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CD Review

 

       

       

 

The Electric Prunes - Release Of An Oath
The Electric Prunes - Just Good Old Rock and Roll
Collector's Choice
      By the time of the original release of these albums (the fourth and fifth of the band's five records) originally released on Reprise and now re-issued by the fab folks at Collector's Choice, The Electric Prunes best days were behind them. Their garage-psyche classic "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)" from their first album had come and gone and their erratic but still great second album was just a faint glimmer in the minds of the music-loving public. Though the band's profile was somewhat kept afloat by having a song from their third album score a placement on the Easy Rider soundtrack, by the time their last album Just Good Old Rock and Roll came out, they were largely forgotten.
      A major shift in focus will do that to you.
      For a band who started out with an AM radio hit of the magnitude of "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)," the shift they made for their third record Mass In F Minor was one of the biggest experiments a band has ever taken. Eschewing the simple yet trippy songs that garned them scads of fans, their next two albums (Mass and Release of an Oath) were based on religious texts. Sure, concept albums were almost de rigeur at the time, but making an album based on a Mass (and sung in Latin) augmented by horns and strings (Mass) and then an album (Release Of An Oath) based on one of the most sacred of Jewish prayers, the Kol Nidre - recited on the eve of Yom Kippur, was a whole different thing. Needless to say these albums alienated the band's audience.
      By the time Release Of An Oath entered the marketplace, the band was a shell of its' self. Composer/arranger David Axelrod and producer David Hassinger had ursurped control of the band circa Mass In F Minor and none of the members who made the hit "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)" were still in the band. Also, in addition to the band who did make the album (a Canadian band formerly called the Collectors who had also helped on Mass due to having worked with Hassinger in the past) studio heavy weights such as drummer Earl Palmer and bassist Carol Kaye were brought in to augment the sound. An overlooked gem, the ideas which led to the often tentative melding of classical instrumentation with rock music on Mass In F Minor reach fruition and a level of success thought unattainable in regards to the mediocrity of the previous album. One definite minus is the brevity of this stunning album, which clocks in at a shade over a measley 24 minutes but that can be overlooked due to the sheer expressive power and scope of this undertaking. Of course, it wasn't the same Prunes at this point, but so what? A little bit of trivia - this album almost wasn't credited to the Prunes. Though the band's management owned the name and had to fulfill the band's contract by putting an album out, the musicians were offered a chance to pick another name at the last minute due to the vastly different scope of the album and chose to stick with the Electric Prunes. Another piece of trivia - future Eagle Randy Meisner was offered a chance to play in the new version of the band but turned it down to start Poco!
      From the ominous and pandering "new and improved Electric Prunes" on the cover, one can guess this album is not going to be one of the best in anyone's catalog, not to mention the Electric Prunes'. By this time Axelrod had done what the original members of the band had done - jumped ship and got the hell away from the band. Despite Release of An Oath's ambitiousness and decent reviews from most critics and fans, the album did not sell in great quantities and the band was once again looking for direction. The band's producer Hassinger remained on board as he had done for all their albums and came up with a novel idea: take the band and get them to record original songs. Even the band's first two albums with the original members had featured mostly covers and the following two religious-themed albums were composed entirely by Axelrod. In Hassinger's eyes, the band would start from scratch and write their own songs. There were more membership changes but the band settled in and knocked out the songs. With the exception of "Finder's Keepers, Loser's Weeper's" the whole album was written by the band. Lacking a cohesive direction other than to play their own songs, the album lacks focus and is really just sub-par Jeff Beck/Yardbirds-influenced hard rock. The band could have conceivably built from their new foundation but their contract with Reprise was terminated and the group disbanded.
      Fans of garage rock and the beginnings of what is now known as heavy metal will love these albums, scattershot though they are. Check them out, tune in and take off! - Scott Homewood

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