The unreleased album Visualize by Thomas & Richard Frost, taken with its attendant singles "Hello Stranger" and "Open Up Your Heart", is a sparkling and heartwarming gem of late 1960s pop, but the project was merely yet another chapter in the remarkable career of these two brothers, from San Mateo on the San Francisco Peninsula. Rich and Tom Martin had been performing together since the beginning of the decade, with the ensuing litany of bands mirroring all the variegates of American grass roots rock 'n' roll in the 1960s: instrumental surf and greasy R&B in the Impressions; jangly folk-rock with The Newcastle Five; the fuzz-tinged garage rock of The Art Collection. And last but not least, the thundering mod sound of the Martins power trio Powder; whose own LP, recorded while the group was based in Los Angeles and employed as Sonny & Cher's road band, remained frustratingly unissued, and indeed acted as a precursor to the creation of the masterpiece you hold in your hands.
For after the Powder debacle, the Martins returned to northern California to lick their wounds and demo some more introspective material. Though they were enamored of artists like Donovan and Simon & Garfunkel, the Martins innate - and very much Anglophilic – pop sensibility lingered in new compositions like "Bluey Blues Blue" (later to be recorded as "Where Did Yesterday Go?"), "Would You Laugh" and "She's Got Love". It was to be the latter tune that caught the ear of promo man John Antoon, who signed the Martins to his Tons Of Fun publishing imprint, assumed managerial duties and got the duo signed to Imperial Records under the nom de disque Thomas & Richard Frost. As a single, the simple, catchy "She's Got Love" was to achieve a modicum of success as a turntable hit, reaching only the lower half of the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1969, but with strong regional airplay across the country, upon the back of which the Frosts were able to tour.
Back in LA, Rich and Tom made the scene with their pals Rodney Bingenheimer and Frank Zinn, enjoying a brief but eye-opening spell as bona fide pop stars. Plans were big for the Frosts, with a full, lavishly orchestrated, album release, but it was all to fall apart as the follow-up singles stiffed and parent label Liberty/UA decided to wind down Imperial. In 1971, Rich and Tom signed a new deal with Uni and finally got an album, eponymously-titled and singer/songwriter-orientated, released the following year. In their press interviews the Frosts did for that Uni album, they disparaged the bubblegum of their Imperial period, but the state-of-the art production pop of Visualize has clearly stood the test of time and sounds better now, than it probably ever has.
The proceedings are imbued with the Zeitgeist of Los Angeles in its last throes of pop innocence, and the Martins heart-on-their-sleeve Anglophilic sensitivity is less derivative then remarkably refreshing, with superbly recorded arrangements that any late 1960s pop fan will cherish. Listening to tracks like "Open Up Your Heart", "Where Did Yesterday Go?" or "Hello Stranger" recalls the simple joys of commercial pop at the dawn of the 1970s. Uncomplicated, fun, yet eminently memorable. Tony Macauley would be proud.
by Alec Palao, El Cerrito, California
1. Prelude/Shes Got Love - 2:55
2. Where Did Yesterday Go - 2:39
3. December Rain April Laughter - 2:54
4. Woodstock - 2:43
5. Gotta Find A New Place To Stay - 2:29
6. With Me My Love - 2:18
7. Where Are We - 2:25
8. Come Clap Your Hands - 2:30
9. The City - 2:33
10.The World Is Love - 2:41
11.On Our Way Home - 2:48
12.If I Cant Be Your Lover (Vic Dana, Ted Glasser) - 5:44
13.Hello Stranger - 2:42
14.Fairy Tale Affair - 2:49
15.Open Up Your Heart (John Worsley) - 2:51
16.Everyday Judy - 4:14
All songs by Thomas and Richard Frost, except where noted.
*Richard Martin - Guitar, Vocals
*Tom Martin - Vocals, Guitar, Bass
*Mars Bonfire - Guitar
*Earl Palmer - Drums
*Michael O'Martian - Piano
*Ben Benay - Guitar
*Barney Kessel - Guitar
*David T. Walker - Guitar
*Jim Horn - Saxophone
*Jay Migliori - Flute
*Doug Feiger - Bass
*Tony Sales - Bass
*Max Bennett - Bass
*Red Rhodes - Pedal Seel Guitar
*The Blossoms - Vocals
*Joe Osborne - Bass