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Ultimate Spinach - Behold And See CD (album) cover


Ultimate Spinach


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.84 | 37 ratings

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4 stars History has not been kind to this band. As I see it (and you can trust me, because I wasn't even born yet... thus, no bias), the deal is this: Boston somehow develops a "scene" somewhat parallel to that going on the much-heralded San Francisco scene. A few media outlets latch on to the catch phrase "The Bosstown Sound" and try to promote it as the hip thing on the East coast. Of course, this promotional effort immediately wipes out any originality or integrity the scene might have ever had, and it's remembered today as a calculated attempt to pass off some second-rate bands (which included Ultimate Spinach, Beacon Street Union, and others) as "psychedelic stars" when they were just posers.

This ungenerous view almost unilaterally neglects the actual bands themselves. Very few people will actually take the time to listen to this record (Spinach's second and best), and even when they do, they will usually be so swayed by the scene's unfortunate reputation that they may even observe "copying" where it doesn't exist. So I want to help correct that, and state for the record that this is one heck of a fine album, by any standards

Unfortunately, the band pretty much disintegrated after this album, the band leader/songwriter calling it quits (Ian Bruce-Douglas... current whereabouts unknown) and all but one member following suit. Strangely enough, the band reformed with a completely new lineup (including "Skunk" Baxter, another of the new things by which this band is remembered) and put out a third (admittedly, pretty bad) album.

So behold and see: The Ultimate Spinach!


1) "Behold and See (Gilded Lamp of the Cosmos)" -- a pretty basic, somewhat lame midtempo rock number, sung by a female member of the group (I don't care much for her voice either), but redeemed by a nice harmonized chorus. A deceptive opener that doesn't hint at the greatness that follows.

2) "Mind Flowers" -- Reminds me a bit of Quicksilver's early stuff, but overlaid with some way trippy Eric Burdon/Animals psychedelic overtones. A drifting brain piece at 8 and a half minutes, this one's a real treat. Bruce-Douglas sings this one well.

3) "Where You're At" -- female singer again, ugh. I guess she's not that bad, but these songs almost justify the band's bad reputation.

4) "What You're Thinking Of (Jazz Thing)" -- Now we're talking. Jazzy electric piano and vibes, this could have been a Canterbury prog number (a la Caravan). Great melody, great instrumental interlude, and good lyrics. And it's long, about 6 minutes this time. The lyrics here nail down a particular theme that goes through a lot of their material: you think you're hip and with it, but you're really just a joke. Maybe that's why San Franciscans didn't like them.


1) Fragmentary March of Green -- This is the emotional climax of the album, an absolutely devastating dirge of a number, a chilling look at a guy who's left the hippie life, entered the "straight" life, and is slowly going insane from life's very real demands and challenges. Goosebump City. Played as a slow, stately funeral march led by piano, and sung throughout by a chorale of eerie voices that almost sound like angels looking down with pity. Don't miss this one. 6 minutes, not a second wasted.

2) Genesis of Beauty Suite (in Four Parts) - Similar in tone - chorales of voices, lots of electric piano. Somewhat jazzy feel, but classically organized this time. Doesn't flow together like the best prog suites do, but each of the four parts is nice in its own way. Not indispensable, but certainly heady stuff with good musical merit. Close to 10 minutes long, which will make prog fans happy (hooray!).

3) Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse - A neat closing number, a real head scratcher. Begins as an almost Hollywood-ish western number, with a harmonica lead, then changes into a medium groove over which a guitar solos. The tempo gets faster and louder and the guitar solo gets more frantic. It slows down again, goes into another movie soundtracky theme with a recorder playing lead (!), trading melodic lines with an electric piano modified to sound like a harpsichord (!!), then an instrumental outro returning to the harmonica section, accompanied by a chorale of voices as the credits roll. WTF?

HolyMoly | 4/5 |


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