Compliation (single artist)
Even for those familiar with the vast recording universe of pop production deity Curt Boettcher, his sixties band The Ballroom is a corner of his career that remains something of an enigma. Compared to Curt's relatively renowned Sagittarius and Millennium projects, the Ballroom is still shrouded in mystery. As such, we must return to the beginning if we are to uncover the facts and chart the brief development of this short-lived but monumentally important recording group.
In November 1966, Curt Boettcher was on his way to becoming a highly sought-after producer in Hollywood, with a production vitae that already included such hits as "Sweet Pea", "Hooray for Hazel", "Along Comes Mary" and "Cherish" (though he would unfortunately not receive credit for the first two) and, shortly, "It's Now Winter's Day". Boettcher had also recently cut a record for his friend Lee Mallory titled "That's the Way It's Gonna Be" that, while not as commercially successful as the other songs I just mentioned, nevertheless had been heard and felt by a couple of his notable peers: Brian Wilson and Gary Usher.
It should be duly noted as well that Curt at this point was tied into a production contract with one Steve Clark, head of Our Productions. Though Clark was apparently little more than the money man in the equation, he and Boettcher had also recently elevated one of their house session musicians-- a young oboist named Jim Bell-- to co-producer status. However, if the label on the Ballroom's sole 45 is any indication, neither Clark nor Bell would have received a production credit on any Ballroom album. This was to be Curt Boettcher's baby and prize project from the start.
The group itself was hand-picked by Curt, and would a quartet. However, unlike the two-guy/ two-girl lineup of his previous band The Goldebriars (or the Mamas and Papas who were currently riding high atop the charts) this vocal group would be comprised of two male leads in Curt and Sandy Salisbury, a female lead in Michele O'Malley and an oboist in Bell. Working behind the scenes would be a team of players, singers and writers including the aforementioned Lee Mallory, ex-New Christy Minstrel Mike Whalen, former Goldebriar vocalists Dotti and Sheri Holmberg, and the team of musicians who comprised the Our Productions House Band.
It is known that their first album was in the can by December of 1966 and would have actually beaten Smile to the marketplace, had the group been signed to a deal at the time. (SOURCE: Dawn Eden.) A mono master reel dated 9/66 exists, its label shown within the booklet to Sundazed's Magic Time box set, with a ten track line-up. The tracks listed are as follows: "5 A.M."; "Magic Time"; "I'll Grow Stronger"; "Lead Me to Love"; "Would You Like to Go"; "You Turn Me Around"; "Baby Please Don't Go"; "It's a Sad World"; "Crazy Dreams" and "Why Don't You (Forever)". These were notated on the box as basic tracks, meaning they were most likely devoid of any vocals or instrumental overdubs.
Furthermore, a second mono master reel was also ultimately discovered, containing the previous ten songs as well as "Love's Fatal Way" and "Musty Dusty". This reel was dated 12/01/66 and was indeed the final master of the first Ballroom LP, tracks listed in the appropriate running order. We have faithfully replicated this line-up as the first portion of this CD compilation-- The Lost Ballroom Album.
As stated previously, the group did not have a record deal in place during the recording of their first LP. They were, however, ultimately signed to Warner Brothers by the beginning of 1967. The story has never been explained, but one likely scenario was that Our Productions initially did a deal for The Ballroom with Valiant Records (already home of affiliated artists like The Association, Lee Mallory and The Looking Glass), only to see the band brought under the Warner's umbrella when the larger label usurped the smaller indie, ca. March '67. Seemingly nonplussed, the group continued recording, actually committing even more material to tape. This is a fact that has mostly gone unknown or unheralded, even amongst Boettcher devotees: the band had at least another ten tracks in the can by mid-March, 1967-- enough for a second album!
The Ballroom also performed one live show at this time; a well-received gig at UCLA's spring Mardi Gras Festival. However, in a screw-up of monumental proportions, Warner's actually sat on the first Ballroom album, choosing not to release it. Instead, they coupled "Baby Please Don't Go" alongside a Ruthanne Friedmann song that was finished during the second album sessions titled "Spinning, Spinning, Spinning." Sadly and predictably, the single never made it past the promotional stage, their first album was never released and The Ballroom, perhaps *the* most commercially viable unsigned band in America, were dropped from the label and forced to disband.
What happened afterwards wasn't all bad for Curt Boettcher. He went on to produce one more album for Our Productions (Bobby Jameson's brilliant Color Him In), and then was bought out of his contract with Steve Clark by Columbia Records at the behest of Gary Usher. Some of The Ballroom's tracks, taken by Curt over to CBS as the result of the buy-out, would receive extensive overdubs and wind up on either Sagittarius's Present Tense or the Millennium's Begin LPs.
But what of the lost second Ballroom LP? Nobody's ever heard it, right? Well get ready...
Yes folks, here it is in all it's glory: Our best approximation of what the second Ballroom LP would have sounded like had it seen release. It contains all ten known tracks recorded by the group after the sessions for their first album, augmented with two other amazing Curt Boettcher productions from the Ballroom era. In terms of listenability, this record is every bit the equal of the first, ranging from the almost twee sunshine pop of "Spinning Spinning Spinning" to the haunting, mystical psych of the original "Karmic Dream Sequence #1". The Ballroom Returns fits nicely on this single CD right after The Ballroom, and we even bookended the set with the original 45 mixes of "Spinning" and "Baby Please Don't Go". Hard to find!
Everybody, please enjoy The Ballroom - The Complete Recordings on one CD, and saturate yourselves with the sounds of what surely must be the greatest lost band of the Sunshine Pop era!