The Electric Prunes – The Electric Prunes (1967): Review

prunes

Produced by David Hassinger
Label – Reprise

Dictatorial management of bands isn’t a new phenomenon. For decades new acts have been tightly marketed, cajoled and often threatened by wannabe svengali’s into commodities that adhere to the commercial whim of their charge. Los Angeles based The Electric Prunes are a classic example of a garage band that had no choice but to compromise their sound and musical content to the will of a controlling record producer/engineer. Having earned experience and kudos by working with The Rolling Stones, Dave Hassinger would steer the band to relative popularity, and then jettison them for a greater personal interest in The Grateful Dead. Their rise from obscurity began when real estate agent Barbara Harris overheard them practicing in a Woodland Hills garage, and sensing something unique, introduced them to Hassinger. A name change from Jim And The Lords to the Jagger approved Electric Prunes, they were signed to his Damo Productions Company in 1966. He then installed them at Leon Russell’s 4 track home studio in Skyhill Drive to record for what was to be their debut album on Reprise records.

prunes1

Having no confidence in the band’s song writing credentials, Hassinger brought in two professionals, Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz to provide the majority of the songs for this self titled debut. Frankly, the results are patchy, but there at least two major highlights in “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” and “Get Me To The World On Time”, which are triumphs of the band’s ramshackle but energetic psychedelic/garage interpretations. Given the mediocrity of the material, the band at least attempt to sound original. Guitarists Ken Williams and Weasel Spagnola played heavily with fuzz effects, and with forward and backward taping from Hassinger provided the edgy sound that continually refreshes attention throughout the record. Sadly though, even interpretive individuality in the recording process can’t protect the listener from some inappropriate clunkers. The twee, unconvincing Brit folk of “The King Is In His Counting House” (which reminds this listener of Spinal Tap’s “Cups And Cakes”), the syrupy slush of “Onie”, and the ridiculous nostalgic nonsense of “The Toonerville Trolley” suggest that ultimately Hassinger and the band were either struggling for relevant compositions, or that they were all under the misguided belief that they were a musically diverse band, which they patently weren’t.

The Electric Prunes were a band badly managed, chasing a garage pop dream that ultimately collapsed. They willingly wore the matching “prune purple” suits as their management demanded, and paid the price by losing almost all of their credibility to the direction presented by people who never understood their potential.

6/10

Track Ratings
1 – I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) (8)
2 – Bangles (7)
3 – Onie (5)
4 – Are You Loving Me More (Or Enjoying It Less) (7)
5 – Train For Tomorrow (7)
6 – Sold To The Highest Bidder (6)
7 – Get Me To The World On Time (7)
8 – About A Quarter To Nine (6)
9 – The King Is In The Counting House (5)
10 – Luvin’ (6)
11 – Try Me On For Size (6)
12 – The Toonerville Trolley (5)

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