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Plus - The Seven Deadly Sins (LP)
 

Plus - The Seven Deadly Sins (LP)

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Genre: progressive
Rating: **** (4 stars)
Title:  Seven Deadly Sins
Company: Probe
Catalog: CPLP 4513
Year: 1969
Country/State: US
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: small cut out hole; gatefold sleeve
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6392
Price: $50.00

Hum ... This is easily one of the odder major label efforts I've stumbled across. 

As Plus, brothers Mike (drums) and Tony (guitar) Newman and bassist Max Simms found an impressive mentor in the form of ex-Yardbirds bassist/producer Simon Napier-Bell. Guitarist Tony Newman had been a member of The Jeff Back Group which seeming brought him to the attention of Napier-Bell who was instrumental in getting the trio a recording deal with ABC's short-lived Probe subsidiary, debuting with a 1968 single:

- 'Twenty Thousand People' b/w 'I'm Talking As a Friend' (Probe catalog number 478)

In addition to co-producing 1969's "The Seven Deadly Sings", Napier-Bell and Ray Singer were credited with co-writing roughly half the album. A goofy concept piece that essentially surrounded the seven deadly sins with an ever changing series of musical genres, the set seemed to be a clumsy effort to cash in on the public's interest in religion-meets rock and roll (aka The Electric Prunes' 1968 "Mass In F Minor"). Thematically and lyrically the album was clearly linked via brief spoken intros and instrumental interludes, which made it even funnier to discover that musically the set was all over the spectrum. Material such as their rendition of 'Gloria In Excelsis: Toccata' and 'The Secrets: Devil's Hymn' mixed classical influences with church choirs and progressive moves. Elsewhere 'Pride: Pride' and 'Envy: I'm Talking As a Friend' offered up a startling pair of Badfinger-styled pop jewels, while 'Avarice: Daddy's Thing' was surprisingly funky and 'Wrath: Gemegemera' was standard hard rock. The musicianship was actually quite impressive with the Mike Newman and Max Simms rhythm section generating quite a bit of energy on tracks like 'Twenty Thousand People'. The liner notes didn't provide any information with respect to vocals, but whoever the lead singer was had a pretty interesting voice that was capable of handling everything from quasi-punk aggression ('Wrath: Gemegemera'), to Badfinger-styled pop.

- 'Introit' started out sounding like a bunch of warlocks chanting some sort of incantation ... and the someone yelling out "the internal circle" over and over ... very strange. rating: ** stars
- In spite of the dark and depressing lyric, musically 'Twenty Thousand People' has always reminded me of one of those '60s-era soda commercials, but instead of selling Coke, or Pepsi this one sounded like it was marketing arsenic, or rat poison. The title refrain was quite commercial, as was one the song itself - easy to see why Probe tapped it as the single. Darn, I'm humming it right now. rating: *** stars
- It was nice to see Napier Bell and Singer giving themselves credit for penning 'Gloria In Excelsis: Toccata' since the melody was a straight lift from what you hear in at your local church's midnight mass. Yeah, the lyrics were updated a bit to fit the overarching theme. Regardless, it stood as one of the album's most impressive performances. How could you go wrong with one of mankind's classic melodies ? rating: **** stars
- Written by the Newman brothers, 'Avarice: Daddy's Thing' opened up with some interesting classical moves before morphing into a rollicking guitar and keyboard-propelled rocker. Very English sounding. rating: **** stars
- I remember the first time I heard 'Pride: Pride' I was certain it was a Badfinger tune. As mentioned, I'm not sure who handled vocals on these tracks, but this one was a dead ringer for Pete Ham and company with one of those Beatles-styled melodies that was simply perfect for top-40 radio. rating: **** stars
- 'Sloth: Open Up Your Eyes' was another first-rate rocker with some pounding Max Simms bass and one of the album's best Tony Newman guitar solos. rating: **** stars
- Opening up with another brief Badfinger-styled melodic snippet, 'Wrath: Gemegemera' then went off into a Black Sabbath-meets-Motorhead direction. Simms' crashing bass and the soccer hooligan chants were the icing on the cake. rating: **** stars
- The maniacal "turn your eyes .." opening was worth a chuckle; the Gregorian chanting was momentarily interesting and then 'The Secrets: Devil's Hymn' turned into a forgettable atmospheric piece with a totally out-of-place jazzy interlude dumped in the middle of the track. rating: ** stars
- Kicked along by some jangle-rock guitar and Mike Newman Keith Moon-styled drumming, 'Lust: Maybe You're The Same' really did sound a bit like a lost Who piece. Certainly one of the more interesting tracks on the LP. rating: *** stars
- 'Envy: I'm Talking As a Friend' was another track bathed in a gleaming pop melody and some wonderful harmony vocals. The lyrics on this one were actually hysterical - hard to imagine some nailing the envy concept any better. rating: **** stars
- 'Gluttony: Something To Threaten Your Family' was given a suitable molten rock treatment. The inclusion of some nice Newman lead guitar and glistening harmony vocals saved it from also-ran status. rating: *** stars
- Ah back to a moment of hell and brimstone before the album ended with a totally strange mix of pop, doo-wop and sound collage reprise of the opener 'The Dismissal: Twenty Thousand People'. Yeah, it didn't make much sense, but was kind of an interesting way to end this freaky set. rating: ** stars

Needless to say, sales were far and few. (The album was originally released with an embossed, gatefold cover.)  Anyhow, in spite of the bad rap the album gets in collector circles, I'll tell you it's a set I enjoy more each time I play it. Worth looking for.

"The Seven Deadly Sins" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Introit: Twenty Thousand People (Simon Napier Bell - Ray Singer) - 3:20
2.) Gloria In Excelsis: Toccata (Simon Napier Bell - Ray Singer) - 
3.) Avarice: Daddy's Thing (Mike Newman - Tony Newman) - 
4.) Pride: Pride (Simon Napier Bell - Ray Singer) - 
5.) Sloth: Open Up Your Eyes (Mike Newman - Tony Newman) - 
6.) Wrath: Gemegemera (Simon Napier Bell - Ray Singer) - 

(side 2)
1.) The Secrets: Devil's Hymn (instrumental) (Simon Napier Bell - Ray Singer) - 
2.) Lust: Maybe You're The Same (Mike Newman - Tony Newman) - 
3.) Envy: I'm Talking As a Friend (Mike Newman - Tony Newman) - 
4.) Gluttony: Something To Threaten Your Family (Mike Newman - Tony Newman) - 
5.) The Dismissal: Twenty Thousand People (Simon Napier Bell - Ray Singer) - 


A studio entity, the trio never toured and without any significant sales to their credit, neither Napier-Bell nor Probe had any further interest in Plus. Tony Newman subsequently put together the band May Blitz, recording a couple of poor selling, but collectable albums. He then became kind of a journeyman recording/touring hired hand playing with an impressive array of acts including Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Whitesnake.

1999 also saw the set reissued in CD format by the small Free label (catalog number FRC 9903).
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