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ULTIMATE SPINACH

Psychedelic/Space Rock • United States


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Ultimate Spinach biography
'Ultimate Spinach' was founded in 1967 under the name of 'Underground Cinema' as the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Ian Bruce-Douglas. The same year the band changed their name to 'Ultimate Spinach' and recorded their first record for MGM, produced by the ambitious Alan Lorber. Lorber created together with MGM the marketing concept of the 'Boston Sound' (later 'Bosstown' sound) to propose (and sell) an alternative to the West-coast bands. The three Boston bands starting that "movement" were 'Ultimate Spinach', 'Orpheus' and 'The Beacon Street Union'. These bands, all produced by Alan Lorber, had musically not much in common and 'Ultimate Spinach' was the most interesting band to come out of this hype. Their first self-titled record, inspired by West-coast bands like 'The Doors' and 'Jefferson Airplane', presented an original mixture of psychedelic rock, folk and classical music. All lyrics and music were written by leader Ian Bruce-Douglas. 'Ultimate Spinach' privileged long elaborated suites, alternating instrumental passages, poetry and multipart vocals (the voice of Barbara Hudson reminding Grace Slick and Sonja Kristina) with original arrangements, including flutes, sitar, harpsichord and the electronic Theremin instrument. The record sold well, but the band was a victim of the hype and got negative critics by the press. The second record "Behold and See" was released in 1968 and followed the direction of the first with tighter tracks and the same overall quality. At the end of 1968 the band was reformed with Bruce-Douglas keeping only singer Barbara Hudson, but finally he left the band prior to the recording of the third self-titled 'Ultimate Spinach' record, leaving Barbara Hudson as the only original member. The record moved away from the psychedelic sound of the first two records and consisted of mainstream rock songs. 'Ultimate Spinach' recorded some of the most original psychedelic rock records.

The first two 'Ultimate Spinach' records are highly recommended.

===Martin Horst===




Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
approved by the psychedelic/space team



Discography:
Ultimate Spinach, Studio (1968)
Behold And See, Studio (1968)
Ultimate Spinach, Studio (1969)

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Ultimate SpinachUltimate Spinach
Iris Music Group 2011
Audio CD$80.39
$12.99 (used)
Behold & SeeBehold & See
Sundazed 2017
Vinyl$19.72
$12.75 (used)
Ultimate Spinach IIIUltimate Spinach III
Audio CD$79.50
$24.99 (used)
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Varese Sarabande
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Iris Music Group 2011
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Big Beat
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Keyhole
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ULTIMATE SPINACH discography


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ULTIMATE SPINACH top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.29 | 20 ratings
Ultimate Spinach
1968
3.84 | 25 ratings
Behold And See
1968
2.32 | 6 ratings
Ultimate Spinach III
1969

ULTIMATE SPINACH Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

ULTIMATE SPINACH Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ULTIMATE SPINACH Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
The Very Best of Ultimate Spinach
2001

ULTIMATE SPINACH Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

ULTIMATE SPINACH Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Behold And See by ULTIMATE SPINACH album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.84 | 25 ratings

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Behold And See
Ultimate Spinach Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Progfan97402

3 stars There are many albums and bands that are ignored that are very good. The reason is many reasons: the press and the general audience doesn't understand what they're doing, the label doesn't have the budget to promote their artists or sometimes have it distributed where it's widely and easily available. Ultimate Spinach suffered due to press hype. Seems Alan Lorber wanted to promote Boston as the next "new thing", the East Coast Haight-Ashbury. MGM labelmates Beacon Street Union and Orpheus suffered the same fate. Indirectly another Boston band called The Listening also suffered a similar fate, but they weren't on MGM, they were on Vanguard. Apparently Alan Lorber's ego was so big he pressured his bands to play a certain way to capture that psychedelic sound that he wanted (members of Ultimate Spinach complained that Lorber wanted them to sound more like a San Francisco band, probably Jefferson Airplane because they too had a female vocalist). Behold & See was Ultimate Spinach's second album, released later in 1968. Listening to this, you can see why that Bosstown hype blew up in its face. The album is actually quite good, although it has some questionable moments. It's the kind of album you know right away rock critics will not like. To my ears, the music on this album screams "middle class", especially the vocal delivery, and the church choir like singing on "Suite: Genesis of Beauty". I guess that "middle class" vibe this group gives off rubbed the critics the wrong way (they prefer rock music to have a more blue-collar attitude, more like Bruce Springsteen, but even many hard rock and metal acts were blue collar, and weren't liked by the critics). The great news is I can't compare them to any specific band. They have a female vocalist but you can't compare them to Jefferson Airplane. "Gilded Lamp of the Cosmos" and "Visions of your Reality" are more or less straight psych, may not appeal to the progheads, but they sure get much more adventurous on "Jazz Thing", which has a real nice jazzy thing going on (hence the song title). "Suite: Genesis of Beauty" is a strange suite with church choir like singing and more psychy passages, and a nice organ passage. "Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse" is pretty questionable with the use of cheesy harmonica. To be honest, when it comes for the "Boston scene", The Listening was better, but they weren't on MGM (as mentioned before), so didn't suffer directly from the press hype, but the hype didn't help anyways.

Now I see what this "Boston sound" that MGM was trying to push. There really wasn't anything to distinguish the scene from any countless psych albums across the country at the time. This album is a bit uneven, but for the most part still quite good. I'd rate it a three and a half.

 Behold And See by ULTIMATE SPINACH album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.84 | 25 ratings

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Behold And See
Ultimate Spinach Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by HolyMoly
Special Collaborator Retired Admin

4 stars History has not been kind to this band. As I see it (and you can trust me, because I wasn't even born yet... thus, no bias), the deal is this: Boston somehow develops a "scene" somewhat parallel to that going on the much-heralded San Francisco scene. A few media outlets latch on to the catch phrase "The Bosstown Sound" and try to promote it as the hip thing on the East coast. Of course, this promotional effort immediately wipes out any originality or integrity the scene might have ever had, and it's remembered today as a calculated attempt to pass off some second-rate bands (which included Ultimate Spinach, Beacon Street Union, and others) as "psychedelic stars" when they were just posers.

This ungenerous view almost unilaterally neglects the actual bands themselves. Very few people will actually take the time to listen to this record (Spinach's second and best), and even when they do, they will usually be so swayed by the scene's unfortunate reputation that they may even observe "copying" where it doesn't exist. So I want to help correct that, and state for the record that this is one heck of a fine album, by any standards

Unfortunately, the band pretty much disintegrated after this album, the band leader/songwriter calling it quits (Ian Bruce-Douglas... current whereabouts unknown) and all but one member following suit. Strangely enough, the band reformed with a completely new lineup (including "Skunk" Baxter, another of the new things by which this band is remembered) and put out a third (admittedly, pretty bad) album.

So behold and see: The Ultimate Spinach!

SIDE ONE

1) "Behold and See (Gilded Lamp of the Cosmos)" -- a pretty basic, somewhat lame midtempo rock number, sung by a female member of the group (I don't care much for her voice either), but redeemed by a nice harmonized chorus. A deceptive opener that doesn't hint at the greatness that follows.

2) "Mind Flowers" -- Reminds me a bit of Quicksilver's early stuff, but overlaid with some way trippy Eric Burdon/Animals psychedelic overtones. A drifting brain piece at 8 and a half minutes, this one's a real treat. Bruce-Douglas sings this one well.

3) "Where You're At" -- female singer again, ugh. I guess she's not that bad, but these songs almost justify the band's bad reputation.

4) "What You're Thinking Of (Jazz Thing)" -- Now we're talking. Jazzy electric piano and vibes, this could have been a Canterbury prog number (a la Caravan). Great melody, great instrumental interlude, and good lyrics. And it's long, about 6 minutes this time. The lyrics here nail down a particular theme that goes through a lot of their material: you think you're hip and with it, but you're really just a joke. Maybe that's why San Franciscans didn't like them.

SIDE TWO:

1) Fragmentary March of Green -- This is the emotional climax of the album, an absolutely devastating dirge of a number, a chilling look at a guy who's left the hippie life, entered the "straight" life, and is slowly going insane from life's very real demands and challenges. Goosebump City. Played as a slow, stately funeral march led by piano, and sung throughout by a chorale of eerie voices that almost sound like angels looking down with pity. Don't miss this one. 6 minutes, not a second wasted.

2) Genesis of Beauty Suite (in Four Parts) - Similar in tone - chorales of voices, lots of electric piano. Somewhat jazzy feel, but classically organized this time. Doesn't flow together like the best prog suites do, but each of the four parts is nice in its own way. Not indispensable, but certainly heady stuff with good musical merit. Close to 10 minutes long, which will make prog fans happy (hooray!).

3) Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse - A neat closing number, a real head scratcher. Begins as an almost Hollywood-ish western number, with a harmonica lead, then changes into a medium groove over which a guitar solos. The tempo gets faster and louder and the guitar solo gets more frantic. It slows down again, goes into another movie soundtracky theme with a recorder playing lead (!), trading melodic lines with an electric piano modified to sound like a harpsichord (!!), then an instrumental outro returning to the harmonica section, accompanied by a chorale of voices as the credits roll. WTF?

 Behold And See by ULTIMATE SPINACH album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.84 | 25 ratings

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Behold And See
Ultimate Spinach Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by MasterShake

5 stars If their is one contribution my mind delivers to yours as far as musical understanding and appreciation, be it this. If you are reading this, I advise you to seek out a copy and listen to it. Here lies the reason why I personally ventured into progressive rock. Psychedelic music has never blended with the common themes of progressive rock more nicely than here! These are by no means pop songs, astonishingly well arranged and delivered! The vocals are arranged with the level of some of the absolute best progressive masterpieces which we have grown to love. This album is very near and dear to my heart, and has gently guided me through many different trips, as well as inspired me to write a few ballads of my own. It has reached the point where I think that every tune portrayed is a master-piece, and I know how difficult it is to pull that off. Don't let the previous or future albums of this band discourage you, this is the gold right here! Find out why.
 Behold And See by ULTIMATE SPINACH album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.84 | 25 ratings

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Behold And See
Ultimate Spinach Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars The second Ultimate Spinach album is quite similar to the first in most respects: inauthentic, commercially-minded suburban psych pop from Boston. Band leader Ian Bruce-Douglas once again delivers pretty much all the songwriting, and once again is a little over-the-top and pretentious in his delivery. This is particularly evident with his faux righteous-indignation in the disjointed and rambling lyrics of “Visions of your Reality”, as well as the unconvincing ‘enlightened hippy’ chanting of “Fragmentary March of Green”.

Musically I like this record more than the first, and both of them more than the purely commercial final album. The biggest annoyance comes from Bruce-Douglas’ overblown lyrics. the band misses a huge opportunity here as well, with Bruce-Douglas delivering the majority of lead vocals while the much more appealing and capable Barbara Hudson is relegated to a supporting role. Several songs feature a guest vocalist though in Carol Lee Britt, who delivers ably although I still don’t understand why they felt the need to do this with Hudson available and more than up to the task.

The centerpiece of this album is the nearly ten-minute epic “Genesis of Beauty”, a slowly- building and almost hymnal-structured tale of fantasy that ends up being dominated by Bruce-Douglas’ chamber-organ sections and two-part female choruses featuring Hudson and Britt. This is a decent composition, but as with most of Ultimate Spinach’s music offers little evidence that they were willing to stretch themselves either musically or lyrically. “Mind Flowers” is another nearly ten-minute offering, this one steeped in some rather innovative psych guitar fuzz and odd meters somewhat along the lines of a less mature or convincing Doors sound circa “This is the End”.

The Ultimate Spinach song most often included in ‘various artist’ collections from this album is “Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse”, most likely because its five-minute length lends itself better to a compilation than the slightly better but longer alternatives on the album. The bulk of this tune consists of an extended improvisational jam session that bears some resemblance to “Jazz Thing” but otherwise doesn’t really represent the bulk of the band’s other music.

This is the best of the three Ultimate Spinach albums in my opinion, but since the whole of the band’s discography can’t be taken all too seriously that doesn’t qualify it for ‘essential’ status. A solid three stars though, and mildly recommended if you’re curious to hear what the contrived “Bosstown” sound was meant to be back in the late sixties.

peace

 Ultimate Spinach III by ULTIMATE SPINACH album cover Studio Album, 1969
2.32 | 6 ratings

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Ultimate Spinach III
Ultimate Spinach Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

2 stars The third and final Ultimate Spinach studio album belongs to the band in name only, all members save singer/guitarist Barbara Hudson having departed by this point. Hudson’s vocals are still quite striking, but the rest of the lineup consisted of journeyman studio musicians and MGM label stringers, and the tenor of the music is far removed from the commercial-leaning psych pop the band had churned out on their previous records.

The most significant departure was band leader, multi-instrumentalist and chief songwriter Ian Bruce-Douglas. The loss was apparent right away, with the band electing to cover the 1964 Reflections doo-wop hit “(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet” as the opening track.

Things would get a little better after that, but not much. Gone are the whiny psych guitar forays and extended compositions, replaced by blatantly commercial rock numbers with only a hint of the progressive sound the band had built their name on. By the middle of the record the group fell back on simple and only modestly embellished slow blues with the piano/guitar instrumental “Eddie's Rush”, a slightly more modern yet still blues-based “Strange-Life Tragicomedy” and uninspired vocal harmonies on “Happiness, Child”. The album closes with the guitar-driven generic rock number “The World has Just Begun”. That may have been true, but for the band the end had already begun.

The only track even remotely akin to the band’s better and early work is the heavy prog “Strange-Life Tragicomedy”, but even this falls short with its brevity and oddly-placed three- part male vocal harmonies toward the end.

I’m not a very big fan of this band anyway, but at least their first two albums can fairly confidently by classified as psych, and nearly as confidently as progressive. This one fails on both those points, and will only be of interest to hardcore fans of the band or those who really dig Hudson’s voice (and maybe not even them since she only sings lead on about half the tracks). This record is out-of-print today and probably should be. Two stars for collectors, but that’s all.

peace

 Ultimate Spinach by ULTIMATE SPINACH album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.29 | 20 ratings

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Ultimate Spinach
Ultimate Spinach Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Ultimate Spinach are an interesting band in that their existence was a result of the MGM label attempting to capitalize on the popularity of West Coast psych music by creating a completely contrived East Coast psych-pop ‘scene’ in the latter sixties. Ultimate Spinach were the flagship of this effort, which withered rather quickly at a time when beat and intellectual folk rock were still the dominant influences over Boston-area counter culture.

Not that the band didn’t make a decent go of things. Band leader Ian Bruce-Douglas was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and briefly prolific songwriter who left behind several psych classics, mostly from this album. “Ballad of the Hip Death Goddess” is a very well-constructed eight-minute psych dirge that matches the best of West Coast bands like Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna and the like, and still makes appearances on the occasional late-night FM radio show or flashback podcast. “Plastic Raincoats” was more poppish but equally period-appropriate to a 1967 sound that owed as much to the Beatles and Kinks as it did to later variants like Country Joe and Todd Rundgren.

In the end though this is undeniably a commercial attempt to clone true progressive psych music, and lacks somewhat in dirty, earthy authenticity. The musicianship is excellent, and Barbara Hudson delivers seductive and engaging vocals to give the band an overall appeal that should have gotten them further on the charts than they managed to achieve.

Bruce-Douglas would hold the group together for another album the following year which would be even slightly more polished, but that appears to have been enough for him as he and the rest of the group departed shortly after. Hudson would become the centerpiece for a new lineup that featured mostly journeyman, professional musicians for a decidedly commercial third album to close out the sixties. There is apparently still a band operating under the name Ultimate Spinach today, but with no original members and little of the old repertoire there’s not much to attract prog music fans.

This album and band gets mentioned a fair amount among progressive and psych music circles even today, but given their highly commercial and contrived origins I’m not sure they deserve the elevated status often ascribed to them. This is a good but not great album, worth picking up but not taking too seriously. Three stars and mildly recommended to fans of the late-sixties psych era, but don’t expect to have your mind blown.

peace

 Behold And See by ULTIMATE SPINACH album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.84 | 25 ratings

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Behold And See
Ultimate Spinach Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by philippe
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars I think that Ultimate Spinach deserves the attention of all 70s prog heads because their music is a genial cocktail of kick ass 60s pop and infectious-fuzzy-moody-psyhedelic epics. I consider their first as an obvious classic; Behold And See presents a highly inspired musical trip but not all songs are masterpieces. The two first compositions really deserve a listening and I consider them to be among the best pieces written by the band. The title track is a bluesy trained song with sensual stoned female vocals. It features beautiful, melancholic melodies, nice fuzzy guitars. Moody acid bluesy rock at its best. Mind Flowers is just awesome, this song gives me shivers, a stoned journey into intense, delicate emotions. The rest of the album shows a rather different direction with a more naive hippie-like flavour but always inspired with great Hammond organs and good technical sequences...The atmosphere sounds smart but too 60's pop orientated for my tastes. Anyway this album delivers some magical musical moments that I recommend to all nostalgic prog-heads.
 Ultimate Spinach by ULTIMATE SPINACH album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.29 | 20 ratings

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Ultimate Spinach
Ultimate Spinach Psychedelic/Space Rock

Review by Easy Money
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars If you are looking for that totally unique sound known as 60s psychedelic rock, you have found it here. Like any other genre, there is good psych and bad. This album is pretty good but not quite great. If the lead guitarist had been a bit better it would have helped.

Like most psychedelic bands the Spinach displays a wide diversity of styles. Some songs sound a bit like Doors styled keyboard driven blues rockers. Other songs that feature female vocalist Debra Hudson are more similar to Curved Air or Its a Beautiful Day. There are also some short instrumental passages that are reminiscent of similar cuts on early Moody Blues records.

The songwriting and arranging are excellent. All the songs were written by the highly skilled keyboardist Bruce Ian-Douglass. The vocals sound good and drummer Keith Lahteinen displays the jazz and RnB influences that were expected of "hippie" drummers back then. Producer Alan Lorber fills the album with great psychedelic sound effects such as reverb and tape loop echo, but rarely reverts to cheap panning effects.

The overall sound and the psychoactive lyrics definitely belong to the 60s and that is why I am only recommending this album for fans of early psychedelic rock or people who want to check out this colorful and creative genre.

Thanks to alucard for the artist addition.

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