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2 May 2017

The New Hobbits “Back From Middle Earth” 1969 US Psych Pop

The New Hobbits “Back From Middle Earth” 1969 US Psych  Pop
First time issue of unreleased third album by USA 60’s band The Hobbits. Originally this album was to be released by Perception Records in 1969 but was shelved. It’s a delightful example of orchestrated US 60’s pop with a psychedelic edge very much in the mould of the other two Hobbits albums .

Back From Middle Earth, The Hobbit’s third and rarest psychedelic recording, appeared in 1969 on Hobbit-supremo Jimmy Curtiss’ Perception label, an imprint that bizarrely was to include Dizzy Gillespie, Shirley Horn, Tyrone Washington, Johnny Hartman, Astrud Gilberto and even Jimmy Lunceford amongst its alumnists. Although The Hobbits owed their name to the writings of Tolkien, there was little of The Shire about their music, which Curtiss described as “vocals with instrumental accompaniment”, with the emphasis very much on sophisticated harmonies reminiscent of contemporaries such as The Cowsills and Jay And The Americans. Curtiss made his recording debut as Jimmy Curtiss & The Regents in the late ‘50s, but surprisingly Return To Middle Earth is a solid ‘60s pop album which highlights the vocal talents of Curtiss and session-singer Gini Eastwood and is completely free of any references to Curtiss’ doowop past, as indeed are the three heavily psych-influenced 45s Curtiss produced (he also co-wrote two of the tracks) for Decca stable-mates The Bag in 1968. Exactly why The Hobbits changed their name to The New Hobbits is unclear, but this may, along with the album’s release on Perception (the band’s two previous efforts had both appeared on Decca) go some way to explaining why the album remained largely unknown (many Psych collectors have never seen a copy of the album), and consequently is so highly sought after today. ~…………….

60s pop with psych and sunshine influences. It is rather mediocre, with only a few interesting songs on it. Gladly, nothing is bad, although the songwriting was just not strong and it ended up producing some real weak sounding material despite the presence of some that I like (A4 and B1 are the only songs here I could call “good”). The 23 minute run time doesn’t help either, this is over right when it starts. Maybe worth a look for psych pop fans but I find those elements to be quite subdued anyway. In the end, it’s a real middle of the road release for me…….by……geldofpunk ……….
Credited to the “New Hobbits”, this is basically a re-vamped version of the original Hobbits including members of the Bag, another group Jimmy Curtiss was involved with around the same time recording Velvet Night.This record also launched Jimmy Curtiss’ Perception Records, which up to this time was the name of his production company. See previous Hobbits posts for more info.
~ by: Redtelephone66 …………………………

Folk-rock outfit the Hobbits was the studio project of Queens, New York-born singer/songwriter Jimmy Curtiss, who ranks as one of the more interesting footnotes in the history of rock & roll – the rare would-be teen idol who actually wrote his own material (and did so admirably), he later expanded his reach into psychedelia and harmony-laden folk-rock, but while the subject of a small cult following, none of his records ever made a commercial dent.

Curtiss first surfaced in 1959 as a member of the doo wop combo the Enjays and issued his solo debut, “Without You,” on United Artists in 1961 – the label attempted to position him as a teen crooner in the mold of Bobby Vee or Paul Anka, but he failed to make a commercial impact. After a period working as a songwriter he dropped out of music to pursue a career in advertising before resurfacing in 1967 with the bubblegum cult classic “Psychedelic Situation,” a major hit in Germany that attracted little attention at home.

Curtiss then signed to Decca, collaborating with producers Jerry Vance and Terry Phillips and songwriter Marcia Hillman on the Hobbits – despite borrowing their name from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels and titling their 1967 debut Down to Middle Earth, the Hobbits turned out relatively straightforward sunshine pop, and the album is much sought-after by soft-psych aficionados. The follow-up, Men and Doors: The Hobbits Communicate, appeared in 1968 – like its predecessor, the record didn’t sell, and Decca terminated the contract.

Curtiss then formed his own label and production company, both dubbed Perception, and helmed an LP and three singles by the psychedelic soul act the Bag, members of which reportedly worked on the Hobbits project as well. Speaking of which, after rechristening the group the New Hobbits, Curtiss released 1969’s Back From Middle Earth, essentially a solo effort. According to the liner notes in the second volume of the Soft Sounds for Gentle People series, he eventually ended up in San Francisco, going solely by the initials J.C. – his current activities and whereabouts are unknown.
by Jason Ankeny……………….

I have to admit that I’m not a J.R.R. Tolkien fan. I’ve never been able to make it through the book despite several attempts, and I spent most of my time in the theater for the first Lord of the Rings movie doing my Mystery Science Theater impression (granted I also had a couple of martinis in my for that viewing). Fortunately, the New Hobbits don’t seem to have more than a superficial connection to those works, although I imagine this may be unfortunate for some of you. What we get instead is some solid AM-pop in the mold of the Grass Roots. This music is far from experimental, but you will find so juicy hooks that might worm their way into your brain. It also features lower-fi, more ragged production than the more famous AM-pop herd. I see this as a positive thing.

The first track, “You Could Have Made it Easy,” just happens to be one of the catchiest with a groovy horn arrangement and a propulsive beat. Many of the other tracks anticipate the soft rock of the 70’s, so I’m more entertained by the paranoid Band rip-off entitled “The Devil’s Gonna Get Me,” even though it does feature an embarrassingly out-of-tune piano in the mix. “Underground” features what I consider the best melody on the disc and drifts the closest to the psych/sunshine pop sphere. “Love Can Set You Free” is like the pauper prison’s rendition of “All You Need is Love.”

There’s a couple of keepers here, but this is more like the album you might have bought from the house band at the Holiday Inn after an evening of business dinner binge drinking in 1969, not that I’ve ever been a businessman or alive in 1969 (although I think I have stayed at a Holiday Inn). Still, if you can live with that comparison, then you will probably find something to enjoy here. For me, I guess the key appeal here is with the “You Could Have Made it Easy,” “Underground,” and the very groovy cover art…………………

1. You could have made it easy 3:09
2. Growin’ old 2:53
3. I could hear the grass growin’ 2:50
4. Comin’ out 2:14
5. The devils gonna get me 2:08
6. Underground 2:35
7. Love can set you free 2:59
8. Flora 2:51
9. Woman so worried 2:05

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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