The Choir – Artifact – The Unreleased Album

Never-before released album from band that spawned the Raspberries

The Sixties were a great time for music. Problem is, most everything has been overplayed from that era for years. Wouldn’t it be great to get some fresh, new music from that time period? Enter Artifact – The Unreleased Album from the Cleveland band, The Choir, just out on Omnivore Recordings.

The group is best known for “It’s Cold Outside,” a jangly bit of British Invasion imitation that became a minor hit nationally in 1966. The lineup at that time contained 3/4th’s of what would later become the Raspberries (minus Eric Carmen). But, as we find out in the liner notes and extensive family tree, The Choir became a revolving door of musicians from the North Coast, including members that would go on to be in the James Gang and many other, less-successful bands.

This album was uncovered when digging through the archives after the passing of Ken Hamann and his son, Paul, who ran Suma Recordings in a suburb of Cleveland.

“Anyway I Can” is a psychedelic, organ-heavy rocker with a Robin Gibb-inspired lead vocal, and monster drumming from Jim Bonfanti, who would do the same for the Raspberries in a couple of years. This particular song was released briefly in 1976 on the little independent, Bomp Records, but hasn’t been available since. This disc is worth picking up, just for this great song alone. Yet, there’s plenty more here to like.

“If These Are Men” has an insistent, Spencer Davis Group feel, and features a false ending. “Lady Bug” is the slow-burning track that every band composed after hearing Sgt. Pepper. The slightly funky “I Can’t Stay in Your Life” sounds like Todd Rundgren’s first band, the Nazz, and has a great chorus.

“Have I No Love to Offer” again channels the mid-period Bee Gees, but features a fantastic, chill-inducing guitar solo. The sweeping instrumental “For Eric” sounds like something similar to Procol Harum, while “Mummer Band” closes the album and shows that the guys had a sense of humor.

It’s not often we get to hear “new” music from the Sixties. Any fan of late 1960’s rock should give this one a spin. —Tony Peters