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SWEETWATER

Sweetwater

Proto-Prog


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Sweetwater Sweetwater album cover
3.57 | 20 ratings | 2 reviews | 15% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1968

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Motherless Child (5:09)
2. Here We Go Again (2:34)
3. For Pete's Sake (2:53)
4. Come Take a Walk (3:51)
5. What's Wrong (4:04)
6. In a Rainbow (3:18)
7. My Cyrstal Spider (3:57)
8. Rondeau (1:19)
9. Two Worlds (3:59)
10. Through an Old Storybook (2:35)
11. Why Oh Why (3:01)

Total Time: 36:06

Line-up / Musicians

- Nancy Nevins / vocals
- R.G. Carlyle / guitar, bongos, backing vocals
- Alex Del Zoppo / keyboards, backing vocals, arrangements
- Albert Moore / flute, backing vocals
- August Burns / cello
- Fred Herrera / bass, backing vocals, arrangements
- Alan Malarowitz / drums
- Elpidio Cobian / congas, percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Marvin Lyons (photo)

LP Reprise Records ‎- RS 6313 (1968, US)
LP Hi Horse Records - 63130 (2009, ?)

CD Collectors' Choice Music ‎- CCM-578 (2005, US)
CD Rev-Ola ‎- CR REV 285 (2009, UK)

Thanks to Ivan_Melgar_M for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SWEETWATER Sweetwater ratings distribution


3.57
(20 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(15%)
15%
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(40%)
40%
Good, but non-essential (45%)
45%
Collectors/fans only (0%)
0%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

SWEETWATER Sweetwater reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

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.

Na´ve 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

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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