Saturday, 8 October 2011

Ultimate Spinach


Ultimate Spinach was a psychedelic/hard rock/blues band originally from Boston. In their '60's heyday they specialized in lengthy songs such as "Ballad of the Hip Death Goddess", from Ultimate Spinach (1968) and "Genesis of Beauty", from Behold And See (1968). Since 1970 the band have largely abandoned the psychedelic sounds and have (since at least 1975) dropped all of the '60's songs from their setlists (with the exception of 'Ballad Of The Hip Death Goddess' and a few from the third album).
The Ultimate Spinach, composed of keyboardist/guitarist Ian Bruce-Douglas and singer Barbara Hudson was a band of Boston's alternative scene in the second half of the 1960s. The phenomenon of the "Bosstown Sound", (whose other top acts included The Beacon Street Union, also on MGM), was more a publicity stunt than a legitimate artistic movement, and the Bruce-Douglas version of the band tends to be remembered for its name. On Ultimate Spinach (MGM, 1968) the standout cuts are "Ballad of the Hip Death Goddess", with an instrumental interval for theremin (an early electronic instrument), feedback and reverberation, and the psychoanalytic folk-blues "Ego Trip" , the 4-part suite "Sacrifice of the Moon" as well as "Your Head Is Reeling" and the Frank Zappa-esque "Plastic Raincoats".
More complex compositions, such as the suite in four movements "Genesis of Beauty" and "Fragmentary March of Green", two pieces soaked in mysticism, enliven the second album Behold And See (MGM, 1968). Jazz Thing and Mind Flowers experimented with even more unusual tempos and atmosphere, while "Gilded Lamp Of The Cosmos" exemplifies their psychedelic folk ballads. (Note: Big Beat's re-release of Behold And See omits "Visions of your Reality". In addition, it liberally edits other cuts, and thus should not be considered a true re-release.). A third album was recorded, but the only original member was Barbara Hudson. One of the musicians who played on the album was guitarist Jeff Baxter, member of Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers. This album leaves behind the psychedelic effects that characterised the Bruce-Douglas period and developing a generic sound more reminiscent of such acts as The Byrds, The Monkees and the '68-era Beach Boys.
Upon release of the 2nd album, Ian Bruce Douglas quit Ultimate Spinach and a new band was formed with only Barbara Hudson as a standing original member. Tony Scheuren, Ted Myers, Mike Levine and Jeff Baxter were also added. "Plastic Raincoats" would be more like Velvet Underground's style than Zappa's.

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