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29 Jan 2017

Plain Jane “Plain Jane” 1969 US Psych Country Folk Rock

Plain Jane “Plain Jane” 1969 US Psych Country Folk Rock...recommended...!
Plain Jane were an L.A. based quartet originally from Alburquerque N.M. consisting of Barry Ray (guitar-vocals), Don Gleicher (guitar-vocals), David Schoenfeld (drums), and Jerry 
Shoenfeld (bass-piano-vocals). Underrated album on the same label as Sapphire Thinkers and Randy Holden. It’s generally described as “rural,” but it’s not country at all. It’s more like a guitar pop album with a very laid back feel. In an understated way it anticipates the California rock of the 70s. Several songwriters create a surprisingly consistent sound. The vocals are very nice and the songs sneak up on you. "Not The Same” sounds like grade-A Badfinger. A pleasant surprise. [Acid archives - The Attic]………… 

Self-deprecation is healthy, I’m sure, but this is ridiculous. Plain Jane’s 1969 album languished in obscurity for over 30 years while collectors glommed up all the other psychedelic one-shots like Kate Moss on a coke binge. And I bet that’s at least partially because the self-deprecating name didn’t exactly invite people to listen. Let’s face it, in the chest-puffing world of rock and roll, calling yourself Plain Jane even if you are is never a good idea. That rurified country wood paneling cover was probably another mistake – those looking for obscure psychedelic head trips would snatch up a Phluph or a Tangerine Zoo long before grabbing something that looks like it’s should be hung on the wall of a basement in Tennessee. And yeah, I know by 1969 the Band’s Music From Big Pink was all the rage, but still. Sure, there are a few Band-like rusticana numbers on Plain Jane’s album, but let’s be honest, they blow. Now the pop psych numbers, they’re amazing, if I may be able to brag on behalf of the band, which is why the brave few who were early fans of this one have treasured their copies ever since. It’s never been an easy record to find, and that’s why. Try the floaty dreamlike Beatles tripper “Not The Same” on for size first, then head on over to the beautiful Left Banke/Stories soundalike “Mrs. Que.” Or the fuzz-soaked psych rocker “What Can You Do?” Then look again at the guy sitting on the floor on the front cover, and ask yourself “Hey, is that Robert Fripp’s long-lost Bible Belt brother?” Or maybe, based on the fiery fuzz leads on the rockier Plain Jane numbers, just maybe ol’ Bobby moonlighted between Crimso gigs in the farmlands of Iowa. I expect next year, someone will finally release those unreleased collaborations Plain Jane and King Crimson recorded back in 1969. In the Cornfield of the Crimson King…………….. 
This is an often rather laidback pop/rock album which features especially on the successful and tasty opening tracks an early Westcoast influence (Buffalo Springfield), combined with a 60s California rock influence (Mamas & Papas/Jefferson Airplane,..), noticeable in the song structure, some of the vocal arrangements, or the way the electric guitar is used, creating a definite pop-attractiveness. Compared to this “Fire hydrant”, later on, is more country-esque with dual vocals (the least appealing song on the album). “Short fairy tale” is a bit more up tempo rock with jazzy rhythm guitar passages. Besides the mentioned song style inspirations, it is also nice to hear how also organ drives along on some tracks as another flavour. It is this organ which leads the saddest song, “Silence” (accompanied by nothing else but organ, percussion, acoustic guitar and bass). Here and there we hear some fuzz guitar solos to it, but not too often. 

Elsewhere I saw it described as “excellent dreamy, rural psych which was produced by Les Brown,who was a member of fellow label mates Rockin’ Foo”… “. Don Gleicher previously played with two Albuquerque bands, The Monkey Men and Piggy Bank.” I noticed that, if this is the same guy, in 2000 he participated on a song album coincidentally with the same band’s name. Originally pressed on Hobbit Records………………………. 

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 !!! …Bad Cat…………… 
Surprisingly good country rock from 1969. Hard-to-classify country influenced music from this period is usually compared with Buffalo Springfield. In this case they might be right. While comparing Plain Jane’s debut with the first Eagles LP may be a stretch (which is kind of my view), the mix of styles is familiar and you will find yourself playing this 2-3 times right away. If you like The Poor, this will work too………………. 

Super laid back, overall country flavoured, music for a very relaxing listening. Lovely vocals indeed, however I do not agree with RDTEN1 that all tracks are worth hearing as a couple of jazz tinged tracks on the A-side are less interesting… But…it’s all in the ears of the beholder, right? If you dig fuzz guitar, check out track two, side B. Nice peek-in artwork & still reasonably fairly priced. by…eskeshuus ………. 

Plain Jane 
*Barry Ray – Guitar, Vocals 
*Don Gleicher – Guitar, Vocals 
*David Schoenfeld – Drums 
*Jerry Schoenfeld – Bass, Piano, Vocals 

A1 Who’s Drivin’ This Train 3:55 
A2 You Can’t Make It Alone 4:19 
A3 That’s How Much 2:08 
A4 Short Fairy Tale 2:19 
A5 Not The Same 4:20 
B1 Num-Bird 2:24 
B2 What Can You Do? 2:50 
B3 Fire Hydrant 4:08 
B4 Silence 2:31 
B5 Mrs. Que 3:36 

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