Ultimate Spinach (1968) & Behold and See (1968)
History has not been kind to this band. And it’s a real pity, because Ultimate Spinach were one of the most creative bands of the Psychedelic era. I think their bad fortune started with the fact that they weren’t from San Fransisco, which at that time was the centre of all this Psychedelic movement in America. Instead, they were from Boston, a more conservative city, whatever that means… Their record company MGM tried to promote a few bands from Boston as the new Psychedelic scene in contrast with the major bands of that time,which were from the San Fransisco area. But the problem was that with the exception of Ultimate Spinach and maybe Bacon Street Union, all the others were b-class bands. And that’s where this whole project failed.
Ultimate Spinach were formed and built around the multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Ian Bruce Douglas in 1967. In the next year (1968) they released two records, and then the band almost disbanded when all the original members left. The only exception was the singer Barbara Hudgon, who kept the name and re-formed the band.
As you can see, this time I’m writing about two records instead of one. And that’s because I can’t really separate them. I feel as though they are kind of one item. After all they were released in a few months period both of them. Their only major difference is that in the second record the band tried to play in a more technical way, by having longer and more complicated compositions, than the first one.
Their sound (especially in the first record) is something between The Doors and Jefferson Airplane, but includes bigger doses of Psychedelic sounds. Many instruments were used here, with flute, sitar, harpsicord, and the electronic Theremin being some of them. The voice of their singer Barbara Huddgon fits perfectly to their sound, and it reminds the voices of Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) and Sonja Kristina (Curved Air) from time to time.
Almost all the song in the first record are excellent examples of Psychedelic Rock, but the highlight of the record is definetely the 8-minute-long (Ballad of ) Hipp Death Goddess. (This song should have been in the pantheon of Psychedelic music, next to songs like ‘White Rabbit’.In my opinion at least).
Their second record ‘Behold and See’ was released a few months later, and the band tried to make a ‘turn’ to a more sophisticated sound. With only 7 songs, most of them long enough for a Psychedelic band, the record didn’t have any chance to succeed. Here you can find many really great songs, with ‘Jazz Thing’ and ‘Fragmentary March of Green’ being two of them.
Concluding this post, I want to say that these two records are highly recommended to any fan of Rock music, and not just the fans of Psychedelia.
I’m posting here a couple of videos as well, for you to get an idea about the band…