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Gypsy - Gypsy CD (album) cover

GYPSY

Gypsy

 

Eclectic Prog

3.83 | 26 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars The early seventies were generally seen as the heyday of British progressive rock, and they pretty much were, although in America groups like Captain Beefheart, Spirit, Santana, Providence and Utopia staked out some prog territory of their own on the east and west coasts.

But across the heartland there was some decent American progressive music being created as well: bands like Kansas, Happy the Man, Cathedral, Arabesque, Starcastle and even Styx were quietly cranking out their own brand of progressive rock in places like Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas and elsewhere. Much of their music would be dismissed as derivative, but no more so than the Beatles, who owed some of their sound to Buddy Holly and Elvis, or Eric Clapton who owed much of his to Robert Johnson and Bo Diddley.

Anyway, one of those Midwestern bands who toiled in relative obscurity was this one. Gypsy hailed from Minneapolis Minnesota, future home of Prince. They scored a major coup after relocating to Los Angeles in 1969 with a gig as house band at Whiskey-a-Go-Go, but followed that up with a major faux pas by declining a contract with Atlantic Records in favor of one with the fledgling Metromedia Productions. Metromedia may have been the company that spawned Soul Train, but their expertise in the record business seems to have been mostly limited to teen idol Bobby Sherman’s catalog and various novelty records. To their credit, the label did due diligence to the production of Gypsy’s first album, springing for an expensive double-disk gatefold vinyl recording sporting the Czech artist Alfons Mucha’s painting ‘Zodiaque’. But they apparently didn’t know much about promotion, and despite having a minor hit single with the opening track, the album faded rather quickly.

Too bad, because this is one of those little gems that has resurfaced numerous times over the decades, having been reissued several times and developed something of a fabled reputation. And for good reason, as the sound is an outstanding blend of the West Coast sound, Latin grooves, a little jazz and some great vocal harmonies. Comparisons to Santana are valid, but there’s a little bit of Spirit and some of the big instrumental sound of Chicago woven in as well.

The late Enrico Rosenbaum, who wrote virtually all the lyrics for the album, was not the virtuoso on guitar that Carlos Santana was (and is), but he had a smooth and easy style that combines jazz, soft psych and a little funk that gives each track a very American sound. James Walsh has a heavy presence on keyboards throughout, mostly with his Hammond B3 organ. In one of their few great moves the label brought in opera vocal consultant Julio Aiello to arrange the band’s superb vocal harmonies, something they would unfortunately largely abandon in their later albums. In fact, the vocals make the biggest difference between this and their sophomore record ‘In the Garden’.

The first disc is full of vibrant, solid music with plenty of percussion courtesy of bongo player Preston Epps, who would be replaced by future Robin Trower drummer Bill Lordan by the time the band reentered the studio.

I’m not sure why the band felt the need to stretch this into a double-album, and there do seem to be some filler tracks on the second disk. “Here in my Loneliness” has the feel of a Chicago b-side single, and “The Vision” is a string-driven orchestral number that goes on for seven minutes or so and turns into an improvisational piano/bass jam toward the end. The nearly eleven-minute “Dead & Gone” is similar, and even the vocal harmonies fail to capture the ear after the first three or four minutes.

But “Gypsy Queen” (I and II), “The Third Eye”, “Man of Reason”, “Decisions” and “I Was so Young” on the first disk are all solid and energetic with plenty of soul and toe-tapping rhythms; and “Dream if you Can” is a quintessential early seventies West Coast soft psych number that should have been a single.

The band would be gone by 1974, and a resurrected Gypsy a quarter-century later would include only James Walsh form the original lineup, and frankly was nothing much more than an oldies nostalgia act.

That doesn’t take away from this album though, which is without a doubt a solid four star effort despite some of the filler on the second disk. That stuff isn’t bad either, its just that after the first two sides there isn’t much new or innovative that the last two sides offer. No matter, this is an album that most prog fans would do well to have in their collection. Fans of the funk, percussion and rhythms of Santana, Osibisa and many Latin and Caribbean bands will appreciate this music as much as those who get off on the Anglo soul of Chicago or Average White Band. Highly recommended if you haven’t heard it.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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