Friday, October 14, 2005

Le Cirque - Land of Oz


Certain record labels never cease to interest me. Oh, there are the obvious ones, like King and Specialty that released loads of great records that I continue to discover. Then, there are the less obvious ones, like Wand, which in addition to hit makers like The Kingsmen and Isley Brothers, put out a whole lot of good, lesser known r&b, soul, garage and what have you. Another label that fascinates me is Buddah, known primarily for its bubblegum acts, such as The Ohio Express and 1910 Fruitgum Co. And while a lot of the label's product tended towards the sweet, sticky stuff, some of it is truly outstanding.

Let's take today's selection for example, "Land of Oz" by Le Cirque. The group was surely nothing more than a one off, a studio concoction. In fact, Leon Russell co-wrote and produced this single and also reportedly played on it. One of Buddah's early releases, it likely came out in the fall of 1967. It's relative obscurity would seem to indicate that it didn't sell many copies, which is too bad because it's a terrific song.

In reading what little that's posted around the internet about "Land of Oz", I don't see much mention of what sounds like an obvious Beatles influence to me. Maybe that's because it's so poppy but I'd definitely cite the Fab Four's Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper era material as a reference point. Here we have a song that's pure pop, with an intoxicating hook that's also dressed up as light pysch, via the lyrics, vocals and some studio gimmickry.

"Land of Oz" starts normally enough, with a mid-tempo beat. The lyrics are what I'd call "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"-light, conjuring vague psychedelic images and including a call for sitars and violins, which come in at the appropriate times. The vocals are sung in a trippy manner by stretching out some of the words. Near the end of the song, we get sped up vocals that'll either have you thinking Munchkins or Alvin & the Chipmunks, I'm not sure which. But even the goofy effects can't spoil the fun here. The song is just too good a period piece and otherwise excellent. And if you ever stumble across a copy, I'd certainly recommend springing for it, provided it doesn't break the budget.

5 comments:

walknthatbass said...

Man - I've ebeen looking for this song for 25 years! Was there a link somewhere that I missed? Could you please repost it?

Todd Lucas said...

walknthatbass,

I don't currently have a way to post a soundfile from vinyl or I'd do it for you. When I was surfing the net for info on "Land of Oz", I noticed that it'd been comped on CD.

walknthatbass said...

Now that I know the name of the group (again) I'll have to look for the compilation on CD.

If you ever get to where you can rip from vinyl, I'll be looking forward to some great posts! You've got some great stuff here! What are you lacking to rip from vinyl>

Thanks for all the info!

Todd Lucas said...

Looks like the comp that contains this song is called Soft Sounds for Gentle People, Vol. 3 on the Pet label. Not sure if it's still in print.

Right now, there's no hookup from my stereo to my computer and they're located across the room from each other. So it's that and a little know-how that are holding things up at the moment.

Debora Lee said...

I wasn't imagining things--this song DOES exist.