The Beau Brummels – ‘Turn Around – The Complete Recordings 1964-1970: 8 Disc Remastered Box Set’ (2021)
Often mistaken as part of the British Invasion, The Beau Brummels were actually from California’s Bay Area and helped create the San Francisco Sound of the 1960’s, with promise of becoming a hit making machine, beginning life with two Top 20 singles and a best selling album.
Sadly, fame and fortune were not in the cards despite a catalog filled with finely crafted 45s and some of the most creative, groundbreaking long players of the day. At long last the group’s complete recordings have been compiled in a new eight disc box set, a long overdue tribute to this mythical band’s incredibly innovative and wonderfully varied body of work.
Disc one is built around ‘Introducing The Beau Brummels’ the group’s aptly titled debut LP, produced by Sylvester Stewart (Sly Stone) and released in April, 1965 on the Autumn Records label. The group consisted of Sal Valentino (lead vocals), Ron Elliott (lead guitar), Ron Meagher (bass guitar), Declan Mulligan (rhythm guitar, bass, harmonica) and John Petersen (drums). The album contains the band’s two biggest hits, ‘Laugh, Laugh’ b/w ‘Still In Love With You Baby’ and ‘Just A Little’ b/w ‘They’ll Make You Cry’, the former reaching #15 on the Billboard charts in January, 1965, the latter peaking at #8 two months later. The tracks did even better in Canada, reaching #2 and #4 respectively, although the group went virtually unnoticed in the UK and Europe in general. All four tracks were written by Elliott or co-written by the lead guitarist with writing partner Bob Durand, as were ten of the album’s twelve tunes, in sharp contrast to typical rock releases of the time. One of the LP’s two cover songs, Don Gibson’s ‘Oh Lonesome Me’ was a reflection of vocalist Valentino’s love for country music and a harbinger of the group’s groundbreaking 1968 album ‘Bradley’s Barn’. The disc is completed by fourteen bonus tracks, including demos of all the single sides except ‘They’ll Make You Cry’, an interesting alternate version of ‘Just A Little’ and an alternate backing track of the same tune.
Disc two centers around ‘The Beau Brummels, Volume 2’ quickly released in August, 1965, with production credit going to the band. Prior to the album’s release, a dissatisfied Mulligan departed, replaced by Don Irving, and Ron Elliott’s health forced him to stop touring which had a tremendous impact on the band’s future viability as a live act, and in turn their ability to market new releases. The LP consists entirely of band originals, eleven written or co-written by Elliott. The opening track, ‘You Tell Me Why’ an acoustic number with gorgeous lead vocals reached #38 on the Billboard charts when released, backed by ‘I Want You’ a haunting track with jangling guitars and gorgeous vocal harmonies. The song performed even better in Canada, reaching #8. Unfortunately, The Beau Brummels would not reach the US Top 40 again, as their followup ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’ stalled at #52, despite hauntingly gorgeous vocals courtesy of Valentino and a driving beat supplied by Meagher and Peterson. The song’s b-side ‘In Good Time’ features a fuzz guitar intro, revved up lead line and rocking outro by composer Elliott. Other highlights of the LP are ‘Can It Be’ and the instrumental ‘Woman’, both Elliott penned rockers, ‘I’ve Never Known’ features distinctive Valentino vocals and a harp break over the driving beat as well as Elliott’s tasty lead line. ‘When It Comes To Your Love’ is a country-tinged folk rocker with Petersen keeping perfect time and a memorable lead line from Elliott. The album is the first to feature a Valentino penned track, the melodic ‘That’s Alright’ with more jangling guitars and gorgeous vocals. Unlike its predecessor the album failed to chart, a problem that would continue to plague The Beau Brummels. Work began on a third album but Autumn Records went bankrupt, the group’s contract was transferred to Warner Brothers who wanted to cash in on the earlier hits, so the sessions were halted and the direction of the band altered drastically, with cover versions filling the group’s next LP at the expense of original compositions. The disc is filled out with eighteen bonus tracks. Among the highlights are a tune intended for single release ‘Gentle Wand’rin Ways’, with its rocking lead line by Elliott and a driving drum beat by Petersen. ‘I’ll Tell You’ features a Meagher bass solo and jangling twelve string work by Elliott. ‘This Is Love’ has an Eastern influenced intro and crisp, clean, delicate guitar tones. ‘Underdog’ is a fuzzed out rocker, written by producer Stewart and later recorded by Sly & The Family Stone,
Disc three opens with the group’s Warner Brothers debut LP ‘Beau Brummels ‘66’ consisting of covers of hits of the day and the label’s attempt at gaining a quick return on their investment. Panned by some, especially critics, at the time, the twelve tracks actually serve as evidence of the group’s ability to interpret the music of others. Selective service intervention assured that this would be the last recording by The Beau Brummels as a five piece band with both Don Irving and Ron Meagher receiving their draft notices, with drummer Petersen soon exiting the band as well. As for the performances on ‘Beau Brummels ‘66’, there are indeed several shining moments. ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’ showcases Valentino’s vocals and Elliott’s delicate lead line, the latter contributing two fine solos. Elliott’s guitar shines on several other tunes as well. On “Yesterday’ and ‘Play With Fire’ his lead lines and solos yield a Baroque vibe, while on ‘Hang On Sloopy’ his solo soars. Valentino’s vocals are showcased on takes such as ‘Homeward Bound’, ‘Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter’ and ‘Monday Monday’, while on ‘Woman’ Elliott’s guitar and Valentino’s vocals are so wonderfully intertwined as to become one. The disc closes with fifteen bonus tracks. A take on Del Shannon’s ‘Stand Up’ shines, as Valentino’s vocals have often been compared to those of Shannon. A stereo mix of the group’s cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘One Too Many Mornings’ brings added depth to the fuzz guitar of Elliott compared to the mono single mix. Elliott also shines on ‘Candlestickmaker’ and ‘Guitar Talk To Me’, the former eventually re-recorded and becoming the title track of Elliott’s 1969 solo album, while the latter is a previously unreleased performance.
Disc four features the 1967 LP ‘Triangle’. With only Valentino, Elliott and Meagher remaining, The Beau Brummels relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles to record their fourth studio album, with the band’s sound moving toward baroque tinged folk-psych with a bit of country mixed in, with Lenny Waronker taking over production work. The album marked the first time Valentino and Elliott worked together in writing material and features sound supplemented by members of the fabled studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, James Burton and Donnie Lanier on guitar, Carol Kaye on bass and Jim Gordon on bass. The album opener ‘Are You Happy’ is a relaxed mixture of jangling twelve string guitar and trembling vocals. ‘Only Dreaming Now’ features an intro mixing strings with guest musician Gene Garf’s accordion. ‘Painter Of Women’ features layered guitars and vocals with strings added for texture over the song’s relaxed groove. ‘The Keeper Of Time’ and ‘It Won’t Get Better’ are short, gentle. acoustic numbers with horns. The Merle Travis cover ‘Nine Pound Hammer’ features more layered guitars and hints of things to come with slide guitar floating over the melody. Van Dyke Parks’ harpsichord and Garf’s accordion mix with strings, plucked acoustic guitars and Valentino’s delicate, echoed plaintive vocals to yield an ethereal psychedelic sound on ‘Magic Hollow’. ‘And I’ve Seen Her’ further hints at the band’s country direction. The album’s title track mixes horns and acoustic guitars with drum rolls and delicate Valentino vocals, the layered sound giving way to an acoustic guitar interlude with horns for accent. ‘The Wolf Of Velvet Fortune’ mixes acoustic guitar and restrained electric lead lines. The Eastern tinged lilting melody is delicate and intricately arranged. Reverbed vocals and guitars float from channel to channel ever so gently. The album closes with a cover of Randy Newman’s ‘Old Kentucky Home’ that has country picking and layers of guitars with percussion adding to the outro. Sixteen bonus tracks are added to complete the disc. ‘Galadriel’ is a delicately gorgeous tune that somehow was not included on the LP. A stereo version of the unedited ‘Two Days ‘Til Tomorrow’ non-LP single side and an alternate version of its non-LP flip side ‘Lower Level’ titled ‘Elevator’ are among the many highlights as is an alternate vocal version of ‘Triangle’.
Disc five is built around the band’s 1968 groundbreaking country rock album ‘Bradley’s Barn’ recorded in Nashville with Valentino and Elliott, the only remaining Beau Brummels, joined by guitarists Jerry Reed and Wayne Moss, bassist Norbert Putnam, drummer Kenny Buttrey and pianist/keyboardist David Briggs, with Lenny Waronker again producing. The LP is a gorgeous mixture of guitar orchestration, keyboards and delicate vocals. ‘Turn Around’ has a country feel with guitars everywhere, its rich, full sound is rounded out with a hint of slide guitar. Putnam’s bouncing bass and Briggs’ piano blend perfectly with acoustic guitars on ‘An Added Attraction.’ ‘Deep Water’ has a restrained electric guitar lead line over the orchestra of acoustic guitars with bottleneck added for texture. ‘Long Walking Down To Misery’ mixes acoustic guitar, bottleneck, piano and electric piano with plaintive vocals. ‘Little Bird’ has a delicate melody of layered acoustic guitars with a restrained lead line and dobro adding texture. ‘Cherokee Girl’ is another delicate tune featuring acoustic guitars and strings. A tempo change brings percussion and lead guitar to the fore. ‘I’m A Sleeper’ has acoustic guitars loping effortlessly before drum rolls pick up the tempo leading to a guitar and oboe outro. ‘Loneliest Man In Town’ is straight up country with acoustic guitar and piano. ‘Love Can Fall’ is upbeat, mixing acoustic and electric guitars with electric piano as Buttrey pounds out the beat and Putnam’s bass keeps pace, yet the lead line somehow remains subdued. ‘Jessica’ is a song of forlorn love with gentle, layered acoustic guitars giving life to Valentino’s vocals. The album closer ‘Bless You California’ opens with Briggs’ electric piano leading to an onslaught of acoustic and electric guitars with Briggs adding piano to give the tune texture. A mid-tune tempo change has Putnam’s bass and Briggs’ piano yielding a Broadway musical vibe as percussion enters for the outro. Fifteen bonus tracks round out the disc. Of particular interest are two takes of Bob Dylan’s ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’ as well as alternate versions of ‘Deep Water’ and ‘Jessica’. The disc closes with two solo performances by Sal Valentino recorded during the ‘Bradley’s Barn’ sessions.
Disc six contains twenty eight recordings done by the band at Coast Recorders in San Francisco on 16 April 1965 as well as four 1964 recordings, one from Coast Recorders and three from Gold Star Studios in Hollywood. This material is from the first ten months of the band’s existence and was done by the Valentino, Elliott, Mulligan, Meaghar and Petersen lineup. Included are six songs by Mulligan, although none went beyond this stage. Among the twenty eight tunes from 1965, seven were attempted by The Beau Brummels, but only four were released during the band’s lifetime, these being ‘Sad Little Girl’, ‘When It Comes To Your Love’, ‘Can It Be’ and ‘Woman’, all included on ‘The Beau Brummels, Volume 2’. The takes on this disc are not of the quality of material released on the group’s albums or singles but are important as historical documents and make for interesting listening from the perspective of song construction and a band in its infancy finding itself and its sound.
Disc seven gathers together thirty two recordings made by Sal Valentino and Ron Elliott, individually and as a team, at home and in the studio, between 1965 and 1967. As with disc six these recordings are important as historical documents and make for interesting listening. Of the songs included, four made it into studio albums by The Beau Brummels. These include a home recording by Ron Elliott of ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’ from 1965, a demo of ‘Only Dreaming Now’ by Sal Valentino from March of 1967, a demo of ‘Magic Hollow’ by Valentino, also from March, 1967, and a home demo by Elliott and Valentino of ‘Jessica’ from 1967.
Disc eight gathers together all the singles, a- and b-sides, released by The Beau Brummels between 1964 and 1969, supplemented by four Sal Valentino single sides from 1969 and 1970. All of The Beau Brummels single sides are presented in their original mono mixes except the non-LP a-side cover of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s ‘Good Time Music’ which was only recorded in stereo. This means the listener is treated to classics such as ‘Laugh, Laugh’, ‘Just A Little’, ‘You Tell Me Why’ and ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’ sounding exactly the way they did when first heard on AM radio in 1964 and 1965. In addition to getting the hits from ‘Introducing The Beau Brummels’, ‘The Beau Brummels, Volume 2’, ‘Triangle’ and ‘Bradley’s Barn’ in the mono mixes, all the non-LP singles are here as well. This means, the 1966 cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘One Too Many Mornings’, ‘Here We Are Again’, ‘Don’t Make Promises’ and ‘Lift Me’ are all included, as are b-sides ‘She Reigns’, ‘Fine With Me’, ‘Two Days ‘Til Tomorrow’ and ‘Lower Level’.
Each of the discs come in its own replica sleeve which slides into an inner slipcase. which in turn slides into a hard outer slipcase. The set comes with an 88 page booklet containing detailed liner notes by Alec Palao, including a band history with comments from band members, complete track annotations, a unique song by song commentary, and rare photos and memorabilia from the band’s personal collections. The box set’s 228 tracks, 24 previously unreleased, sound incredible thanks to the mastering job of Palso, who did additional work transferring and remixing in creating fresh stereo mixes. ‘Turn Around: The Complete Recordings 1964-1970’ is without question the very last word regarding The Beau Brummels and will be of interest to fans of 1960’s rock, classic rock, psychedelic rock, country rock and rock music in general, and comes very highly recommended.
The Beau Brummels – ‘Turn Around: The Complete Recordings 1964-1970’ (Cherry Red Records, 2021)