Thursday, December 14, 2006

Influence - Influence (1968)

Formed as a quartet in late 1966, this act have an interesting and almost global pedigree. English-born singer Andrew Keiler moved firstly to South Africa in 1964 and together with Irish-born guitarist Louis Campbell McKelvey played in the Johannesburg R&B outfit The Upsetters. McKelvey left this act in late '65, to join The A-Cads, although he was too late to appear on their album, despite being pictured on the sleeve. Andrew Keiler too left The Upsetters, recording a solo album in late 1965 before moving to Montreal in late 1966, along with McKelvey and fellow A-cad, Hank Squires.
In Canada, Squires moved into production working with The Haunted, amongst others, and McKelvey briefly played with Les Sinners and Our Generation before reuniting with Keiler in Influence. Czech-born bass player Geisinger came in from the Soul Mates and English-born drummer Dave Wynne was recruited from The Haunted.
To complete the line-up, two other former Soul Mates, Rossi and Island joined after playing on a Wilson Pickett tour in June 1967. The band then relocated to the US...
David Wynne recalls:- "We played Montreal in the Spring of '67, then went to Toronto Village and played one of the clubs there until September when we went to New York and cut the album with ABC. McKelvey was involved in production. Afterwards we were offered another deal by Columbia which was turned down by the band, and at that point I left and went back to Canada and school. You were right about the album, but it may have had a little impact. Our publicist at ABC was dating Peter Townshend and reportedly he liked the opera idea. As musicians and artists the Influence really outclassed anything else around - Walter Rossi as I said was a superb guitarist. You should have heard us live..."
"The entire band except me had done hard time with mature audiences. Not many Canadian musicians had had the experience of recording in or touring the U.S. as Wally, Jack and Bobo had with Wilson Pickett. They were also all seasoned musicians. (I heard, from Buddy Miles I think, that Steve Cropper had said he thought Wally the better guitarist). It was also innovative, and had confidence that it was cutting edge and could compete on any stage. Toronto Village in Summer 1967 was great - lots of talent and a real buzz. The imbalance in the band was that we had two front men, Bobo and Andy, and while it was never pushed I think after I left that it became an issue - I bridged both sides and may have helped keep some of it together. At the time there seemed enough room for everyone, but it was really an amalgam of two bands in one - the Wally, Jack, Bobo and Louis and Andy. Yum Yum who replaced me was definitely associated with the former group. I had started the band with Louis, but felt much more at home musically with Wally, Jack and Bobo. I was not a fan of British drummers (Baker, Moon) but American black funk and jazz drummers. I think I mentioned the time at the Barrel, where watching and talking to Rashid Ali (Coltrane's second drummer with Elvin Jones) and hearing new wave drumming was a priceless clinic..."
Their album makes it easy to understand why they chose their name, as it is more or less a hodgepodge of styles without much consistency. Many satirical elements betray the strong influence of Zappa, on whom they clearly lean too heavily. Nevertheless their love of discordant riffs and 'wrong' modulations works brilliantly on at least two tracks: We Are Here, a sour masterpiece on lost love and Natural Impulse. Lyrically Zappa is omnipresent as becomes hearable in the choice of admittedly transitional subject-matter such as sodomy (on County Fair) and the longing of the gentry to mingle with the peasants (on Sir Archibald). Parodies on The Marcels, Little Richard and the hippie-movement in general sound dated, although they probably were modern in 1968. Worth trying, but don't pay too much.
After Influence broke up, McKelvey and Geisinger played in the Canadian band Milkwood. Geisinger later left Milkwood for Luke and The Apostles. Rossi meanwhile, played with The Buddy Miles Express briefly before joining Geisinger in Luke and The Apostles.
Walter Rossi later played with Charlee, Moonquake and Bombers. Jack Geisinger also later played with Moonquake, Rockers and Crescent Street Singers. Bob Parkin committed suicide in 1970.
Walter Rossi is also rumoured to have played on an album by Thee Muffins in 1966.
(Nick Warburton/Marcel Koopman/Vernon Joynson/Tertius Louw)

Music kindly submitted by Unicorn. Special thanks!

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