Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Candy Floss - The Lost Music of Midamerica (Weekend, 2006)
During the 1965-1969 period, it seemed like just about every city had a thriving rock scene with a seemingly limitless number of bands trying to become the next big thing. Although it doesn't receive the recognition that it deserves, Minneapolis was one of the most exciting places to be in the Midwest during that time as there were several studios and small labels to document the efforts of the local musicians. Candy Floss - The Lost Music of Midamerica compiles 24 mostly obscure tracks recorded under the aegis of one of the Twin Cities' most important songwriting teams from the late 1960s.
Candy Floss was a publishing company established by Dale Menten and Peter Steinberg in 1967. They soon joined forces with Barry Thomas Goldberg and Gary Paulak, guitarists in a group called the Shambles (which also originally included bassist Jay Lee and drummer Whip Lane). This outfit essentially became the house band for Candy Floss, and its members often backed other musicians during studio seesions or recorded under different band names altogether. During its brief two-year heyday, the company helped its artists secure releases on nationally-distributed labels such as Atco, Mercury, and Parrot. In addition to nurturing its own musicians, Candy Floss also provided songs to groups already established in the Minneapolis area as well as up-and-comers who required production assistance with their self-composed material.
If you're expecting nothing but garage rock on this CD, you will be disappointed. In fact, at least half of the tracks feature heavily arranged production and at times sound more British than American to my ears. Best known for their psych-punk nugget "Faces," T.C. Atlantic leads off with the baroque "Twenty Years Ago (In Speedy's Kitchen)," whereas the fuzz-laden "Love Is Just" returns them to more familiar territory. The orchestration continues on the whimsical "Flannigan's Circus," the somber "WW II in Cincinnatti," and the majestic "Lights of Rome," all performed by the Shambles. If Eric Marshall & the Chymes' "The Countess" and "I Can't Love You Anymore" sound as if they were cut from the same cloth, that's because the band was more or less the Shambles in disguise, although the former features the lead vocals of Fred Freeman from T.C. Atlantic. The soaring strings are the highlight of the Left Banke-esque "I Once Had a Dream" by vocalist Arne Fogel and guitarist Steve Longman, although Mike Graw's harpsichord flourishes also contribute to the extravagant atmosphere. "It's All a Dream" radically departs from the mood established by most of the previous tracks and features a very young Michael Yonkers along with his unique wailing vocals and savage guitar attack. "Need Your Lovin' Oh No" by Michael & the Mumbles is another of Yonkers' earliest recordings, and its go-go organ and spacey sounds effects contribute much to its appeal. These two songs are by far the best tracks on this compilation and give the listener an idea of the musical directions that the iconoclastic singer-guitarist would pursue in the future. Another Candy Floss studio creation, the Seraphic Street Sounds showcased the vocal harmonies of Dale Menten, Michael Flaherty, David Steineck, and Michael O'Gara as heard on "Without Love" and "Holly Go Lightly." "Keep It Simple" is another baroque pop offering, this time from the Ron Geslin-led group, the Hot Half Dozen. Two of this CD's selections qualify as mystery tracks - the Farfisa organ-driven instrumental "The Out Crowd" and garage rocker "Give Me Love" - since they originally come from an acetate that merely identifies the group as the Avanties with no other information provided. Next up are the Shambles' considerably less embellished first recordings, the tough "Black Spiders" and the rather Kinksish "7:30 Sunset," while Peter Steinberg's "Find That Woman" nicely recreates the stomping sounds of 1950s R&B. The less said about the overly cute "Oscar Crunch" and the gimmicky "Here Come Da' Judge" by the Nickel Revolution (in fact, a Gary Paulak studio-only group), the better. "Have You Ever," performed by a psychsploitationally-titled outfit called the Trippers, is one of those period pieces where a drug manifesto masquerades as a good-timey tune complete with kazoo solo. The Puddle was a Candy Floss supergroup comprised of many of the aforementioned musicians, but I don't think the sum quite equals the parts. "Happy Like This" could arguably be considered blue-eyed soul, but I find the lyrics of "Red Rover, Red Rover" to be too insipid for their own good. The CD concludes with another song by the Shambles, the unadorned sunshine pop of "Bring Back the Carnival," which nicely pairs three-part vocals with simple piano accompaniment.
Many of these tracks are sourced from scratchy 45s and battered acetates, so temper your sonic expectations accordingly.
1. Twenty Years Ago (In Speedy's Kitchen) - T.C. Atlantic
2. Flannigan's Circus - The Shambles
3. WW II in Cincinnati - The Shambles
4. Lights of Rome - The Shambles
5. The Countess - Eric Marshall & the Chymes
6. I Can't Love You Anymore - Eric Marshall & the Chymes
7. I Once Had a Dream - Longman and Fogel
8. It's All a Dream - Michael Yonkers
9. Without Love - Seraphic Street Sounds
10. Keep It Simple - Hot Half Dozen
11. Holly Go Lightly - Seraphic Street Sounds
12. The Out Crowd - Avanties
13. Need Your Lovin' Oh No - Michael & the Mumbles
14. Love Is Just - T.C. Atlantic
15. Black Spiders - The Shambles
16. 7:30 Sunset - The Shambles
17. Find That Woman - Peter Steinberg
18. Oscar Crunch - Nickel Revolution
19. Here Come Da' Judge - Nickel Revolution
20. Have You Ever - The Trippers
21. Happy Like This - The Puddle
22. Red Rover, Red Rover - The Puddle
23. Give Me Love - Avanties
24. Bring Back the Carnival - The Shambles