Sunday, 1 May 2011

*** Fever Tree - Fever Tree (US psych 1968)***

The psychedelic era had many outstanding acts and while they've been praised for years at large, in the same time we missed on some seriously wild stuff. Probably one of the most interesting nuggets was originally a Texas based group -Fever Tree. These guys made their high point in 1968 with a tribute to the Summer of Love’s host city, a cracking single San Francisco Girls. This tune was their first real hit and eventually got released on Self-titled album recorded the same year for UNI Records and renamed Return Of The Native... three more albums were to follow in the next two years. Fever Tree were formed in Houston with Rob Landes (keyboards), Dennis Keller (vocals), E.E. "Bud" Wolfe (bass), John Tuttle (drums) and Michael Knust (guitar), initially carrying amusing name –Bostwick Vines. The name changed in 1967 and the band subsequently signed with Chicago-based Mainstream Records. Two singles were recorded (watch them out garage gem collectors!), but they didn't break through and gained virtually no attention, hence the boys eventually signed to Uni Records and recorded their debut LP for the label. Although only a minor chart hit, San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native) received a lot of airplay on American FM rock stations as well as on John Peel’s Top Gear radio programme in the UK.

There was one man responsible for the the group's success –Scott Holtzmann, who became Fever Tree's manager and producer. He also stayed very close to every song that the band ever recorded. Though Fever Tree album would mainly be recorded in Houston, some of the material was registered in Los Angeles, where orchestral arrangements were added by Gene Page and David Angel. Page was best known for his work on many soul hits, including the Righteous Brothers' You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin', while Angel will always be most famous for his contributions to Love's Forever Changes, now regarded as one of the richest folk/ psych albums of all times. Unfortunately no other tunes from this great LP hit the charts, although The Sun Also Rises seemed to have some pop potential with its arching upbeat melody, sweeping strings, and jazzy piano passages. The night the band recorded that song, a tremendous Houston rainstorm came up and somebody had the idea to put a mike outside and record the storm, eventually overdubbed in the final take. You can hear the cars driving down the street and the thunder at the very end of the song. Elvis Presley loved that tune and wanted to cover it, but for an unknown reason it never happened. Another brilliant track was a cover of Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out by The Beatles, which had actually comprised two sides of the same Beatles single in late 1965. Circus, psychedelic arrangement is rockier that original version and personally my favourite. There was also a version of Buffalo Springfield's Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing that counts as one of the earliest covers of a Neil Young's composition.

Much of the material on Fever Tree boasted multi-sectioned structures and classical influences that not only reflected psychedelic experimentation, but looked forward in some ways to progressive and symphonic rock. The record had some fantastic arrangements and heavy psychedelic sound, while Dennis Keller's vocals were as good as Eric Burdon's or Joe Cocker's. As an effect Fever Tree had peaked at #156 on The Billboard Chart, which is not a great success, but a certain measure of popularity. Original UNI issues are only a moderately rare LPs at the moment, the only problem is getting this record in excellent condition as they were definitely played. In recent years Sundazed Music reissue has seen the light, which is a good proposition for those, who want to have a mint copy! Don't forget about Fever Tree, it's as good as Strawberry Alarm Clock and maybe even better than H.P. Lovercraft. [PL]

01. Imitation Situation (Toccata And Fugue)
02. Where Do You Go
03. San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native)
04. Ninety-Nine And One-Half
05. Man Who Paints The Pictures
06. Filligree And Shadow
07. The Sun Also Rises
08. Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out
09. Unlock My Door
10. Come With Me (Rainsong)