I played bass on this album, which was recorded at the legendary KENT studios in LA, where BB King, Pacific Gas & Electric and other Blues artists recorded.
Here was a musical collaboration that was on the verge of success, but unable to take that last step, probably due to timing. If it had been one year earlier, this project might have taken off, say with an appearance at Woodstock, replete with idealistic youth who would have embraced the music and the message. Instead the album was flapping in the wind of the final turbulence of the peace and love movement which was disintegrating in 1970.
Bobs lyrics were philosophical in nature, and some not so unconventional as they are just about adjusting to life in general, while others are more abstract.
There was some mystical influence on this album, with lyrical emphasis on spiritual ideas, especially with references to "universal soul" and some eastern metaphysical insights.
Bob was a seeker of mystical understanding at that time, as were others, and it showed up in many of these songs. That does not mean that everyone in the group was on the same page.
Long hair was the fad of that time with youth looking for new answers beyond orthodoxy, but just like politicians of today who all wear similar suits and ties, and have entirely different views, you can't accurately judge a person by how they look or the clothes they wear. There are many levels and nuances as to what a person believes.
This album is about the music and that is why Daryl Dragon played keyboard, because he is a great musician and by the way, very straight laced otherwise. He could just as well have played classical piano with the LA symphony, and in fact, his father Carmen Dragon was conductor for the Hollywood Bowl symphony. The musical form here is a mixture of Folk-Rock, Pop-rock, Blues, Psychedelic, Hard Rock, Baroque Rock, and a little Funk-rock. There are sonic displays of beautiful consonant harmony which rivals any music considered "Beautiful", and other times there is intentional dissonant harmony. If you listen to live versions of Jefferson Airplane, you will hear some of the same and in late 70s Punk-rock. It's part of the rebellious nature of some rock music. There was also some minimally structured, free-form experimentation, which was common at that time, as in "India Slumber". That song is pretty "spaced out", and you would have to be seriously relaxed to appreciate it; some listeners like it, others don't. You can see a similar free-form mode in one album of that era by Larry Coryell the great jazz guitarist.
"Sunlight Sweet" which while dedicated to blues great Elmore James, is also more of a free form experiment with slide guitar rather than a slide-Blues-guitar oriented song. There are other tracks that are more commercial musically and lyrically speak of plain old self analysis and introspection, like "Try Try to Understand Yourself" and "Please" which asks people to "Lend a Helping Hand" through "non-coerced Charity" via everyday brotherhood, (in contrast to oppressive confiscation). Other songs are simple fun with words, like "Mobeda Dandelions" (movin on down the line). "Constructive Critique" speaks to the establishment reactions to long hair and the counter culture of that time, meant to be some help and advice for the cultural rebel;(i.e. of that era). In fact, many songs on this album speak to the disenchanted youth of that time, who were searching for something and looking for some answers to life.
Interestingly, Bob later became a Country-Western performer, which demonstrates the ephemeral aspect of the social-rebel mentality for some, while in their youth.
While wandering around the LA/Hollywood music/art scene, back then in late 1968, early 1969, jamming with different groups, and seeking opportunities, I got a small part in "Paint Your Wagon", the movie musical at Paramount studios, with Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. During that time, I met Bob Smith at a jam session who then asked me to join him with Jim Curtis on drums, to live in an artist enclave in the Wilshire district of LA which he said was started by Peter Tork of the "Monkees", and the building owner. We rehearsed there for about 8 months before this album was made refining and developing the arrangements of many of the songs on this album, like "Can You Jump Rope", "Of She of Things", "Latter Days Matter". We (3-piece) played around Hollywood in clubs, with emerging Rock groups of that time, like "Alice Cooper", in clubs like "The Experience", where Jimi Hendrix occasionally jammed. The drummer from the group "Love" came to one of our rehearsals to listen.
We journeyed up to San Francisco to meet some of the "Grateful Dead" protégés and check out the scene there, after all, that is where the West Coast sound originated. We had an artist create a portrait of us, and toyed with names like, "WW2 Babys", "Food" and "The Sun", none of which came to be. Bob and Jim Curtis had been in a group called "Silverskin" previously.
We had no manager then; Bob was the manager. We returned to LA and acquired a front man for a while with an operatic voice named "Fred Barnes" and recorded a demo; I believe it was at Columbia studios. That demo was shopped to a corporate think tank at ATCO/Atlantic records where we met with a record executive in Hollywood to discuss logistics and plans to join Iron Butterfly and Blues Image on tour. We met and socialized briefly with the inner circle family of those groups to begin moving in that direction. However, ATCO decided that our music would not fit, so the whole idea was shelved. The band then began to fragment and dissolved with everyone going their own way. A few months later Bob asked me to play on this album and we began to rehearse at Daryl Dragons house in the San Fernando Valley, just after he returned from Australia on tour with the Beach Boys. Daryl's house was empty except for music equipment and gear. He had not yet hit the big time with the "Captain & Tennille" act, which came a few years later. When we went into the studio, he commented, "You know I am Captain Keyboard" which was certainly true, as he was a master keyboard player;(the name was given to him by the Beach Boys). We had a great time there in the studio. I used an 8 string bass with a warped neck, which was difficult to play, because my 1963 Fender bass had just been stolen. Don Preston of Frank Zappas "Mothers of Invention" came in and did some Mellotron strings, (a sound made famous by the Moody Blues) and Moog tracks to add to the texture. Bob played his guitar through a Hammond organ, Leslie speaker for some tracks, which was a new idea back then, with Fuzz and Wah-Wah about the only guitar effects available.
At the same time I was working in a group called "Truth" with Mike Degreve who was also on "The Visit", and part of our musical friends circle. He had recorded an album called "Truth" with Mickey Stevenson (Motown VP), on a label called "People Records" which was owned by James Brown, the Godfather of R&B Soul music. Although there was a few punchy tunes on that album with a Soul/R&B/Gospel flavor, even approaching a Tina Turner style orchestra sound on one track, still the concept was in line with the spiritual seeking aspect of the late 60s generation, which included the brotherhood of man, Eastern/Metaphysical philosophy, but not so much as "The Visit" and also a few oddball unrelated tracks here and there and other songs of more Folk-Rock musical forms. I recall that some of the "LA Wrecking Crew" studio players were on some of those tracks who had played on countless hit records. We played the Palladium and the group was on a few TV shows, but broke up even before it got off the ground. Mike went on to record with Graham Nash of CS & Nash, Leland Sklar bassist of James Taylor and Phil Collins bands and Randy Meisner of the Eagles. Jimmy Curtis later on, created a Texas blues band, which launched many other musicians' careers.
(See music, "Mike Degreve" on this Amazon site)
Before all this, I had been on the road with an R&B singer from STAX records in Memphis Tenn., record label of Otis Redding, and ended up in Hollywood. In that band, we hung around with legendary guitarist and songwriter, Steve Cropper for a few weeks. I got to play Duck Dunns bass in the STAX studio and record a little with Steve at the controls. Both Cropper & Dunn were studio musicians at STAX with Booker T. & MGs, and were in all of the Blues Brothers movies. We also did a few shows with Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, Motown's original Marvellettes and the Boxtops ("The Letter"). One of the tracks, "The Wishing Song" on "The Visit" borrows my R&B influence with the 1-2-3 punch-accents common in James Brown songs at "If you're gonna change do it right now". We put this in after I showed Bob this was one of the elements of Funk-R&B music so he incorporated it into the song, and you can see it moves right along in a quasi-funk mode after that, then returns to the sweeping smooth Melotron backed airy and dreamy vocals that Bob was great at.
After I got to LA, I embraced the West Coast scene and Folk / Rock / Psyche style of the Buffalo Springfield, Byrds, Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Mamas & Papas, Poco genre, along with Cream and Jack Bruce style bass playing. I played and/or jammed with various West Coast groups in LA including "October Country" whose rehearsal studio I stayed at for a while, near Western & Sunset Blvd before I met Bob.
(See music, "October Country" on this Amazon site)
Overall, I would have to give this album 5 stars for obvious reasons, although I wish the drums had been more predominant in the mix and wish other production aspects were different.
The album does capture some flavor of the West Coast USA music scene of that era, but is unique in many ways. Bob was possibly ahead of his time in some respects, as far as the spiritual message in some of his lyrics even approaching religious sentiments in some places, and was a true artist, poet, and songwriter. On his guitar playing, Robby Krieger, guitarist of "The Doors" once heard Bob jamming at a club and was impressed with his unique style.
Bob told me that Joni Mitchell was interested in recording "Of She of Things" one of the songs on this album which is quite a work of poetry. The meter of the poetry in that song fueled my bass line while Bob and I played against each others melody line as we did in "Can You Jump Rope" the lyrics of which was written by Jimmy Curtis, the original drummer. That song was lamenting the lack of Love in the world, with the line, "Love is the only Answer but They May Never Know", "THEY" being the human race, which includes everyone in varying degrees, for one reason or another. Current events in the world demonstrate this truth as it looks like "Universal Love" is not coming to this planet anytime in the near future.
Since "The Visit" was recorded, I've been in and out of music, playing bass with many bands in many genres of music, from Metal & Hard Rock to Pop, Disco, Country, 80's to Jazz Rock & R&B.
Currently, I am working on my own music and original projects in my old age.