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Plain Jane - Plain Jane

Plain Jane - Plain Jane

Price: $120.00 currently not available     
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Genre: rock
Rating: 4 stars ****
Title:  Plain Jane
Company: Hobbit
Catalog: H.B. 5000
Year: 1969
Country/State: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: promo sticker on front cover
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 5384
Price: $120.00

Wow !!! I'd only seen one short review of this obscurity and it essentially labeled the album as lame country-rock ... Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

First off, other than what's on the liner notes, good luck finding out much about this outfit. The line up featured singers/guitarists Don Gleicher and Barry Ray, and brothers David and Jerry Schoenfeld (drums and bass/keyboards respectively). This is speculation on my part, but I suspect the band originally hailed from New Mexico. That's based on the fact that a 'Don Gleicher' was a member of a pair of mid-1960s New Mexico-based bands - The Monkeymen and The Piggy Bank. (Turns out I was correct - see the email below.)

Recorded at Hollywood's I.D. Sound Studios with Les Brown Jr. handling the production duties, 1969's "Plain Jane" was nothing short of fabulous. Featuring ten original tracks with all four members contributing material, the album showcased a mesmerizing blend of late-1960s country-rock, pop, and psych influences. Full of killer songs and breath-taking, slightly stoned vocals, this overlooked gem spent weeks on my CD carousel (yes I made a CDR copy for personnel use). Hard to pick standouts since all ten tracks were worth hearing, but the opener 'Who's Drivin' This Train' sounded like Arlo Gurthrie and the Grateful Dead having graduated from the John Philips top-40 songwriting academy, while 'Not the Same' combined CSN&Y vocal harmonies with some ballistic drumming and a cool psych feel. If I had any complaints, it was that these guys lacked a distinctive sound of their own, though in borrowing bits and pieces from other groups they came up with a wonderful aural stew. They also created one of those albums that was a blast to crank up and play spot-the-influences. Okay, I'll add that 'Num-Bird' was too country-flavored for my tastes. 'You Can't Make It Alone' was what post-Monkees Michael Nesmith always yearned to sound like. 'That's How Much' sported an odd mock-English feel - hum, kinda' what Davy Jones always wanted to sound like ... 'Short Fairy Tale' added some tasty jazzy guitar licks to the mix. And that was just side one.   

- Showcasing a mesmerizing slice of pop-meets-country-rock, 'Who's Drivin' This Train' was one of those tunes that climbed in your head and simply wouldn't leave. As mentioned above, think along the Arlo Guthrie and Grateful Dead mash-up and you'd get a feel for just how cool this song was.   rating: **** stars
- With a lazy, slightly lysergic tinge, 'You Can't Make It Alone' found the band going deeper into country-rock mode. Fantastic harmony vocals ... this was the kind of tune Mike Nesmith always wanted The Monkees to record. rating: **** stars
- Opening with some nice Hammond organ, 'That's How Much' went in an Association-styled pop direction. Full of lush harmony vocals the results were very poppish, but with an acid edge. Schoenfeld provided a great bass line.   rating: **** stars
- 'Short Fairy Tale' was interesting for integrating a jazzy feel into the band's sound. The song's unexpected mid-track change in direction came as a surprise, but after a bit of needless scat singing the song closed out with a return to a sprightly jazz feel. rating: *** stars
- Kicked along by David Schoenfeld's killler drum work (the echo effect is amazing when heard ona good pair of speakers), and some nice fuzz guitar, 'Not the Same' was the fist side's most psychedelic outing. I'm just a pushover for bands that managed to meld sweet harmonies with lysergic overtones. rating: **** stars
- Initially my least favorite performance, 'Num-Bird' was an out-and-out country tune. That said, the song's laidback charm kind of grew on me over time. Not great, but listenable. rating: *** stars
- Powered by Jerry Schoenfeld's organ, 'What Can You Do?' found the band bouncing back toward rock/psych. This one had a distinctive Dylan-esque feel to it. I'm not a big Dylan fan, but his one sounded pretty good. The song also featured a dazzling fuzz guitar solo. Shame it cam in just as the song started fading out.   rating: **** stars
- Hum, the only song I'm aware of with this title ... 'Fire Hydrant' was a drowsy, blues-tinged number that showcased some nice pedal steel guitar and Jerry Schoenfeld's pleasant bass. rating: *** stars
- The ballad 'Silence' was quite dark and disturbing. In an email Don Gleicher was kind enough to explain the song's roots: "[the song] was written in memory of a friend of mine who was the sax player in an early group here in Albuquerque called "The Continentals". He [Barry Grant] was killed in a car accident a few years after the band split up."  rating: *** stars
- Another enigmatic outting, 'Mrs. Que' also showcased the band's unexpected jazzy influences. Great David Schoenfeld drums. rating: *** stars
 All hyperbole aside this is a classic lost album just waiting to be discovered !!!  
"Plain Jane" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Who's Drivin' This Train (C. Ray) - 3:55
2.) You Can't Make It Alone (Jerry Schoenfeld) - 4:19
3.) That's How Much (Don Gleicher) - 2:08
4.) Short Fairy Tale (Don Gleicher) - 2:19
5.) Not the Same (Jerry Schoenfeld) - 4:20

(side 2)
1.) Num-Bird (C. Ray) - 2:24
2.) What Can You Do? (Jerry Schoenfeld) - 2:50
3.) Fire Hydrant (C. Ray) - 4:08
4.) Silence (Don Gleicher) - 2:31
5.) Mrs. Que (C. Ray) - 3:36

Poking around on the internet I came up with an address for a Don Gleicher. Lo and behold it was the same one ... Mr. Gleicher was kind enough to tell me a little bit about the band:
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