Friday, August 26, 2011

Mojo Magic - Mojo

Mojo Magic
Mojo
GRT 10003
1968

The Mojo Men were part of the first generation of San Francisco bands that paved the way for the San Francisco Sound without ever really being a part of it.  I first encountered them on the original "Nuggets" comp which featured their classic 1967 single "Sit Down I Think I Love You."  That song's delicious blending of chamber pop and sunshine pop resulted in one of the most infectious and delightful songs of its era.  I loved it so much I sought out the original Reprise Records 45 just to hear the B-side, the very fine "Don't Leave Me Crying Like Before."  It remains one of my favorite singles of all time.  This is the sole album by the Mojo Men although by this time they had shortened their name to Mojo.  Like their fellow early San Francisco band, the Charlatans, their album came out too late, after the band was already on the downside of their career.  I'll never understand why Reprise never released an album by them earlier than this.  Anyone who has heard the Sundazed comps of the Mojo Men's Reprise material knows how good that music was.  Warner Bros. saw fit to release 3 albums by their Autumn Records contemporaries The Beau Brummels and no less than 4 albums by the far less talented Harper's Bizarre (known as the Tikis on Autumn) but just a few singles by the Mojo Men.  Some of the Reprise material ended up on this album and if you have the Sundazed CD "Sit Down...It's The Mojo Men" you will have heard eight of the ten tracks on this album already, only "Candle To Burn" and "I Can't Let Go" are not included on it.  That is unfortunate because "Candle To Burn" is an excellent song with some lovely orchestration.  I consider it one of their best songs. "I Can't Let Go" is a weaker song but like "Candle To Burn" it features an impressive arrangement with orchestration that makes it sound more sophisticated than it really is.  Parts of this album sounds like the Mamas and the Papas which might have been a good idea in 1966 but a dubious choice in 1968.  Their influence is evident in the arrangements and harmonies on "Make You At Home," and especially "New York City" which could be an answer song to the Mamas and the Papas" "Twelve-Thirty."  "New York City" is a memorable song, but it is so derivative that it doesn't do much for Mojo's artistic credibility.  "Evelyn Hope" is the most interesting song on the record with a compelling guitar line from Paul Curcio and a psychedelic feel to it that is the closest they come to the San Francisco Sound on this album.  When Jan Errico starts wailing at the end I'm reminded of Grace Slick with the Great Society.  The gothic lyrics are derived from the poem of the same name by Robert Browning (although he is given no credit.)  "Beside Me" is one of my favorite songs on the record.  Errico's haunting vocal on this alluring chamber pop song really sends me.  It is a slow, smoldering song reminiscent of "Don't Leave Me Crying Like Before."  There is also a chamber pop feel to "Flower of Love" which has a complex structure with numerous tempo changes.  "Not Too Old To Start Crying" is a mix of folk-rock and chamber pop.  It is a conventional pop song but it has a compelling beat, a passionate vocal from Jim Alaimo and an arrangement that gives it some depth.  "Free Ride" is one of the punchier songs on the record with a soulful brass arrangement and I like the flower power lyrics.  "Whatever Happened to Happy" is the only song on the album that was not written by the team of Jim Alaimo and Jan Errico, it was written by Garry Bonner and Alan Gordon of "Happy Together" fame.  It is first rate commercial pop and I don't know why it wasn't a hit.  Even though it doesn't represent the band as well as the Sundazed CDs do, I really enjoy this record, there isn't a bad song on it.  Alaimo and Errico had a lot of chemistry as singers and the arrangements are consistently interesting and appealing.  This album deserves to be better known, as do the Mojo Men, they had a lot of talent.  "Mojo Magic" isn't all that easy to find but the Sundazed comps are and the two that feature the post-Autumn recordings with Jan Errico are both excellent.  If you are a fan of the early San Francisco Sound, chamber pop or sunshine pop, you will probably enjoy these recordings.  Recommended for people who prefer "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" to "Crown of Creation."

2 comments:

  1. I've heard of the Mojo Men, but never heard them. So I just went to Grooveshark and listened to their version of "Sit Down I Think I Love You" -- but I have to say that I much prefer the Buffalo Springfield original. But your writeup has convinced me to take a listen to more of their stuff...

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  2. Thanks Dave. According to the liner notes of the Sundazed comp, Jan Errico claims that the Springfield themselves preferred the Mojo Men version which was arranged by Van Dyke Parks. I like both versions - they are extremely different, almost like different songs really.

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