If you cherish The Association, you’re in for a treat! August 29 will bring the release of the group’s second long-player, Renaissance, in an expanded mono edition. It’s indeed been a bit of a renaissance for The Association thanks to Now Sounds’ continuing series which launched with Birthday (The Association’s 1968 pop masterwork) and back-tracked to And Then…Along Comes The Association, their debut album. The original twelve-track album, produced by Jerry Yester on the Valiant label, will be augmented by a generous ten bonus tracks!
Despite following the album that contained both “Cherish” and “Along Comes Mary,” Renaissance defied convention at nearly every turn. Gone was Curt Boettcher, the eccentric, cult-favorite producer who guided that first LP to such great success. Renaissance was entirely written by members of the band, and the lead single was perhaps the oddest item in the Association’s history. Perhaps it was inevitable that Renaissance stalled at No. 34 on the LP charts, far beneath And Then’s No. 5 placing. But the artistic risk-taking on the album paid off and arguably paved the way for even bigger hits to come for Jim Yester, Brian Cole, Ted Bluechel, Jr., Gary (Jules) Alexander, Terry Kirkman and Russ Giguere. Hit the jump for the story behind this fascinating album!
One glance at the track listing of Renaissance and you’ll immediately notice the lack of familiar singles, but a number of songs would have been ideal candidates to follow “Cherish” or “Mary.” Jim Yester, who enlisted his brother Jerry to produce the album, supplied two of the album’s strongest cuts. The dramatic “Memories of You” features the group’s trademark vocal interplay over a hip folk-rock backing, and the lovely, ethereal “No Fair at All” takes its cue from lush 1940s-era balladry. (It was rewarded as the album’s highest-charting single, at No. 35.) Terry Kirkman, who had supplied “Cherish,” offered “All is Mine,” a jangly, moody composition stacked with soaring harmonies, and co-wrote “Angeline,” “You May Hear Me Call Your Name” and “You May Think” with Gary Alexander. Alexander’s songs are perhaps the most diverse, and “Call Your Name” is perhaps the most straight-ahead rocker of the set. Going solo, the prolific Alexander wrote the sparkling pop of “Looking Glass” and swinging “Another Time, Another Place,” and joined with Jim Yester for the catchy “Come to Me.” Only Brian Cole wasn’t represented as a songwriter or lead vocalist. Russ Giguere was tapped for the album’s opener, “I’m the One,” and Bluechel offered “Songs in the Wind.” The individual characteristics of each band member really come to the forefront; the original release even went so far as to credit the lead vocalist of each song.
Gary Alexander’s “Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies” was the most jarring track on the album, and defying conventional wisdom, was selected as the lead single. “Why that was picked as a single, I’m not really sure, other than the fact that it was probably different than everything else that was going on, which was the case with ‘Along Comes Mary,’” speculated Jim Yester to writer Richie Unterberger. Alexander’s song features a dark, poetic, even fatalistic lyric (“I will see the sparrow that need no longer fly/And all that will be left for me to do/Is die”) and an eerie melody. Yester opined that the song was stronger in its initial demo form rather than in the produced final version, and it’s indeed possible; the production is as polished as ever, but a more raw, stark and visceral treatment might have better evoked the haunted atmosphere of the lyrics. Still, it undoubtedly offers gorgeous vocals and a vivid evocation of the era. Rumor had it that the song was about Sunset Strip hot spot Pandora’s Box, but Alexander confirmed that it was about the Eastern spirituality he was then exploring. Producer Jerry Yester would fare better with psychedelia as producer of his then-wife Judy Henske’s altogether fantastic 1969 album, Farewell Aldebaran. (He also went on to produce Tim Buckley’s second and third LPs, as well as replace Zal Yanovsky in the Lovin’ Spoonful.) Gary Alexander would grow more immersed in his spiritual quest and departed the band in 1967 to study in India; he didn’t return until 1969.
The Association have been perpetually underrated, or erroneously thought of as just a “singles band.” (Wouldn’t just one listen to the Bones Howe-produced Birthday address solidly affirm the band’s stature both in the pantheon and as artists equally adept at both singles and LPs?) Now Sounds is going a long way to giving the band its due with these exemplary reissues. On the Mono Expanded Edition of Renaissance, you can expect ten bonus tracks including Brian Cole’s far-out performance art-esque piece “The Machine” for the first time in mono, the mono single versions of “Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies,” “No Fair at All” and “Looking Glass,” with those last two boasting unique vocals, and instrumentals of six songs revealing the intricacies of each track minus the harmonies. Believe me, there’s plenty to savor beyond those amazing voices.
The Expanded Mono Edition of Renaissance is due in stores from Now Sounds in the U.K. on August 29 and just one short week later on our shores. A pre-order link follows!
The Association, Renaissance: Expanded Mono Edition (Valiant LP VLM-5004, 1966 – reissued Now Sounds CRNOW27, 2011)
- I’m the One
- Memories of You
- All is Mine
- Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies
- Songs in the Wind
- You May Think
- Looking Glass
- Come to Me
- No Fair At All
- You Hear Me Call Your Name
- Another Time, Another Place
- The Machine (Mono Mix)
- Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies (Mono Single Version)
- No Fair At All (Mono Single Version/Alternate Vocal)
- Looking Glass (Mono Single Version/Alternate Vocal)
- Memories of You (Instrumental)
- No Fair At All (Instrumental)
- Song in the Wind (Instrumental)
- Angeline (Instrumental)
- Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies (Instrumental)
- Looking Glass (Instrumental)
Tracks 1-12 from Renaissance (Valiant LP VLM-5004, 1966)
Track 13 previously unissued in mono; song first issued on Just the Right Sound: The Association Anthology (Rhino R2 78303, 2002)
Track 14 from Valiant single V-755, 1966
Tracks 15-16 from Valiant single V-758, 1966
Tracks 17-22 previously unreleased