The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band – ‘A Door Inside Your Mind (The Complete Reprise Recordings 1966-1968)’

Uncategorized July 17, 2023

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band – ‘A Door Inside Your Mind (The Complete Reprise Recordings 1966-1968)’

One of the quirkiest, most idiosyncratic, yet original groups to come out of Los Angeles in the 1960s, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band served up a unique type of psychedelia, blending gorgeous vocal harmonies with a sound ranging from folk to heavy, guitar driven rock.

Following a privately pressed debut the band released three major label LPs on the Reprise Records. Cherry Red Records present these albums, in both stereo and mono mixes, the latter all making their CD debut here, along with a full disc of outtakes, alternative versions and single edits in a new four disc box set.

Disc one contains February 1967s ‘Part One’, the group’s second long player, the WCPAEB consisting of brothers Danny (guitar/vocals) and Shaun Harris (bass/vocals), Michael Lloyd (guitar/vocals), Ron Morgan (lead guitar), John Ware (drums) and Bob Markley (spoken words/backing vocals). The album is an even mix of originals and cover versions. The opening tune ‘Shifting Sands’, penned by Baker Knight, is a nice bit of folk psych, the band’s vocal abilities joined by a nicely restrained lead guitar line by Morgan. ‘I Want You’, a band original, is a Byrds/Bobby Fuller Four style folk rocker. The band’s debut single ‘1906’, another original, features spoken word lyrics and a nice lead guitar line. ‘Help, I’m A Rock’, a cover of Frank Zappa and the Mothers, released as the band’s second single, showcases Morgan’s feedback laden guitar work. ‘Will You Walk With Me’ with its ethereal vocals is, in reality, a cover of Bonnie Dobson’s ‘Morning Dew’ with a few lyric changes. The remainder of the LP is a fine mix of folk rockers such as ‘Transparent Day’, a jangling take on P.F. Sloan’s ‘Here’s Where You Belong’ and covers of Van Dyke Parks’ ‘High Coin’ and Bob Johnston’s ‘’Scuse Me, Miss Rose’ and heavier rockers such as Knight’s ‘If You Want This’ and band original ‘Leiya’. Despite good reviews which have grown stronger as time passes, neither single, the album or any subsequent release by the band made the Billboard charts.

Disc two comprises October 1967s ‘Vol. 2 (BreakThrough)’. The band was now a quartet with Lloyd and Ware having exited the band. Opening tune ‘In The Arena’ is a space rocker with spoken intro, swirling vocals and a hot guitar solo. The anti-Vietnam conflict ‘Suppose They Give A War And No One Comes’ has a tasty bass intro and African tribal percussion sound with Morgan’s roaring guitar driving the tune to its finish. The album has gentle numbers such as ‘Buddha’ which lends the box set its title with the lyric “and a door inside your mind that you won’t open”, the country rock number ‘Delicate Fawn’ with its Markley references to young girls, a recurrent theme in the band’s catalog, and album closer ‘Tracy Had A Hard Day Sunday’. In contrast the LP showcases the heavy side of the group on ‘Overture/WCPAEB Part |I’ with its feedback fueled intro and machine gun drumming, ‘Unfree Child’, a Morgan driven psychedelic rocker and ‘Carte Blanche’ which references credit cards, in this case for meeting ladies at hotels and more heavy guitar from Morgan, as well as the album and band’s best known tune, the Markley/Ron Morgan original ‘Smell Of Incense’ featuring melodic vocals from the Harris brothers and distorted guitar from Morgan. The LPs longest track at nearly six minutes, the rhythm section shines with the loping, heavy bass of Shaun Harris and drums courtesy of Wrecking Crew session player Hal Blaine. Issued as a single, the tune somehow failed to sell. Regardless, the song stands as the WCPAEB at its pinnacle and has continued to gain popularity over the years, finding a place on numerous compilations.

Disc three presents ‘Vol. 3: A Child’s Guide To Good & Evil’, poorly received critically and sales wise at the time, but which has come to be recognized as the band’s most ambitious work, and a classic of the psychedelic rock genre. With Danny Harris departing, the group was reduced to a trio of Shaun Harris, Ron Morgan and Bob Markley. The LP opens with the melodic, folk rockers ‘Eighteen Is Over The Hill’ and ‘In The Country’ before moving to the heavy ‘Ritual #1’ featuring Mogan’s sitar and snarling lead guitar. ‘Our Drummer Always Plays In The Nude’ is light hearted pop to which Morgan adds a tasteful solo. ‘As The World Rises And Falls’ has a Pink Floyd vibe thanks to Morgan’s trippy guitar. ‘Until The Poorest People Have Money To Spend’ is social commentary with Morgan carrying the melody and adding a killer solo. ‘Watch Yourself’ begins with heavily distorted guitar, settles into a comfortable groove, then closes with a solo by Morgan. The album’s title track begins gently before the tempo quickens as Morgan’s sitar joins Markley’s spoken word vocal. ‘Ritual #2’ serves up more sitar from Morgan. ‘A Child Of A Few Hours Is Burning To Death’ is a rocker with more shining guitar from Morgan and strange Markley lyrics “we should have called Susie and Bobby/they like to watch fires”. ‘As Kind As Summer’ is a short, just over one minute, tune dominated by guitar and drums, while ‘Anniversary Of World War III’, a Markley original consisting of 1:46 of silence, is a fitting WCPAEB way of closing the album.

Disc four is a treasure trove for fans of the band, the first fourteen tracks previously unreleased, having been intended for a Rhino Handmade historical release in the late 2000s. Two takes of the unused ‘I Feel Sorry For You’ are followed by an alternative mix of the entire ‘Vol. 3: A Child’s Guide To Good & Evil’ album with the exception of ‘Anniversary Of World War III’, while ‘Watch Yourself’ is presented in electric and acoustic versions. Next up are mono single edits of ‘Help, I’m A Rock’, ‘Smell Of Incense’ and ‘Unfree Child’, with the disc and box set closing with a previously unreleased radio promo spot for the album.

‘A Door Inside Your Mind (The Complete Reprise Recordings 1966-1968)’ comes in a clamshell box with each disc coming in a cardboard mini-LP sleeve. The box set also includes a 40 page full-color booklet with an extensive band history by Gray Newell supplemented by rare photos and other memorabilia. The band sounds incredible thanks to the remastering job by Alec Palao. This box set will appeal to fans of psychedelic rock and 1960s rock in general and comes most highly recommended.

Kevin Rathert

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band – ‘A Door Inside Your Mind (The Complete Reprise Recordings 1966-1968)’ (Grapefruit Records, 2023)

  1. John Woodfield says:

    Many years ago I came across the compilation Transparent Day in a 2nd-hand shop. I might have to shell out for this and I can feel my wallet’s pulse racing. Worth getting for Transparent Day and Smell Of Incense. File under “Shoulda Been Huge”.

  2. Kevin Rathert says:

    @John Woodfield. Very well put indeed. “Shoulda Been Huge”.

  3. Josef Kloiber says:

    I love the band very much but will refrain from buying it. Whether it’s a mono or stereo version of the record is pretty uninteresting. You only play the stereo. Otherwise far too little new. Anyway thanks Kevin for the review.

  4. The Triumph of the Thrill says:

    It’s good and compelling to have one of the finest and most interesting groups of the time given the box set treatment. It’s about time and is one that every Rock fan should have.

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