Family Tree

Miss Butters

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While Bob Segarini is a hero to pop obsessives thanks to his bright, rollicking work with the Wackers and his superb solo album Gotta Have Pop, his recordings with his early group the Family Tree are a different and more sophisticated kettle of fish. The Family Tree's sole LP, 1968's Miss Butters, was a concept album at a time when that was still a very novel thing, and the LP boasted intelligent, beautifully crafted songs bolstered by polished, thoughtful production from Rick Jarrard and imaginative arrangements by George Tipton. Miss Butters was recorded while Jarrard and Tipton were working on another ambitious exercise in chamber pop, Harry Nilsson's Aerial Ballet, and a few of the same session musicians play on both albums, while Nilsson collaborated with Segarini on one of the album's tunes, "Butters Lament." While it would be going a bit overboard to suggest Miss Butters is a better album than Aerial Ballet, in many respects time has been kinder to the Family Tree's effort; Nilsson's work, fine as it is, is sometimes hampered by an air of nostalgia for an era that he never saw, but Segarini's songs evoke their time and place with a more potent and less self-conscious tone, and the tale of the sad life and times of an elderly school teacher remain poignant and effective without schmaltz. Suggesting a middle ground between the Kinks' The Village Green Preservation Society and the best sides of the Left Banke, Miss Butters is a lovely, overlooked triumph of '60s chamber pop, and it documents a facet of Bob Segarini's talent that isn't evident on much of his later work.

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