The Ashes

The history of the Ashes, a minor mid-'60s folk-rock band, has been pretty murkily and confusingly reported. Three of their members -- guitarist John Merrill, bassist Al Brackett, and drummer Jim Voight -- formed part of the Peanut Butter Conspiracy, though the mechanics of that transition are hazy. Pat Taylor, the female vocalist who is definitely the singer on their sole album, has been reported to have also been the singer on their two non-LP singles; other sources have reported that the singer on those two singles was Peanut Butter Conspiracy singer Sandi Robison. Also, drummer Spencer Dryden was a member before he joined Jefferson Airplane, though apparently he didn't play on any of the Ashes' recordings.

In whatever configuration, the band did manage to release some decent, characteristically Los Angeles 1960s folk-rock recordings. Their first two singles, which definitely sound as if they predate the LP, cross the jangle of early Byrds-style folk-rock with harmonized sunshine pop and some Phil Spector-like production touches. That's particularly evident on the yearning, chiming "Is There Anything I Can Do," one of the better obscure Californian 1960s folk-rock singles and one of the best songs Jackie DeShannon wrote for another artist. Also of note is "Dark on You Now," also recorded (in a much better-known version) by the Love Exchange under the title "Swallow the Sun"; the Ashes' rendition is far slower, more dignified, and less candy pop, with some excellent Roger McGuinn-like 12-string guitar and a heart-melting lead female vocal. The album (The Ashes) sounds as if it was recorded (at least in part) slightly later than the circa-1966 singles. It's pleasant if average folk-rock with touches of commercial pop and country-rock, featuring Taylor's stirring vibrato vocals. ~ Richie Unterberger

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