Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Happy Is The Sunshine Company - The Sunshine Company

Happy Is The Sunshine Company
The Sunshine Company
Imperial Records  LP 12359

I have a bit of a sweet tooth for sunshine pop.  It used to be a guilty pleasure, but of late this stuff has been gaining in popularity, even respect, with lots of reissues and comps devoted to the genre.  There is a thin line between sunshine pop and bubble gum that has always made me a little uncomfortable, but I have no qualms about liking the Sunshine Company despite their embarrassing name.  They did plenty of upbeat, commercial songs, but they also had a more serious side.  From what I've read about them there was a conflict between the demands of the record label and the group's management and the direction that band actually wanted to follow, a familiar story in the 1960s.  This was their debut album and I like it quite a bit.  There is some saccharine stuff here, but there is also a lot of folk-rock styled seriousness as well.  Their cover of the Beatles' "I Need You" is a chamber pop gem that I prefer to the original.  It is brilliantly arranged by folk singer Mary McCaslin who also arranged their cover of the Beatles "Rain" with less success.  That arrangement is similarly elaborate but it removes the psychedelic edge of the Beatles version and it ends up sounding like the Association.  They also cover "Four In the Morning" which was written by Robin Remaily of the Holy Modal Rounders.  Jesse Colin Young recorded a version on a 1964 solo album and then brought the song to the Youngbloods for their debut album the same year as this.  I love the Youngbloods' version, but this is just as good with some killer fuzz guitar running all the way through it.  Anyone who thinks this is just a lightweight group, should hear this dark and atmospheric song, it is terrific.  They had a modest hit single with a folk-rock cover of "Back on the Street Again" which also appeared on the second album by the Stone Poneys around the same time.  Both versions are really good but I give the edge to the Sunshines.  The only number penned by a group member is "A Year of Jaine Time" by rhythm guitarist, Maury Manseau.  It is a quiet, gloomy song that is mildly ambitious and beautifully sung.  Of course there are a lot of lighter songs as well.  Their version of "Up, Up and Away" was recorded before the hit version issued by the 5th Dimension and I prefer this version.  Although the arrangements are similar, the Sunshine Company's version is a bit rawer.  "Just Beyond Your Smile" is classic sunshine pop with its soaring chorus and upbeat lyrics.  I wish I could say the same for "Love Is A Happy Thing" but instead I find it embarrassing.  It is so corny and overdone that it sounds almost like a parody of sunshine pop/bubble gum.  The band rebounds with the other single from the album, "Happy" which is really charming and full of everything I like about sunshine pop, harmonious vocalizing, upbeat romantic lyrics and a catchy memorable melody.  I suppose some people would find this record pretty corny, but if you give it a chance I think most 60s rock buffs will find something to like on this record.  Recommended for fans of the Mamas and the Papas or the Jan Errico era Mojo Men.

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