Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Beau Brummels - Winter (1966)

The Beau Brummels released their second album in August 1965 through Autumn Records. Very appropriately titled Vol. 2, the album featured the hit single "You Tell Me Why", and was the follow-up to their very successful debut record. However, despite the chart success of both the album's lead single and of the album that came before it, Volume 2 failed to chart in the US. That surprising turn of events can be mostly blamed on the band's label, Autumn Records, being on the verge of bankruptcy at the time of release, rendering the promotion and distribution of this LP nearly non-existent. A continuation of the folk-rock sound of their first album, the Brummels' sophomore effort showed that the combination of guitarist Ron Elliot's inventive songwriting and vocalist Sal Valentino's distinctive singing style was the band's advantage over the many other bands on the LA scene back then. Besides "You Tell Me Why", another single was released by the group at this time, the fantastic "Don't Talk to Strangers". Another victim of Autumn's failing fortunes, the song did manage to chart, making it to a measly #53 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1965 after three straight Top 40 hits. Undeterred, Elliot carried on writing and the band carried on touring, only without their guitarist as his diabetic seizures had gotten the better of him and he'd retired from the road by late 1965. 

Even with the chaos surrounding their label at the time, the Beau Brummels began work on their third album, recording more than an album's worth of songs. Some were nearly finished, such as the gorgeous "Gentle Wandering Ways", while others were only tracked in rough demo form. A melding of the band's trademark folk-rock sound with some acoustic and country influence, I'd dare to say this material represented the blueprint to what the Brummels would achieve later with Triangle and Bradley's Barn, melding their pop roots with rootsier sounds. All was put on hold, however, when Autumn finally folded and Warner Bros bought their whole roster. Plans for the band's third album were aborted as Warner did not own the publishing rights to the group's original material. Because of that, the label notoriously insisted the band record a quick all-covers album to cash in on their success. Without a choice, the band quickly hashed out low-quality covers of lazily selected Top 40 material, releasing Beau Brummels '66 as their major label debut in July 1966. A critical and commercial flop, it very nearly killed the band's career, who wouldn't have another hit after its release and would have to reinvent themselves with the fantastic Triangle to regain acclaim. This became the turning point of their career, going from one of the most promising American bands of their day to essentially has-beens.

That made me wonder: what if the Beau Brummels had gotten to release the third album they had been working on in early 1966? Is it possible to assemble a coherent and listenable album out of the songs the band recorded before Autumn ended? And to my surprise, there was more than enough to do so! In assembling this reconstruction, I actually had the opposite problem, that of having to figure out which songs to include and which not to, trying to figure out which songs the band would have actually included themselves on the album. In order to make my life and my choices easier, I decided on only including songs that were specifically known to have been meant for the album, or that were approved for release by the band themselves. The Brummels were notable for recording many demos and outtakes for their first two albums, not having space for all of their songwriting on a single record, and I figure this third album would be no different. We'll end up with many great tracks being left on the cutting room floor, used only as bonus tracks. Speaking of their first two albums, I will again assemble a 12-track, 30-minute album written mostly by Ron Elliot and Sal Valentino, with at most a single cover song, following the pattern set by their first LPs and the norm at the time for pop groups. To not extend myself any further, here's what our third album looks like:

Fine With Me (Turn Around)
Gentle Wandering Ways (Turn Around)
I Grow Old (Turn Around)
Dream On (Turn Around)
This is Love (Turn Around)
Down on Me (Turn Around)
Good Time Music (Turn Around)
She Sends Me (Turn Around)
Cry Some (Turn Around)
Let Me In (Turn Around)
Hey Love (Turn Around)
Love is Just a Game (Turn Around)

Bonus tracks:
One Too Many Mornings (Turn Around)
She Reigns (Turn Around)
Go Away (Turn Around)
Find a Place (Turn Around)

Download link:

The Beau Brummels, pictured here sometime in late 1965.

Now that we have set up all of our rules, it's time to select the songs that will make it to the album. Six songs are known to have been planned for the album: "I Grow Old", "Gentle Wandering Ways", "Dream On", "Love Is Just a Game", "This Is Love", and "Hey Love". Following some further research, the liner notes of the Turn Around box set have a further five tracks listed as potential songs on their third Autumn album: "Fine With Me", "Down on Me", "She Sends Me", "Cry Some", and "Let Me In". With that, we already have a solid backbone of eleven songs that we know for sure would have been at least considered for the album. Of those, "Love is Just a Game" is a demo from April 1965, but all the other songs were recorded between late 1965 and early 1966 during the sessions for their third album. So our task now becomes finding this 12th track and sequencing this album accordingly. Since they'd never released a non-album single before, I'd be tempted to include their cover of "Good Time Music" by John Sebastian. It's far from being the best thing the Brummels ever did, but their debut album also included cover tracks so we can allow for it here. That way, everything released after Volume Two finds a home in this album. All that's left to do is sequence the album so that it starts with what was supposed to be it's single, and has a nice mix between Valentino and Elliot compositions.

As for outtakes, we have both sides of the "One Too Many Mornings" b/w "She Reigns" single, which to my surprise were both recorded while under contract to Autumn, but was only released by Warner Brothers later on in 1966. That surely explains why, unlike Beau Brummels '66, those songs are actually pretty good, and even made me tempted to include them, but I ran into the issue of lack of space, as we already have twelve songs. Two other outtakes are "Go Away", which is also sourced from those same late 1965/early 1966 sessions that spawned most of the album, but was seemingly not considered for the album, for whatever reason. And finally, "Find a Place" is another demo from the period, this time featuring both Sal and Ron in a pretty stripped-down arrangement. "Fine With Me" and "Let Me In" were later re-recorded in admittedly superior versions to the rather rough takes we have here once the band was signed to Warner, but I decided against exchanging those for two reasons. Firstly to keep this album accurate, and secondly because if I did, the more polished versions of the two tracks would make the roughness of the rest of the album very much apparent. So it's the more intelligent thing to do to keep things as they are, even though quality suffers slightly. That's also why our album closes with the song that's furthest away from being finished, Sal's "Love is Just a Game".

A very short thirty-minute album with both sides being roughly the same length, Winter is an upgrade in comparison to Beau Brummels '66 in every conceivable way, and would be a more than welcome addition to the band's discography. Upon listening, I found that this album could very well be the missing link between the folk-rock of the two albums and the rootsier, countrified sound of their two classic albums for Warner Brothers. We also witness the emergence of Sal Valentino as a songwriter here, with him getting his first solo writing credits on a Beau Brummels album, showing that he also possessed some very interesting writing talent. As for singles, aside from the already released "Good Time Music", we'll have "Gentle Wandering Ways" b/w "Fine With Me" as the lead single since that was originally planned before the label was extinct. One hell of a single, with the b-side probably even having more commercial potential than the a-side. And if you've been wondering where the album title came from, it's just a lame pun, as Winter is what comes after Autumn ends. The accompanying artwork was done by me, as there really weren't many photos of them from this era in good quality. It's a shame we were denied access to this chapter of the band's development for so long, unable to see them create the gentle wandering ways that would lead to some of the best albums of the 1960s.

- The Beau Brummels - Turn Around: The Complete Recordings 1964-1970


  1. Ah, love The Beau Brummels. And the sessions leading up to the aborted originals album are all excellent, great choice. If you're taking any requests, I was listening to The Charlatans (US) today and wondering what a '65-'68 album could've looked like by them, with songs like "Co'dine", "Alabama Bound", and "The Shadow Knows", etc. I haven't been able to find any solid info on what the recording dates are like for their songs though.

    1. Thanks a lot!

      Well... I'm not exactly familiar with The Charlatans' discography, but I'll see what I can do. And that's the thing, the dearth of sessionographies for 60s bands is really a shame. We're left with a whole lot of speculation and very little fact.

  2. I had a very similar idea to this Brummels post back in November last year, with pretty much the same track listing, and have also compiled a Charlatans albums to complement their sole official release, which can be found here

    1. Great minds think alike! Thanks for the contribution, PJ.

  3. Very well done, and fills in the missing piece: thanks !