Every record collector likely has his or her white whales: those records that you just can’t find anywhere. One of mine has long been Electric Band, an obscure late ’60s Warner Brothers/Seven Arts LP by a band called the Glass Family. I’ve actually owned a copy since about 1987, purchased in a thrift store as a teen...but which turned out to be mostly unplayable due to massive heat damage. What I could play I really liked, so since then I’ve kept an eye out for another copy. (Another album purchased the same day and loved, the Churls’ self-titled debut, inadvertently also became a white whale when my copy went missing some years back.)
When tracking down rare records became much easier thanks to the Internet, I began intermittently searching for the Glass Family there. I’ve seen their album pop up on eBay infrequently over the years, for prices well out of my cheapskate range, so no dice there. But records have a way of turning up when you least expect them, and a few months back I walked into one of our local stores only to see Electric Band sitting right in the front of a bin of new arrivals. BAM!
I took the record home, cleaned it up, and it turned out to be full of skips. No! Most of them I was able to fix with some work. Then the real surprise came: Poking around the ’net on the off chance I would find another affordable but non-skipping copy, I discovered Electric Band was finally getting reissued, just in time for me to have already found it. However, the reissue also contained an extra album’s worth of bonus tracks, so I took the plunge.
The reissuers turned out to be a new label “based in Orange County, Calif., with offices in Chicago” called Maplewood Records. For their first release they have hit it out of the park, in my opinion. This is an example of the rare reissue that actually is a better-sounding record than the vintage version, the music featuring a clarity missing at times on the slightly muddy original W7 disc. Musically, Electric Band is way above average post-garage band era L.A. rock, with good songwriting and catchy psych pop touches. The Glass Family is a rare trio from the late ’60s that did not fall into the trap of trying to be the next Cream; there’s nary a blueshammer move on Electric Band, a somewhat rare feat in itself for a 1968 release.
According to the liner notes, the bonus tracks are material originally intended to be the group’s debut album but which was rejected by WB, who sent the band back into the studio with producer Richard Podolor for a second try. In comparison to Electric Band, much of this material is in a more stripped-down garage band mode. The bonus tracks are modern remixes, so sonically they don’t quite sound like ’60s recordings. But that’s a minor quibble. The gatefold cover includes extensive notes with lots of quotes from the band members, a major bonus considering info about the group has been virtually nonexistent even in the Internet age. Now I just want to know who the toilet plunger guy on the front cover is.
The Glass Family’s album disappeared quickly on release in 1968, but has developed a cult following among the few people lucky enough to hear it since; hopefully this reissue will spread the word a bit farther. Anyone who likes the ’65-’68 era of Los Angeles garage and psych rock will enjoy Electric Band greatly.
(Maplewood Records MWR0001, 2015)