Judging by the bits of info that can be found surfing online, power trio Soup is one of the better-remembered Wisconsin bands of the late 1960s and early '70s by people who saw them play live. Nearly anywhere someone writes about the band, readers chime in with comments sharing their enthusiastic memories, particularly about singer/guitarist/songwriter Doug Yankus.
There's even a substantial AllMusic bio for Soup, though the info must be taken with a grain of salt due to an incorrect picture and a link to a '90s hip-hop group. The bio recounts Soup's origins in Yankus' mid-'60s youth band Strangers of Digil, which during lineup changes eventually included drummer Dave Faas and altered its name to Private Property of Digil. That group made several well-received singles for local Appleton labels before breaking up. Yankus and Faas quickly regrouped, with Faas moving to bass and drummer Rob Griffith joining to form Soup.
The trio quickly built a strong live reputation, started playing shows outside Wisconsin and getting some music industry attention. According to the Wisconsin rock history Do You Hear That Beat by Gary Myers, what would become side one of their first, self-released LP was first recorded as part of a demo for Elektra Records. The second side preserves an intense live take of one extended song. The disc, packaged in a blank cover with blank record labels and an 8x10 insert, may have looked and sounded homemade, but made its way to critic Robert Christgau, who gave it a B and remarked (with an oblique shot at Richie Furay and Carmine Appice), "Makes you wonder just how efficient corporate capital is, doesn't it?"
The attention shortly led to a label deal with new indie Big Tree Records. The Album Soup is listed as a new release in the Nov. 20, 1971, issue of Billboard ... and then, ominously, no more Billboard mentions can be found via a Google search of the magazine's archives.
One possible reason for the album's quick commercial disappearance: Big Tree was initially distributed by Ampex, but right around the time The Album Soup was issued, the label's distribution switched to Bell. It's possible Soup's album got lost in the shuffle while the label was switching allegiances. If there are Bell-pressed copies of the Soup LP out there, I've never seen one. And while the label did produce promo copies of the LP, if there was a single release, I can't find any record of it.
It's a shame The Album Soup didn't get more of a chance, because it is a very unique early '70s album. On the occasions it does turn up for sale, the album is sometimes described as psych, and while there's a tinge at times, Yankus' songs aren't really of that genre. In the way, their music mixes and matches genres and can't be lumped into a single category. Soup reminds me of Buffalo Springfield as much as anything; on the Big Tree album, the intricate dual guitar overdubs of "Don't Be Lonely" and the complementary electric and acoustic riffing on "Never Love Again" are particularly Springfieldesque. The disc kicks off with the funky "Dance Magic Woman," which includes a seemingly random prog breakdown. "Rock and Roll Lady" is a groove rocker, until a country midsection. There are a couple straight up blues numbers, and a near-samba. You get the idea; Yankus' songwriting was impressively eclectic.
According to Myers' book, following The Album Soup the group drifted into on-again-off-again status. Yankus began doing session work, playing on the second album by the group White Duck, which had a Wisconsin connection via Fond du Lac native Don Kloetzke. White Duck at that time also included a pre-fame John Hiatt, and Yankus moved to Nashville in 1973 as Hiatt's lead guitar player when his solo career launched. Over the next decade, Yankus also played sessions for various nationally released albums and formed a couple other bands of his own. He died far too young, in 1982, due to complications of diabetes. Drummer Griffith also passed away in the early 1980s. On a happier note, I've heard through the record collector grapevine that bassist Dave Faas lives right here in Madison.
So far, The Album Soup has never been reissued in any form. However, a CD compiling their self-released album, some live tracks and the Private Property of Digil singles was issued in 2000 on Gear Fab and remains in print. And, thanks to the magic of the Internet, there's more Soup music out there than ever before: A Spoonful of Soup includes much of the previously released material as well as more live tracks and demos. The site appears to still be a work in progress -- I'm not able to get all the music to play -- but it's well worth watching to see what else will be posted. (Big Tree BTS-2007, 1971)
[Editor's note: This item has been corrected to reflect that Don Kloetzke is a native of Fond du Lac.]