Phenomonal Anthology of Rare Demos, Studio and Live Recordings from Late-60s, Second-Wave, San Francisco, Electric-Folk Pioneers!
This revelatory anthology of electric-folk/garage-psych alchemists Marvin Gardens easily warrants oft-overused terms like "lost gem," and "buried treasure". Comprised of never-before-heard Warner Bros. audition demos, an extremely rare, self-released, seven-inch EP (only 100 were pressed), and an inspired live performance from the legendary Matrix club in San Francisco, 1968 captures virtually all recorded evidence of a dynamic and mesmerizing band that existed for only a couple years at the tail end of the 60s.
By the end of 1967, the major San Francisco rock bands – Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service – had all been signed to major labels and a "second wave" of bands were bubbling up in the clubs and ballrooms around the Bay Area. Marvin Gardens was one of those scrappy newcomers; in fact all but one of the members grew up in the city. The influence of those local bands and the legacy of the eclectic music scene are audible here – strands of molten Quicksilver, the Dead's cosmic blues, Big Brother's grand gestures and the city's open-hearted folkie past. But Marvin Gardens went even deeper than that: there was a youthful, gritty garage-rock stance, a gently ironic wink, and a humble sincerity to their sound that their forebears had moved away from. Also on hand are glorious shadings of the Velvet Underground (early and later era), The Charlatans, and the Lovin' Spoonful – all in all, a very natural amalgam of 1960s earth-wind-and-fire sonic sensibilities.
But the plume feather in their cap, was lead singer Carol Duke. She was a wisecracking lesbian from Lubbock, Texas, with a deep knowledge of folk music, the vocal power and conviction of Grace Slick and Janis Joplin, and a spine-tingling pop-melodic purity that rivaled Mama Cass and Carole King. Duke was a natural, with a large repertoire of material, including songs by Buffy Saint Marie, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Lead Belly, Hoagy Carmichael and an eclectic and seemingly-endless range of pre-war blues, country and folk numbers. The band jumped right on and into these tunes – often without ever hearing the originals – and intuitively crafted sonically adventurous and emotionally compelling versions that completely stand on their own. You can hear that vital creative spark on both the studio tracks and the marvelously vivid live material herein.
With their catchy folk melodic sensibility, primal rock instincts, and lead singer nonpareil, Marvin Gardens could have continued to grow as artists and make a serious mark locally and nationally. But they never "made it" past the '60s or even much beyond the Northern California music scene. Apart from a handful of dedicated local enthusiasts and a warm embrace by the Gay Biker Club scene ("Whips and Leathers," MG's sole original was a celebration of that nascent movement), the band never achieved escape velocity. They gently fizzled out and went their separate ways, like most groups do, without a fuss.
As of 2012, Marvin Gardens was just a hazy memory. The band's former members and followers believed that all the glorious music they played from 1968-1969 had been completely forgotten. And they were right....almost. Thanks to some die-hard fans, archivists and true believers, one of the coolest bands you've never heard of is finally getting its debut. High Moon Records has created the ultimate document of a group that should have been a bigger deal and still very much deserves to be heard.
• LP pressed on high quality RTI vinyl
• Remastered from the original source tapes by multi-Grammy nominee Dan Hersch
• Liner notes include insightful essayby Ugly Things' writer Mike Stax, reflections from band members & archival photos
• Includes 24-page magazine-sized booklet
• Download card for 5 exclusive bonus tracks
• Original cover and back art by legendary underground cartoonist Larry Welz