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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Silk - Smooth As Raw (1969 us, amazing psychedelic rock with baroque shades, 2008 Bull's Eye digi-pack edition)

In 1965 the teenager Michael Gee, started his career playing in a number of local groups including The Scepters.  By 1968 Gee was attending Hiram University and joined a late-inning version of Clevelabd's Beatles-inspired The Tree Stumps showcasing the talents of Gee, guitarist Chris Johns, drummer Courtney Johns and keyboardist Randy Sabo.  

Playing dances and local clubs won the band a cult following and released a couple of singles, but met with little financial reward and by 1969 the Stumps had morphed into Silk.  Silk did little and o the verge of calling it quits, a performance at a Cleveland club attracted the attention of producer Bill Szymczyk who'd been sent on the road by ABC Records to look for talent.  (The same trip saw him sign Joe Walsh and the James Gang to a contract.) 

Signed to ABC, the band were teamed with producer Szymczyk (who also co-wrote several tracks).  The group's 1969 debut "Smooth As Raw Silk" served to showcase the band's broad and versatile repertoire.   Gee and Sabo split vocal duties and while both were professional, neither was overwhelming (Sabo actually struck me as the better of the two).  

With all four members contributed the writing chores (a cover of Tim Rose's 'Long Haired Boy' was the lone non-original), the results found the band touching base on a wide array of genres ranging from country ('Custody'), to sensitive singer/songwriter moves, and even horn rock ('Not a Whole Lot I Can Do').  

The results were never less than professional.  The collection got off to a nice start with the effects laden 'Introduction' (dedicated to airline pilots everywhere) and the psych-rocker 'Foreign Trip'.  Sporting some nice twin lead guitar work from Johns and guest Harry Porter 'Skito Blues' was an excellent rocker.  Almost as good was the raucous 'Come On Down Girl'.  At the other end of the spectrum taking on the then-taboo issue of divorce and children the C&W-flavored 'Custody' was easily the strangest song.  

Coming in a close second, 'Scottish Thing' somehow managing to meld a trance feel with bagpipes.  The song was also interesting in that it was dedicated to Elektra's Jac Holtzman (even though the band was signed to ABC)  The album actually managed to hit the top-200 charts (peaking at # 191) but the quartet subsequently called it quits.

1. Introduction (Bill Szymczyk) - 1:12
2. Foreign Trip (Chris Johns, Bill Szymczyk) - 4:07
3. Long Haired Boy (Tim Rose) - 3:38
4. Not A Whole Lot I Can Do (Michael Gee) - 3:07
5. Custody (Steve Karliski, Larry Kolber) - 2:19
6. Scottish Thing (Michael Gee, Randy Sabo) - 4:47
7. Skitzo Blues (Gee, Sabo, Johns, Szymczyk) - 4:34
8. Hours (Michael Gee, Randy Sabo) - 2:48
9. Walk In My Mind (Michael Gee) - 4:18
10.Come On Down Girl (Gee, Sabo, Szymczyk) - 3:45
11.For All Time (Michael Gee) - 4:23

*Courtney Johns - Drums
*Michael Gee - Bass, Lead Vocals
*Chris Johns - Guitars
*Randy Sabo - Keyboards, Vocals
*Bill Szymczyk - Voclas, Production

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