One of the brightest lights of new American pop psychedelia, LA’s Salvation Army debuted with an album that was liable to inspire young bands all around the world to join in the fun. The trio’s melodies have the ethereal quality of a young Syd Barrett; the music is a blend of all the most colorful ’60s sounds, showing the influence of such groups as the Byrds, Move, Hollies, Music Machine and others.
Following legal action by the real Salvation Army (concerns over musical competition?), the group changed its name to the Three O’Clock. (Three years later, Frontier cleverly repackaged the original album as Befour Three O’Clock.) The five songs on Baroque Hoedown have poppier vocals and equally engaging music. The addition of ex-Quick/Weirdos drummer Danny Benair also brought the quartet a harder edge. Don’t miss their cover of the Easybeats’ “Sorry.”
Sixteen Tambourines is even better — an incredible full-length collection of chiming, memorable power pop tunes played and sung as if each track were likely to get played on every radio station coast-to-coast. Slick and inventive production by Earle Mankey delivers the songs (most co-written by guitarist Louis Gutierrez and bassist Michael Quercio) in utterly engaging style. Best numbers: “On My Own,” “Jet Fighter,” “And So We Run.” Absolutely charming and remarkably memorable. (The CD includes Baroque Hoedown and some bonus tracks.)
In 1985, the Three O’Clock signed to IRS and released their second album. Arrive Without Travelling isn’t quite as delightfully twinky as its predecessor, but it does contain enough characteristically lightheaded material (“Her Head’s Revolving,” “Simon in the Park”) to maintain the group’s standing as preeminent paisley popsters.
Ever After saw Gutierrez exit the group (he’s now in Louis and Clark), to be replaced by Steven Altenberg without any major changes in the group’s sound or direction. Shortly after its release, the group parted ways with IRS, spent some time in legal limbo and then signed to Paisley Park. Apparently, Prince had heard and liked them (not too surprising, since Around the World in a Day draws on many of the same influences as Three O’Clock’s records), though they’d never actually met. With Jason Falkner replacing Altenberg and Ian Ritchie producing, the group recorded Vermillion, their most interesting and varied album to date, which includes Prince’s (sorry, Joey Coco’s) “Neon Telephone” — just right for them — a lead vocal apiece by Falkner and keyboardist Mike Mariano (both great) and Quercio’s six-minute ballad, “Through the Sleepy Town.” Three O’Clock broke up later that year, with Quercio going on to form Permanent Green Light.