Friday, 21 April 2017

ESSRA MOHAWK: 'a lot of different kinds of music'

Primordial Lovers is an intense, impassioned, personal and otherworldly record, about which little is known, so thought I'd post some odds and ends here.

Sandra Elayne Hurvitz was born in Philadelphia on April 23rd 1948. Her recording career began with a pop 45 (The Boy With The Way / The Memory Of Your Voice), released on Liberty under the name Jamie Carter in August 1965.


It sold poorly, and by 1967 she was in New York, where she came into Frank Zappa's orbit. He renamed her 'Uncle Meat', they had a romance, and she played with the Mothers during their famed residency at the Garrick Theatre in Greenwich Village. 

Her first album was made that year for Zappa's production company, Bizarre. Recorded under his auspices, but in fact (rather basically) produced by Ian Underwood, it appeared on Verve under the name Sandy Hurvitz, in December 1968. 



Sandy's Album Is Here At Last is quirky and openly emotional, with uninhibited vocals and piano-led songs that change tempo and mood frequently. Its title refers to the label's long delay in releasing it, and the finished product supposedly appeared in shops without her being informed. It was barely reviewed, and sold next to nothing. She didn't record for Verve again.

Around this time, the vice-president of Warner Brothers Records, Mo Ostin, saw her performing at Steve Paul's Scene in Manhattan, and signed her up to their Reprise label. Her second LP was recorded and mixed in Los Angeles that year. Almost all the sessions took place at Elektra, where her producer and husband Barry Friedman (aka Frazier Mohawk) worked.

Beautifully recorded and featuring a small army of sympathetic session players, including Lee Underwood, Dallas Taylor, Doug Hastings and Jerry Penrod, Primordial Lovers is a deep, even psychedelic experience that gently unfolds over multiple plays.

For some strange reason, a handful of advance copies were sent out in a red sleeve in early 1970. (The music and running order on these is identical to the commercial release.)




Primordial Lovers was released in the US and Canada in April 1970 (no foreign pressings are known to exist), in a striking gatefold sleeve designed by Ed Thrasher, showing the Mohawks' entwined bodies.



Also included was a plump little lyric booklet:


Here's the press release and accompanying photo that were sent out to radio stations and reviewers:






The only advert I've seen was shared with several other Reprise releases, and crassly drew attention to the 'erotic packaging', as well as wrongly stating it was her 'debut':



Few reviews appeared, and those that did tended to emphasise her superficial similarities to Laura Nyro. Oddly, as far as I am aware, no mainstream music magazines covered the LP.

Here's what Entertainment World wrote in their May 8th issue:


 High Fidelity magazine had this to say in August:


Here's a five-star review in Down Beat of November 12th (review by Mike Bourne):


And, finally, here's a typically sniffy assessment from the American Record Guide's December issue:



No single was extracted, though mono and stereo versions of Spiral were sent to radio stations along with the LP. (It has been suggested that Spiral was also issued with a track called Image Of You on the B-side, but I have never seen a copy.)

Despite having cost a small fortune to record and manufacture, the LP was clobbered by poor distribution and promo, and sold poorly, as did a non-LP 45, Jabberwock Song / It's Up To Me, which appeared in May:



That, unfortunately, was that; a silence of five years was to ensue before her next recordings appeared.

As a final note, it has been claimed by Mojo and numerous others that Rolling Stone hailed Primordial Lovers as 'one of the 25 best albums ever made' upon its release. In fact, they didn't review the album at all. However, in 1977 a RS writer referred to it in passing as one of his personal best 25 albums of all time, something that is now quoted out of context whenever the album is mentioned, as if it were the result of a critics’ poll.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

DIMAGRAPHY AND THE ART OF ORGANOLEPTIC EVALUATION

One of the most important lessons a record collector can learn is that you never know what might turn up - even things you might think couldn't possibly exist.  
   
Until last year an eBay seller based in the US named 'marc_arel11' was selling sealed copies of classic 60s and 70s LPs, with previously unseen promo or 'hype' stickers on the sleeves. When that account suddenly went idle, a new one emerged, using the handle 'dimagraphy', and is still going strong. This seller appears to be named Dmitry Demchenko, and the listings say he's based in Garden Grove, California. Are his LPs from a record industry source, a radio station, or a reviewer? Or is he simply very lucky at sourcing such treasures? No one knows. But the truly amazing thing about his listings is that many of the stickers - which are almost all in remarkable, as-new condition - have also never been seen before, even by old-school collectors.    

In February of this year he raked in an impressive $2,154.00 for an original August 1966 paste-over copy of the Beatles' Yesterday & Today LP. It boasted a sticker that not only referred to the sleeve as a 'butcher cover' - therefore being the first documented use of the term - but also described it as '2nd state' (again, the first documented use of the term).     

Here's the beautiful vintage sticker found on that copy: 


You can click HERE for the auction listing.

On and on it goes - all in lovely condition, mostly previously unknown to hardcore collectors. For example, who knew that Master Of Reality (HERE) ever came with a hype sticker?


Or that the shrink on US first pressings of Led Zeppelin II came with track listing stickers in two different colours? All the ones previously known were pink, with sharp corners (as seen on the right here), but Dmitry's copy (on the left) is black, with rounded corners - and in wonderfully clean condition:


You can see that listing, which netted him an enviable $1313 - by clicking HERE

His greatest coup so far has surely been to find an original, sealed promo copy of the Rolling Stones' 1967 Their Satanic Majesties Request LP, bearing a promo sticker for Polygram records - a European company to which they were not signed, and which did not exist until 1972. 

Here's the beautiful vintage sticker on that one:


and HERE is the original listing, which unsurprisingly hauled in a whopping $1009.

Cynics might cry foul, but Dmitry offers this assurance: 'BASED ON OUR EXPERIENCE AND ORGANOLEPTIC EVALUATION ALL OF THE ELEMENTS OF THE ISSUE LEAVE NO DOUBTS THAT IT IS THE ORIGINAL FIRST PRESSING.'

Friday, 2 September 2016

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART and the Safe As Milk identity parade

Safe As Milk was released in the US in the summer of 1967. Original copies came with an inner sleeve that depicted a number of the band's cronies:



Musicians aside, I can identify the following:


Label boss Bob Krasnow



Producer Richard Perry



DJ Tom Donahue


Avalon manager Chet Helms

Los Angeles DJ Bobby Dale



Engineer Hank Cicalo


Mrs. Sandy Krasnow and their children


Producer Richard Perry's younger brother, Fred


An unnamed receptionist at the Kama Sutra / Buddha office in Los Angeles

The others are a mystery. Any ideas?



CAPTAIN BEEFHEART and the release of Safe As Milk

Readers of this blog will of course need no introduction to Captain Beefheart's first album. This post concerns its release date; the one most commonly given is September 1967, but I suspect this is up to three months out. Here's some evidence.

1) this advert appeared in Billboard on June 24th


2) this double-spread appeared in World Countdown in June


3) John Lennon posed for this photo at home in Surrey on June 29th (though the stickers, one of which came with each copy of the LP, could easily have been given to him separately by his pal Derek Taylor, who was managing Beefheart's publicity at the time)


4) This collage appeared in World Countdown in July


5) This advert appeared in World Countdown in August (and makes the unlikely claim that 20,000 copies had already changed hands)


6) In Billboard of August 19th, the LP was tipped as a ‘National Breakout,’ indicating albums that 'have been reported getting strong sales action by dealers in major markets’:


For what it's worth, World Countdown ran yet another full-page ad for it the following month:


7) Finally, on January 11th 1969, the UK music weekly Record Mirror ran an intriguing letter from Michael Ashwell of One Stop Records in London:


The letter makes it clear that John Peel had received a 'review copy' in late July 1967, which - allowing for transatlantic shipping - confirms a release date of mid-July at the latest.

The earliest reviews I have seen for the album, incidentally, date from November 1967, which is puzzling.

One last thought: on the inner sleeve that came with the LP, a jolly chap in a sombrero can be seen holding a copy of Sgt. Pepper, which was released at the start of June - so if Safe As Milk did come out the same month, the artwork must have been turned around pretty fast.

Monday, 19 October 2015

THE BEATLES: an exciting new discovery!

As many of you will know, at the end of 1970 the moribund Official Beatles Fan Club sent its members an LP entitled From Then To You, compiling the light-hearted 'Christmas message' flexidiscs they'd received from the band every Christmas between 1963 and 1969. Though it was pressed by Lyntone (who'd also made the flexis) instead of EMI, it was on the Apple label. The earlier messages tend towards sub-Goons / Stanley Unwin jollity, while the later ones have tentative studio effects and musical content. All are irritating on repeated listens, but worth a spin for serious fans. The sleeve reproduces the front covers of all seven discs, but offers no background info. A pressing size isn’t known, but as it was never commercially available, it’s extremely rare by the standards of their other official releases, changing hands for up to £1000 in perfect condition.


Last week an eBay seller named 933gone, based in Macclesfield, UK, listed what he called a 'MEGA RARE' copy of the album, with completely different labels to the Apple release. According to him, 'APPLE DECIDED TO CHANGE LABEL FROM LYNTONE TO APPLE. HOWEVER THE LYNTONE LP WAS PRESSED IN A VERY SHORT RUN AND IS, CONSEQUENTLY, EVEN RARER THAN THE APPLE LABEL VERSION. LYNTONE LABELED RECORD WAS GIVEN AWAY TO THE FAN CLUB STAFF, THE APPLE LABELED LPs GIVEN TO FAN CLUB MEMBERS.'



This will of course come as a startling revelation to long-term Beatles collectors. Intrigued, I emailed him to request evidence for the claim. Clearly a busy man, he disregarded that part of my message, but did have time to tell me: 'This is not a bootleg - bootleg versions have brown/beige label - this one is white label... Please look at the popsike site. There you will find the exact same record and label at £220 or 298 EUROS - its not described as a fake. I am an honest bayer - not a dealer.'

So there we have it - a fascinating artefact for serious Beatles collectors to fight over. No wonder it has already attracted a £200 bid! (PS He has also yet to reply to my contention that the American version of this that he's selling is a blatant counterfeit.)

Friday, 3 July 2015

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF CAPTAIN MARRYAT & THE CUTTING LATHE

On April 16th of this year, an eBay seller named vinyl-network (based in Leicestershire) sold what he described as a BSR DR33M RECORD CUTTER / CUTTING LATHE & TURNTABLE DISC RECORDER, adding that it was a 'STUDIO QUALITY DISC CUTTER IN WORKING ORDER'.

Here's his description:


Being a thorough sort of chap, he assured interested bidders 'I have tested the lathe and have cut onto acetate disc to test whether it cut OK. Everything works perfectly.'

Two months later, on June 25th, he sold what he described as 'CAPTAIN MARRYAT RARE 1974 UK Original *MONO MIX* THOR ACETATE PROG PSYCH FOLK'. This listing was subtitled 'Incredibly Rare! Unreleased MONO Mix?? - Scottish Prog'. Here's a photo of that item:


His description reiterated that the acetate was 'extremely rare', and posited that 'in 1974 most mono pressings were or had been phased out by this point however this was probably mixed by request from the band'.

He could easily have had this conjecture confirmed by contacting some band members. Keyboardist Allan Bryce, who's readily available on Facebook and elsewhere, states: "As far as I know there were no originals that looked like this. It's the first time I have seen this. It's a fake." Bassist Tom Hendry, meanwhile, has this to offer: "It states in the details that the mono mix must have been requested by the band. I know that none of us did that. Definitely looks like a bootleg!"

Nonetheless, jet-propelled by his claims for its collectability and vintage status, it fetched the remarkable sum of £2249. It's little surprise to see that 'Seller does not offer returns' on this or the other acetates by super-collectible artists he has been selling recently.