Merrell Fankhauser – ‘Goin’ Round In My Mind-The Merrell Fankhauser Anthology 1964-1979’ (2022)
Born in Kentucky in 1943, Merrell Fankhauser relocated to California as a teenager and began a career as a singer/songwriter/guitarist which has spanned more than six decades. Cherry Red Records, UK has compiled the recordings from his prime years 1964-1979 in a new six disc box set on the Grapefruit Records imprint.
Included in the collection are four albums and a dozen singles released during the period as well as material unreleased at the time which has subsequently appeared on various compilation albums, a total of ninety eight tracks in all.
Disc one is titled ‘Merrell And The Exiles-The Early Years’ and consists of nineteen tracks recorded 1964-1965 by Fankhauser joined by teenage guitar phenom Jeff Cotton who would go on to join Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band. Though the membership of the band would change, mainstays would include Larry Willey (bass), Jason Day (organ), Jim Ferguson (bass) and Greg Hampton (drums). Included are three single a-sides, ‘Please Be Mine’ and ‘Send Your Love’ from 1964 and ‘Sorry For Yourself’ from 1965 along with the b-sides of the second and third singles, ‘Don’t Call On Me’ and ‘Suzie Crying’. The songs show the evolving songwriting and guitar talents of Fankhauser on melodic numbers like ‘Long Long Time’, ‘Let The Time Go By’ and ‘Love Only You’ and rockers such as ‘Shake My Hand’, ‘Remember Me’, Pain In My Heart’ and ‘Let Me Go’. In addition, a couple of influences appear, namely Chuck Berry on ‘Make It Back to Memphis’ and Buddy Holly on the aptly titled ‘Rave On’.
Disc two centers around the eponymous February 1968 LP ‘Fapardokly’, the quartet made up of Fankhauser, Bill Dodd (guitar, organ), Don Parrish (bass) and Dick Lee (drums). The album is a combination of tracks by the namesake band, recordings by Merrell And The Exiles from 1964 to 1967 and songs performed by Fankhauser with folk rockers Gary Lotspeich and Don Aldridge. The music shows Fankhauser’s progression toward melodic psychedelic folk rock. The LP has several standout tracks, of special note ‘The Music Scene’ an upbeat tale of being ripped off by unscrupulous managers and label owners. The tune features Dodd’s organ and tastefully restrained guitar solo. The song is commercially accessible and deserved release as a single. ‘Tomorrow’s Girl’, released as an April 1967 single credited to Merrell And The ‘Xiles, perhaps to make the band’s name appear trendier, was inspired by the hippy girls on Sunset Strip while its reference to smoking “twenty dollar weed” escaped censors. The uptempo rocker has beautiful lead guitar as well as a tasty guitar solo and organ outro. The track recorded by Fankhauser on guitar and vocals, Mark Thompson on guitar and organ, Larry Willey on bass and Randy Wimer on drums somehow failed to hit the national charts. The song did garner much attention when included on the 2009 box set ‘Where The Action Is: Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968’. Only 1,000 copies of ‘Fapardokly’ were printed, making it a highly sought after psychedelic rock album. The disc adds three bonus tracks by Fapardokly proper to the twelve comprising the original album, with ‘The War’ Fankhauser’s anti-Vietnam statement standing out thanks to its lead line and extended guitar solo.
Disc three contains the December 1968 self-titled album by Merrell Fankhauser and HMS Bounty, a quartet consisting of Fankhauser (vocals, guitar, sitar), Bill Dodd (lead guitar, organ, vocals), Jack Jordan (bass) and Larry Myers (drums, tabla). The LP, the most overtly psychedelic rock release by Fankhauser, is a delightful mix of melodic, ringing guitar led tunes and fuzz fueled rockers. The opening tune, a single a-side and the title track to the box set, is a chugging psychedelic rocker with chiming, Byrds style lead line and should’ve been a hit. ‘Girl (I’m Waiting For You)’, another a-side, is a melodic tune with gorgeous vocals and a wonderfully restrained guitar solo. ‘Lost In The City’ is a fuzzed out rocker featuring a heavy lead line and tasty guitar outro. ‘Drivin’ Sideways (On A One Way Street)’ is a driving psych rocker filled with fuzz and highlighted by its lead line, crisp solo and melodic vocals. Why the tune wasn’t released as a single is baffling with its commercial accessibility and timely subject matter. ‘In A Minute Not Too Soon’ is another snappy, fuzzy psychedelic number with gorgeous vocal harmonies and a tasty guitar solo. ‘A Visit With Ashiya’ is a moody Beatlesque piece blending lofting guitar and sitar with lysergic lyrics, an extended solo and an outro mix of fuzz guitar and sitar. ‘Rich Man’s Fable’, the b-side of ‘Things’ is an upbeat tune with beautiful vocal harmonies and a soaring fuzz fueled solo. The album’s closer ‘Madam Silky’, is a dreamy, melodic piece of psych featuring two solos by Dodd and more fuzz guitar. Three bonus tracks follow, beginning with ‘I’m Flying Home’, a string bending non-LP b-side, with nicely controlled feedback, a short drum solo, hot guitar solo and feedback laden outro by Dodd. The disc closes with both sides of a single recorded by Fankhauser with members of Los Angeles’ immortal session group The Wrecking Crew, Al Casey (guitar), Larry Knechtel (keyboards), Carol Kaye (bass) and Jim Gordon (drums). A-side ‘Tampa Run’ is a moody blues tune with slide guitar and horns adding punch to its relaxed tempo and gorgeous vocals. The b-side is a calypso cover of Fred Neil’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’ with beautiful vocals, ? & The Mysterians style organ and horns.
Disc four is built around the December 1971 eponymous album ‘Mu’ notable for the reunion of Fankhauser with Merrell And The Exiles members Jeff Cotton (guitar, vocals), bassist Larry Willey and drummer Randy Wimer. The LP differs greatly from the rest of Fankhauser’s catalog with Cotton writing or co-writing eight of its nine tracks. The album features a shift toward blues rock and longer tracks. Album opener ‘Ain’t No Blues’ has a CCR feel, Willey’s bass booming and a swamp rock lead line along with a gorgeous slide solo. ‘Ballad Of Brother Lew’, released as a single a-side, has dreamy vocals complementing more swamp rock lead guitar and a slide outro. The album’s magnum opus is the nine and a half minute jazz tinged ‘External Thirst’ a moody number with slide intro and a drum break reminiscent of Santana. ‘Too Naked For Demetrius’ is another moody, jazzy tune with relaxed guitar accents which was released as a single b-side. The LP’s nine tracks are supplemented by three bonus tracks, all non-album single sides. ‘You’ve Been Here Before’ a blues tune with moody vocals, keyboard accents, restrained lead line and understated guitar solo was released as a b-side. ‘One More Day’, a top-side is an uptempo tune with wah wah guitar adding to its moody melody. ‘On Our Way To Hana’, another a-side, is a relaxed mix of acoustic and electric guitars with gorgeous vocals and slide guitar.
Disc five is titled Mu ‘The Last Album’ and contains tracks recorded in early 1974 but unreleased at the time. In contrast to the first Mu LP seventeen of the twenty tunes were composed by Fankhauser, who co-wrote another, with Cotton contributing only two. The music is relaxed, peaceful and melodic, with Mary Lee’s violin blending beautifully with Fankhauser’s guitar, beginning with disc opener ‘The Land Of Mu’. The recordings, made in Hawaii, feature Jeff Parker on bass replacing Larry Willey. The tracks have a moody, often spiritual feel, mixed with a Crosby, Stills and Nash vibe thanks to its interplay of acoustic and electric guitars on tunes such as ‘I Saw Your Photograph’, ‘It’s Love That Sings The Song’ and ‘Calling From A Star’. Of special note are the restrained, understated guitar solos on ‘Waiting For The Sun’, ‘Children Of The Rainbow’, ‘Daybreak Sunshine’ and ‘The Love We Bare’.
Disc six opens with the eleven tracks composing 1976’s ‘Maui Album’, Fankhauser’s first solo LP. The music is introspective and spiritual in nature, reflecting the artist’s meditative lifestyle, with Mary Lee’s violin largely featured along with Jimmy Dillon’s electric and slide guitars. The album features re-recordings and new material. ‘Lovely Lady’ is a gorgeous love song with strings adding to the atmosphere of acoustic guitar and vocals. Breezy remakes of ‘I Saw Your Photograph’ and ‘Make A Joyful Noise’ find Lee’s violin adding texture. A new version of ‘On Our Way To Hana’ is a showcase for Dillon’s slide work. ‘Garden In The Rain’, ‘Waterfall’, ‘Sail It Over The Ocean’, ‘Love Is All There Is’ and album closer ‘The Source’ are all gentle songs of hope for the future, The box set closes with six bonus tracks. Highlights include the peaceful ‘The Wind Cries Marie’, an instrumental mixing acoustic and electric guitars with strings, the ethereal ‘Peace In The World’, contemplative, spiritual tracks ‘Matthew’s Dream’ and ‘Dharmic Connection’ and a remake of the autobiographical ‘Calling From A Star’ with keyboards added. The tune was the b-side of ‘Sail It Over The Ocean’, a 1979 single, the final release of this period in Fankhauser’s career and a wonderful note to end this anthology on.
‘Goin’ Round In My Mind-The Merrell Fankhauser Anthology 1964-1979’ comes in a clamshell box with its six discs each in cardboard mini-LP sleeves. The set includes a 36 page full color booklet with track annotations and a vinyl discography as well as an extensive essay by compiler David Wells and is lavishly illustrated with photos of Fankhauser and his various bands, album and single artwork, posters and other memorabilia. The music sounds better than ever thanks to the remastering job of Alec Palao. The box set will appeal to folk psych, psychedelic rock and classic rock fans and comes highly recommended.
Merrell Fankhauser – ‘Goin’ Round In My Mind-The Merrell Fankhauser Anthology 1964-1979’ (Grapefruit 2022)