Val Stoecklein

Grey Life

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In 1968, Val Stoecklein -- former leader of the Blue Things -- turned inward for a morosely introspective folk-rock solo LP, Grey Life. The album, released on the Dot label, did not sit well with critics, one of whom described it as sounding "like a warmed-over cup of Glen Campbell soup." The reviewer couldn't have been more correct. It's clumsily orchestrated and woefully too self-indulgent, and Stoecklein's remakes of his own Blue Things songs are appallingly banal, especially when compared with the originals. Dot issued two singles from the album, but radio couldn't or wouldn't help promote its release. Stoecklein continued to record, with uneven results. Environment (1970) was a melodic folk-rock concept album credited to a new group called Ecology (released on the Happy Tiger label). Truth of Truths (1971) was even more bizarre. The double album -- a "contemporary rock opera" with a Christian theme running from "creation to the second coming" (à la Jesus Christ Superstar) -- came with a 20-page booklet and boasted 26 songs, including a handful of prog/psych overtures with fuzzy guitars and thunderific drumming. Perhaps the most bizarre element, however, was that fact that Jim Backus (the voice of the animated Mr. Magoo character and Mr. Howell on TV's Gilligan's Island sitcom) was cast as the voice of God. Stoecklein, who struggled with depression, took his own life in May 1993.

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