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Ultimate Spinach

Ultimate Spinach

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Album Review

Upon its release in early 1968, Ultimate Spinach's self-titled debut was derided by some as second-rate psychedelia, selling reasonably well only by virtue of its hype as part of the "Bosstown Sound." So how does it sound decades later, removed from that hype and standing on the music alone? It still sounds like bush league, bandwagon-riding psychedelia. Ian Bruce-Douglas dominates the record as lead singer, composer of all the songs, and multi-instrumentalist, and while he espoused a darker vision than many psychedelic songsmiths, he wasn't in remotely the same league as Jim Morrison, Grace Slick, or Country Joe McDonald. Such comparisons are not idly chosen; echoes of the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and Country Joe & the Fish cross over into derivation more than once, sounding like a recombination of 1967 West Coast psychedelic music that was garbled on its journey across the continent. All the same, the record is their best, for what that's worth. It is not without some attractive aspects, the best of which are Bruce-Douglas' skittering, piercing organ lines heard to superior effect on "Sacrifice of the Moon," especially as that is unencumbered by his awkward, over-serious lyrics ("collapsed laughter, running, falling, drifting across the minefield of your thoughts, dissolve, wondering, who am I, why should I be alone, alone?"). He likely played Country Joe & the Fish's first LP over and over, as "Sacrifice of the Moon" and "Baroque #1" attest to; "Baroque #1" goes as far as to plagiarize Country Joe's "Masked Marauder," right down to the harmonica and scat vocals. Similarly, "Your Head Is Reeling" has grungy, distorted Doors guitar lifted straight out of Robby Krieger's intro to "The End." As Bruce-Douglas' vocals are only adequate, it's unfortunate more was not heard from guitarist and occasional lead singer Barbara Hudson, who has the kind of ice-cool style trendy among the female psychedelic singers of the era.

Biography

Formed: 1967 in Boston, MA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s

Ultimate Spinach was one of the most well-known, and perhaps the most notorious, of the groups to be hyped as part of the "Bosstown Sound" in 1968. The name itself guaranteed attention, as one of the most ludicrous and heavy-handed "far out" monikers of the psychedelic era, even outdoing formidable competition such as the Peanut Butter Conspiracy. Although the group were competent musicians with streaks of imagination,...
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Ultimate Spinach, Ultimate Spinach
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