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Bob Smith - The Visit

Bob Smith - The Visit

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Title:  The Visit
Company: Kent
Catalog: KST-551
Year: 1970
Country/State: Los Angeles, California
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: double LP; gatefold sleeve; no poster

Wish I knew more about this guy, if only due to the fact his 1970 LP stands as one of my favorite discoveries of 2004 - certainly my favorite double LP over the last couple of years. That said, I'll readily admit initially being a little skeptical of this one. Most of the online reviews I'd seen were rather lukewarm and for goodness sake it was a double LP ... c'mon, when's the last time you were knocked over by a double LP?

Singer/guitarist Smith was apparently a member of various Los Angeles-based bands including The Lid and Silverskin. It would also be interesting to learn how he came to be signed by the L.A.-based Kent Records which was better known for it's R&B recording roster. Although 1970's "The Visit" featured support from eight musicians (including Darryl Dragon (credited as Captain Keyboard)) and Mothers of Invention keyboardist Don Preston), the focus was clearly on namesake Bob Smith. In addition to handling all of the vocals and lead guitar, Smith wrote all 14 tracks, arranged, directed, and along with Mark Taylor, co-produced the album. Musically the set was quite diverse, taking credible stabs at pop, blues ('Source You Blues'), hard rock, psych, jazz ('Ocean Song') and even occasional detours into outright experimentation. Luckily aural experiments such as the instrumental 'Indian Summer' were far and few between, leaving most of the set with a surprisingly commercial sheen. Exemplified by tracks like the harpsichord-propelled 'Please' and 'The Wishing Song' Smith had one of those flexible and likable voices that allowed him to find a nice balance between commercial and non-commercial moves. Material like 'Constructive Critique' and 'Source Your Blues' also demonstrated Smith was quite an accomplished guitarist. Personal favorites included the opener 'Please, 'Don't Tell Lady Tonight' and the scorching rocker 'Can You Jump Rope'. (Anyone seen the John Kress poster insert that came with the album? It's supposedly quite cool.) Bottom line; this one's a keeper that should be in every psych collector's stash.

back cover: top row right to left: Dragon - Latini - Keiser - Preston
bottom row right to left: Schneider - Degreve - Curtis - Chapman

So that's what I wrote some six years ago. Literally a day after I posted those comments, someone read the review and bought my copy of the LP. Since that time it's stood as one of those rare LPs I wish I'd held onto. Well, as fate would have it, I bought a replacement copy and almost immediately stumbled across another copy at a yard sale. Needless to say, I threw myself at the record and wasted no time revisiting it (no pun intended). For what they're worth, my updated comments and thoughts are found below.

- Kicked along by harpsichord, some nice bass moves from Latini, and Smith's fuzz guitar, the mid-tempo ballad 'Please' has always reminded me of a bit of The Association on an extended acid kick. In part due to the nice harmony vocals, the song was surprisingly commercial, but it also exhibited a distinctive lysergic edge. Nice way to start the album. rating: **** stars
- Maybe it's just my damaged ears, but on 'Don't Tell Lady Tonight' Smith's voice recalled something Michael Nesmith might have recorded on a post-Monkees album. 'Course Nesmith's never recorded a song that rocked as hard, nor turned in a blazing solo like the one that graced this song. rating: **** stars
- 'Constructive Critique' had two things going for it: 1.) one of the album's prettiest melodies, 2.) one of the album's best lead guitar solos. rating: **** stars
- The first disappointment, 'Ocean Song;' sounded like an in-studio jam that was included to pad out the double album set. Ponderous and ill-focused, the combination of Smith's lengthy, jazz-tinged solo, some lame spoken word lyrics ("my love is the sun for all to see; my love if the spring after winter's flow..."), and irritating ocean sound effects made this one to forget. rating: ** stars
- Side two opened up with what was probably the album's most commercial song - 'Wishing Well'. The song started out as a pretty acoustic ballad, before morphing into a platform for an extended Smith fuzz guitar solo. It's bugged me for years, but on this performance Smith's voice always reminded me of some top-40 act ... it'll come to me someday. rating: *** stars
-Even better, 'Can You Jump Rope' was a catchy rocker in spite of the fact it featured a weird time signature and flutes. To my ears this one sounded like something David Crosby might have recorded with CSN&Y ... The track featured another tasty Smith guitar solo. rating: **** stars
- While I liked the song, 'Latter Days Matter' had some clunky lyrics and about halfway through the song morphed from catchy pop number, to jazzy jam, and then back to pop number. The sudden changes were somewhat jarring.. rating: ** stars
- 'Indian Summer' was a rather discordant instrumental ... Complete with what sounded like freak out sitar, clunky keyboards, synthesizer burps and chirps, and a persistent police siren in the background, it would have fit well in the acid meltdown scene from one of those 1960s 'B' flicks where the hero accidentally gets heavily dosed with bad acid and goes stumbling through alleys ... Clocking in at almost eight minutes, this one quickly got old. rating: ** stars
- While I've never been a big blues fan, after surviving the painful 'Indian Summer', 'Source You Blues' sounded pretty friggin' good. Yeah, it was a rather pedestrian blues number and to be honest, Smith didn't really have a great blue-styled voice, but the song and performance (particularly Smith's meltdown lead guitar), were 100 times better than the earlier discordant jam. rating: *** stars
- Dedicated to the Elmore James, 'Sunlight Sweet' slapped together a acid tinged melody with some heavily treated vocals and Smith's James-styled acoustic slide guitar. Definitely one of the stranger songs on the LP. rating: *** stars
- 'Of She, Of Things' was a nifty country-rock number. Great vocal, great melody, and nice effects laden solo ... rating: **** stars
- Kicked along by John Latini's amazing bass line and Larry Chapman somewhat irritating violin, 'Mobeda Dandelion; was easily the album's funkiest offering. The title was somewhat cryptic since the entire lyric was Smith singing 'moving on down the line' on and on ... rating: *** stars
- Another likeable and commercial country-rocker, Stan Keiser's flute gave 'The Path Does Have Force' kind of Marshall Tucker Band vibe. Okay, maybe not a great comparison, but it's what came to mind. Regardless of whether you agree with the comparison it was a very nice performance. rating: *** stars
- I've always liked the closer 'Try, Try To Understand Yourself' due in large part to the fact it was so damn weird - imagine a top-40 pop song, with fuzz guitar, jazzy xylophone backing, and uplifting hippy dippy self help lyrics. Very much an early 1970s timepiece, but quite cool. rating: **** stars

I also stumbled Across a January 2000 interview Smith did with a Florida newspaper where he talked about the album explaining it as: "It was supposed to evoke every human emotion, from philosophical pondering on two beers to whether their love life was successful and where they fit into the big picture. It was supposed to change the world.'' You can see the entire interview below.
"The Visit" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Please (Bob Smith) - 2:08
2.) Don't Tell Lady Tonight (Bob Smith) - 3:10
3.) Constructive Critique (Bob Smith) - 4:40
4.) Ocean Song (Bob Smith) - 4:50

(side 2)
1.) The Wishing Song (Bob Smith) - 5:04
2.) Can You Jump Rope (Bob Smith) - 5:48
3.) Latter Days Matter (Bob Smith) - 3:29

(side 3)
1.) Indian Summer (instrumental) (Bob Smith) - 7:55
2.) Source You Blues (Bob Smith) - 6:02
3.) Sunlight Sweet (Bob Smith) - 3:04

(side 4)
1.) Of She, Of Things (Bob Smith) - 3:16
2.) Mobeda Dandelion (Bob Smith) - 3:13
3.) The Path Does Have Force (Bob Smith) - 5:23
4.) Try, Try To Understand Yourself (Bob Smith) - 4:14

There's also a 1990s Swiss CD reissue (on Virgo Records catalog CD1518), which may be a bootleg and apparently suffers from crappy sound quality.

In 2000 Raymond Dumont tracked Smith down and signed a deal to reissue the album on his RD label. Recorded from the master tapes that Smith had retained,, the result was a three LP boxed set entitled "Stop for a Visit Down Electric Avenue" (RD catalog RD6). The compilation included the original double LP, plus a third album of material drawn from two subsequent, never-released LPs (1971's "Stop" and 1972's "Electric Avenue"). The package also included a copy of the poster original found in "The Visit".

Living in Orlando, Florida, the reissues were apparently enough to motivate Smith to start performing again. Forming The Visit, he started playing local clubs and recorded another album on his own Southern Rose label - "The Visit - Destiny 2000" Anyone seen, or heard it?

One last thing to add - sadly Smith died from a heart attack in 2007.
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