The Merry-Go-Round were a Beatles and Bryds influenced band formed by Emitt Rhodes in 1966 with some of his high school buddies, joined by Bill Rinehart (from The Leaves, of Hey Joe fame) and Joel Larson (from The Grass Roots, both of whom would play on the Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers album). Rev-Ola has combined the entire recorded output from The Merry-Go-Round, including their sole album from 1967 and a handful of single tracks (with one hidden bonus track too), along with the first Emitt Rhodes solo album called The American Dream from 1970, all of which was recorded for A&M Records.
The title of this compilation is a little misleading because this really collects together the Emitt Rhodes' A&M Records releases, and not just releases by The Merry-Go-Round, although some of what ended up on his solo album were Merry-Go-Round recordings.
Unbelievably, this is the first time these amazing recordings have been released on cd, and one learns from the informative liner notes the trials and tribulations Emitt Rhodes has been through since his days in The Merry-Go-Round. Their original album was basically a spotlight for their 2 A&M singles, Live and You're a Very Lovely Woman, both released in mid 1967. Live is a bouncy, spirited folk rock with an edge influenced number, while You're a Very Lovely Woman is more sophisticated orchestrated pop.
The album was then fleshed out with demo recordings that were sweetened up a bit, with some tracks being buried treasure. Time Will Show the Wiser is one of the best and was also covered by The Fairport Convention on their debut album. There are two Merry-Go-Round versions of Time Will Show the Wiser - the stereo album version and the Mono 45 mix. The Mono 45 mix sounds more complete with a thicker bass and percussion, and effects that mix well into the mix, while the stereo album version sounds more unique with strummed guitars and harmony vocals. Both have backwards guitar, the only thing that dates this fine song to the '67 timeframe.
If you keep listening to the Mono 45 mix, the last track on the disc, there's a hidden bonus track recording of the Merry-Go-Round's cover of the Beach Boys' California Girls, which was recorded with Herb Alpert on trumpet (this recording is sub-par recording quality, so while it is interesting, one can see why it was not listed in the tracklisting).
Other tracks worth mentioning from the album include
- On Your Way Out which sounds like a guitar/vocal demo that was sweetened with drums and harmony vocals,
- Gonna Fight the War which has a quirky melody which reminds me of some Tokens late 60s recordings and side projects
- Had to Run Around with some sweet harmonies & lyrical content
- We're in Love which sounds like a cross between the Beatles and Small Faces
- Early in the Morning with its Monkees' vibe
- Where Have You Been All My Life and Gonna Leave You Alone both with fine fuzz guitar.
The bonus singles house a couple of sweet moments as well that did not appear on their album. Listen, Listen has sweet electric guitar and vocal harmonies also like some Tokens' projects and is the loudest Merry-Go-Round ever got, while Missing You is a Larry Marks song (their producer, who also produced Emitt Rhodes' American Dream album, the Gene Clark With the Gosdin Brothers album, Phil Ochs' Tape From California, and Lee Hazlewood's Cowboy in Sweden) while Highway is a Joel Larson/Gary Kato song, showing a different side of the group.
Emitt Rhodes first solo album, The American Dream was actually issued twice by A&M. The second time was after he'd signed with Dunhill and to jump on the success he was having on that label. Sadly however, it only confused the record buying public in 1971, and after two more albums in Dunhill, Emitt Rhodes could no longer fulfill his contractual obligations to the label, which included an album every 6 months.
The recordings for The American Dream were culled from Merry-Go-Round demos, like Come Ride, Come Ride, Holly Park and In Days of Old, which all followup on the orchestral sound of You're a Very Lovely Woman. Holly Park and In Days of Old both also have a Sgt Peppers quality to them (specifically, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite). Come Ride, Come Ride was actually recorded in 1967 so it has the most Merry-Go-Round sound of the tracks on this album.
The opening track, Mother Earth has acoustic guitar and organ, which give it a British folk vibe and would not be out of place on the Fading Yellow compilations. Pardon Me has a nice Beatlesque piano melody and A Fool on the Hill styled recorder solo. Someone Died has heartfelt lyrics about a death in the family which is beautiful without being too sappy. Mary Will You Take My Hand has a sweet A&M electric piano sound with a Caribbean vibe.