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Ars Nova

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Album Review

Ars Nova's first release was intermittently intriguing eclectic psychedelic rock with a slight classical influence, as well as some unusual instrumentation in the bass trombone of lead singer Jon Pierson and the trumpet and string bass of Bill Folwell. The songs — often linked by brief interludes — are a mixed bag, though, that seem to indicate a confusion over direction, or a bit of a psychedelic throw-in-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. There are haunting tunes with a folk-rock base and a faint Renaissance ballad melodic influence, jaunty narratives with a vaudevillian air that bear the mark of then-recent albums such as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and harder-rocking period psychedelic tracks with a bent for unpredictable bittersweet progressions and vocal harmonies. It's unusual, and in some senses attractive. But to be less charitable, there's a sense of listening to a generic psychedelic band that sounds better than many such acts mostly by virtue of benefiting from Elektra's high-class production, here handled by Paul Rothchild of Doors fame. Put another way, the songs themselves aren't as good as their arrangements. "Fields of People," about the best of those songs, might be the most famous one here due to getting covered in an elongated treatment by the Move, who did a better job with it than Ars Nova. [The 2004 CD reissue on Sundazed adds historical liner notes by Jon Pierson.]


Formed: 1967

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s

Ars Nova was a rock/classical hybrid that formed in New York in 1967 around students of the Mannes College of Music. The band initially comprised Wyatt Day on guitar, keyboards, and vocals; Jon Pierson on trombone and vocals; Bill Folwell on trumpet and vocals; Jonathan Raskin on bass, vocals, and guitar; Giovanni Papalia on guitar, and Maury Baker on percussion. Elektra producer Paul A. Rothchild took credit for the discovery, and after signing them, called them "the most exciting thing since the...
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Ars Nova, Ars Nova
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