New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
In the 1960s, a decade where tragedy, beauty and societal change cascaded over a booming population of young adults, popular music was evolving in multiple directions. Blues-based rock, Brill Building pop, British Invasion madness, Motor City soul, funky southern syncopation, acid- laced psychedelia, and more all developed more or less concurrently. Indeed, music progressed at such a rapid pace that even a few weeks could reveal major changes. Assessing the music of this period requires an attention to detail and an appreciation of the artists who created pivotal moments in its evolution. That is to say, an artist like Margo Guryan.
Songwriter, singer, musician, and lyricist Guryan grew up in the NYC suburbs and was a musical prodigy. Signed as a writer to Atlantic Records at age 19, she immersed herself in the jazz world and attended the Lenox School of Jazz where she worked with Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry, and studied with Bill Evans, Max Roach, Milt Jackson, and others. Meanwhile, her compositions were recorded by Harry Belafonte, Cass Elliot, Jackie DeShannon, and many more. Married to jazz trombonist and pianist Bob Brookmeyer, her course seemed set.
All of that changed when her friend, pianist-songwriter David
Frishberg, raved about The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds
album and especially the song “God Only Knows.” Guryan took his advice, gave it a spin, and it proved to be a life-changing event. “I thought it was just gorgeous,” she said. “I bought the record and played it a million times, then sat down and wrote 'Think of Rain.' That's really how I started writing that way. I just decided it was better than what was happening in jazz.” Along with “Think of Rain,” Guryan continued writing in this new pop direction, eventually landing a deal with Bell Records.
The resulting 1968 album, Take a Picture, was a sunshine pop masterpiece, full of inventive arrangements, lilting melodies and Guryan’s gossamer voice. Lauded by Billboard Magazine which predicted “strong sales,” marketing for the album was hampered by Guryan’s refusal to perform. Having seen the life of a musician up close through Brookmeyer's career, she wanted no part of it. Consequently, Bell Records withdrew promotion funds and let the album wither on the vine.
While that might be the end of most music careers, interest in Guryan’s music has grown steadily over the decades, largely due to Japanese record collectors. Take A Picture was first reissued in Japan, followed by Spain (for Europe) and the USA.
In 2001, a CD collection titled 25 Demos was released; a group of intricately-recorded songs featuring imaginative instrumentation. Now, for the first time on vinyl, Modern
Harmonic gathers these songs and adds four tracks for 29 Demos. In stores on 8/26/16, 29 Demos is a double colored vinyl (one red, one blue) masterpiece and finally gives Guryan a proper follow-up to Take a Picture. This release is a must for any connoisseur of timeless melodies and offers insight into a time when pop music’s possibilities seemed endless. You’ll file this album alongside Brian Wilson, Claudine Longet, The Mamas and The Papas, Spanky and Our Gang, and The Left Banke. Eventually. When you can bring yourself to take it off the turntable.