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Ford Theatre
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written by: Nigel Camilleri

Album Reviews

The following is an important note pertinent to both albums. Both albums are unavailable in CD format and both are regarded as valuable collector's items in their vinyl version. For further information on obtaining these albums on CD all one has to do is contact R. Stevie Moore and he will get back to you with further details.


Ford Theatre - Trilogy For The Masses
Country of Origin:USA
Format:LP
Record Label:ABC Records
Catalogue #:ABC 658
Year of Release:1968
Time:37:14
Info:Ford Theatre

Tracklist: Side 1 Theme For The Masses (2:51), 101 Harrison Street (Who You Belong To) (9:22), Excerpt (From The Theme (1:09), Back To Philadelphia (4:11), The Race (0:26)
Side 2 The Race (0:04), From A Back Door Window (The Search) (14:02), Theme For The Masses (2:59), Postlude: Looking Back (2:09)

Musicians: John Mazzarelli (Keyboards, vocals), Harry Palmer (Guitars), Butch Webster (lead guitar), Joey Scott (Lead Vocals), Jimmy Altieri (bass, vocals), plus String Quartet (Charles McCraken, Bernard Eichen, Aaron Rosand, George Ricci, Arranger: Wally McGee)

All tracks were composed by Harry Palmer and Wally McGee except for Postlude:Looking Back (Harry Palmer)
Produced by Bob Thiele for ABC and Harry Palmer & Fred Cenedella at Fleetwood Studios, Revere MA Spring 1968
Engineers: Russ Ham, Bob Arnold, David Greene
Cover and Liner Design: Byron Goto/Henry Epstein/Photos: Ed Andrey/Eyes: Frissi Titsworth

LINER NOTES:
Ford Theatre is the place where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. And in these days of horrifyingly regular public murders, it's reasonable to ask what kind of name this is for a rock and roll group. A sick joke? Absolutely not. These six young men are deadly serious, and they chose their name because it corresponds in a way to what they are trying to create -- a vision of America in all its present chaos and agony. Harry Palmer, the leader, talks about it with the intensity of a man who feels he has got to be heard. "We're trying to get at the kind of desperation and searching that people are going through," he says. "This is as much a dramatic work as a musical one. We're trying to create a whole environment -- an ominous kind of environment." All the lyrics are in the second person, addressed to us. We're on the spot -- and there are very few of us who won't see parts of ourselves in these lines, or recognize the kind of tension that builds up in these long, corrosive instrumental breaks. The very least you can say about this album is that it's original, and fearlessly honest. And that's not nearly as common as some people think it is.

TOM PHILLIPS
Contributing Editor
Jazz & Pop Magazine

Trilogy For The Masses opens with the Theme For The Masses, the main theme that connects the whole of the album together. Played in a form of lament, the track is rich in both strings and organ very similar to a style that would be utilised by many of the proto-progressive rock bands such as Procol Harum and The Moody Blues. The subsequent track, 101 Harrison Street is a clear indication of the times. Featuring a lengthy and mesmerising guitar solo accompanied by a hypnotic continuous rhythm, this piece of music is a sure sign of the psychedelic drenched times the band were living in. This was the year of Woodstock and the height of flower power, and one can easily envisage this track being played endlessly with one solo being meted out after the other.

Excerpt (From the Theme) resurrects the opening theme to then lead into Back To Philadelphia, a track that would also be utilised for the bands second album, Time Changes. Slow paced and laid back, this track in contrast to 101 Harrison Street, lays more emphasis on the guitar work rather than having the organ dominate the sound of the music. Both Sides One and Two are linked by the short echo-filled The Race.

A name that comes to mind after hearing From A Back Door Window (The Search) would be legendary group Love. Ford Theatre manage to exude a certain amount of power and anger without letting it get in the way of their musical arrangements and without compromising their ability to incorporate ear-catching choruses in their music. This lengthy track also manages to combine the two distinct musical touches that the band had expressed so far on the album, that of a more guitar orientated rock feel as well as that of the R&B organ dominated sound. Well, From A Back Door Window (The Search), has both these elements with an extremely pleasant organ solo coupled with lengthy guitar work. Once again the emphasis seems to be on the ambient that the instruments manage to create with their obvious psychedelic allusions capable of

Theme For The Masses resurrects its head in bringing the album to a close with Postlude: Looking Back, the only composition credited entirely to Harry Palmer on the album. Musically this track is strikingly different to the remainder of the album as it is devoid of the elaborate arrangement present on the album giving this pleasant track an almost country rock feel to it. This is one album from my record collection that somehow finds itself regularly on the turntable. There is something innocent and unique about the sound of the album that is hard to find in many albums from this era. Musically I feel that it is a gem and should appeal to all those who like what is often termed as proto-progressive rock.

Nigel Camilleri


Time Changes
Country of Origin:USA
Format:LP
Record Label:ABC Records
Catalogue #:ABC 681
Year of Release:1969
Time:37:09
Info:Ford Theatre

Tracklist: The following tracklist and description is taken from the insert that accompanied the vinyl version of the album.

PROLOGUE
TIME CHANGES, is the story of a young man named Clifford Smothergill (known to his friends as Clifford) and his search for meaning and significance in life. This musical tale is based on the life of a very real person, whose true identity is a matter for very careful consideration, significant as it is.

ACT I
01. Introduction (1:00) Being as it is, an introduction.
02. Time Changes (3:09) and so it does. The Chorus (consisting of our main character) discusses our theme.
03. Interlude One (1:14) Enter Puck, wandering minstrel, who will introduce the characters in our play, and reappear from time to time to tie together the loose ends of our plot.
04. That's My Girl (2:12) a significant scene, wherein, we find Clifford in the midst of his first meaningful love affair.
05. Wake up In The Morning (3:08) And upon doing so, Clifford finds himself a victim of man's eternal adversaries––doubt and insecurity. In short, Clifford panics.
06. I've Got The Fever (5:17) Finding his doubt and insecurity to be justified as the result of Mary Jane's leaving him in his hour of need, our hero sinks into the lowest depths of despair and experiences frantic moments that severely shake his faith in humanity.
07. Crash (1:06) Which he did.
08. At The Station (3:51) The possibility of finding some meaningful answers at home occurs to Clifford which prompts him to leave New York and return to Philadelphia.
End of Act I

ACT II
09. Back To Philadelphia (3:58) Bringing it all back home proves to be a futile attempt at solving his problems, and so poor Clifford is left with the realization that his search for meaning must go on.
10. Clifford's Dilemma (1:58) A choice must be made, and Clifford considers the two possibilities––a return to New York and to Mary Jane or an aimless wandering.
11. Jefferson Airplane (2:59) Our hero decides to wander aimlessly for a while, and in doing so he loses touch with most of the world around him. Clifford Smothergill experiences a journey that few minds can endure.
12. I Feel Uncertain (2:26) Who can survive too long a journey such as this?!!? Our hero can take it only so long, and eventually he decides to return to Mary Jane and to resume the love affair. Mary Jane receives him gladly (after having gone through some pretty heavy changes herself), and now Clifford is left once again with haunting feelings of insecurity.
13. Interlude Two (1:18) Re-enter Puck, who will now enlighten us somewhat concerning a few of the more subtle aspects of our plot.
14. Good Thing (2:17) Oh, glorious day for Clifford!! Finally, he is convinced that he has found meaning and significance in life. Let us only hope that herein lies the end to our noble hero's desperate search.
15. Outroduction (1:13) Wherein Puck sums up our story in a most lucid fashion, bringing to mind the philosophical significance of all that has transpired.

Musicians: Harry Palmer (guitars), John Mazzarelli (keyboards, vocals), Butch Webster (lead guitar), Joey Scott (lead vocals, bass), Bill Szymczyk (narration)
Additional Instrumentation Arranged & Conducted by: Bert DeCoteaux––except on "TIME CHANGES"––Strings Arranged & Conducted by: Johnny Pate. And presenting THE FORD THEATRE Rock & Roll Concert Orchestra • Violins Irving Spice––Concert Master • Herbert Sorkin • Louis Haber • Gene Orloff • Matthew Raimondi • Elliot Rosoff • Louis Stone Chelli Seymour Barab • Alan Shulman • Maurice Bialkin Viola Jean DuPouy Trumpets Joseph D. Newman • Burt Collins Trombone Benny Powell • Tenor Sax & Flute Seldon Powell • Baritone Sax Joe Grimm • Harpist Sally Goodwin (and special thanks to Sally for performing her "Jam in "C" for Harp" under extremely difficult conditions.)

Songwriting Credits: All tracks written by Harry Palmer except for I've Got The Fever (Harry Palmer/V. Marsden)

Produced by Bill Szymczyk
Recorded at Hit Factory, New York

Cover & Inside Photos––Ellen McNeilly • Back Cover Photos––Ed Judice • Cover Design––Byron Goto & Henry Epstein • Hassles by––Mel Cheren •

Time Changes, the follow up album to Trilogy For The Masses, was also conceived as a concept album. However, for some reason or another the album fails to live up to the expectation after hearing their debut, with the band seemingly losing its sparkle.

Starting with the fanfare of Introduction, which sounds uncannily like what the BBC would use in their station openers and closers. The group move into the title track, Time Changes. From the first notes of this track, there is that feeling that the music has lost a bit of its edge from the first album and has become somewhat mellower, and dare I say it...More commercial. There is still that psychedelic influence with the guitar and strings evoking a classical sixties atmosphere.

Interlude One has producer Bill Scymczyk's narration backed by some delicate acoustic guitar and strings creating a theme that will reappear every now and again throughout the album. That's My Girl has a happy feel that carries a beat similar to other sixties bands, especially British bands such as The Kinks and The Small Faces. The zaniness of the track also has a British feel though there is a Dixieland atmosphere also associated with the track with the inclusion of tuba and banjo.

Wake Up In the Morning is the first track so far that has a certain similarity to the first album in that it carries a dark aura to it. The strings have that rich lush sound, similar to what McGee had created effectively on the debut, while at times there is that certain touch to their sound that reminds me of another overlooked, yet classic band, Love.

I've Got The Fever has the band reverting to that happy feel as on That's My Girl, though the theme to the track is in itself not a happy one!. This time round the band incorporate both strings and brass together with the band. An unmistakably sixties together with a sing-along chorus, this is their most accessible and ear-friendly tune on the album. This track is a sure reflection of the times and changes within the rock world as the group manage to incorporate clever hooks in a complex and rich musical atmosphere.

Crash has the band playing along in what seems to be a jam session coupled with some weird sound effects. The closing track to the first side of the album, At the Station contrasts sharply with the rest of the album. Here the group shift their musical balance towards that of a country rock style with some delightful harmonies, an indicator of a style the group was well versed in before they became Ford Theater and would play during dances as Joyful Noise. The side ends with the sound of train pulling out and the narrator announcing the end of Act (Side) One.

The second side opens with a track that was originally penned for, and appeared on the debut album, Trilogy For The Masses. However, Back To Philadelphia is changed completely with the tempo slowed down considerably and the musical structure varied to a certain degree. The backing sound is stronger, courtesy of the inclusion of a brass section while the vocals, especially the chorus section, are changed giving the track a darker vibe. This is strange as it contrasts with the rest of the album in that the album on the whole has a happy feel to it, unlike the debut album which is generally speaking a dark album.

Clifford's Dilemma is an instrumental track featuring some mellow guitar work coupled with backing strings, and acts as an introduction to Jefferson Airplane. This track seems to be one of the most popular Ford Theatre tracks, as it is this track that makes its way onto compilation albums that feature the band. The track is psychedelic in nature, as should be expected when the track itself is named after one of the great bands of the psychedelic era!

I Feel Uncertain is a track that flows along the same lines as at the station with the band leaning towards that country-rock style, which though pleasing to the ear, leaves me baffled as to how and why a group that managed to create such intricate music with their debut had to resort to such a style. In fact this is brought up again on Good Thing, following Interlude Two.

Admittedly, Time Changes is somewhat of a disappointment when compared to Trilogy For The Masses. For some reason the group seem to have opted for a more commercial sound for their second album, a move which must have proved fatal as they disbanded shortly after the album was released. The album has its good moments, but if i had to advise the progressive rock fan, the album that should appeal to them would be Trilogy rather than Time Changes. On the other hand this album is still a pleasant album to listen to especially for those who like that classical sixties sound. In fact Time Changes has not aged as well as Trilogy and sounds somewhat dated, unlike Ford Theatre's debut album.


Related Websites

Very little information is found on the net regarding Ford Theatre, though Harry Palmer's nephew, R. Stevie Moore has set up a Ford Theatre section within his own site dedicated to his uncle's band and music.

Should you have any further information regarding Ford Theatre that could be added to the site, do not hesitate to contact me.

 

 

© 2003 DPRP