith, resulting in the release of 1970's "Symphonic Metamorphosis".  Blowing their own horns, the album liner notes crowed "The Symphonic Metamorphosis have heron given birth to a new musical idiom Fusion Rock."


Having listened to this album dozens of times, I'm not sure the fusion rock definition is apt.  The seven original compositions certainly offered up a variety of musical genres including classical, pop moves, jazz-rock horns, conventional rock arrangements and Latin percussion (frequently in one performance). In fact, if I were forced to bin the album into a musical genre I'd tagged it as horn-rock.  The performances were all pretty energetic though it was interesting to note that with the exception of the opening of 'Good Things' and their adaptation of Bach's 'Sarabande' the classical influences were rare. Instead, their biggest influences appeared to be horn-rock bands like BS&T and Chicago. Ervin Monroe was responsible for most of the material and also served as lead guitarist and prime vocalist. Monroe wasn't a great singer, but his raw performances were energetic (check out the opener 'Reach Out!' and 'I've Decided To Get You').  His solo performances were certainly better than the tunes like 'Good Things' and 'Creation' that featured "group" vocals.  I won't try to convince anyone this was a great album, but I can tell you that song-for-song it was better than some of the album's better known horn bands have released.


Craig Braun's cover art was kind of cool.


"Symphonic Metamorphosis" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Reach Out! (Erwin Monroe) - Thomas Bacon arranger - 4:06 rating: *** stars

I have to admit to being surprised 'Reach Out' was as rock and roll as it was.  The band name and their backgrounds left me with the impression this was going to be - well symphonic.  Instead it was a weird as hell blend of Monroe's rugged voice, Cowart's hard rock guitar, BS&T-styled horns and a bit of symphonic orchestration on the top. Kind of a musical free for all, but worth hearing.

2.) Good Things (Lilly - Erwin Monroe - Robert Cowart arranger) - 5:27  rating: *** stars

Opening up with a Baroque horn arrangement, 'Good Things' suddenly warped into a jazzy BS&T arrangement with a pop section, a Santana-styled Latin percussion breakdown and a Chicago-styled closing segment.  The main problem with this one is it underscored the band's lack of a strong singer.  As on most of the collection, the band resorted to "group" vocals that just weren't very good.

3.) I Can See Your Face (Erwin Monroe - Robert Cowart arranger) - 5:06  rating: **** stars

The combination of Monroe's treated vocals and Thomas Bacon's organ gave the ballad 'I Can See Your Face' an ominous, slightly lysergic vibe.  The horns were almost an afterthought on this one, making it one of the album's strongest performances.

4.) Little Lisa (Erwin Monroe - Robert Cowart arranger) - 3:30  rating: *** stars

Back to group vocals, 'Little Lisa' has always struck me as Chicago trying to return to garage rock roots.  Unfortunately they couldn't ditch the horns.


(side 2)
I've Decided To Get You (Erwin Monroe - Symphonic Metamorphosis arranger - 4:09  rating: *** stars

Characterized by Monroe's urgent vocals, 'I've Decided To Get You' also spotlighted his guitar playing.  Kind of a Terry Kath vibe in his solos

2.) Creation (Erwin Monroe - Robert Cowart arranger) - 3:09  rating: *** stars

The album's most commercial offering, 'Creation' showcased uplifting lyrics along with some ragged group vocals which were repeatedly interrupted by Cowart's blasting guitar and the BS&T-styled horns. A strange choice for the album's single.






- 1970's 'Creation' b/w 'Reach Out' (London catalog number LON-133)






3.) Sarabande (Love Is a Strange Man) (J.S. Back - Erwin Monroe - Robert Cowart arranger - 3:30 rating: *** stars

Yes it opened and closed with Bach's melody, but elsewhere you had to strain to find it.  Most of  'Sarabande (Love Is a Strange Man)' featured group vocals over a weird mixture of those BS&T horns and a strange Latin rhythm - imagine a large mariachi band overdosed on weed.

4.) More Power To Ya (Erwin Monroe - Thomas Bacon arranger - 7:49 rating: ** stars

Opening and closing as a stark blues number, 'More Power To Ya' built up speed and energy when the horns kicked in. Unfortunately, that extended mid-section is where things went off the rails and lost my interest.





Apparently an outtake from the debut album, in 1971 London released as second 45:


- 1971's 'Let the Light So Shine' b/w 'Sarabande' (London catalog number 45-140)






While the album did little in terms of sales, London Records agreed to a second release - released under the abbreviated name Metamporphosis; 1972's "Dynamic Areana" (London catalog number PS-588).  The second album also failed to sell and the band were soon a musical footnote.


It looks like most of the members returned to their classical music careers, with dozens of credits ranging from The Berlin Radio Symphony (Bacon) to The Frescno Philharmonic (Krehbiel).  Several have recorded classical solo material. Cowart passed on in 1987.