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19 Feb 2017

Justine "Justine" 1970 US/UK Psych Acid Folk Pop





















Justine  "Justine" 1970 US/UK  Psych Acid Folk Pop
full

An odd British psych folk band comprised at their peak of three female vocalists and a couple male guitar players, JUSTINE's music consisted of American West Coast acid pop combined with rather staid English contemporary folk, and blended with plenty of obvious psych influences. The result was an engaging blend of sounds that live on in their lone studio album. 

The band was said to have augmented their sound by 'borrowing' local musicians and even small orchestral assemblages for their limited live and studio appearances. The star of the band was American vocalist Laurie Styvers, who would release two solo albums shortly after the group disbanded. Sadly Styvers succumbed to personal demons in the late nineties. John McBurnie would go on to appear with Lee Jackson (the NICE, REFUGEE) and FLAMING YOUTH's Brian Chatton in the short-lived JACKSON HEIGHTS. The whereabouts of the rest of the group remains largely unknown.........

Though this obscure 1970 LP falls into the general folk-psych-rock category, its focus is so all-over-the-place that it's hard to get a read on it. At times the record seems very influenced pop and whimsical psychedelia,by the side of American folk-rock, particularly in the blends of male and female vocal harmonies, which are extremely reminiscent of the Mamas and the Papas' approach in places.

Yet there are also songs that have a more specifically British, gentle reserved acoustic quality; a character portrait of "Mr. Jones" with a whimsical British feel; and occasional off-the-wall burning fuzzy psychedelic guitar. At its most mature, it's slightly similar to, if an obscure reference point is allowed, the folk-prog-rock recordings that Giles, Giles & Fripp made as they were morphing into King Crimson (though not nearly as inspired).

The first track 'Flying' lives up to it's title with flute fluttering, swooning strings and tight harmonies. The songs mix the innocent, quirky and strange to heady effect. The songs are fairly unique in folk as they mix in horns which expands the mix giving a warmth that folk sometimes finds hard to achieve. In the last track they create a classic that lives up literally to it's title of 'Amazing Journey'. It starts with folk guitar, introduces fuzz guitar then wah wah builds to a crescendo and drops back to a delicate folk ballad within the first minute. It builds up introducing 'A Day In The Life' style strings and massed vocals.

Towards the end it explodes with a staggeirng number of layers that Roy Wood in The Move was expert at. Strange effects come in, wild guitars solo, flutes, horn and strings abound and a propulsive rhythm section drives the whole thing explosively as the singer moves from folk whispers into Robert Plant style wails. An excellent track on a most enjoyable album which shows the link between the earlier psychedelic sound and the later musical indulgence of progressive rock.

Beautiful rock-psychedelic-folk-pop songs with great harmonies. Several items are very good and show all the skills of the band. A great album to listen calmly, slowly, enjoying every note and nuance of the songs, make sure a smile on your face, and possibly the goosebumps on your arms. Air rather melodic, like a
nice summer breeze. This disc contains an unsettling psychedelic buildup that gradually explodes into a strong sense of satisfaction. You'll notice many classical music influences West Coast, but this album is recorded in London in 1970. All tunes are composed by John and Keith.
by Adamus67.............

I doubt this album would have been considered either progressive or folk when it was released in 1970, but given the nuanced tarnishes of time it seems to have become both some forty years later.
Justine were short-lived and quickly forgotten, but the band did manage to put out one really charming and intoxicating record, especially if you’re one of those kind of people who love the late sixties/early seventies West Coast pop sound (which of course had more than a little psych sprinkled in it). The more harmonic and brightly delivered parts of these songs fit that description perfectly, while at the same time the post-War influence of British folk is evident in many of the arrangements that lie embedded in between the loosely-coupled and stoned meanderings. Clearly guitarists John McBurnie and Keith Trowsdale grew up on Shirley Collins and the like, while the lovely young ladies delivering vocals seem to have taken their cues from the Mamas & the Papas, Quicksilver Messenger Service and every other band like them who surrounded themselves with paisley and patchouli until time and temperance caused them to change or fade away.

The songs run the gamut lyrically, and several are sort of montages consisting of several songs string together for no obvious reason. The opening “Flying/Love You More Than Is Good for Me To/Nostrils” is a great example, with the opening heavily psych section giving way to the Mama Cass-like pop ditty “Love You More Than is Good For Me” (even the title sounds like a Cass tune), to the closing “Nostrils” which is little more than an clearly folk- inspired instrumental snippet plucked out on an acoustic guitar. Pure 1970, but if that’s your bag you’ll love it.

I believe “She Brings the Morning with Her” was intended to be a single, and if I’m not mistaken there’s a video clip floating around somewhere, although I’ve never seen it myself. This would make sense though, as this is the most pop-oriented track on the album and is basically a sunshine-y love song of the sort that dominated the airwaves back then.

As far as “Back to Boulder”, I think Styvers might have been from Colorado since besides this song named after a town there she also has several Colorado references on her two solo albums including the second record’s title, ‘The Colorado Kid’. Anyway, this one’s about a dude who traveled for years (salesman, I believe) who finally came home only to find his house gone and his family departed. Sad in a kind of corny way, but one of the tracks on the album that earns the band a psych folk label as far as my ear is concerned. Same goes for “Traveller” (misspelled intentionally I guess), which features laid-back hippie vocals and uncredited flute/recorder as well as piano. And “See Saw” makes it a trio of hippie folk tunes just right for a lazy summer day in a park somewhere.

“Mini Splurge/Mr. Jones/Is That Good, That's Nice” is another disjointed three-part medley, but this one opens with mellow pop-folk vocal harmonies before morphing into a polyphonic sort of dirge that is either drug-driven or at least drug-inspired. Despite the nonsensical, repetitive lyrics, the guitars wail and the overall groove is consistent with most of the rest of the album (not to mention with that generation).

The real highlight is the closing “Unknown Journey”, a heavily psych and probably heavily improvised trip with plenty of haunting chanting (both male and female) as well as acid guitar and unexpected interludes of brooding silence. Nothing groundbreaking, but at the same time nobody really makes music like this anymore either. Maybe someone should.

The CD reissue closes with a couple of singles released by the band prior to the album’s recording. These are a little uneven but make for interesting closes pieces. Both are rather typical late-sixties light psych numbers.

I’m really surprised how little information exists about this band, although from surfing around some blogs and music archive sites I can see they had many acquaintances and seem to have quite a few people who remember them. A very decent record though not a masterpiece, but good enough to merit four stars in my opinion. Well recommended to both prog folk and psych fans.... by ClemofNazareth ...........

Beautiful rock-psychedelic-folk-pop, songs with good harmonies. Several of the songs are very good and show all the skills of the band. A great album to listen to calmly, without haste, enjoying all the notes and nuances of the songs, sure to form a smile on your face, and possibly, goose bumps in your arms. A rather melodic air, like a pleasant summer breeze. This disc contains a disturbing accumulation of psychedelic that little by little explodes in a strong feeling of satisfaction. You will notice many classic influences of West Coast music, although it is recorded in London in 1970.

Not that all the songs will taste, but those that you like, you will like very much. All the melodies are composed by John and Keith. Disc highly recommended..........

First time on CD for this rare and obscure UK folk rock album from 1970. Lush orchestration and an unusual approach combining pop/psych elements with folk, laid back easy melodies and the odd rockier edge notably on the outstanding freaky track "Unknown Journey". Beautiful harmonies with a timeless feel, twin male and female vocals, flute and great lead guitar work. A mixture of Magna Carta, Wooden Horse and Storyteller with a harder Fresh Maggots edge. - Freak Emporium

Recorded in London by a youthful Anglo-American quintet and originally released in June 1970, this lost classic was described in original promotional material as ‘rich, splendid bursts of colourful sound’. A bewitching brew of dreamy pop and whimsical psychedelia, it features glorious vocal harmonies throughout and culminates with one of the era’s greatest acid trips, the mind-blowing ‘Unknown Journey’. This long-awaited reissue tells their story for the first time, and also includes both sides of their ultra-rare pre-LP single, making it an essential purchase for all fans of top-end progressive popsike. - Sunbeam

Sunbeam strikes (should have been) gold yet again with the horribly mishandled lone release from the London based Justine. The project was started by childhood chums Keith Trowdale and John McBurnie, both accomplished guitarists, with the group swelling to include three female vocalists, a session rhythm section, and the odd orchestra as time marched forth, never landing on anything permanent. With a sound somewhere between the West Coast pop of The Mamas & The Papas and the symphonic English psych of the other Nirvana (read: not Cobain’s), their dueling acoustic guitars and occasionally Renaissance fair choruses sadly saw them lumped in with soft music by disinterest youth. However, repeat listens reveal incredibly deep arrangements (even more amazing considering the producer often “borrowed” random orchestras on their way to sessions in other studios), subtle psych touches, and lyrics ranging from lovely lurve and whimsy to soul searching.
“She Brings the Morning with Her” was an inspired choice for the lead single, with its summery vocals and uplifting sweeps supporting a nice groove. Even more inspired, it was backed with the equally moving “Back to Boulder”, which is a sad traveling tale about a man returning from a mission of survival money and self-discovery to pick up the pieces of his life, if there are any left, with an electric guitar, brushes, and somber strings slowly reaching crescendo beneath him. Listening to those back to back, as well as the X-mas bells acid rock epic “Unknown Journey”, it becomes clear what a tragedy it was that they were permitted to fade away. The term “lost classic” is thrown around a lot, but this eponymous sole effort has it well earned. - PopMatters

Justine were a band of five vocalists and two guitarists augmented in recording by orchestra and further musicians. They sit between the psychedelic folk-rock sound of LA (Mamas & Papas, Loving Spoonful, Byrds), UK (S F Sorrow or Piper At The Gates of Dawn) and progressive rock. The five vocalists weave in harmony providing a rich sound and it is this that binds the album. The songs are soft early folk rock like Donovan's 'Gift From A Garden To A Flower' with psychedelic electric guitar and effects. The first track 'Flying' lives up to it's title with flute fluttering, swooning strings and tight harmonies. The songs mix the innocent, quirky and strange to heady effect. The songs are fairly unique in folk as they mix in horns which expands the mix giving a warmth that folk sometimes finds hard to achieve. In the last track they create a classic that lives up literally to it's title of 'Amazing Journey'. It starts with folk guitar, introduces fuzz guitar then wah wah builds to a crescendo and drops back to a delicate folk ballad within the first minute. It builds up introducing 'A Day In The Life' style strings and massed vocals. Towards the end it explodes with a staggeirng number of layers that Roy Wood in The Move was expert at. Strange effects come in, wild guitars solo, flutes, horn and strings abound and a propulsive rhythm section drives the whole thing explosively as the singer moves from folk whispers into Robert Plant style wails. An excellent track on a most enjoyable album which shows the link between the earlier psychedelic sound and the later musical indulgence of progressive rock. - Mark Coyle

The nucleus of Justine was formed in 1967 by singer-guitarists John McBurnie and Keith Trowsdale, who'd been friends since meeting at school in London's St John's Wood aged fifteen. As a 12 year-old Trowsdale had appeared in opera productions at Covent Garden, including Don Giovanni and Swan Lake, as well as Benjamin Britten's TV production of Billy Budd, while McBurnie had devoted much of his youth to writing a novel. "I was quite a rebellious kid and had been kicked out of or run away from various schools/' he says today. "My parents had split up and I moved to London to live with my dad, and became friends with Keith. He was already a budding guitarist, and taught me the basics. We listened to everything from the Beatles to the blues, and regularly went to clubs like UFO, just absorbing everything. My summer job in 1967 was at the Lisson Gallery, working as Yoko Ono's assistant. One of my tasks was putting John Lennon into a bag. He never made it to the actual show. He was a really nice guy, and a god to me, of course."
Early in 1968 Trowsdale and McBurnie tentatively began to perform as a duo, playing songs and tunes around North London. "We also played in a slightly satanic coffee bar in Mayfair called the Process, where everyone dressed in black. I've no idea what 'the process' was, but I'm glad to say they never tried to indoctrinate us." They frequently bunked off school in order to hustle around the fringes of the music industry and hang about in music shops, which led to a memorable encounter in mid-1968. "There was a guitar shop above the Whiskey-A-Go-Go club in London, and as we went up the stairs one afternoon, we heard someone playing 'Like A Rolling Stone', but incredibly well. It was Jimi Hendrix. He was interested in what we were doing, and asked me what chords I knew. The answer was not many, so he taught me a few, and one or two tricks. Keith, like Hendrix was a left-handed player, and we jammed in there until after they closed. He was incredibly friendly, and invited us to his show in West Hampstead that night. We went, but couldn't get in. We happened to see him afterwards and told him, so he invited us back to the Whiskey for a late set he was playing. I remember Eric Clapton and John Mayall both watching in amazement."
In the autumn of 1968 the duo advertised for a female singer, and soon found American-born Laurie Styvers (born Laurette Stivers). Having named themselves 'Justine' (after the novels by Lawrence Durrell and the Marquis de Sade), they sent a demo to Robert Stigwood's office and were swiftly signed up. "I was too young to sign the paperwork," continues McBurnie, "so my father had to do it for me. I remember my advance was one shilling." US label Dot was launching a UK operation at the time and the trio was invited to make a 45 for it with young producer Hugh Murphy. 'Leave Me Be' / 'Clown' duly appeared in May 1969 as the label's first UK release (DOT 121), and are included here as bonus tracks. According to Record Mirror of May 17th, the single was 'a gently-slanted wee ballad, with guitar and folksiness in parts'. The band, however, were not happy with it. As Trowsdale told Music Now on July 18th 1970: "About seven months after the numbers had been recorded, the record company called us and told us to re-do the vocals. The day we arrived to do this, we were informed that the original mix had been put to press that morning. It was really bad."
Dot was owned by Paramount, who apparently also told the band that they'd get to appear in a film, but when the single stiffed all such promises were forgotten and they were dropped. Deciding to develop their vocal harmonies and try again, in August 1969 the trio advertised for more female members. The first of these came in the diminutive shape of Bethlyn Bates. Of American Indian descent, she was born in Arkansas and had spent four years training to become a lawyer before travelling to London to study classical piano. "I come from hillbilly country/' she told Melody Maker in August 1970. "My father owns a real old-fashioned hardware store that sells everything from shotguns to chicken wire. The store is right in the sticks near the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, which is in the Bible belt." She also announced an intention to write for the band: "I have written some songs in a more bluesy vein, but they sort of joke when I tell them. So I am really going to get it together and give them a shock when I play them to the group." Vocalist Val Cope, meanwhile, grew up in Liverpool, though she'd moved to Ealing, West London. Having already toured with girl group the Cherolees and formed a trio named the Wheels Of Fortune, she was a seasoned performer and greatly added to the group's sound.
Singing when and where they could, McBurnie and Trowsdale were spotted in Trafalgar Square one afternoon by talent scout Roger Watson, who arranged a publishing and record deal for the band with MCA's fledgling UK operation. Reunited with producer Hugh Murphy, they began to make an LP towards the end of 1969, using several studios including Olympic and Trident. "The album took a few months, and was produced by Hugh," continues McBurnie. "Richard Harris was recording next door at Olympic, and I remember being impressed by him biting the caps off beer bottles. Mick Jagger was in there with Marsha Hunt, too. It was practically our first time in a studio, and all quite overwhelming." No sooner had the sessions got underway, however, than Sty vers departed in January 1970. The quartet decided to continue regardless, and were joined in the studio by veteran session players Alan Parker, Gary Taylor (late of the Herd) and Dougie Wright. "We used orchestras as and when/' adds McBurnie. "If an orchestra was in to play with another act, Hugh would borrow them quickly and sort something out. Keith and I would sing the relevant parts to our luckless arranger, who would then frantically try to write them down."
Several of the songs had originally been destined for a musical McBurnie and Trowsdale were working on, and were thus presented on the album as medleys. Though much of the music was breezy, West Coast-inspired harmony pop (albeit with a lysergic twist), the magnum opus was undoubtedly the breathtaking 'Unknown Journey', recorded overnight in a darkened studio. McBurnie well remembers the painstaking work required to perfect it. "We worked for ages to get the fuzz guitar tones right," he says. "At the time I didn't even know the names of the different chords!" After the album had been mixed at Trident, it was decided to expand the line-up yet further by adding Jerry Hovell (flute, bass and recorder) and Chris Gibb (drums). Hovell came from Suffolk and grew up in Ipswich, where he'd played bass in a jazz band. A trained chef, according to original promotional material 'Jerry passes the time cooking, and the rest of the group are crazy about his recipes!' Gibb was also found via a small ad, and had been playing in a band named Electric Flag. "With the addition of Chris, the band has become a little heavier," Trowsdale told Melody Maker in August 1970. "But he is a very good drummer and doesn't mind playing soft."
The album was released to favourable reviews on June 19th 1970 (Uni UNLS 111). On July 25th Disc & Music Echo wrote: 'Justine is a name you'll be hearing much more of. The group, three boys and two girls (though strangely the cover lists different names on one credit from those under their splendid photograph) come up with a unique sound virtually impossible to describe. Mainly acoustic with marvellous use made of flute and harp, the voices fly above the instruments in a way that is both ethereal and Elizabethan. All the songs are new, written by guitarists John McBurnie and Keith Trowsdale. 'Clocks' has some lovely round-type cross vocals, and 'See Saw' spotlights the excellent harmony of male and female voices. 'Unknown Journey' is undoubtedly the finest track, opening simply with two guitars, yet at the same time immediately creating the mysterious feel required. Then the voices come in, building and building until by the end they pile one on top of the other in a continuous echo. Please, just listen - you'll be enchanted.'
Not much promotion was organised, and the few ads that did appear in the music press described Justine as 'the sweet-sounding band', something that frustrated them. "I think this 'sweet' image is a bit much," Trowsdale told Music Now. "Justine are basically Justine. As far as we are concerned we don't want to be tagged or labelled, or called the new Mamas and Papas. It's not that it annoys us - we just don't think it fits." A handful of live dates took place in London clubs such as the Marquee (where they made their debut on May 25th), Ronnie Scott's, the Speakeasy and the Revolution, but these were not right for the band, as Cope told Music Now in July 1970. "The people behaved like pigs,'7 she fumed.
"They talked and ordered drinks while we played. The reason why we would love some success is that it would enable us to do some concert-type shows, where the audiences come because they want to listen and not just to freak about." The band played few such dates, though they did support Julie Felix at the Earl's Court Arena that summer. There was also an appearance at the Buxton Festival on June 6th (alongside Colosseum, Taste, Savoy Brown and others), which McBurnie would rather forget. "We performed the five or so songs we'd rehearsed, then had to ask the audience if they'd like us to sing any of them again. It was terribly embarrassing."
In August a single was extracted from the LP, 'She Brings The Morning With Her' 'Back To Boulder' (Uni UNS 528). This was also favourably received - on September 5th Disc & Music Echo commented that it was 'a pretty gentle number that relies on strange backing and perfect harmonies. They suffice to render the sound highly original and very pleasant', while Melody Maker praised it as 'Balm to the ears. Nice voca harmonies, slow tempo, pretty melody.' It failed !o catch on, however, Perhaps because DJs were confused as to whether Justine was a person or a group. Grandiose PR statements that concerts would be played in Holland, France and Italy proved unfounded, as did the label's promise to issue the album in America and Europe. Ultimately it appeared in the UK alone, and though they did appear on BBC TV's Disco 2 show, sales were disappointing.
Soon after its reTease they acquired a manager for the first time. Named John Abbey, he was a private dentist who'd trained alongside Queen's Roger Taylor and had thus been involved with Smile, the band that later became Queen. In September 1970, however. Disc & Music Echo reported that 'Laurette Styvers, original singer with Justine, rejoined the group last week after an absence since January. The other two female vocalists - Valerie Cope and Bethlyn Bates - have left to pursue solo careers.' Abbey decided that the remaining members should get it together in the country. "He packed us off to a country cottage outside Nettlebed, where we rehearsed and occasionally ventured forth for gigs" remembers McBurnie. "By that time the band was me, Keith, Jerry, Chris and occasionally Laurie." Perhaps concerned at their rapid personnel turnover, MCA expressed no interest in recording a follow-up, and as the year drew to a close the band drifted apart for good. It is not known what became of Trowsdale or Gibb, but Bates returned to the US, Hovell went to Germany and played with a band called Cool School, and Cope became a model and actress. McBurnie and Styvers both continued to work with Hugh Murphy (who'd became romantically involved with Styvers), but otherwise they all fell out of touch. Styvers went on to issue two solo albums (produced by Murphy), while McBurnie joined Lee Jackson of the Nice in his new band, Jackson Heights.
Original copies of this album now change hands for startling sums, and it is hoped that this reissue will bring it to the wide audience it deserved first time around. As the original press release put it: 'Justine are sufficiently different and promising to merit worldwide attention. All their work is melodic, encompassing many moods. Justine's treatment of the songs span a wide range of musical roots... above all there are the harmonies - rich, splendid bursts .......acid visions........

Justine were a band of five vocalists and two guitarists augmented in recording by orchestra and further musicians. They sit between the psychedelic folk-rock sound of LA (Mamas & Papas, Loving Spoonful, Byrds), UK (S F Sorrow or Piper At The Gates of Dawn) and progressive rock. The five vocalists weave in harmony providing a rich sound and it is this that binds the album. The songs are soft early folk rock like Donovan's 'Gift From A Garden To A Flower' with psychedelic electric guitar and effects. The first track 'Flying' lives up to it's title with flute fluttering, swooning strings and tight harmonies. The songs mix the innocent, quirky and strange to heady effect. The songs are fairly unique in folk as they mix in horns which expands the mix giving a warmth that folk sometimes finds hard to achieve. In the last track they create a classic that lives up literally to it's title of 'Amazing Journey'. It starts with folk guitar, introduces fuzz guitar then wah wah builds to a crescendo and drops back to a delicate folk ballad within the first minute. It builds up introducing 'A Day In The Life' style strings and massed vocals. Towards the end it explodes with a staggeirng number of layers that Roy Wood in The Move was expert at. Strange effects come in, wild guitars solo, flutes, horn and strings abound and a propulsive rhythm section drives the whole thing explosively as the singer moves from folk whispers into Robert Plant style wails. An excellent track on a most enjoyable album which shows the link between the earlier psychedelic sound and the later musical indulgence of progressive rock..........by Mark Coyle:.............

Justine
*John McBurnie - Vocals
*Laurette Stivers - Vocals
*Keith Trowsdale - Guitar, Vocals
*Bethlyn Bates - Vocals
*Valerie Cope - Vocals
With
*Dougie Wright - Drums
*Chris Gibb - Drums
*Jerry Hovell - Bass

Tracks
1. Flying/Love You More Than Is Good for Me To/Nostrils - 7:25
2. She Brings the Morning with Her - 3:18
3. Back to Boulder - 5:07
4. Traveller -
5. See Saw (John McBurnie, Laurie Styvers, Keith Trowsdale) - 2:31
6. Mini Splurge/Mr. Jones/Is That Good. That's Nice - 10:54
7. Clocks/Hey I Used to Know You - 5:02
8. Unknown Journey - 7:07
9. Leave Me Be - 3:54
10. Clown - 2:39

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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