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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Search Party - Montgomery Chapel (1969 us, wonderful spiritual trippy mindmelter west coast psych)

If you think that all Christian rock blows, then you haven't heard the kids in Search Party. And if you think that 99.9 percent of Christian rock blows, then I guess you have. This, my little lambs, is the 0.1 percent that doesn't. You can usually file "Christian rock" alongside those other oxymoron, like "jumbo shrimp", "honest politician" or "parttime record collector." 

Maybe it's because most Christian music is made by twin brothers who dress identically, families who travel the South in silver motor homes, or pastors who've had half their faces burned off yet still manage to spread the message of hope. But perhaps the message might be spread more effectively if someone with even a modicum of hipness (not to mention a few vocal lessons) would step forward and sing the praises on electric guitar. 

Well, back in 1968, that's exactly what The Search Party did. On "Montgomery Chapel", you can tell these Christian kids were ignoring their parents' warning and listening to the latest Doors, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Ian records behind closed doors. So much so, that if you didn't know this was a Christian rock record, you might actually dig it. But don't let that stop you. 

These kids were good, and they even owned one of Satan's fuzz pedals. The Search Party weren't afraid to "rock out," as the heathens say, and filled their West Coast acid rock sound with loud, invasive blasts of heavenly fuzz on the blistering "You and I." Vocalist Joanie Goff had the same command and range as Dorothy Moskowitz of the United States of America, or Chris Christman from Ivory. 

Although occasionally...okay, frequently...she strayed into this possessed high-pitched shriek/yelp mode, like Gal Costa in the middle of a Pentecostal revival. When she's able to holster herself, though, things get downright trippy - check out the moody, ethereal "When He Calls" for some good smokefilled God-fearing acid rock sounds. With its jangly Roger McGuinn guitar and quivery psychedelic organ, I'd be tempted to say the band sounds "stoned" if I didn't know better. 

But as a languid leisurely stroll through the sounds of Haight- Ashbury, this is the Christian rock equivalent of a good It's a Beautiful Day ballad, complete with bof male and female harmony vocals. Joanie loses it near the end, sadly, and things unravel a bit, but when she keeps her cool, it's about as good a head-trip for Jesus as you'll hear. She's much more effective on the moody "Renee Child", adding some unsettling but very evocative banshee cries behind the male lead singer, who also subscribes to the school of vocal melodrarr; 

But it all works well together, and things are kept to a bare minimum - just vocals, two acoustic guitars and some occasional shots of xylophone – creating a very effective, ethereal and downright spooky slice of otherworldly sounding acid rock. It's not very often you'd apply the term "trippy mindmelter" to Christian music, but in this case, you would. And you'd be correct too, because there's no doubt that the boys and girls in Search Party listened to their share of Doors albums when recording "So Many Things Have Got Me Down" - at 9 minutes, riding a trancelike repetitive and very similar guitar riff, this absolutely has to be influenced by "The End". 

Side 2 loses the point a bit - "All But This", "Poem By George Hall" and "The Decidedly Short Epic of Mr. Alvira" all get bogged down in some fancy-schmancy Renaissance Faire medieval prog folk, far too quiet and moody for a band who owns a fuzz guitar and a female singer prone to sudden histrionics, unless you're a big fan of the folkier aspects of Jefferson Airplane (i.e. "Comin' Back to Me). 

However the big finale, the band's welcome return to fuzz and fury, is the closer "The News is You". A monster fuzz ripper of the Camera variety, which means it's a big, loud fire-breathing papier-mache tortoise. And Japanese kids like to hitch a ride on its back. Only thing is. Joanie's in full shriek and yelp mode here, wailing and screaming like Yoko Ono under demonic possession, which helps to end this strange little Jesus rock album on the most demented note possible. 

Not that a fuzz-shredding, mind-melting Christian rock band with a Jones for the Doors isn't already demented enough. And there's nary a Winnebago or red velour sports jacket in sight. If anything, the Search Party proved that you could love Jesus and also be a legitimate acid rock band. They looked and sounded just like the nondenominational co-ed West Coast bands - Jefferson Airplane, the United States of America. Ivory, Stoneground - only they sang about Jesus and their lead singer flew off the handle more often than Joan Crawford in "Mommy Dearest." But that only makes 'em all the more interesting. You've heard of the School of Rock. Now grab yoursetf a Psalter and a tab of acid, and check out the Chapel of Rock.

1. Speak To Me (N.T. Freund, The Search Parly) - 2:54
2. Renee Child (N. T. Freund, The Search Party) - 2:43
3. Melanya (P. Apps) - 1:46
4. When He Calls (N. T. Freund, The Search Party) - 4:26
5. So Many Things Have Got Me Down (N. T. Freund, Pete Apps, The Search Party) - 9:19
6. You And I (N. T. Freund, The Search Party) - 3:11
7. All But This (J. Catvalho) - 3:23
8. Poem By George Hall (Pete Apps, George Hall) - 3:46
9. The Decidedly Short Epic Of Mr Alvira (J. Carvalho) - 3:36
10.The News Is You (N. T. Freund) - 4:39

The Search Party
*Joanie Goff - Vocals, Guitar
*Jim Carvalho - Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Pete Apps - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Tim King - Drums

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ellanios said...

Ευχαριστω πολυ Μαριε!!!Τέλεια..

wcpaeb said...

Thanks, this is one of the top LPs in the Jesus music field.

Robert Charbonnier said...

The news is you is really a masterpiece. Thank you for this one :)

Marios said...

........the party is On.....

Cuddlybear said...

I've been listening to this album recently and it's great

Thank you Marios


Saturday 24th June 2017 13.48pm

Psychfan said...

Hi Marios, is it it possible to re-up this?
Please and thank you!

Marios said...

Psychfan, Search Party updated..

Psychfan said...

Thank you! Much appreciated.

Ron in Portland, OR said...

Hey, was searching for this after a friend turned me on. So happy to have found it and your wonderful blog. Many thanks.