The Holy Mackerel

The Holy Mackerel

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The Holy Mackerel's sole album garnered little notice upon its initial release in 1968, and is mostly known today for including Paul Williams, who wrote most of the material (sometimes with Roger Nichols), taking the majority of the lead vocals. There were other noted figures involved in the LP as well, although the group's lineup fluctuated during its recording: Richard Perry produced, brother Mentor Williams played rhythm guitar and took some lead vocals, original Jefferson Airplane bassist Bob Harvey (who left before the record was finished) wrote one song, and future Elvis Presley sideman Jerry Scheff plays bass on one track. The record might have some appeal beyond the circle of serious Williams fans, as both the material and production are more influenced by folk-rock and mild psychedelia than the '70s singer/songwriter fare for which he's most famous for. It's a largely likable album, if mild-mannered, erratic, and lacking the heavyweight hooks of Williams' famous hits. The best tunes are those that play up the most haunting melodies and the Mamas and the Papas-ish folk-rock harmonies, such as "The Secret of Pleasure," "Scorpio Red," "The Golden Ghost of Love," and "1984." The most psychedelic song, "Wildflowers" -- complete with raga-rock riffs, spaced-out lyrics, and distorted fishbowl vocals -- is an unequivocal highlight, though somewhat atypical, as it's the sole cut written by Harvey. There are less memorable stabs at country-rock (including a cover of "The Wild Side of Life"), and the cutesy theatrical "Prinderella," co-penned by Perry and Michael Rubini, is one to skip over. [The 2010 U.K. deluxe expanded reissue on Now Sounds goes all-out with the packaging, adding ten bonus tracks and historical liner notes including comments by Paul Williams himself. Those bonus tracks include the non-LP single "Love for Everyone"/"To Put Up with You," which are similar in quality and tone to much of the album, if perhaps a bit more pop-oriented; Williams would redo "To Put Up with You" for his 1970 solo debut LP. There are also mono 45 versions of three of tracks; the nice Simon & Garfunkel-like outtake "Listen to the Voice," co-written by Harvey and lead guitarist George Hiller; a Williams-penned outtake, "On the Way," and a demo of one of the LP's songs, "Bitter Honey." Capping the bonus material are largely instrumental work-in-progress session tapes for "Love for Everyone" and "And Now I Am Alone" that are mostly of scholarly interest.]

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