Tuesday, July 9, 2013

SPAZ reviews The Hidden World Revealed by THE THREE O'CLOCK!



     Although they were adored during their heyday in the '80s, The Three O'clock have been criminally overlooked by many critics and music fans since their demise at the tail end of that decade.  While still hailed as heroes in their hometown of Los Angeles, the rest of the world focused on bigger names when it came to programming their flashback playlists.  But while a handful of other '80s bands were continually being overplayed on satellite and internet radio stations, The Three O'clock were quietly being reappraised by a new generation of fans.  The  quality of their earlier recordings for the Frontier Records label still sounded fresh and invigorating, unlike many of their over-produced, keyboard-heavy contemporaries.  When the band announced a short reunion tour bookended by appearances at Coachella in April, 2013, interest in the band finally came to the surface. At that point, it was obvious to everyone that the band had a devoted and dedicated fanbase and that they had left their mark indelibly stamped upon the hearts of a legion of followers.  Finally, The Three O'clock were getting the recognition (again) that they have so rightly deserved for three decades.  

     While their albums for IRS and Paisley Park/Warner Brothers have long been deleted, Frontier Records has kept the band in print with a CD containing their first EP (Baroque Hoedown) and debut full length (Sixteen Tambourines) on one disc as well as Happen Happened, a CD containing their pre-Three O'clock recordings (as The Salvation Army but later reissued under the band name Befour Three O'clock). While the band's reunion was short-lived, there remains the possibility that there could be more activity in the future.  

     While we wait patiently for the slightest chance of hearing new music, Omnivore Records has released The Hidden World Revealed, an excellent collection that serves as both a reminder and an introduction to the glorious sounds of The Three O'clock. Chock full of hits and rarities, The Hidden World Revealed is an absolutely splendid look at a band completely out of time yet utterly timeless.  As leaders of The Paisley Undergound movement of the early '80s, the band mixed  a love of '60s Pop, Psychedelia, Mod, Folk Rock and Bubblegum into something that was uniquely their own.  When you heard The Three O'clock, you knew it was The Three O'clock!  

     Spanning the years 1981-86, this collection focuses on the original quartet of Michael Quercio (bass/lead vocals), Louis Gutierrez (guitar), Danny Benair (drums) and Mike Mariano (keyboards), the four young gents who created their most beloved recordings.  Yes, there are a few tracks that feature earlier and later members of the band, but most everyone will agree that Quercio/Gutierrez/Benair/Mariano are the four crucial elements that created the band's sound.  While their inspirations can be felt and heard in their music, I can't help but think that this is kind of what The Monkees would have sounded like if they had recorded their album The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees on their own the same way they recorded the album Headquarters (ie: with no help from outside musicians). Well, maybe add a little more  Psych Pop to the mix, too! And that is a compliment of the highest order.  I think its even fair to say that these songs sound better now than they did some 30 years ago.

     The previously released recordings from their Frontier Records days are absolutely flawless.  Highpoints include "Jet Fighter", 'Stupid Einstein", "With A Cantaloupe Girlfriend" and others.  Of the previously unreleased alternate takes, demos, rarities and oddities, there are some delicious moments including a demo of "The Girl With The Guitar (Says Oh Yeah)", "All In Good Time", alternate versions of "I Go Wild", "A Day In Erotica" and "When Lightning Starts" and so much more.  Sure, there are one or two tracks that I've yet to connect with, but those are certainly in the minority here. 

     The Hidden World Revealed is a must have for anyone with a taste for Power Pop, Mod, Psychedelia, and New Wave. Oh, and if you like The Byrds, The Beatles and The Monkees, then give them a spin.  But when I say spin, I mean BUY the damn thing! Now, let's hope for some more Three O'clock treats in the future!

     For further reading, check out THIS link for my exclusive Q&A with Danny Benair!

Peace, love and pancakes,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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