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“I Said, She Said, Ah Cid: The Exploito World of Alshire Records 1967-71” (2018) review

“I Said, She Said, Ah Cid: The Exploito World of Alshire Records 1967-71” (Grapefruit, 2018)

Formed in 1967 by Hollywood based record distributor Al Sherman, the label which immodestly took its name from the syllables of his moniker, Alshire Records, was the outlet for many records of the psychedelic exploitation genre. The cream of these releases are surveyed in the three disc, eighty two track box set released on Cherry Red Records’ Grapefruit Records imprint and reviewed here.

Unquestionably the most noted, and important, release on the Alshire label was the December 1968 LP “The Animated Egg” a ten track psychedelic classic recorded by guitarist extraordinaire Jerry Cole and friends in 1968. The tracks selected for inclusion on the album were among dozens recorded by Cole, aided by noted studio musicians, bassist Glenn Cass probably the best known, for the RCA album “The Inner Sounds Of The Id” credited to The Id, a strictly recording, never performing, group. Albums worth of tunes recorded by The Animated Egg were released under Alshire’s mainstay the 101 Strings, by simply adding overdubbed strings to the basic tracks recorded by Cole, Cass and company. According to Cole, the Egg tracks were leftovers from The Animated Egg sessions, while Cass recalls that they were actually the fruits of other sessions by the members of The Animated Egg, as he recalls that the leftovers from The Id sessions were hijacked, along with the royalties from “the Inner Sounds” and shamelessly sold by RCA’s Paul Arnold.. Regardless, disc one of “I Said, She Said, Ah Cid” is comprised of the previously mentioned “The Animated Egg” and two of the myriad 101 Strings albums, “Sounds Of Today” and “Astro-Sounds From Beyond The Year 2000” released in December 1967 and January 1969 respectively.

As for the music, “The Animated Egg” is an instrumental album dominated by the incredible guitar work of Cole. The album opener “Love Built On Sand” features a full out fuzz attack by Cole with organ added for texture. “I Said, She Said, Ah Cid” is another fuzzed out rocker with organ accompaniment. “Sur List” is a driving, Eastern influenced raga rocker, with Cole contributing sitar. “T’Omorrow” has a riff resembling The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’” which would later be implemented by The Knack on their hit “My Sharona.” The album demonstrates Cole’s versatility featuring jazzier numbers such as “Down, Down, And Gone” and “Dark” while others such as “Sock It My Way” and “Sippin’ and Trippin’” venture into the acid rock arena with Cole’s heavy, distorted guitar to the fore. ”Many of the tunes have titles obviously near clones of classics of the day, such as “Inside Looking Out” only a dash away from “Inside-Looking Out” by The Animals, the box set’s title track closely resembling Captain Beefheart’s “Ah Feel Like Ahcid” and “Sur Listic” a short take on the Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow.” No matter, the music contained on “The Animated Egg” withstands the test of time and serves as a document of the talent of the musician’s involved. One important note is that Alshire owner Sherman profited handsomely from the album, claiming writing credit on all ten tracks, these funds enabling the issuing of many other LPs on the Alshire label. 

The first of two albums by 101 Strings included is the October, 1968 release “Sounds Of Today” which features The Animated Egg playing then current hits to which Alshire overdubbed strings. Bobby Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe” seems at first an odd choice, but the combination of orchestration and Cole’s hot guitar underneath adds up to a very interesting tune. Alshire’s formula works consistently as covers of Spencer Davis’ “I’m A Man” The Mama’s And Papa’s “California Dreamin’” and Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade Of Pale” all yield interesting mixes of The Animated Egg’s instrumental prowess and producer Monty Kelly’s knack for orchestration. Of special interest are Sherman/Miller originals “Karma Sitar” with its Eastern influenced raga sound, “Stone Baroque” with its Procol Harum type appeal, “Blues For The Guru” a Strawberry Alarm Clock style number with classical overdubs, and “Strings For The Rave” a twist on mod rock tunes. The recordings were of such quality that Sherman received a memo from Kelly saying that the “Sounds Of Today” project which was codenamed “Eggs And Strings” had turned out so well that he wrote: “I really feel that some of these cuts should be distributed to the Top 40 stations” feeling the possibility of a hit was real. “Sounds Of Today” actually turns out to be a very enjoyable listening experience and sold consistently leading to the album that closes disc one, January 1969’s “Sounds From Beyond The Year 2000” which exploited the soundtracks to sci fi classics such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Barbarella with recordings by The Animated Egg once again overdubbed with string arrangements.” The album has a stellar reputation amongst critics and nearly fifty years after it was conceived “Astro Sounds” is recognized by many as the 101 Strings, if not Alshire’s crowning glory.

“The Animated Egg” and psychedelic 101 Strings projects showed that there was a significant market for their rock music based releases, and a number of local musicians and entrepreneurs were drawn in. Among the resulting recordings were three albums released under the moniker The California Poppy Pickers, all coming within six months in 1969, featuring guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Kenny Johnson, bassist/vocalist Jerry Ritchey, keyboardist Bob Hopps and future Eternity’s Children’s drummer Bo Wagner. Disc two features the best of these recordings, including covers of “Wipe Out ‘69”, “Crystal Blue Persuasion” and even The Beatles” “Get Back.” However, the real gems are originals such as The Beatles-esque rocker “Come Back” and psychedelic rock nuggets such as “Narrow People,” “It’s Written All Over My Face” and “Clean Up Your Own Backyard.” All three of the albums are much better than they needed, or were expected, to be, and make for fine listening. A fourth California Poppy Pickers album was issued using a different set of musicians, the band Wilson McKinney, originally from Spokane, Washington, and including vocalist/guitarist Mike Messer, vocalist/bassist Don Laron and drummer Tom Slipp. The fourth album was titled “Honky Tonk Women” and besides including a fine cover of the title track, includes tasty renditions of “Born On The Bayou” and “‘Get Together.” In total twenty six recordings by The California Poppy Pickers are featured and the inspired performances are certainly deserving of a good listen. Also included is a fiery cover of Norman Greenbaum’s classic “Spirit In The Sky” although it is sadly not known which members perform on this number, although it is definitely listed in Alshire’s tape archives as a California Poppy Pickers recording.

Disc three of “I Said, She Said, Ah Cid” gathers together tracks by various artists released on the Alshire label between 1967 and 1971. The fruits of efforts by producer Jack Dorsey, there are some real gems to be found among the twenty six tracks containe on the final disc, issued by groups, often under pseudonyms, and equally often under less than ideal or even rather hostile circumstances. The recordings, however, stand up for themselves. Four of the tracks are from an album titled “Apricot Brandy and Albatross” and credited to John Bunyan’s Progressive Pilgrims. Sadly, the musicians involved went uncredited and remain unknown. However, their cover of Love Sculpture’s “Sabre Dance” is stellar, featuring incredible guitar work, holding true to the work done by Dave Edmunds. A five minute performance of the Jack Dorsey original “Mozart’s Dilemma” is a fiery number, filled with fuzzed out guitar and heavy keyboards, with its climbing lead guitar line a work that would make any psychedelic rock artist proud. Likewise, the group’s performance on another Alshire original composition, “Spaced Out” includes heavily phased organ and more encindiary guitar work. The band’s cover of Rhinoceros’ classic instrumental “Apricot Brandy” comes very close to matching the energy of the original, and leads one to wonder if the members of the group were able to capitalize on their tremendous performances under any other name, as their lead guitarist and organist in particular supply inspired performances that certainly qualified them for a recording contract and an opportunity to forge a name for themselves. Sadly, we shall never know. Four tracks are credited to Doctor Marigold’s Prescription And Play, a foursome consisting of vocalist/guitarist Fred Radley, keyboardist Alan French, bassist Bill Friend, and drummer Dave Morris. The group’s debut “Hit Songs From London” was issued on Alshire. The highlight of the group’s performances is the original “Land Of Fusan” a mid-tempo number featuring gorgeous vocals reminiscent of Joe South, and beautiful keyboards complimented by acoustic guitar work. The album received positive reviews and it’s a shame they were never able to fulfill the promise of the LP. The UK band Amalgamation were not so pleased, as they appeared, credited as Capt. Skid Marks, and Alshire chose to focus on their heavily phased cover of Daddy Dewdrop’s Top 10 US hit “Chick-A-Boom” although their performance in reality shines. The problem was the recordings were issued under the Capt. Skid Marks moniker so that the band would be unaware of further Alshire releases of their recordings, a practice not uncommon for the label. Also of note are two fine performances credited to The Heads Of The Family, “Troubled People” and a fine cover of CCR’s “Lodi,” the band’s name an attempt by Alshire to cash in on its drug reference, an unnecessary move due to the band’s talent. The tracks on disc three offer an excellent sample of the fare available on Alshire’s offerings.

Although they were certainly not the only label designed to exploit the psychedelic music genre, Alshire were certainly one of the best. “I Said, She Said, Ah Cid” is a wonderful document of the fruits of the label’s efforts. The eighty-two tracks on the three disc tortoise shell box set are accompanied by a full color, thirty-two page booklet, featuring an extensive essay by David Wells, lots of gorgeous photos, complete track annotations and a wonderful mastering job by Simon Murphy at Another Planet Music. The set is an absolute must for fans not only of exploito music, but fans of psychedelic rock in general, and comes very highly recommended.

- Kevin Rathert
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