Wednesday, April 02, 2014

THE SCENARIO



THE SCENARIO

Rusty Waters (nee Brooks): lead vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica
Dexter Prescott (Alfonse Dumfries): lead guitar, vocals
Henry Harold LaBouche: electric bass guitar, harpsichord, vocals
Brian Free (nee Todd): drums, vocals

The Scenario was a 1960s American rock ‘n’ roll group that recorded four albums and several singles between 1965 and 1968, after which a few of the members floundered with ill-conceived solo enterprises before fading into obscurity.

Like most bands of the day, their early singles were raw affairs, touching on garage rock and r&b. Rusty Waters came on as a slightly lustier Mick Jagger on these 45s, the best of which include “Pleadin’ Heart” and their mod anthem, complete with harp feedback, “I’m Not Sure.” An early B-side worth seeking out, “Shakespearespeak” finds the band incorporating harpsichord and hammered dulcimer, both played by classically-trained LaBouche, into their otherwise primitive wail.

Their debut album, “Hear It Is: The Scenario” collects early singles, token r&b covers (“Mercy Mercy,” “Hitch Hike,” etc.) and the first indications of sharpening compositional skills. While Waters sang most leads and was the de facto front man, the band took a democratic approach to songwriting, despite some members being more accomplished in this area than others. Nonetheless, the group could deliver the goods, filling their second album, “Intercontinental Breakfast” with gems like “Sidecar Sally” featuring Waters at his strutting best, the pensive “Glum-Go-Round,” the nursery-rhyme-like “Mermaids ‘n’ Marmalade” as well as LaBouche’s deft updating of Beethoven on the pretty-yet-peppy “Fur Lease.” Even the minor writers in the group, Prescott and Free, held up their end on the sophomore effort, sweetening “Breakfast” with standout tracks like “The Evil Me” and “Smile, Smile, Smile,” respectively.

When the Summer of Love hit, The Scenario were riding high with their psychedelic trophy, “Dr. Tangle.” That #1 single (in Luxembourg) was the centerpiece of their ’67 release, the double album, “Candcane Junglegym,” which featured the group on the cover decked out in candy-striped suits frolicking on a similarly striped jungle gym flanked by a gaggle of go-go girls in red and white swimsuits. Nonetheless, the music contained within marked the band in their prime, ambitious and confident and just teetering on self-indulgence. “Dr. Tangle” was catchy singalong psychedelia, “Gatilaja” a successful attempt at Eastern-flavored raga-rock, “Besideways” a blueprint for some San Francisco-esque experimentation and “Mary Magpie” would’ve made McCartney proud. The album is not without its faults: “Brian Vs. The Banjo” parts 1, 2, and 3 along with “Banjo For Sale, Name Your Price” (one installment per side of the ongoing saga) is inessential piffle at best. In addition, the production throughout the album can be dated and/or heavy-handed, especially when the songs aren’t up to snuff. Cases in point: the heavily-phased vocals on “Picorocos Locos” (aka “Crazy Fish”) or the lengthy flanged wah-wah guitar freakout jam coda of “Sula Hama Manestra (Exodus).”

However, as Waters tumbled into heavy drug use and Prescott busied himself with outside projects related to his newfound spiritual endeavors, the band wound up with a dearth of good material for what would be their final LP. “Guards of the Ancients,” released in the spring of 1968, is not entirely without merits: drummer Free turns in a solid vocal on the melodic “Let It Love,” for instance, but the good vibes are resoundingly destroyed by Side Two’s one-two punch of Waters’ interminable, flat lust-funk jam “Midsummer Night’s Cream” followed by Prescott’s long-winded eleven-minute spoken-word opus, “So Saith The Lord.”

Soon after their breakup, Waters released a hapless solo album, “Israel Royale,” an unappetizing mélange of Yiddish melodies and Tom Jones-like crooning, then delved into a junkie nightmare existence that lasted until the early 80s. Currently, a clean Waters runs a nightclub in Houston, Texas called “Karaoke Kafe” and his jukebox is said to contain one of the few hard-to-find original copies of the first Scenario single, “Cryin’ Shame” b/w “All Day Long.” Labouche turned mainly to production, overseeing the careers of chanteuse Maudie Lynne and the family vocal group, The Shermans. He released one solo album in 1975, “Axe of God,” full of fussy art rock pomp and circumstance but short on substance. Prescott drifted into obscurity, forsaking popular music for religion but a bootleg album of his home demos of folksy spiritual material still floats around among collectors. A handful of the songs are occasionally catchy in their own right but time has most definitely not been kind to Prescott’s leathery voice. Meanwhile, Free eventually settled in Los Angeles, becoming a popular late-night deejay spinning cult favorites from the early days of rock and roll to the present. He is superstitious about his former band and will only play one track by The Scenario per show, upon request, on Tuesdays only, and insists that interns physically handle the actual records. Reportedly, Free will also leave the room during broadcast. In addition, the final album in its entirety is strictly forbidden, and Free steadfastly refuses to sign copies of anything Scenario-related.

1 comment:

brian said...

I'm just reading this for the first time. Awesome.
I'm ROFL (running out of flavorful licorice).