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Banchee - Thinkin' (LP)

Banchee - Thinkin' (LP)

Price: $150.00 currently not available     
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Genre: rock
Rating: **** (4 stars)
Title:  Thinkin'
Company: Polydor
Catalog: 24 4406
Year: 1971
Country/State: New Jersey
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: promo sticker on cover, minor ring wear; white label promo copy
Catalog ID: 5109
Price: $150.00

Released two years after their debut, 1971's "Thinkin'" found Banchee signed to Polydor. It also found the group expanded to a five piece with the addition of singer/percussionist Fernando Roman (who happened to be Jose Miguel deJesus' cousin). With the band co-producing with an assist from Dave Palmer and Ralph Moss (Jimi Hendrix manager Michael Jeffrey credited as executive producer), the sophomore set found the band aiming for an even tougher rock sound. Unlike the debut which was a largely democratic project with everyone contributing to the writing chores, this time around singer/rhythm guitarist Jose Miguel deJesus was responsible for the majority of the material (lead guitarist Peter Alongi contributing two tracks). Kicked along by Alomgi's squealing lead guitar (this is one of those great headphone LPs), some understated Latin percussion, and their "group" lead vocals, songs such as the blazing opener 'John Doe', 'Willya' and the title track made for hard rock that was simultaneously tuneful and commercial. At least to my ears the results recalled Santana at their most rocking, or perhaps Manassas-era Stephen Stills. While it wasn't particularly original, or groundbreaking, this was one of those rare albums where there simply wasn't a bad song on the entire set. No, it wasn't perfect, but it beat the crap out of scores of better known and selling competitors. Curiously this is the album that seems to attract critical attention (it's listed in one of the Hans Pokora reference books), though I find the debut just as entertaining.

- Opening up with a great guitar riff and some uplifting early-'70s lyrics (ah, the age of peace and brotherhood), 'John Doe' was catchier than anything on the debut album. With a some nice Latin percussion (courtesy of Roman), a very catchy refrain, and one of Peter Alongi's best guitar solos, this one has always reminded me of something Stephen Still and Manassas might have recorded. Shame it faded out just as Alongi was starting to cook. Very nice and hard to believe it wasn't tapped as a single. rating: **** stars
- While it lacked a melody as strong as the opener, 'Willya' was actually a tougher rock song which wasn't without its own charms. Yeah, the group-sing vocals didn't do a great deal for me this time out, but the song actually generated quite a bit of energy and once again Alongi's performance was sterling. rating: **** stars
- One of two Peter Alongi compositions, '3/4 Song' found the band sticking their collective toes into kind of a jazz-rock fusion bin. The song wasn't bad (easily as good as the stuff Jeff Beck would churn out a couple of years later), but at least to my ears it didn't come close to their more conventional rock moves. rating: *** stars
- The title track found the band moving back to straight ahead rock with some nice vocal harmonies (again imagine Manassas doing a hard rock song) and what may have been Alongi's best guitar solo. The only downside to this one was ending where the song sort of degenerated into a needless jam before just falling apart. rating: **** stars
- Alongi's second composition, 'Searcher's Life' was the album's most overly commercial track. Built on an incideously catchy guitar riff and showcasing some of de Jesus brightest vocals, it was easy to see why the song was tapped as a single. Shame Polydor didn't do anything to support the song. rating: *** stars
- Opening up as a stark ballad, 'Iceberg' gained momentum and power as it went along. The song also displayed some nice CSN&Y-styled harmony vocals and another dazzling Alongi solo. rating: **** stars
- While it wasn't exactly progressive, 'Children of the Universe' showcased the most LP's most experimental arrangement and sound. With nice counterpart vocals it was quite different from the rest of the album and for some reason surprisingly enjoyable. Shame it edited down since it really was starting to get interesting. rating: *** stars
- Starting out as a down and dirty rocker, on "38" the band's secret weapons came in the form of drummer Victor Digilio and percussionist Roman. The pair provided a great rhythm foundation for Alongi's squealing guitar. The song's abrupt change in tempo came as unexpected shock, but the sweet backing harmonies (again recalling CSN&Y) saved the segment and kept your interest until the track returned to its rock base. Nice way to end the album. rating: **** stars

I've also seen a a couple of on-line listings for a Polydor single (though I've never laid eyes on a stock copy):

- 1971's 'Searcher's Life' b/w 'Three-Quarter Time' (Polydor catalog number PD 14104).

Well worth looking for, even if it isn't exactly cheap.

"Thinkin'" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) John Doe (Jose Miguel DeJesus) - 4:20
2.) Willya (Jose Miguel DeJesus) - 3:30
3.) 3/4 Song (Peter Alongi) - 3:20
4.) Thinkin' (Jose Miguel DeJesus) - 4:05

(side 2)
1.) Searcher's Life (Peter Alongi) - 3:11
2.) Iceberg (Jose Miguel DeJesus) - 3:48
3.) Children of the Universe (Jose Miguel DeJesus) - 3:12
4.) "38" (Jose Miguel DeJesus) - 8:58

Curiously, in October, 2007 one of the band members contacted me out of the blue asking for a point of contact at Polydor (interested in getting some royalty payments) and asking for some information on how to go about pursuing bootleggers. He was apparently aware that both of the Banchee LPs had been reissued on CD by the European Lizard label in 2001 (Lizard catalog number LR 0713-2). I asked a couple of questions about the band, but didn't get a great deal of information other than a couple of them were living in Puerto Rico and were planning to reissue the LPs themselves.

Alongi reportedly died in the mid-1990s, though I've never been able to track down an obituary, or any other information. Jose Miguel deJesus is apparently still actively engaged in music, having recently released an independent CD as a member of The Protons.
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