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Not the 1971 album, also self-titled, by Spring, a progressive rock group with the same name, this particular Spring is an excellent artifact from the world of the Beach Boys, and is highly entertaining with much historical value. The album features Marilyn Wilson-Rovell and Diane Rovell, who Creem magazine managing editor Ben Edmonds explains in his trippy liner notes were the Rovell Sisters and the Honeys, and is produced by Marilyn's husband, Brian Wilson. The gals stare out of the gatefold in a blurry blue hue -- an appropriate image for a disc that never got the notice it deserved. The album begins with "Tennessee Waltz," a two-minute version that puts the vocals front and center in a fusion that might be called "girl group folk music." Not as orchestrated as the Beach Boys' thick harmonies and the all-pervasive carbon-copy wall of Spector-ized sound, this is more like Brian Wilson emulating Spector's work with the Teddy Bears, light and airy with the ladies' voices very present and in control. The major find here is track two, "Thinkin' 'Bout You Baby," written by Wilson and Mike Love. It is the song "Darlin'" in different form, and it is lovely hearing that melody with other lyrics and in this unique setting. Renditions of the Shirelles' "Mama Said" and Bonnie Bramlett's "Superstar" don't fare as well as the originals and more obscure tunes here though. On the popular covers they come off as a forced girl group, abandoning the folksy charm of the first two songs. They overdo a song that Rita Coolidge made a name with, and if Bramlett didn't like what Karen Carpenter did to her song, she might take solace in the fact that at least this album stayed underground and was a tip of the hat to Bramlett's songwriting genius. Tommy Roe's "Everybody" gets a similar treatment to the group's version of "Mama Said," and at least the cover tunes give insight to what the group was attempting to do.

They do it much better when Wilson gives them material, or uncovers music like "Now That Everything's Been Said," the title track to Carole King's lost classic, the City album. It is one of Spring's best moments, but the tonal quality remarkably favors King. The addition of Carole King and Gerry Goffin's song covered by Ricky Nelson and Ben E. King in the mid-'60s, "Down Home," is also a treat. What you get with the Spring album is Wilson lovingly creating music with his significant other, and unearthing some gems in the process. The best tracks, along with the early version of "Darlin'" and the two Carole King covers, are the Wilson co-writes "Sweet Mountain" (penned along with co-producer and co-arranger David Sandler), "Good Time," which Wilson put together with Alan Jardine, Dennis Wilson and Greg Jacobson's "Forever," and Floyd Tucker's "Awake." The album just misses being a grand slam, perhaps because the production doesn't hit you over the head the way Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe" or the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" exploded off the turntable. Despite a few flaws, this is as essential a recording as the City's 1969 debut, Now That Everything's Been Said, and really should have made some serious noise. The LP was re-released on Rhino as well as a 1994 issue on See for Miles that listed the group as American Spring, probably to keep the confusion down regarding the aforementioned Pat Moran ensemble. The original album art on the United Artists vinyl is a bluish/sea-green head of a statue with stars in its eyes on the front cover and hearts in its eyes on the back. That artwork was kind of prophetic, as this album is a true artifact in every sense of the word, and one with some great moments that are truly important, not just because they are obscure.

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