MAGIC COLORS is often referred to as one of the great lost Lesley Gore albums, the others being the OFF AND RUNNING long-player and the December 1964 Shelby Singleton sessions. It was presaged on the labels of the "Magic Colors" single, but never were issued in its entirety until July 1994 when the 5-CD Bear Family Lesley Gore box set, IT'S MY PARTY!, was released. Several cuts from all 3 did surface on B-sides or, in the case of OFF AND RUNNING, on Gore's CALIFORNIA NIGHTS LP.
Lesley Gore was at an interesting point in her career when she recorded the MAGIC COLORS project in Hollywood in August and October 1967. That spring, when the Summer of Love officially began with love-ins and be-ins coast-to-coast and, famously, in San Francisco's Haight Asbury/Golden Gate Park area, Lesley re-established the staying power she displayed during the British Invasion three years earlier. She enjoyed one of her biggest-selling records, the Bob Crewe-produced, Marvin Hamlisch co-written "California Nights." The follow-up copycat sequel, "Summer and Sandy" failed to get past #54 in Cash Box and #65 in Billboard, despite doing well in some markets, and the press-heralded second Gore-Crewe album was abandoned.
At any rate, by 1967, Lesley Gore was spending most of her summers and any significant time away from Sarah Lawrence College in Hollywood, typically ensconced in the legendary Beverly Hills Hotel, where I first met her in the spring of that year. So it was natural that she look for a new recording situation in La-La Land, and producer Steve Douglas was an excellent choice. Douglas was the venerated saxophone genius who was a key player in Phil Spector's Ronettes and Crystals Wall of Sound extravaganzas; participated in and helmed many, many great recordings at Gold Star Studios; and was making quite a name for himself producing up-and-coming psychedelic rock bands. The combination of Douglas and Gore's girl group roots as well as their eager exploration of new musical territories made them a potent team.
Their very first session together, August 15, 1967, yielded one of Gore's best loved classic singles, "Brink of Disaster," in which her conscience (portrayed as a New Vaudeville Band megaphone-type inner voice) advises a double-tracked and willful Lesley Gore that she is treading on thin ice - or, specifically, on the 'brink of disaster' - by keeping on with the heartbreaker she ultimately decides to keep playing with anyhow. The song has Spanish flourishes, Beach Boys undertones, a big, big beat, and is belted with an exuberance that belies the lyrics. Like "Maybe I Know," "Look of Love" and many of her earlier hits, "Brink of Disaster" found us rockin' out to Lesley's reckless romantic entanglements.
The B-side, "On A Day Like Today," in which Lesley's love interest has moved on and faces stiff competition from a guy down the hall who is making a play, was like part two of Martha Reeves and The Vandellas' "Jimmy Mack." With its fierce drumming, heart-lifting horns, Association-influenced arrangement, and tough-as-nails committed vocals from LG, this track found a home on many M-O-R (middle of the road, code for adult-oriented) radio stations in fall 1967.
It is interesting to note that the session in which these songs were recorded lasted four and a half hours, yielded two complete and great recordings, and was on the radio within one month. That is unheard of today. Despite great reviews, enthusiastic feedback from radio and significant airplay in many major markets, "Brink" stalled at #82 in Billboard and #87 in Cash Box in October 1967, and is widely considered Lesley Gore's last Mercury Hot 100 chart item ("He Gives Me Love (La La La)", however, did chart in Cash Box and Record World in summer 1968).
Gore and Douglas recorded four more songs in August 1967: "Where Can I Go?," a Lesley and Michael Gore composition that paired a despairing lyric with a relentlessly cheerful melody and placed that combination in a folk-rock meets Broadway march; a re-recording of the Gores' "I'm Fallin' Down," that sounds like a very slight tweaking of the original Bob Crewe production; a second version of the touching Vietnam era ballad, "You Sent Me Silver Bells," which Gore first recorded with Quincy Jones for the OFF AND RUNNING project; and a bluesy, evocative "He Won't See the Light."
By October 1967, "Brink" was on the charts, for however brief a stay, and Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield had submitted the dark, moody "Magic Colors" for Lesley's consideration. They had previously created two heavily played Coca Cola commercials for Lesley, and they were right on time with "Magic Colors." In the inspired hands of Gore and Douglas, the downbeat rocker introduced Spanky and Our Gang to Grace Slick in a moment of cathartic abandon and veered very close to psychedelia. Nightclub drenched versions of "To Sir, With Love," "How Can I Be Sure" and The Tokens' very Summer of Love "It's A Happening World" were sung with sensitivity and intelligence, and rounded out the MAGIC COLORS sessions.
Issued as a single in November, "Magic Colors" did receive airplay on WMCA in New York City and a few other key outlets, but failed to spark, and the consistent, cohesive brilliance of the MAGIC COLORS project was scrapped, not to see daylight until the 1994 Bear Family exhumation. MAGIC COLORS can now be savored and enjoyed in its entirety as the outstanding and wonderful "lost" Lesley Gore pop masterpiece it is, along with the rest of Lesley's superb and overlooked Mercury output, including the brilliant Gamble & Huff-Thom Bell recordings. Enjoy!