Writing about music is like dancing about architecture

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Exploito # 10 The Stone Canyon Rock Group - MacArthur Park

I can still remember hearing Richard Harris sing/talking his way through MacArthur Park and thinking "what the phuck is he going on about????"
But like many strange things repeated exposure changed my mind and I now believe it is one of the best songs ever committed to wax.
It has everything, intrigue, pathos, melodrama, suspense and release. Jimmy Webb's arrangement is masterful and Harris's Tramp Shining vocal efforts make Lee Hazelwood sound like Pavarotti. Unbelievable stuff.
Which of course brings us to the record here. MacArthur Park has of course been covered by everyone from Donna Summer to Wylon Jennings but no one has take the song and given it quite the same treatment as the Stone Canyon Rock Group. These guys, and despite the pretty girl under the blossom on the cover, they are guys, tackle the song without the string orchestra. Fair enough perhaps you might say. And although the singer lacks Richard Harris's vocal delivery and phrasing you could say that no one else can treat a song in the same way that he can.
However, the result is something that sounds sadly like a cake left out in the rain. Soggy, washed out and tasteless. Everything that is good in the original, everything that saved it from falling into saccharine pretentiousness has been taken out.
All that is left is a thumping piano and a singer straining at the top of his abilities.
Please heed my warning and avoid this track. It's not worth the five minutes of your life.
Who could be behind such a travesty you might reasonably ask. Look no further than Jerry Cole.
I Can't Stand It, Wild Times and I Love You (originally Don't Think Twice) and from the Id Sessions. I would guess that they are alternative takes as they feel much more 'country' that then versions of the Inner Sounds of the Id reissue.
Can the rest be originals? Of course not what a stupid question. If you are a bit of a trainspotter you would recognise Baby Can't You See as I'm a Man, Most of All There's You as Lisa and Light Show as Strange Shadows, all from the Generation Gap Up Up and Away album. Read about it here
Light Show/ Strange Shadows is a very eerie slice of surf instrumental. Recommended.
The last two track could, I am sure be tracked down on a Cole county record, but to date I haven't been able to do so.
All in all, unless you like bad covers of Richard Harris songs I would avoid this record and get The Generation Gap instead.
On a final note I had always though that the Stone Canyon Rock Group owed its name to Ricky Nelson's Stone Canyon Band. It would explain the country element to most of the songs as the Stone Canyon Band were pioneers of that sound. However, if they were then they were very prescient as Ricky's band didn't release a record until 1971. Maybe they got their name from this record!


  1. Rick Nelson & The Stone Canyon Band issued their first 45 in 1969, and it was a minor hit. Debut album out in 1970.

    Jerry Cole toured as Rick Nelson's guitarist for a series of club tours in early '69 before the actual country-rock band got together. Both Jerry Cole and the drummer they used Don Dexter (also from The Id) both claim that Rick was using the Stone Canyon Band name at this point.

    Whether or not the Stone Canyon Rock Band pre-dates this is a good question, seeing as folks are constant debating whether it's actually a 1968 or 1969 release as Crown and Custom, the budget cash-in labels of Modern Records, rarely showed in proper release sheets in industry mags.

    A lot of tracks associated as Id outtakes are basically Jerry Cole many of the same musicians, cutting variations for budget labels, not master sessions pulled from the RCA vaults.

    Food for thought.


  2. Thanks Jason
    I never knew that Jerry and Rick played together - although seeing as Jerry seems to have played with just about everyone I'm not at all surprised! Its a bit cheeky to steal the name of his band though!

    I must admit I've had some doubts about the story that the Id/Animated Egg tracks were pirated out-takes but then Cole seems to have been unaware of the Animated Egg record in Barry Stoller's popmatters piece. I guess no one will ever know for certain.

    What I don't really get is why if Cole was playing as a session musician with such great people, he would knowingly release so many budget tracks. Maybe he needed the money!