Friday, May 20, 2011

Introducing The Beau Brummels - The Beau Brummels

Introducing The Beau Brummels
The Beau Brummels
Autumn LP 103

Being from the San Francisco Bay Area, I had a big interest in the San Francisco Sound even though it was long gone by the time I became a record collector.  There were still traces of it if you looked for it, lots of hippies, some of the landmark ballrooms were still extant, original posters and records were easy to find and even some of the bands were still around, although most sounded nothing like they had back in the 1960s.  It was around this time that the Beau Brummels reunited and started gigging again in the Bay Area.  I saw the ads for their shows and I liked their name.  I found out they were a 1960s band and I asked my stepmother (who had been a teenager during the Summer of Love in San Francisco) about them.  I assumed they had been peers of the Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and the Holding Company, but the funny look she gave me when I mentioned this told me otherwise.  Eventually I learned about the chasm between the uncool commercial bands and the hippie bands in San Francisco.  At the time I took the side of the hippies, but in retrospect it is clear to me that most of those hippie bands were no better than the Brummels who in fact made some of the best music to come out of San Francisco in the 1960s even if they weren't allowed to be part of that "Sound."  This was the Brummels' debut album.  Unlike many of the mid-1960s San Francisco bands who derived their sound from folk-rock or rhythm and blues, the Brummels found their sound in the pop side of the British Invasion.  Aside from maybe the Knickerbockers, I can't think of another major American group that sounded so English.  They weren't just crude imitators though, they had real talent.  Sal Valentino was a somewhat limited singer, but what he did, he did extremely well.  His voice is very distinctive and evocative.  Ron Elliott was a fine songwriter, he wrote 10 of the 12 songs on the album including the two hit singles "Laugh, Laugh" and "Just A Little."  His biggest weakness is the lyrics, which tend to be trite and sentimental.  He would get better in the future, especially during the Warner Bros. Records era of the group.  The two singles are excellent as you probably know, but most of the album tracks are good as well.   "Still In Love With You Baby" was the B-side of "Laugh, Laugh" but I think it is strong enough to have been an A-side.  "Stick Like Glue" and "That's If You Want Me To" are also really memorable songs loaded with hooks that could have been singles.  These songs show how well the group absorbed the style of the British Beat groups.  You could play this record next to the Searchers or the Hollies or even the early Beatles and not notice much of a difference.  The sappy "I Would Be Happy" is perhaps the most blatantly imitative of the English groups, if I heard it on the radio I would assume it was Peter and Gordon or someone of that ilk.  The notable exception to the English influence is "I Want More Loving" which evokes the sound of 1950s rock and roll to great effect.  The two covers, Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me" and the old warhorse "Ain't That Loving You Baby" are among the weaker numbers on the record.  This record is too uneven and derivative to be a classic, but it is quite enjoyable and promising.  In 1965 there weren't many American bands more talented than the Beau Brummels and they would only get better in the future.  Recommended for fans of the first wave of the British Invasion.

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