Ultimate Spinach

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1967-68)

- Ian Bruce-Douglas -- vocals, guitars, harmonica, recorder, theremin

  keyboards, bass, recorder, vibraphone

- Barbara Hudson -- guitar, vocals

- Keith Lahteinen -- drums, percussion, backing vocals

- Richard Nese -- bass

- Geoffrey Winthrop (aka Jeff Cahoon) -- guitars, sitar, backing



  line up 2 (1968-69)

- Ian Bruce-Douglas -- vocals, guitars, harmonica, recorder, theremin

  keyboards, bass, recorder, vibraphone

- Barbara Hudson -- guitar, vocals

NEW - Russ Levine -- drums, percussion (replaced Keith Lahteinen)

- Richard Nese -- bass

- Geoffrey Winthrop -- guitars, sitar, backing vocals


  supporting musicians (1968)

- Carole Lee Britt -- vocals


  line up 3 (1969)

NEW - Jeff Baxter -- lead guitar, vibes, backing vocals (replaced

  Geoffrey Winthrop)

NEW - Mike Levine -- bass (replaced Richard Nese)

- Russ Levine -- drums, percussion

- Barbara Hudson -- guitar, vocals

- Ted Myers -- guitar, vocals (replaced Ian Bruce-Douglas)

- Tony Scheuren (RIP) -- keyboards, guitar, vocals


  supporting musicians (1969)

- Tom Caulfield -- bass, harmonica

- Kyle Garraham --

- Russell Levine -- drums, percussion



- The Apocalypse (Ian Bruce-Douglas)

- Azlbrax (Ian Bruce-Douglas)

- Jeff Baxter (solo efforts)

- The Best (Jeff Baxter)

- Bloodlust (Ian Bruce-Douglas)

- Chameleon Church (Ted Myers)

- The Doobie Brothers (Jeff Baxter)

- Four On the Floor (Jeff Baxter)

- Glider (Ted Myers)

- Holy Modal Rounders

- The Lost (Ted Myers)

- Ted Myers (solo efforts)

- National Lampoon (Tony Scheuren)

- Steely Dan (Jeff Baxter)

- The Texas Toad Lickers (Jeff Baxter)

- Triumph

- Underground Cinema (Ian Bruce-Douglas, Barbara Hudson, 

  Keith Lahteinen, Richard Nese and Geoffrey Winthrop)



Genre: psychedelic

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Behold & See

Company: MGM

Catalog: SE 4570

Country/State: Boston, Massachusetts

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: small "X" on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2492

Price: $40.00


A long time mystery to my ears, Ultimate Spinach's sophomore album tends to get dismissed by critics and fans.  Continuing their partnership with producer  Alan Lorber, "Behold & See" was recorded amidst growing personnel discontent in the ranks, perhaps explaining the presence of guest singer Carole Lee Britt on the Hendrix-styled 'Guilded Lamp of the Cosmos' and a couple of songs.  Front man Ian  Bruce-Douglas was again responsible for all the material and though musically it wasn't a major change from the debut, somehow this set simply lacked the freshness found on the self-titled debut.   I'll admit their sophomore set doesn't match up to the debut in freshness, but song-for-song the album wasn't half bad.  In fact, there were more than a couple of tunes that were easily as good as anything on the debut - among those winners were the opener 'Gilded Lamp of the Cosmos', 'Fragmentary March of Green', and the trip in five minutes instrumental 'Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse'.     


"Behold and See" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Gilded Lamp of the Cosmos   (Ian Bruce-Douglas) - 2:30   rating: **** stars

Other than having seemingly ripped off Hendrix's 'Foxy Lady' riff,  I have to admit to quite liking 'Gilded Lamp of the Cosmos'.  Guest Carole Lee Britt's vocals gave the song a nice lysergic feel and Geoffrey Winthrop turned in some tasty lead guitar.

2.) Visions of Your Reality   (Ian Bruce-Douglas) - 5:49   rating: **** stars

With Bruce-Douglas on lead vocals, 'Visions of Your Reality' offered up a  surprisingly engaging mix of blues and psych.   Kudos to Geoffrey Winthrop for some sterling fuzz guitar moves.

3.) Jazz Thing   (Ian Bruce-Douglas) - 8:20   rating: **** stars

Yeah, I guess you could argue  the xylophone gave 'Jazz Thing' a jazzy tinge, but it was kind of ca cocktail jazz vibe - music for middle class American trying to be hip and happenin' ...  Sure, it was way too long, but kicked along by Bruce-Douglas' socially relevant "timepiece" lyrics, this was another tune that I'll readily admit to enjoying.  

4.) Mind Flowers   (Ian Bruce-Douglas) - 9:38   rating: **** stars

All hyperbole aside, 'Mind Flowers' has to be one of the trippiest songs ever recorded.   Bruce-Douglas' treated vocals, Winthrop' stunning fuzz guitar and strange chord progressions and the socially relevant lyrics (well for 1968), made for one of those special tunes that not enough folks have ever heard.  Imagine what The Doors might have sounded like had they been capable of penning a true melody.  You had to wonder how many stoned hours were spent listening to this tune ... It certainly made for a quick way to make nine minutes go by.


(side 2)

1.) Where You're At   (Ian Bruce-Douglas) - 3:10   rating: **** stars

As much as I like Bruce-Douglas' voice, Carole Lee Britt sounded great on 'Where You're At'.  Probably the album's most conventional and commercial rocker.

2.) Suite: Genesis of Beauty (in Four Parts)   (Ian Bruce-Douglas) - 9:56   rating; ** stars

Starting out with a folkish, almost pastoral feel, 'Suite: Genesis of Beauty (in Four Parts)' was quite different than any of the earlier performances.  Stretching out over nine minutes, it bounced into a jazz mid-section with some of Bruce-Douglas' most pompous lyrics ...  Can't say I liked it as much as some of the other tunes and it was way too long for the band's own good.

3.) Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse (instrumental)   (Ian Bruce-Douglas) - 5:50   rating: **** stars

One of the finest things the band ever recorded, 'Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse' opened up with a wonderful Byrds-styled folk-rock vibe, made even better by an extended Dylan-esque harmonica solo. About a minute and half in the song abruptly switches gear with the focus shifting to Geoffrey Winthrop's multi-tracked, fuzz drenched lead guitar. And just when you were settling down, at the four minute mark the tune shifts to a pastoral flute and organ interlude, before returning to the opening folk-rock melody.  Quite a trip.

4.) Fragmentary March of Green   (Ian Bruce-Douglas) - 6:51   rating: **** stars

Any song starting out with a lysergic-tinged piano is likely to having something going for it.  Combined with Keith Lahteinen's Eastern-tinged percussion and Bruce-Douglas' deadpanned vocals and goofy lyrics and 'Fragmentary March of Green' was one of the album highlights.   Wonder if I'm the only one who heard a bit of Beatles influence in the "sanctify, reality" chant at the end of the song.





Genre: psychedelic

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Ultimate Spinach III

Company: MGM

Catalog: SE 4600

Country/State: Boston, Massachusetts

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: promo copy; DJ sticker on cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 31088

Price: $40.00


I guess you could categorize 1969's "Ultimate Spinach III" as an example of a contractual obligation release ...  Following the release of their second album, 1968's "Behold & See", front man Ian Bruce-Douglas left the band.  His departure came in the wake of repeated clashes with manger/producer and growing frustrations with the rest of the band.  Having retained rights to the Ultimate Spinach nameplate, Lober remained determined to squeeze another album out of the band.  By the time the next collection was released the only surviving members were singer Barbara Hudson and second-generation drummer Russ Levine.  Hudson and Levine found themselves surrounded by a totally new group of players - lead guitarist Jeff Baxter, bassist Mark Levine, singer Ted Myers and keyboardist Tony Scheuren.  The latter two had been members of Boston's Chameleon Church.  


Anyone expecting a continuation of the band's earlier psych-tinged work was likely to be disappointed by this one.  With newcomers Myers and Scheruen responsible for the majority of material, the collection came off as an uneven smorgasbord of musical styles.  Almost as if they were auditioning as a wedding band, the group took on a dazzling array of styles including stabs at country ('Sincere'), folk (Reasons'), electric blues (the instrumental 'Eddie's Rush'), garage rock ('Daisy') and pop in the form of a cover of The Reflections' '(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet'.   Those earlier psych influences were far and dew between, though they permeated the best song - 'Happiness Child'.  As lead singer Myers wasn't half bad, displaying considerable versatility across the ten tracks.  Never particularly comfortable in the spotlight, other than sharing lead vocals with Myers on the ballad 'Reasons', Hudson was largely absent this time around.  Still, for a band that hand literally been tossed together with minimal time to practice, the fact they managed to churn out anything was an accomplishment.  It was even more impressive when you realized the album was recorded in nine days.  That may also explain why the set had such a random, disjointed feel.  'Eddie's Rush' sounded very much like a studio jam, while 'Back Door Blues' was a remake of a tune Myers had recorded four years earlier with his band The Lost.  


"Ultimate Spinach III" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) (Just Like) Romeo & Juliet  (Richard Popcorn Wuylie - Thelma Williams) - 2:38   rating: ** stars

I've always wondered who was responsible for suggesting these guys cover the old Reflections tune.  Was it an attempt to improve their commercial potential?  Was it an effort to sabotage a band already on their last legs?  Beats me.  Upping the rock quotient helped a little bit, but not enough.  Myers lead vocal wasn't bad - a little strained, while Barbara Hudson was relegated to the background.  Jeff Baxter turned in a nice solo.  



I realize that selecting a 45 is part business, part art and part magic.  That said, you have to wonder what MGM was thinking when they tapped this one.


- 1969's '(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet' and 'Some Days You Just Can't Win' (MGM catalog number K-14023)





2.) Some Days You Just Can't Win   (Ted Myers - Tony Scheruen) - 3:28   rating: **** stars

'Some Days You Just Can't Win' was a nice, blues-ballad showcasing Myers double tracked lead vocals.  The song also benefited from Baxter's guitar.  Now that I think about it, the song actually sounded a bit like early an Steely Dan performance - pretty melody with the same bitter edge that Fagen and Becker excelled at..  

3.) Daisy   (Jeff Baxter) - 2:18   rating: **** stars

Totally unexpected ...  Who would have thought these guys were capable of kicking out a top-notch garage rocker? 

4.) Sincere   (Ted Myers) - 3:29   rating: ** stars

As a country tune the Myers penned 'Sincere' wasn't bas, but it was a country tune.  Nothing that appealed to me.

5.) Eddie's Rush (instrumental)  (Ultimate Spinach) - 6:50   rating: ** stars

'Eddie's Rush' was a seemingly endless electric-blues instrumental.  Everyone (except Hudson), got a minute in the spotlight, but this one sounded like it was an in-studio jam session that was included to simply fill out the grooves.  Completely forgettable.


(side 2)

1.) Strange-Life Tragicomedy   (Ted Myers - Tony Scheruen) - 4:13   rating: *** stars

Even though it wasn't a great performance, it there was one song that at least vaguely recalled the band's earlier psych-influenced recordings, then it was 'Strange-Life Tragicomedy'.   To be totally honest, this one actually sounded like an exhausted Quicksilver Messenger Service.

2.) Reasons   (Tony Scheruen) - 3:51   rating: *** stars

A pretty acoustic ballad, 'Reasons' was the only track to spotlight Hudson's fragile voice.  The combination of Hudson and Myers voices was very pleasant.

3.) Happiness Child   (Ted Myers) - 4:42   rating: **** stars

Showcasing a easygoing lysergic vibe and Myers prettiest vocal, to my ears 'Happiness Child' was easily the album's standout performance.  Imagine a less arch Marty Balin ...

4.) Back Door Blues   (Ted Myers) - 3:02   rating: *** stars

'Back Door Blues' was a remake of a tune Myers and written and recorded with The Lost.  It originally appeared as the "B" side to their debut single 'Maybe More Than You'.   Nicest thing I can say about 'Back Door Blues' is that Baxter's opening chords have always reminded me of Steely Dan's 'Bodhisattva'.  Other than that this was a forgettable slice of boogie-rock.  

5.) The World Has Just Begun  (Ted Myers - Tony Scheruen) - 3:19   rating: *** stars

'The World Has Just Begun' had a decent mid-tempo melody accentuated by some nice Baxter lead guitar.