Though spelt (sorry, spelled) ‘Colours’ with a ‘u‘, they’re an American band. Proudly boasting anglomaniacal attributes, Brits would be proud to claim origin, but be they British, American, or not even remotely occidental, Colours’ self-titled debut is excellent.
Beatlesque – adj.
1. of, relating to, or suggestive of the musical style or technique of the Beatles.
2. a lazy, cop-out of an explanation used to describe pop music that is principally melodic, up-beat, and indicates 1960s, Northern-British influence.
On that note I’ll abstain from the phrase for the purposes of reviewing this album, which deserves a descriptive endorsement as a fine slice of transatlantic 60’s psychedelia.
Assembled for a studio project, Colours were Carl Radle, Chuck Blackwell, Gary Montgomery, Jack Dalton and Rob Edwards. Bassist Radle is perhaps best known for his work in Derek & the Dominoes and had become a prominent session player prior to the album. Released on the ill-prepared country and easy-listening label Dot in 1968, the record was poorly marketed and flopped commercially. A disappointing follow-up came in 1969’s Atmosphere, lacking the vibrancy of the debut, and Colours faded. Let’s get into the music they left behind.
Recorded over a few months in late 1967, this record is a sonic anomaly against its regional contemporaries. While a west coast outfit, Colours absorbed themselves less in Californian garage and guitar freak-outs, but championed melody, preferring to form bright and poppy arrangements around a strong tune.
Swinging in from the ether is the opening melodrama ‘Bad Day At Black Rock, Baby’, a capricious number that dances out of the speakers with symphonic embellishments, jumping between time signatures, with occasional unexpected interludes and musical turns. The lyrics tell of a hopeless, nothin’-to-lose hedonist – imagine Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Wednesday Morning 3AM’ turned sour.
‘Love Heals’ follows, bursting with energy and an unapologetic, gospel-tinged gait. The vocal performance is stunning and the melody positively euphoric, fitting for a hippy anthem – ‘Do you love one another?‘.
McCartney’s influence is strongest on ‘Helping You Out’. By this point its abundantly clear that Colours have some vocal horsepower, the backing harmonies are sunny and sweet and add bags of character. ‘Where Is She’ might be a little too saccharine for some, but it’s not without substance and doesn’t outstay its welcome.
‘Rather Be Me’ carves out a unique sonic fingerprint with an affected vocal and unusual melody. The middle-8 throws the listener into dreamy territory before a tempo shift raises the intensity. Contrast this with the laid-back cool of ‘I’m Leaving’ which closes the side.
Side two brings the single, ‘Brother Lou’s Love Colony’, an ode to the hippy dream with an ontological undertone; ‘Love is the reason we’re here’. The final tracks on the second side return to poppier, melodic climbs, rounding off with the vaudevillian ‘Don’t You Realise’, perhaps inspired by ‘Mother’s Lament’ on Cream’s ‘Disraeli Gears’.
In this way, it’s clear that Colours didn’t take themselves too seriously. The resulting record is a swift stroke of sunny psychedelia, infused with transatlantic influence, powerful pop melodies and fine performance. A worthy disc.