Chimera (ca. 1970 wyrd folk hard rock goth prog whatever)
Posted: 13 Jul 2020, 22:59
I sort of accidentally stumbled upon this lot recently; listened to a few songs on YouTube and while I wasn't knocked out as such, they were different and intriguing enough to make me spring for the CD.
Then spring again for the earlier CD with different bonus tracks.
And while I'd have to say they're still "growing on me", I can't seem to stop listening. I'll play other things, but then I keep coming back to Chimera.
Lisa Bankoff and Francesca Garnett were two upper class girls in Swinging London - dancing on RSG and TOTP, hanging out with The Pretty Things and Jeff Beck and Ron Wood, interviewing The Beatles and Manfred Mann - as one did. Somewhere along the way Bankoff started writing songs and the two of them started singing them.
After they almost got in at Apple Records - they were told that John, Paul & Ringo liked them but George didn't (which makes me wonder - I always had the impression that any one Beatle could sign whomsoever he cared to) - Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason decided to try his hand at managing them. An album was recorded at Morgan Studios for their in-house label Morgan Blue Town, with cameos from Mason and Richard Wright, but it was scrapped. A new band was assembled (with Bob Weston, subsequently of Fleetwood Mac, on lead guitar), and a further LP's worth of material was recorded. Ultimately a completed LP master was fashioned from the two sets of sessions, and Hipgnosis designed a cover (since lost, apparently), but Morgan Blue Town had bit the dust. Atlantic Records expressed interest, but then Lisa broke her legs in a car accident (rendering her unable to tour), Atlantic lost interest, and the whole project fell apart.
In 2002 Tenth Planet released the album on vinyl, mastered from what sounds like an old cassette copy (and with the original LP sides reversed); two years later their sublabel Wooden Hill put it out on CD, with one alternate mix, eight acoustic home demos and some good liner notes appended. (The CD was dedicated to Lisa Bankoff, who died in 2003.) At some point the original studio master tapes were unearthed and in 2017 the resurrected Morgan Blue Town label released the lot (21 songs in all, with none of the previous bonus tracks included) on CD under the title Holy Grail - it was a major sonic upgrade and the outtakes were generally as strong as the intakes, though the artwork and liners (and title) could have been better.
I don't know if anyone here besides probably Billy would go for Chimera. I don't quite know what to make of them myself. Their early demos are decidedly folky and sometimes whimsical, though with a bit of a Nico-ish edge to them (both women have rather deep voices, which might be part of it) - but once they're in the studio with a proper band things often go kinda squirrelly heavy rock (but still with those voices over the top). I have no idea what they're singing about much of the time. That doesn't seem to bother me. I find it all strangely bewitching.
A small selection:
(Nick Mason on drums)
(The liner notes don't credit or mention Ian Anderson, but... who knows? He was certainly around Morgan Studios in 1970...)
(One of my favorites - and one of their cheeriest songs, despite the title)
(Richard Wright on keyboards)