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Plain and Fancy

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Freeborne - Peak Impressions (1967 us, exeptional psychedelic experimantal rock, Collector's Item Vinyl reissue)



The Freeborne were a youthful Boston-based psych outfit whose five members, despite their tender years, all had considerable experience of playing a wide range of styles in earlier combos. Adapting their name from the movie Born Free and discovering the freewheeling creative delights of LSD, they signed to Monitor in early ’67 and concocted a set of highly psychedelic originals which were laid down at A&R Studios in NYC. Peak Impressions sold only modestly, probably because of a dilatory campaign of live appearances to support it. 

After the lukewarm reception afforded it the original Freeborne folded, though later incarnations with fewer or no original members did tramp the second-division concert circuit for a few years afterwards. Inexplicably, given their obvious talent, only guitarist Bob Margolin seems to have had an appreciable later career, playing in Muddy Waters’s backing band through most of the 70s and subsequently with blues-based outfits under his own name. There’s precious little documentation on the band anywhere, but the excellent It’s Psychedelic Baby website features an informative career interview with Margolin which includes insights into the Freeborne.

I was expecting this one to be good, having read complimentary accounts of it in both Fuzz Acid And Flowers and The Acid Archives. I was even more impressed when it arrived and the CD remaster proved to have been archived by Smithsonian Folkways whose estimable moniker now adorns the Digipak. And this is indeed an impressive collection. It’s notable for the virtuosity of the musicians whose ages ranged from just 17 to 19 and yet three of whom were precociously-talented multi-instrumentalists: and we’re talking orchestral hardware here – pianos, harpsichords, cellos, trumpets, flutes and recorders – not just standard rock frontline. 

It’s also remarkable for the variety and creativity of the material; one reviewer commented that there seemed to be too many ideas to fit into a single album, and I can see his point. Youthful enthusiasm ensured that nothing was left out and nothing left understated, and most tracks move through bewildering sequences of keys, metres, instrumentation and vocal stylings that give their definitively psych outlines a distinctly progressive edge. This is one to listen to right through several times to get the whole effect.

The lyrics are mostly generic trippy psych nonsense, but the music is invigoratingly original. Leading off with a soulful piano riff, the opening “Images” offers Byrdsy harmonies, pulsating bass and rippling guitar scales before switching into a baroque piano and trumpet waltz. “Land Of Diana” prefigures 70s prog, starting as a jazzy 5/4 and shifting into a bluesy shuffle after distinctly proggy organ and guitar episodes. “Visions Of My Own” sets a homely acoustic guitar and trilling flute against what sounds like a chorus of PDQ Bach’s infamous Dill Piccolos before mutating without warning into a military snare-drum march. “Peak Impressions And Thoughts” is all Piper-era Floyd with swirling Farfisa, spiky Syd-style guitar, fluid bass and crashing cymbals building to a furious final crescendo. “Yellow Sky” is definitive Britsike with wah-ed guitars, churchy keyboards and lots of tempo changes. 

The most conventional track, “Hurtin’ Kind Of Woman”, is a soft blues shuffle with jazzy guitar and energetic Hammond work comparable with the best of Brian Auger. Despite the multifarious musical landscapes visited here, only on the last two tracks does the band outstretch itself, with the ridiculously sombre harpsichord and cello, sub-Beach Boys harmonies and cod-poetic spoken voice outro of “A New Song For Orestes” and the unnecessarily lengthy and self-indulgent cod-classical piano/trumpet cadenzas and duet of the closing “But I Must Return To Frenzy”.


Tracks
1. Images (Nick Carstoiu, Mike Spiros) - 3:38
2. Land Of Diana (Mike Spiros, Nick Carstoiu) - 2:56
3. Visions Of My Own (M. Spiros, N. Carstoiu, B. Greenglass) - 4:10
4. Sadly Acknowledged (J.Babbitt, M. Spiros) - 1:27
5. Peak Impressions And Thoughts (Dave Codd, N. Carstoiu) - 6:56
6. Yellow Sky (J.Babbitt, M. Spiros, D. Codd, N. Carstoiu) - 2:23
7. Hurtin' Kind Of Woman (Bob Margolin) - 4:24
8. Inside People (Dave Codd) - 2:50
9. A New Song For Orestes (Dave Codd) - 3:37
10.But I Must Return To Frenzy (N. Carstoiu, M. Spiros) - 9:06

Freeborne
*Lew Lipson - Drums, Percussion
*Nick Carstoiu - Guitar, Recorder, Cello, Piano, Vocals
*Bob Margolin - Lead Guitar
*Mike Spiros - Organ, Piano, Chimes, Trumpet, Percussion
*Dave Codd - Harpsichord, Percussion, Bass, Vocals

Free Text

4 comments:

Jamie (tacobueno) said...

Thanks for offering up the option of vinyl vs ext'd disc versions of this one Marios - really appreciate it!

adamus67 said...

The Freeborne sole album, PEAK IMPRESSION (Monitor MPS 607) 1967 has been counterfeited at least twice on vinyl in the eighties and nineties. It has also issued on CD by Afterglow in 1995, but with one track either edited or missing recently the album has been reissued on CD by Distortions (DR 1041) 1998, Second Harvest 2007, this time with three bonus cuts!

A Boston group whose sole album, recorded at CBS Studios in New York, is - full of the acid imagery which typified the Bosstown sound in 1968. The record sounds like it was steeped in many listening sessions to the most popular psychedelic records of 1967, particularly the Doors' first album, Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow, and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper.

Almost every track is of interest. For example "Land Of Diana" has a compelling organ intro, “Visions Of My Own” follows, coupling some quiet acoustic guitar with an incessant recorder riff. The pace continues to be slow, the lyrics dreamy and quasi-intellectual, the melodies irresistible, once their odd sensibility grow on you. A brief anti-war statement follows, disrupting the pace a little, though it has a nice, sparse arrangement. Side one ends with the album’s masterpiece, “Peak Impressions & Thoughts,” a song with an absolutely relentless beat and chord progression, mind-melting lyrics and keyboards that build in intensity until they’re all over your room.
Side two is kind of a let-down, by comparison. It’s not bad, and the songs are still full of ideas, but they’re not as unique or memorable as what preceded them, as they mine blues, jazz, gospel and garage rock and repeat themselves a bit. The long instrumental section that comes near the album’s close goes in and out of focus, and though these guys often write like jazz musicians, they don’t have that kind of chops. Of course, I lose interest a few minutes into the Velvet Underground’s “European Son,” too, so take my dismissal of this song in that light. Like all of the other choices for this session (except The Smoke), the Freeborne get definite points because they just plain don’t sound like anybody else. And side one is a completely solid listen.

The overall spacey, haunting feel of the record sometimes verges on self-conscious creepiness. It's embroidered by novel use of recorder, cello, harpsichord, and trumpet from time to time, though electric organ in the mold of the Doors or Country Joe & the Fish is more prominent, as is California psychedelia-influenced guitar.

In the mid-'70s, Bob Margolin became a member of Muddy Waters' band and he later played with the Johnny Winter Group. He is still touring and recording Chicago Blues albums. Nick Carstoiu too remains active in the music scene.
In 1978, Mike Spiros released, as "Mic Spiros and the ITMB (Incredible Two Man Band)", a rare album of atmospheric prog rock based on keyboards and synthesizers.

Thanks again Marios for the sharing.

juan manuel muñoz said...

muchísimas gracias

Marios said...

.....Re..Impressions.....