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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.

Customer Reviews

rough gem

I am Suprised Itunes Even carries this album. It is patchy to say the least but there are interesting moments.This is the band's best album. I never got into the whole "Bosstown" sound, But the one tune that sold me on this album was "Mind Flowers" a slow acid number with alot of fuzz guitar and spacy jim morrisonesque nonsensical lyrics. clocking in at 8:29 its a little excessive but I enjoy beacuse its the heaviest cut. Unfortunatley Itunes left it out here. the most annoying thing is the spoken monolouge that attempts to sound like Jim Morrison at the beginning every song but is just annoying. some other highlights are Your Head is Reeling,(ballad Of) The Hip Death Godess, with a psuedo of grace slick delivery,and Sacrifice of The Moon. This Album is Alright, if it creates a mood for you then you have suceeded. It is definitley of the era.

Industrial Strength Acid

Yes, it doesn't have the Country Joe rhythm and blues. And yes, thank gawd, it doesn't have the commercialism of the later Airplane. But it stands on its own as a fine Acid Rock classic album, which is the way it should be viewed. I wore out this album and a number of phono cartridges long before there was an iTunes Store -- and I'm glad they included it in their collection. But, they shouldn't have deleted Mind Flowers from the album.

Spinach is good for you

This is a classic of garage-y psychedelia. I've had the vinyl version for years. It's amazing that this exists on iTunes. All they need now is the fantastic remake of "Hip Death Goddess" by an early 1990s band called Sexual Milkshake. (LP "Sing Along in Hebrew" on TeenBeat records)

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, their albums were generally poor third cousins to the West Coast psychedelic groups...
Full Bio
Ultimate Spinach, Ultimate Spinach
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