Beau Brummels, The
A Psych-Mod Blast from the Bay
The Beau Brummels started out as an artistically credible American response to the British Invasion, and with this album became something else—purveyors of delicately scored mystical rock that captured the crisscrossing currents of 1967.
Named after a nineteenth-century British dandy, the Bay Area group began by openly emulating aspects of mod culture—they copped the haircuts, the twee lyrics, and the vocal harmonies so successfully, some who heard the early singles "Laugh Laugh" and "Just a Little" (both produced by Sylvester Stewart, aka Sly Stone) thought the group was British.
That impression changed with Triangle, which replaces the youthful earnestness of the early Brummels singles with hazy, occasionally obtuse lyrics about Middle Earth, wild psychedelic orchestrations (from the great Van Dyke Parks, who plays harpsichord on "Magic Hollow"), and touches of the chiming guitars and daring vocal harmonies of the Byrds. The sound is rich, but at a core level, the songs written by guitarist Ron Elliott are infused with the directness and discipline of British pop. They're tart, lively, and disarmingly beautiful compositions that showcase Sal Valentino's magnetic voice—which, on "Only Dreaming Now" (one of several dream-inspired odes), dwells in a languid, almost gloomy atmosphere. Triangle was not a commercial success, but it remains an unusual artistic one—the rare bridge between the sunshiny straightforwardness of mid-'60s pop and the fuzzy opaqueness of psychedelia.
Released: 1967, Warner Bros. (Reissued 2003, Collector's Choice)
Key Tracks: "Magic Hollow," "Are You Happy?"
Catalog Choice: Introducing the Beau Brummels; Magic Hollow
Next Stop: The Grateful Dead: Workingman's Dead
Book Page: 63