This time let’s start with the song. It’s called The Town I’d Like to Go Back to by the Chicago band, The Cryan Shames. The song is found on the album A Scratch in the Sky (which was released in 1967).
I suppose its claim to obscurity is valid… the song was never released as a single and the album itself only reached #156 on the Billboard charts. Perhaps that’s why I was able to pick it up on the “reduced” rack for a couple of bucks about a year after its release (retailers usually punched a hole in the corner of the jacket to indicate its clearance status). Although I didn’t know Town at the time of purchase, I was familiar with (and liked) the two major singles associated with the album… It Could Be We’re in Love (#85) and Up on the Roof (also reached #85). You may recall my adolescent fondness for Chicago radio stations… the Shames being a Chicago band, their songs got favourable air play (beyond the national rating).
The previous year (1966) had been their breakout year… the single Sugar and Spice from their first album reached a respectable #49 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song, written by Tony Hatch (he of Downtown fame), provided the initial exposure to enable the group to sign with Columbia Records for Scratch, their second album.
Here’s a groovy contemporary promo clip for the new album from Columbia Records…
I think what stands out (for me) after all this time is that I still really like all the songs on the album. Living in an age of digital download where you pick and choose your favs, some of you may not appreciate the all-too-common situation of purchasing an vinyl LP which contains a song or two which you like only to find that those two songs are the only ones you like on the album. So it was a pleasure to put the album on… beginning to end… and not wince on certain tracks (or strategically skip them). And you can find most of the album tracks on Youtube (if interested). The album was recently reissued on CD (by Sundazed Music in 2002) and, while still clutching my well-worn vinyl copy, I decided to pick it up… and glad I did because all those songs are there, along with a number of bonus tracks. For the record (record…ha, ha), here are the track listings (for the CD)…
1. A Carol For Lorelei
2. The Sailing Ship
3. In The Cafe
4. Mr. Unreliable
5. The Town I’d Like To Go Back To
6. Up On The Roof
7. It Could Be We’re In Love
8. Sunshine Psalm
9. I Was Lonely When
10. Cobblestone Road (She’s Been Walkin’)
11. Dennis Dupree From Danville
12. It Could Be We’re In Love (Single Version)
13. I Was Lonely When (Single Version)
14. Young Birds Fly
15. Sunshine Psalm (Single Version)
16. Up On The Roof (Single Version)
17. The Sailing Ship (Single Version)
18. The Warm
The band has been described as “garage rock” but that moniker fails to recognize the complexity of composition and arrangement, vocal and instrumental, found in this album. Band members are, for instance, by this sophomore album, singing in four- and five-part harmony… one of the reasons I enjoy the songs so much. I mentioned It Could Be We’re in Love (track 7) and it demonstrates their fondness for vocal harmony in these arrangements…
For that reason (and others), the band is (to my mind) a prime candidate for a genre now described as Sunshine Pop. More on that topic in a future post!
p.s. They even get into a little “psychedelic bagpipe” on one track on Scratch… check it out…