I was playing THE CHARLATANS' album the other day, and sitting right next to it was this collection of tunes from THE ACE OF CUPS, perhaps the Bay Area's first all female r 'n' r band. I remember hearing them a few times-low on the bill-while in college. And to be honest, I thought they were a kind of goof (as they used to say). Girls (or "chics" as we called young women in those days of non-enlightenment) with electric guitars? A girl drummer? What's that all about? The vocals were a bit weak, and their musicianship wasn't too great either. But when they finished their set, they always got a smattering of polite (or stoned) clapping, and a couple of whoops from the guys.
But in those days of anything goes, THE ACE OF CUPS became something of a Bay Area tradition. And the band's music began to grow on audiences-especially as they gained experience from gigging all over the place. And at least they have a song ("Glue", heard here), and a full page color photograph of the band on that great compilation "Love Is The Song We Sing", which is a good overview of Bay Area music from the 60's period.
The band never got to record a proper album. The closest they came to the inside of a studio is as back-up singers for other bands. They shared management with QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE, but to no avail. The ladies played in the area for a few years and then the band splintered. The 20 page booklet includes an essay, with quotes from band members, about the music. Also included are a few period photographs and concert posters.
This release is comprised of rehearsal tapes, demos, live recordings and TV sound stage recordings. Obviously the sound quality varies depending on the tape source, but (and this isn't a cop out) the spirit of the band's music, determination, and a certain naive quality overpowers the sound issues.
To be honest you'll hear some pretty good guitar fills and solos, some pretty powerful organ, and some fairly forceful drumming (all from "chics"!) throughout this album. Other times they don't seem to have command of their respective instruments. And of course the vocals are hit and miss-sometimes okay (but not great), and sometimes slightly embarrassing. But as I wrote earlier, overpowering all that is the spirit of those special times. The anything goes thinking (the whole Hippie gestalt) of the period is responsible for a lot of good and/or weird music. This collection conjures up some good memories of those always open, changing, exciting times. If you weren't lucky enough to have been there, this music is one small piece of "back then". And that's good enough.