If ever an album was lost in the shuffle, it was the 1968 debut LP by The Holy Mackerel. The LP, assigned as Reprise 6311, fell smack in between Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland (Reprise 6307) and Neil Young’s eponymous solo debut (Reprise 6317). But adventurous listeners would find themselves rewarded if they picked up the album by the oddly-named group, with its cover sleeve of five gents and a lady smiling for the camera under three-dimensional comic book-style lettering proclaiming them “The Holy Mackerel.” Produced by an emerging Richard Perry, The Holy Mackerel might as well have been called Something for Everyone. Over the course of 12 tracks, the group traversed psychedelia, country rock and best of all, sunshine pop with the terrifically infectious “Bitter Honey,” co-written by Paul and Roger Nichols. Of course, the Nichols/Williams team would go on to become a Los Angeles-based hitmaking factory, turning out some of the most-loved songs of all time: “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” “I Won’t Last a Day Without You.” They also wrote some tunes which are not-so-well-known but no less wonderful: “The Drifter,” “Someday Man,” “Trust.” Cherry Red and producer Steve Stanley on September 27 will give The Holy Mackerel the deluxe Now Sounds treatment with an expanded reissue, appending a whopping 10 bonus tracks to the original 12-track LP, including 9 songs new to CD and 5 previously unissued in any form. Click on the jump for more background on The Holy Mackerel, one of this author’s favorite lost LPs of the era, and the full track listing for the Now Sounds reissue with pre-order link!
The Holy Mackerel originally consisted of Paul Williams, brother Mentor Williams (who would go on to write Dobie Gray’s much-covered smash “Drift Away”), Bob Harvey (late of Jefferson Airplane), guitarist George Hiller, flautist/vocalist Cynthia Fitzpatrick and Don Murray, formerly of the Turtles. Perhaps not boding well for the album, the lineup changed before the LP was ever released. Harvey was replaced by a name soon to be familiar to Elvis Presley’s fans, bassist Jerry Scheff; Don Murray was replaced by Michael Cannon. In the liner notes to Collector’s Choice’s 2005 CD reissue (CCM-543-2), Steve Stanley indicates that Buffalo Springfield’s Dewey Martin also contributed drums to the Mackerel’s LP; the Springfield influence was clear on country-flecked tracks like “The Somewhere In Arizona at 4:30 A.M. Restaurant Song (And Now I Am Alone).” The album’s eclectic nature may have hurt its initial reception, but it’s filled with the sounds of young artists at their hungriest and most imaginative.
Despite the album’s commercial failure and the band’s dissolution, its reputation remained strong over the years. Lead singer and songwriter Paul Williams went on to create his underrated solo debut Someday Man, wholly written by the Nichols/Williams team and produced by Nichols, and then to even greater fame. Andrew Sandoval revisited two of the LP’s tracks, “Scorpio Red” and “Wildflowers,” for Come to the Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults (Rhino Handmade RHM2 7818) and Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults (Rhino Handmade RHM2 7821), respectively. Steve Stanley has more than done his part in keeping the Williams/Nichols partnership in the spotlight, spearheading Collector’s Choice’s reissues of The Holy Mackerel and Someday Man, and via Rev-Ola and Now Sounds, reissuing the complete output of Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends as well. (If you’re still reading this far and don’t have both Roger Nichols albums, along with Someday Man, stop now and order immediately! You won’t regret it.)
Now Sounds’ edition boasts non-LP single tracks “Love for Everyone” and “To Put Up With You,” one of the most delicious put-down songs ever, with Williams’ pointed lyrics directed at a heartbreaking if attractive lady: “Yes, I’d like to hang around/But I’ll have to let you down/I just haven’t got what it takes/To put up with you…” set to a breezy Nichols melody. “Scorpio Red” and “The Lady is Waiting” are heard in their mono 45 versions, joined by session outtakes and demos, including a demo of “Bitter Honey,” memorably covered by Jackie DeShannon on her Laurel Canyon LP.
The expanded edition of The Holy Mackerel is due in the UK from Now Sounds on September 27, and it can be pre-ordered directly from the label here. And Steve, might an expanded Someday Man be in Now Sounds’ future? Please…?
The Holy Mackerel, The Holy Mackerel (Reprise 6311, 1968, reissued as Now Sounds CRNOW21, 2010)
- Bitter Honey
- The Secret of Pleasure
- Scorpio Red
- The Lady is Waiting
- The Somewhere in Arizona at 4:30 A.M. Restaurant Song (And Now I Am Alone)
- Nothin’ Short of Misery
- The Golden Ghost of Love
- The Wild Side of Life
- 10,000 Men
- Love for Everyone
- To Put Up With You
- Bitter Honey (Mono 45)
- Scorpio Red (Mono 45)
- The Lady is Waiting (Mono 45)
- And Now I Am Alone (Sessions)
- Love for Everyone (Sessions)
- Bitter Honey (Demo)
- On the Way (Demo)
- Listen to the Voice (Demo)
Tracks 1-12 from Reprise LP 6311, 1968
Tracks 13-14 from Reprise single 0681, 1968
Track 15 from Reprise single 0768, 1968
Tracks 16-17 from Reprise single 0797, 1968
Tracks 18-22 previously unreleased