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Ultimate Spinach - Ultimate Spinach CD (album) cover


Ultimate Spinach


Psychedelic/Space Rock

3.37 | 29 ratings

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3 stars Ultimate Spinach are an interesting band in that their existence was a result of the MGM label attempting to capitalize on the popularity of West Coast psych music by creating a completely contrived East Coast psych-pop ‘scene’ in the latter sixties. Ultimate Spinach were the flagship of this effort, which withered rather quickly at a time when beat and intellectual folk rock were still the dominant influences over Boston-area counter culture.

Not that the band didn’t make a decent go of things. Band leader Ian Bruce-Douglas was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and briefly prolific songwriter who left behind several psych classics, mostly from this album. “Ballad of the Hip Death Goddess” is a very well-constructed eight-minute psych dirge that matches the best of West Coast bands like Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna and the like, and still makes appearances on the occasional late-night FM radio show or flashback podcast. “Plastic Raincoats” was more poppish but equally period-appropriate to a 1967 sound that owed as much to the Beatles and Kinks as it did to later variants like Country Joe and Todd Rundgren.

In the end though this is undeniably a commercial attempt to clone true progressive psych music, and lacks somewhat in dirty, earthy authenticity. The musicianship is excellent, and Barbara Hudson delivers seductive and engaging vocals to give the band an overall appeal that should have gotten them further on the charts than they managed to achieve.

Bruce-Douglas would hold the group together for another album the following year which would be even slightly more polished, but that appears to have been enough for him as he and the rest of the group departed shortly after. Hudson would become the centerpiece for a new lineup that featured mostly journeyman, professional musicians for a decidedly commercial third album to close out the sixties. There is apparently still a band operating under the name Ultimate Spinach today, but with no original members and little of the old repertoire there’s not much to attract prog music fans.

This album and band gets mentioned a fair amount among progressive and psych music circles even today, but given their highly commercial and contrived origins I’m not sure they deserve the elevated status often ascribed to them. This is a good but not great album, worth picking up but not taking too seriously. Three stars and mildly recommended to fans of the late-sixties psych era, but don’t expect to have your mind blown.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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