Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Serpent Power - The Serpent Power (1967)

Mp3\93Mb
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Fronted by San Franciscan poet David Meltzer, the Serpent Power was a sunshiny folk-rock group, whose songs were musical translations of Meltzer's poetry. They were first noticed by Ed Denton, manager of Country Joe and the Fish, when he saw them perform at their first-ever gig, a benefit for the Telegraph Neighborhood Center. This was in November of 1966 — Denton recommended them to Vanguard Records (Country Joe's label) and by 1967 the band was signed and had released their first and only album.
The Serpent Power was formed by Meltzer and his wife Tina (who sang both lead and harmony vocals), and also included Denny Ellis and David Stenson on lead guitar and bass, respectively, both of whom had gotten their start with San Francisco folksters the Grass Roots. The band became a full rock outfit with the inclusion of John Payne on organ and Clark Coolidge on drums. The album, also entitled The Serpent Power, received a somewhat limited pressing and, despite featuring some excellent examples of folk-rock, the band never got that big, known mostly within the San Francisco area. The album's last track was a raga-rock epic which included electric banjo player JP Pickens, who stayed on as a permanent member as the band entered its second incarnation.
Ellis, Stenson, and Payne left shortly after The Serpent Power was recorded, replaced by Bob Cuff (who'd come over from folk-pop band the Mystery Trend), on lead guitar and Jim Mocoso on bass. Although they continued reaching in ever-more exploratory directions, the band didn't record another album, and disbanded in 1968. David and Tina Meltzer went on to record another album, Poet's Song, under their own names.
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Personnel:
CLARK COOLIDGE drms DENNY ELLIS ld gtr DAVID MELTZER hrmnca, gtr, vcls TINA MELTZER vcls JOHN PAYNE organ JEAN-PAUL PICKENS banjo DAVID STENSON bs BOB CUFF gtr DAVID MOORE zhenei JIM MOSCOSO bs
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1 Don't You Listen to Her 2:20
2 Gently, Gently 2:36
3 Open House 3:31
4 Flying Away 4:26
5 Nobody Blues 3:50
6 Up and Down 3:37
7 Sky Baby 2:32
8 Forget 3:34
9 Dope Again :47
10 Endless Tunnel 13:14
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Review by Alex Stimmel The only album released by this San Francisco group, The Serpent Power is a good example of the ways in which the "San Francisco sound" had coalesced into a recognizable trend by 1967: music set to beat poetry, a combination of bluesier rockers and wispy, folk-influenced tunes with male and female harmonies, and meditations about drugs all date the album somewhat, but the songs themselves are quite good, with excellent band interplay and nice electric guitar work. The heavier songs pack a good punch, while the lighter songs set a very airy, flowing mood, the epitome of what was then becoming known as "flower power". The Serpent Power is most noteworthy, though, for the inclusion of the last track, "Endless Tunnel," which was one of the first successful fusions of eastern-style song structure and philosphy with western instruments and rock sensibilities. This sort of raga-rock had been tried earlier by San Francisco's Great Society, and, of course, the Beatles, but never had it been taken to such extremes on record, clocking in at over 13 minutes. The only other rock songs with similar ideas and effect were the Butterfield Blues Band's "East-West" and the Doors' "The End," both released a year earlier. The album's liner notes include excerpts from the poetry of the band's leader and songwriter, David Meltzer.
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