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The Wind In The Willows

1. Moments Spent
2. Uptown Girl
3. So Sad
4. My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died
5. There Is But One Truth, Daddy
6. The Friendly Lion
7. Park Ave. Blues
8. Djini Judy
9. Little People
10. She’s Fantastic And She’s Yours
11. Wheel Of Changes

This cheerful band of New York hippies is best-known for featuring the debut of Blondie’s Deborah Harry. This, their sole album, originally appeared in 1968. A dreamy collection of psychedelic folk-pop that perfectly captures the innocence and whimsy of the 1960s flower-power dream, it’s an obligatory purchase for lovers of sunshine pop, and is presented here complete with explanatory liner notes.

Described in World Countdown News in 1967 as ‘a small orchestra playing over seventeen instruments at various times’, Wind In The Willows was formed in New York by rhythm guitarist and vocalist Paul Klein. Several members of the seven-strong band had studied music formally, including Ida Andrews and Wayne Kirby, whose multi-instrumental talents largely defined their sound, which involved using up to sixteen instruments onstage. Two other members, Peter Brittain and Anton Carysforth, were English hippies who’d ended up in New York – but the best-known member has turned out to be Debbie Harry, a brunette back then, who sang lead and harmony vocals, as well as playing tamboura, kazoo and tambourine.
The band toured coast to coast, using specially-designed amplifiers and playing music ranging from soft harmony pop to hard rock, though their album features only the former. Described by in-house Capitol producer Artie Kornfeld as ‘real, no hidden agenda hippies’, they would start gigs with Klein giving a candlelit reading from the Kenneth Grahame book from which their name derived, before the light was snuffed out. In their interview with World Countdown News, Klein explained that: “Every wind has a feeling to it, an atmosphere it creates. Then there is the willow tree. It is supple and always moves with the wind and then moves back to where it was. Good people are like that, they bend with the wind but never give way to its force.” Kirby added: “We wanted to deal with human situations and make enjoyable music… I think we’ve managed to maintain a simplicity and a hushed quality in our music.” Harry (called ‘one of the most beautiful girls in rock today’ by the anonymous writer) told the interviewer that “everybody should go beyond the lyrics and whatever we or any group is saying directly, and tune into the overtones of the music. An audience should relax and identify with the overall picture we are trying to paint instead of trying to get inside of our material and interpret our meanings.” By 1977, with Blondie in the ascendant, she had changed her tune somewhat, describing them to High Times magazine as “a pretty awful baroque folk-rock band,” and terming their music ‘depressing listening’. Drummer Anton Carysforth was later to remember Harry as little more than “a nice, middle-class American girl,” explaining: “It was all about the music, and she was just part of the band.”
Their album was recorded in New York in 1968, well after the apex of flower power. A good-natured mixture of trippy folk (Djini Judy, on which Harry takes lead vocals) funky sunshine pop (The Friendly Lion), covers (the Everly Brothers’ So Sad and Roger Miller’s bizarre My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died) and even a reading from Grahame, it was launched by Capitol in the same week as the Band’s Music From Big Pink – whose rootsy ambience, ironically, played a large part in ending the vogue for hippie music. Somewhat predictably, it flopped, reaching only #195 in the US charts. Though it appeared in other territories, including the UK and New Zealand, it didn’t catch on internationally either. A gig to support its launch, at New York’s CafĂ© Au Go Go on Wednesday 11th September 1968, was reviewed by Billboard magazine thus: “The band had the elements and promise of being a winning unit, but were not together… The intricacies of the seven-member group’s arrangements doubtless will be mastered as they perform more.” It wasn’t to be, though. A second album was recorded, but never issued because the band splintered. “They weren’t writing new material and the writer in the band couldn’t even tune his guitar,” carped Carysforth. “Someone had to tune it for him before we could start rehearsing.” As for Harry, she had her mind on greater things. “I thought we should make certain changes but Paul Klein didn’t agree, so I told them I was leaving,” she told High Times. “They split soon after.”
1. Moments Spent (Klein / de Phillips)
2. Uptown Girl (Klein / Petzal)
3. So Sad (Everly)
4. My Uncle Used To Love Me But She Died (Miller)
5. There Is But One Truth, Daddy (Klein)
6. The Friendly Lion (Klein / Kirby)
7. Park Ave. Blues (Klein / de Phillips)
8. Djini Judy (Klein / Kirby)
9. Little People (Klein / Kirby)
10. She’s Fantastic And She’s Yours (Klein / Brittain / Rivola)
11. Wheel Of Changes (Klein / Brittain)

Paul Klein – vocals, guitar / Deborah Harry – vocals, tamboura, tambourine, finger cymbals / Peter Brittain – lead guitar, vocals /Wayne Kirby – vocals, double bass, piano, harpsichord, organ, vibes / Ida Andrews – flute, bassoon, piccolo, chimes, vocals / Steve ‘Marvello’ de Phillips – bass, vocals / Anton Carysforth – drums

Recorded at Century Sound, NYC

Produced by Artie Kornfeld / Engineered by Brooks Arthur

Arranged by The Wind In The Willows / String arrangements by Wayne Kirby

Cover Design by Howard Bernstein

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