THE GREAT METROPOLITAN STEAM BAND (USA, 1969)
LP Coral – COPS 2162 (Germany)
This album has been in my collection for some 40 years. A discount bin classic, very typical of the eclectic variety of records one could find in discount bins in the early 70s. Jugband music had never been especially commercial apart perhaps for a short time in the late twenties / early thirties (Hokum as it was called then). There had been some attempts at revival during the Sixties “Washington Square” folk boom, with aggregations such as Jim Kweskin Jug Band, the Even Dozen Jug Band and the Holy Modal Rounders and even in UK during the blues boom (Panama Ltd Jugband …). The Great Metropolitan Steam Band is pretty much in the same vein, they only came five years too late and (probably) from Boston area.
The Great Metropolitan Steam Band appears to be a few years late on a couple musical fads, both for its freaky cover art and the old-timey risque jazz/blues music contained within. This is a faithful and well-executed example of the genre, though, despite using what sounds like an electric bass rather than a stand-up.
This LP is often listed as “psychedelic” because of its artwork (and to try to cash on the vogue of psych’ records among collectors). There is absolutely no hint of psychedelia or even rock music, just good old unadulterated jug band blues / hokum.
The album was released on DECCA in UK and MCA in USA.
The Great Metropolitan Steam Band: Decca Recording Artists. Ca. 1968-69.
l to r : Rocky Rockwood, Elliot (rhymes with Lenin) Kenin, Bonnie Bagley, Peter (Sy) Simmonds.
There is no indication of the participating musicians. Some researches on the Net yielded results. It seems the band was made of:
Bonnie Bagley, a fairly impressive singer in the Ethel Merman's excentric vocal tradition. But it works well! She worked with various old style / trad jazz bands over the years (New Black Eagle JazzBand ). Think of an American Ottilie Patterson.
Rocky Rockwood on guitar, mandolin & harmonica
Eliot Kenin (banjo) – also listed as producer
Peter (Sy) Simmonds (bass ?)
Guests were apparently Gary B. White, Paul Geremia and Frank Wakefield.
Geremia is a pretty well-known guitarist & singer with a LONG recorded history, including a very rare LP from the late 1960s on Sire/London. Frank Wakefield is a renowned bluegrass performer who was associated with the Old And In The Way family (Jerry Garcia & all).
01. Blues Ain't Nothin'
02. Keep Your Hands Off Her
03. Doctor Jazz
04. Cocaine Blues
05. Spare Change Rag
06. It's Tight Like That
07. I Want A Big Butter And Egg Man
08 Jackass Blues
09. How Sweet I Roamed From Field To Field
10 Cold In Hand
11. Basin Street Blues
The track “How Sweet I Roamed From Field To Field” is actually a poem by William Blake and was recorded by the Fugs on their first album in a mock-bluegrass arrangement.
Song: How sweet I roam'd from field to field
How sweet I roam'd from field to field,
And tasted all the summer's pride,
'Till I the prince of love beheld,
Who in the sunny beams did glide!
He shew'd me lilies for my hair,
And blushing roses for my brow;
He led me through his gardens fair,
Where all his golden pleasures grow.
With sweet May dews my wings were wet,
And Phoebus fir'd my vocal rage;
He caught me in his silken net,
And shut me in his golden cage.
He loves to sit and hear me sing,
Then, laughing, sports and plays with me;
Then stretches out my golden wing,
And mocks my loss of liberty.
Here we are with an obscure and forgotten jugband album with links to William Blake, the Grateful Dead / Jerry Garcia extended family (Old & in the Way) and the Fugs.
The rip is not mine, it comes from an old post on Red Telephone 66. It’s 192 k. If you want a better sound quality, check Eliot Kenin. (but the info dates from 2010). I hope he won’t mind me posting this (low bitrate) rip. I certainly don’t want to rip off the old guy.