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Velvet Opera (Elmer Gantry's) picture
Velvet Opera (Elmer Gantry's) biography
Founded in Coventry, UK in 1967 - Renamed to only "Velvet Opera" in 1969 - Disbanded in 1971

ELMER GANTRY'S VELVET OPERA, a very long name for a short living British band formed in 1967 during the peak of British Psychedelia, but despite their formation era, they were one of the most advanced bands from their era, blended with great respect R&B, Jazz Psychedelia a la early Pink Floyd and a touch of The Nice style, hard to say if they were inspired in Keith Emerson's sound because they are coetaneous, but you can find many similarities.

The band was born as "THE FIVE PROUD WALKERS" and they were a support Blues/Soul act for Pink Floyd, the original lineup was Richard Hudson on drums , Colin Forster on lead guitar, Jimmy Horrocks on organ and flute, John -Last name unknown officially- (bass) and Dave Terry on vocals and harmonica, but gradually they became less interested in Blues and more in the new sounds that were appearing everywhere in the British scenario, the unknown bass player was replaced by John Ford and they decided to change their name.

The first option was The Velvet Opera, but Dave Terry appeared in a session wearing a long black cape and a preachers hat, the band immediately identified him with Sinclair Lewis fictional character Elmer Gantry and in that moment his name changed and the band was baptized as ELMER GANTRY'S VELVET OPERA.

During 1967 and 1969 the band released three singles, Flames/Salisbury Plain (Flames was covered by Led Zeppelin), Mary Jane/Dreamy (Mary Jane was banned by BBC because they "discovered" it was a slang term for Marijuana) and Volcano/A Quick 'B', plus their first LP the eponymous ELMER GANTRY'S VELVET OPERA. The release date is unsure, some places mention it as released in 1967 others in 1968.

Despite being a very good and incredibly advanced album for their era, never reached the popularity deserved, because it was too hard and eclectic for the average listener, but still remains as one of the most powerful and elaborate albums from the pre King Crimson Progressive Rock era.

At that point the problems started, Elmer Gantry and Colin Forster were replaced by John Joyce and Paul Brett, so the second album "Ride a Hustler's Dream" was released only by The Velvet Opera (Obviously when Dave Terry, who had legally changed his name to Elmer Gantry left, they had to stop making references to him).

The quality of this album is not remotely as high as the first one and ma...
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3.74 | 19 ratings
Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera
2.96 | 9 ratings
Ride A Hustler's Dream

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Showing last 10 reviews only
 Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera by VELVET OPERA (ELMER GANTRY'S) album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.74 | 19 ratings

Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera
Velvet Opera (Elmer Gantry's) Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

3 stars 'Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera' is a good pre-prog album containing one killer song, sitar, some mellotron, distorted vocals, quite experimental moments - you can really smell the transition to prog music. This group acts in contrast to other bands of that time. Of course they also offer many 'old-fashioned' beat and rock n' roll impressions - how else can it be - rather sophisticated though, in style often similar to The Move, Yardbirds and The Beatles. All in all really enoyable in my opinion.

Business as usual - not one track is reaching the four minute mark here. On the contrary it's a really funny gimmick to introduce the band with the short Intro. The heavy impulsive A Quick B enclosing a great guitar solo and reminding of Spooky Tooth belongs to the outstanding examples. The aforementioned eclectic killer track Walter Sly Meets Bill Bailey is my album highlight - jamming, psychedelic, dazzling and irresistible because a second track is faded in for some time. A fantastic arrangement!

Lookin' for a Happy Life expresses enthusiasm a lot ... but ends with a nervous breakdown. I Was Cool - a suitable title for a blues theme where singer Elmer Gantry offers vocals which are overwhelmed with emotion and grow in confidence over the course. Air is decorated with some indian psychedelia caused by sitar and a rhythm which matches with a camel ride.

As written before - who likes the open-minded Yardbirds or Move is asked to check this out. A convincing workout considering the early times in 1967 when this album was produced. It shows the band on the trip towards progressive rock - 3.5 stars.

 Ride A Hustler's Dream by VELVET OPERA (ELMER GANTRY'S) album cover Studio Album, 1969
2.96 | 9 ratings

Ride A Hustler's Dream
Velvet Opera (Elmer Gantry's) Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Matthew T
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Released in 1969 and this was the 2nd album for the Band previously known as Elmer Gantry's Vevet Opera. The reason for the name change was Elmer Gantry had departed with Colin Forster just leaving the bass player John Ford and the drummer Richard Hudson. In came Paul Brett gutar-vocals and Jon Joyce on vocals as well.The album was recorded at Sothern Music Studios which was the same for the prevoius album with Elmer Gantry

It would be fair to describe this album as a Blues/Rock excursion with a tad of psychedelia being the in Track 6 Raga( or Indian if you prefer) The band sound now is less heavy and there is more rock than any progressive elements in this album and such as in track 8 Depression you have an old blues feel throughout.

They do 2 covers on the album Statesboro Blues being the best for me and the Lennon McCartney song Eleanor Rigby which is the last track on the album. There really is nothing different within this album that particulary stands out. There is some good guitar work, great drumming in Statesboro Blues and Don't You Realise the more up-tempo numbers on the album and there really is not a bad song on the album but neither is there a special one for me. Of course Paul Brett's guitar work is great. Eleanor Rigby is the most progressive track on the album and really does get going with mainly an electric lead guitar used throughout and is entirely instrumental. I prefer the Aussie band Zoot's myself for a cover.

Richard Hudson and John Ford later went on to The Strawbs.There are 4 bonus tracks on this edition from Airmail Japan that I have ( one being the single Volcano) and there is nothing to write home about just more blues/rock The first album with Elmer Gantry is the better but if you are a collector or someone who is just curious this not too bad.

3 Stars just

 Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera by VELVET OPERA (ELMER GANTRY'S) album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.74 | 19 ratings

Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera
Velvet Opera (Elmer Gantry's) Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by bristolstc

5 stars Finally I get to write a review of this! One of my all time favourite albums ever recorded by any band from anywhere! I go way back with this album, I was 16 years old when I first heard it, and I must have heard it a zillion times, still hearing something new and different each time. Don't judge a band by what they become later. John Ford and Richard Hudson would join the deplorable Strawbs, Elmer Gantry would go to the furthest extremes of bluesy rock in Stretch, and guitarist Colin Forster simply vanished from music! Much of this recalls The Move and some Syd Barrett (bless the poor lad who died today) at his most together and least atonal, but the whole album sounds to my ears like they were recording as so many bands were their answer to The Beatles and also to The Zombies who had recorded Oddesey and Oracle- another big fave. So what happens when The Zombies melodic sense meets the Beatles and The Move? You get this album, and I'll go so far as to say that it's the greatest British mod psychedelic pop album there is along with The Koobas and Kaleidoscope. The best thing here is that it's all over the map and successful at everything it tries. There's the riotous roadhouse blues freak out insanity of Elmer's take on Oscar Brown JNR's "I Was Cool," there's an abundance of melodic psychedelia, there's hard edged rock (listen to them kick it out on the soul meets bonecrushing "Flames"), and you even get a few glimpses of what would become progressive in "Reaction's Of A Young Man." Don't even think about the second Gantry (if you wanna know the truth behind the cat his real name is Dave Terry) gone and Forster gone album under the name Velvet Opera which is spotty, this is one you need to get, I would urge anyone into any kind of good music to find this album and own it, and treasure it. I mean that, this album's as good as anything out there back then by bigger named acts and every song here is amazing. The playing by all four band members is done in the same style as The Idle Race and The Move- not any long solos but real tastefully done. The vocals are great with Gantry sounding strong and full of energy. The whole band know how to adapt their sound to all the wide range of music covered here, from Mod R&B to psychedelic pop to spaced out moments like "Dream Starts" with it's bizarre vocal effect. I don't like saying this, but this is one of those albums that makes me almost cry when I hear it, I remember my youth and a time of hapiness and strugle gone forever, most important of all it brings back all the happy times and gives me more of them. I love this record, a masterwork sounds like the right wording for it!
Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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