Saturday, 22 December 2012

Buckwheat - Pure Buckwheat Honey (1969)

I have to admit to not really liking this album very much when I first heard it a few years ago, but repeated listens paid off and I now rate it as one of the best US popsike records of the era, a record with a strong UK influence, mainly The Beatles' Sgt Pepper album resulting in what could be described as the Monkees covering the Idle Race or more specifically, Davy Jones singing with that odd vocal warble of Jeff Lynne's early days. If that sounds like your bag, read on.

Buckwheat were formed by Tim Harrison, aka Tim Dulaine who had moved to New York City from Houston, Texas in 1966 with a band called The Clouds who'd recently had a regional hit single, a "Jeannie" on Kidd Records, but split when members of the band joined pre fame Jimi Hendrix's band, Jimmy James & The Blue Flames. Dulaine went solo for a short while and was spotted busking one day by A&R man and future synthesizer pioneer, Robert Margouleff who got him a screen test for ABC television studios. Margouleff recommended Dulaine to go away and practise for a while and six months later he returned playing keyboards, guitar and vocals with a new band, Buckwheat with ex member of the Clouds, Danny Casey on drums and backing vocals along with Charlie Bell on bass guitar/vocals and John Govro on guitar/vocals. Margouleff was impressed with Buckwheat and agree to manage them, resulting in a successful six week residency at the notorious Cafe Wha? club in Manhattan, which led to a record deal with Super K records, a short lived subsidiary of Jeffrey Katz and Jerry Kasenetz's Buddah label.

Buckwheat - 1969
The album, "Pure Buckwheat Honey" was recorded at Broadway Recording Studios, New York, produced by Robert Margouleff and coordinated by Fran White. Opening track "Yes" is a bubble pop gem, with it's guitar riff stolen from "Pleasant Valley Sunday" an unashamedly positive chorus lyrics "Yes we love you more than you will know, Yes our love will grow and grow". "Radio" sees the band going all vaudeville, blame "When I'm 64" for this if you will, but I find it hard to dislike such a happy tune. I've played this song back to back with the Electric Light Orchestra's "Mr Radio" and the similarities are uncanny, especially the vocals. "Mr Simm's Collector Man" again steals from Sgt Pepper, this time McCartney's middle section of "A Day In The Life". Some cool banjo and fiddle playing on "The Albert Hotel" which has a distinctively Headquarters feel about it. "Sunshine Holiday" sounds like it was produced by Roy Wood circa 1968. The orchestrations on this album were scored by John Corigliano, conductor of the Manhattan Philharmonic and adds an air of class which makes this record stand out from the other bubblegum records of the era. "Goodbye Mr. Applegate" is a groovy Beatlesque rocker that would fit nicely in place on the Merry Go Round album.

Side two of Pure Buckwheat Honey continues the upbeat vibe of it's flip (these really were a happy bunch of guys) "Don't You Think It Would Be Better" is one minute and forty four seconds of pure sunshine pop with guitar parts imitating George Harrison's fret work on Revolver. "Purple Ribbons" is the closest this album gets to a ballad, a bit like "Penny Lane" minus a decent chorus. "Wonderful Day" is a great example of Bubblegum meeting early Power Pop, I can imagine the band playing this one live and sharing a shake of their heads for the closing chord, a C7, natch! The title track, album closer is the most ambitious song of all,  its slowed down "Lady Madonna" riff, speed changes and excessive use of ba-ba's, oh oh's, wahoo's and tit tit's should charm the pants off the most critical music fans out there. I'm not sure why I rejected this album for so long as it's one of my favourites now and a regular spin at chez Gough.

Buckwheat continued as a touring band, occasionally performing gigs pretending to be other hit bands until their split in 1971. Tim Dulaine went on to join Stray Dog, writing and singing on most of their second album "While You're Down There". His biggest success came in 1975 when his song "Circles" was included on the Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan album.

Another band called Buckwheat existed from 1971 to 1973 but have no connection to this band despite them sharing the same entry on Rate Your Music.

Also check out Tom Dulaine's website here for his interesting memoirs.

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