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THE COLLECTORS

Proto-Prog • Canada


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The Collectors biography
Formed in Vancouver, Canada in 1961 (as "The Classics") - Disbanded in 1970 (after renaming as "Chilliwack") - One-Off reunion in 2010

When one thinks of Canadian prog rock, the 70's Quebec scene (Harmonium, Maneige etc.) pops up first to mind along with the Toronto scene (Rush, Saga, Max Webster etc.) and one can eventually think of the Guess Who/BTO connection from the central Prairie Provinces (not really prog but classic anyway), but never of the west coast. Alongside Ptarmigan (one sole stupendous hippy prog folk), The Collectors (hailing from Vancouver) might just be the first full-blown progressive group of the country, but they are also Canada's best-kept secret.

These guys started recording a few singles (managing modest but real national success) as soon as 66, but really came on their own when they recorded their first Lp (self-titled) with a superb Art-Nouveau psychedelic artwork. Simply put, this is a masterstroke and they managed with an astounding aplomb and self-confidence that was highly unusual for 68. The only way to describe this incredible record is a mix of THE MOODY BLUES, sprayed with a good dose of VANILLA FUDGE and a cloud of HP LOVECRAFT. Sounds intriguing? Ya betcha!!!! Five tracks on the first side of the vinyl as a starter and the piece de resistance, the 19min+ What Love to finish (no need of desert, you've had enough with that).

Their second album is a full-blown ecological concept album called Grass And Wild Strawberries and the tracks are all linked and the lyrics written by writer George Ryga. The group has for a spine Claire Lawrence on winds and vocals and Bill Henderson on vocals, guitars and keyboards. But the Lead singer was Howie Vickers.

Feeling that their name was not doing them any favour (cannot blame them as it sounds like an early RnR group), they changed their name to Chilliwack, producing a few albums - gradually less progressive and more mainstream, before calling it a day by the end of the 70's. By that time almost everyone had forgotten their superb progressive start.

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THE COLLECTORS discography


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THE COLLECTORS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.01 | 36 ratings
The Collectors
1968
3.85 | 24 ratings
Grass And Wild Strawberries
1969

THE COLLECTORS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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0.00 | 0 ratings
Early Morning
1969

THE COLLECTORS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Collectors by COLLECTORS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.01 | 36 ratings

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The Collectors
The Collectors Proto-Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars From the CD booklet:

'Claire (Lawrence), I guess he had a life experience and came up with these themes and some lyrics,' explains (Bill) Henderson. 'He came over to my unit in this motel where we were staying, and we took it from there to a full arrangement basically overnight. We wrote everything out on manuscript paper 'cause we were literate musicians ' where the breakdowns were, where the riffs were, what the riffs were, the dynamics. No one wrote dynamics in rock, but we did ' where we wanted crescendos and diminuendos to happen, where things would slow down, where they'd speed up, and everybody's parts.

'So many people were doing long things, but they were jams. This was not a jam. This was a structured, written piece, really in a tradition that comes out of classical music.'

This is how Bill Henderson describes the creation of the 19:05 side two piece of The Collectors' debut album, a song called simply 'What Love (Suite)'. I was pretty excited to be reading those words because this was a Canadian band from Vancouver ' my home territory ' who was creating this monumental piece of music in 1968. I brought the CD home a few weeks ago as a used copy ordered from Europe. How I came to find out about The Collectors is rather a roundabout way. I had come out of a proto-metal phase and entered a 70's Canadian hand rock phase, and as I was checking out Canadian bands from the seventies and trying to remember some I probably knew, I recalled a band called Chilliwack who had some pop hits in the early 80's. But they'd also had some rock hits in the seventies, and among three albums I ordered there was their second album as Chilliwack, a double album with some very experimental music on three of the four sides. Most was a bit too bizarre for me, but I looked up Chilliwack on Wikipedia and learned that the band had formed out of The Collectors after there had been a line-up change. Interested in hearing some Canadian music from the sixties (I only had music by The Guess Who and an obscure psychedelic band called Bent Wind) I tried to find the album somewhere for a reasonable price.

The music offered on this disc here is quite remarkable and unique. In my collection, 1968 is the height of psychedelic rock and acid rock with a lot of experimentation and for some like Pink Floyd and The Moody Blues, a lot of effort to compose something out of the ordinary. There are also the beginnings of what would become heavy metal. On The Collectors' album, there might be some comparisons to The Moody Blues because of the background vocal harmonies in places and the approach to writing music for a rock band from a classical direction. Some reviews also liken Howie Vickers' lead vocals to Jim Morrison perhaps because of how he can sing softly in one part and then build his voice up to a shout and a yell in the next. 'Does anybody hear?' he whispers at first near the end of 'What Love (Suite)' and repeats the question gradually building up to a boldly stated question before breaking it into a desperate maniacal scream.

The first track, 'What Is Love' opens with some mysterious keyboard and soon establishes itself as a prelude to some anthemic piece which, as it turns out, is the suite on side two. 'What Is Love' is slow and lead by Vickers' vocals with the band singing background harmony. The lyric 'What love / what love' connects the song with the suite.

'She (Will-O-the-Wind)' is an upbeat piece with guitar and flute. The jaunty guitar playing reminds me more of something that could have come out of an early nineties band at the tail end of the shoe gaze sound or perhaps like something from Motorpsycho. Again the vocals are reminiscent of The Moody Blues. The flute playing will, of course, likely make you think of Jethro Tull. The percussion is sparse and simple.

My favourite track is the dramatic psychedelic piece 'Howard Christman's Older', which is a song about a young man with extraordinary abilities. 'At the age of thirteen he discovered a way / he could change the molecular structure of clay / he could change it from clay into silver or gold / don't forget he was yet only thirteen years old.' He also invents a process to revive the dead and works on a device that will eliminate hate. Ultimately, the lyrics have a cynical point of view, stating that despite his unique gift, 'Howard Christman's older / And lately I've noticed that / he's starting to slow down'. The music has a haunting and suspenseful feel to it that builds in places very effectively. At times it's possible to imagine a crowd of people slowly walking toward some objective and gaining strength and conviction as they walk together. The main instruments are fuzz tone guitar, clean electric guitar, and organ, with the percussion again being rather subtle. There is no aggressive battery of drums as of yet on the album.

'Lydia Purple' was not written by the band and they were asked to record it as a single to get them on the charts. 'We fought that one, we didn't want to record that,' says Henderson in the CD notes. 'But the recording company were going, 'You gotta have a hit, and this one sort of sounds like you guys, and we think it's a hit'. So finally we relented and worked on it; we really changed it a lot.' Not happy about performing a pop tune, The Collectors worked on adding vocal harmonies, harpsichord, cello, and recorder. It did well in Canada, and there's a video on YouTube for the song ' a monochrome video with scenes around Vancouver in 1968 and the band singing on a rooftop.

Side one closes with 'One Act Play', which takes us back to the slow and easy music and vocal harmonies that serve as a backdrop to Vickers' powerful vocal deliveries that to me sound closer to an attempt to sing like Tom Jones than Jim Morrison.

Side two's 'What Love (Suite)' is one of the first times in rock history that a song was composed in segments like a suite and covered over 18 minutes. Indeed, the music takes us through psychedelic guitar rock, Eastern- sounding flute solos, a saxophone solo, some dramatic and crazy wild electric guitar, and as always Vickers' dramatic vocals that could sound a bit like Jim Morrison or Tom Jones, or Mark Stein of Vanilla Fudge in 'The Season of the Witch' or some other people you care to mention. Or maybe he just sounds like Howie Vickers. As a long runner, great care has been taken in composing this song. It is a bit rough in places though and lacks the smoothness and grandiosity of the later prog epics, most notably those of Yes. It also sometimes seems to keep going on to the next segment and then the next, making you wonder just how many parts were written for this. Remember that this is still 1968 and that the notion of composing a rock song as a suite, employing classical thinking was still a fairly new concept. You might love it; you might hate it; or you might enjoy it for the effort and some parts but clearly have it marked in your head as an experimental proto-prog epic. That's how I think about it. I don't love it but I can listen to it willingly.

All in all, I find this an interesting album with three songs I cue up for replays regularly these days, two songs I'll listen to when I want to hear the whole album, and the epic which I find an interesting journey to take when I have the time and I'm in the mood. The Collectors would go on to record one more album before Vickers would leave and Bill Henderson would take over lead vocals and the band would become Chilliwack. The debut would feature a collection of songs but the second album ' a double disc ' would revisit the experimental nature of The Collectors before the band would change direction and pursue a guitar rock format and then become more pop near the end of the seventies.

 The Collectors by COLLECTORS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.01 | 36 ratings

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The Collectors
The Collectors Proto-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars The Collectors' self-titled debut album shows a fine command of psychedelic rock and pop styles of the time. The best side is actually the first side, which offers a brace of small but perfectly formed psych-turning-to-prog songs with, at points, really interesting lyrics and structures (see, for instance, Howard Christian's Older). The side two epic, What Love, starts off strong but unfortunately loses steam, rapidly turning into a substandard imitation of Doors epics such as The End or When the Music's Over - whatever Howie Vickie's talents are, he's not Jim Morrison and it's rather embarrassing to listen to him trying to be Jim Morrison.
 Grass And Wild Strawberries by COLLECTORS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.85 | 24 ratings

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Grass And Wild Strawberries
The Collectors Proto-Prog

Review by the philosopher

4 stars The Collectors's Gras and Wild Strawberries is somewhat more conventional than the Collectors's debut. The songwriting however is very strong and the vocals as good as ever.

The best song may be an up-tempo bluegrass song called "My love delights me". It's an optimistic song with a catchy melody. Other highlights are "Gras and Wild Strawberries", "The seventeenth Summer", the spooky "Teletype Click", "Early Morning" and "Sheep on the hillside". The weakest track is IMO "Don't turn away", because of the weak lyrics.

The songs have a more conventional set-up and longer composition are absent. Sometimes there are bluesrock themes, but always accompanied with some good saxophone, flute or vocals. This album may be less magical then the Collectors's debut, but is equally convincing, because the enthousiastic aproach. In "early morning" the guitar has a free role and shows some really nice soloplay.

Fans of the Collectors's debut will also enjoy this record. The average quality of the songs is really good and the last song is a real outburst in vocals, which will last you with good feelings. Four stars.

 The Collectors by COLLECTORS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.01 | 36 ratings

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The Collectors
The Collectors Proto-Prog

Review by the philosopher

4 stars The Collectors representate the Canadian psychedelic movement. Their album cover is a real beauty and with the backcover they'll make us sure that they wanna be really psychedelic.The first side contains five short songs and the second side just one. The second side is a compilation of the first side and adds something extra.

-side 1- The songs are mostly folk-rooted and sometimes reach a garage sound. The first side is only slightly psychedelic, but sometimes they use some nice harmonies and the vocals are really great. The vocalist is capable of soft and harmonious voices and also of stronger vocals. There are lot's of spacy background vocals.

My favourite song of the first side surely is Howards Christian's Older. The lyrics are about a boy who on early age was a genious, but losts it's grip on mankind.

-side 2- As I've mentioned before, the second side is a compilation of the songs of the first side and adds something extra. The extra-part contains some really acid sounds - in fact they seemed to try to make as much noice at once as possible for a few times. Well, I thougth this side was a bit fragmentated - just a lot of themes were putted after each other. Still, it's a nice effort.

Because of the lengthy composition this could be seen as protoprog, but still it was just an example of the psychedelic scene.

As I do really like psychedelic music I can easily compare this record to other psychedelic records like Love's "Da Capo" which also contains a lenghty second side. I thougth that lot's of other psychedlic bands like Country Joe and the Fish, The 13th Floor Elevators, The United States of America, etc. were a bit better than the Collectors. For a psychedelic rock collector this is a nice addition to his/her collection, but I should not mention it as a masterpiece. So, four stars for the Canadians.

 The Collectors by COLLECTORS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.01 | 36 ratings

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The Collectors
The Collectors Proto-Prog

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

5 stars The Collectors - st (1968) * review #300 celebration! *

The Collectors came as a surprise for me, the record was given to me and it was said to be 'very good'. Now, there are many good very good records from '68, but there aren't many that can really be called progressive. This remarkable album has a full-blown progressive vision with many inventive ideas and breakthroughs. Of course, Zappa had already done crazy stuff, The United States of America would release there perhaps even better debut, The Doors had done some ground-braking work in '67 and King Crimson was almost ready to go in the studio, but still I find this album a very rewarding achievement for it's year of release.

So, what's so special about this record from Canadian soil?

It has superb song-writing with intelligent use of unusual chord progressions, it has an adventurious (as in the better sympho-prog) sound and it has an epic with of 19 minutes which shows the boundaries of what is possible (at the time). All this sounds very seventies-like, but the sound is clearly that from a sixties beat-band/psychedelic-band on fire. Perhaps a bit like the Beatles, some Doors, yet different. The vocals are amazing. Lead vocalist Howie Vickie has this huge voice, at times reminding me of Jim Morrison in his use. The back-up vocals are brilliant and harmonically challenging. For those who liked the Beach Boys, this is even better.

1. What Is love (3:45) The opening track is a peaceful introduction of what's to come. Some important elements of the epic on side two (with almost the same title) are played. Still this short track has a sympathetic nature.

2. She (Will Of The Wisp) (3:45) This is were the progginess begins. This is a very adventerious song with an up-tempo sound. The melodies are inventive and the vocals are amazing. The heavy acoustic guitars sound great and the rhythmical developments are refreshing and psychedelic.

3. Howard Christian's Older (5:10) This song has a folk-approach with a nice acoustic intro. The vocals tell a story about a very special boy with mysterious powers. The song develops in a rock-song with fierce vocals and a mystical sound. The melodies of the vocals are brilliant, unexpected notes over already special chords. Actually, this song is quite psychedelic and the ending is strange.

4. Lydia Purple (2:45) This song also has a folky intro (with a flute) and playful guitar/vocals theme. Extremely catchy, very nice psychedelics from the sixties. The second voice is magical on the second couplet. In the middle of the song there are some more folky moments with a string-section and some flutes. The third couplet also has a third voice which is utterly brilliant.

5. One Act Play (3:40) Perhaps my favorite. This graveyard type ballad with it's dark and serious mood is just amazing. The composition is among the best of every song written in the sixties. The many chord-progressions that all have an impact combined with these spooky vocals are very effective. So, ever wanted to listen to doom-psychedelics from the sixties?

6. What Love (19:15) One of the few full-blown epics of '68. More daring than Procol Harum's In Held was I, The Collectors explore a lot of moods and atmospheres. The opening section introduces the question 'What is this Love?'. No emphasis on romanticism, but an almost desperate question. After this the song develops into a church-like pastoral moment with nice combined vocal efforts. Later in the song moments of serious aggression, psychedelics and avant-garde are apparent. Though it's a strong epic, the ending section could have been a bit more substantial. A conclusive (and perhaps melodic) ending-section could have made it even better.

Conclusion. I love these early albums that are so expressive and ground-braking. This is an album that should have been far more influential then it was. This is a record that should have a place in all our collections, it's not just a collector's item. The song-writing is monumental and bombastic and the epic on side two is indeed very brave with it's moments of extreme aggression. Four and a halve stars would be appropriate, but since Sean Trane also came to this conclusion and gave four, I'll compensate by giving five stars. Ah, what the heck - this is a masterpiece! Recommended to every-one interested in psychedelic rock, early progressive rock and the development of the genre itself. Furthermore this is one of the most important Canadian releases of the sixties.

 The Collectors by COLLECTORS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.01 | 36 ratings

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The Collectors
The Collectors Proto-Prog

Review by someone_else

5 stars One of the many vinyl records in my collection I bought in a second hand record store for a few guilders, back in the early eighties. Somehow I knew that it was a very special one - I can't tell if it was because I read a few lines about it or by intuition. Anyway, I was far from disappointed when I gave it a spin. The verso side of the well-designed cover promised "New vibrations from Canada!" and these are good vibrations indeed! The vocal arrangements can contest those of Brian Wilson in his heyday.

The first track, "What Is Love", a sneak preview of the epic track on side 2, gives a good impression of this album in a nutshell. "She (Will o' the Wind)" is my favourite of the short tracks. It reminds me somehow of "Paperback Writer", but the vocals make this track sound more psychedelic and it has a Jethro Tull-ish flute. "Howard Christman's Older" is the only track on side 1 that passes the 5-minute mark. The vocal melody is rather folky, but the song turns soon into a psychedelic piece. "Lydia Purple" is the only song here that is written by others. It has a more conventional song structure than the other songs on this album and it fits well in the period in which the album was recorded. Side one ends with the Moody Blues-like "One Act Play". Like in "Howard Christman's Older", the vocals are performed by lead singer Howie Vickers alone.

However good the shorter tracks may be, it is the 19 minute-epic "What Love (Suite)" that make this album deserve a prominent place into prog history. This is, as far as I know, the first side-long epic track in prog, dating from late 1967 or early 1968, and it is well worth the listen: not a follow-up of different melodic themes, but a coherent piece of music with both loud and quiet moments. The emotive vocals are great throughout the song. The supreme moment, however, is the saxophone solo at 13-15 minutes. "What Love (Suite)" is essential proto-prog and should be part of the canon of progressive rock. This album should finally find its proper place in the history of progressive rock, and no longer be an overlooked gem or a collector's item. I recommend it to anyone who likes truly progressive music from the 60's. It is worth at least 4.5 stars; I give five.

Does someone hear?

 Grass And Wild Strawberries by COLLECTORS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.85 | 24 ratings

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Grass And Wild Strawberries
The Collectors Proto-Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars The second album from the Collectors should have been a real peak of psychadelia as it is a full-blown ecological concept (albeit with hippy ideals that pervades from those magic years), but strangely so, the album is almost a step backwards in the songwriting - sounding more like the 60's.

Although there are many excellent moments on the record, I feel that this album is more drawn to the Moody Blues than their debut (which was more axed towards HP Lovecraft and Vanilla Fudge), some of the highlights are Things I Remember and the Spirit-like Teletype Click.

However smoothly most of the album runs along the road, there are a few bumps, most notably the My Love Delights Me - which sounds like Hey Nonie Nonie (done by Sladfe a few years later) - a relatively deceptive Dream Of Desolation - which does not sound desolate enough to this writer - and an Early Morning - too pop-ish for an early morning. However, the finale is riveting and maybe the best moment of the album (bringing you back to the previous album) and a fitting ending to an ambitious project.

Can one throw stones at an innovator or an adventurer? My guess is NO, (even if I am sometimes harsh towards some prog artistes), and these guys will do some more musical venturing under the Chilliwack name. But this is another story, and this album, although quite worthy has a hard time living up to its debut.

 The Collectors by COLLECTORS, THE album cover Studio Album, 1968
4.01 | 36 ratings

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The Collectors
The Collectors Proto-Prog

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

4 stars 4,5 stars really!!!

Behind this superb Art Nouveau artwork sleeve is hiding one of the true, hidden and forgotten gems of Canada. To achieve this kind of perfection as a first try, back in the late 60's is simply astounding (the only had a few singles beforehand) and unfortunately all too rare. Bill Henderson and Claire Lawrence (the main core of the group) make a fantastic songwriting partnership that will last a few albums, and even if not perfect,

Right from the start , guys know how to bait a discerning proghead, by giving us a taste of what is to come without revealing how the main course with the opening (but rather light ) What Is Love and then plunging into serious business with She, a real feast for vocal harmonies; But they are still teasing us (especially with that flute around the end), but the wait is over; Everything we suspected in the first two songs get confirmation with Howard Christian's Older, loaded with drama, suspense and that typical late 60's flavour when everything was still to be done musically, artistically, socially, sexually, and generally progressive-wise. A full blown epic in just five min, even if the superb vocals account for roughly 50% of the spine chills; Lydia Purple is more popish, just to give us a break, but then comes the first nail in your coffin, One Act Play. Somehow not far away from very cheesy moments of Moody Blues or Rare Bird's vocal orgies, without Mellotrons, these guys bring you to ecstasy without any gadgets.

But all of that you have heard so far was simply foreplay, just getting your ears/appetite warmed-up for the main orgy: the 19 min+ What Love where not one single second is wasted in self-indulging solos (as was the craze back then): no we are dealing with an epic that could've been divided into multi-movement suite (like Supper or even contemporary Procol Harum's In Twas Held In I - if they even knew it was hip to do such a thing) and outside a few moments that clearly outline we are in 68, this is one of the earliest prog epics. These guys are not content to rivet you to your seat, they are holding you still so they are driving nails into your coffin and every minute going by is sealing your fate. Don't even think for a second they are taking the easy road either, a round the 1 min mark, they drive a spike right through heart, another through your brains and the last one right in your genitals. A slight flute warns you that you have reached paradise. This record might just drive this atheist to heaven!!!!!!!

Need I say more??????????????????????????????????????

Actually, yes!!! The record company says New Vibrations From Canada on the back sleeve, but when some almost 30 years later, you listen to this record, WOW!!! They are still brand new vibrations.

Thanks to Sean Trane for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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