Well, this is why I do this, finding a treasure of a record that has apparently been completely lost to time...
Here's a really special treat and discovery for all of you out there, a fabulously well-written rock album with progressive touches. We remember the beautiful and generous Ipanema Isabel discovered this group with her post of Murphy and Salt and their huge hit Last Illusion, a song I've now sung something like a million times: "friendship is the only beast that's never been known to bite until it's dead" (cf. here: http://prognotfrog.blogspot.com/2010/11/jf-murphy-salt-last-illusion-usa-1973.html)
Well, it turns out that songwriter Murphy actually put out 5 albums in total, and this is his last big record, a swan song featuring what sounds like an artist at the peak of his powers.
First off, we can't move on without mentioning the incredible photos of this band, in their full-on neanderthal seventies attire and facial hair. The latest DNA studies do confirm that homo sapiens interbred with the neanderthals some 60,000-20,000 years ago (mostly in Europe), with some 4-5 percent of our DNA being actually from them. Interestingly, our species also interbred with an obscure group, another distinct species of hominid, called the Denisovans from central Asia and Siberia. Perhaps this is the final explanation for the continued existence of mullets. Anyways, I defy anyone to look at the back cover of the record without laughing out loud-- it's impossible. I think Murphy is the one with the lambchops. Notice how the others are mostly wearing tanktops ("wifebeaters")-- how attractive! And why is the guy with the potbelly and baseball bat standing in front? Is he standing guard over some philly steak sandwiches? I defer again to my wife's comment which you've heard before, "they were all stoned back then..."
It turns out the music on this record is actually very good, although the first comment I heard from my wife was, "Is that a cow mooing on that song?"
Yes, we're talking about the seventies here, and of course, there will be a cow mooing on one song. Note also the last song on side 1: "beer barrel polka" I think it's safe to pass this one by without even a listen, of course what we have here is the band members drunk and stoned attempting to do a polka while falling over each other-- pretty much de rigueur for this time period.
I've said this so many times before, it boggles the mind that satellite radio and FM radio play the same oldies over and over again when there are songs equally good and undiscovered to hear-- what's wrong with these people, they never want to hear anything new? Hours go by before I ever hear anything I haven't heard before. But here we have several really tuneful, perfectly executed rock songs with a lot of dynamism and enough original hooks and chord changes to make it eminently interesting and constantly new with some left over to hang up 4-5 jean jackets. And all of this barrels on with the force and energy of J F Murphy's fantastic singing.
Pay attention to the first track on side B because it's the progressive instrumental masterpiece, showing how good an arranger and writer this guy was ("Doze Jazz Guys"). The last track on the album is Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story in a medley, plus Gershwin's Rhapsody thrown in for good measure, but really I would say he does a pretty good job of it-- it's not quite as good as Stern Combo Messien's Rhapsody though (on their live album). Of course, SCM is an all-out prog band. Murphy is responsible for all the writing and arranging, as far as I can see.
I would like also to hear from the man himself, we've heard from many artists on this blog, mostly complimentary comments relating to their pride in their work resurfacing. I personally think J F Murphy is a great, great songwriter, who should stand along the other great songwriters rock in the seventies produced, like Jackson Browne, etc. His gruff baritone voice in particular really is perfect for this style. And what is he doing now I wonder?
Bass – Russell Warmolts
Design – Earl Klasky
Drums – John Reilly
Engineer – Jack Sherdel
Guitar, Trombone, Flute, Vocals – Joe Parrino
Harmonica, Chimes, Other [Vibes], Percussion – George Christ
Producer – Jimmy Jenner
Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Bagpipes – Ron Allard
Vocals, Keyboards, Twelve-string Guitar, Rhythm Guitar – J.F. Murphy
A2 Mad Monk
A3 Those Magnificent Clowns
A5 The Seabird & The Flying Dutchman
A6 Almost A Take (Beer Barrel Polka)
B1 Doze Jazz Guys
B2 I'd Rather Be
B3 Somebody To Believe In
B4 Usin' You
B5 Urban Renewal (Medley From West Side Story)
Those Magnificent Clowns:
Doze Jazz Guys: