Despite blazing quite a few trails, the fact that The Beau Brummels only have a handful of hits often keeps them out of conversations on influential American Bands. While the ’60 nostalgia train never quite runs out of steam, this is one of the first times the band gets a real comprehensive treatment of their catalog and a massive collection of annotated liner notes that run down a lot of the highlights from the band. While they’re probably not the first group in the mouths of those looking to document U.S. folk-rock (pre-dating The Byrds) they offered up a non-surf reaction to the prevalence of British bands weaving their way into U.S. charts. Built on the guitar/vocal combo of Ron Elliott and Sal Valentino, the band stacked harmonies with the best of them, finding their early high watermarks with “Laugh, Laugh” and “You Tell Me Why” but the rest of their singles were a bit lost at sea with radio, due mostly to the fact that their label, Autumn, wasn’t nearly big enough to promote them as heavily as many larger outfits.
An early push into the folk-rock market wasn’t the only area that found the band pursuing firsts, and this set is most notable for getting their later albums Triangle and Bradley’s Barn back in front of some younger ears. Their early records were notable, but followed by a misstep that’s just a full album of covers that try to capitalize on others’ fame, a shame considering the songwriting talent that the Brummels possessed. In 1967 the band shaved down to a trio and recorded Triangle, an album that dipped into a growing genre of concept albums, based on a dream cycle and featuring sweeping string arrangements and even Van Dyke Parks on harpsichord. Again, Autumn had nowhere near the pull to get them near the charts, and this hidden gem remained swept away by landmark albums by The Beatles, Byrds, Airplane, and Hollies in the pop department (among dozens of others pushing psychedelic horizons).
The band only continued to keep at the edge of pop trends, with the follow-up to Triangle pursuing a Country-Rock edge before it swept through the early ‘70s as an essential angle for many bands. Coming out just months after The Byrds would hook up with Parsons and a few more after the ISB got a bit of the ball rolling, Bradley’s Barn is a country-rock classic that doesn’t enter the conversation nearly enough. Like The First National Band albums, this tends to get a bit squandered in roundups of bands working in the Country-rock genre whose heads were above the horizon at the time, but it’s great to see it presented here and accompanied by Alex Palao’s notes. The rest of the set includes a comprehensive assortment of out- takes, alternate mixes, 45 RPM versions, and unreleased demos drawn from the band’s own archives. As I said, The Beau Brummels aren’t necessarily the first name that one reaches for when running down ‘60s essentials, but this set might change a few minds.
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