Fan review: ‘Wake Up Where You Are’

Longtime fan David Chirko wrote this online review of the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s new CD “Wake Up Where You Are.” It’s reposted here with his permission.

strawberry alarm clock album coverThe Strawberry Alarm Clock’s 2012 “Wake Up Where You Are” CD sports a front cover with the slogan “Its (sic) About Time” and the band’s moniker, in big green/blue/red shagadelic lettering, with small, coloured flowers atop and (of course) centrepiece alarm clock with black Roman numerals encircling a large strawberry in its face, and outside of it left and right, more, smaller berries, all over an orange background.

It conjures the blissful musing of a sultry summer day. The also orange back cover showcases a top-right-corner photo — interestingly, the album’s name above it — of our minstrels gazing down, but somehow back, into a time tunnel. It, as well, under the group name, lists down the left side the album’s 14 songs; all but a handful penned by Clock alumni and most being rerecorded numbers from their earlier albums.

Listening to this new SAC CD I mentally ensconced myself back in the 1960s, when I first heard them. I asked myself: Would the same sound landscape I found so captivating then, recrudesce now, crafting an ariose déjà vu?

Whether SAC does psychedelic, sunshine pop, jazz oriented pop or rock, there is always something irresistibly arcane reflected in the cogency of their poetic/musical renderings. Their lush, often gossamer, vocal meshes are adroitly combined with taut harmonizing of a plethora of florid instruments, delivering a flower power orchestra. Like scintillating keyboards and warm, inviting, fuzz tone guitars that evoke what has become de rigueur in the Clock’s oeuvre: calm confidence.

Strawberry Alarm ClockSome of the disc’s works have a heavier, but pleasant, grittiness to them, while some pieces are served with aplomb, in cocktail lounge phraseology. Let the listener delve this mature band’s derring-do by comparing the originals with the redone tracks, whose altered tempi and newly inflected lyricism are yours to discover. To absorb the total impact of this more delicately performed album — with a hitherto unrealized dynamic range — it must be played LOUD.

Let me now exemplify, what I’ve asseverated thus far, with a few of my favourite opuses on this disc:

“Charlotte’s Remains”: Can’t you just envision go-go dancers in shimmering short shorts, gyrating in their cages? Okay, the captivating tale of a femme fatale; her “remains ” being the aftereffect upon the men she jilted. And where did Charlotte disappear to? For the answer, we’re taken into the psychedelic wonderland of ghosts.

“Drifting Away”: Commences with calescent tintinnabulation. The melody echoes, like a condor sailing over a bluff. The elocution, well timed. “Drifting away and taking my chances … ” — ah … dreaming leads the smitten awry. Drift away at the end as the volume decreases with strumming akin to a slowed clock or metronome.

“Hummin’ Happy”: The chorus opens this chestnut ballad of a “sadist” (long “a” this time) visually transforming the felicitous sights of an impetuous downtown into devastation: “Evil things make me laugh so … ” Compared with the old version, this offering is more liquid, without sacrificing SAC’s ebullient sardonicism.

“World Citizen”: Behemoth songwriting effort. A paean to the wonderment of camaraderie. Its enchanting flute is like the serpentine rising of a hand, there to sonically seduce us. The redolent percussion escorting us to a tribal culture.

I’ll stop here, leaving the rest up to you, curious listeners.

Yes, “It’s About Time,” as this comeback album’s subtitle announces, we, as SAC aficionados, “Wake Up Where We Are” and savour this fresh Strawberry treasure; praying there is a follow-up in the offing.

David Chirko is an abstract artist from Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He has published three poetry books and is an international affiliate member of the American Psychological Association.

More about the Strawberry Alarm Clock CD:

New Strawberry Alarm Clock CD is out

strawberry alarm clock CD 2012“Wake Up Where You Are,” the first new album from the Strawberry Alarm Clock in over 40 years, is now available.

The CD can be purchased via the “Wake Up Where You Are” product page (Global Recording Artists web site). Or via Amazon..

The album is a mix of new SAC songs and reinterpretations of their psychedelic rock classics. “Wake Up Where You Are” kicks off with the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s blistering cover of the Seeds’ “Mr. Farmer.” The album was produced by longtime Strawberry Alarm Clock collaborator Steve Bartek.

Ed King, the Strawberry Alarm Clock guitarist who went on to fame in Lynyrd Skynyrd, had this to say about the album: “The album is a labor of love. I wish I lived closer so I could take part. The guys play better than ever and the addition of Steve Bartek makes it now the way it should’ve been. I think his parents wouldn’t let him join the band! ‘Mr. Farmer’ is my favorite track. Mark Weitz NAILED it.”

The band — currently Mark Weitz, George Bunnell, Randy Seol, Howie Anderson and Gene Gunnels — will perform a rare L.A. concert on April 25 in support of the CD. The Strawberry Alarm Clock last performed publicly in November 2010.

More about the Strawberry Alarm Clock CD:

New Strawberry Alarm Clock CD

New Strawberry Alarm Clock band recording CDThe Strawberry Alarm Clock has a message for fans: New music is on the way.

Under the guidance of producer Steve Bartek, the band has been busy laying down tracks for a new CD.

(Update: “Wake Up Where You Are,” the first new album from the Strawberry Alarm Clock in over 40 years, is now available. It was released in March 2012.)

The album includes brand-new songs, a killer cover song and rerecordings (or reinterpretations) of some tunes from the band’s classic period — the late 1960s. (Read a track-by-track breakdown of the CD songs.)

Unlike some other ’60s rock acts, however, the SAC has no intention of leaning on songs from their younger days on future releases.

“These new songs were done to test the waters,” says SAC keyboardist Mark Weitz. “It’s a springboard to a second new album of all-new original material. We now are dedicated to recording new music.”

(Photos: Top of page, from left: Mark Weitz, Randy Seol, George Bunnell and Howie Anderson. Below: Weitz takes a break in the studio.)

SAC bass player George Bunnell says the original plan “was to embark on a recording project by revisiting and recording some of the old material ‘just to see if we could work together’ — and also to see what we sound like this many years later. Like, do we still sound like the SAC?

“Our real intention was to write and record new songs. We just wanted to get back to our roots a bit, establish a method and move on from there.”

musician Mark Weitz in Steve Bartek's studioWeitz says of the producer: “Steve (Bartek) had a tremendous role in the new recordings (for the CD). Without his patience, knowledge, vision and experience — not to mention his studio and the massive amount of donated studio time — this project never would have happened.”

Bartek (Oingo Boingo) has a long history with the band, dating back to before they hit the charts in 1966. He last played as a member of the Strawberry Alarm Clock during 2007-2010, but left due to his insanely demanding schedule scoring films with Danny Elfman (his Oingo Boingo bandmate).

The core band members — Bunnell, , Weitz, Howie Anderson, Randy Seol and Gene Gunnels — played live in the studio, just like in the old days. “We try to record together,” Weitz says. “Everything is mic’d, and we play and sing as a group. We try to musically overdub as little as possible.”

Bunnell recently answered a fan’s question about “Incense and Peppermints,” which is MIA on the CD: “The song is a difficult act to follow. There are so many serendipitous reasons for that original track coming together as it did, as well as a healthy amount of disdain over the mishandled writer’s credits and the possibility of us adding more revenue to that handbag.

“I think the track was doomed from the get go. We did have a nice (new) arrangement for it, but the original version is is what it is, because it is what it is. So we let that be.”

There are two alternate tracks on the CD. Both are extended versions of songs on the disc. One is the surprisingly psychedelic Seeds cover “Mr. Farmer.” (Appearing on an upcoming Sky Saxon memorial tribute CD set.) The other is the SAC classic “Sit With the Guru” revisited with a long drum solo.

Here are the songs on the upcoming CD in the projected running order:

1. Mr. Farmer (single version)*
2. Strawberries Mean Love
3. Hummin’ Happy
4. Birds in My Tree
5. World Citizen*
6. Drifting Away*
7. Lose to Live
8. Barefoot in Baltimore
9. Charlotte’s Remains*
10. Sit with the Guru (classic version)
11. Tomorrow
12. Wake up*
13. Mr. Farmer (extended with psychedelic jam)*
14. Sit with the Guru (extended with drum solo)

* = New

‘Mr. Farmer’ almost ready for harvest

Here’s a preview of the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s upcoming recording of “Mr. Farmer” by the Seeds. Turn it up!

Read about the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s new CD and view a track-by-track history of its songs.

SAC’s new sounds, track by track

strawberry alarm clock 2011

The Strawberry Alarm Clock is ready to unleash its recent recordings on the group’s first album in 40 years.

Here’s the lowdown on each of the tracks destined for the new Strawberry Alarm Clock CD, “Wake Up Where You Are” (in running order).

Mr. Farmer: The old Seeds song written by Sky Saxon and a cult classic. Long story short, Mark Weitz (keyboards, vocals) played a Saxon memorial concert in L.A. with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Saxson’s widow, Sabrina, asked the Strawberry Alarm Clock to participate in a multidisc tribute album set for release later in 2011. “Right off the bat, I said I wanted to do ‘Mr. Farmer,'” Weitz says. “Going with the less obvious.” Weitz listened to the original Seeds single for two weeks, added a few lyrics and then the Strawberry Alarm clock blasted it out in the studio, with Weitz on vocals. The result is a driving hard-rocker sure to startle a few fans. If the CD has a hit single, this is it. (Two versions of the song are on the CD — a single version and a seven-minute take with some serious acid rock going down.)

Strawberries Mean Love: From the first SAC album, written by teenagers George Bunnell and Steve Bartek. “We were really proud of the vocal harmonies on the new version,” Weitz says. The song gets fresh keyboard parts and a modern feel.

Hummin’ Happy: Another song from the first album, written by Bunnell and Randy Seol.

Birds in My Tree. Bunnell and Seol wrote this and it first appeared on the debut album.

World Citizen: A new song created by the band for Garry Davis’ World Citizen organization, which promotes and issues global passports. SAC’s “World Citizen” was used in an award-winning short film. Think world music filtered through Oingo Boingo. Producer Steve Bartek (a veteran of that ’80s band) plays flute. Lyrics by Randy Seol of SAC and Arthur Kanegif. Seol sings.

Drifting Away: Mark Weitz wrote this several years ago, after his wife passed away. Weitz sings with backup vocals by Howie Anderson, who also adds some tasty guitar work. “It’s a difficult song (to play), Weitz says. “It sounds like something out of a movie.”

Lose to Live
: Another number from the first album, written by Weitz. Lee Freeman sang the original. Seol handles the vocals this time, with Weitz taking over in the middle section. Bartek plays harmonica.

Barefoot in Baltimore: Weitz wrote this song for the first album with former guitarist Ed King. Original concept was to have a Motown sound, “but it never turned out that way,” Weitz says. New version includes a keyboard section that mimics vibes. From the second SAC album; single reached No. 67 on the record charts.

Charlotte’s Remains
: One of the first songs performed by the band when they started playing together again in 2007. Cover of a moody rocker by the current king of garage bands, the Fuzztones.

Sit With the Guru: Another ’60s song, a fan favorite written by Weitz with the help of guitarist King. “It has a modern twist now,” Weitz says. Bartek plays an electronic sitar and there’s a touch of oboe, giving the number a Middle Eastern vibe. An extended alternate take is the CD’s last track. The original was on the second SAC album, and charted as a single peaking at No. 65.

Tomorrow: The band stretches out via a longer ending than on the original. Seol sings the song, a single written for the second album by Weitz-King that peaked at No. 23 on the charts.

Wake Up: A new song written by guitarist Anderson with his friend Brad Swanson. Anderson sings as well. Psychedelic touches such as backward guitar and cymbals. Heavy like the Who. The extended ending is a studio jam that broke out after “Wake Up” was recorded but proved too good to throw away.

Mr. Farmer: The long version. Big guitar in the beginning and a ’60s-style freakout at the end. “Steve’s arrangement shines,” Weitz says.

Sit With the Guru: The long version with Seol’s 10-minute drum solo.

Sources: Mark Weitz, George Bunnell