9 February 2014

Harmony Grass - Cecilia/ Mrs. Richie

Label: RCA
Year of Release: 1970

After British sixties harmony pop stalwarts The Castaways splintered, leader Tony Rivers decided to continue down the already established route that group had taken.  The Harmony Grass was formed with new members but precisely the same approach in mind - close approximations of the American West Coast sound being transplanted on to both existing and brand new material.

When The Harmony Grass hit home, they were really pretty damn good, occasionally mixing toy town psychedelia in with their sound alongside an enormously slick harmonic approach.  "Happiness Is Toy Shaped" is a beautiful piece of popsike which sounds akin to what the Beach Boys Christmas Album should have been in an ideal world.  Its A-side, "Move In A Little Closer, Baby" is, on the other hand, unremarkable bubblegum.  

"Cecilia" b/w "Mrs Richie" follows much the same pattern, with a driving bongo boogie version of Simon and Garfunkel's catchy but middle-of-the-road ditty on side A, and a much more meandering, thoughtful Wilson-esque sprawl across the flip which is far more satisfying.  "Mrs. Richie" still borders on the twee, and seems to be snatching some Paul Simon influences to add to the paisley brew, but is beautifully arranged, from the droning keyboards to the vocal harmonies.  There's an unexpected diversion and surprise at every moment, and it's the sound of a sixties group fully playing with the palette on offer.  If it's guilty of anything, it's probably taking too winding a course for its own good.

Ultimately, though, the group offered little which couldn't also be obtained elsewhere which might have been responsible for them becoming marginalised.  But if you're short of golden coastal sounds in your collection, The Harmony Grass's Anglicised approach to the form is often intricate and pretty, and worth your time investigating.

After the group wound down at the end of 1970, Tony Rivers later went on to do session work, specialising in vocal arrangements. Well, there's a surprise. 

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