10 Aug 2014
Front Page Review "Mystic Soldiers"
Reviewed by Nathan Ford
There's all manner of archive scouring going on behind the scenes everyday with recent (well, last few years) finds by Thomas Edisun's Electric Light Bulb Band and Pisces to attest that there is still gold to be found by those who know where to look. Here's another not released at the time goodie dating back to 1968 in Boston, likely the peak year of the bosstown scene. Originally released on CD in the late nineties by Big Beat Records, "Mystic Soldiers" now sees an official vinyl release (following a dodgy Akarma bootleg)courtesy of fab Spanish label Guerssen, with several bonus tracks and a much more appropriate and eye catching sleeve.
Produced under the watchful eye of Bosstown legend Alan Lorber (who also produced the Ultimate Spinach and Orpheus)and intended for release on MGM, "Mystic Soldiers" certainly has a lot going for it and apparently only remained unreleased at the time because of Stone's commitments to those other bands taking over. Personally, I've never been a huge fan of the Bosstown sound in general (although there are standout albums to be found within the genre), but Front Page Review manage to take the Bosstown template and stretch it beyond its normal confines. The weedy organ sound associated with the genre is certainly present and accounted for, but rather than dominating, it plays a supporting role here.
There's a brooding, minor-key quality at play here which occasionally recalls the Doors at their most grandiose, with some particularly nice interplay between organ and super fuzzy guitars, combining with dark lyrical content to create a pretty heavy trip that never abandons melody to prove its point. And when the clouds part (as on the lovely "Silver Children"), they prove to be just as deft with a lighter West Coast touch.
Had this been released in 1968 it would undoubtedly have a stronger reputation among collectors nd hopefully this release will go some way towards increasing awareness of what (on this evidence) could have been one of the better bands on the scene. As it stands this isn't the end of the story; By 1969 lead singer / songwriter Steve Cataldo had rallied and released "Over The Hills" on ABC Probe as Saint Steven, a lauded album with a stellar reputation. The fact that "Mystic Soldiers" can be mentioned in the same breath as that album is an achievement in itself. The fact that in this listener's opinion it towers ominously over "Over The Hills" is as great a recommendation as I can make.
Guerssen's vinyl reissue is available here.
Also available digitally here.