The Beau Brummels – Turn Around: The Complete Recordings 1964-1970 (Now Sounds/Cherry Red)

The Beau Brummels were just one of many American bands attempting ride on the coat tails of The Beatles in 1964. And they did just that with early Beatle-esque hits such as Laugh Laugh and Just A Little. But as this 8-CD set reveals, there was much more to this band than their chart hits revealed.

Yes, once The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in on February 4th, 1964, any aspiring rocker worth his salt was suddenly “English”. Bands with names like The Buckinghams, The Byrds, The Royal Guardsmen and The Knickerbockers took on vaguely British names and hoped for the best. Hailing from the very un-English American West Coast, namely San Francisco, The Beau Brummels quickly took over the charts with their first two singles.

Laugh Laugh emerged December of 1964 with Just A Little following a few months later. Both singles made the US top 20, bother were written by bandmember Ron Elliott and both were produced by a young Sylvester Stewart (later Sly Stone).

Few bands of the time started with such a powerful one-two punch, never to really bother the charts again and eventually disbanding by the end of the decade.

So, what happened?

The Beau BrummelsOn paper everything seemed set to make The Beau Brummels one of the hottest bands of the 60s. Instead, they became one of the most under-appreciated as the 228 tracks featured here will attest to.

In addition to songwriter/guitarist Ron Elliott, the band featured front man Sal Valentino, a singer blessed with a unique quivering voice that seemed ready-made for the top 10.

Signed to the local Autumn label, the group released their second album, Volume 2, in August of 1965 an album that seemed to make good on the promises heard previously. Two more Ron Elliott singles were released, but neither  You Tell Me Why or Don’t Talk To Strangers manged to bother the charts much, the first barely braking into the Top 40, the latter not even coming close.  Listening back to those records today and one has to wonder what went wrong. The entire album is full of jangly beauties such as Sad Little Girl, I’ve Never Known and the Valentino-penned That’s Alright.

The original album had 12 tracks, and in this package, has been expanded to 30! And, unlike other similar box sets, we don’t get endless remakes, alternate versions of the same handful of songs. This was clearly a band fizzing with creativity and they had the songs to prove it.

There was a bright side…the band had been signed to Warner Brothers Records with production and management assistance from Tom Donahue, Bob Mitchell and Lenny Waronker. On paper this looks great, but the label rushed out an album of covers and why they were asked to record versions of current hits Mr Tambourine Man, Hang On Sloopy and Homeward Bound is anyone’s guess. Again, listening back, they sound just fine, but as the 25 bonus tracks prove, this band had plenty of quality original songs that were going to waste.

No problem though, because in July 1967 the group, now down to a trio, released Triangle an album, that, listening back today, sounds as if it single-handedly invented Americana. By this time Elliott and Valentino had formed a dynamic writing partnership, with the third member being bass player Ron Meagher. The cream of LA session players (Carol Kaye, Van Dyke Parks, James Burton) rounded out the sound with Waronker producing.

The result was an album that should have made an impact equal to The Band’s Music From Big Pink and Dylan’s John Wesley Harding. Instead it died a quick death and faded into obscurity. As did the next album, 1968’s Bradly’s Barn, recorded in Nashville and again proving that this was a band to be reckoned with.

The Beau BrummelsInstead, this was a band on its last legs.

Sal and Ron continued to record together until 1970, when both went their separate ways…only to get the band back together in the studio one more time in 1975 for a self-titled reunion album, curiously not included here.

But what is included in this massive set are enough musical gems to keep you up late at night wondering what happened to The Beau Brummels?

Marty Duda

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