Here is a truly odd addition to "Sci-Fi September." Yes, this is another Jimmie Haskell album, however this is a whole different type of beast than the space-age pop style stuff found on the previous offering of Countdown!
The album was originally released in 1971. Jimmie Haskell was the arranger and conductor for the album along with being the composer for the original music found throughout. The album features guest vocals from a number of artists including Joe Walsh (James Gang/The Eagles), Denny Doherty (Mammas and the Pappas), Big Wanda and the Wombats, Merry Clayton, and Clydie King. Bill Szymczyk produced and engineered the album.
The actual release of this album has an incredibly unique fold-out cover that provides a detailed history of the fictional "California" starting from 1975 and going up until 1998. The cover alone makes this a desirable LP to get your hands on as it is rather entertaining in its own right.
This is a concept album based upon a story written by Tom Gamache. The narrative follows the story of a young-man who is out to follow his state-mandated "life progam." Along the way we find out that in this fictional world, America failed as a country and is now known as California. A Big Brother-style government is now in control and things don't seem to be too great on the whole. We find out about all of this through a mixture of the narrator straight forwardly discussing "historical events" and from exposure to "headlines" and auditory messages encountered throughout the album.
The album mixes original compositions and covers with mixed success. Some of the cover tunes, such as "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" [vocals by Jimmy Witherspoon] are decent tunes, but why they are on this album is rather confusing. By contrast, the original compositions are what grab my interest the most. "Appopopoulisberg" is the album's longest track and serves primarily to introduce us to the narrator. However, as the track progresses we are treated to some fun electronic sounds, a quick burst of stringed instruments, and finally cooled off with a sort of waltz. Another track of note,"a) intro b)prelude", starts off sounding like a library music inspired Moog jam, but then quickly explores some louder brass pieces reminiscent of soundtrack-style tunes.
The overall result of the album is somewhat confusing. It isn't by any means a masterpiece. In honesty, I'm often left trying to decide if this was meant as a serious cautionary tale or if it is a tongue-in-cheek send up of concept albums. The truth is probably somewhere in-between. Despite some uninspired moments on the album, overall I think it overcomes its failings. It is an entertaining listen and showcases some of Haskell's great arranging talents on numerous tracks.
If you want some reviews of the album by far better writers than me, check out these links:
Year of Release: 1971 Label: ABC Records Genres: Experimental, Science-Fiction Bitrate: 320kbps
Track List: 1. Overture 2. Appopopoulisberg 3. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Vocal: Jimmy Witherspoon) 4. To Claudia on Thursday (Vocal: Denny Doherty) 5. a)intro b)Prelude 6. Jessica Stone (Vocal: Joe Walsh) 7. California Fairy Tale (Vocal: Joe Walsh) 8. Barbara 9. Underture
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