Sagittarius

Present Tense

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Though really a studio project instead of a real group, Sagittarius' Present Tense has been whispered about constantly since its release in 1968. It began as a solo outlet for producer Gary Usher when he wasn't making stunning LPs by the Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, ex-Byrds leader Gene Clark, and the Beach Boys. In fact, its totally enthralling song, the initial 1967 single, "My World Fell Down" -- which went to number 70 in the charts -- is largely sought after by the most fanatical of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys followers, since it not only replicates that unique and incomparable production value, but benefits greatly from a lead vocal by Glen Campbell. Not his "Rhinestone Cowboy" voice, it's the more angelic, boyish Mike Love tones he employed when then touring and recording with the Beach Boys. As well, real Beach Boy Bruce Johnston sings a key part, as does fellow producer Terry Melcher (and vaunted session man Hal Blaine sits in). Mixing "Good Vibrations" with "God Only Knows," "My World Fell Down" is a missing link to pre-breakdown Brian Wilson's obsessions, particularly the bonus-track single version, which blends in pre-psychedelia sounds of a bullfight, an alarm clock, and a crying infant. Subsequent recordings found Usher teaming with singer/writer/producer Curt Boettcher, whom Usher met while working with Wilson, and some use songs from the latter's singing group Ballroom and players from Boettcher's new, real band Millennium. None of this now-deceased pair's work can match "My World Fell Down," but Present Tense serves up a gentle brew of folkish-rock, Baroque pop (lots of woodwinds, strings, etc.), and Summer of Love atmosphere. Perhaps the star is the production itself, and with nine bonus tracks doubling the length, and Sundazed's (and @Rev-Ola's) typical loving mastering/curating, this is a lovely memory.

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