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Chirco - Visitation (LP)

Chirco - Visitation (LP)

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Genre: rock
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title:  The Visitation
Company: Crested Butte
Catalog: CB 701
Year: 1972
Country/State: Westchester, New York
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+
Comments: white label promo copy; taped top edge; radio station stamp top right corner
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6168
Price: $95.00

First one of those stylistic warnings ! While I've seen the LP advertised as a high priced psych outing, it ain't ! There are splashes of fuzz guitar and occasional progressive moves, but propelled by vocalist Anvil Roth's AOR-styled pipes and delivery, these guys have more in common with 1970s hard rockers like early Journey or Styx than most psych outfits. Nothing wrong with that, just don't spend a ton of money on this album if you're under the impression its a psych classic.

The label (Crested Butte) and the overall Western motif left me with the impression this short-lived early-1970s outfit was from Colorado. Wrong !!! Namesake drummer Tony (Joe) Chirco originally hailed from Westchester County New York. By the early-1970s Chirco had hooked up with producer Mike Cuscuna and the band Sassafras (keyboardist S. H. Footer, drummer Ted MacKenzie, guitarist John Naylor, singer Anvil Roth and bassist Bruce Taylor).

While 1972's "The Visitation" was recorded in New York and Connecticut, the Colorado based Crested Butte Records somehow obtained distribution rights. Produced by Cuscuna and John Forster, given it was released by a small independent label, sonically the album's surprisingly impressive and sounds particularly good with a quality set of headphones. As mentioned earlier, the set really wasn't really psychedelic, rather offered up a nice mix of 1970s hard rock and Styx-styled progressive moods. Thematically and musically the set was divided into two suites - 'Older Than Ancient' and 'Younger Than New'. In spite of the fact many of the eight selections sported a vague new age-styled spiritualistic message, most of the songs sported interesting arrangements and a couple actually rocked out. To my ears, highlights include the '33 Years', 'Golden Image' (the one song with a slight psych tinge), and 'Dear Friends'. The songs were also interesting for their unexpected twists and turns (see the song-by-song descriptions below). The album was also interesting for it's link to The Remains' Barry Tashian. Tashian apparently helped record at least one track and the album included a cover of his 'Mister Sunshine'.

- 'Sound of the Cross' opened the album with what sounded like an incidental film soundtrack. Crickets, distant percussion, martial drums, thunder and lightening, and spoken word background noises unexpectedly shifted to include some Black Sabbath-styled heavy metal guitar in what was best described as a bizarre sound collage. rating: ** stars
- Announcing itself with some martial trumpets (where were those Roman Legions when you needed them) and jangle guitar, '33 Years' was a nifty mid-tempo rocker. Sporting one of the album's prettiest and most commercial melodies, the track also boasted some nice lead vocal harmonies from Anvil Roth and John Naylor. Naylor also turned in a great fuzz guitar solo. One of my favorite tracks. rating: **** stars
- With Roth and Naylor again sharing lead vocals, ''Cause I Love You' started out as a pretty acoustic ballad, before switching to a pleasant, if inconsequential pop song. rating: *** stars
- Opening with more bellowing trumpets and a pounding Bruce Taylor bass line 'Golden Image' sported an atypical acid tinged flavor. A nice change of pace, naturally, the song then bounced in an entirely different direction - in this case a tasty fuzz guitar-propelled rocker, before ending with some church-styled keyboards. rating: *** stars
- 'Dear Friends' opened side two with a modest jazz-rock feel before abruptly shifting gears into a harmony rich, swing section. Sounds kind of strange and it was (I don't think I've ever heard such a rockin' vibe solo), though Naylor turned in one of his best solos on the track. The song went on to end with a pretty, but dark and slightly ominous segment that was powered by a great bass pattern (would love to know how to play it). rating: *** stars
- 'Mr. Sunshine' found the band working in a surprisingly mainstream, pop genre. The song started out as a drowsy ballad, but generated some energy as it went along. Quite commercial (complete with another vibe solo), though it didn't do much for me. rating: ** stars
- 'Parable' was a seven minute, two section suite. Opening up with a pretty keyboard section, 'Minutes' started out sounding like a Styx-styled ballad - seriously, Roth recalled Dennis DeYoung on this one. rating: ** stars
- 'Child of Peace' switched gears into a funkier mode, but complete with some modest new-age lyrics (and of course another xylophone solo), remained true to the Styx influences. rating: ** stars

For what its worth, I'll readily admit this is one of those albums that I've grown to appreciate more each time I play it.

Needless to say Crested Butte's marketing capabilities were dismal and the album quickly vanishing without a trace.

"The Visitation" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Paarable
a.) Sound of the Cross (instrumental) (Chirco - R. Burnley) - 2:15 
b.) 33 Years (Bruce Taylor - Billy Chanaca) - 3:51 
3.) 'Cause I Love You (Bruce Taylor - Lee Rickards) - 3:43 
4.) Golden Image (Chirco - Anvil Roth) - 7:00 

(side 2)
1.) Dear Friends (R. Calabrese - Chirco) - 7:46 
2.) Mr. Sunshine (Barry Tashian - Chirco) - 5:08 
3.) Parable
a.) Minutes (R. Calabrese - Chirco) - 2:51 
b.) Child of Peace (R. Calabrese - Chirco) - 4:49 

The album's been reissued twice; once by the Italian Akarma label (catalog number AK 071) and in CD format by Gear Fab (catalog GF-130). Interesting both reissues are defective in that the contain a skip at the start of 'Dear Friends'.

The 1980s found namesake Chirco playing with The Volunteers. A Grateful Dead cover band they eventually mutated into The Zen Tricksters who attracted a cult following with their mix of Dead-styled jams and similarly styled original material.
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