I've always been sort of fascinated by custom printed company inner sleeves advertising a label's other records, which were in fashion mainly in the 1950s and '60s. Atlantic and Atco sleeves are always some of the most interesting, as the labels' covers display a unique sense of art direction. Also, they released a lot of great, rarely seen LPs, and in the late '60s and early '70s many really obscure records aimed at the rock audience.
It's a testament to the power of marketing that even now, decades later, after seeing some of these covers pictured on sleeves for years I actually buy many of them when they turn up. That's how I ended up with a copy of The Last Words' sole LP, released on Atco in 1968.
The super-goofy Loring Eutemey cover art is certainly colorful and eye-catching, displaying the requisite hippies, with one in a Sgt. Pepper-style coat and a guy in a sort of zoot suit in the background. It looks like some pieces of clip art from Eutemey's collage-style cover of Buffalo Springfield Again were left over and used here, with some bunches of flowers looking pasted in and a dude holding up a butterfly that is bigger than his head. Okaaaaay.
The band was a quartet of New York and New Jersey natives who had relocated to Florida. The album was made under the aegis of legendary record man Henry Stone, who today is one of the few original '40s-'50s independent entrepreneurs still in the business; in fact, Stone has reissued The Last Words album on CD recently.
The Last Words is one of the few bands I've run across which sounds influenced heavily by Vanilla Fudge, co-opting that group's signature sound of harmony vocals, organ and weird arrangements of other '60s songs. They never get quite as slow or heavy as Vanilla Fudge -- or, for that matter, as flat-out creepy sounding -- and the longest tracks are a really clever arrangement of "Be My Baby" and a somewhat less coherent attack on "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'."
Otherwise the selection here ranges farther from the pop charts than the Fudge, with covers of some album tracks like "Mor'een" by Paul Revere and the Raiders and a super slow take on "No Reply" by The Beatles. It's also interesting that there is a take on the Nightcrawlers' non-hit "A Basket of Flowers," though The Last Words probably ended up with it since the Nightcrawlers were another Florida band with a connection to Henry Stone.
It would be interesting to know if the weirdly-arranged covers came about through an effort to fill out the album, or if they were something the group had worked up in a live setting; the four band originals are much more straightforward and in more of a Young Rascals blue-eyed soul mode. Their lone chart entry (and probably the reason the album exists), "Can't Stop Lovin' You," is here as well.
Online digging to see if any of the members turn up in any other projects after The Last Words didn't turn up much, so I guess this really was their final statement, though there are a couple other 45s with B-sides that aren't on the album.Overall, The Last Words will please fans of '60s garage and psych, thanks largely to the weird arrangements and lots of good fuzzed-out guitar work. (Atco, 1968)