Saturday, December 14, 2013
The Wizards From Kansas S/T Mercury 1970
Very cool, hyper obscure LP from a Lawrence, KS, college band that headed West in the late 1960's for fame only to break up. However, before doing so, they were able to record their sole album and despite disbanding before it came out, Mercury still released it. Of course, with no band to promote the album it faded into hyper-obscurity only to be discovered years later and hailed as a lost psych classic.
The band first formed in Lawrence, KS as college students from the KC area. They were first called the New West then a Californian joined the band and they became Pig Newton which was followed by Pig Newton & the Wizards from Kansas. As Pig Newton, they gigged locally and were able to tour the East Coast landing a gig at the Fillmore East. That show put the band in front of major labels, most of which they turned down for lack of funds and control. Eventually, they agreed to sign with Mercury under the notion the they would have almost complete creative control. However, Mercury was able to convince the band to drop Pig Newton from the name.
With Mercury footing the bill, the band went to San Francisco to be at the epicenter of the American psych scene and record their debut album. The album feeds off the likes of Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, A Beautiful Day and the Grateful Dead. With the exception of Quicksilver, they album is far more country orientated than contemporaries. The Wizards excelled at using the spatial aspect of country music, the drawn out phrasing and "high lonesome sound" are used to great affect. Other bands took the twang only, the Wizards had plenty of twang, too, and they combined it almost effortlessly with the psychedelic sounds of the time.
It was a strong debut LP, promising original material with well thought out covers. There are genuine highlights like "Hey Mister" and "Misty Mountainside", which are just as classic as any gems from their psych contemporaries. There's also the hippy-dippy track, "912 1/2 Mass.", which is clearly a reference to the band's college town of Lawrence, KS. Mass. St. being being the main strip for both college kids and townies. At the address named now sits a large bank building, not sure what would have been there in the 1960's, early 1970's.
912 1/2 Mass.