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SWEETWATER

Proto-Prog • United States


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Sweetwater biography
In the late 60's the USA Psychedelic/Proto Prog movement was full of great artists ahead of their time but the band that pioneered the fusion of Rock, Classical, Folk and Jazz was a modest group of kids from Los Angeles called SWEETWATER.

They didn't just limited to hiring a Symphony Orchestra to enhance the music, instead they were one of the first USA bands to include Cello, flute and Congas to the usual rock instruments, having a lineup of eight official members (plus guests), something pretty unusual for 1968.

It's unclear if they joined in 1967 or 1968, but due to the excellent voice of Nansi Nevins plus the absolutely innovative and eclectic blend of influences in their music they were immediately recruited by Warner Reprise and released their self titled debut album "Sweetwater".

This LP was ahead of their time, the killer keyboards of Alex Delzoppo were efficiently backgrounded by the unusual (for that moment) flute of Albert Moore, Cello by August Burns and Conga of the amazing Elpidio Cobian plus the usual instruments of a Rock band.

"Sweetwater" was a moderate success, most probably too advanced for the moment but it allowed the band to be invited as the first group to play in Woodstock. After the popularity gained in the festival, heaven was the limit and they returned to the studio where they recorded their second album "Just for You" being the title song a 10 minutes epic that blended all the influences of the band.

This good album deserved a better destiny but they were not able to finish the recording sessions normally or tour to promote it because in December 1969 the tragedy reached SWEETWATER, Nansi Nevins was crashed by a drunk driver and remained in comma for more than a week, she waked up just to discovered that her vocal chords were severely damaged and was unable to return to the band or sing in more than a year except one more track in the third album.

Warner Reprise still had faith in the band and gave them another chance so they released "Melon", an album described by some people as a blend between Jethro Tull, Santana and Jefferson Airplane, but the time had passed and they were not so advanced in 1971 as in 1968 and without Nansi they were unable to regain their lost audience, so they disbanded after a short tour.

In 1995 they were invited for Woodstock II and reunited without Albert Moore, Alan Malarowitz and August Burns who had already died neither Elpidio Cobian wh...
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SweetwaterSweetwater
Import
Rev-Ola 2009
Audio CD$7.16
$7.15 (used)
Live At LastLive At Last
CoachHouse Records 2002
Audio CD$8.99
$8.94 (used)
Cycles: The Reprise CollectionCycles: The Reprise Collection
Limited Edition · Remastered
Rhino 2003
Audio CD$255.71
$14.99 (used)
Just for YouJust for You
Collector's Choice 2005
Audio CD$74.99
$24.99 (used)
MelonMelon
Collector's Choice 2005
Audio CD$5.15
$6.50 (used)
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SWEETWATER discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

SWEETWATER top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.49 | 13 ratings
Sweetwater
1968
3.79 | 10 ratings
Just For You
1970
3.20 | 5 ratings
Melon
1971

SWEETWATER Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
Live At Last
2002

SWEETWATER Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

SWEETWATER Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

SWEETWATER Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

SWEETWATER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Sweetwater by SWEETWATER album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.49 | 13 ratings

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Sweetwater
Sweetwater Proto-Prog

Review by Ivan_Melgar_M
Special Collaborator Symphonic Prog Specialist

4 stars A couple years ago, and after some debate, I added SWEETWATER, an excellent USA band, the funny thing is that the debate was never about adding them or not, but about what sub-genre suited them best.

According to most sites in the net and the bibliography available, they are considered a Psyche band, but despite this opinions we verified that while most bands were playing with guitars, bass, drums and keyboards or some even more adventurous hired an orchestra to add some artificial intros and/or codas to pop songs, SWEETWATER was using flute, cellos, congas and extra percussion plus an elaborate vocal work to create unusually complex polyphonic structures with fantastic dissonances. They even dare to jump from Folk to Blues based Rock, Jazzy tunes and of course some clearly Psyche tracks, so Proto Prog was the correct place for them.

Many people will ask why they are so unknown, well the answer is in the biography and the excellent review by ClemofNazareth, the tragedy hits them very hard, and lost their place in Prog history. Now, lets go to album itself, which is opened by their most famous performance Motherless Child, a traditional folk tune with excellent arrangements, where the wonderful voice of Nansi Nevins is one of the highlights. This song was performed by the band in Woodstock and as a fact it was the first track performed by a band in the Festival.

The flute by Albert B. Moore and percussion by Elpidio Cobian, blend perfectly wit the strong Psyche organ and the blues based guitar, a fantastic track by SWEETWATER.

In a Rainbow is a totally different track, with an almost medieval short intro that suddenly morphs into a vocal extravaganza with incredibly elaborate chorus where the voice of Nansi is the star. The structure itself reminds me very much of Their Satanic Majesties Request by the Stones with a touch of The Mamas and the Papas and Jefferson Airplane.

Here We Go Again is a typical Psyche song, the first track you would expect from a West Coast band in the late 60's, nothing too innovative but very nice for the listener. My Crystal Spider is probably the most complex track I ever heard from a band of those days, it was common to use dissonant vocal, but real complex polyphonic music with the flute and Cello almost jamming a different tune than the rest of the bans was something very unusual, if you add the blend of genres and influences, you got a Prog track in 1968.

For Pete's Sake is a blend of Acid Psychedelia and Folk that reminds me of some songs performed years later by RENAISSANCE, mainly Prologue, a song that leads us to the short Medieval and almost troubadouresque Rondeau where the polyphonic chorus are the highlight, again an unusual song for 1968.

Come Take a Walk is a radical change from the previous tracks, a simple but very pleasant Blues based ballad blended with a hint of Country, interesting fusion of styles but nothing spectacular.

Two Worlds is probably the weakest track of the album, IMO a filler to prepare the listeners for What's Wrong a song with naive idealistic Flower Power lyrics but excellent musical structure. The first time where the band presents male and female vocals singing simultaneously, while Cobian in the percussion and August Burns in the Cello make a fantastic performance that combines perfectly with Delzoppo keyboards.

Through an Old Storybook is another almost Medieval tune that morphs into an excellent ballad based in the flute performance of Albert B. Moore, reminiscent of Carry on Till Tomorrow by BADFINGER (despite Badfinger released their hit one year later). And the band closes the album with Why Oh Why, a weird track that fuses Psyche with R&B, a funky way to close the album.

Honestly, I consider this album almost essential for any Proghead, because shows clearly one of the first stages of the genre with solid compositions performed with great skills and technique, will rate it with four stars.

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 Sweetwater by SWEETWATER album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.49 | 13 ratings

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Sweetwater
Sweetwater Proto-Prog

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Another semi-legendary proto-progressive band from the late sixties, Sweetwater were a flash in the pan that were robbed by time and circumstance of the chance to leave a stronger mark with their music. This is their first and arguably best album, releasing in 1968 not long after the group was formed and only a few years before they would fade into obscurity.

This band was unusual in many respects: the band initially had no prominent electric guitar, favoring instead flute, cello and bass as their primary instruments. All their compositions prominently features vocals, with lead singer Nancy Nevins (sometimes spelled Nansi) setting the tone for multi-layered, folkish harmonies to which nearly all the band’s eight members contributed. The California band also predated Santana with a heavy presence of Caribbean and Latin influences, including Elpidio Cobian on congas and liberal use of hand percussion instruments. They were also one of the first interracial American bands, and at the time the only one I know of that featured a white female lead singer. Nevins was also one of the rare female hippy band singers who sounded more like Grace Slick than she did Janis Joplin, and at times she bore a striking resemblance to It’s a Beautiful Day vocalist Linda LaFlamme as well.

The band’s style is difficult to classify, as their studio albums were all over the place in terms of influences, and they were known to perform covers and traditional folk standards in concert as well. The high point of the band’s career was undoubtedly their appearance as the first band to perform at Woodstock, following the solo performance of Richie Havens that kicked off the first night. Half of their 10-song set consisted of songs off this album: “Motherless Child”, “For Pete’s Sake”, “What’s Wrong”, the funky “Crystal Spider”, and the closing track “Why oh Why”.

“(Sometimes I Feel Like a) Motherless Child” is an old American negro spiritual composed by author and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson shortly after the Great Depression. This has to be considered an essential American folk standard, and has been covered by too many artists to list in the years since it was first performed by Johnson himself.

The rest of the tracks are all original compositions, most of them written by Nevins or by keyboardist Alex del Zoppo, except the final track “Why oh Why” which was penned by flautist the late Albert Moore. The styles vary from hippy folk (“What’s Wrong”, “Rondeau”) to mildly psychedelic (“Here we go Again”, “In a Rainbow”, “My Crystal Spider”) to pop (“For Pete’s Sake”, “Two Worlds”) to even country (“Come Take a Walk”). “Through Am Old Storybook” is hard to classify, and sounds an awful lot like the Association.

The highlight of this album is probably “My Crystal Spider” with its heavily drug- suggestive keyboard dirge and erratic cello solo (how often do you hear that statement when referring to a progressive album?!). The overall feel is of kind of a precocious “White Rabbit”, and this was reportedly a concert favorite.

Naďve flower-power abound, particularly in “Two Worlds” and the too-idealistic “What’s Wrong”, but given the time in which this was released this is rather understandable.

Tragedy became a trademark of the band beginning just four months after Woodstock when Nevins’ car was struck by a drunk driver on the Ventura Highway, leaving her temporarily in a coma and with permanent damage to her vocal chords, as well as internal organ and spinal injuries. The band labored on through her partial recovery and managed to record a couple more albums, but the magic was gone and public tastes were changing, so the band eventually split after a short tour to support their third and final studio album ‘Melon’. Nevins survived the obligatory years of drug abuse to emerge relatively unscathed as a school teacher before reuniting with the band in the hype surrounding the 25th anniversary of Woodstock in 1994. Drummer Alan Malarowitz was no as fortunate, as he perished in his own auto wreck in the Mojave Desert in 1982. Flautist Albert Moore succumbed to cancer in 1994, and cellist August Burns perished following a freak elevator accident in Germany following the band’s breakup.

The remaining members managed to make a go of a revival to some extent, and found some notoriety in a 1999 film release chronicling their career. As far as I know they still manage to appear live on occasion, and there was a modest live album released in 2002, but the significant days of the band ended shortly after they appeared on stage at Max Yasgur's farm in 1969.

This is more interesting as an historical piece than it is as an artistic one really, but it’s not a bad album, and taken in the context of the time it should be considered a pretty good one. This type of music hasn’t stood the test of time all that well, but this is a decent addition to any serious American folk fan’s collection, and wouldn’t be out of place in most progressive music collections either. Three stars seems reasonable.

peace

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 Just For You by SWEETWATER album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.79 | 10 ratings

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Just For You
Sweetwater Proto-Prog

Review by vingaton

4 stars Just For You isn't a perfect listen, though parts of it are wonderful. You will wonder how you missed it all these years, or perhaps even remember it as an obscure part of underground FM radio from when (ahem).it was good. There was no "Classic Rock"! The idea would have seemed ridiculous; back then DJ's were allowed to take risks. It was a time long before they started scratching up LP's to make sounds like corduroy pants. Those that spun records concentrated on presenting good tunes instead.

It opens with sounds of a morning meadow, and a simple yet beautiful melody sung by Nanci Nevins, the real star here, one of Rock Music's almost-forgotten great female sirens of song. There is a cinematic quality to this title track, and it is easy to let yourself be transported courtesy of Sweetwater's imaginative production. This song is a very dynamic way to begin an album.hey, more cowbell!

Sweetwater's sound is often Latin and urban. A folky commune-style chorus guides you through rolling countrysides and smoky streetscapes of ideas. A searing cello and very emotional piano are held steady by a cool stereophonic trip-out of percussive mayhem. Congas and timbales duke it out in a seeming battle to find out who can be the wildest. Certainly, if you enjoyed the early records by its A Beautiful Day you will dig this beyond measure.

Sweetwater's second release is a showcase for Nanci. It's such a shame that there remains so little of Ms Nevins work in existence, but with Just For You we hear her at her peak, with a voice every bit as great as Annie Haslam's .maybe even a touch sweeter.

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