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11 Jun 2017

The Bushes "Assorted Shrubbery" 1968 US Private Psych Soul







The Bushes "Assorted Shrubbery" 1968 US Private Psych Soul

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1969 Chicago Soulful Psych group, four white boys featuring Ron Stockert playing a powerful Hammond Organ in the vein of Vanilla Fudge. Stockert went on to play with Carl Carlton (Everlasting Love) and Rufus & Chaka Kahn............

This one's fairly rare (good luck finding another online review of it), but hasn't exactly set the collector world on fire. The main reason for that lack of interest probably has to do with the fact this short-lived Chicago outfit was more interested in doing white boy covers of classic soul numbers, rather than your standard deep dives into blues, psych, or rock. Moreover, by the time "Assorted Shrubbery" was released in 1968, the age of integrated musical enjoyment had already begun to exit stage left. The result was these guys were simply too pop-oriented for R&B and soul audiences, and too soul for pop and rock audiences. Those were the perfect ingredients for instant obscurity which is pretty much the fate met by the short-lived Bushes.

Bushes featured the talents of lead guitarist Al Johnson, keyboardist/bass player Ron Stockert, singer Joel Wilson, and drummer John Zefo. Their sole album was recorded at Golden Voice Recording Company and as you can tell by Johnson's liner notes, the band seemed pretty hot on themselves:

"The music in this album is a product of all environments know to mankind. The controversial sounds of today, as well as the treasures remaining from yesterday. Music for those who hope for those who dream, and music for the sad. Here is a polyphonic portrayal of the proud happiness and the stumbling failures so common, so well-known to all. Here is the music for everyone because it was born in the minds of artists representing everyone. That alone makes this important music. Important to those who created it, and important to those who interpret it correctly and understand it fully." No idea what that all meant, but it certainly sounded like Johnson could have enjoyed a career as a politician ...

So what's this puppy sound like? Well as you could tell by a quick scan of the ten songs, these guys had a deep affection for Chicago and Detroit soul. In fact, five of the tracks were popular soul covers, with one well known Chicago blues cover thrown in (T. Bone Walker's 'Stormy Monday Blues'). They exhibited good taste in their covers (George Clinton, Curtis Mayfield, Smokey Robinson), but no matter how good, their largely rote covers simply couldn't come close to the source material. At the same time the album included a couple of band originals; the best being the atypical psych-rocker 'Most Girls' and the worst being a brief Frank Zappa inspired belch of freak-out experimentation ('Polyphony'). So that encapsulates the dilemma with this one. If you enjoy blue-eyed soul this is probably an album you'd like. Wilson and Stockert were both pretty good singers and as a band these guys were quite talented with Johnson showing some fine lead guitar moves when he was given a shot at the spotlight. Stockert was similarly good, bring a deft Vanilla Fudge keyboard sound to much of the material. If you weren't a soul aficionado, then there was less to interest you here.

- 'The Way You Do the Things You Do' started out with a nice garage-tinged edge, but went downhill when Wilson's falsetto vocal kicked in. If you've ever wanted to hear someone singing in an uncomfortable key, this is a good one to check out. The poor guy literally sounded like part of his anatomy was stuck in an ever tightening vice. rating: ** stars
- Give them credit for a suitably earnest stab at the Curtis Mayfield classic 'I've Been Trying'. As mentioned above, it won't make you forget the original, but they did pretty good for a bunch of suburban kids. rating: *** stars
- With Stockert turning in his best David Thomas-Clayton impersonation (he sounded as if he'd been gargling with sandpaper for a week), their cover of BS&T's 'I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know' was actually quite nice. Sans-horns, they elected to give the song a cool Vanilla Fudge-styled keyboard edge (kudos again to Stockert) and the backing vocals were a hoot. rating: **** stars
- Opening up with some tasty Johnson slashing lead guitar, they gave George Clinton's 'Testify (I Wanna)' a nice garage edge. I'd still rather hear the original, but this version wasn't half bad. rating: *** stars
- Clocking in at 30 seconds, 'Polyphony' was a sound collage that sounded like Jan Akkerman hanging out with a bunch of drunk friends who were simply goofing off in the studio. rating: * star
- Another band original, 'The Hopes, The Dreams, The Tears'
- Kicked along by some stark Stockert keyboards, their bluesy cover of T. Bone Walker's 'Stormy Blues' was professional, if somewhat loungey; especially when Wilson decided to try to turn on the vocal afterburners. rating: ** stars
- Penned by Stockert and Wilson, Most Girls' was easily the album's best performance ... it sounds kind of strange but the result was an intriguing soul/garage hybrid with a killer Johnson fuzz guitar solo thrown in. Even Zefo's short drum solo made sense in this one. Hum, picture James Brown trying to record a garage rocker and this is what you'd come up with. rating: **** stars
- 'Ooh Baby Baby' found the band returning to their creative mainstay - another rote soul cover that found the whole group singing in an uncomfortably high key. rating: ** stars
- Well, 'Function at the Junction' made it clear that funk wasn't a genre they were particularly good at. In spite of Zefo's frenetic drums and Stockert's stabbing keyboards, this was one of the stiffest Motown covers you've ever heard. In spite of his best efforts, Wilson sounded like he was channeling The Talking Heads David Byrne while hearing the rest of the band robotically singing the "cornbread, hot nuts and chicken" refrain was pretty funny. I'll give it an extra star for the bizarro factor. rating: *** stars

Stockton remained active on the Chicago music scene. He became an in-demand sessions player and in 1971 joined Rufus where he replaced James Stella as one of the band's lead singers. He left the band in 1975, briefly joined Three Dog Night, and returned to sessions work.....by....RDTEN1 .........

Personnel:
Ron Stockert — Hammond organ, piano, bass, vocals
Al Johnson — guitar, bass, vocals
Joel Wilson — vocals, percussion
John Zefo — drums, vocals

Tracklist
A1 The Way You Do The Things You Do 3:54
A2 I've Been Tryin' 1:27
A3 I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know 6:03
A4 Testify (I Wanna) 3:50
A5 Polyphony 0:30
B1 The Hopes, The Dreams, The Tears 4:30
B2 Stormy Monday Blues 5:38
B3 Most Girls 2:22
B4 Ooh Baby Baby 1:43
B5 Function At The Junction 3:27 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..