Rebecca and the Sunnybrook Farmers

Birth

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This is a delightfully weird record, and one that grows on the listener with repeated plays. Rebecca & the Sunnybrook Farmers were a sextet from Pittsburgh, PA, who didn't seem to have any fear of where to tread musically. The songs here range from breezy lyrical pop ( "Ma-Ma" ) that breaks into waltz time signatures -- picture a cousin to "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing" with a lead vocal somewhere midway between Laura Nyro and Joanie Sommers -- to topical political statements ("What Do You Think of the War?"), the latter highlighted by extended instrumental freakouts (the latter broken up by lush choruses and an intermittent lead vocal, all supplemented by a sitar). And in between those two extremes are Janis Joplin-style blues workouts, upbeat mid-'60s folk-rock ballads, and spacy psychedelic excursions, highlighted by Mickey Kapner's guitar and organ and Ilene Novog's viola; the latter even gets into sonic and textural reaches that weren't explored much more heavily until Jerry Goodman joined the Flock. And coupled with debts also owed to the Byrds, the early/middle Jefferson Airplane ("Endless Trip"), the Doors ("What Do You Think of the War"), and even the We Five, this is one eclectic album, covering lots of territory, and most of it surprisingly well. The ballads hold up best of all, but even the anti-war material is highly effective musically.

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