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American Spring - American Spring
 

American Spring - American Spring

Price: $125.00 currently not available     
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Title:  Spring
Company: United Artists
Catalog: UAS-29363
Year: 1972
Country/State: L.A. California
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: UK pressing

This is one of those albums that was thoroughly ignored when released in 1972, but over the ensuing decades has gained a cult following in collecting circles, particularly among Beach Boy/Brian Wilson fans where original copies now attract fairly large dollars. I've been looking for a copy for years, but never managed to find an affordable copy until this year (June 2008) when I stumbled across a copy in a record store discount bin. Yeah - hard to believe I finally found a copy for $1.00. I guess it goes to show that persistence occasionally pays off. 

As children, sisters Barbara, Diane, and Marilyn Rovell began singing as The Rovell Sisters. They won numerous local talent shows, eventually appearing on local GM car commercials. As teenagers crossed paths with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Wilson took at interest in the Rovell sisters and with the addition of their cousin Ginger Blake started working with the group. Billed as The Honeys, they were eventually signed by Capitol Records (coincidently The Beach Boys' label). Over the next couple of years Wilson produced a string of singles for the group, but none broke commercially and by the mid-1960s they'd called it quits.



Following the breakup of The Honeys Marilyn married Brian Wilson, but along with sister Diane her musical career was limited to providing occasional backing vocals on Beach Boy projects. The Spring project reportedly evolved out of a vocal harmonizing session in the Wilson household kitchen. Having just finished The Beach Boys' "Carl and the Passions" album, Wilson decided to start working with the two sisters, resulting in the release of a 1971 single:

- 'Now Everything's Been Said' b/w 'Awake' (United Artists catalog number 50848)

The single did little commercially, but Wilson's participation was apparently enough of a draw for United Artists to finance a follow-on LP - 1972's cleverly titled "Spring". (Throughout Europe the album was credited to 'American Spring' to avoid confusion with the English progressive band Spring). While Stephen Desper and David Sandler were credited with producing much of the material, Wilson was listed as the executive producer. Wilson also wrote or co-wrote four of the twelve tracks. Moreover the album literally dripped with Wilson/Beach Boy styled production effects (check out the Wilson original 'This Whole World'). Curiously, sporting a folkie feel, the opener 'Tennessee Waltz' was probably the most atypical effort. From there on tracks like Thinkin' bout You Baby'', 'Mama Said' and 'Awake' sported a winning mixture of Beach Boys-styled harmonies (including several tracks with Wilson's own backing vocals), and Phil Spector wall-of-sound styled production effects. That wasn't to understate the Rovells' contributions. The sisters weren't the most technically gifted singers you'd ever heard, but they had voices best described as sweet and innocent and they were gifted harmony singers. At least to my ears much of the set's unique charm lay in their inherent innocence and the set's lack of cutting edge sophistication. Exemplified by tracks like 'Sweet Mountain' (complete with French lyric segment), their cover of Tommy roe's 'Everybody', and 'Good Time' the album actually sounded like a group of friends who were having fun recording material for the sake of having a good time. The only real disappointment was a rote cover of The Carpenters' 'Superstar' (yeah I know Leon Russell and Bonnie Bramlett wrote it).  

- The song 'Tennessee Waltz' has never done a great deal for me, but this 'Beach Boys-upped' version wasn't half bad. The two sisters weren't great singers and this was nowhere near the best song on the album, but it served as a decent track that introduced the sisters' unique sound. rating: ** stars
- Imagine Brian Wilson and company had been sisters and you'll get a feel for what this version of 'Thinkin' bout You Baby' sounded like. True, the sound was a little dated for 1972, but the Rovells nailed that Beach Boys vibe perfectly.  rating: **** stars
- 'Mama Said' dropped the Beach Boys vibe in favor of an affectionate nod to early-1960s girl groups. Lovely harmony vocals though it was a pretty lame song to be covering ...  rating: *** stars  
- The first disappointment, 'Superstar' was certainly a pretty ballad, but given this one was so close to The Carpenters' version you were left to wonder why they bothered recording it. rating: ** stars 
- 'Awake' started off slowly, but eventually became a decent pop number. That said, within a couple of minutes it was hard to remember anything about it. rating: *** stars  
- Their cover of Brian Wilson's 'Sweet Mountain' started out with an acid tinged edge to it that was simultaneously beguiling and kind of ominous. The chorus brightened the sound for a moment (including a couple of lines sung in broken French), but then the song then plunged back into a dark, brooding aura. Different, not one bit commercial, but also one of the album's standout performances. rating: ***** stars 
- To my ears 'Everybody' sounded like an unfinished demo. Mind you, the Tommy Roe song wasn't bad, but this one just didn't do a great deal to showcase the Rovell's limited vocal talents. rating: ** stars 
- Another Brian Wilson original, 'This Whole World' found the sisters returning to pseudo-Beach Boys vibe with far better results. True, it wasn't one of Wilson's best compositions and the track ended in kind of a chaotic mess, but their performance still had a certain unfettered charm. rating: *** stars 
- Penned by Dennis Wilson and Al Jardin, 'Forever ' was one of the album's prettiest performances. The melody was simply gorgeous and on this one their vocals were just as good. A wonderful performance. rating: **** stars 
- One of the Beach Boys less appealing traits was their affection for nostalgia. Needless to say, judging by the hideous 'Good Times', that musical trait didn't transfer very well to the Rovell sisters. rating: ** stars   
- Giving Carole King's 'Now That Everything's Been Said' the Beach Boys treatment proved a surprisingly enjoyable outing resulting in one of the album's more mainstream and commercial performances. rating: *** stars   
- Another Carole King composition, the country-esque 'Down Home' wasn't nearly as impressive. In this case there simply wasn't enough to the song for it to survive the harmony intensive arrangement. The results were mildly pretty, but bland and forgettable. rating: ** stars     

United Artists also tapped the album for an instantly obscure and highly collectable single: 

- 'Good Times' b/w 'Sweet Mountain' (United Artists catalog number 50907)

Curiously, different tracks were picked as the single in Holland:



- 'Mama Said' b/w 'Tennessee Waltz' (United Artists catalog number SC 006-93 693)

Unfortunately by 1972 the Beach Boys had lost much of their marketing cache and sporting one of the year's ugliest covers certainly didn't help sales.  The end result was that United Artists did little to promote the set and it quickly disappeared into bargain bins.

"Spring" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Tennessee Waltz (Redd Stewart) - 1:5
2.) Thinkin' bout You Baby (Brian Wilson - Mike Love) - 3:0
3.) Mama Said (Luther Dixon - Willie Denson) - 2:32
4.) Superstar (Leon Russell - Bonnie Bramlett) - 3:30
5.) Awake (Floyd Tucker) - 3:20
6.) Sweet Mountain (Brian Wilson - David Sandler) - 4:17

(side 2)
1.) Everybody (Tommy Roe) - 2:20
2.) This Whole World (Brian Wilson) - 3:18
3.) Forever (Dennis Wilson - Alan Jardin) - 3:19
4.) Good Time (Brian Wilson - Alan Jardin) - 2:38
5.) Now That Everything's Been Said (Carole King - Toni Stern) - 2:19
6.) Down Home (Carole King - Gerry Goffin) - 2:44

Curiously given its limited target audience, sporting different cover art the album also saw Dutch, German and US releases:
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