The First Edition

The First Edition's 2nd

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A more focused '60s album than 1967's First Edition, what is missing from this follow-up LP is a hit single like "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," though the group more than makes up for that with solid performances. This was again produced by Mike Post, with arrangements by veteran Al Capps, who brought so much to Johnny Mathis, Cher, and many others. "Charlie the Fer de Lance" is indicative of this effort, with phasing fuzz guitar and Kenny Rogers as a hippie delivering odd lyrics on an interesting tune which isn't as direct as the group's first hit. Mike Settle's voice leads the pack on the second track, the Rogers/Williams co-write "If I Could Only Change Your Mind," another nice period piece that works well in this setting but wasn't going to burn up the charts. This is the First Edition as a real group, a full band before Kenny Rogers would start exerting more control on the third outing, First Edition '69. Mike Settle's "A Patch of Clear" is yet another vague essay from this era -- as odd as the opening track. Settle sounds great on Bob Stone's "A Good Kind of Hurt" and Thelma Camacho (who they have listed on the back cover as "Comancho") is just wonderful on her own composition "I Passed You By." The band works the Paul Williams/Roger Nichols little-known title "Only Me" to good effect to end side one. The song is chock-full of 1960s pop clich├ęs and would have fit nicely on an album from the Monkees or maybe an airline commercial. Songwriter Mickey Newbury's "Are My Thoughts With You?" opens side two and features Kenny Rogers performing in the style which would bring him his eventual solo success, delivering the most commercial performance on this 11-song collection. Four members of the International Graphoanalysis Society give profiles of the four singers from the First Edition on the back cover, making for one of the more interesting sets of liner notes from any album released in 1968. It's not just the almost astrological look at the musician's personalities through their handwriting which makes this disc special, it -- like the Fifth Estate's Ding Dong the Witch Is Back -- is a very special album from a special time that '60s cultists have completely overlooked. The First Edition were an excellent psychedelic folk-pop group, and First Edition's Second should be a much-sought-after collectors' item. Like the aforementioned Fifth Estate, they were left off of Lenny Kaye's Nuggets collection, perhaps because they conquered the charts seven separate times. Kenny Rogers and Mike Settle are the songwriters on the final four tracks, and they are all extraordinary journeys into the psyche of the '60s. Rogers' "Things Can't Be So Bad," followed by Mike Settles' "Rainbows on a Cloudy Day" and "The Sun Keeps on Rising," two songs about the weather, has that mood that fans of the genre adore. Mike Post's production brings it all home. Thelma Camacho and Terry Williams' voices helped make this group an underground Mamas & the Papas, and their vocals closing the disc out by embracing Kenny Rogers' wonderful "Look Around, I'll Be There" very well could have made it a sleeper hit and changed the band's history. Rogers would take over right after this, and as valuable as his contributions to country/pop would eventually turn out to be, the First Edition were more than just one person; The First Edition's Second proves that. It's by no means the lost Sgt. Pepper's, but it does have lots to offer and should be dusted off and given new life.

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