Out Here

Sweet smell of excess
Smell of Incense
Southwest F.O.B.
Sundazed Music Inc.

They say history never forgets, which is scary indeed when you consider that sooner or later, every forgotten rock-and-roll nugget and turd will turn up on compact disc. Yesterday's echoes are today's digital treasures, or so the old folks would like you to think as they clean out the closets in hopes of rescuing one-hit wonders and blunders from oblivion. All of a sudden, rock's footnotes become the subject of 20-track compilations--nothing's ever lost forever, not as long as there are still royalty checks to split up. Not even the dead-and-buried music made in Dallas some 30 years ago by two men who would come to define soft-rock in the soft-rock '70s: Dan Seals and John Colley, better known and forgotten as England Dan and John Ford Coley. What's that smell? Incense? Whatever you say, dude.

Actually, the title track--a pared-down, cleaned-up version of a song recorded and released by the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band in 1967--is a pretty nifty exercise in psychedelic pop. The way Southwest F.O.B. perform it, with the twee organ giving way to fuzzed-out guitars and a tame little freakout, you can almost hear how Dallas interpreted the 1960s: like the rest of the country, but, ya know, nicer. The WCPAE's version rambled and rolled on forever, like an acid high with its ups and downs; the F.O.B. condensed the song, made it friendly to radio and the Greenville Ave. crowd, sweetened it till it tasted like candy, and scored a minor hit. Even now, the song sounds rather charming--it's stoner-rock for the just-say-no crowd, teeny-pop groovers keeping it short and sweet because they cared about getting on the radio instead of just gettin' it on.

But too much of Smell of Incense, featuring tracks cut when the band was known as both Theze Few and Southwest F.O.B., just points toward what Seals and Colley (who later changed the spelling to Coley) would offer up a decade later--rock so dainty it cried before you even hit it. That, and it proves Jackopierce wasn't the first band from Dallas to strike it rich playing schlocky folk masquerading as pop-rock pretending to be "exotic." (My, what a proud heritage.) The Colley-Seals composition "Tomorrow" ("The sky's black / the moon overcaaaaast") makes Simon and Garfunkel sound like porn voiceovers; the "Feelin' Groovy" redo (with horns, lots of freakin' horns) proves Paul Simon really did write music for elevators; "Green Skies" sounds like everything ever recorded in 1968; and the Chuck Berry cover ("Nadine") is "out there" enough to make you wonder what these guys might have sounded like if they had better drugs. Probably would have been a lot like "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," the Joe Zawinul avant-pop cut these boys turned into something that sounded like Chicago--damn it, always with the horns.

--Robert Wilonsky


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