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Timbercreek - Hellbound Highway
 

Timbercreek - Hellbound Highway

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Genre: rock
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  Hellbound Highway
Company: Renegade
Catalog: JAH 95014
Year: 1975
Country/State: Santa Cruz, California
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG
Comments: no insert; minor water stain top right corner
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6072
Price: $200.00

So here's a sought after rarity that shows up in virtually every 'heavy hitter' reference work including Patrick Lumborg's Acid Archives, Vernon Joynson's Fuzz, Acid and Flowers, and Hans Pokora's Record Collector Dreams series, That said, try finding a good description of it ... the adjective that comes up time after time is 'Dead-like'. In fact, the best description I found on the web was a Japanese site (mostly in kanji) but with a three English word description "Eagles meets Dead" ...

This Santa Cruz-based outfit formed in the mid-1970s, featuring Frank Gummersal, bassist Jon Hicks, drummer Carl Holland, Larry Ross, and pedal steel guitarist Billy Woody. Looking like your standard early-1970s stoner band hey enjoyed some success on San Francisco's club circuit, even opening for nationally known outfits such as Kingfish and The Sons of Champlin. They also managed to score a contract with the small California-based Renegade label resulting in the release of 1975's "Hellbound Highway".


left to right: Gummersal - Hicks - Holland - Osburn - Ross

Having listened to the set dozens of times, I'll tell you the Dead comparison wasn't all that far off. Material like the title track, 'Tantra Queen' and 'Pass the Bottle' shared a similar slightly stoned Americana/country-rock vibe. The set featured nine original tracks credited as being jointly written with lyrics by non-member Frank Andrick All five members shared vocal duties, but like the Dead, these guys lacked a truly outstanding singer. The basic song structures were all quite good, as were the performances (bassist Hicks playing a homemade instrument was particularly impressive), though ultimately only a couple of the songs ('Hellbound Highway' and ''Nobody On the Streets) really jumped out at you. 'Course the same comment can be made for many Dead albums.
- Opening with some 'on the road' sound effects, 'Hellbound Highway' had a distinctive Dead feel. What distinguished this one from most of the album was a truly energetic performance with some first rate lead guitar. rating: **** stars
- 'Tantra Queen' was apparently a love song dedicated to a paddle wheel river boat ... You could easily have been forgiven for mistaking it for another Dead outtake - same laidback country-rock vibe with some nice group harmonies. Elsewhere Woody tuned in some surprisingly rocking pedal steel guitar. rating: *** stars
- I'm not sure who handled lead vocals on 'Pass the Bottle', but whoever it was had the best voice in the band. This country-tinged ballad was also the album's prettiest composition sounding like very early Eagles. rating: **** stars
- The rollicking 'Just One Quart' dropped the Dead sound in favor of something that could come out of the Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen repetoire. Nice jazzy guitar solo segment ... rating: *** stars
- Opening with some great Hicks bass, 'Nobody on The Streets; was side one's standout performance. The album's most commercial and radio-ready song, this one had everything need to have been a hit - great melody, fantastic harmony vocals, and the album's tastiest fuzz and pedal steel guitar performances. rating: **** stars
- 'Stoned Cold Turkey' found the band returning to Dead-styled rock. On this one the spotlight focused on Gummersal and Ross twin lead guitars. rating: ** stars
- Since this copy doesn't have the insert, I'm guessing 'Fallen Angel;' was dedicated to the late Gram Parsons. Pretty, heartfelt ballad. rating: ** stars
- Even though it had a distinctive country twang, with a catchy melody and some nice vocals, I have to admit to liking 'Tom Haley' quite a bit. rating: *** stars
- Not the case for 'If I Had the Strength' ... a slow, drawn out ballad, the best thing on this one was the bluesy lead guitar. rating: ** stars
- Ever imagined what the Dead would have sounded like had they hung out with The Allman Brothers? Well, 'Hell in the Hills' may be as close as you'll ever come to such a mashup ... Great lead guitar that would have made Duane Allman smile. rating: **** stars

Depending which reference you read, between 100 and 2,000 copies were recorded (I'd opt for the large number). Regardless, this one's pretty rare, commanding some fairly stiff prices from collectors.

"Hellbound Highway" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Hellbound Highway (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Bill Woody - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 4:20
2.) Tantra Queen (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Bill Woody - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 3:35
3.) Pass the Bottle (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Bill Woody - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 3:45
4.) Just One Quart (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Bill Woody - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 3:52
5.) Nobody on The Streets (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Bill Woody - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 4:35
(side 2)
1.) Stoned Cold Turkey (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Bill Woody - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 2:51
2.) Fallen Angel (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Bill Woody - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 3:5
3.) Tom Haley (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Bill Woody - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 2:43
3.) If I Had the Strength (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Bill Woody - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 3;22
4.) Hell in the Hills (Larry Ross - Jon Hicks - Carl Holland - Bill Woody - Frank Gummersal - Frank Andrick) - 6:20

The band continued to perform through 1976. Gummersal and Hicks have both passed on.

In 2007 John Plummer's Radioactive label released the album in CD format (catalog number RRCD-130). Given it was a bootleg sounding like it had been recorded from a poor quality original LP, I'd suggest you avoid buying a copy and look for an original instead.

Audio engineer Gary Faller worked on the album and was apparently close to the members. He has a small tribute site with band photos and links to several previously unheard live Timbercreek songs:

http://www.garyfaller.com/misc/TimberCreek.htm
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