Tuesday, 6 June 2017

"Lighthouse/Suite Feeling/Peacing It All Together" by LIGHTHOUSE (May 2017 Beat Goes On 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...






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"...Peace And Love..."

Canada's LIGHTHOUSE are the very definition of a bargain-bin band - at least the first part of their career on RCA Records is.

When I worked for Reckless Records in London's Islington and Soho's Berwick Street (20 years of buying and selling rarities) - UK copies of their second and third platters - 1969's "Suite Feeling" and 1970's "Peacing It All Together" was strictly a no-no. I used to see copies of the 1969 debut "Lighthouse" too with its silver-foil cover in charity shops - but it elicited little interest (the debut was American and Canadian only). Toronto's finest pushed out two further LPs on Vertigo in the UK (Evolution in the USA) - "One Fine Morning" in October 1971 on Vertigo 6342 010 and "Thoughts Of Movin' On" in April 1972 on Vertigo 6342 011 - but in my opinion they're only sought after because 'everything' on that most Prog of spiral labels is.

A 13-piece ensemble that started out on a brassy Rock tip with some Psych and Fusion flourishes thrown in - but then went all Association and Harper's Bizarre drippy Pop - the Lighthouse sound was both hard to nail down and market. In their initial Jazz-Rock phase - to help them along their Fusion way none other than an aged but still dapper Duke Ellington introduced the group in May 1969 at Toronto's Rock Pile Club to a rapturous response. But even his legendary presence and the support of Woodstock Folk-Soul hero Richie Havens failed to ignite sales and they struggled to feed those thirteen right-on mouths and hungry wattage. And unfortunately given some of the musical evidence presented here (even though the new remasters sound fab) – it's not too difficult to hear why the public weren't really bothered.

Well here comes England's Beat Goes On Records and the determined Kaftan-wearing Aztec-spaceship moustaches within their British ranks want us to reconsider Lighthouse's musical legacy - that amidst the poor man's Blood, Sweat & Tears and Jefferson Airplane soundscapes is some great fusion Rock and the occasional hooky groove. And there is actually - but I'm afraid the direness of the 3rd album kind of takes the discovery thrill out of the first two. Here are the enlightening details...

UK released 12 May 2017 - "Lighthouse/Suite Feeling/Peacing It All Together" by LIGHTHOUSE on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1281 (Barcode 5017261212818) offers 3LPs newly-remastered onto 2CDs (two from 1969 and one from 1970). It plays out as follows...

Disc 1 (66:29 minutes):
1. Mountain Man [Side 1]
2. If There Ever Was A Time
3. No Opportunity Necessary
4. Never Say Goodbye
5. Follow The Stars
6. Whatever Forever [Side 2]
7. Eight Miles High
8. Marsha, Marsha
9. Ah I Can Feel It
10. Life Can Be So Simple
Tracks 1 to 10 are their debut album "Lighthouse" - released USA and Canada June 1969 on RCA Victor LSP-4173. Produced by SKIP PROKOP and PAUL HOFFERT - it didn't chart.

11. Chest Fever [Side 1]
12. Feel So Good
13. Places On Faces Four Blue Carpet Traces
14. Could You Be Concerned
Tracks 11 to 14 are Side 1 of their second studio album "Suite Feeling" - released November 1969 in the USA and Canada on RCA Victor LSP-4241 and in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8103. Produced by SKIP PROKOP and PAUL HOFFERT - it didn't chart.

Disc 2 (59:11 minutes):
1. Presents Of Presence [Side 2]
2. Talking A Walk
3. Eight Loaves Of Bread
4. What Sense
5. A Day In The Life
Tracks 1 to 5 are Side 2 of their second studio album "Suite Feeling" - released November 1969 in the USA and Canada on RCA Victor LSP-4241 and in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8103. Produced by SKIP PROKOP and PAUL HOFFERT - it didn't chart.

6. Nam Myoho Renge' Kyo/Let The Happiness Begin [Side 1]
7. Every Day I Am Reminded
8. The Country Song
9. Sausalito
10. The Fiction Of Twenty-Six Million
11. The Chant (Nam Myoho Renge' Kyo)
12. Mr. Candleman [Side 2]
13. On My Way To L.A.
14. Daughters And Sons
15. Just A Little More Time
16. Little People/Nam Myoho Renge' Kyo
Tracks 6 to 16 are their third studio album "Peacing It All Together" - released May 1970 in the USA and Canada on RCA Victor LSP-4325 and in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8121. Produced by MIKE LIPSKIN, SKIP PROKOP and PAUL HOFFERT - it peaked at No. 133 on the US LP charts (didn't chart UK).

LIGHTHOUSE was:
SKIP PROKOP - Drums and Vocals
PAUL HOFFERT - Musical Director. Keyboards and Vibes
RALPH COLE - Guitar and Vocals
GRANT FULLERTON - Bass and Vocals
PINKY DAUVIN – Percussion and Vocals
IAN GUENTHER – Violin
DON DiNOVO – Violin and Viola
DON WHITTON and LESLIE SCHNEIDER – Cello
FREDDY STONE and ARNIE CHYCOSKI – Trumpet and Flugel
HOWARD SHORE – Alto Sax
RUSS LITTLE TROMBONE

There's the usual classy card-slipcase - the 16-page booklet repro's the artwork for the three LPs and has new liner notes from Mojo's Jazz columnist CHARLES WARING who presents both sides of the argument - good and bad. BGO's resident Audio Engineer ANDREW THOMPSON has newly remastered all three LPs and they sound great - punchy and full of life.

The two leading lights in the ensemble were Drummer/Singer Ron 'Skip' Prokop and Keyboardist/Vibes player Paul Hoffert who wrote most of the tunes and co-produced all three records. Side 1 highlights of the debut "Lighthouse" are the pretty but slightly overdone "If There Ever Was A Time" with its soothing warbling guitar and nice lurve-song melody. Better than the frantic "No Opportunity Necessary" and the pastoral ELO cellos of the sappy "Never Say Goodbye" is the Side 1 finisher "Follow The Stars" which suddenly feels like something magical is happening. There is an epic Byrds-vibe to the song – all brass lines, clever cellos and flanged vocals – very cool and interesting. Side 2 gets neck jerking groovy with the Brass and Organ dancer that is "Whatever Forever" which in turn is quickly followed by a very complimentary fuzzed-guitar cover of the Byrds Psych classic "Eight Miles High". RCA UK tried it as an only-45 off the album in October 1969 – tucked away as the B-side to the more commercial "If There Ever Was A Time" on RCA 1884 - but it did no business. Guitarist Ralph Cole suddenly discovers his inner Cream and Hendrix with the excellent "Marsha, Marsha" – a "Born Under A Bad Sign" Rock-Blues tune with added clever moments of brass melody and vocal harmonies that take you by total surprise and make you think we may have missed something Psych-brill here. There is a very Neil Young simplicity to "Ah I Can Feel It" as a lone-guitar strums before brass, strings and voices take the song into ‘Lighthouse’ and ‘Stonehouse’ ensemble territory. And they sound like B, S & T and The Association have had a Woodstock love child on the Side 2 finisher "Life Can Be So Simple" – an accomplished Pop song that half way through unleashes a properly wild Garage guitar-solo worthy of any Nuggets Box Set.

Despite some good fuzz guitar in "Chest Fever" - the opener for "Suite Feeling" is pretty awful and the everyone's smiling peaceful vibrations of "Feel So Good" comes over as the kind of song that hippy teenagers would have played their uptight parents in 1969/1970 (get with it Mom and Pop). Better is the funky and adventurous "Places On Faces Four Blue Carpet Traces" - a near eleven-minute Brass and Drums instrumental that is similar to in structure to the longer stretches on Chicago's "Chicago Transit Authority" debut in 1969. Trumpets compete for your attention with an organ - then about five-minutes in you get a clever Vibes solo that feels like some Avant Garde Atlantic Jazz album as it builds and builds with strings and more brass and ends on a huge fuzz-guitar solo (easily their technically most accomplished piece of writing so far). "Could You Be Concerned" taps into that "Hair Musical" message - as does the very Jefferson Airplane "Presents Of Presence". We get the sermon on the mount with the cheesy "Eight Loaves Of Bread" while the coy and poppy flute and piano bop of "What Sense" is likely to elicit laughter nowadays and not for the right reasons. They end a patchy album with a six-minute cover of The Beatles "Sgt. Peppers" classic "A Day In The Life" but it feels like a frantic brass and strings butchery rather than a compliment.

The third LP is probably the worst - a record that hasn't weathered well at all. A refrain precedes "Let The Happiness Begin" - a full on Association meets The Mama's and The Papa's happy-wappy jaunt that is cringing rather than touching. Even the honest words of "Every Day I Am Reminded" can't save it from a wall of voices that make it sound like the kind of pastiche a TV program would use to slag off the excesses of the Sixties. The fiddling "Country Song" is awful and the 'come with me to the sea' pap of "Sausalito" is 1967 and not 1970. And on it goes to the busy and frankly annoying "On My Way To L.A." and the clinging "Daughters And Sons".

To sum up - the first LP is very good and the second is an improvement in places especially the stunning eleven-minute Fusion-Rock instrumental "Places On Faces Four Blue Carpet Traces" - but that third platter goes direct for the "Hair" audience and feels laboured instead of inspired.

Still - fans of the band and that big brassy Rock Sound should dive in and be thankful that BGO have reissued Lighthouse's legacy with such style...

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