Title: Pure Buckwheat Honey
Company: Super K
Catalog: SKS 6004
Country/State: Baytown Texas
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG+
Comments: small piece of scotch tape along top seam; minor ring wear; promo stamp on back cover
You can find quite a bit of information about the band Buckwheat, however it is about a different, California-based outfit that came along a couple of years after this band. This group seems to have largely vanished from the public's memory. You won't even find them in well known references such as Vernon Joynson's Fuzz, Acid and Flowers.
Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Timothy Harrison Dulaine had spent time in New York City as a member of the band Clouds and working as a solo act. He'd also attracted a friend/mentor in the form of A&R man/producer Robert Margouleff. In 1968 he decided to form a band, bassist Charlie Bell, drummer Danny Casey, and lead guitarist John Govro. Dulaine had played with Casey in Clouds, and he'd worked with bassist Bell in The Raggamuffins. As Buckwheat the band's first big break came when they were hired as the house band at New York's famed Cafe Wha. The resulting publicity attracted the attention of Jeffrey Katz and Jerry Kasenetz's Buddah Records-affiliated Super K label which quickly signed them to a recording deal.
Recorded at New York's Broadway Recording Studios with Margouleff producing, "Pure Buckwheat Honey" didn't win any prizes for originality. With Casey, Dulaine, and Govro sharing writing duties, the band was clearly looking for a musical identify, latched on to a diverse set of influences including 1930s English music hall ('Radio'), country ('The Albert Hotel'), and a healthy dose of The Beatles. The Beatles influences were especially apparent on side two performances like 'The Poor Widow And Her Gypsy Band', 'Purple Ribbons' and 'Wonderful Day' (okay the latter actually sounded like Badfinger doing a Fab Four track). Under the adage imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, most of the performances weren't bad. Dulaine had a likeable voice and the rest of the band were decent enough players (though their efforts were apparently bolstered by at least some sessions players).
- 'Yes' found the band doing their best faux-English pop imitation. The song was actually pretty good, if a little dated for 1969, though to my ears the track's highlight came in the form of Randy James' George Harrison-styled guitar break. Very 'Revolver-esque' ... rating: **** stars
- I'm not sure why so many 1960s-era groups thought English music hall was a genre worth pursuing (put the blame on Paul McCartney), but 'Radio' gets my nod as the album's worst performance. I'm sure they thought the result was cute ... it wasn't. rating: * star
- Unfortunately, 'Mr. Simms Collector Man' wasn't much better. Clearly borrowing from the Fab Four's 'Sgt Pepper' songbook, this was imitation in its most mindless form. Song structure, arrangements, instrumentation, lyrics ... it all made for third rate 'Day In the Life'. rating: ** stars
- With an irritating country twang, 'The Albert Hotel' was apparently an autobiographical piece, paying homage to the band's time in New York. Giving credit where due, one the song actually got going it wasn't bad, with the underlying melody much more rock oriented than you originally thought. rating: *** stars
- One of two tracks penned by Govro, 'Sunshine Holiday' was a slightly trippy ballad that was one of the album's sleepers. The melody took awhile to unveil itself, but once given a chance, the song crept into your head. rating: *** stars
- The standout performance on side one, 'Goodbye Mr. Applegate' was a conventional rocker with a great melody and some tasty Govro fuzz guitar. Nice harmony vocals added to the track's radio friendly appeal. This one should have been the single ... rating: **** stars
- Back to their best English accents, 'The Poor Widow And Her Gypsy Band' was an attractive mid-tempo number that served to showcase the band's impressive harmony vocals - this one's always reminded me a bit of Styx song. Another sleeper with a great hook, though the klezmer closer was somewhat unexpected. rating: **** stars
- Due in large part to Govro's Harrison-styled lead guitar, 'Don't You Think It Would Be Better' was another rocker that had a distinctive mid-1960s Beatle-esque feel to it. As a big fan of that genre, that was meant as a compliment. rating: **** stars
- The ornate 'Penny Lane' styled horns will turn some folks off, but 'Purple Ribbons' was a beautiful ballad which again underscored their affection for English pop. rating: **** stars
- With a great melody that instantly wrapped itself around your head, 'Wonderful Day' was the song Badfinger always wanted to write. A near perfect slice of power pop, it's hard to believe this one didn't generate some sort of radio play. rating: **** stars
- Tapped as a single, 'Howlin' At The Moon' was another likeable power pop tune with a distinctive English pop feel. Not quite as good as a couple of the earlier efforts, but still fun to hear. rating: *** stars
- The album's longest composition, 'Pure Buckwheat Honey' had some fantastic sections and could have been a stunning song if they'd done a bit of judicious editing on the track. As it was, the track just kind of bounced all over the place. Just when you thought it had found a groove, it was on to a different idea. Kind of like watching a kid with ADA bounce around ... rating: *** stars
Elsewhere Super K tapped the album for a pair of instantly obscure singles:
- 1969's 'Radio' b/w 'Goodbye Mr. Applegate' (Super K catalog number SK-12)
- 1969's 'Howling At the Moon' b/w '' (Super K catalog number SK-)
Certainly not an album for everyone, but it has enjoyable moments to make it worth tracking down. An added bonus comes in the fact you can still find it at a reasonable price.
In spite of extensive touring the album failed to chart and by 1971 the band had called it quits.
"Pure Buckwheat Honey" track listing:
1.) Yes (Timmy Harrison) - 2:34
2.) Radio (Timmy Harrison) - 3:05
3.) Mr. Simms Collector Man (Charles Bell) - 2:50
4.) The Albert Hotel (Timmy Harrison) - 2:43
5.) Sunshine Holiday (Govro) - 3:20
6.) Goodbye Mr. Applegate (Timmy Harrison)
1.) The Poor Widow And Her Gypsy Band (Timmy Harrison) - 3:06
2.) Don't You Think It Would Be Better (Govro) - 1:44
3.) Purple Ribbons (Timmy Harrison) - 2:52
4.) Wonderful Day (Charles Bell) - 2:58
4.) Howlin' At The Moon (Timmy Harrison) - 2:29
5.) Pure Buckwheat Honey (Timmy Harrison) - 4:24
Dulaine subsequently went on to play with the band Stray Dog.