FRANTIC — Conception (review)

FRANTIC — Conception album cover Album · 1970 · Heavy Psych Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
The band which consisted of Max Byfuglin (vocals), Jim Hass (vocals, keyboards), Kim Sherman (guitar), David Day (bass), Dennis Devlin (guitar) and Phil "Gordo" Head (drums) realized that Montana was not the place to make it to the big leagues and took the round about way to Los Angeles via Santa Fe, NM and Colorado Springs, CO. Just one look at the freaky yellow and crimson album cover will make you think that this is some sort of psychedelic version of Black Sabbath or Coven but in reality FRANTIC was a heavy psych band steeped in the psychedelic pop of the 60s due to the strong presence of the organ but also employed a heavier guitar presence than many other bands of this style which made them clear contemporaries of bands like The Pink Fairies, The Stooges, MC5 and Blue Cheer.

Once settled in sunny Los Angeles the band had a better time finding a record deal and signed on to the Lizard Records label where they would release their one and only album CONCEPTION in 1970. Having a polished and distinct sound that employs tight-knit instrumental interplay, heavy rock with guitar solos and oodles of fuzz organ, FRANTIC nailed the more pop oriented side of the heavy psych scene down however the one problem of this album is that it continued the trend of the 60s when bands recorded many cover songs of other bands and therefore this album feels like its more from 1968 then 1970 when the music scene was already shifting to progressive rock as well as the fledgling genre of early heavy metal. Despite the lack of songwriting talent, the band performed the covers quite well and the remaining originals were of very good quality as well.

The album begins with a hard hitting version of “Baby” written by the team of Clive Westlake and Mort Shuman, the latter a stalwart songwriter of Baroque pop that transcended the great Atlantic divide from New York to London. The second cover of the Billy Roberts song “Hey Joe” which was first recorded by “The Leaves” and made popular by the Jimi Hendrix Experience was a rock standard at this point and although it sounds a bit cliche to include this well known classic, FRANTIC did an excellent job at keeping it distinct from Hendrix and offered one of the most laid back and atmospheric tracks on the album. The other covers include Van Morrison’s “Little Girl,” Bonnie Dobson’s “Morning Dew” and the first single of the album “Midnight To Six Man” which was recorded by The Pretty Things a few years prior. The remaining tracks were all originals that sat well next to the reinterpreted covers which gave FRANTIC a distinct personality that sounded like no other. The strength of the album is that the music is upbeat and delivers excellent musicianship.

While not exactly a long lost masterpiece, CONCEPTION is far from a throwaway album that deserves to be buried in the annals of time. In fact this album is the perfect blend of groovy 60s vibes with the up and coming hard rock of the 70s and sits perfectly at the odometer change albeit more steeped in the 60s psych than the 70s heavy at times. It feels like the band would’ve really leaped into the level of excellence with just one more album but given that albums were expensive to record in those days and record labels were saturated with new talent that not every band was able to be nurtured to its full potential. There are many great moments on this one and if you can’t get enough heavy psych of the era with emphasis on catchy pop hooks then FRANTIC’s one and only studio album CONCEPTION is well worth a listen or two.
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