It’s pay day Friday and I’m at the office trying to get some work done for a few hours until I can book out of here for home, some tacos and a wobbly pop or two to begin the long holiday weekend. To keep the day resembling something “productive” and bearable, I am continuing on with the obscure psychedelia, this time the little known ‘Before the War‘ album by Bo Grumpus.
This is a long lost gem from 1968 by a little know, somewhat psychedelic group from Boston, MA, and released on Atco Records.
This album has a lot going for it – a sharp, rootsy almost jug band approach to folk-rock, honed at the Greenwich Village clubs they were playing, coupled with flashes of elegance in the production accorded by Felix Pappalardi.
The harmony vocals are sometimes very Byrds-ish indeed, but at others very Beatle-ish, as are the keyboards and other esoteric instruments provided by their George Martin equivalent, the classically-trained Pappalardi. The production is also more sophisticated and glossy than anything the various homely McGuinn collectives ever laid down.
The overall result is a somewhat flowery yet economical brand of melodic, folk-based psychedelia, that manages to be electric, spacey, and trippy, all at once. The production here gave the group a somewhat more florid sound than their actual performances, but it also dressed up the songs beautifully – had it been heard by more people, ‘Before the War‘ might have been regarded as an East Coast rival to the Byrds’ ‘Notorious Byrd Brothers‘ – easily, an album at the tippy-top of my own Desert Island album list. As it is, the album completely tanked upon release and never sold, but the album was resurrected on CD nearly 40 years later and rekindled a decent interest among ‘Like WOW man!‘ aficionado’s.
It definitely deserves a listen (click HERE).
Thanks again, YouTube!
Oh, and that name? Bo Grumpus was taken from a drawing of a fictional monster by Jolliver Arkansaw that Pappalardi’s wife had hung on their living-room wall. Perhaps that’s why the record didn’t sell; a distinctive name, but one unlikely to be taken seriously even in those hippy-dippy days.