Monday, May 30, 2011

It's a Beautiful Day - It's a Beautiful Day

It's a Beautiful Day
It's a Beautiful Day
Columbia CS 9768

The debut album by It's A Beautiful Day and one of my favorite album covers of all time courtesy of Globe Propaganda.  I used to love this record but I rarely listen to it any more.  As I've gotten older my tolerance for hippie bullshit has diminished.  This was the first band I ever saw live.  My first rock concert was the Tribal Stomp in Berkeley in 1978.  It was a day long throwback to the 1960s rock festivals, thrown by Chet Helms of the Family Dog featuring many Bay Area bands.  I was in high school at the time and it was a dream come true for me, undoubtedly the closest I'll ever come to experiencing the 1960s rock experience.  Hippies came from all over to Berkeley's Greek Theater to stage one final happening.  Marijuana filled the air as joints were passed through the crowd.  People tripped on LSD (or whatever it was they were taking) and danced around naked.  Me and my two suburban buddies just grinned like idiots trying to fit in as everyone around us reveled in hippie freakdom.  It's A Beautiful Day opened the show after some poetry readings by the likes of Michael McClure and Allen Ginsberg and a short little acoustic set by Dan Hicks.  They called themselves It Was A Beautiful Day since they had broken up 4 years earlier.  To this day I believe they were the loudest band I've ever heard, which is odd since they seem pretty sedate on records.  When the guitar cut loose on "Wasted Union Blues" I thought my ears would explode and my head would melt.  The air seemed to vibrate with the music.  It was actually a very impressive performance, one of my favorites of the day.  Not too much of that excitement translated to any of their albums of which this is the best.  "White Bird" is the song that they are remembered for and deservedly so.  It is a catchy song that builds nicely with appealing lyrics about freedom.  David LaFlamme's voice isn't typical of a rock singer, his rich and melodic tone sounds more like a crooner and seems a bit phony.  His soaring violin was the focus of the band's instrumental approach which gave them a unique sound among the San Francisco bands of the era.  The band's over-the-top romanticism and the flower power lyrics of many of the songs make them sound more dated and corny than most of their contemporaries.  This is particularly noticeable on the overwrought "Hot Summer Day" which has more than its share of hippie hogwash.  "Wasted Union Blues" is an uncharacteristic hard rock song with some blistering guitar from Hal Wagenet, it is one of their best songs and features David LaFlamme's most effective vocal performance.  The moody ballad "Girl With No Eyes" is more typical of the band's strengths and is another one of the best songs on the record.  The interplay between the violin and Linda LaFlamme's keyboards is very pretty.  Pattie Santos' harmony vocal gives some much needed resonance to LaFlamme's mannered singing.  "Bombay Calling" is my favorite song on the record and not just because it features no singing.  It has a great hook and a nice driving beat.  It segues into the oddly titled "Bulgaria" which is kind of dreary and is full of hippie cliches.  It starts like a slow dirge but gradually builds into a more powerful tune with some compelling violin playing leading into the lengthy album closer, "Time Is."  Despite the dopey metaphysical lyrics, it is a forceful, rocking song with some nice instrumental passages from various band members.  I think it is the song on the album that is most typical of the San Francisco sound.  It goes on too long and I could do without the crummy drum solo, but it does end the album with a bang.  This record is most effective as a display of hippie idealism, but I think it still works as music even if you hate the hippie philosophy.  I'm a little embarrassed that I like it as much as I do, but I would recommend it to anyone who is not afraid to wave their freak flag high.

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