Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chocolate Watch Band - No Way Out (1967)

While they were fixtures of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene of the late sixties, time has not been kind to the Chocolate Watchband. Today they remain largely forgotten by all but the more avid listeners of music from this period.

For those unfamiliar—close your eyes and imagine the Rolling Stones… now picture a runaway freight train ramming the Stones through a mushroom clouded prism of psychedelia. That sound is the Chocolate Watchband.

Their music has not stood the test of time as well as some of their contemporaries largely because, other than a very small handful of bands from that era, psychedelia burnt out (like many of the musicians who performed it) within a relatively short span of time. Its popularity was not sustained and the spaced out trippy keyboard sounds remain relics of the bygone era in which the music was originally recorded.

There was a definite Stones influence that was especially evident on songs like Come On (which sounds so reminiscent of the Stones you might even check the liner notes to make sure it’s NOT Mick Jagger singing). And speaking of the Stones, these guys had a rather huge pair—it takes a pair to tackle music as diverse as the aforementioned Stones influenced Come On to the Wilson Pickett staple In the Midnight Hour to the spacey Pink Floyd-esque instrumental Dark Side of the Mushroom (which predates PF’s Dark Side of the Moon by several years).

If these guys had adapted and changed with the changing times they likely would today be mentioned in the same breath as guys like Jimi Hendrix, the Jefferson Airplane, the Who, Pink Floyd, and other bands that today get name-dropped like jelly-beans into a musical Easter Basket. The talent was there, but perhaps the vision was not. As quickly as they appeared and were noticed, they had disappeared.

Today No Way Out is a time capsule of the Summer of Love—and it’s one of the better (if lesser known) capsules of that era. The most dated of their songs Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love In) is catchy upbeat and features more of those Mick Jagger-esque vocals that the band was known for in their prime. The album is enjoyable from start to finish with not a weak track on it not to mention a seminal album of its era and of the psychedelic genre.

Related Links
The Chocolate Watchband (official site)
The Chocolate Watchband (wikipedia)
The Chocolate Watchband (allmusic)


Sean Coleman said...

Excellent write up on a really cool record. Revisionist history tends to focus solely on the big acts of the sixties (Beatles, Stones, Dylan etc. ) and sweeps much under the proverbial carpet, including bands like this.

Charlie said...

I thought I knew everyone from this era but I never heard of Chocolate Watch Band. Sounds like I've been missing something!

Perplexio said...

Sean: When I was in high school I had a 1994 calendar of concert posters from the late 60s-early 70s of Bill Graham's various venues (Fillmore West, Winterland, Avalon Ballroom, etc.) I started delving into some of the bands that I saw listed on those posters-- many of which I'd never heard of. Chocolate Watch Band was one of those bands. Boy am I ever glad I checked them out!

Charlie: I think you'd really dig them. Their music is an aural snapshot of the late 60s SF Bay area music scene. While time has not been as kind to bands of that region from that era as it has been with British invasion bands of the same era there was certainly a wealth of musical talent in that region as well.

Keenan P said...

Nice review, but I take issue with your assertion that "Are You Gonna Be There" is "dated". Because it mentions a "love-in"? I find it to be the best verse-chorus-verse, rock 'n' roll song on the record, not to mention the best song overall. Pretty awesome understated guitar solo as well.

andy said...

To everybody dropping by here, now and in the future: please search YouTube for a great performance in 2007 (!) of 'No Way Out' at Fuzzfest Northwest in Portland, OR.

Living legends in action!!