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Haystacks Balboa - Haystacks Balboa (LP)
 

Haystacks Balboa - Haystacks Balboa (LP)

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Genre: rock
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Haystacks Balboa
Company: Polydor
Catalog: 2425 032
Year: 1970
Country/State: Long Island, New York
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: German pressing
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6195
Price: $70.00

In the early-1970s heavy metal race Long Island's Haystacks Balboa stand as grossly overlooked contenders. Featuring the talents of drummer Mark Babani, vocalist Larry Goodman (quickly replaced by Bruce Scott), lead guitarist Mark Harrison Mayo (a Leslie West look alike), keyboardist Lloyd Landesman, and bassist Mark Polott, these guys were about as 'heavy' as you could get, but the usual combination of bad timing, record label indifferent, and sheer bad luck saw their sole 1970 album greeted by critical and commercial indifference.

Babani, Goodman, Landesman, and Mayo were high school friends, who played together in a number of bands. By early 1970 the line up had expanded to include Polott. The band spent their summer break rehearsing and recorded a self-financed demo that caught the attention of Mountain manager Shelby Finkel. Finkle signed the group to a contract at which point Goodman bailed, leaving the band to recruit a much older Bruce Scott as his replacement.


Signed by Polydor, 1959's "Haystacks Balboa" teamed the band with renown 1960s producer Shadow Morton. Featuring all original material, the album certainly wasn't the year's most original, or adventuresome release, but their musical influences were certainly admirable (Cream, ELP, Mountain, The Vagrants, Leslie West, Zeppelin) and when you consider most of these guys were just 19 their performance showcased a degree of professionalism far beyond what one would have expected. Scott was a decent singer; though clearly more comfortable on the band's up tempo bar band repertoire ('Spoiler') than their occasional stabs at ballads and progressive moves ('Auburn Queen'). The rest of the band were equally good, though Mayo's performances deserved special notice.

- With Mayo spitting out some molten lead guitar riffs, 'Spoiler' opened the album with a blazing rocker that sounded like an angry mixture of Free's blues-rock attack and Vanilla Fudge's keyboard-driven sludge rock attack. Hearing Scott's deep breathes merely added to the fun. The track was tapped as an English single which may explain why they've occasionally been mistaken as a British band. rating: **** stars
- I guess you could forgive these young guys for having fallen victim to some of the pretentiousness that plagued early-1970s music. That said, its hard to listen to 'The Children of Heaven' without simply bursting into laughter. Clearly interested in underscoring how heavy they were and their ability to make a big statement, the combination of mock English accents, high-school level lyrics (you would have gotten a C- had this one been submitted as a homework assignment), and crazed laughter made this one a must-hear. rating: *** stars
- Opening with a bouncy Landesman keyboard pattern and some of Mayo's best lead guitar, 'Bruce's Twist' showcased one of Scott's slinkiest vocals. The vocal literally dripped hornball and the closing couplet was hysterical ... rating: **** stars
- Clocking in at over eight minutes, 'Auburn Queen' opened up as a stark ballad showcasing some pretty Landesman piano and some of Scott's most focused singing. Sounding almost folk-ish, the song abruptly shifted gears into over-the-top British progressive mode - think ELP styled bombast. That made way for some equally unexpected Allman Brothers-styled lead guitar from Mayo (one of the album's standout performances), before the song morphed into psychotic, acid-tinged aural nightmare. Scott's rabid, growling vocals at the end of the song were truly disconcerting. rating: *** stars
- 'Sticky Finger' started side two with another Free-Vanilla Fudge influenced heavy rocker. At least to my ears Scott's vocal sounded over-the-top this time out and Landesman's extended organ solo didn't help, but Mayo's lead guitar went a long way to salvaging the track. rating: *** stars
- Totally unexpected, the nine minute, two part suite 'Ode To the Silken Men' made it clear these Long Island teenagers had been listening to more than their share of British folk and progressive acts. The funny thing is that the first segment nailed those influences. 'Tell Me a Story' was a fantastic song; great melody (with some nice Keith Emerson-styled organ), and the track started to generate considerable energy as it cruised along. Yeah, the 'we are the silken men' refrain was kind of dorky, but I'm assuming they were pretty stoned when the recorded it ... rating: **** stars
- Starting as a stark ballad (just Scott and Mayo on acoustic guitar), 'What Would Happen' was almost painfully sincere. Very singer/songwriter-ish. Mayo's pretty solo provided the song's highlight. The song ended with a return to the 'we are the silken men' refrain which bore an uncanny resemblance to something out of The Spooky Tooth catalog. rating: ** stars
- Opening up with some acapella harmony vocals (shades of Simon and Garfunkle) and Mayo acoustic guitar, 'Riverland' continued to underscore the band's interest in UK folk and progressive sounds. A bit too mythological for my ears (guess they'd been reading J.R. Tolken), but what do I know ... rating: *** stars

As mentioned above, Polydor tapped the album for a single:


- 1970s 'Spoiler' b/w 'Bruce's Twist'' ( Polydor catalog number PD 2-14043)
The band toured in support of the album, but with four of the five members in college, their efforts were largely limited to weekends. Polydor rapidly lost interest in the band, as did their manager. The band struggled on for about a year 1ith former Good Rats drummer Joe Franco replacing Babani and then called it quits in 1971.

"Haystacks Balboa" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Spoiler (Mark mayo - Mark Polott - Deborah Mayo) - 3:24
2.) The Children of Heaven (Mark Mayo - Lloyd Ladesmann) - 3:00
3.) Bruce's Twist (Mark Mayo - Mark Babani - Bruce Scott) - 2:38
4.) Auburn Queen (Mark Mayo - Lloyd Ladesmann) - 8:55

(side 2)
1.) Sticky Finger (Larry West - Mark Mayo - Mark Babani - Deborah Mayo) - 5:10
2.) Ode To the Silken Men (Mark Mayo - Lloyd Ladesmann) - 8:55
i.) Tell Me a Story (Mark Mayo) 
ii.) What Would Happen (Mark Mayo)
3.) Riverland (Mark Mayo) - 3:38




I'm not sure about its legaliity (I suspect it's a bootleg), but the small Audio Archives label reissued the collection in CD format ("Detoxified" catalog number AACD 024). For some odd reason the reissue sported new (and rather horrible) artwork and managed to erroneously title at least one of the songs.

For anyone interested, Polott has a myspace presence at:
http://www.myspace.com/markpolott
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